Today I take the MSc classes (Environmental Change and Management, and Biodiversity Conservation and Management) on a day trip around Wytham Woods, Oxford University's research site. We are accompanied and co-hosted by Mike Morecroft, of Natural England. The weather gods are kind and the forecast rain holds off, and its an enjoyable and mild day wandering through the late autumn colours, a welcome break from relentless classes
The final, full version of our review paper in Annual Reviews in Environment and Resources on Tropical Forests in the Anthropocene has just been published. It is available here:
Malhi Y. , Gardner T.A., Goldsmith G.R., Silman M.R., Zelazowski P. Tropical forests in the Anthropocene, Annual Review of Environment and Resources, Vol. 39: 125-159. DOI: 10.1146/annurev-environ-030713-155141
In the last few years one of the main focuses of my team's research has been to collect data on plant traits for many of our plots across the tropics. Up until now this is focused on South America: the huge CHAMBASA campaign in the southern Peruvian Andes-Amazon in 2013, the BACABA campaign along a forest savanna transition in the southern Amazonian rainforest of Brazil in early 2014, and (just finished) a second Andes-Amazon transect in central and northern Peru (more on that in a later post). This week heralded the start of a first traits campaign in Africa, along the forest to savanna gradient in Ghana, West Africa.
The project has been named Kwaeemma, which means "children of the forest" in the local language Twi. We haven't worked out an acronym for it, and maybe never well. The work is in collaboration with the Forest Research Institute of Ghana, with our key partner being Dr Stephen Adu-Bredu. It involves a team of around 25 Ghanaian students and national service volunteers. A pivotal role in the logistics and organization is played by Theresa Peprah, who is using the data for her PhD in Ghana funded by this programme. From Oxford the team is led by Imma Oliveras (now actually at Wageningen) and also DPhil student Agne Gvozdevaite will have a major role. The whole campaign is expected to last six months. Last week was a training session in the semi-deciduous forest site at Bobiri (conveniently close to FORIG), and next week the whole teams heads to the more challenging forest-savanna transition site at Kogyae.
The project is supported by a grant from the Royal Society-Leverhulme African Awards scheme, with additional support from my European Research Council Advanced Investigator Award GEM-TRAIT.
I have finished giving a metabolic perspective on human influence in the Anthropocene. It was livestreamed as an experiment - it would be interesting to see what the take-up was. The video will be available online soon. The slides are available on the link below.
The macroecology and environmental impacts of humanity (58 MB)
This lecture explores how human activity and use of the biosphere has changed through human history and pre-history, through hunter-gatherer, agrarian and industrial modes of society. I discuss the concept of describing human activity and material and energy use through social metabolism, and compare with the inherent biological metabolism of the biosphere. I explore a range of ideas and bizarre questions such as: to what extent can human societies be considered as superorganisms? In what way are cities more like stars rather than like ant colonies?
I contribute a tropical perspective in a new paper out in Global Ecology and Biogeography that takes a fresh look at the question of how productivity varies with latitude, with some new analyses of old data and notably a contribution of our recently compiled data from the usually data-poor tropics. Contrary to some recent arguments, the new data show quite convincingly that productivity does tend to be higher in the wet tropics than at high latitudes (the main reason being the lack of a winter and hence a longer growing season).
Gillman, L. N., Wright, S. D., Cusens, J., McBride, P. D., Malhi, Y. and Whittaker, R. J. (2014), Latitude, productivity and species richness. Global Ecology and Biogeography. doi: 10.1111/geb.12245. Supplementary Material
To make our lectures available to a global audience, we are experimenting with live broadcast (and downloadable videos) of some of our MSc lectures on the theme "Welcome to the Anthropocene". We will start by experimental live streaming of two lectures next week. We encourage you and you students to listen in and ask questions by twitter, and particularly encourage participation from tropical countries.
The live streaming can be followed at:
The lectures will be about 90 minutes long followed by 30 minutes of questions. The two lectures that will be streamed are (all times are UK time):
Anthropogenic influence upon the climate: past and future prospects
Professor Myles Allen
Tuesday 14 October 9am, This lecture will be live streamed and can be watched online (see box below for details).
The macroecology and environmental impacts of humanity
Professor Yadvinder Malhi
Thursday 16 October 2pm, This lecture will be live streamed and can be watched online (see box below for details).
The live streaming can be followed at:
To watch the lectures via streaming, please visit the livestreaming webpage from one hour before transmission and links will be available.
Pose your questions and comments to our audience via #ecilive.
Between Editorial Board meetings and guest seminars in Los Angeles, Stanford and Berkeley last week, I met up with Todd Dawson from Berkeley, who has dedicated his career to understanding the ecophysiology of California redwood. We spent a day with some of his team (and also Jeff Chambers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab) and visited their research plots in Big Basin State Park, 1-2 hours south of San Francisco. The forest standards here are dominated by magnificent coastal redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens). It is an evergreen, long-lived tree living 1,200–1,800 years or more. This species includes the tallest living trees on Earth, reaching up to 115.5 m in height (without the roots) and up to 26 feet (7.9 m) in diameter at breast height (the largest trees in terms of mass are its close relative the giant sequoia - Sequoiadendron giganteum,
This year California has experienced its strongest drought for over a century, and these are exceptionally stressed and losing leaves. This may be a long-term adaptive strategy to drought (they may regain leaves next year and are simply reducing their water demand to get through this period of drought) or maybe a sign of environmental conditions passing a critical threshold.
Yadvinder Malhi is an ecosytem ecologist and Professor of Ecosystem Science at Oxford University