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 Safeguarding sustainability through forest certification mapping
27.06.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht Dune ecosystem modelling
26.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

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: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Supersensitive through quantum entanglement

28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy under real ambient pressure conditions

28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Mice provide insight into genetics of autism spectrum disorders

28.06.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>