Socieal-economic and institutional shocks, such as revolutions, warfare or economic crisis can be powerful drivers of environmental change. A new study led by Maria Niedertscheider and just published in Global Environmental Change suggests that the industrialization of agriculture over the last 130 years was relatively unaffected by the numerous shock events during that time - including two world wars, the German separation and reunification, and the EU accession of Germany. The case of Germany illustrate that technological innovation, increasing resource efficiency, structural change, and demographic transformations may be more powerful drivers of land system change that institutional factors.
In the summer term, the Biogeography Lab and the Geomatics Lab as well as the Jagielonian University Krakow organized a joined student field trip to the Bieszczady Mountains in Southeastern Poland. Students carried out field work on measuring forest structure and biomass, as well as learned about a range of field methods to collect ecological data - from setting up camera traps to catching arthropods to conducting herpetile searches. The program was completed by visits of guest researchers talking about their work on wildlife ecology and conservation in the area.
Mapping spatial patterns in agricultural management intensity is important to understanding the environmental outcomes of land use. A new study by Jan Stefanski, just published in Remote Sensing, highlights a new approach that combines optical and radar data to map farmland management regimes - from subsistence gardening to intensified agriculture - in Western Ukraine.
On 10th March 2014 the Long Night of Science took place for the 8th time. From 5 to 12 pm the Biogeography department organised the interactive game “Where the wild things are”. Participants chose up to 10 animals from three different difficulty levels and tried to locate their range on wall maps. Winners got a “Biogeography-expert batch” to take home. It was well-frequented and great fun for many children and adults as well. Further, we explained how our camera traps work and showed pictures of a wide range of animals in their natural habitat. The traps took pictures in the Carpathians, Caucasus, Sweden, South Africa, and Columbia. Especially the night shots taken with infrared technique were very impressive for our guests. We are looking forward to the next Long Night of Science. Follow the link to some pictures...
The competition for land is rising due to surging rates of consumption of land-based products as well as the emergence of new, globally important land uses such as the conservation of land as well as the expansion of built-up areas. A new publication led by Helmut Haberl discusses emerging issues related to land competition, including the effect of increased demand for non-provisioning ecosystem services (biodiversity conservation and carbon sequestration), urbanization, bioenergy, and teleconnections. This publication is part of a book arising as from a Strüngmann workshop on “Rethinking Global Land Use in an Urban Era”.
Are changes in land management, such as changes in forestry or agricultural intensity, important drivers of regional and global climate change? A new paper in Nature Climate Change, led by Sebastiaan Luyssaert, suggests that both conversions among broad land use classes and changes in land management within these classes should be considered when assessing the climate impact of land use change. Using flux tower measurements and remote sensing analyses of pairs of sites with and without conversions or management showed that both types of land use changes results in significant changes in temperature and albedo.
Satellite images can provide important information on species’ habitats, yet most habitat studies rely on image classifications that do not capture the variability within broad land cover classes well, and are challenging to derive for areas where sparse vegetation classes dominate. A new paper by Véronique St-Louis, published as a part of a special issue by the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B on Satellite remote sensing for biodiversity research and conservation applications, shows how indices derived from unclassified imagery can help to describe bird habitat in semi-arid environments.
Forests provide humankind with essential raw materials and the demand for these materials is increasing. Meeting this demand will have to rely on intensifying forest management in existing production forests since expanding forestry is environmentally costly. Our current understanding of what determines forest management intensity is weak, which makes it difficult to assess the environmental and social trade-offs of intensification. A new paper just published in Forest Ecology & Management mapped the spatial patterns of forest harvesting intensity in Europe, identified its most important determinants along with their relative importance, and provides concrete starting points for developing measures targeted at increasing regional wood supply from forests or lowering harvest pressure in regions where forests are heavily used.
In one of their weekly sessions students of the Biogeography class played a game about island-biogeography throwing beermats from different distances on carpet-islands in different sizes. Find out more about the game and see some pictures...
Migratory species often have large ranges, but some parts of their range are particularly critical. For Reindeer herds, calving grounds are crucial habitat, yet for many Russian reindeer herds calving grounds are neither well known nor protected. A new paper just published in Diversity and Distributions mapped, for the first time, the distribution of tundra reindeer calving ground habitat across Russia, and how oil and gas development as well as climate change may affect these habitats in the future.
How agricultural land use changes is poorly understood in many world regions. A new paper by Patrick Griffiths that was just published in Environmental Research Letters used the composite images created from the Landsat archives to map cropland/grassland conversions, cropland abandonment, and recultivation for the entire Carpathians.
the breakdown of the Soviet union has triggered what has been called the most drastic episode of land use change - with many millions of hectares of farmland being abandoned. An important question in this context is how much carbon has been sequestered on abandoned farmland. A new paper led by Florian Schierhorn that was just published in Global Biogeochemical Cycles answers this question by disaggregating fine-scale cropland statistics to generate an area-wide abandonment map for European Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine, and the LPJmL global vegetation model to calculate how much carbon has been sequestered since abandonment on these lands.
The German TV station NDR recently produced a documentary focusing on Germany's rapidly increasing fuel wood demand and the sources fuel wood. As Eastern Europe increasingly becomes an important exporter of wood, the documentary also shows some of the results from our satellite-based mapping of forest cover changes in the Carpathians and it features interviews with members from the Biogeography and Geomatics Labs of the Geography Department. the show was aired on Dec 2, 2013 and can be seen on the webpage of the station
The new project 'Sustainable futures for Europe’s HERitage in CULtural landscapES (HERCULES): Tools for understanding, managing, and protecting landscape functions and values' was just kicked off in Brussels. HERCULES seeks to better understand the characteristics, spatial patterns, and dynamics in Europe's cultural landscapes in order to develop tools to help protect, manage, and plan for sustainable landscapes.HERCULES is funded by the European Commission (FP7).
Land use is a major driver of global environmental change and many of the grand sustainbility challenges humanity faces in the 21st century. Unfortunately, our understanding of the global patterns of land use is limited, mainly because global data on land management intensity are scarce. A recently published in the journal Global Environmental Change combined a range of land use, environmental, and socio-economic datasets to provide a global map of land systems. This freely available map will be useful for assessing the environmental and social outcomes of changing land use. This study emerged from a collaboration between Humboldt-University Berlin and the Environmental Resaerch Centre (UFZ) in Leipzig and was jointly supported by the German BMBF and the Einstein Foundation Berlin.
A new study by Karlheinz Erb and coauthors suggests a substantial fraction of the terrestrial carbon sink, past and present, may be incorrectly attributed to environmental change rather than changes in forest management.
We recently purchased 40 camera traps to monitor wildlife activity. Check out some fascinating pictures from testing these cameras in Central Romania and Southern Sweden!
Research frontiers for better understanding trade-offs between agricultural production and biodiversity conservation
How to balance agricultural production and biodiversity conservation has emerged as a central question in Land Use Science and Conservation Biology. A new paper by Ricardo Grau and co-authors, recently published in Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, identifies research frontiers in the analysis of trade-offs between agriculture and conservation. The paper highlights that assessments of alternative land use strategies, such as land sparing and land sharing, could benefit from an improved consideration of environmental heterogeneity (in biodiversity patters and agricultural productivity), teleconnections, and the socio-economic constrants of particular land use strategies.
Two new papers recently published in the journal Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability address existing knowledge gaps surrounding land use intensity. In the first study, Erb and co-authors review the disciplinary context of research on land use intensity, discuss conceptualizations of indicators to measure land use intensity, and propose a new, systemic framework for addressing land use intensity. The second study by Kuemmerle and co-authors review approaches to map land use intensity globally, summarize existing quantitative, spatially-explicit metrics, and outline challenges and concrete steps forward to better characterize land use intensity and changes therein at the global scale. Both papers emerge from a Global Land Project (GLP) synthesis effort and research carried out within the EU FP7 Integrated Research Project VOLANTE.
Environmental problems are complex and require expertise from multiple disciplines, but environmental research that integrates natural and social science can be challenging. A new study in BioScience carried out by the 2009 class of fellows of the Coupled Human and Natural Systems Network (CHANS-Net) highlights both the benefits of and barriers to successful interdisciplinary resaerch. A comprehensive survey among environmental scientists showed that respondents identified many advantages and rewards of interdisciplinary research, but also revealed substantial barriers at the institutional level. The survey furthermore suggests that interdisciplinary training should begin as early as possible in scientists' careers.
The Biogeography and Conservation Biology Lab recently started a new project together with researchers fromPoland and WWF Germany to identify potential reintroduction sites for European bison in Germany.
Maintaining habitat connectivity is a major challenge for conservation planners. Using an example from Southern Spain, a new paper by Maria Piquer-Rodriguez highlights how conservation planning for connectivity can be improved by considering future scenarios and and by identifying those landscape connectors that are at highest risk of being lost.
After the final exam of the semester the Biogeography class had the opportunity to learn about research and conservation in action with a back-stage tour of the Museum für Naturkunde. Students had the chance to see the some of the 30 million objects in the Museum’s collection along with learning about behind the scenes cataloging and research techniques including amphibian studies in Western Africa and microscopic digitalization of specimens.