A great talk by George Monbiot that summarises the key message of his recent book, Feral.
I am very sympathetic to these ideas.
Here is a nice photo of our CHAMBASA field team at Trocha Union plot for, at the field camp deep in the wonderful cloud forest at Trocha Union Plot 4 on the slope of the Andes in Peru (photo by Allie Shenkin). A fantastic team!
Here are a couple of articles published by Justin Catanoso, a US journalist who accompanied our recent trip to Peru and writes on our work on the Andean transect. The second one includes an audio report.
Terra preta are fascinating black soils found dotted across the Amazon forest. They only cover a small area, but have amazing fertility and are rich in organic compounds - they are often islands of fertility in a sea of general highly infertile and heavily leached tropical forest oxisols. The original terra preta soils are thought to have been created 1-2000 years by pre-Colombian Amazonians through low-heat, smouldering, domestic fires that were used for cooking and heating.
We have just published (in Plant Ecology and Diversity) the first comprehensive description of the carbon cycle on a terra preta, and compare with a nearby forest growing on infertile oxisols. The data were collected over the period 2005-2011, at the Caxiuana National Forest in collaboration with the University of Para (led by Antonio Lola da Costa) and the Museu Paraense Emilio Goeldi (led by the late Samuel Almeida).
We find that the forest growing on terra preta soil is a bit more productive (but not as much as we expected), and more efficient in turning photosynthate into biomass. Individual trees grow more rapidly, but there are fewer trees in the plot (possibly a legacy of the fact that this is an abandoned agroforest rather than a pristine old-growth forest).
The paper is part of a suite of papers we have published in a special issue of Plant Ecology and Diversity. The papers are slowly appearing online over the next few months. The terra preta site is part of our global intensive forest monitoring network, GEM.
Doughty C.E. , Metcalfe D.B. , da Costa M.C. , de Oliveira A.A.R , Neto G. F.C. , Silva J.A. , Aragão L.E.O.C , Almeida S.A. , Quesada C.A., Girardin C.A.J. , Halladay K. , da Costa A.C.L. & Malhi Y. (2013) The production, allocation and cycling of carbon in a forest on fertile terra preta soil in eastern Amazonia compared with a forest on adjacent infertile soil DOI: 10.1080/17550874.2013.798367
"Despite all our giddy technological dreams, this vast and inscrutable land – drenched by the rains and parched by the summer sun – remains the ultimate ground, and the final horizon, of all our science. It is not primarily a set of mechanisms waiting to be figured out, this breathing land. It is not a stock of resources waiting to be utilized by us, or a storehouse of raw materials waiting to be developed. It is not an object.
It is, rather, the very body of wonder – a shuddering field of intelligence in whose round life we participate. And if, today, this dreaming land has been forgotten behind a clutch of flowing screens that intercept the fascination of our focused eyes – if it has been eclipsed by styles of speaking that deaden our sense, and by machinic modes of activity that stifle the eros between our body and the leafing forests – then it is time to listen, underneath all these words, for the animal stirrings that move within our limbs and our swelling torsos. It is time to unplug our gaze from the humming screen, walking out of the house to blink under the river of stars. There are new stories waiting in the cool grasses and new songs."
Becoming Animal, David Abrams
(a thought-provoking, sometimes challenging and beautifully written book - I recommend)
From NBC News (found at Tambopata)http://www.nbcnews.com/science/what-mysterious-amazon-web-baffles-scientists-8C11073468
A bizarre-looking web structure has been found in the Peruvian Amazon, and apparently nobody knows what it is, not even scientists.
The strange formation resembles a tiny spire surrounded by a webby picket fence and is about 2 centimeters (0.8 inches) wide. Georgia Tech graduate student Troy Alexander first spotted one of these on the underside of a tarp near the Tambopata Research Center in the Peruvian Amazon. At first he thought it might have been an aborted moth cocoon, he wrote on Reddit. But then he found several more, all of which looked quite similar.
He posted the photos to Reddit and asked other scientists to help him out, besides making queries around the Tambopata Research Center, to no avail. His guess is that "there are eggs in the base of the maypole in the middle of the horse corral, though it might be something pupating," he wrote on Reddit. [See Images of Weird Amazon Web Structure]
Chris Buddle, an arachnologist at McGill University, said that neither he nor any of his associates know what it is. "I have no clue," he said. It's "a seriously fascinating mystery."
"I have no idea what animal made that," Norman Platnick, curator emeritus of spiders at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, told LiveScience.
So far, Redditors and others have guessed that it could be some kind of moth cocoon, an intricate defense for spider eggs or even the fruiting body of some type of fungus.
Alexander fell in love with the Peruvian Amazon while on vacation there, he told Colossal, an art blog. So he asked his adviser if he could take a leave of absence to be a volunteer researcher. Shortly thereafter, Alexander flew back to Peru to work at the Tambopata Macaw Project, which focuses on parrot biology and conservation, he told Colossal.
If whatever produces this structure turns out to be a new species, it should come as no surprise — the world's rain forests are expected to perhaps contain millions of new species of arthropods (a group of animals with hard exoskeletons, which includes spiders and insects), according to various scientific estimates. One survey of arthropods in Panama's jungle, in an area about the size of Manhattan, found 25,000 species of insects, spiders and other arthropods, 70 percent of which were new to science. That study also found that there were 300 arthropod species for every one mammal species.
Email Douglas Main or follow him on Twitter or Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook orGoogle+. Article originally on LiveScience.
I am at the TRY workshop in Leipzig, Germany, hosted by iDiv, a new, well-funded German centre for integration and synthesis of biodiversity and ecological data. TRY is a 5-6 year old project with has tried to bring together a database )or database of databases) of information about plant traits worldwide. Incidentally, "TRY" is not an acronym for anything, but simply indicates the project would TRY a very ambitious task.
The workshop has plenty of interesting science talks and stimulating breakout groups. An interesting underlying theme has been about how to encourage and make effective data sharing, where individual research projects contribute effectively to the global bank of data and the greater scientific good. To be "effective" means the data have to be fairly easily accessible, and to be sufficiently organized and well-documented to be usable.
There seem to be two main blocks. One is convincing researchers that it worth their time to database their data well. Projects are often required to do this by many funding agencies, but it can still be hard to invest sufficient time to do this well. As well as the moral argument for making publicly funded data available for the collective good, there are many arguments for how databasing can benefit the individual researcher. Many of these arguments are summarized in this blog post by Daniel Falster (applicable to more than TRY):
The second block is simply prioritizing databasing and sharing when there are so many demands on time and budgets. Most researchers (most certainly including me!) could benefit from thinking about how they will manage their own data right from the start of a project, rather than designing this on the hoof and right and the end of the project. This is something that probably research students are trained in and thought to think about right at the start of their training, so it becomes a habitual way of doing science.
This paper gives some useful guidance:
White et al. (2013) Nine simple ways to make it easier to (re)use your data.PeerJ PrePrints 1:e7v2 http://dx.doi.org/10.7287/peerj.preprints.7v2
Yadvinder Malhi is an ecosytem ecologist and Professor of Ecosystem Science at Oxford University