News articles:

Unesco to rule on Tasmania forest and Great Barrier Reef, BBC News Asia.

Climate change will ‘cost world far more than estimated’, by Tom Bawden, The Independent.

Scientific articles:

Heslop-Harrison, J. (1979) Aspects of the structure, cytochemistry and germination of the pollen of Rye (Secale cereale L.). Annals of Botany, 44, 1-47.
Summary (Adele): Sometimes, the old ones are the best, and this behemoth of a paper contains a huge amount of useful information on the chemical structure and development of Rye pollen grains. As I am working on the chemistry of grass pollen at the moment, it is incredibly useful to know that this sort of information exists and can be used to inform both my experimental protocol and interpretations.

Michelutti, N., Blais, J.M., Cumming, B.F., Paterson, A.M., Rühland, K., Wolfe, A.P. & Smol, J.P. (2010) Do spectrally inferred determinations of chlorophyll a reflect trends in lake trophic status? Journal of Paleolimnology, 43, 205-217. doi: 10.1007/s10933-009-9325-8
Summary (Frazer): Quick and easy way to extract data from lake sediment cores.

Rossetti, D.F., de Toledo, P.M and Góes, A.M. (2005) New geological framework for Western Amazonia (Brazil) and implications for biogeography and evolution. Quaternary Research, 63, 78 – 89. doi: 10.1016/j.ygres.2004.10.001.
Summary (Hayley): Research discussing the importance of understanding the underlying geological processes in order to correctly identify the mechanisms controlling modern biodiversity in Western Amazonia, Brazil.

Simpson, J. (2011) On the Ambiguity of Elves. Folklore, 122, 76-83. DOI: 10.1080/0015587X.2011.537133
Summary (Will): Elves depicted in modern literature have a grounding in ancient literature.

Trenkamp, R., Kellogg, J. N., Freymueller, J.T. and Mora, H.P. (2002) Wide plate margin deformation, southern Central America and northwestern South America, CASA GPS observations. Journal of South American Earth Sciences. 15, 157 – 171. PIL: S0895-9811(02)00018-4.
Summary (Hayley): GPS data used to detect plate boundary convergence, subduction and collision within the north west of South America. GPS data between 1991 and 1998 was used to work out rates of movement for plates.

NERC-PlanetEarth

Insects, sediment and climate change

Frazer Bird and William Gosling talk about how to conduct palaeoecological research in the tropics for NERC’s Planet Earth pod-cast. Click here to here to listen to the conversation.

For other similar stories online visit the Planet Earth website.

Anthropogenic climate change and the nature of Earth System science

April 2, 2014
Fray

Core teddyFrazer Bird on:

Oldfield, F., Steffen, W. 2014. Anthropogenic climate change and the nature of Earth System Science. The Anthropocene Review,1, 70-75.

This paper is a very interesting read for anyone working in the field of palaeoecology. It briefly discusses some of the key criticism of earth systems science research and demonstrates how a good understanding of our past is critical to our future projections.

 “Nature of the Science”

Often Earth System Science is described as being “fuzzy”. It doesn’t always fit the model Popperian approach to science whereby refutable hypothesis are defined and tested. The authors point out however that this is somewhat an unfair criticism. The Earth system is complex, non-linear and often there are no cause-consequence relationships. The scientific method involved is much more complex and often we are trying to understand phenomena that occur over immense timescales. To demonstrate this a little further the authors use the example of freshwater acidification.

“By choosing a variety of field-based case studies with or without key characteristics, each of which was a putative cause of acidification, it proved possible to isolate past variables such as land-use change or catchment afforestation and thereby home in on the only remaining hypothesis not rejected by the evidence, namely the dissemination of industrially generated SO2.”

Rather than testing and refuting or accepting whether industrial generated S02 was causing acidification, cumulative research showed it to be the universal variable across multiple examples. Often when we make inferences about environmental change we have multiple working hypotheses which stand until more and more evidence arises to support one over the others.

 “Toward Projective science”

Projecting the future consequences of climate change is of vital importance for society and critical to policy and mitigation strategies. Climate models are really the only tools at our disposal in trying to understand future scenarios. However models alone cannot provide us with all the answers, the paper demonstrates that the only evidence we ever have is from the past.

“All the evidence we have regarding environmental change comes from the past, whether of the previous few seconds as changes are logged continuously, or of the more remote past revealed through the study of environmental archives.”

If we want to refine our models and have better projections in the future then these tools must have the ability to capture the empirical evidence we have from the past. Future projections are based on data-model comparisons; this is an interactive relationship that is ever refined as each side gains in knowledge and skills.

 

The Anthropocene Review – reviewed

March 26, 2014
WDG

AnthropoceneReviewThe Anthropocene Review is a new journal focusing on the impact of humans on planet Earth through time; information on the latest publications can be found on the associated blog.

Given that much of the research we are interested in relates human-environment interactions in the past we decided to take a closer look at the range of articles being covered by this journal. Our thoughts on seven articles published in the first issue of The Anthropocene Review will appear in a series of blog posts soon. To get started here are a list of the papers we will be covering:

Full Anthropocene Review table of contents here.

 

 

 

American tour: Biogeography meeting & Ecuador field work

February 26, 2013
Fray

PCRG COMPLETE AGAIN

Image

I am glad to say that after almost two months out of the office running around with 8 bags of equipment, Frazer and I have finished our tour of the Americas. As the work has been so diverse, we would like to split our comments and impressions into two different posts, we hope you enjoy them!

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