By 2050 it is estimated that we will need around 50% more food. Even under ambitious future scenarios of reducing food waste, consumption of meat and dairy, and inequality, agricultural production increases will still be necessary (Visconti et al., 2015). Biodiversity is already in trouble, notably due to agricultural expansion into natural areas. Land-use intensification often touted as solution to stop expanding into natural areas and grow more on the same patch. However, in finding a balance between agriculture and wildlife, most research focuses on yields and biodiversity. Our new study published in Diversity and Distributions this week shows that this is an over-simplistic approach. Focusing on yields alone in agricultural intensification misses a big part of the story, and potentially overlooks numerous drivers of biodiversity loss (e.g. irrigation causing salinization of soils, toxic livestock runoff). Our study shows that if we wish to find sustainable ways in which to feed the world, we need to take into account the full spectrum of management practises by which we grow food.
What determines patterns of species richness is a fundamental question in biogeography. A new paper led by Maud Mouchet, just published in PLoS ONE, provides new insights related to this question by assessing avian, amphibian, and mammalian richness patterns in Europe across scales using boosted regression trees. Land cover and evapotranspiration were main correlates of vertebrate species richness over Europe, correlates varied substantially among regions and across scales - with land-use/land-cover becoming more important at finer scales.
We are now accepting applications for two new PhD positions in our lab. Both PhD projects will focus on the South American Chaco - the biggest continuous dry forest in the world, spanning parts of Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay. This area has undergone rapid deforestation and agricultural intensification in the past few decades with drastic outcomes for biodiversity and ecosystem services. Recruiting has started, but the application deadline has been extended until 31 Juli.
European bison have been successfully saved from extinction, but their long-term survival requires larger and well-connected herds. A new paper in Biological Conservation, led by Benjamin Bleyhl, shows that the Caucasus mountains is a place where a large bison population could be establish, providing ample summer and winter habitat.
A new paper by Simone Gingrich and co-authors in Land Use Policy shows that Human Appropriation of NPP (HANPP) has declined during the 20th century across Europe. Using a comprehensive set of land use datasets from nine countries, the paper also shows that the starkly contrasting institutional and economic paradigms, with communism on the one hand and capitalism on the other, did not influence HANPP trajectories strongly - highlighting the importance of population and technological change as drivers of land management.
Much cropland was abandoned in Kazakhstan after the breakdown of the Soviet Union and an important question is if and how these lands could contribute to global food security. A new paper by Roland Kramer in Environmental Research Letters suggests that the potential for further expansion may be lower than appreciated, because much recultivation has already occurred in the last years and the remaining abandoned lands largely is located in areas with low agricultural production potentials.
When forest transitions, the shift from net deforestation to net forest increase, happened has important implications for carbon budgets. A new paper in Global Change Biology, led by Tobias Kuemmerle, highlights that forest transitions in European Russia happened later and forest recovery was slower than previously appreciated. Moreover, the intensity of and use already 200 years ago may have been much higher than previously thought. Together, this suggest a high potential for increased carbon sequestration in European Russia.
Agricultural abandonment is a major land use change in the temperate region but where abandonment happens is often unclear. A new paper in Remote Sensing of Environment, led by Stephan Estel, uses MODIS time series analyses to map managed and fallow agricultural land for all of Europe annually since 2001. This allowed to identify hotspots of continued abandonment, mainly in mountain regions and Eastern Europe, but also to show that recultivation of cropland abandoned after the breakdown of the Soviet Union has become a major land trend in Europe.
Trees outside forests are often overlooked, yet are important for biodiversity and carbon dynamics. A new paper, led by Tobias Plieninger and just published in PLOS One, highlights that orchard meadows in Southern Germany have been disappearing rapidly over the last decades, mainly due to conversion to more profitable land uses and urban areas. The paper also identifies what characterizes persistent orchard meadows - information that could be used to craft more effective policies to preserve these landscape elements.
Much environmental concern surrounded the Winter Olympics in Sotchi 2014 as skiing slopes and facilities were constructed in one of the largest forest tracts of the Greater Caucasus. A new paper by Genya Bragina, published in Biological Conservation, used a satellite image analyses to find that the Olympics indeed led to sizable forest losses inside former protected areas. Overall though, forest loss in the region since 1990 was lower than in other regions in the former Soviet Union - which is encouraging given that the Caucasus is a biodiversity hotspot.
On Thursday, 23.April 2015, the Biogeography Department took part in the "Girl's Day". We welcomed a group of Girls to discover what female scientists do in the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences at Campus Adlershof.
Laura Kehoe's new blog on the Pangolin featured in Mongabay.
Scenario analysis highlights the importance of small patches to maintain forest connectivity in the Argentine Chaco
Maintaining habitat connectivity at the eco-regional scale is a key goal of land-use and conservation planning, but it remains often unclear how current future connectivity change in the future. A new paper led by María Piquer-Rodríguez, and just published in Landscape Ecology, shows how scenarios of future deforestation can be used to identify those landscape elements that are key to maintaining connectivity. Moreover, the paper shows that the Argentine Forest Law, planned and implement at the state level, needs to be complemented by a eco-regional assessment connectivity assessment and should focus more on forest remnants acting as stepping stones and are thus important to preserve forest connectivity in the Chaco.
The breakdown of the Soviet Union constitutes one of the most dramatic institutional and socioeconomic shocks of the 20th century. A new paper, led by Eugenia Bragina and just published in Conservation Biology, suggests that large mammal populations in Russia may have been hit hard by the breakdown of the Soviet Union. Most most populations declined during the 1990s, likely a result of overexploitation, while wildlife populations appear to having rebounded after 2000.
Last week our group participated in the International Biogeography Society 7th Biennial Conference in Bayreuth. We all had a great time there listening to inspiring talks, chatting with interesting people and exploring the Frankonian Beerdiversity. In the following you can find and download our four poster contributions to the conference.
Aligning food production with biodiversity conservation is a great challenge of our time. Much scientific debate has centered on whether land sparing (separating conservation and agriculture) or land sharing (integrating the two) is superior in this regard. A new paper by Van Butsic and Tobias Kuemmerle in Ecological Applications shows that at the landscape scale, a mix of both strategies outperforms both sharing and sparing in most cases. The paper also introduces an modelling framework to derive more optimal solutions than choosing between the black and white alternatives of sharing vs. sparing.
Farmland biodiversity depends on low-intensity farming practices, and Eastern Europe still harbors widespread traditional landscapes rich in farmland biodiversity. A large group of authors from Europe's East and West now highlights that farmland biodiversity in Eastern Europe is lost, and adequate conservation measures, adjusted to the local conditions in Eastern Europe, are needed to safeguard biodiversity heritage there.
Armed conflict are en extreme form of an institutional and socioeconomic and shock, but how conflict affects land use change trajectories remains poorly understood. Studying the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Caucasus region, a new paper in Regional Environmental Change, first-authored by Matthias Baumann, highlights land use changes at the conflicts site and away from it - potentially shifting land systems into new states.
Understanding the effectiveness of different conservation approaches is important to guide conservation planning and policy making. A new paper by Jodi Brandt, just published in Biological Conservation, explored how three conservation policies, protected areas, a logging ban, and traditional sacred areas, affected old-growth forest protection in Yunnan in China's southwest. While protected areas and the logging ban resulted in positive forest conservation outcomes, old-growth forests logging inside sacred areas accelerated following the logging ban, suggesting that local institutions may have been weakened by national policies.
A new 3-year-project in Kazakhstan will be funded by the Volkswagen Foundation entitled ‘Balancing trade-offs between agriculture and biodiversity in the steppes of Kazakhstan (BALTRAK)’. The aim of the project is to quantify spatio-temporal trends in fire and land use in Kazakhstan, to understand the links between land use, fire, and biodiversity, and finally, to explore potentials for increasing agricultural production.
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.