Using the Past to Inform a Sustainable Future: Palaeoecological Insights from East Africa

February 4, 2020
WDG

Esther-Githumbi

Esther Githumbi

New book chapter by African Pollen Database data steward Esther Githumbi and collegues:

Githumbi, E., Marchant, R. & Olago, D. (2020) Using the Past to Inform a Sustainable Future: Palaeoecological Insights from East Africa. Africa and the Sustainable Development Goals (ed. by M. Ramutsindela & D. Mickler), pp. 187-195. Springer Nature, Switzerland AG. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-14857-7_18

African Pollen Database – Data stewards

January 29, 2020
WDG

Neotoma PackratAn African Pollen Database data steward training event was held at the Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dyanmics (University of Amsterdam, 27-29 January 2020) where training in the use of the Neotoma database was provided by Eric Grimm. The participants are now enabled curate and archive data within Neotoma. If you have a palaeoecological data set that you would like to contribute to Neotoma, or if you would like training as well, these people can now help you. Contact details below:

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African Pollen Database data steward training event

January 24, 2020
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APD “Awesome” in Paris October 2019 – Vincent Montade, William Gosling, Chris Kiathipes, and Manu Chevalier (l-r)

The African Pollen Database (APD; Vincens et al., 2007) has recently received a new life thanks to the work of Anne-Marie Lezine, Eric Grimm, Sarah Ivory and Jack Williams who have obtained funding to develop the digital infrastructure and link to the Neotoma Palaeoecology Database (Williams et al., 2018) and the Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace (IPSL) Paleoclimate database. The kick off meeting was held at the IRD centre in Bondy (October 2019), and the next step (training the data stewards) will be held in my department within the Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystems Dynamics (University of Amsterdam) next week (January 2020).

Pollen data recorded in Neotoma for Africa on 24 January 2020. Hopefully after the data steward training event we will have a few more dots on the map, and the potential for many more.

We are delighted to be able to host sixteen researchers of many nationalities conducting research in many different countries. The aim of the training event is to provide researchers with the skills to manage Neotoma and strengthen the African pollen research community.  I am excited to be involved, I am confidence that much new research will be brought together, and I hope that we can get good plans in place for further steps and growth of this network.

REFERENCES
Vincens, A., Lézine, A.-., Buchet, G., Lewden, D. & Le Thomas, A. (2007) African pollen database inventory of tree and shrub pollen types. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 145, 135-141.  DOI: 10.1016/j.revpalbo.2006.09.004

Williams, J.W., Grimm, E.C., Blois, J.L., Charles, D.F., Davis, E.B., Goring, S.J., Graham, R.W., Smith, A.J., Anderson, M., Arroyo-Cabrales, J., Ashworth, A.C., Betancourt, J.L., Bills, B.W., Booth, R.K., Buckland, P.I., Curry, B.B., Giesecke, T., Jackson, S.T., Latorre, C., Nichols, J., Purdum, T., Roth, R.E., Stryker, M. & Takahara, H. (2018) The Neotoma Paleoecology Database, a multiproxy, international, community-curated data resource. Quaternary Research 89, 156-177. DOI: 10.1017/qua.2017.105

Detecting past peoples in the tropics

January 22, 2020
WDG

Vegetation History & ArchaeobotanyDetecting the presence, and impact, of peoples past impact in ecosystems and landscapes in the tropics is a challenging because the traces that they leave behind are few and disentangling them from ‘natural’ (non-human related) variability is a challenge. As an Associate Editor for Vegetation History & Archaeobotany (VHAA) I enjoy handling manuscripts that think about these issues and explore the role of humans in tropical landscapes. Two recent papers published in VHAA touched on this subject (one of which I “communicated” as an editor).

  • Bodin et al. (2020) studied charcoal recovered from soil at sites with a gradient of archaeological evidence for past human activity in French Guiana.
  • Goethals & Verschuren (2019) explored the relationship between the amount of dung fungi found in lake sediments and the herbivore populations living around the lakes.

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Human occupation and ecosystem change on Upolu (Samoa) during the Holocene

January 21, 2020
WDG

Now online open access:

Gosling, W.D., Sear, D.A., Hassall, J.D., Langdon, P.G., Bönnen, M.N.T., Driessen, T.D., van Kemenade, Z.R., Noort, K., Leng, M.J., Croudace, I.W., Bourne, A.J. & McMichael, C.N.H. (2020) Human occupation and ecosystem change on Upolu (Samoa) during the Holocene. Journal of Biogeography DOI: 10.1111/jbi.13783

Note: Co-authors Bönnen, Driessen, van Kemenade, and Noort all contributed to this work as part of the research projects related to their MSc or BSc degrees within the Department of Ecosystem & Landscape Dynamics at the University of Amsterdam.

UvA-TREUB Symposium Advances in Tropical Research

October 18, 2019
WDG

Date: 18th of  October 2019
Location: Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dynamics, Science Park Amsterdam
Organisers: Dr. Carina Hoorn and Dr. Crystal McMichael (University of Amsterdam)

Programme

14:00-14:10 WELCOME & OPENING

  • 14:10-14:30: Characterization of phytoliths in mid-elevation Andean forests Seringe Huisman (University of Amsterdam/Treub grant awardee)
  • 14:30 –14:50: Extinction-driven changes in frugivore communities on tropical islands: worldwide and in Mauritius Julia Heinen (University of Copenhagen, Denmark)
  • 14:50 – 15:10: Are the current Amazonian fires unprecedented? Crystal N.H. McMichael (University of Amsterdam)
  • 15:10 – 15:30: On the relationship between tiger conservation and water management Jasper Griffioen, Hanne Berghuis & Ewa van Kooten (Utrecht University)

15:30-16:00: TEA

  • 16:00 – 16:45: Assembling the diverse rain forest flora of SE Asia by evaluating the fossil and molecular record in relation to plate tectonics Robert J. Morley (Palynova, and Southeast Asia Research Group, Royal Holloway University of London, UK)

17:00: DRINKS

For full details visit the Treub web site here.

“Can you go back?” by Mark Bush – Photo gallery

September 27, 2019
WDG

Mark Bush

Mark Bush

The three part guest blog posts “Can you go back?” by Prof. Mark Bush (Florida Institute of Technology) contained images collated by Mark over his career, here they are all together for you to enjoy.

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To read the story click on the links:

“Can you go back?” by Mark Bush – Part 3

September 23, 2019
WDG

Mark Bush

Mark Bush

The third of three guest blog posts by Prof. Mark Bush (Florida Institute of Technology). Click here to read Part 1. Click here to read Part 2.

Fast forward to 2019, the Aguarico is now lined by small homesteads interspersed with larger settlements, some laid out by the oil companies, and a couple of oil ports. I asked our guide how far the park was ahead of us, and he looked surprised and said “We are in it”. When we arrived at the Zancudo River there was a cell tower and a village of probably 30-50 houses on the junction with the Aguarico. Ten minutes downstream was a tourist lodge. What a difference! The frontier had expanded ~140 km down the Aguarico. One family with a shotgun eliminates all game larger than a marmoset within 5 km, and these homesteads were packed so tight it was unsurprising that we saw almost no wildlife.

The cell tower at the village of Zancudococha. Photo: M. Bush.

The cell tower at the village of Zancudococha. Photo: M. Bush.

The next day we ventured onto Zancudococha. The Zancudo stream was still pretty, overhung by trees, and had no barriers to navigation. Three boats full of tourists passed us coming out of the lake, clearly having spent the night there. There were no logs to clear, and the path through the Montricardia marsh was two boats wide. There are only two patches of high, dry land on the edge of the lake. One was regularly used as a campsite and the other had a lodge built on it that was operated intermittently by the Zancudo community.

We saw no monkeys, let alone tapirs, this was an empty forest. But we weren’t there to be ecotourists, we were there to raise a sediment core. This time our questions were about the Pre-Columbian use of the lake. Was the lake occupied prior to European arrival? How much did people alter the forest? Was there a surge of forest regrowth following Conquest?  Given these questions, the 1 m of sediment that we recovered with a Universal piston corer was all that we needed. One meter of mud from this system spans about 1500 years and that would provide us with the trajectory of use (or non-use) into the colonial period and its aftermath. Our mood in camp was happy, we had been successful in our intent. So, my message is you can’t go back to find what was there before, but that doesn’t mean that it will be a bad experience. Shifting baselines apply to nature in every setting, but they also apply to science as our questions and interests undergo inter-generational changes.

Mark Bush is a Professor of Biological Science at the Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, FL, USA.

 

“Can you go back?” by Mark Bush – Part 2

September 21, 2019
WDG

Mark Bush

Mark Bush

The second of three guest blog posts by Prof. Mark Bush (Florida Institute of Technology). Click here to read Part 1.

The next two days were spent in motorized dugouts sitting on our gear bags, with tarps pulled over us. Every now and then the driving rain would relent and we would see macaws and toucans flying across the Aguarico River. We stayed one night in a village that had been abandoned due to recent floods, another with Siona hunters who were preparing their blow darts (for monkeys). There were very few houses along the river and we hardly saw another boat in three days. Then we arrived, well almost. We had turned off the main channel onto the tiny Zancudo river.  Little used, this stream was a jumble of fallen trees that the Siona chopped their way through. A large tree just beneath the surface posed a problem that was solved by stripping the bark from Cecropiatrees and laying it inside surface facing up, backing up, revving the engine, and aiming straight for the bark. The slick insides of the Cecropiaallowed the canoes to shoot the trunk and on we went. Then we reached the marsh. When I say ‘marsh’ it was a forest of Montricardia arborescens. This is an aquatic Aroid that grows about 3 m high. The trunks are about 3-5 cm in diameter and is THE favored hangout for caiman and anaconda (I have since learned). No Siona in their right mind gets out of a boat in such a marsh and so we were stuck……so close but yet so far. Our only chance of getting through the marsh was to hop out of the boats and pull them through.

The author pulling a canoe through the marsh at Zancudococha in 1988. Photo: Miriam Steinitz-Kannan.

The author pulling a canoe through the marsh at Zancudococha in 1988.
Photo: Miriam Steinitz-Kannan.

We had two boats and so the most dispensable members of the team, Paulo de Oliveira and I, were given the job of hauling the boats. A couple of happy hours later we were through the marsh and onto the lake.

Our first jobs were to find somewhere dry enough to camp, unload, set up camp, and survey the lake. Paul Colinvaux the team leader always launched an inflatable and surveyed the lake on first arrival. Meanwhile the rest of us set up camp. About 20 minutes into all this activity there was the unmistakable crack of a shotgun. In a few more minutes the Chief’s sons emerged from the forest with the news that they had shot a large tapir. The tapir fed the group for the next few days, but I ate tuna and a sausage that had turned blue and slimy, unable to reconcile my role in, what to me, was an unfortunate outcome of our petitioning the Siona to bring us to their sacred lake. The coring was more successful than at Cuyabeno in that we recovered 5m of sediment, but it was clearly a young system and wouldn’t answer our research question. This expedition was a disappointment scientifically, but an incredible snapshot along the gradient of Amazonian development.

To be continued…

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