“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…

JOB: Post-doctoral researcher in Global Ecology

June 7, 2019
WDG

Post-doctoral researcher in Global Ecology
Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
University of Amsterdam
Deadline: 14 july 2019

There is a 18 month post-doctoral research position within the Department of Theoretical & Computational Ecology at IBED focused on Global Ecology, we are looking for someone with skills and experience the following areas:

  • PhD in ecology, biodiversity or a related discipline
  • quantitative skills and statistical analyses
  • species distribution modelling
  • analyses of species composition, functional traits and species interactions

For further details and how to apply click here, or contact Daniel Kissling

Palynologische Kring: Spatial patterns in palaeoecology

March 18, 2019
WDG

Palynologische Kring: Spatial patterns in palaeoecology meeting
Date: Thursday 4 April
Location: Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed (RCE), Amersfoort

  • 13:30 – 14:00 Otto Brinkkemper (RCE): Spatial patterns in the Dutch archaeobotanical dataset
  • 14:00 – 14:30 Marjolein Gouw-Bouman (Utrecht University): Spatial patterns of the Dark Age reforestation

Break

  • 15:00 – 15:30 Thomas Giesecke (Utrecht University): Research and education of vegetation change in four dimensions – developments of the European Pollen Database in Neotoma
  • 15:30 – 16:00 Crystal McMichael (University of Amsterdam): Ancient human disturbances may be skewing our understanding of Amazonian ecology
Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed

Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed

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Detecting the European arrival in the Caribbean

March 8, 2019
mickbonnen

The second of our discussion papers for the “Amsterdam Palaeoecology Club”:

Mick Bonnen

Mick ready to catch bumble bees!

Detecting the European arrival in the Caribbean
By Mick Bönnen (currently studying for MSc Biological Sciences, Ecology & Evolution track at the University of Amsterdam)

The paper we discussed was “Columbus’ footprint in Hispaniola: A paleoenvironmental record of indigenous and colonial impacts on the landscape of the central Cibao Valley, northern Dominican Republic” by Castilla-Beltrán et al (2018). The paper provides a multi-proxy paleoecological reconstruction of the Caribbean island nation of the Dominican Republic, spanning the last 1100 years. Personally I found this to be a very interesting paper, packed with information and interpretations on the impact of anthropogenic factors on past Caribbean environments. What this paper nicely demonstrates is the difference in impact between pre-colonial and post-colonial societies on the vegetation of the Dominican republic. Pre-colonial Hispaniola was inhabited by indigenous societies, the Taíno people, and while this paper clearly shows them having had an environmental impact in the form of fire management (e.g. for slash and burn agriculture), small scale deforestation and the introduction of cultivars such as maize and squash, their environmental impact remains modest compared to post-colonial disturbances. Columbus arriving in AD 1492 signified a moment of change in the landscape. The paleorecord suggests that, after an initial collapse of the Taíno population, the colonization of the Dominican Republic by the Spanish brought with it deforestation, crop monoculture and the introduction of European livestock, all of which still characterizes the landscape to this day.

The discussion mainly focused on the chronology used. One of the radiocarbon samples was excluded from the age-depth model for no apparent reason, which led us to discuss the importance of critically evaluating your calibrated radiocarbon dates and which ones to incorporate in your age-depth model. The age-depth model currently used implied a shift in pollen composition c. 30 years before the arrival of the Spanish. We were unsure how to interpret these findings because you would expect the shift to happen afterwards, so my initial thought was that it had to be a fault in the chronology. This chronology however does imply a large charcoal peak followed by a rapid decline that coincides precisely with the arrival of the Spanish, and it turned out that this was the reason the authors settled on this chronology.

Even though this paper by Castilla-Beltrán et al. didn’t spark any heated discussions, its incorporation of ecology, botany, history, archeology and geology still showcases the interdisciplinary nature of paleoecology, something I very much enjoy about this field of research.

References

Continue Reading

Plant Ecology & Diversity

February 22, 2019
WDG

I recently joined the editorial board of Plant Ecology & Diversity at the invitation of editor-in-chief Laszlo Nagy (University of  Campinas, Brazil). The journal focuses on ecological and evolutionary issues within plant biology with broad themes covering biodiversity, conservation and global change. Furthermore, I think this is a particularly interesting journal to be involved with because of its option for double-blind peer reviews, commitment to providing a platform for ‘negative results’ and ‘repeat experiments’, and its open access Grubb Review series (Nagy & Resco de Dios, 2016); which already includes many significant articles, including: Ashton (2017), Barbeta & Peñuelas (2016), Grubb (2016), Körner (2018), Valladares et al. (2016), and Wilkinson & Sherratt (2016). In addition to the invited Grubb Reviews the journal publishes: research articles, short communications, reviews, and scientific correspondence. My role on the editorial board will be to cover submissions related to tropical palaeoecology and biogeography. So please consider submitting to Plant Ecology & Diversity if you have some exciting new research or ideas that you think would be appropriate.

 

References Continue Reading

Netherlands Annual Ecology Meeting 2019

February 11, 2019
WDG

The Netherlands Annual Ecology Meeting (NAEM) 2019 takes place in the 12 and 13 February. This annual showcase of predominantly Dutch based ecological research will take place, as usual, at Conference Centre “De Werelt” (Lunteren). I am particularly excited this year as, along with Marielos Pena Carlos and Patrick Jansen, I am co-convening a session on “Tropical Ecology”. The first time I have contributed to the program in this way. Our session will be on the second day of the conference and contain the following exciting presentations:

  • 15:00 Predator avoidance and prey tracking in a Neotropical forest (Constant Swinkels, Wageningen University & Research)
  • 15:20 The role of fig volatiles in pollinator specificity and fig diversity (Aafke Oldenbeuving, Naturalis Biodiversity Center)
  • 15:40 Mangrove Atlantis: Can mangroves keep up with extreme land-subsidence? (Celine van Bijsterveldt, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research)
  • 16:00 Break
  • 16:10 The fate of forests in agro-forest frontier landscapes, implications for conservation (Madelon Lohbeck, Wageningen University & Research)
  • 16:30 Trends in the variability of Specific Leaf Area of paramo vegetation during succession (Marian Cabrera, University of Amsterdam)
  • 16:50 Succession dynamics of tree and soil fungal communities in regenerating tropical rainforests are strongly influenced by regional species pool and abiotic factors (Irene Adamo, Naturalis Biodiversity Center)

 

Job: Theoretical Ecology

November 29, 2018
WDG

The Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dynamics (University of Amsterdam) is currently looking for an theoretical ecologist. The position will be based in the Department of Theoretical & Computational Ecology and will be at the Assistant or Associate Professor level.

Closing date: 3 January 2019
For further details on the position and how to apply click here.

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