In search for the historical roots of grasses

August 11, 2020
WDG

In search for the historical roots of grasses: A review of Neogene grass history in the Amazon drainage basin

Corresponding article: Kirschner, J. A., & Hoorn, C. (2019). The onset of grasses in the Amazon drainage basin, evidence from the fossil record. Frontiers of Biogeography. DOI: 10.21425/F5FBG44827

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Modern pollen rain predicts shifts in plant trait composition but not plant diversity along the Andes-Amazon elevational gradient

July 24, 2020
WDG

Journal of Vegetation ScienceOnline:

van der Sande, M.T., Bush, M.B., Urrego, D.H., Silman, M., Farfan-Rios, W., García Cabrera, K., Shenkin, A., Malhi, Y., McMichael, C.H. & Gosling, W.D. (2020) Modern pollen rain predicts shifts in plant trait composition but not plant diversity along the Andes-Amazon elevational gradient. Journal of Vegetation Science DOI: 10.1111/jvs.12925.

Starting an ERC project in a corona world: virtual lab meetings

July 12, 2020
ninahylkjewitteveen

Lab meeting online

Lab meeting online

Hi everyone, and welcome to the ALPHA project: Assessing Legacies of Past Human Activities in Amazonia! 

This project will increase our understanding of how past disturbances have influenced the biodiversity and structure of Amazonian rainforests.  The coming years, we will work on reconstructing past fire and vegetation history of forest plots in Amazonia, and how that history relates to modern biomass and modern carbon dynamics. ALPHA is important for forest conservation, because results can be used to prioritize land for conservation. ALPHA results will also give an estimation of the Amazonian rainforests’ ability to sequester carbon, which is important for global carbon models. dr. C.N.H. McMichael received an ERC grant to research ALPHA in Amazonia together with 2 PhD students, 1 post-doc, 2 technicians and a senior-staff. At the beginning of March, the positions were filled, and our team was complete. But then COVID-19 happened… and our team was spread over continents!

To keep ALPHA going, we started with weekly virtual lab meetings. Because these fruitful discussions are online, other researchers soon joined from the US, UK and Jamaica. It is not your average “vrijmibo”, but very fun and a nice way to stay connected! One of the papers we have discussed is the “Asynchronous carbon sink saturation in African and Amazonian tropical forests” from Hubau et al (2020). 

In 2015, Brienen et al. published an article about the growth and mortality of trees in Amazonian rainforests for the period of 1985 to 2015. Their results showed a decline of the carbon sink in Amazonian forests. 

Now, Hubau et al. (2020) added results from African forest plots and compared the net carbon sink of the African and Amazonian forests. Instead of a long-term decline, African forests showed a stable carbon sink. The difference in their carbon sink was because more trees died in Amazonia, but not in African forests. But since 2010, a decline is also visible in the carbon sink of African forests. This suggests that the two forests have a different ‘saturation’ point in the carbon they can storage. 

A statistical model with CO2, temperature, drought and forest dynamics was created to predict the carbon changes of the forests over time. This model predicts that the carbon sink of African forests will show a gradual decline and the carbon sink of Amazonian forests will decline fast.  

Overall, this paper highlights that our rainforests may not be the carbon sink we had thirty years ago. We will need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions sooner, if we want to limit global warming. Also, this paper showed how important forest dynamics are to accurately model and predict the carbon storage of Amazonia. Hopefully, the ALPHA research project will make a contribution to this! 

The onset of grasses in the Amazon drainage basin, evidence from the fossil record

March 23, 2020
WDG

Kirschner, J.* & Hoorn, C. (2019) The onset of grasses in the Amazon drainage basin, evidence from the fossil record Frontiers of Biogeography DOI:10.21425/F5FBG44827

*Judith conducted this work as part of her MSc Earth Sciences: Geo-ecological Dynamics degree at the Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam.

Modelling the distribution of Amazonian tree species in response to long-term climate change during the Mid-Late Holocene

March 21, 2020
WDG

Gomes, V.H.F., Mayle, F.E., Gosling, W.D., Vieira, I.C.G., Salomão, R.P. & ter Steege, H. (2020) Modelling the distribution of Amazonian tree species in response to long-term climate change during the Mid-Late Holocene. Journal of Biogeography DOI: 10.1111/jbi.13833

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:

A Study in Green

July 5, 2019
WDG

By Rachel Sales (Florida Institute of Technology, USA)

My bike is angry at me.

I’m rattling down an unpaved road in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The brakes screech at every turn, and the chain is close to falling off. Unsurprisingly, the rain is pouring, turning the road into a maze of puddles and mud. The road follows the Anzu River, and I can hear its roar off to my right.

I’m forcing a perfectly innocent bike to brave the Amazon because this road leads to the Herbario Amazónico of the Universidad Estatal Amazónica (ECUAMZ). ECUAMZ (an acronym for “Ecuador Amazon”) is the only herbarium in the Amazon, and contains a repository of plant specimens for preservation and help with field identifications. It was established by Dr. David Neill, a specialist in the Fabaceae (legume) family and world-renowned expert in tropical botany, and Dr. Mercedes Asanza, the coordinator of the herbarium. They have agreed to mentor me over the summer and teach me about tropical plants. The Herbario Amazónico, which contains over 17,000 vascular plant species, is the perfect place to learn.

The view from the top of the tower at Jatun Sacha.

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Cloudy with a chance of adventure

April 8, 2019
WDG

Rachel Sales, Bryan Valencia, and Majoi de Novaes Nascimento coring a different lake. In this picture, we have just pulled a core of mud up from the bottom of the lake. Photo credit: Seringe Huisman

Rachel Sales, Bryan Valencia, and Majoi de Novaes Nascimento coring a different lake. In this picture, we have just pulled a core of mud up from the bottom of the lake. Photo credit: Seringe Huisman

Cloudy with a chance of adventure
By Rachel Sales (PhD researcher at the Institute for Global Ecology, Florida Institute of Technology)

I am sitting on the shore of Lago Condorcillo in Southern Ecuador, after a long day of travel, trying to control my shivering. At roughly 10,500 ft. above sea level, the lake is very cold, with wind that howls over the barren hills dotted with giant boulders. The lake is also almost always blanketed by thick fog and pelted by driving rain. When you’re surrounded by the thick fog punctuated by lightning bolts, it’s easy to believe that some lost civilization lurks just out of sight. Tonight we are experiencing lightning storms, which is adding to the feeling that some angry, ancient life form must live at Lago Condorcillo.

Tomorrow, I will be out in the cold and rain, balancing on an inflatable boat and fighting frostbite. Mark Bush, who is my Ph.D. advisor, Courtney Shadik, who is my lab partner and tent buddy, and I will be collecting cores of mud from the bottom of Condorcillo. We will create our rig for coring by tying two inflatable boats together, and placing a wooden platform between them. Mark, Courtney, and I will then collect our mud cores from this platform.

As I’m contemplating the hazards of camping in a lightning storm, Mark says, “Tell me everything that went wrong today.” Courtney pulls a sleeping bag closer to her. I begin to describe how Google Maps can’t seem to understand distance in the Andes, and so traveling to Lago Condorcillo took much longer than we anticipated. Courtney laughs beside me and adds, “We don’t have any matches to start a fire.” Despite our troubles, I am grinning from ear to ear, no doubt spoiling the grim mood Mark is attempting to cultivate and Lago Condorcillo is doing its best to enforce.

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