Iron defecation by sperm whales stimulates carbon export in the Southern Ocean, Lavery et. al 2010

Whales have been viewed as a source of CO2 because they respire tons of CO2 annually. However, their feces could possibly offset this impact, as they may be a great contributor to carbon export (removal from the atmosphere) to the depths of the ocean. Iron-rich whale feces stimulate the growth of phytoplankton, which leads to more…

Let more big fish sink: Fisheries prevent blue carbon sequestration—half in unprofitable areas, Mariani et. al 2010

The ocean sequesters about 22% of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Marine vertebrates contribute to the ocean’s carbon sink capacity in various ways, such as by fertilizing coastal vegetated habitats, and (through the work of marine predators) protecting this vegetation from overgrazing. Additionally, fish sequester carbon in the deep sea when they sink to the bottom after…

Migratory animals couple biodiversity and ecosystem functioning worldwide, Bauer & Hoye 2014

Billions of animals, including insects, mammals, fish, and birds, migrate through the planet every year, which uniquely influences the environment and the ecological communities along migration routes. “The frequency of migrations and the immense number of individuals involved often mean that migrant inputs constitute “resource pulses,” defined as occasional, intense, brief episodes of increased resource…

Microclimates mitigate against hot temperatures in dryland ecosystems: termite mounds as an example, Joseph et al. 2016

This paper presents an analysis of microclimatic temperature effects of termite mounds in Zimbabwe and South Africa that provide important climatic “refuges” for other local organisms. The research compared the vegetation growing on the mounds with that on control plots in the surrounding savannah with respect to temperature differences. They found that more tall woody…

Equids engineer desert water availability, Lundgren et al. 2014

Many large herbivores may have important roles in dryland ecosystems. Equids such as donkeys and horses, as well as elephants, have been reported to dig wells of a maximum depth of two meters, enhancing water availability for a variety of animals and plants. Noting that this subject has received limited research attention, the authors carried…

Pollination by bats enhances both quality and yield of a major cash crop in Mexico, Tremlett et al. 2019

“The majority of the world’s 350,000 species of flowering plants rely on animal pollinators for reproduction” [Tremlett 2019: 2]. Of the many vertebrates performing this function, including birds, rodents, and reptiles, bats are thought to be the primary pollinators for about 1,000 species of plants across the tropics. The authors of this study conducted this…

Can large carnivores change streams via a trophic cascade? Beschta & Ripple 2020

After having been wiped out by the 1920s, wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995-1996. This study assessed the importance of large carnivores to wild ungulates’ behavior and density, with secondary effects on plant communities, rivers and channels, and beaver communities. Focusing on the West and East Forks of Blacktail Deer Creek, the…

25 years after returning to Yellowstone, wolves have helped stabilize the ecosystem, Peterson 2020

Before the 1900s, wolves and other predators, such as bears and mountain lions, helped control the populations of herbivores in Yellowstone. However, the federal government exterminated these predators in a coordinated campaign. After the last wolf pack was killed, the elk numbers started increasing uncountably. The US Park Service subsequently attempted to control the elk…

Can large herbivores enhance ecosystem carbon persistence? Kristensen et al. 2021

This article considers the overlooked role of grasslands and large herbivores in carbon storage. The principal question the authors pose is: what is the impact of large wild and domestic herbivores on the ability of ecosystems to absorb and store carbon over the long term? Their answer is that the activity of species like cattle,…

Summaries of articles on the ecological roles of animals

Can large herbivores enhance ecosystem carbon persistence? Kristensen et al. 2021 This article considers the overlooked role of grasslands and large herbivores in carbon storage. The principal question the authors pose is: what is the impact of large wild and domestic herbivores on the ability of ecosystems to absorb and store carbon over the long…

Compendium 5.2: Ecological roles of animals

Animals contribute vitally to Earth’s water, carbon, and nutrient cycles. Every ecosystem is supported by uncountable animal species, ranging from birds to insects and mammals to fish, as well as microscopic organisms. The devastating news is that the Earth is losing about 150 animal, plant and microbial species every day, mostly due to human activities.[8] Understanding…

Trees, forests and water: Cool insights for a hot world, Ellison et al. 2017

This article (also highlighted in Compendium v2n1) reviews research on the benefits of tree cover in relation to water and energy cycles. Forests help produce rain. Vegetation releases water vapor through transpiration, increasing atmospheric moisture that is then transported by wind. In fact, “over most of the tropics, air that passes over forests for ten…

Local temperature response to land cover and management change driven by non-radiative processes, Bright et al. 2017

Local temperatures are affected not only by global climatic factors, but also by radiative (albedo) and non-radiative (evapotranspiration and convection) mechanisms related to local vegetation cover. Through evapotranspiration, solar energy is converted to latent heat and released from the planet’s surface, while convection refers to the turbulent mixing of air that dissipates sensible heat. The…

The impact of anthropogenic land use and land cover change on regional climate extremes, Findell et al. 2017

This paper analyzes how land use and land cover change (LULCC) affects temperature and humidity. The authors examined the differential effects of forest versus deforested land on temperature and humidity by comparing different land-cover models. One model simulated the total potential vegetation (“PotVeg”) that would cover Earth in the absence of human interference, while the…

Expansion of oil palm and other cash crops causes an increase of the land surface temperature in the Jambi province in Indonesia, Sabajo 2017

Turning lemons into lemonade, Sabajo et al. have used the great expansion of oil palm plantations and other crops in Indonesia to examine how such land-use change affects land surface temperature (LST). The authors observed a warming trend in the Jambi province of Sumatra of 1.05℃ and 1.56℃ in the morning and afternoon, respectively, between 2000 and 2015. The…

Historical deforestation locally increased the intensity of hot days in northern mid-latitudes, Lejeune 2018

Deforestation has contributed to warming in the northern mid-latitudes of North America and Eurasia not only through a large contribution to global CO2 emissions, but also through biogeophysical effects. The latter refers to land-surface effects such as albedo and evapotranspiration, which vary according to the type of land cover. This study uses models to demonstrate that…

Characteristics, drivers and feedbacks of global greening, Piao et al. 2019

The amount of Earth’s green cover (measured as Leaf Area Index[6]) has increased globally since 1980, especially in northern latitudes, where growing seasons have lengthened. This is due mainly to increasing CO2 concentration, but also to warmer temperatures and changing precipitation patterns, nitrogen deposition, and land-use change (such as afforestation in China). Higher ambient CO2 can stimulate…

The duality of reforestation impacts on surface and air temperature, Novick & Katul 2020

While reforestation has been widely heralded as a means of sequestering carbon into the soil, there is growing evidence that it also serves to directly cool the land surface. But forests’ impacts on air temperature (measured over forests rather than within them) have been difficult to assess because of the confounding impacts of forest canopies on…

Cloud cooling effects of afforestation and reforestation at midlatitudes, Cerasoli, Jin & Porporato 2021

Reforestation and afforestation (R&A) are well-established climate mitigation strategies in the wet tropics due to high carbon sequestration rates of forests/trees. However, at high latitudes (boreal regions), the low albedo of trees–compared to snow and other lighter land surfaces–leads to the absorption of energy, thus creating a warming effect that has a greater impact on…

Summaries of articles showing the cooling effect of vegetation

Cloud cooling effects of afforestation and reforestation at midlatitudes, Cerasoli, Jin & Porporato 2021 Reforestation and afforestation (R&A) are well-established climate mitigation strategies in the wet tropics due to high carbon sequestration rates of forests/trees. However, at high latitudes (boreal regions), the low albedo of trees–compared to snow and other lighter land surfaces–leads to the…

Compendium 5.2: Relationships between vegetation and temperature

Earth is heating up: “Global surface temperature was 1.09°C higher in 2011– 2020 than 1850–1900,” according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s 6th Assessment Report.[3] Yet the mercury is not rising uniformly around the world – the Arctic is warming faster than are the lower latitudes, and temperatures over land are higher than over the…

An Okanagan Worldview of Society, Armstrong 2020

Jeannette Christine Armstrong is a Canadian author, educator, artist, and activist, who wrote this article about the traditional decision-making process in Okanagan, called “enowkinwixw,” which demonstrates a great practice of biophilia. Okanagan, the Penticton Indian reservation in Canada where the author was born and raised, has a very fragile ecosystem. However, the author discovered that…

Biophilia: the human bond with other species, Wilson 1984

A book review by Rachel West As I read the first chapter, Wilson brought me far into the forests of the Amazon Basin to encounter canopy-dwelling birds and frogs found nowhere else on Earth; he showed me the life cycle of a tiny moth so specialized that the adult lives only in the fur of…

Symbiosis: Structure and Functions, Ecological and Evolutionary Role, Sélosse 2000

(La Symbiose : Structures et Fonctions, Rôle Écologique et Évolutif) Book review by Ehsan Kayal What is symbiosis? How is it defined? What does it involve? And how did it come to be? These are some of the questions French Biologist Marc-André Sélosse explores in this book. It is not simple to define “symbiosis,” which…

Compendium 5.1: Worthy miscellany

Symbiosis: Structure and Functions, Ecological and Evolutionary Role, Sélosse 2000 (La Symbiose : Structures et Fonctions, Rôle Écologique et Évolutif) Book review by Ehsan Kayal What is symbiosis? How is it defined? What does it involve? And how did it come to be? These are some of the questions French Biologist Marc-André Sélosse explores in…

Tree planting is not a simple science, Holl & Brancalion 2020

Well-planned tree-planting projects are an important component of global efforts to improve ecological and human well-being. But tree planting becomes problematic when it is promoted as a simple, silver bullet solution and overshadows other actions that have greater potential for addressing the drivers of specific environmental problems, such as taking bold and rapid steps to…

Near-Natural Silviculture: Sustainable Approach for Urban Re-naturalization Assessment Based on 10 Years Recovering Dynamics and Eco-Benefits in Shanghai, Guo et. al 2015

As one of China’s major cities, Shanghai’s natural sub-ecosystem[5] has suffered drastic damage due to human activities and urbanization. Although urban re-naturalization has gained attention from city leaders, urban tree planting has largely consisted of two methods with limited ecological potential. One favors fast-growing monocultures to produce timber products and other benefits, while the other approach…

Linking Restoration and Ecological Succession, Walker, Walker & Hobbs (eds) 2007

This book draws lessons from ecological succession theory to inform ecological restoration, stating that: “restoration is fundamentally the management of succession” [Walker 2007: vi]. The latter is the natural process by which plants first colonize “new” land (post landslide, glacial retreat or volcanic eruption, for example) or degraded land, and over time develop into mature…

Ecological and evolutionary consequences of biotic homogenization, Olden et al. 2004

Anthropogenic environmental change and global dispersal of a wide variety of species outside their native ranges has expanded the range of “cosmopolitan,” non-native species and shrunk the range of regional and endemic species. “This replacement of specific native forms by generalist non-natives in space and time has mixed the taxonomic composition of once disparate biotas,…

Global exchange and accumulation of non-native species, van Kleunen et al. 2015

The ecological, economic, and social damage of human-mediated dispersal of species into new regions, where they possess the ability to naturalize (become self-sustaining their new homeland), is one of the defining features of the Anthropocene Epoch. Globally, human activity has led to the naturalization of nearly 13,168 plant species (equal in size to the native European…

Do non-native plants contribute to insect declines? Tallamy, Narango & Mitchell 2020

The widespread distribution of plants outside of their native range due to human activity is a significant yet underrecognized cause of global insect decline, according to this article. To illuminate the issue, the authors: “examine the evidence for and against the hypothesis that long term changes in the species composition of plant assemblages have contributed…

Native plants improve breeding and foraging habitat for an insectivorous bird, Narango, Tallamy & Marra 2017

This study examined whether non-native plants in residential Washington DC limited the presence of the Carolina chickadee, a local breeding insectivore. We predicted that areas with more native plants would support more chickadees, and chickadees would forage more often in the most insect-producing native plants [Narango 2017: 43]. The authors had also considered the possibility…

Impact of Native Plants on Bird and Butterfly Biodiversity in Suburban Landscapes, Burghardt, Tallamy & Shriver 2008

In this study, the insect and bird populations of six pairs of suburban yards were measured. Each pair contained one conventionally landscaped yard containing native canopy trees and a mixture of native and non-native shrubs, grasses and understory trees; and one yard with native species only (canopy, understory, shrub and grasses). The level of plant…

Non-native plants reduce abundance, richness, and host specialization in lepidopteran communities, Burghardt et al. 2010

This research evaluates the impact of the invasion of non-native plants in the distribution of lepidopteran (butterfly, skipper, and moth) communities. The authors assert that although the introduction of non-native plants has not resulted in a “global extinction”, they have had a considerable impact on how ecosystems function—they often result in significant bottom-up reductions of…

Interactions among plants and evolution, Thorpe et al. 2011

This review explores the question of whether plant-plant interactions drive evolutionary changes. “If such evolution is common, plant communities are not random assemblages of species.” The topic is under-studied compared to plant interactions with other groups. Research on plant–consumer, plant–pollinator and plant–disperser interactions has been central to understanding the complex mutualistic and co-dependent interactions among…

Bridging ecology and conservation: from ecological networks to ecosystem function, Harvey et al. 2017

This article emphasizes the importance of species interactions as drivers of ecosystem function. The classic conservation approach is to set aside national parks or to target specific species for protection, based on their rarity or endangered status. However, these approaches can have trade-offs for non-target species, while also potentially failing to protect ecosystem function. The…

Conceptualizing communities as natural entities: a philosophical argument with basic and applied implications, Steen et al. 2017

Ecological restoration aims to recreate lost or degraded ecological communities. However, “community” has been a difficult concept to define – should the definition stress dominant species, species interactions, or a subset of strongly interacting species? These authors propose defining community on the basis of co-evolutionary relationships among species. We propose that an Evolutionary Community is…

Predictive modeling of the potential natural vegetation pattern in northeastern China, Liu et al. 2009

This study uses the concept of Potential Natural Vegetation (PNV), developed in the mid-1900s by German botanist Reinhold Tüxen. Described by the authors as “one of the most successful novelties in vegetation science over the last decades” [Liu 2009: 1313], PNV can be defined as a projection of the natural vegetation that would exist in a…

Vegetation types and their broad-scale distribution, Box & Fujiwara 2013

A vegetation type, or plant community, is identifiable by its distinct appearance compared to other landscape types within a landscape. For example, a grassland and a wetland differ in appearance from each other and from a forest, while a wetland-forest is yet another visibly different vegetation type. Plant species are recognizable by their form, which…

Vegetation Ecology: Historical Notes and Outline, van der Maarel & Franklin 2013

These authors define the concept of a plant community through discussion of its evolution. They start by defining the term ‘vegetation’ in a way that may surprise some readers because it excludes plants growing in certain situations. To be considered vegetation, plants need to emerge spontaneously. Vegetation, the central object of study in vegetation ecology,…

The community as an ecological unit, Barbour, Burk & Pitts 1987

This article provides an overview of types of plant communities and the process of succession in those communities. In each type of habitat, certain species group together as a community. Fossil records indicate that some of these groups (or very closely related precursors) have lived together for thousands or even millions of years. During that…

Native plants, native ecosystems, and native landscapes: an ecological definition of “native” will promote effective conservation and restoration, Wilson, Hibbs & Alverson 1991

Produced by the Native Plant Society of Oregon, this article argues that, while the use of native species is an accepted tenet of conservation, the term “native” is not necessarily well understood; they attempt to clarify the term. “Any definition of a native species, native ecosystem, or native landscape requires an historical benchmark” [Wilson 1991:…

Native plants article summaries

The following articles lay out a few key ecological concepts and terms that may be helpful to become familiar with for the growing number of biodiversity-conscious people and organizations that are beginning to plant more native plants on their land. Native plants, native ecosystems, and native landscapes: an ecological definition of “native” will promote effective…

Compendium Vol. 5 No. 1: The ecological role of native plants

Bio4Climate has been studying the Miyawaki Method of reforestation over the past several months. This 50-year-old technique involves densely planting native forest species from shrub to canopy layer to create tiny, fast-growing urban ecosystems[3]. Members of our staff have joined local efforts to establish Miyawaki “mini-forests” in Cambridge, MA, in Los Angeles, CA, and one…

The woman building the forest corridors saving Brazil’s black lion tamarin, Zanon 2020

“The tamarin is unable to do anything to save its own species. And we, human beings, are the ones who are destroying their environment,” says conservationist Gabriela Rezende. “So, when I got the opportunity to see this animal in the wild, I felt partly responsible for its future.” Rezende works with the Institute for Ecological…

Belize creates one of Central America’s largest biological corridors, Dasgupta 2018

The Belize government approved a plan in February 2018 to create a 110-square-kilometer biological corridor connecting two nature reserves in the northeast of the country. This outcome resulted from collaboration among NGOs, the government and private property owners. The latter agreed to conserve (to not deforest or otherwise degrade) the parts of their land that would…

Effectiveness of Panama as an intercontinental land bridge for large mammals, Meyer et al. 2019

One of the world’s largest corridor projects is the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor (MBC). Initiated in the 1990s, the MBC aims to connect protected areas between southeastern Mexico and Panama [Meyer 2019: 2]. The ecological functionality of the MBC has not been much assessed, in part because direct approaches to measuring connectivity are costly and challenging.…

Between Bolivar and Bureaucracy: The Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, Liza Grandia 2007

Written by an anthropologist working in Central American conservation efforts for more than 10 years, this article describes the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor (MBC) project as having succumbed to a neoliberal agenda. Although originally spearheaded by Central American environmentalists, the notion of cross-border environmental collaboration was adopted by the World Bank and large international conservation organizations…

The Mesoamerican Biological Corridor in Panama and Costa Rica, Dettman 2006

At the end of the 1980s, as a period of severe conflict in Central America was winding down, most countries in the isthmus signed the Charter Agreement for the Protection of the Environment, which established a sustainable development commission. At the same time, the “Central American Protected Areas System (SICAP) created approximately 11.5 million hectares…

The concept of green corridor and sustainable development in Costa Rica, Beauvais & Matagne 1999

The concept of sustainable development presumes that human economic systems and overall wellbeing depend on functioning ecosystems. Therefore, ecological rhythms should not be transgressed to the point that they fail to provide the vital services needed today and in future generations. According to this model, economic development becomes a necessary but insufficient condition for society…

Integrating Agricultural Landscapes with Biodiversity Conservation in the Mesoamerican Hotspot, Harvey et al. 2007

The fate of biodiversity within protected areas is therefore inextricably linked to the broader landscape context, including how the surrounding agricultural matrix is designed and managed [Harvey 2007: 8]. Rather than discussing ecological corridors per se, this article emphasizes the importance of a whole-landscape approach to biodiversity conservation. Pointing out that protected nature reserves are…

Shaping land use change (LUC) and ecosystem restoration in a water-stressed agricultural landscape to achieve multiple benefits, Bryant et al. 2020

In spite of its obvious benefits, agriculture, which covers one third of the Earth’s land surface, damages biodiversity and ecosystem services. In some regions, land degradation and depletion of water resources from irrigation have been so great that historical levels of food production in these regions risk decline. Some areas of previously productive farmland will…

Woods and hedgerows of Brittany countryside [Le bocage Bretagne], OEB (L’Observatoire de l’Environnement en Bretagne) 2018

Produced by a regional consortium on the environment in Brittany, France, this report describes the ecological value of woody strips encircling agricultural fields and enmeshing the countryside, their decline, and ways to incentivize their protection. Brittany is a heavily agricultural region that also features a long stretch of coastline where urban development and expansion is…

Articulating the politics of green and blue infrastructure and the mitigation hierarchy for effective biodiversity preservation in France [Articuler la politique Trame verte et bleue et la séquence Éviter-réduire-compenser: complémentarités et limites pour une préservation efficace de la biodiversité en France], Chaurand & Bigard 2019

This article reviews the historical development of two pieces of environmental legislation in France – the use of the “mitigation hierarchy” to assess and limit environmental impact in project development and the promotion of ecological corridors. Theoretically, these two laws overlap when urban development projects in proximity to areas of ecological significance use the mitigation…

Blue and green corridors [Les trames vertes et bleues] in France, Ministry of Ecological Transition 2017

Spurred to action by the European Union and a vision for a pan-European ecological network, France encoded the idea of the “trames vertes et bleues” into law in 2009. The national government worked with all the regional governments to develop maps showing areas with the highest levels of biodiversity. This includes protected areas, stretches of…

Status of the Natura 2000 network (from State of Nature in the EU report), EEA (European Environmental Agency) 2020

While not an ecological corridor per se, the Natura 2000 network is the largest coordinated network of conservation areas in the world. Covering 17.9% of Europe’s land area and nearly 10% of the continent’s marine areas, the network includes 27,852 sites with an area of 1,358,125 km2. The terrestrial portion of the Natura 2000 network…

Fence ecology: frameworks for understanding the ecological effects of fences, McInturff et al. 2020

Conceptually the inverse of wildlife corridors, fences aim to disconnect. They are built to separate people across national borders, livestock from predators, to delineate property lines, and even to protect wildlife conservation reserves. Globally, fences are ubiquitous, more prevalent even than roads, and proliferating. Yet their ecological impact is relatively unstudied. Fences are often framed…

Ecosystem service provision by road verges, Phillips et al. 2019

‘Road verges’ are strips of land on either side of roads and highways that are on average 3-4m wide, but can be as narrow as a few centimeters or many meters wide. “Road verges are commonly grassland habitats, but can be shrubland, forest or artificial arrangements of trees and horticultural plants, and we use the…

Characterizing multispecies connectivity across a transfrontier conservation landscape, Brennan et al. 2020

Connectivity conservation pays attention to landscape connectivity to support animal species’ movements, keep ecological processes intact, and promote biodiversity. While the strategy of conserving connected, non-fragmented areas and respecting animals’ movement patterns is sound, in practice these plans are usually designed around a single species and its needs. Brennan et al. looked at the limitations…

A meta-analytic review of corridor effectiveness, Gilbert-Norton et al. 2010

Habitat fragmentation, a frequent consequence of habitat loss, is a primary threat to populations and species because isolated subpopulations are expected to experience reduced population viability and ultimately greater risk of extinction. Colonization and gene flow between habitat patches, however, can mitigate these effects [Gilbert-Norton 2010: 661]. This meta-analysis, consisting of 78 experiments from 35…

Integrating priority areas and ecological corridors into national network for conservation planning in China, Liang et al. 2018

In contrast to the Gao et al. [2017] article (above), this study maps out an ecological network spanning the entire nation of China. Most such ecological corridor analysis has previously focused at the local and regional levels, according to the authors. They note that in addition to protecting biodiversity, ecological corridors (ECs) purify air, regulate…

Constructing ecological networks based on habitat quality assessment: a case study of Changzhou, China, Gao et al. 2017

Changzhou is a city near the Yangtze River delta on the east coast of China that has undergone extensive urban development. “From 2006 to 2014, the built-up area in the city increased by 25.68%” [Gao 2017: 2]. This study is part of an effort to boost biodiversity and ecosystem services in the city, which, at…

Guidelines for conserving connectivity through ecological networks and corridors, Hilty et al. 2020

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which created these guidelines, is an international environmental network founded in 1948 that provides conservation data, assessment and analysis to governments, NGOs and private entities. IUCN also manages the Red List of Threatened Species. This connectivity guideline is part of a series of best practices for protected…

A “Global Safety Net” to reverse biodiversity loss and stabilize Earth’s climate, Dinerstein et al. 2020

Currently, 15.1% of land on Earth is conservation protected. This article maps out an additional 35.3% of land needing near-term protection, along with ecological corridor routes connecting these areas. Half of the planet’s land is needed to serve as a Global Safety Net to biodiversity loss and stabilize the global climate. While the parallel crises…

Ecological corridor article summaries

A “Global Safety Net” to reverse biodiversity loss and stabilize Earth’s climate, Dinerstein et al. 2020 Currently, 15.1% of land on Earth is conservation protected. This article maps out an additional 35.3% of land needing near-term protection, along with ecological corridor routes connecting these areas. Half of the planet’s land is needed to serve as…

Compendium Vol. 4 No. 2: Ecological corridors and connectivity

Establishing ecological corridors is a way to mitigate the effects of habitat loss and fragmentation. Ecological corridors are linear landscape elements connecting otherwise isolated habitat patches within a larger matrix of environmentally degraded lands (urban or agricultural, for example). The corridors facilitate gene dispersal and migration, while also expanding habitat range for species constrained by…

Well-watered mulberry tree credited with saving home on NSW South Coast from summer bushfires, Aubrey 2020

A well-watered mulberry tree has been credited with averting the danger of destructive wildfires from destroying Brett Hawkins’ home during 2020’s unprecedented fire season in Australia. When massive fires raged through the bush through the summer, many homes were completely engulfed. However, Hawkins attested that when he returned to his home after evacuating, ‘I could…

Landscape rehydration ‘better than dams’ in improving farm production, reducing fire risk, Major 2020

A project in Queensland, Australia has met with success in its efforts to rehydrate the landscape on the farmland property of Worona Station, improving biodiversity, water retention, and resistance to erosion and fire. Worona Station had been degraded and faced serious erosion issues, so Chris Le Feuvre, the owner, partnered with consultancy groups of NQ…

Planned Herbivory in the Management of Wildfire Fuels, Nader et al. 2007

Nader et al. survey herbicides, prescribed fire, mechanized treatments, hand cutting, and grazing animals as fire management techniques. Managing vegetation involves “changing the plant community to decrease the flame height when fire occurs,” favoring native species that may be more resilient to fire, and altering the landscape to create fuel breaks, which are patches across which…

Smokey the Beaver: beaver‐dammed riparian corridors stay green during wildfire throughout the western USA, Fairfax and Whittle 2020

This study examines the positive effects of beaver damming on the resistance of landscapes to wildfire damage. The authors find that in riparian corridors (areas along rivers), the presence of beavers and their dams can create refuges that withstand blazes that consume surrounding vegetation. Beavers play an important role in wetland habitats and are known…

Invasive grasses increase fire occurrence and frequency across US ecoregions, Fusco et al. 2019

It has long been suspected that the increasing abundance of invasive grass species may contribute to wildfires in the United States by adding abundant new fuels to ecosystems, increasing the range of conditions that lead to fire ignition, and enabling the development of larger, hotter fires. The new fire regimes (patterns of fire duration, intensity,…

Community owned solutions for fire management in tropical ecosystems: case studies from Indigenous communities of South America, Mistry et al. 2016

Indigenous groups across the world have developed ecological knowledge linked to the places they inhabit, including prescribed fire practices used to maintain healthy ecosystems. Mistry et al. examine the challenges Indigenous communities in South America face in managing the landscape through fire and preserving such knowledge across generations in sometimes hostile political climates. However, there…

Land use planning and wildfire: development policies influence future probability of housing loss, Syphard et al. 2013

Wildfire is a challenge that threatens human settlement at an increasing scale, but planning and development does not always address this threat. In fact, policy around land use is in large part responsible for the destruction of homes and property and the threat to human life that occurs in wildland-urban interfaces (WUIs). While there is…

Fire Myths, Hanson 2018

In this podcast interview, Dr. Chad Hanson, an ecologist and fire researcher, shares his perspective on the 2018 wildfires in the American West and some myths that have circulated about fire management in their wake. First, there is a perception that wildfires in forested regions are so devastating that they reverse the ‘carbon sink’ effect…

Our burning planet: why we must learn to live with fire, Pyne 2020

Steven J. Pyne is an emeritus professor at Arizona State University and the author of several books on fire history and policy. He wrote this opinion piece as a protest against the prevention and suppression of wildfires in our land management process. He argues that revising our perception of fire and accepting its presence in…

Wildfire article summaries

Our burning planet: why we must learn to live with fire, Pyne 2020 Steven J. Pyne is an emeritus professor at Arizona State University and the author of several books on fire history and policy. He wrote this opinion piece as a protest against the prevention and suppression of wildfires in our land management process.…

Compendium Vol. 4 No. 2: Responding to Wildfire

All over the world, from Australia to Europe to North and South America, wildfires have waged destruction on natural landscapes and human settlements alike. The devastation of these disasters is heartbreaking, and the images of catastrophe – walls of flame, scorched wildlife, a world gone red – are unforgettable. There is no more potent image…

Gardening advice from indigenous food growers

https://www.yesmagazine.org/environment/2020/05/20/garden-advice-indigenous-food-growers/ Covid19 has been an additional stressor on many Native American communities already burdened by deprivations from centuries of ongoing injustice. According to Julie Garreau, project coordinator of Cheyenne River Youth Project, which operates a 2.5-acre youth garden in South Dakota, gardens are a source of both food and healing. “Gardens represent so much more,”…

In South Korea, centuries of farming point to the future for sustainable agriculture

https://news.mongabay.com/2020/05/in-south-korea-centuries-of-farming-point-to-the-future-for-sustainable-agriculture/?utm_source=Mongabay+Newsletter&utm_campaign=624a4d7680-Newsletter_2020_04_30_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_940652e1f4-624a4d7680-77145713 In South Korea, knowledge of ancient farming techniques adapted to various harsh conditions, along with a sense of urgency about the need to adapt to even harsher conditions as the global climate system deteriorates, is bringing about the blossoming of an environmentally friendly agriculture movement. Farmers draw on traditional knowledge of “nitrogen-fixing plants, soil…

The hopeful work of turning Appalachia’s mountaintop coal mines into farms

https://www.yesmagazine.org/issue/just-transition/2017/10/12/the-hopeful-work-of-turning-appalachias-mountaintop-coal-mines-into-farms/ In Mingo County, West Virginia, the soil on a flat expanse of what had been a mountaintop is compacted, composed mainly of blasted rocks, and lacks organic matter, due to several years of coal mining. The ground is harder than anticipated; even the soil scientists say they are not sure how long it will…

Compendium Vol. 4 No. 1: Blessed Unrest

In continuation of the “blessed unrest” section of previous issues of the Compendium, the following sketches illustrate how people everywhere are seeing that humanity depends on nature for both our physical and spiritual wellbeing and our survival. As this awareness takes hold, people act to protect and restore not only the land, but also our…

Biodiversity increases multitrophic energy use efficiency, flow and storage in grasslands, Buzhdygan 2020

While several studies have shown that biodiversity within a trophic level (among plants, for example) increases ecosystem function (such as productivity), this study examines the effects of increased plant diversity on multi-trophic networks (encompassing plants, soil microorganisms, and above- and belowground invertebrates). The authors compared monoculture plots (with one plant species) to plots containing 60…

Compendium Vol. 4 No. 1: Worthy miscellany article summary

Biodiversity increases multitrophic energy use efficiency, flow and storage in grasslands, Buzhdygan 2020 While several studies have shown that biodiversity within a trophic level (among plants, for example) increases ecosystem function (such as productivity), this study examines the effects of increased plant diversity on multi-trophic networks (encompassing plants, soil microorganisms, and above- and belowground invertebrates).…

When is a forest a forest? Forest concepts and definitions in the era of forest and landscape restoration, Chazdon et al. 2016

This article analyzes the policy context for forest ecosystem restoration, arguing that it is heavily shaped by the way we define a forest. The use of a forest definition lacking ecological considerations severely undermines conservation and restoration initiatives.   We live in an era of unprecedented environmental change, motivating equally unprecedented global actions to protect…

Effectiveness of the Miyawaki method in Mediterranean forest restoration programs, Shirone, Salis & Vessela 2011

This study tested the Miyawaki method of rapid natural forest regeneration (which has been shown to work in Japan and elsewhere) in the arid Mediterranean. In this area, millennia of human civilization have resulted in degraded soils and reduced and changed forest cover, traditional reforestation efforts have often failed, and desertification is a looming threat. The…

High ecosystem service delivery potential of small woodlands in agricultural landscapes, Valdes 2020

This article assesses the ecological value of small woodlands relative to larger ones. The authors conclude that: …smaller woodlands potentially deliver multiple services at higher performance levels on a per area basis than larger woodlands of a similar age, even if the larger woodlands harbor a higher biodiversity [Valdes 2020: 12]. Because of their high…

Plant diversity enhances the reclamation of degraded lands by stimulating plant-soil feedbacks, Jia et al. 2020

This study tested biodiversity effects on ecosystem function in the process of reviving severely degraded and contaminated land, and found that “increasing plant diversity greatly enhanced the reclamation of these lands” [Jia 2020: 1].   Prior to implementing the reclamation experiment, the degraded mine wasteland investigated in this study was heavily impacted by past mining…

Intact forests in the United States: proforestation mitigates climate change and serves the greatest good, Moomaw 2019

The concept of “proforestation” presented here means letting existing forests continue to grow and reach their full ecological potential. Due to intensive management practices, most existing forests sequester carbon at only half (or less) of their potential rate. In addition to storing (embodying) more carbon than their smaller counterparts, large trees also sequester carbon at…

Reintroducing rewilding to restoration – rejecting the search for novelty, Hayward et al. 2019

This perspective piece argues against scientific or public adoption of the term “rewilding,” which the authors view as being generally synonymous with the classical and better-understood concept of ecological restoration. Definitions of restoration are sufficient to encompass practices espoused in rewilding. Early definitions of restoration describe the practice as “the process of repairing damage caused…

The differences between rewilding and restoring an ecologically degraded landscape, du Toit & Pettorelli 2019

This commentary distinguishes between restoration and rewilding of ecosystems, explaining that the latter aims at ecological adaptation to novel local environmental conditions wrought by global climate change. By contrast, restoration, as defined here, aims to recreate and maintain an historical state or condition of an ecosystem, regardless of current environmental conditions. Although the two words…

Rewilding: a call for boosting ecological complexity in conservation, Fernández et al. 2017

Rewilding is gaining traction as an approach to conservation. However, many different perspectives about which species and ecological processes to focus rewilding efforts on and how deeply to intervene in systems has created some confusion and contention within the field. Furthermore, the most ambitious and extreme rewilding proposals (for example, recreating communities that went extinct…

Rewilding complex ecosystems, Perino et al. 2019

A growing body of literature emphasizes the need for novel, process-oriented approaches to restoring ecosystems in our rapidly changing world. Dynamic and process-oriented approaches focus on the adaptive capacity of ecosystems and the restoration of ecosystem processes promoting biodiversity, rather than aiming to maintain or restore particular ecosystem states characterized by predefined species compositions or…

Restoration and repair of Earth’s damaged ecosystems, Jones et al. 2018

This meta-analysis of 400 studies compared passive and active ecosystem repair outcomes in terms of the speed and completeness of recovery, and found little difference between the two approaches. Active restoration did not result in faster or more complete recovery than simply ending the disturbances ecosystems face [Jones 2018: 1]. Passive recovery simply means ending…

Ecological restoration success is higher for natural regeneration than for active restoration in tropical forests, Crouzeilles et al. 2017

This meta-analysis comparing active restoration to natural ecosystem regeneration found the latter to be more effective. The authors conclude that “lower-cost natural regeneration surpasses active restoration in achieving tropical forest restoration success for biodiversity and vegetation structure[7]” [Crouzeilles 2017: 4]. This conclusion runs counter to conventional wisdom that active restoration is preferable despite being more…

Approaches to ecosystem restoration article summaries

Ecological restoration success is higher for natural regeneration than for active restoration in tropical forests, Crouzeilles et al. 2017 This meta-analysis comparing active restoration to natural ecosystem regeneration found the latter to be more effective. The authors conclude that “lower-cost natural regeneration surpasses active restoration in achieving tropical forest restoration success for biodiversity and vegetation…

Compendium Vol. 4 No. 1: Approaches to ecosystem restoration

The UN’s Decade of Ecosystem Restoration declaration aims to “prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide,” stating that “there has never been a more urgent need to restore damaged ecosystems than now” [UNEP/FAO Factsheet 2020]. Estimates of global land degradation range from 25% to 75% of Earth’s land surface. The uncertainty is due…

Emerging human infectious diseases and the links to global food production, Rohr et al. 2019

Increasing agricultural production to feed >11 billion people by 2100 raises several challenges for effectively managing infectious disease. Of many factors examined in this article linking agricultural expansion to infectious disease, one is conversion of natural habitat to cropland or rangeland. Land conversion increases contact between wild animals, livestock and humans. As natural ecosystems are…

Integration of wildlife and environmental health into a One Health approach, Sleeman et al. 2019

This article introduces the concept of One Health, a public health framework adopted by the Centers for Disease Control in 2009, which recognizes the interdependence of humans, animals and our shared environment. The concept has gained traction as a way to address health problems arising from global environmental change. Climate change, loss of biodiversity, habitat…

Habitat fragmentation, biodiversity loss and the risk of novel infectious disease emergence, Wilkinson 2018

Habitat loss reduces biodiversity, which leads to infectious disease emergence. The way a habitat is fragmented (how many patches it is divided into, how those patches are shaped, and what the distance is between them) further affects the extent of disease emergence. Both the number of divisions of habitat into smaller patches and the irregularity…

The nexus between forest fragmentation in Africa and Ebola virus disease outbreaks, Rulli et al. 2017

Ebola virus disease outbreaks in West and Central Africa have been linked to spillover from potential disease reservoirs such as bats, apes, and duikers (an antelope-like animal). Spillover has been thought to be related to population density, vegetation cover, and human activities such as hunting, poaching, and bushmeat consumption. In this study, forest data from…

Conservation of biodiversity as a strategy for improving human health and wellbeing, Kilpatrick et al. 2017

This article very pragmatically addresses the question of whether biodiversity conservation could be an effective public health tool against infectious disease emergence and transmission. Determining whether biodiversity conservation is an effective public health strategy requires answering four questions: (1) Is there a general, causal relationship between host biodiversity and disease risk? (2) If the link…

Where the Wild Things Aren’t: Loss of Biodiversity, Emerging Infectious Diseases, and Implications for Diagnosticians, Granter 2016

This status-quo-challenging editorial is written for the American Society of Clinical Pathology, a group seemingly unrelated to the Bio4Climate community. The authors suggest that medical training in pathology over-emphasizes oncology at the expense of an adequate coverage of infectious disease, even though “between 1940 and 2004, a total of 335 human infectious diseases ‘emerged,’ and…

Biodiversity inhibits parasites: Broad evidence for the dilution effect, Civitello et al. 2015

Human activities are dramatically reducing biodiversity, and the frequency and severity of infectious disease outbreaks in human, wildlife, and domesticated species are increasing. These concurrent patterns have prompted suggestions that biodiversity and the spread of diseases may be causally linked. For example, the dilution effect hypothesis proposes that diverse host communities inhibit the abundance of…

Impacts of biodiversity on the emergence and transmission of infectious diseases, Keesing et al. 2010

This paper contextualizes reduced transmission of infectious disease as one of the many ecosystem services provided by biodiversity. Changes in biodiversity affect infectious disease transmission by changing the abundance of the host and/or vector; the loss of non-host species may increase the density of host species, increasing the encounter rates between pathogen and host. Often,…

Biodiversity loss and the rise of zoonotic pathogens, Ostfeld 2009

West Nile Virus is an infectious disease that arrived in New York City in 1999, and subsequently spread across the country to the west coast. It is transmitted to humans from passerine (perching) birds via mosquito vectors. This study tested the dilution effect hypothesis, which posits that greater diversity (of birds in this case) reduces…

Effects of species diversity on disease risk, Keesing, Holt & Ostfeld 2006

This review article describes the potential mechanisms by which biodiversity affects disease risk. The authors explore the mechanisms at play in simple systems with only host and pathogen, as well as in more complex systems that include a vector species and/or multiple hosts. The reduction of disease risk by increased diversity is called the “dilution…

Anthropogenic environmental change and the emergence of infectious diseases in wildlife, Daszak, Cunningham & Hyatt 2001

Humans are not the only species to suffer global pandemics. Planetwide, fungal disease ravages amphibians, just as honeybees are ravaged by varroasis. A herpes virus caused mass mortality of pilchard fish off the coast of Australia and New Zealand in 1995, and seals from Antarctica to the Caspian Sea have contracted canine distemper viruses, for…

Biodiversity loss and pandemics article summaries

Anthropogenic environmental change and the emergence of infectious diseases in wildlife, Daszak, Cunningham & Hyatt 2001 Humans are not the only species to suffer global pandemics. Planetwide, fungal disease ravages amphibians, just as honeybees are ravaged by varroasis. A herpes virus caused mass mortality of pilchard fish off the coast of Australia and New Zealand…

Compendium Vol. 4 No. 1: Biodiversity loss and pandemics

The subject of infectious disease became both fascinating and uncomfortably relevant with the global breakout of Covid-19 in early 2020. Are bats to blame, hunting and selling of wild game or seafood markets? It turns out that the destruction of nature is the root problem, according to the UN environment chief and lead scientists for…

Compendium Vol. 4 No. 1: Introduction

In a fitting juxtaposition, 2020 has brought us both the Covid-19 pandemic and the eve of the United Nations (UN) Decade of Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030). As we have learned from infectious disease research, ecosystem degradation drives the emergence of novel human diseases that become pandemic. In this issue of the compendium we delve into research…

Indian temple restores sacred forest stream flow

Sacred forests/groves are not uncommon in India, especially in the biodiverse Western Ghats mountain range. These groves are community-protected patches of forest ranging in size from less than a hectare to several hundred hectares, and they are often believed to house gods [Ormsby & Bhagwat 2010]. A particular temple in the Western Ghats just outside…

Coastal recovery: bringing a damaged wetland back to life, summarized from Yale Environment 360, May 2019

https://e360.yale.edu/features/the-science-and-art-of-restoring-a-damaged-wetland “It was a stink hole,” says Al Rizzo, the refuge manager of Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware Bay. Humans had messed with hydrology in an ill-conceived project aimed to convert salt marsh into a large open freshwater impoundment system to attract migrating waterfowl among others. Lines of dunes and tidal gates were…

For one Indonesian village, mangrove restoration has been all upside, summarized from Mongabay News, September 2019

https://news.mongabay.com/2019/09/for-one-indonesian-village-mangrove-restoration-has-been-all-upside/?n3wsletter&utm_source=Mongabay+Newsletter&utm_campaign=a1cff7d467-Newsletter_2019_09_26&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_940652e1f4-a1cff7d467-77145713 Demand for firewood in recent years led to the depletion of the mangrove forest in the Indonesia village of Paremas. For years the people’s occupations were agriculture and fishing. Depleted fish stock, poor irrigation and challenges associated with land ownership drove most of the men to work overseas in order to raise money to…

Sri Lanka wields mangroves, its tsunami shield, against climate change, summarized from Mongabay News, September 2019

https://news.mongabay.com/2019/09/sri-lanka-wields-mangroves-its-tsunami-shield-against-climate-change/?n3wsletter&utm_source=Mongabay+Newsletter&utm_campaign=a1cff7d467-Newsletter_2019_09_26&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_940652e1f4-a1cff7d467-77145713 Sri Lanka is home to 82 lagoons and estuaries and is among the top five countries that will be impacted by climate risk. Thilakaratne De Silva, a 63-year old local fisherman, saw the Tsunami of December 2004 sweep off half his home village. He was among the first to join hands with other community…

Compendium Vol. 3 No. 2: Blessed Unrest

In continuation of the “blessed unrest” section of Compendium V3N1, the following sketches illustrate how people throughout the world are coming to recognise the enormous value of intact ecosystems, and are doing their part to protect and restore. Adopting Paul Hawken’s terminology and characterization of “blessed unrest” as a spontaneous, decentralized global social movement, we…

Addressing change mitigation and adaptation together: a global assessment of agriculture and forestry projects, Kongsager, Locatelli & Chazarin 2019

In climate policy and financing, the goals of adaptation (helping communities and ecosystems adapt to the effects of climate change) and mitigation (reducing carbon emissions and increasing carbon sinks) are often separate. This is because “adaptation and mitigation are driven by different interests and political economies, with distinct international donors and national institutions. These differences…

The exceptional value of intact forest ecosystems, Watson et al. 2018

Forests currently cover a quarter of Earth’s terrestrial surface, although at least 82% of that remaining forest is degraded by human activity. While a handful of international accords rightly encourage forest conservation and reforestation to limit global warming, these agreements fail to prioritize protection specifically of intact forests, or forests that are free from human…

Europe’s forest management did not mitigate climate warming, Naudts et al. 2016

Despite their total area having increased by 10% since 1750, European forests have failed to achieve a net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere because of how they’ve been managed over that time. Eighty-five percent of Europe’s once largely unmanaged forest has been subjected to tree species conversion, wood extraction via thinning and harvesting, and…

Rate of tree carbon accumulation increases continuously with tree size, Stephenson et al. 2014

The growth rate of trees – and thus their accumulation of carbon – increases continuously with tree size. Even though the leaves of smaller, younger trees are more efficient (more productive per unit area of leaf surface), larger trees have more total leaf surface area and thereby grow at a faster rate than their smaller…

Plant phylogenetic diversity stabilizes large‐scale ecosystem productivity, Mazzochini et al. 2019

Phylogenetic[10] measures of diversity contain information on evolutionary divergences amongst species, thus representing the diversity of phylogenetically conserved traits related to resource use, acquisition and storage. Thereby, distantly related species are expected to respond differently to changing environmental conditions. These functional traits can be general traits related to the fast–slow growth rate spectrum, such as specific…

Ongoing accumulation of plant diversity through habitat connectivity in an 18-year experiment, Damschen et al. 2019

This long-term experiment measured the difference in colonization and extinction rates of connected habitat fragments versus isolated fragments. The connected fragments were linked by a narrow (150m by 25m) strip of habitat. These habitat corridors increased the biodiversity of connected fragments by 14% after 18 years compared to their isolated counterparts. In a large and…

Wilderness areas halve the extinction risk of terrestrial biodiversity, DiMarco et al. 2019

We found that wilderness areas act as a buffer against extinction risk. The global probability of species extinction in non-wilderness communities is over twice as high as that of species in wilderness communities. The buffering effect that wilderness has on extinction risk was found in every biogeographical realm, but was higher for realms with larger…

A spatial overview of the global importance of Indigenous lands for conservation, Garnett et al. 2018

Indigenous people make up less than 5% of the global population, but their lands encompass 37% of the planet’s remaining natural lands and (partially overlapping with natural lands) 40% of Earth’s protected area, much of this in sparsely inhabited places. Like everyone, indigenous people have multiple interests (economic, political, cultural), which don’t necessarily always support…

Compendium Vol. 3 No. 2: Land Management and Conservation

A spatial overview of the global importance of Indigenous lands for conservation, Garnett et al. 2018 Indigenous people make up less than 5% of the global population, but their lands encompass 37% of the planet’s remaining natural lands and (partially overlapping with natural lands) 40% of Earth’s protected area, much of this in sparsely inhabited…

Compendium Vol. 3 No. 2: Heat Planet: Biodiversity, the Solar Interface and Climate Disruption

By Christopher A. Haines, Biodiversity for a Livable Climate Christopher Haines is a seasoned architect licensed in both MA and NY who applies expertise in regenerative architectural design, healthy materials, preservation, renovation and specification writing to small commercial and urban projects. He has spoken for years at US and international forums as well as formally…

Adapt now: a global call for leadership on climate resilience, Global Commission on Adaptation, September 2019

This report, led by Ban Ki Moon (UN), Bill Gates (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) and Kristalina Georgieva (World Bank), calls on decision makers worldwide to facilitate coordinated action to help communities adapt to climate change. Importantly, the report makes the case for nature-based adaptation approaches, which inherently help mitigation efforts as well. Adaptation measures…

Living Building Challenge Standard, June 2019

The construction and operation of buildings and houses is a major source of pollution and ecosystem destruction around the world. In light of this, the Living Building Challenge invites people to reimagine the built environment as a source of social and ecological regeneration. Nothing less than a sea change in building, infrastructure and community design…

Where we stand: climate action, The American Institute of Architects (AIA) 2019b

Noting that 40% of carbon emissions in the US come from the construction (including sourcing of materials) and operation (heating, cooling, lighting) of buildings and houses, the AIA pledges to achieve zero-carbon construction and operation of all new buildings, and retrofitting of existing buildings to reduce their energy use and increase their resilience to severe…

Coastal adaptation with ecological engineering, Cheong et al. 2013

Because of the multiple threats and uncertainties of a changing climate, protecting coastal areas simply by building new seawalls (or some other such inflexible, single-tactic approach) is unlikely to be the most effective option. Instead, combined coastal adaptation strategies to allow for a dynamic response to multiple stressors are increasingly preferred. Climate scientists and coastal managers…

Eco-engineering urban infrastructure for marine and coastal biodiversity: which interventions have the greatest ecological benefit? Strain et al. 2017

While the majority of people on Earth live in cities, the majority (60%) of the world’s largest cities are located within 100 kilometers of a coast. The pollution and urban infrastructure (such as marinas, sea walls, or oil/gas platforms) emanating from cities greatly stresses coastal marine habitats. Coastal infrastructure tends to be vertical and smooth,…

A new vision for New Orleans and the Mississippi delta: applying ecological economics and ecological engineering, Costanza, Mitsch & Day 2006

What happened in New Orleans [during Hurricane Katrina], while a terrible “natural” disaster, was also the cumulative result of excessive and inappropriate management of the Mississippi River and delta, inadequate emergency preparation, a failure to act in time on plans to restore the wetlands and storm protection levees, and the expansion of the city into…

Promoting and preserving biodiversity in the urban forest, Alvey 2006

Given the dangerous, precipitous global decline in biodiversity, coupled with rapid urbanization, cities have a key role to play in protecting biodiversity. In fact, cities already do harbor a large share of biodiversity. This may be due to the fact that cities are often situated in places of large inherent biodiversity (along rivers, for example),…

Urban development, land sharing and land sparing: the importance of considering restoration, Collas et al. 2017

With 66% of the world’s population predicted to live in cities by 2050, the challenge of reconciling urban growth with biodiversity conservation demands attention. Although the environment is altered by urbanization, there is potential for cities to support a great deal of biodiversity [Collas 2017: 1866]. This study shows that urban growth and biodiversity enhancement…

The interaction of rivers and urban form in mitigating the Urban Heat Island effect: a UK case study, Hathaway & Sharples 2012

Like vegetative and light or reflective surfaces, water bodies have a cooling effect on cities, reducing the Urban Heat Island effect. The average temperature at the river in this study was 1C less than at a reference point elsewhere in the city. Furthermore, the form of the landscape on the banks of an urban river…

Mitigating New York City’s heat island with urban forestry, living roofs and light surfaces, Rosenzwieg et al. 2006

Urban heat islands are created when solar energy is absorbed by non-reflective, impervious, and often rather dark surfaces, such as asphalt, stone, metal, and concrete, which are ubiquitous in cities. Exacerbating this solar energy absorption effect are abundant amounts of heat released from vehicles, factories and air conditioners, for example, as well as pollutants trapped…

How to make a city climate-proof, Kleerekoper, van Esch & Salcedo 2012

“The geometry, spacing and orientation of buildings and outdoor spaces” [Kleerekoper 2012: 30], as well as the prevalence of hard surfaces and reduced amount of vegetation, strongly modify the micro-climate of urban areas compared to rural surroundings. Characterized by an increase in temperature, a phenomenon referred to as urban heat island [UHI] effect has multiple…

Advancing urban ecology toward a science of cities, McPhearson et al. 2016

The study of urban ecology has grown rapidly over the past couple of decades as the planet becomes increasingly more urbanized. The field started as the study of ecology within the green spaces of cities, and has since evolved into a multidisciplinary approach to understanding the city itself as an ecosystem with interacting social, ecological…

Global change and the ecology of cities, Grimm et al. 2008

Whereas just 10 percent of people lived in cities in 1900, now more than half the global population is urban and that proportion continues to grow. Cities occupy less than 3% of the Earth’s land surface, but generate 78% of global CO2 emissions and consume 76% of wood used for industrial purposes. Urban dwellers depend…

Compilation of article summaries on adaptation and urban resilience

Global change and the ecology of cities, Grimm et al. 2008 Whereas just 10 percent of people lived in cities in 1900, now more than half the global population is urban and that proportion continues to grow. Cities occupy less than 3% of the Earth’s land surface, but generate 78% of global CO2 emissions and…

Compendium Vol. 3 No. 2: Adaptation and Urban Resilience

The industrialization that has built today’s splendid high-tech cities isolated us from the land and water sources of the materials fueling this progress. Our cities scarcely reveal that the oxygen we breathe, the food we eat, the purification of waters, and to some extent the bucolic weather patterns we have long relished have been gifts…

Compendium Vol. 3 No. 2: Introduction

We begin this issue of the Compendium by exploring the role of cities in the era of climate breakdown. This section features “Heat Planet,” an essay by architect Christopher Haines, member of Bio4Climate’s Leadership Team, exploring the global implications of the pervasive phenomenon of the “Urban Heat Island” and other heat-producing paved and de-vegetated surfaces around…

Gaia and natural selection, Lenton 1998

The Gaia hypothesis invites us to imagine Earth as an integral living system in order to explore the mechanisms by which life helps create and maintain the conditions for life, such as an oxygenated atmosphere. “The Gaia theory proposes that organisms contribute to self-regulating feedback mechanisms that have kept the Earth’s surface environment stable and…

Vegetation as a major conductor of geomorphic changes on the Earth surface: toward evolutionary geomorphology, Corenblit & Steiger 2009

Geomorphology is the study of landforms and processes and how they developed. This conceptual commentary proposes that the emergence and evolution of life, especially vegetation, has played a major role in physically shaping the Earth. For example, plant roots trap and hold sediment (preventing erosion), resulting in the formation of hillsides, sand dunes, fluvial islands,…

Blue carbon stocks of Great Barrier Reef deep-water seagrasses, York et al. 2018

The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) protects northeast Australia from wave exposure, while also creating habitat for a vast expanse of shallow- and deep-water seagrasses between the reef and the shoreline. Deep-water seagrasses here occupy an area roughly the size of Switzerland. While the carbon storage capacity of shallow-water seagrasses, dubbed ‘blue carbon,’ are known to…

Indigenous hunters have positive impacts on food webs in desert Australia, Penn State 2019

When Australian authorities removed indigenous Martu people from their traditional lands in the desertic center of the continent in the mid-1900s, endemic species there declined or went extinct. Researchers observed that the Martu’s hunting regime of small burning patches of land reduced the size of wildfires while also boosting populations of native species such as…

Compendium Vol. 3 No. 1: Worthy miscellany

Indigenous hunters have positive impacts on food webs in desert Australia, Penn State 2019 When Australian authorities removed indigenous Martu people from their traditional lands in the desertic center of the continent in the mid-1900s, endemic species there declined or went extinct. Researchers observed that the Martu’s hunting regime of small burning patches of land…

Kids fight for their future

iMatter is a tight-knit national group of passionate pre-college individuals who are making real impacts in their communities. They are showing up in city halls and state offices, demanding their elected officials at every level possible commit to bold and visionary climate action. Students from Brookline High School in Massachusetts submitted resolutions to their town legislators,…

Methow Beaver Project:enlisting beavers to make wetlands in compensation for declining mountain snowpack

The deep winter snow falls on the mountains around the Methow Valley in the state of Washington are declining. To manage problems with drought, the Methow Beaver Project has been capturing, tagging, matching male and female beavers and releasing them in key valley areas. The project workers know beavers are master engineers that know how…

Pondoland says no to mining

On the other side of the Amazon and across the South Atlantic Ocean, the small South African community of Xolobeni won a similar court case. Like the Waorani, the people of Xolobeni demanded that they be consulted rather than being forced to cede their land to mining interests – in this case to an Australian…

The Waorani people stand up for their rainforest homeland

When the Waorani people of the Ecuadorian Amazon heard their government was planning to sell drilling rights to their land to international oil companies, they mobilized. They mapped the land to illustrate to the Western world its otherwise unseen cultural, historical and ecological richness. These maps include “historic battle sites, ancient cave-carvings, jaguar trails, medicinal…

Greta Thunberg and a million international student strikers

At the age of 15, Greta Thunberg began sitting on the steps of the Swedish parliament with a handmade sign reading: “skolstrejk för klimatet” or “school strike for the climate.” The decision to act came about seven years after she first learned of climate change. The fact that adults didn’t seem bothered to do anything about…

Minibigforest in Nantes

Hearing of plans underway for a four-lane highway near their home in Nantes, France, local residents Jim and Stephanie responded by planting a small forest. The idea was not only to block out the added sound and air pollution, but also to try to compensate for the assault on the planet of any road expansion.…

Stories of blessed unrest

The following sketches are but a tiny sampling of the countless ways people throughout the world push back against the socio-economic and political forces of destruction both of ecosystems and of the social fabric of society. Adopting Paul Hawken’s terminology and characterization of “blessed unrest” as a spontaneous, decentralized global social movement, we here present…

The future is rural, Bradford 2019

Taking an altogether different angle, Jason Bradford of the Post Carbon Institute assumes radical societal change is inevitable and imminent, and focuses not on how to precipitate change but instead on how to adapt to it. “The future is rural” [Bradford 2019] is essentially a primer on how to navigate the profound changes society will undergo…

A Green New Deal for Agriculture, Patel & Goodman 2019

In the U.S., some visions for food system change are anchored in the policy framework of the Ocasio-Cortez/Markley Green New Deal, itself viewed by many as a proposal for transformative change. Noting that the way we eat accounts for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions and that “the food system is breaking the planet,” Patel…

Joint statement on post-2020 global biodiversity framework 2050 Convention on Biological Diversity vision: “Living in Harmony with Nature,” Birdlife International et al.

In the lead up to the 2020 UN Convention on Biological Diversity, a consortium of conservation groups has also called for 30% both of oceans and 30% of land surface to be conservation protected. Specifically, The United Nations Foundation, Birdlife International, National Geographic and 10 other organizations call for a New Deal for Nature and…

A global deal for nature, Dinerstein 2019

This paper recommends protecting 30% of Earth’s surface for conservation by 2030 and 50% by 2050. It also proposes building capacity for indigenous and other local peoples to enhance ecosystem integrity and sequester carbon in non-protected lands, halting energy infrastructure projects, and reducing plastics and toxic pollution. The authors frame a “Global Deal for Nature”…

A global agenda for soil carbon, Vermeulen 2019

This paper calls for efforts to make farmers, land managers, policy makers, and the public at large keenly aware of the link between soil carbon and its more widely appreciated social outcomes, such as agricultural productivity and food security, improved water quality, flood and drought mitigation, lower rates of migration, biodiversity preservation, and climate change…

Compilation of article summaries envisioning societal change

A global agenda for soil carbon, Vermeulen 2019 This paper calls for efforts to make farmers, land managers, policy makers, and the public at large keenly aware of the link between soil carbon and its more widely appreciated social outcomes, such as agricultural productivity and food security, improved water quality, flood and drought mitigation, lower…

Compendium Vol. 3 No. 1: Blessed unrest, transformative change

One million of an estimated 8 million species on Earth are at risk of extinction in the coming decades, according to a May 2019 report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Children today will live as adults in a world without the Milky Stork, without the Caquetá Tití Monkey, and…

The interplay of landscape composition and configuration: new pathways to manage functional biodiversity and agroecosystem services across Europe, Martin et al. 2019

This paper analyzes 49 studies (1515 landscapes encompassing both organic and conventional agricultural production) in Europe to determine “effects of landscape composition (% habitats) and configuration (edge density) on arthropods[7] in fields and their margins, pest control, pollination and yield” [Martin 2019: 1]. Edge density is measured as the length of edge per area of land.…

Evidence that organic farming promotes pest control, Muneret et al. 2018

Citing the problems posed globally by pesticide use and farmland expansion, this study looks at the potential of organic farming, seen as a popular prototype of ecological intensification, to limit pest infestations. Ecological intensification “is based on optimizing the ecological functions that support ecosystem services to increase the productivity of agro-ecosystems” [Muneret 2018: 361], and…

Ecological intensification: harnessing ecosystem services for food security, Bommarco et al. 2013

This review examines the concept of ecological intensification as a way to increase global food production by enhancing the ecological functionality of farmland. We present ecological intensification as an alternative approach for mainstream agriculture to meet [future climatic, economic and social] challenges. Ecological intensification aims to match or augment yield levels while minimizing negative impacts…

Ecological intensification: local innovation to address global challenges, Tittonell et al. 2016

World agriculture cumulatively produces enough to feed the whole human population and more, yet hundreds of millions of people on the planet are hungry due to problems of access to food. Noting that agricultural productivity is unevenly distributed around the globe, this book chapter proposes food security through ecological intensification in areas with low productivity…

Compilation of article summaries on ecological intensification

Ecological intensification: local innovation to address global challenges, Tittonell et al. 2016 World agriculture cumulatively produces enough to feed the whole human population and more, yet hundreds of millions of people on the planet are hungry due to problems of access to food. Noting that agricultural productivity is unevenly distributed around the globe, this book…

Compendium Vol. 3 No. 1: Ecological intensification

The concept of ecological intensification in agriculture offers a framework for handling the question of how to produce enough food for a growing global human population while simultaneously protecting biodiversity. It draws on the language of ecosystem services, which includes supporting services such as soil formation, regulating services (pollination and pest control), provisioning services (production…

The legacy of 4,500 years of polyculture agroforestry in the eastern Amazon, Maezumi et al. 2018

This study combines archaeology, archaeobotany, palaeoecology and palaeoclimate investigation to shed light on the legacy of pre-Columbian land management practices on today’s Amazon rainforest. Evidence points to a millennial-scale cultivation practice that at once maintained ecosystem integrity while sustaining a large and growing human civilization. Here, we show that persistent anthropogenic landscapes for the past…

Restoration of living environment based on vegetation ecology: theory and practice, Miyawaki 2004

Natural environments have been devastated and destroyed worldwide by recent rapid development, urbanization and industrialization. It is no exaggeration to say that the basis of human life is now threatened (Miyawaki 1982a,b). We ecologists have been giving warnings against the devastation of nature through study results, and have produced some good effects. Besides criticism, however,…

Tree diversity regulates forest pest invasion, Guo et al. 2019

Using data from 130,210 forest plots across the US, this study examines the effects of tree diversity on pest invasions. The authors found that tree diversity increases pest diversity by increasing the variety of host species available (i.e., facilitation), while also decreasing establishment of pests by increasing the number of non-hosts for any given pest…

Hydraulic diversity of forests regulates ecosystem resilience during drought, Anderegg et al. 2018

Higher forest biodiversity (specifically plant functional diversity related to water, or hydraulic, transport) engenders greater ecosystem resilience to drought. This is because different species respond differently to water stress – some species slow down their release of water (and heat) through transpiration sooner than others do. Plants’ response to water availability in turn affects the…

Climatic controls of decomposition drive the global biogeography of forest-tree symbioses, Steidinger et al. 2019

This article describes three major types of microbial tree symbionts, why they matter, and maps their global distribution. Microbial symbionts strongly influence the functioning of forest ecosystems. Root-associated microorganisms exploit inorganic, organic and/or atmospheric forms of nutrients that enable plant growth, determine how trees respond to increased concentrations of CO2, regulate the respiratory activity of…

Nitrogen-fixing red alder trees tap rock-derived nutrients, Perakisa & Pett-Ridge 2019

Red alder fix atmospheric nitrogen through a symbiosis with bacteria that colonize their roots. This study showed that when more nitrogen is produced than is needed by the plant, the resulting excess of nitric acid acts to dissolve bedrock minerals in the soil, making them available to plants. The substantial increase in mineral weathering by…

Plant-soil feedbacks and mycorrhizal type influence temperate forest population dynamics, Bennett et al. 2017

This study illustrates the important role of soil fungi in tree population dynamics of temperate forests. In general, when a particular plant species dominates an area of land, it attracts species that feed on it. In an experiment conducted in this study, the roots of surviving seedlings had 60% fewer lesions when they were planted…

The significance of retention trees for survival of ectomycorrhizal fungi in clear-cut Scots pine forests, Sterkenburg et al. 2019

Industrialized forestry simplifies forest structure and harms biodiversity. To mitigate this harm, retention forestry has been adopted in places such as Sweden, where this study was conducted. “Retention forestry” avoids clearcutting and instead preserves some 5-30 percent of trees to benefit populations of birds, lichens, fungi and other types of organisms. The authors focused on…

The global tree restoration potential, Bastin et al. 2019

This study models the total amount of land globally that is suitable for reforestation, finding that there is sufficient space to meet the IPCC’s recommendation of reforestation on 1 billion hectares to limit global warming to 1.5C by 2050. The potential forest land identified in this study excludes urban and agricultural land; rather, it “exists…

Restoring natural forests is the best way to remove atmospheric carbon, Lewis et al. 2019

In order to keep global warming under the 1.5C threshold, the IPCC warns that not only must we cut carbon emissions nearly in half by 2030, we must also draw massive amounts of CO2 out of the atmosphere. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests that around 730 billion tons of CO2 (730 petagrams…

Compilation of article summaries on forest dynamics

Restoring natural forests is the best way to remove atmospheric carbon, Lewis et al. 2019 In order to keep global warming under the 1.5C threshold, the IPCC warns that not only must we cut carbon emissions nearly in half by 2030, we must also draw massive amounts of CO2 out of the atmosphere. The Intergovernmental…

Compendium Vol. 3 No. 1: Biodiversity in forest dynamics

Understanding what makes forests thrive is important in light of mounting calls for reforestation and forest conservation as antidotes both to species loss and climate breakdown. Moreover, distinguishing between natural forest regeneration and timber plantations is critical to achieving intended goals. Intact forests, and especially tropical forests, sequester twice as much carbon as planted monocultures.…

Compendium Vol. 3 No. 1: Introduction

As in every edition of this compendium, here we assemble and summarize research offering evidence of the power of ecosystems to address climate breakdown. The themes presented: forest dynamics ecological intensification and transformative change  were chosen based on recurrent themes of mostly recent reports and studies. Not surprisingly given its centrality to ecosystem function, the idea…

Water Isn’t What You Think It Is: The Fourth Phase of Water by Gerald Pollack

Guest author Gerald Pollack introduces a fundamental shift in how we view water. It has the potential to significantly alter our understandings of any processes that involve water, including aspects of climate, biology, and how we approach eco-restoration. The Fourth Phase of Water: Beyond Solid, Liquid, and Vapor Gerald H. Pollack, PhD, Professor of Bioengineering,…

Compendium Vol. 2 No. 2: Appendix B

Water Isn’t What You Think It Is: The Fourth Phase of Water by Gerald Pollack Guest author Gerald Pollack introduces a fundamental shift in how we view water. It has the potential to significantly alter our understandings of any processes that involve water, including aspects of climate, biology, and how we approach eco-restoration. The Fourth…

Close up on California in the era of climate change: a verdant vision for fire-prone land

Picture California in the 1700s, around the time the first Spanish missions appeared. It must have looked like heaven on earth for the 100,000s of native people living there [Ecological Society of America 2014], cradled between forested mountains and sparkling ocean. Meandering streams and rivers teeming with salmon criss-cross the valley and are knit together…

Compendium Vol. 2 No. 2: Appendix A

Close up on California in the era of climate change: a verdant vision for fire-prone land Picture California in the 1700s, around the time the first Spanish missions appeared. It must have looked like heaven on earth for the 100,000s of native people living there [Ecological Society of America 2014], cradled between forested mountains and…

Global assessment of agricultural system redesign for sustainable intensification, Pretty et al. 2018

This article highlights the relevance of the concept of “sustainable intensification” (SI), wherein farming practices are improved to produce more crops (intensification) while doing no harm to – and possibly even enhancing – the environment (sustainable). The combination of the two terms was an attempt to indicate that desirable outcomes, such as more food and…

Direct evidence for microbial-derived soil organic matter formation and its ecophysiological controls, Kallenbach et al. 2016

Although the overall contribution of decaying plants, available substrate, and microbes to the buildup of soil organic matter (SOM) is well recognized, their individual contributions are not as clearly understood. Analytical shortcomings have constrained a thorough study that can distinguish the amount of SOM attributable to plants and the amount attributable to microbes.  Using pyrolysis-GC/MS,…

Compendium Vol. 2 No. 2: Worthy Miscellany

Direct evidence for microbial-derived soil organic matter formation and its ecophysiological controls, Kallenbach et al. 2016 Although the overall contribution of decaying plants, available substrate, and microbes to the buildup of soil organic matter (SOM) is well recognized, their individual contributions are not as clearly understood. Analytical shortcomings have constrained a thorough study that can…

Subordinate plant species enhance community resistance against drought in semi-natural grasslands, Mariotte et al. 2013

This study examines how subordinate species[8] influence community insurance against drought in semi-natural grasslands of the Swiss Jura. The insurance hypothesis proposes that an increase in community diversity corresponds to an increase in the range of potential species responses to environmental stress. The authors tested the role of subordinate species in community resistance to drought, recovery and…

Tall Amazonian forests are less sensitive to precipitation variability, Giardina et al. 2018

Our results demonstrate that in the Amazon, forest height and age regulate photosynthesis interannual variability and are as relevant as mean precipitation. In particular, tall, old and dense forests are more resistant to precipitation variability. Tree size and age directly impact forest structure and thus the carbon cycle in the Amazon. This is especially significant…

Amplification of wildfire area burnt by hydrological drought in the humid tropics, Taufik et al. 2017

This study distinguishes between meteorological droughts (lower than average rainfall) and hydrological droughts, where rainfall shortage has eventually led to surface or groundwater levels falling, to predict area burnt from wildfires. By contrast, most studies consider only climate data when predicting wildfire, yet “these overlook subsurface processes leading to hydrological drought, an important driver” [Taufik…

Adapt to more wildfire in western North American forests as climate changes, Schoennagel et al. 2017

Wildfires in the West have become larger and more frequent over the past three decades (globally, the length of the fire season increased by 19% from 1979 to 2013) and this trend will continue with global warming. Typical fire prevention strategy, centering on fuel reduction and fire suppression, has proved inadequate. Instead, society must accept…

Introduced annual grass increases regional fire activity across the arid western USA (1980–2009), Balch et al. 2013

Cheatgrass is an introduced annual grass that has spread everywhere throughout the western USA. It is among the first plants to emerge in the spring, after which it completes its life cycle, drying out in summer and thus creating a continuous, dry, fine fuel load across the landscape. This study examined the cheatgrass invasion’s effect…

Hot days in the city? It’s all about location, NOAA 2018

In a project funded by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), about two dozen citizen scientists measured temperatures in Baltimore and Washington DC on two of the hottest days of 2018. By measuring temperatures second by second with thermal sensors while driving prescribed routes through each city, the data collectors revealed a 17-degree temperature gap between…

More ecosystem-oriented considerations for heat wave, drought, flood and fire resilience

Hot days in the city? It’s all about location, NOAA 2018 In a project funded by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), about two dozen citizen scientists measured temperatures in Baltimore and Washington DC on two of the hottest days of 2018. By measuring temperatures second by second with thermal sensors while driving prescribed routes…

Beaver restoration would reduce wildfires, Maughan 2013

Politicians often call for logging and fuel reduction to prevent future wildfires. However, it’s not good logging trees that are burning in such fires so much as cheatgrass, annual weed, dry brush and dead weeds. Reintroducing beaver to create ponds could raise the water table, increase humidity in the drainage area (thus reducing burn intensity)…

Modeling intrinsic potential for beaver (Castor canadensis) habitat to inform restoration and climate change adaptation, Dittbrenner et al. 2018

Beavers are recognized for their ability to restore floodplain hydrology and biological function, yet finding suitable places for their reintroduction remains a conservation challenge. The goal of this study was to identify places in the Snohomish River basin of Washington state suitable for beaver reintroduction. Because of their abilities to modify streams and floodplains, beavers…

Beaver dams and overbank floods influence groundwater–surface water interactions of a Rocky Mountain riparian area, Westbrook et al. 2006

This study provides empirical evidence that beavers influence hydrologic processes in riparian areas. Conducted at the headwaters of the Colorado River in the Rocky Mountains, the study examines patterns from two beaver dams of surface inundation, groundwater flow, and groundwater level dynamics. The authors observe that : Beaver dams on the Colorado River caused river…

Partnering with beavers to restore ecosystems

Beaver dams and overbank floods influence groundwater–surface water interactions of a Rocky Mountain riparian area, Westbrook et al. 2006 This study provides empirical evidence that beavers influence hydrologic processes in riparian areas. Conducted at the headwaters of the Colorado River in the Rocky Mountains, the study examines patterns from two beaver dams of surface inundation,…

Future response of global coastal wetlands to sea-level rise, Schuerch et al. 2018

The vulnerability of coastal wetlands to sea-level rise is disputed, with some researchers predicting most will be flooded out of existence by the end of the 21st Century. Coastal wetlands provide critical ecosystem services, including protection from storm surges, water quality improvement, fisheries habitat and carbon sequestration. By accounting for the enhancement of sediment build-up when…

Wetlands in a changing climate: science, policy and management, Moomaw et al. 2018

This article emphasizes the global importance of protecting and restoring wetlands in the context of climate change and outlines policy strategies for wetland protection and restoration. Wetlands play a major though under-appreciated role in climate change mitigation and adaptation. Wetlands enhance local resilience to climate change by providing: “flood storage, buffering of storm damage, protecting…

The second warning to humanity – providing a context for wetland management and policy, Finlayson et al. 2018

The authors of this article note that prior agreements to halt wetland degradation, such as the Ramsar Convention of 1971, have been largely unsuccessful. They advocate for both a re-emphasis on how wetlands help mitigate climate change, and how to protect existing wetlands from the damaging effects of climate change. They had previously authored the…

The Value of Coastal Wetlands for Flood Damage Reduction in the Northeastern USA, Narayan et al. 2017

The authors address the lack of high-resolution, large-scale assessments of the value of coastal wetlands for reducing property damages from flooding. In the first part of this paper, they assess Hurricane Sandy-induced damages to wetlands. The second part examines the risk reduction benefits of salt marshes in Ocean County, NJ, in terms of average annual…

Need for ecosystem management of large rivers and their floodplains: these phenomenally productive ecosystems produce fish and wildlife and preserve species, Sparks 1995

In their natural state, rivers are not separate or separable from surrounding lands. Rather, a river channel is just one integral part of a larger river-floodplain ecosystem. Annual flood pulses and larger flooding events connect river channels to their floodplains, driving the cycles of life for the particularly diverse ensemble of species that live in…

Multifunctionality of floodplain landscapes: relating management options to ecosystem services, Schindler et al. 2014

Human societies tend to value the potential benefits that a landscape might provide in a limited way, adjusting management practices towards desired outputs by maximizing the benefits gained from one or some of the services (often the provision of goods) leading to the loss of multifunctionality and the degradation of natural capital at the expense…

Sustainable floodplains through large-scale reconnection to rivers, Opperman et al. 2009

The area of floodplains allowed to perform the natural function of storing and conveying floodwaters must be expanded by strategically removing levees or setting them back from the river. Floodplain reconnection will accomplish three primary objectives: flood-risk reduction, an increase in floodplain goods and services, and resiliency to potential climate change impacts [Opperman 2009: 1487].…

Floodplains and wetlands: making space for water

Sustainable floodplains through large-scale reconnection to rivers, Opperman et al. 2009 The area of floodplains allowed to perform the natural function of storing and conveying floodwaters must be expanded by strategically removing levees or setting them back from the river. Floodplain reconnection will accomplish three primary objectives: flood-risk reduction, an increase in floodplain goods and…

Compendium Vol. 2 No. 2: Compilation of article summaries on resilience through eco-restoration

The following articles were selected and summarized by Bio4Climate’s Compendium editors and writers. The purpose of this collection is to highlight the scientific evidence and argumentation showing healthy restored and protected ecosystems as a powerful (albeit under-recognized) tool for managing the weather extremes wrought by climate change.   Floodplains and wetlands: making space for water…

Diverse cover crops and livestock for drought relief, Texas

The 2011 drought in Texas was the worst in recorded history and it lasted until 2015. The ground was so dry that Jonathan Cobb, a 4th generation farmer in Blackland Prairie of central Texas, couldn’t even get crops planted. His 2,500-acre conventional row crop operation was already struggling financially through a treadmill of increasingly more inputs…

Culture revival of livestock grazing for wildfire management, California

An old-school Italian festival celebrating the work of grazing animals and their faithful herders has taken root in Petaluma, CA. “Transhumance” is the act of moving grazing animals from one grassy site to another. The festival bearing this name takes place in the city or town centers through which the animals traverse en route to…

Loess Plateau Rehabilitation Project, China

China’s Loess Plateau, roughly the size of France, lies between Tibet and Beijing just south of Mongolia, and is traversed by the Yellow River. Once covered in forest and grassland and the center of Chinese power and wealth, this area eventually became severely degraded by agriculture and unmanaged grazing. The fragile loess soils, composed of…

Regreening the Tigray region, Ethiopia

More than 224,000 ha of drylands in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia that had previously succumbed to devastating cycles of drought and flood have been restored. As a result, the hillsides are green again, previously dry wells are recharged, and fruit trees now grow in the valleys. To remedy the problem of severe land…

Holistic planned grazing for drought relief, Zimbabwe

“You must have had a lot more rain because how else can water appear where it has not existed before?” asked Zimbabwe Minister of Water Development Sam Nkomo when he saw a clear water-lily-covered pool that had only come to exist in the upper river catchment two years prior [Savory 2009]. Two herders and their…

Saltwater marsh restoration, Canada

The Atlantic coast of Canada has started seeing damages related to sea-level rise and storm surges, including flooding, landslides, and shoreline recession. Some communities fear dikes will fail. As a result, people are looking to restoration of native coastal ecosystems as a defense against rising waters. When flooded, coastal marshes often receive large sediment loads…

Riparian restoration, California

The arid San Joaquin Valley of California is intensively farmed and dependent on irrigation. The San Joaquin River, once teeming with migrating fish and other wildlife, is surrounded by farmland and has become warm, muddy, and nearly devoid of aquatic life. In 2012 and 2014, River Partners, a California non-profit dedicated to restoring riparian habitat and…

Low-tech stream repair for drought resilience: western USA

As the hydrological benefits that beaver dams bring to streams and surrounding landscapes becomes better known, ranchers, wildlife managers and researchers are increasingly working together to repair streams by building Beaver Dam Analogs (BDAs). This method is attractive to ranchers searching for ways to manage drought and to irrigate their pastures reliably. In the spring,…

Beavers for flood reduction, United Kingdom

To reduce the severity of flooding in Lydbrook, Gloucestershire, England, where a 2012 flood did extensive damage, the UK Ministry of Environment released a family of beavers upstream of the village in a 6.5 ha enclosure in a publicly-owned forest. Scientists who have studied the stream believe the beaver dams could hold back some 6,000…

Community-based watershed stewardship programs, USA

From California to Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Washington DC, people are coming together in their communities to learn what river their watershed drains into, how urban stormwater management has impaired that river, and how to restore river-floodplain ecosystems through a grassroots approach. A watershed is an area of land over which any rain that falls…

Sponge cities, China

“In the past, humans have taken the land away from the water; now we need to give the land back.” – Professor Hui Li [Guardian 2017] Faced with severe flooding in many cities across China, such as a major 2012 Beijing flood, the Chinese government announced the Sponge Cities Initiative in 2014 as a remedy.…

Compendium Vol. 2 No. 2: Restoration in action

We know how to enhance resilience to extreme weather where we live and work. Communities throughout the world are utilizing these approaches, and here we highlight several initiatives in a variety of habitats to illustrate potential paths forward. More information is included just below each project description. Following this section is a collection of summaries…

Making space for water

Given competing interests for floodplain property, some have argued for strategic partial reconnection of floodplains to the river by allowing portions of floodplain to flood, so that pressure elsewhere along the river during a flood may be alleviated [Opperman 2009]. For example, California’s Yolo Bypass was created in the early 1900s after the Sacramento River…

Land management and hydrology

The concept of hydrological drought (as distinct from meteorological drought) helps explain the success of these age-old techniques to enhance surface and groundwater supply. Meteorological drought is the occurence of abnormally low rainfall for a given region. Hydrological drought is a consequence of meteorological drought – it happens when surface and ground waters run low thanks…

Slowing down water and the art of survival

Managing rainwater within a landscape so that neither heavy storms nor long dry spells devastate human endeavors and constructions is referred by Yu Kongjian as the “art of survival” [Yu 2012]. This Chinese landscape architect with an ecological mindset learned the art of survival by studying the ways of ancient peasant farmers. He contrasts the wisdom…

Compendium Vol. 2 No. 2: Introduction

While previous issues of the Compendium have addressed ecosystem strategies to reverse global warming, here we discuss ecosystem restoration to adapt to the consequences of climate change. From drought in Cape Town and wildfire in California and Greece to flooding in Beijing, Paris, Houston and North Carolina, each new report of catastrophe makes climate change…

Compendium Vol. 2 No. 1: Appendix A: Scenario 300

Scenario 300: Reducing Atmospheric CO2 to 300 ppm by 2061         by Jim Laurie, Staff Scientist Biodiversity for a Livable Climate bio4climate.org jimlaurie7@gmailcom  March 20, 2018 Danger in the Arctic: The Urgency of the Climate Situation Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have increased from 315 ppm in 1958 to 410 ppm in 2018. This is the…

Community proteogenomics reveals the systemic impact of phosphorus availability on microbial functions in tropical soil, Yao 2018

In this study, long-term phosphorus fertilization limited the extent to which the genes and proteins of microbial communities were allocated to degrading recalcitrant soil phytate to acquire phosphorus. In phosphorus-deficient soil, on the other hand, the genes responsible for breaking down recalcitrant substrate to acquire phosphorus were more prevalent in microbial communities. In other words,…

Nitrogen fertilizer effects on soil carbon balances in Midwestern U.S. agricultural systems, Russell 2009

Despite increasing residue input in annual crop production systems, N fertilization does not increase soil organic carbon (SOC) over time because N fertilization also increases organic carbon (OC) decay. This study also shows that belowground OC inputs contribute to soil carbon sequestration more than aboveground OC inputs to the soil. When all phases of the…

Nitrogen fertilizer dose alters fungal communities in sugarcane soil and rhizosphere, Paungfoo-Lonhienne 2015

In this study, nitrogen fertilization altered the relative abundance of fungal taxa in the rhizosphere, increasing fungal genera with known pathogenic traits, and decreasing a fungal phyla (Basidiomycetes) known to break down lignin, thus important for carbon cycling in the soil. Fungi play important roles as decomposers, plant symbionts and pathogens in soils. The structure…

Synthetic nitrogen fertilizers deplete soil nitrogen: a global dilemma for sustainable cereal production, Mulvaney 2009

There is a prevailing view that global food and fiber production will continue to expand because of modern agricultural management systems with improved cultivars and intensive chemical inputs dominated by synthetic ammoniacal fertilizers. The use of these fertilizers has led to concerns regarding water and air pollution but is generally perceived to play an essential…

Nitrogen: the double-edged sword, Jones 2014

The symbiosis between mycorrhizal fungi and plants drive carbon and nitrogen cycles. Fungi demand carbon exudate from plants in exchange for nitrogen and other nutrients retrieved and transported from the soil. The “liquid carbon” exuded from plant roots feeds mycorrhizal fungi and many other soil microbes, while also becoming stabilized in soil aggregates and humus.…

Future Directions International Strategic Directions Paper: Agricultural Application of Mycorrhizal Fungi to Increase Crop Yields, Promote Soil Health and Combat Climate Change, Johns 2014

There are a number of agricultural practices that will enhance fungi colonisation. Wherever possible, of course, the full range of critical soil health processes that govern productivity should be allowed to regenerate agricultural ecologies naturally. It may, however, be necessary or more practical to inoculate seed with fungi spores in order to recover degraded soils.…

Meta-analysis of biofertilizer application in agriculture, Schutz 2018

Given the global decline of reserves of both rock phosphate and fossil fuel, this study poses the question – to what extent can microbial inoculants replace/reduce the use of synthetic fertilizer? The authors find that “dryland agriculture can benefit most from biofertilizers [microbial inoculants used as fertilizers]. Due to climate change, in the future there…

Bacteria and fungi can contribute to nutrients bioavailability and aggregate formation in degraded soils, Rashid 2016

The paper argues for the use of bacterial and fungal inoculants in combination with organic amendments and cover crops to regenerate degraded soils. In order to produce enough food for a growing global population on ubiquitously degraded soils, synthetic fertilizers will be in increasingly high demand. However, these fertilizers require copious amounts of non-renewable energy…

The role of community and population ecology in applying mycorrhizal fungi for improved food security, Rodriguez & Sanders 2015

Given that nitrogen and phosphorus are the most limiting nutrients for crop growth, that global phosphorus supplies are becoming exhausted while the human population rapidly expands, and that arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) symbioses improve crop phosphorus acquisition, AMF symbioses have a major role to play in current and future crop production. The potential of AMF…

Rock-eating fungi, Jongmans 1997

Under a microscope, tiny tunnels can be seen in mineral particles from conifer forest soil. Scientists believe it is mycorrhizal fungi penetrating these particles by excreting organic acids in order to mine nutrients for their plant hosts. An estimated 150 meters of pores are bored by fungi per year per liter of E-horizon (layer that…

Mycorrhizal symbioses influence the trophic structure of the Serengeti, Stevens 2018

Our analysis shows that inputs of phosphorus through arbuscular mycorrhizal symbioses substantially increase the ability of plants to grow and maintain nutritional quality, cascading through the biomass of consumers and predators in the ecosystem. Although they account for less than 1% of the total modelled biomass, the predicted nutritional benefit provided by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi…

Networks of power and influence: the role of mycorrhizal mycelium in controlling plant communities and agroecosystem functioning, Leake 2004

Two major groups of mycorrhizal fungi are arbuscular mycorrhiza (AM) and ectomycorrrhiza (EM). Both form a symbiosis with plants by colonizing their roots and creating an interface where carbon from the plant can be exchanged for phosphorus, nitrogen and other nutrients from the soil and transferred to the plant by the fungi. The extraradical[15] mycorrhizal mycelium (ERMM), which…

A broken biogeochemical cycle, Elser & Bennett 2011

Consider the fate of the approximately 17.5 million tonnes of phosphorus mined in 2005, analysed in the paper by Cordell et al. About 14 million tonnes of this were used in fertilizer (much of the rest went into cattle-feed supplements, food preservatives, and the production of detergents and industrial cleaning agents) but only about 3…

Sustainability challenges of phosphorus and food: solutions from closing the human phosphorus cycle, Childers 2011

Our review of estimates of P recycling in the human P cycle show considerable variability and uncertainty, but today it appears that only about one-quarter of the fertilizer P used in agriculture is recycled back to fields. The rest is lost to the cycle, and much of this loss ends up in waterways, causing expensive…

The nitrogen dilemma: food or the environment, Stewart & Lal 2017

Nitrogen (N) is the most important essential element for crop production because it is required in large amounts and is nearly always the first nutrient that becomes limiting after an ecosystem is converted to cropland. Cereal grains provide about 50% of the world’s calories, and their production has become largely dependent on the use of…

Fertilizer vs. Fungi Article Summaries

The nitrogen dilemma: food or the environment, Stewart & Lal 2017 Nitrogen (N) is the most important essential element for crop production because it is required in large amounts and is nearly always the first nutrient that becomes limiting after an ecosystem is converted to cropland. Cereal grains provide about 50% of the world’s calories,…

Compendium Vol. 2 No. 1: Fertilizer vs. Fungi

Agrochemical companies argue that crops can’t be grown without their products. And in a sense, they are right, as long as we accept as inevitable a dysfunctional soil food web [LSP 2018: 16]. The importance of synthetic fertilizer for global crop production and the environmental consequences of its excessive use is often presented as a…

Why Climate Change Makes Riparian Restoration More Important than Ever: Recommendations for Practice and Research, Seavy 2009

Riparian[14] ecosystems are naturally resilient, provide linear habitat connectivity, link aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, and create thermal refugia for wildlife: all characteristics that can contribute to ecological adaptation to climate change [Seavy 2009: 330]. Arguing for the restoration of riparian areas because of their ecological significance and inherent resilience, these authors articulate the importance of both…

Water-retention potential of Europe’s forests: A European overview to support natural water-retention measures, European Environment Agency (EEA) 2015

The importance of water retention (the rainfall absorbed or used within an ecosystem) for mitigating flood and drought conditions and contributing to clean drinking water, for example, has been increasingly recognized in Europe in the past decade. Along with wetland preservation, better agriculture practices and other measures, preserving and re-growing forests are seen as key…

Tropical reforestation and climate change: beyond carbon, Locatelli 2015

When managed with both climate adaptation and mitigation in mind, tropical reforestation (TR) can serve multiple synergistic functions. TR mitigates regional and global climate change, not only by sequestering carbon but also through biophysical cooling (via evapotranspiration), by recycling rainfall regionally, and by reducing pressure on old growth forests. Furthermore, TR helps local communities adapt to climate…

Weakening of Indian summer monsoon rainfall due to changes in land use land cover, Paul 2016

The Indian summer monsoon rainfall has decreased since 1950, and several hypotheses have been proposed to explain why. Most of these hypotheses involving weakening temperature gradients over the continent. This study explores the potential link between a weakening monsoon and widespread land use land cover (LULC) change from woody savanna to cropland in recent decades.…

Critical impact of vegetation physiology on the continental hydrologic cycle in response to increasing CO2, Lemordant 2018

This study finds that the physiological response of plants to increased atmospheric CO2 affects the global hydrological cycle even more than does the greenhouse effect and changes in precipitation. The authors conclude: This highlights the key role of vegetation in controlling future terrestrial hydrologic response and emphasizes that the carbon and water cycles are intimately coupled…

Intermediate tree cover can maximize groundwater recharge in the seasonally dry tropics, Ilstedt 2016

Responding to a common belief that trees lower groundwater infiltration due to transpiration, and a contrasting view that trees increase groundwater infiltration by increasing organic matter and soil porosity, these authors test an “optimum tree cover theory.” They find that “intermediate” tree cover maximizes groundwater recharge in the tropics, resulting in a 2-14% increase in…

Twentieth Century regional climate change during the summer in the central United States attributed to agricultural intensification, Alter 2018

Noting that “major increases in crop productivity and changes in regional climate are generally collocated in time and space over the central United States” [Alter 2018: 1587], the study tested the hypothesis that there is a causal relationship – that historical agricultural intensification has affected regional summer climate in this area. … from 1950 to…

Historical deforestation locally increased the intensity of hot days in northern mid-latitudes, LeJeune 2018

Deforestation contributes to climate change on a global scale through carbon emissions (biogeochemical effects), and on a local/regional scale through biogeophysical effects related to albedo, evapotranspiration and roughness, affecting surface energy budgets. Here, we show that historical deforestation has led to a substantial local warming of hot days over the northern mid-latitudes – a finding…

A green planet versus a desert world: estimating the maximum effect of vegetation on the land surface climate, Kleidon 2000

This climate model simulation illustrates how the biosphere affects the climate system. With “maximum vegetation,” more water is absorbed in the ground, allowing for evaporation to cool the land surface while also recycling more rain. This simulation resulted in an average temperature reduction over land of 1.2C. The authors describe their approach: We quantify the maximum…

Human modification of global water vapor flows from the land surface, Gordon 2005

Human modification of the hydrological cycle has profoundly affected the flow of liquid water across the Earth’s land surface. Compared to changes to liquid water flow, alteration of water vapor flows through land-use changes has received comparatively less attention, despite compelling evidence that such alteration can influence the functioning of the Earth System. We show…

How Forests Attract Rain: An Examination of a New Hypothesis, Sheil and Murdiyarso 2009

Highlighting the significance of Makarieva and Gorshkov’s “biotic pump” hypothesis (above), Sheil and Murdiyarso explain it in layman’s terms in this article for the benefit of a broader public, and examine its validity. They point out that the biotic pump hypothesis offers an explanation for a question not otherwise resolved in conventional climate theory. Conventional…

Biotic pump of atmospheric moisture as driver of the hydrological cycle on land, Makarieva and Gorshkov 2007[12]

​The authors examine ecological and geophysical principles to explain how land far inland away from the ocean can remain moist, given that gravity continuously pulls surface and groundwater into the ocean over time. All freshwater on land originates in the ocean from which it has evaporated, is carried on air flux, and precipitates over the…

Trees, forests and water: cool insights for a hot world, Ellison 2017

​This paper takes the innovative and paradigm-shifting position that carbon is not the primary consideration in climate; rather, water should be the central focus, integrated with carbon and energy cycles: Forest-driven water and energy cycles are poorly integrated into regional, national, continental and global decision-making on climate change adaptation, mitigation, land use and water management. This…

Continental-scale consequences of tree die-offs in North America: identifying where forest loss matters most, Swann 2018

Vegetation cover affects the amount of solar energy a land area absorbs and/or releases, thus altering local temperatures and precipitation. Plants regulate local temperatures through shading, albedo and evapotranspiration, which releases latent[9] heat. The ability of a surface to shed energy through latent or sensible heat is key to determining that surface’s temperature – shifts in the…

New climate solutions, water cycles and the soil carbon sponge, Jehne 2018

Regenerating the soil carbon sponge is our greatest point of leverage for salvaging the planet from the point of existential climate crisis. “Sponge” refers to the quality of a biologically active soil with high organic matter content to have lots of pore space for water absorption. Jehne states that every additional gram of soil carbon…

Evapotranspiration – A Driving Force in Landscape Sustainability, Eiseltová 2012

Vegetation cover cools Earth when it intercepts the sun’s energy. This is not just by providing shade, but also through evapotranspiration, which is how plants regulate their own internal temperatures. For a plant … transpiration[5] is a necessity by which a plant maintains its inner environment within the limit of optimal temperatures. And at the level…

Water Article Summaries

Evapotranspiration – A Driving Force in Landscape Sustainability, Eiseltová 2012 Vegetation cover cools Earth when it intercepts the sun’s energy. This is not just by providing shade, but also through evapotranspiration, which is how plants regulate their own internal temperatures. For a plant … transpiration[5] is a necessity by which a plant maintains its inner environment…

Compendium Vol. 2 No. 1: Water, Life and Climate

Water and vegetation are climate heroes, co-starring in a story about as old as terrestrial life on Earth yet under-recognized in mainstream climate politics. Not only does the vegetation embedded in ecosystems act as a giant CO2-absorption machine, constantly removing the greenhouse gas from the air and storing much of it in soil and biomass,…

Compendium Vol. 2 No. 1: Introduction

In this third issue of the Compendium of Scientific and Practical Findings Supporting Eco-Restoration to Address Global Warming by Biodiversity for a Livable Climate (“Bio4Climate”), we focus on the pivotal roles of water cycles and soil ecology in stabilizing ecosystems and the climate.

Compendium Vol. 1 No. 2: Appendix B: A systems approach to climate change

“The world is divided politically, but ecologically it is tightly interwoven.” – Carl Sagan, 1980, Cosmos The magnitude of troubles ailing humanity is dizzying, if not terrifying – any 10 minutes of exposure to the daily news can attest to this. It’s hard to untangle the problems from each other, or to connect causes to…

Compendium Vol. 1 No. 2: Appendix A: The urgency of the climate crisis

Global Warming has been a message of warning since climate research and discussions began roughly two hundred years ago in western science. Today, the predominance of the future tense in the climate dialogue has set the tone and expectations that however many times the “window of opportunity” for meaningful climate action were to close, it…

Legume-based cropping systems have reduced carbon and nitrogen losses, Drinkwater 1998

This study compared three corn-soybean cropping systems: (1) conventional 2-yr rotation with chemical inputs, and residues returned to soil; (2) a longer (than 2 years), organic rotation with grass/legume hayed and returned to soil in manure; and (3) a longer (than 2 years) organic rotation with grass/legume turned back into the soil directly. Even though…

Compost, manure and synthetic fertilizer influences crop yields, soil properties, nitrate leaching and crop nutrient content, Hepperly 2009

A sequestration rate of 2.363t C/ha/yr was demonstrated where compost made of dairy manure and leaves was applied to fields in a three year rotation of corn-vegetable-small grain, with leguminous cover crops. The same rotation treated with chemical fertilizer instead of compost resulted in a net loss of -0.317t C/ha/yr.

Agroforestry strategies to sequester carbon in temperate North America, Udawatta & Jose 2012

This meta-analysis estimates total carbon sequestration potential in the US from various agroforestry practices to be 530 TgC/year (530 million metric tons), equivalent to about 1/3 of annual US carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion. Based on their literature review, the authors estimate per-hectare sequestration rates (based on aboveground and belowground carbon accumulation) for each practice…

National comparison of the total and sequestered organic matter contents of conventional and organic farm soils, Ghabbour 2017

An analysis of hundreds of soil samples collected from organic and conventional farms around the US shows higher average percentages both of total SOM and of humic substances – a measure of carbon sequestration – for organic farm soils compared to conventional farm soils. The mean percent humification (humic substances divided by total SOM) for…

The ecology of soil carbon: pools, vulnerabilities, and biotic and abiotic controls, Jackson 2017

This review examines “the state of knowledge for the stocks of, inputs to, and outputs from SOM around the world” [Jackson 2017: 422], with a view toward developing better understanding of processes that stabilize SOM. It explains the biological processes involved in carbon cycling and storage, finding that “root inputs are approximately five times more…

Intertidal resource use over millennia enhances forest productivity, Trant 2016

Abstract: Human occupation is usually associated with degraded landscapes but 13,000 years of repeated occupation by British Columbia’s coastal First Nations has had the opposite effect, enhancing temperate rainforest productivity. This is particularly the case over the last 6,000 years when intensified intertidal shellfish usage resulted in the accumulation of substantial shell middens. We show…

Drawdown, Hawken, ed. 2017

Edited by innovator and entrepreneur Paul Hawken, Drawdown is a remarkable and comprehensive work presenting eighty well-vetted solutions and twenty promising “coming attractions” to remove carbon from the atmosphere and restore planetary health.  Hawken engaged numerous scientists, modellers, advisers, artists and writers, resulting in a beautifully illustrated and comprehensive exploration of possibilities for reversing global warming.…

Natural climate solutions, Griscom 2017

This is one of the most comprehensive mainstream studies to date of a broad spectrum of natural climate solutions by thirty-two co-authors and supported by The Nature Conservancy. The report examines “20 conservation, restoration, and/or improved land management actions that increase carbon storage and/or avoid greenhouse gas emissions across global forests, wetlands, grasslands, and agricultural…

Compilation of agriculture articles

Natural climate solutions, Griscom 2017 This is one of the most comprehensive mainstream studies to date of a broad spectrum of natural climate solutions by thirty-two co-authors and supported by The Nature Conservancy. The report examines “20 conservation, restoration, and/or improved land management actions that increase carbon storage and/or avoid greenhouse gas emissions across global…

Compendium Vol. 1 No. 2: Agriculture as planetary regeneration

Agricultural production must produce enough food for almost 10 billion people by 2050 [FAO 2017],[10] and yet a third of all land is degraded [FAO 2015] and nearly all agricultural land has lost significant amounts of SOC (Soil Organic Carbon). So we have a puzzle to solve: how to produce more from less, and in the face…

Ants and termites increase crop yield in a dry climate, Evans 2011

Testing the effects of ants and termites on crop yield in an arid part of Australia, this study showed “that ants and termites increase wheat yield by 36% from increased soil water infiltration due to their tunnels and improved soil nitrogen” [Evans 2011: 1]. The authors conclude: “Our results suggest that ants and termites have…

Termite mounds can increase the robustness of dryland ecosystems to climatic change, Bonachela 2015

Termites are particularly important in savannas of Africa, Australasia, and South America, and their nest structures (“mounds”) shape many environmental properties; analogous structures built by ants and burrowing mammals are similarly influential worldwide. Mound soils differ from surrounding “matrix” soils in physical and chemical composition, which enhances vegetation growth, creating “islands of fertility.” Moreover, mounds…

The role of dung beetles in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from cattle farming, Slade 2015

“Dung beetles (Scarabaeidae: Scarabaeinae, Aphodiinae, Geotrupidae) are some of the most important invertebrate contributors to dung decomposition in both temperate and tropical agricultural grasslands. As such, they may help mitigate GHG [Greenhouse Gas] emissions and aid carbon sequestration through removing dung deposited on the pastures, increasing grass growth and fertilization” [Slade 2015: 1]. This Finland…

Whales as marine ecosystem engineers, Roman 2014

Baleen and sperm whales, known collectively as the great whales, include the largest animals in the history of life on Earth. With high metabolic demands and large populations, whales probably had a strong influence on marine ecosystems before the advent of industrial whaling: as consumers of fish and invertebrates; as prey to other large-bodied predators;…

Fungal to bacterial ratios in soils investigated for enhanced C-sequestration, Bailey 2002

Testing paired sites in four ecosystem types, this study finds that higher fungal activity in soil is associated with higher soil carbon content, and that disturbing the soil reduces fungal activity. The paper’s introduction explains why fungi have been found to store more carbon than do bacteria – for example, fungi can store up to…

The rhizosphere ­- roots, soil and everything in between, McNear 2013

A variety of intimate, symbiotic relationships exist between the roots of plants and the microorganisms in the soil. For instance, mycorrhizal fungi colonize the surface of plant roots, effectively extending them further through the soil to collect nutrients otherwise out of reach. These mycorrhizal branching structures, known as hyphae, emanating from plant roots also improve…

Mycelia as a focal point for horizontal gene transfer among soil bacteria, Berthold 2016

Fungus is a key component of healthy soil. It is known to “translocate compounds from nutrient-rich to nutrient-poor regions… facilitate the access of bacteria to suitable microhabitats for growth, enable efficient contaminant biodegradation, and increase the functional stability in systems exposed to osmotic stress” [Berthold 2016: 5]. This study shows that, in addition, mycelia facilitate…

Nutrient acquisition by symbiotic fungi governs Palaeozoic climate transition, Mills 2017

Fossil evidence shows that early land plants hosted fungal symbionts, which are likely to have facilitated phosphorus acquisition by plants and thus increased net primary production, perpetuating the transition to a cooler, oxygen-rich environment suitable for animal life. Mills’ study tests this hypothesis by integrating plant-fungal phosphorus acquisition into a biogeochemical model of the Paleozoic…

Remarkable roles of unremarked creatures

The articles below offer a sampling of the myriad ecosystem roles played by species we may not think much about. For example, fungi, an exemplar ecosystem cooperator, buries carbon in the soil, sources otherwise unavailable nutrients like phosphorus for plant growth, and facilitates bacterial evolution. Great whales transport nutrients through the ocean for other species…

Low-cost agricultural waste accelerates tropical forest regeneration, Treuer 2017

This study illustrates how ecosystem restoration enhances biodiversity and productivity. A one-time application in 1998 of 1,000 truckloads of agricultural waste (orange peels) to 3 ha of degraded pasture accelerated tropical forest regeneration in this Costa Rica study. The treatment led to a tripling in species richness (24 tree species from 20 families, compared to…

Biodiversity for multifunctional grasslands: equal productivity in high-diversity low-input and low-diversity high-input systems, Weigelt 2009

This English grasslands study, comparing alternative strategies for increasing productivity, showed that “increasing plant species richness levels were more effective than the imposed levels of increasing management intensity” [Weigelt 2009: 1701]. The management intensification strategy included synthetic fertilization and mowing, while the biodiversity strategy increased species richness from 1 to 16 species. The authors conclude…

Anthropogenic environmental changes affect ecosystem stability via biodiversity, Hautier 2015

This study illustrates the importance of biodiversity for maintaining ecosystem stability. It tests the hypothesis that “other drivers of global environmental change may have biodiversity-mediated effects on ecosystem functioning – that changes in biodiversity resulting from anthropogenic drivers may be an intermediate cause of subsequent changes in ecosystem functioning” [Hautier 2015: 337]. Researchers found that…

Soil biota contributions to soil aggregation, Lehmann 2017

This meta-analysis finds that biodiversity across groups, especially between bacteria and fungi, contributes more to soil aggregation than species from just one group acting alone. For example, fungi specialize in binding macroaggregates, while bacteria can also bind microaggregates, and earthworms can “grind and remould ingested particles into new aggregates” [Lehmann 2017: 1]. There were no…

Biodiversity effects in the wild are common and as strong as key drivers of productivity, Duffy 2017

“Biodiversity has a major role in sustaining the productivity of Earth’s ecosystems” [Duffy 2017: 263]. This is the conclusion drawn from an analysis of 133 estimates reported in 67 field studies on the effects of species richness (number of species) on biomass production, isolating biodiversity as a variable from other factors that affect productivity (nutrient…

Mammal diversity influences the carbon cycle through trophic interactions in the Amazon, Sobral 2017

In a mixed forest-savanna landscape of tropical Guyana researchers found that mammal diversity is positively related to carbon concentration in the soil. The authors explain that this is due to increased feeding interaction associated with greater mammal diversity, and specify that animal abundance per se did not increase carbon content in the soil. “The lack…

Biodiversity

Mammal diversity influences the carbon cycle through trophic interactions in the Amazon, Sobral 2017 In a mixed forest-savanna landscape of tropical Guyana researchers found that mammal diversity is positively related to carbon concentration in the soil. The authors explain that this is due to increased feeding interaction associated with greater mammal diversity, and specify that…

Compilation of biodiversity articles

Biodiversity Mammal diversity influences the carbon cycle through trophic interactions in the Amazon, Sobral 2017 In a mixed forest-savanna landscape of tropical Guyana researchers found that mammal diversity is positively related to carbon concentration in the soil. The authors explain that this is due to increased feeding interaction associated with greater mammal diversity, and specify…

Compendium Vol. 1 No. 2: Biodiversity and why it matters

Biodiversity refers to the outcome of 3.8 billion years of evolution since single-cellular life appeared on Earth. It is a concept embodied by an endless variety of life forms and strategies undertaken within the kingdoms of life. Biodiversity allows for a dynamic web of interactions, whereby countless organisms reliably supply one another with sufficient nutrients and…

Compendium Vol. 1 No. 2: Geotherapy

Geotherapy: Innovative Methods of Soil Fertility Restoration, Carbon Sequestration, and Reversing CO2 Increase. Edited by Thomas J. Goreau, Ronal W. Larsen and Joanna Campe [Goreau 2015] The term “geotherapy” was coined by Richard Grantham, an evolutionary biologist and geneticist who, in his later years, turned his attention to the deteriorating state of Earth in the current…