Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Counting pollen helps preserve natural environments

12.11.2003


Are rainforests as ’natural’ as they appear? How best to replant large forest areas destroyed by fire? A new consultancy service providing the data needed to answer these and other questions has been established at the University of Oxford.



BioGeoSciences for Conservation’ (BGSC) has been set up to help managers having to make those decisions by providing information about how environments have evolved over long timescales. The consultancy service is backed by a specialist laboratory which uses fossil records such as pollen and charcoal to reconstruct how forests, savannas and other areas developed in response to changes in climate, disturbances by fire and people, and changes in soil fertility and water availability over hundreds to thousands of years.

Dr Kathy Willis, one of three Principals of BGSC, also heads the Oxford Long-term Ecology Laboratory. She said: ‘What is unique about this service is the way in which it links together many techniques to provide information that is not normally accessible to those involved in environmental management who tend to base their decisions simply on knowledge of current ecological patterns. We take a long-term perspective, sometimes over thousands of years, to help manage biodiversity today.


’One of our projects, for example, is looking at the dynamics of the ecosystem in the Kruger National Park in South Africa. It was long believed that preserving this ecosystem would mean preventing vegetation from changing. But trying to keep such an environment stable is fighting a losing battle. Current ecological thinking recognises that variation is normal. Our work looks at how the vegetation of this area has developed over hundreds of years – which will help the Park scientists to decide when to let changes in vegetation run their course and when to intervene.’

The researchers collect data by ’coring’, which means boring a long thin tube into swampy ground in which pollen has been preserved for thousands of years. The ’core’ provides them with a layered sample of the sediments which accumulated over time. By analysing the pollen throughout the sample, the researchers can develop a chart of the plant species that were present at each point in time. Techniques such as radiocarbon dating are used to show the timescale over which the vegetation changes took place.

Dr Willis added: ’If we find, say, a high occurrence of maize or cereal pollen together with an abundance of charcoal and some pottery, following a period of dense forestation, we can assume that human settlers cleared the area by fire and started planting crops.’

The team also use other approaches to understand environmental change in an area. A recent project, examining the history of mass movements thought to be threatening a property in the South Cotswolds, used monitoring, climate data and dendrogeomorphological techniques to explain the nature and severity of the slope movements. Dr Willis said: ’Dendrogeomorphological techniques use the changing nature of tree rings and trunk growth to work out whether the trees have been affected by soil movements, landslides or other geomorphic events.’

Barbara Hott | alfa
Further information:
http://www.geog.ox.ac.uk/research/biodiversity/
http://www.geog.ox.ac.uk/research/biodiversity/lel/

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

nachricht A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity

22.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Penn first in world to treat patient with new radiation technology

22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering

Calculating quietness

22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>