When heat waves coincide with drought


Simulated heat waves affected alpine grassland only in combination with drought

by Hans J. De BoeckSeraina Bassin, Maya Verlinden, Michaela Zeiter and Erika Hiltbrunner (2015)

in New Phytologist

Early View (Online Version of Record published before inclusion in an issue)


  • The Alpine region is warming fast, and concurrently, the frequency and intensity of climate extremes are increasing. It is currently unclear whether alpine ecosystems are sensitive or resistant to such extremes.
  • We subjected Swiss alpine grassland communities to heat waves with varying intensity by transplanting monoliths to four different elevations (2440–660 m above sea level) for 17 d. Half of these were regularly irrigated while the other half were deprived of irrigation to additionally induce a drought at each site.
  • Heat waves had no significant impacts on fluorescence (Fv/Fm, a stress indicator), senescence and aboveground productivity if irrigation was provided. However, when heat waves coincided with drought, the plants showed clear signs of stress, resulting in vegetation browning and reduced phytomass production. This likely resulted from direct drought effects, but also, as measurements of stomatal conductance and canopy temperatures suggest, from increased high-temperature stress as water scarcity decreased heat mitigation through transpiration.
  • The immediate responses to heat waves (with or without droughts) recorded in these alpine grasslands were similar to those observed in the more extensively studied grasslands from temperate climates. Responses following climate extremes may differ in alpine environments, however, because the short growing season likely constrains recovery.

Oil impact on exploitation of Amazon rainforest and loss of biodiversity

Photo credit: DAPA

Density Analysis of natural vegetation loss in the Amazonas of Ecuador, based on the Terra-i system, in the period from January 2004 to February 2015.

Ecuadorian Amazon: Black or Green Gold?

by Jhon Jairo Tello

Blog post by Bernadette Menzinger. Revision of English version by Paul Peters (CIAT).

Ecuador is recognized as one of the biodiverse hotspots on earth, underneath the Amazon rainforest lies the country’s oil reservoir. With the oil companies and cleared routes come settlers, therefore more and more of this diverse rainforest is being cut down.

Since the oil concerns entered the Ecuadorian Amazon 45 years ago, they keep exploring and exploiting the area. The Terra-i detections reveal a total habitat loss of 87,525 Ha, 16,943 Ha (19%) is part of protected areas, between January 2004 and February 2015.

Oil vs Biodiversity in Ecuador

After extensive banana exportation the main economic gain of Ecuador shifted towards oil in the 1970s. While the oil prices are fluctuating, the demand for black gold remains high. The exploration and detection beneath the Amazonas of new oil fields leads to the exploitation of the resource and natural and cultural variety can be put in danger. The biodiversity is enormous, there are 2500 registered tree and shrub species, but the estimation goes up to 3100. Although there are protected areas, the government does not restrict the oil companies entering these areas (GREENBERG et al., 2005).

Oil companies construct access roads and drilling platforms to exploit the region for almost 50 years now. Attracted by these cleared routes people settle nearby, cut and burn more forest for agriculture or domestic animals (BUTLER, 2012). An example would be an oil pipeline which is 420 km long, traversing the Amazon and the Andean mountain range clearing forest in each habitat (YASUNI GREEN GOLD 2008). Another example of destruction is a 150 km long road right through the Yasuní National Park, which was built in the mid-1990s (GREENBERG et al., 2005).  By means of those examples, it has been proven that the construction of roads and subsequent settlers has the biggest impact on the exploitation of the Amazon rainforest and its related deforestation.


Terra-i detects the impact of oil drilling

Read the full article: CIAT – DAPA


Photo by Marc Cadotte

Plots from a phylogenetic diversity manipulation of tall grass prairie plants outside of Toronto, Canada.


Phylogenythe evolutionary history of organismshas been shown to be a reliable predictor of how organisms interact with each other and their environment. While the implications of phylogeny for conservation have been researched and debated, the implications of phylogeny for restoration have rarely been discussed. Hipp et al. (p. 647) present the case that phylogenetic relationships should be considered in planning and monitoring the progress of ecological restoration projects and press for the integration of basic research in systematics and evolutionary biology with the practice of ecological restoration.

Am. J. Bot. 102(5): 647, 2015 doi:10.3732/ajb.1500119

Women have emerged as the natural leaders

Photo credit: IPS NEWS

Women from the Gunduribadi tribal village in the eastern Indian state of Odisha patrol their forests with sticks to prevent illegal logging. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Watch What Happens When Tribal Women Manage India’s Forests

“No one can cheat us of even one metre of our mother, the forest. She has given us life and we have given our lives for her.” — Kama Pradhan, a tribal woman from the Gunduribadi village


Unfolding out of sight and out of mind of India’s policy-making nucleus in the capital, New Delhi, this quiet drama – involving the 275 million people who reside in or on the fringes of the country’s bountiful forests – could be the defining struggle of the century.

At the forefront of the movement are tribal communities in states like Odisha who are determined to make full use of a2012 amendment to India’s Forest Rights Act (FRA) to claim titles to their land, on which they can carve out a simple life, and a sustainable future for their children.

One of the most empowering provisions of the amended FRA gave forest dwellers and tribal communities the right to own, manage and sell non-timber forest products (NTFP), which some 100 million landless people in India depend on for income, medicine and housing.

Women have emerged as the natural leaders of efforts to implement these legal amendments, as they have traditionally managed forestlands, sustainably sourcing food, fuel and fodder for the landless poor, as well as gathering farm-fencing materials, medicinal plants and wood to build their thatched-roof homes.

Under the leadership of women like Pradhan, 850 villages in the Nayagarh district of Odisha state are collectively managing 100,000 hectares of forest land, with the result that 53 percent of the district’s land mass now has forest cover.


Environmental impacts of Ethiopian dam ignored

Photo credit: SciDevNet

Copyright: D.J. Clark/Panos

Ethiopian dam deal ignores science, warn experts

Speed read

  • Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan have agreed to regulate Nile water use
  • But the deal has been dismissed as a science-free ‘political agreement’
  • There is concern that the dam’s environmental impacts are being ignored

[CAIRO] Water scientists from Egypt have raised concerns over a declaration governing the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam that is meant to ensure fair access to Nile water for countries downstream.

The Declaration of principles, which the leaders of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan signed in Khartoum, Sudan, on 23 March, is meant to regulate Nile water use following political upheaval over the dam, which is about a third into its construction.

Talking to SciDev.Net, scientists monitoring the declaration’s creation have warned that concerns over the dam’s impact on the environment and local people have been sidelined for gains in political negotiations.

Nader Noureddine, a water resources and soil researcher at Cairo University, says the technical committee appointed by all three countries to oversee the dam’s construction will be allowed to study documents provided by the Ethiopian government, but “will not be allowed to visit the dam or to witness the work on the site”. This, Noureddine says, will seriously impact its ability to make an evidence-based assessment of the dam’s environmental impacts.

Read the full article: SciDevNet

Karst Rocky-desertification Area in China

Photo credit: Google

“Hidden Waters: Dragons in the Deep” Exhibit in Helm Library. Karst landscape of Yunnan

Studies on the Law of Water and Soil Loss of Different Planting Models in Karst Rocky-desertification Area in the East of Yunnan

Karst rock-desertification is caused by both fragile environment and unreasonable activities and is a result of the aggravating human-land relationship. The ecologic and geologic environment is very frail and the rocky desertification is very obvious (the rocky desertification area is 34772.76 km~2) in Yunnan karst area which seriously restrict the sustainable development of local economy. The Engineering of rocky-desertification treatment is especially important for ecological restoration and sustainable development in southwestern. In order to combine the policy of southwestern rocky-desertification treatment Engineering, the experiment field is chosen in a named Sandaoqing forest farm of Fuyuan county, Yunnan province, where is the typical plateau rocky-desertification areas in eastern of Yunnan province. The conclusion provides a theoretical support for the restoration and Management of rock-desertification eco-environment. Five planting models in rocky-desertification area are practiced and studied. Five models are mixed wood, natural coniferous forest, natural broad-leaved forest, crop land, grassland and bare land. In this paper, research which is based on runoff field, contents include: rainfall characteristic and its relative model, physical and chemical characteristic of soil, soil and water loss, nutrient loss, and build some relative models according to different conditions for five planting models.

Read the full article: Engineering Science Paper

Megadroughts will cause forest death

Photo credit: Nature World News

(Photo : Pixabay)

Drought Damage Will Cause Widespread Forest Death by 2050

By Jenna Iacurci

It is well known that climate change is causing all sorts of extreme weather, and may lead to events such as 35-year-or-longer “megadroughts” that will be the worst we’ve seen in 1,000 years. Now researchers are giving us another glimpse into the future, saying that drought damage will likely cause widespread forest death by the 2050s as a result of climate change.

A team lead by the Carnegie Institution describes in the journal Nature Geoscience how tree mortality can radically transform ecosystems, affect biodiversity, harm local economies, and pose fire risks, and even further increase global warming.

Read the full article: Nature World News

Corn and soy instead of prairies

Photo credit: Treehugger

CC BY 2.0 Joshua Mayer

Natural prairies replaced with corn and soy following biofuel law

by Margaret Badore
Business / Environmental Policy

A new study from researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows that corn and soy, two crops commonly used for biofuels, are expanding into previously un-farmed prairie in the United States.

The study used high-resolution satellite images to identify where cropland expanded between 2008 and 2012, the four years following the passage of the Renewable Fuel Standard, which mandates the use of renewable fuels including biofuels. Of course, not all of this crop is used for biofuels, but ethanol has driven up the domestic demand for corn (see chart below). In 2014, over 40 percent of corn grown in the U.S. was used to make ethanol, according to data from the United States Department of Agriculture.

Read the full article: Treehugger

Planting trees and energy saving technologies needed in Kenya

Photo credit: Google

United Nations News Centre – Cost of deforestation in Kenya far exceeds gains from forestry and logging,

Kenya: Study – Kenya Loses 5.6 Million Trees Daily


According to the study by Green Africa Foundation, a non-governmental agency, Kenya loses an astonishing 5.6 million trees daily, despite relentless campaigns on environmental conservation.

Forest being extensively cleared in Kenya - http://www.plant-talk.org/images/content/CopyofMaasaiMau-Extensiveclearingofindigenosuforest.JPG
Forest being extensively cleared in Kenya – http://www.plant-talk.org/images/content/CopyofMaasaiMau-Extensiveclearingofindigenosuforest.JPG

The research findings reveal that 64.6 percent of all Kenya’s 8.7 million households (based on the 2009 national population census) depend entirely on firewood as their cooking fuel, where each harvests between 10kgs and 20kgs of firewood daily.

This settler in the Mau Forest, Kenya is clearing land for subsistence agriculture, which was previously thought to be one of the main factors contributing to deforestation. The new study shows that the most important causes of deforestation in the 21st century are probably an expanding urban population and global agricultural trade. © Christian Lambrechts, UNEP - http://www.plant-talk.org/images/content/CopyofMaasaiMau-Asettlerburnstheforesttoplantcabbagesandothercrops_001.jpg
This settler in the Mau Forest, Kenya is clearing land for subsistence agriculture, which was previously thought to be one of the main factors contributing to deforestation. The new study shows that the most important causes of deforestation in the 21st century are probably an expanding urban population and global agricultural trade. © Christian Lambrechts, UNEP – http://www.plant-talk.org/images/content/CopyofMaasaiMau-Asettlerburnstheforesttoplantcabbagesandothercrops_001.jpg

The deforestation problem in Kenya captures the situation on the entire African continent.

Studies show that at the end of 1990, Africa had an estimated 528 million hectares, or 30 percent of the world’s tropical forests. In several Sub-Saharan African countries, the rate of deforestation exceeded the global annual average of 0.8 percent.

While deforestation in other parts of the world is mainly caused by commercial logging or cattle ranching the leading causes in Africa are associated with human activity.

Developing countries rely heavily on wood fuel, the major energy source for cooking and heating. In Africa, the statistics are striking: an estimated 90 percent of the entire continent’s population uses wood fuel for cooking, and in Sub-Saharan Africa, firewood and brush supply approximately 52 percent of all energy sources.

Read the full article: allAfrica


Deforestation in Uganda

Photo credit: Google


Let’s reverse deforestation

Written by Editorial


Yet the importance of forests can’t be overemphasized. We need forests to maintain a friendly ecosystem; to get rainfall, oxygen and feed water bodies. We also need forests to sustain the construction industry, provide energy and food, among other benefits. In short, we need forests to live. However, despite clear evidence that forests and people’s livelihoods are intertwined, we continue to be oblivious of the destruction going on around us.

Ongoing deforestation activities in Mpigi District a case study of Katabalalu forest in Uganda - http://satoyama-initiative.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Figure21.jpg
Ongoing deforestation activities in Mpigi District a case study of Katabalalu forest in Uganda – http://satoyama-initiative.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Figure21.jpg

According to the ministry of water and environment, global deforestation is now rated at 13 million hectares annually, accounting for 12-20 per cent of the global carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to climate change.

Forest degradation in Uganda is estimated at about 92,000 hectares annually, which some experts suggest is roughly the size of the well-known Mabira forest reserve.

According to the Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (Acode) deputy executive director, Onesmus Mugyenyi, Uganda’s forest cover has reduced from 53 to 24 per cent in the last 50 years. What is left, Mugyenyi says, will be gone within the next 50 years at current degradation levels.

Read the full article: The Observer

Intercropping and agroforestry

 Photo credit: SciDevNet

A video on how integrating agriculture with the natural forest cycle can improve resilience and sustainability.

Farming in the forest in Belize

VIDEO: https://youtu.be/teVmVMH-Ano


In the nearby Maya Mountain Research Farm, some farmers and NGOs are testing new ways of making agriculture more sustainable. They encourage other local farmers to abandon the traditional ‘slash and burn’ technique, which involves cutting down trees and burning the area to clear space to grow maize and beans.

They also want to prove that interspersing crops among forest trees improves food security, the crops’ robustness and human diet.

Read the full text: SciDevNet


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