Two weeks ago we had a thought-provoking seminar by Clive Hamilton on the definition of the Anthropocene, followed by a panel discussion on the meaning of the Anthropocene with Myles Allen. Paul Jepson, Tom Thornton and Jamie Lorimer bringing in perspectives from climate science, conservation policy, anthropology and human geography. Clive's basic argument was that the Anthropocene is defined by its substantial impacts on the Earth System functioning as a whole, something that many arguments about the nature and start of the Anthropocene fail to capture. It was a stimulating talk and discussion, brimming with ideas and fresh and contested perspectives.
We had a fun morning in our Wytham Woods (with Mat Disney from UCL and Flying Elephants) research site exploring the potential of drone filming to see the forest canopy in 3D. All footage shot with a DJI Inspire Drone. the view is over our 18 ha plot, with our flux tower visible in the distance.
Our Ghana traits campaign just finished in March, and our new campaign in the rainforests of North Queensland, Australia, has just kicked off. Here we'll be spanning an elevation gradient from sea levels to 1500 m, andthe work will run from now until October 2015. Our collaborator is Lucas Cernusak at James Cook University in Cairns, and the campaign is being kicked of by our experienced postdoc Lisa Patrick Bentley and all-round handyman Topher Bentley, with local field coordinator Raymond Dempsey. Crucially, three of our extremely experienced Peruvian team (Jimmy Chambi, Paul Santos and Hugo Ninantay) have made the journey of a lifetime from Cusco (Peru) to Cairns, to bring their experience and skills to this campaign from the previous CHAMBASA and T-FORCES campaigns in Peru. They are also joined by Brandon McNellis, a volunteer from the USA.
The work is funded by the ERC Grant T-FORCES led by Oliver Phillips, with additional support from my ERC Grant GEM-TRAIT. Both are distinct efforts to look at the global distribution of tropical forest function and how it may change in the future.
Yesterday we had a visit to the New Forest in Hampshire, as an outing of the Biodiversity Cluster of the School of Geography and the Environment. The visited was hosted by Jonathan Spencer and Alison Field. We learned more about the complexities of ecology, social ecology and planning management in a complicated social and historical landscape. This was a follow-up from a visit last year to a different part of the Forest, and we hope to keep these going for years to come. It was also a good chance for various strands of biodiversity research in the department to interact informally.
Photos by Yadvinder Malhi and Uri Roll.
We have set up two new intensive monitoring plots in the magnificent forests at Danum Valley in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, as part of the GEM (Global Ecosystems Monitoring) network. A team composed of Terhi Riutta, Walter Huaraca Huasco and Malaysian research assistants Rostin Tien, Nani Suhaini and Rohit Kailoh and the wonderful guys from Danum Valley staff at the moment have been working up the installation.
The work is funded by the NERC BALI project (Biodiversity and Land Use Interactions) as part of NERC's Human Modified Tropical Forests Programme. The old-growth forests at Danum will be compared with our plots at the nearby SAFE project, at various stages of logging recovery or conversion to oil palm, as well as our plots in old-growth forests in the Maliau Basin and Lambir Hills National Parks.
Photos by Walter Huaraca Huasco.
Student Rocío Urrutia completed her DPhil last eek, examined by Todd Dawson and Marc Macias Fauria. It was on the magnificent alerce forests of her native Chile: their productivity, ecology and carbon cycling, and how their are responding to changing atmospheric conditions. It's been an enjoyable journey, for her and her supervisors...
Hyperdominance in Amazon carbon cycling - which tree species contribute most to the Amazon forest carbon cycle?
We have a new paper in Nature Communications this week, led by Sophie Fauset of the University of Leeds and involving the broad RAINFOR consortium of forest inventory plots across Amazonia. This paper looks at which tree species contribute most to the biomass and woody productivity of the Amazon forest. It is a follow up to the paper led by Hans ter Steege in 2013, which showed that only 227 tree species (out f about 16,000) contributed half of trees in Amazonia. In this paper we look at how many trees contribute to biomass and productivity - in this case it is not just the number of trees that matter, but also how big they get. We find that just 182 species contribute 50% of biomass, and 184 species contribute 50% of woody growth. As this study is based on "just" 500 plots, we are hesitant to to say the species ranking is 100% final, but top of the list is Iriatea deltoidea, a palm widespread across western Amazonia. Several other palms also feature in the top few. A noticeable contribution near the top of the list is the majestic Brazil nut tree Bertholletia excelsa, which is common and grows to a huge size but can struggle to regenerate. Is this high abundance natural, or a legacy of millennia of human use of this tree across the Amazon?
Fauset, S. et al. Hyperdominance in Amazonian forest carbon cycling. Nature Communications 6:6857 doi: 10.1038/ncomms7857 (2015). Supplementary Information
Here is a nice video set around or ECOLIMITS project in Ghana, which is looking at the links between cocoa farming, forest protection and ecosystem services around Kakum National Park. It was made by Philippe Morel, for his graduate thesis for the Master's program in the Broadcasting and Electronic Arts Department at San Francisco State.
I'm with the Environmental Change and Management MSc course, staying at Blencathra Field Studies Centre in the Lake District. The focus of the field course is on understanding the complexities of managing landscapes, trying to reconcile conservation, recreation, attracting tourism and income. 40,000 people live in the Lake District National Park and 15 million people a year visit.
Over the few days we learn about the different forces pulling at the landscape and how they are managed, from traditional sheep farming, the tourism and recreational access, through generating the rural economy, through wildlife, conservation and rewilding. You are left with a sense and understanding of a tangled socio-ecological landscape, muddling its way through various development and conservation challenges, and yet somehow remaining largely intact, vital and absolutely breathtaking in the constantly shifting weather of Cumbria.
This volcano just erupted unexpectedly and explosively just near the GEM plots in Chile (in the Andes and the Central Depression) - sites of continuous monitoring by Antonio Lara and Rocio Urrutia and their team. The volcano is just about 20 km due north of our Andes plots, and about 30 km east of the Central Valley plot. It will be interesting to see how the ash deposition (if it happens, but it seems the nearby city of Puerto Montt has ash fall so the GEM plots probably have too) affects forest and soil functioning and growth rates in the short and long term.
Am amazing demonstration of the tectonic power of Earth, and an chance to explore its impacts on ecological processes.
Here are some photos I took of this volcano just last November. All seemed so calm and quiet. In the lake picture, Calbuco is on the right. Lovely, perfect Volcano Osorno is on the left...
Yadvinder Malhi is an ecosytem ecologist and Professor of Ecosystem Science at Oxford University