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Tag: science

In praise of contrarian thinking

By Sven Wunder, Douglas Sheil & Robert Nasi

Diverging forecasts and climate science

A Danish proverb says: “It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future”. More so in a world that seems more uncertain than ever, and where we cannot always rely on the past to infer changes into the future. But how do we societally deal with the inevitable diversity of views about the world’s future? Are we making the best of available intellectual capital to benefit humanity? Or are we, in the name of popular convenience, underutilizing the power of critical reflection and innovative contrarian ideas? Do we need more alternative perspectives to challenge negligent mainstream thinking? These are fundamental questions in addressing major societal crises from global economic imbalances to biodiversity loss, climate change and the approaching tipping points in planetary-wide mechanisms.

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Disturbances, forests, and people: operating the world of forest resilience

In recent weeks, the RESONATE project’s Twitter has explored different definitions for forest resilience. Some of them sounded rather similar, some very different and all of them might have left the reader with more questions: “But what does this mean in practice?”. Armed with coffee and cookies, I’ll try to enlighten the mysterious and sometimes headache-inducing world of resilience.

To make some sense of the different definitions, it is good to remember that they are rarely completely new and innovative but are based on some previous definitions from which they have been further developed. That is why some of them sound very similar but with some notable differences.

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Können wir durch großflächige Wiederbewaldung den Klimawandel stoppen?

This blog post was translated and is now available in English here

Letzte Woche hat das Magazin Science eine viel beachtete Studie der Arbeitsgruppe von Prof. Crowther vom Institut für Integrative Biologie der ETH Zürich publiziert, in der mithilfe von Satellitenaufnahmen, Felddaten und Computermodellen das enorme Potential von großflächiger Waldvermehrung für den globalen Klimaschutz herausgestellt wurde.

Das Besondere an dieser Studie ist der Fokus auf „Restoration“, also Wiederbewaldung. Es gibt viele Abschätzungen zu CO2 Minderungspotenzialen durch Aufforstungen, und es ist wichtig, bei solchen Abschätzungen den Landbedarf einer wachsenden Weltbevölkerung sowie aus anderen Sektoren realistisch abzuschätzen (Canadell and Schulze 2014). Die Autoren der Studie haben daher von der global theoretisch möglichen Waldfläche den Flächenbedarf für Landwirtschaft und Siedlungen abgezogen. Als Resultat ergab sich eine riesige Fläche von fast 1 Mrd ha für potenzielle Wiederbewaldung.

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The bridge between nature and art at Triennale of Milan

by Silvia Abruscato

What does a scientist think when an artist is trying to express his/her creativity?  And, what does an artist create when he/she wants to represent a scientific concept?

“XXII Triennale di Milano Broken Nature: Design takes on Human Survival” is a thematic exhibition in the heart of the city of Milan, put into effect by the Triennale Milano. It is the right place to find possible answers to the questions above, to get inspired and fully immersed into it. Artists, designers and architects, from all over the world exhibit their interpretations of the connection and inter-relation between nature and humans.

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Beech leaf disease affects American trees and raises concerns for European forests

By: Carrie Ewing, PhD Student at The Ohio State University

We are always happy to have “guest-authors” who give us an insight into their work. Carrie Ewing, PhD Student at The Ohio State University, is currently researching tree genetics to determine the plant pathogen(s) that are causing beech leaf disease (BLD), a new and seemingly lethal disease affecting American beech trees (Fagus grandifolia).  

The disease was first discovered in forests in the northeastern United States and parts of Canada. John Pogacnik, a biologist at Lake Metroparks in Ohio, first observed BLD in 2012 in northeast Ohio, U.S.A.  The disease has been spreading rapidly and has now affected forests in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York State, and Ontario, Canada.

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Ecoclimate teleconnections: the globalization of plants

You thought that humans were the only species that can affect areas far away from where they live? Think again. The forests in India might be the culprits of the rainy days you are having in Germany now.
Recent research has shown that forests and vegetation in general can control the weather across great distances, making the forests and climate even more interconnected than previously thought according to an article published in Quantamagazine. Plants, especially trees, are fascinating organisms: they pump up water from the soil to the atmosphere and simultaneously grab carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into themselves and soils. The features that make this transportation possible are tiny pores on the leaves’ surface, called the stomata. One leaf can have more than one million stomata. So in a large forest the number of stomata is stratospheric and the amount of water they pump can be trillions of liters!
The growing group of researchers studying the interactions between vegetation and climate can now estimate how a forest loss or gain in a certain area can sway the weather patterns in others. One of these scientists is Professor Abigail Swann, the head of the Ecoclimate Lab in the University of Washington. In her recent studies, she has found the teleconnection: the plant communities around the globe are connected by the atmospheric mechanics. Essentially, the effect is similar to that of El Niño, where the warm surface water in the East Pacific Ocean causes heavy rains in South America and Africa as well as drought in Southeast Asia and Australia.

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Resilience or stability: which is best for forest management?

Recently, the idea of resilience has started to dominate thinking about all sorts of biological and social systems. It is, in fact, quite an old idea, first introduced in 1973 by C.S. Holling, an ecologist himself. Based on his first seminal paper, Holling and others later extended the concept of resilience to a wide range of systems that include aspects of social and ecological sciences. But what is resilience? And how does it differ from stability?
Holling distinguishes resilience and stability as two opposite characteristics of ecological systems. Stability is the ability of a system to return to the same equilibrium state after a temporary disturbance. “Resilience, on the other hand, is the ability of systems to absorb change and disturbance and still maintain the same relationships between populations or state variables.”

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It’s not too late to ensure your spot in Sardinia!

There is still time to submit an abstract to present at this year’s two satellite events during the European Forest Institute annual conference taking place in September on the second biggest island of Italy – Sardinia.
Both events touch upon the aspect of biodiversity at the level of genes. In fact, a rich genetic diversity of forest trees is like a resilience insurance: in the face of a climate change and pests and diseases, some trees will have genes that are resistant to these disturbances, thusenabling the forest to recover after some time.
However, the two scientific seminars go beyond resilience and genetic diversity.

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Forest Policy means Resilience – Wageningen Meeting

What do we mean when we talk about forest policy and governance? We also mean resilience. The Second International Forest Policy Meeting has presented it quite clearly.
More than hundred participants from 20 countries attended the Second International Forest Policy Meeting which took place in Wageningen between 11th and 13th of April. During the event, participants discussed four main themes: 1. Forest governance, 2. International policy&politics, 3. Community&society, and 4. Conflict&control. They could undeniably experience that forest policy is way more than the actions of powerful actors operated within an institutional structure and enhanced by bureaucracy.

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 “We must act to halt and reverse the unsustainable use of nature” – Now

By Theresa Frei & Johanna Strieck
“We must act to halt and reverse the unsustainable use of nature – or risk not only the future we want, but even the lives we currently lead”, says Sir Robert Watson – chair of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). This is but one somber, yet realistic conclusion drawn from the most recent reports on biodiversity and ecosystem services.
By the end of March, IPBES approved four landmark science reports on biodiversity and ecosystem services for different regions of the world and published a report on land degradation and restoration worldwide. These reports, comparable to the IPCC reports on climate change, result from three years of work, involving more than 550 leading scientists from over 100 countries to assess the state of worldwide biodiversity and ecosystem services. The main findings draw a gloomy future, however not without mentioning the one or the other ray of hope.

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