Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences - Biogeography


Decline of large mammal populations after the breakdown of the Soviet Union

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.

Our lab at the IBS conference in Bayreuth

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.

A mix of sparing and sharing is more optimal than either land use strategy

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.

Harnessing the biodiversity value of Central and Eastern European farmland

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.

Warfare triggered land use change in the Caucasus

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.

Does China's logging ban weaken the conservation function of sacred forest?

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.

New project on land-use change and biodiversity in Kazakhstan

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.

Germany's land systems changed similarly - despite East-West separation

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.

Field trip to the Carpathian Mountains - Bieszczady in May 2014

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 land systems in Ukraine

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.

Review on finite land resources and competition

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”.

Moving beyond land cover change in climate change assessments

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.

Modelling avian biodiversity using unclassified satellite imagery

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.

Paper published on drivers of forest harvesting intensity patterns in Europe

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.

Mapping threats to reindeer habitat in Russia

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.

Paper on agricultural land use change in the Carpathians published

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.

New paper on farmland abandonment and carbon sequestration in Eastern Europe

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.

TV documentary on links between German wood demand and forest use in Eastern Europe

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

New EU FP-7 project HERCULES started

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).