Abstracts of the URPP GCB Seminar Series

November 23, 2017

Rogier De Jong and Claudia Röösli

University Research Priority Programme on Global Change and Biodiversity, Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies; Zurich, Switzerland

Introduction to the ESA GlobDiversity project - informing terrestrial Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs) using remote sensing.

June 8, 2017

Marc Schmid

University Research Priority Programme on Global Change and Biodiversity, Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies; Zurich, Switzerland

Genetic and Epigenetic Diversity: From Model Organisms to Field Experiments.

Current DNA sequencing technologies allow for inexpensive and rapid, profiling of genetic and epigenetic diversity. I will present four case-studies to illustrate the potential of these technologies in both, well-known model organisms and ecological experiments with non-model organisms.
1) "Epigenetic reprogramming during the life cycle of Marchantia polymorpha" demonstrates that the "epigenome" can dramatically change during the life cycle.
2) "Selection of epigenetic variation in Arabidopsis" exemplifies the, power of studies using model organisms in an experimental setup from ecology. The study indicates that epigenetic variation can contribute to rapid adaptive changes in selective environments. We could further identify a potential candidate epiallele underlying this adaptive response.
3) "(Epi-)genetic basis of differences between plants selected in monocultures vs. mixtures" suggests that species richness in the Jena Experiment acted as a selective environment. Using epiGBS, a method, assessing genetic and epigenetic diversity at once, we can show that populations originating from the same seed pool and grown in monocultures and mixed cultures for 12 years are genetically distinct. This may explain the frequently observed strengthening of biodiversity effects over time.
4) "Microbial diversity in rhizospere soil" illustrates how the (bacterial) microbial community structure in the rhizosphere of test plants is determined by the plant communities that grew on the soil for the previous 12 years (soils from plant monocultures vs. mixtures) and the species identity of the test plants.
In my final remarks, I will briefly discuss the challenges associated, with comparative omics in ecological studies. I will thereby emphasize the importance of the experimental design and differences between bioinformatics and statistics relevant for ecology.


June 1, 2017

Catherine Graham

Biodiversity and Conservation Biology, Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL; Birmensdorf, Switzerland

Linking patterns and processes across scales: a case study with Neotropical hummingbirds.

A fundamental challenge for ecology and evolution is connecting broad scale biogeographical and macro-evolutionary mechanisms with local scale patterns of diversity. Community phylogenetics attempts to create this link by evaluating patterns of relatedness, and often trait similarity, among co-occurring species at multiple sites to generate hypotheses about the role of different mechanisms governing community assembly. In Neotropical hummingbirds, biogeographic studies show that closely related species co-occur less frequently than expected when compared to a species pool that considers environmental filtering or predicted species range overlaps. This pattern may result from limiting similarity and competitive exclusion of closely related species. However, the precise role of limiting similarity and niche conservatism in influencing local assemblages is difficult to infer from biogeographic patterns alone. Using our broad scale results as a guide, we developed local scale experiments and quantified hummingbird-plant interactions to better understand the mechanisms underlying both local and biogeographic patterns of diversity. Our work provides an initial link between patterns established by broad scale biogeography and mechanisms learned from local scale community ecology.


May 18, 2017

Christian Rossi

Community Ecology Plant-Animal Interactions, Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL; Birmensdorf, Switzerland

A plant functional diversity approach in a regional ecosystem service assessment of grasslands.

Ecosystem properties and the derived services for humans are strongly linked to different traits of plants and their variations. Capturing and understanding these variations, at distinct spatial and temporal scales, in differently managed meadows and pastures remains challenging for the limited data availability. To overcome this issue it is possible to benefit from the unique spectral signatures of plant traits, which can be detected with optical remote sensing instruments. This technology has already proven to be successful in mapping different plant traits, but is still not used to quantify the spatial diversity of those traits. I will present my PhD project and a new approach based on the inversion of a radiative transfer model for the retrieval of functional diversity indices from Sentinel2 images. Extra: Insights into ongoing monitoring and research projects of one of the most significant "open-air laboratories" in the Alps, in an area that has been free from anthropogenic influence for the last 103 years.


April 7, 2017

Yusuke Onoda

Division of Environmental Science and Technology Graduate School of Agriculture, Kyoto University Oiwake, Kitashirakawa, Kyoto

Light competition and coexistence of trees in natural forests.

Plants grow taller to intercept and pre-empt solar energy, and suppress growth of subordinate plants in vegetation stands, which is described through one-sided competition. Yet, in much of the world’s vegetation species of different statures coexist. To understand this apparent paradox, it is essential to quantify to what extent individual plants intercept and use light to produce biomass. For this purpose, we determined the 3D distribution of foliage and light in mature forests with a ground-based LIDAR system and a light sensor in combination with non-destructive measurements of tree growth. Our results suggest that taller trees have higher light interception efficiency (light interception rate per unit biomass); however, this benefit comes at a cost of decreased efficiency of light use for growth. This trade-off allows trees of different statures to grow at proportionally comparable rates and may promote coexistence of tree species in one-sided light competition.


January 26, 2017

Paul Leadley

Ecology, Systematics and Evolution Laboratory (ESE),University Paris-Sud, France; bioDISCOVERY

Research, Observation, Assessment and Policy: the four pillars of the science-policy interface.

Future Earth* (research), GEO-BON** (observation), IPBES*** (assessment) and the CBD**** (policy) form the international foundations for building the scientific knowledge required to assess biodiversity and ecosystem services and for science to interact with policy.  Many researchers do not have a clear understanding of the respective and complimentary roles of these institutions in structuring research and policy. The aim of this talk is to provide and overview and specific examples of how these institutions work, interact and influence the science-policy dialog. I will focus on the contributions of the bioDISCOVERY project of Future Earth (which I currently chair) and GEO-BON to assessments carried out in the past by the CBD and now by IPBES as well as their influence on international and national policy. This is of particular pertinence to the URPP-Global Change and Biodiversity program because the bioDISCOVERY project office and its science officer, Cornelia Krug, are moving to the Univ. of Zurich, and Michael Schaepman will soon be serving as co-chair.  In addition, several other members of the URPP-GCB are currently, or have in the past, played key roles in Future Earth or GEO-BON.

*Future Earth is the international program on global change research. It includes projects, such as bioDISCOVERY, that in the past were under the umbrella of the DIVERSITAS program.
**GEO-BON is the international network for biodiversity and ecosystem services observation
***IPBES is the intergovernmental science-policy platform for biodiversity and ecosystem services with a strong focus on assessments. It is often referred to as the "IPCC for biodiversity and ecosystem services"
****CBD the Convention on Biological Diversity debates and establishes international policy for biodiversity


May 6, 2016

Karen Chong-Seng

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies James Cook University Townsville; Queensland, Australia

Coral Reef Monitoring at Aldabra Atoll

Aldabra Atoll, situated in the Indian Ocean (9.4167°S, 46.4166°E) is a designated global biodiversity hotspot (Conservation International), widely recognised as an outstanding example of a raised limestone atoll, and one of the most remarkable and least disturbed oceanic islands on Earth. The atoll has been protected since 1976, a UNESCO world heritage site since 1982, and is uninhabited except for staff at the research station that monitors the atoll's ecosystem and wildlife. The atoll's coral reefs were first described in the 1960s, but despite the development of an extensive terrestrial monitoring programme, the reefs remained unmonitored until 1998 following the devastating thermal bleaching event. This presentation aims to summarise coral reef monitoring at Aldabra Atoll, and including initial observations of the current effects from the dramatic El Niño event that is affecting reefs worldwide.


April 24, 2016

M. Ohashi, T. Kume, K. Matsumoto, A. Katayama

School of Human Science and Environment, University of Hyogo, Hyogo, Japan; School of Forestry and Resource Conservation, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan; Faculty of Agriculture, University of Ryukyus, Okinawa, Japan; Kasuya Research Forest, Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan

Carbon and water dynamics in a tropical rainforest
--Carbon balance, carbon allocation, soil respiration and evapo-transpiration--

In this seminar, we introduce biogeochemical research activities in a tropical rainforest in Lambir Hills National Park (LHNP), Sarawak, Malaysia. LHNP has been used as biological, meteorological and ecological research site since 1990’s. Canopy crane with 80-m height was constructed for monitoring forest carbon and water fluxes over the canopy and the 4 ha plot around the crane has been used for intensive studies of carbon and water dynamics within the forest. We explain our experiments, findings and future challenges in this seminar. Our talk will be divided into four parts: 1. eddy covariance measurement for monitoring forest carbon balance (Dr. Matsumoto), 2. soil respiration and relating factors (Dr. Matsumoto and Dr. Ohashi), 3. characteristics of carbon allocation (Dr. Katayama), and 4. evapo-transpiration and meteorological studies (Dr. Kume).


March 04, 2016

Meredith C. Schuman

Div-MPICE-Biodiversity project group, Department of Molecular Ecology, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology

Div-MPICE-Biodiversity project group, Department of Molecular Ecology, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology

I will present work from the iDiv Biodiversity/Ecological Functions of Plant Genes Project Group at the MPI-CE, and the ERC-funded Clockwork Green project on the ecological functions of the plant circadian clock. The iDiv project group investigates emergent properties of variation in plant traits controlled by single functional genes. We are amortizing a collection of hundreds of transgenic lines of the wild tobacco Nicotiana attenuata, each modified in one or two functional genes. We hypothesize that variation in traits controlled by single genes within plant populations can result in emergent properties feeding back on plant productivity and reproductive success, by altering interactions with plants’ abiotic and biotic environment in a manner dependent on trait frequency. Specifically, we are investigating whether single-gene functional diversity might result in higher productivity or greater resilience for species monocultures under different environmental conditions and in communities of increasing complexity, thus delivering some of the ecosystem services known to be supported by species-level biodiversity. I will provide a brief overview of current projects, and then present some of our recent work focusing on direct and indirect plant defenses against insect herbivores and effects on herbivore community assembly.


December 16, 2015

Glen Reynolds

The South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership

The SE Asia Rainforest Research Partnership (SEARRP) - exceptional science for rainforest conservation

Tropical rainforests are a critical component of the world’s life support system and house the greatest diversity of plant and animal species found on earth - and are vital for the wellbeing of millions of people. However, the threats facing rainforests are legion – logging, clearance for agriculture, hunting, the impacts of a changing climate – and their very survival is imperilled. Balancing the complex need for rainforest conservation, agricultural development and human wellbeing – in an era of unprecedented environmental change – demands the best science, driven by inspired people and informed governments. Established by the UK’s Royal Society in 1985, SEARRP is based at the Danum Valley Field Centre in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. Set within one of the world’s finest and most important areas of pristine rainforest, Danum is South East Asia’s leading tropical forest research station. For over thirty years, SEARRP has made a seminal contribution to the understanding of Borneo’s rainforests, their conservation and restoration, the effects of logging and the implications of forest loss. More recently, SEARRP science has focused strongly on the sustainability of plantations, how to reduce their impacts on biodiversity, soils, water and the climate – and how forest connectivity can be maintained within agricultural landscapes. As we re-launch SEARRP as the SE Asia Rainforest Research Partnership, and leverage three decades of success, our vision is that exceptional science informs and inspires the conservation of rainforests not just on Borneo, but across the tropics. In partnership with some of the world’s leading universities, including the University of Zurich, we aim to establish SEARRP as a truly global centre of research and training excellence that informs policy and mentors the next generation of scientists and conservation leaders. This talk outlines SEARRP’s vision, mission and goals within the context of the threats and opportunities presented in the rapidly changing forest and plantation landscapes of SE Asia.


November 19, 2015

Monika Winder

Department of Ecology, Environmnent and Plant Sciences, University of Stockholm

Effects of climate change on aquatic food web dynamics

A present concern for ecosystems and organisms is to predict how resilient they are under ongoing environmental change to maintain ecosystem services and products. I will highlight the sensitivity of plankton food webs to climate warming and increasing CO2. Shifts in phenology have been observed across a wide range of aquatic systems, the phenotypic plasticity to cope with climate change, however, varies greatly among organisms. Change in the physical structure further selects for specific traits and consequently alters community composition. Experimental manipulation reveal that ocean acidification can have far reaching consequences for food webs by changing the nutritional quality of essential macromolecules in phytoplankton that cascade up to higher trophic levels. These results emphasize that the sensitivity of plankton to global change may cause major changes for ecosystem functioning and biochemical cycling with potentially significant environmental and economic implications.


November 12, 2015

Janneke Hille Ris Lambers

Energy Research at the University of Washington

Forest community reassembly with climate change

How will climate change influence plant communities? Communities are generally expected to lose cold-adapted species, while warm-adapted species increase in abundance (i.e. the ‘thermophilization’ of communities). However, compositional shifts may be significantly more complex due to variation among species and locations in the rate and magnitude of climate change responses. To address these possibilities, we use long-term data collected from Mt. Rainier National Park (WA, USA) to: 1) examine the extent to which forest communities have already changed in response to recent warming and 2) explore which processes can explain compositional shifts that differ from simple ‘thermophilization’ predictions. We found that compositional shifts over the last 35 years were small, despite significant warming in the region, and not consistent with thermophilization predictions. Ongoing research suggests several factors contribute to the complexity of observed community shifts, and therefore, are likely to influence future community reassembly with continued climate change. Demographic inertia (slow growth and mortality) and competitive interactions constrain population growth rates of component tree species, and likely slows compositional turnover in response to warming. Additionally climate sensitivity, invasion and extinction rates vary by species, making community reassembly in these forests a strong possibility. In all, results imply that the rate and direction of compositional change with climate change is likely to be complex. However, I will discuss ongoing approaches we are using to determine whether these community shifts may still be generalizable from species traits or habitat characteristics.

December 3, 2014

Kai M.A. Chan

Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia

Time for a New Brand of Environmental Science Engagement

In this talk, I will review the major approaches that ecosystem services researchers have taken to engaging with management and policy, and analyze these along the following dimensions: (1) the feasibility of science to provide the knowledge needed; (2) the approaches to engagement required, and the extent to which researchers are taking these; (3) the feasibility of policy and management to integrate science in the way imagined (given social, political, and economic realities illustrated via anecdotal examples); and (4) the implicit locus of responsibility for social-ecological stewardship. Synthesizing across these, I assess the opportunity for each approach to foster sustainable trajectories.


October 20, 2014

Noboru Ishikawa

Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University

Human-Nature Interactions of the Riverine Societies in Sarawak, Malaysia

The presentation is about a challenge to conventional anthropocentric perspectives in the social sciences by examining connections and changing relations between nature and non-nature. I will first present an overview of five-year collaborative research (2010–2014) on the human-nature interactions in the riverine societies of Sarawak, Malaysia. A multi-sited, trans-disciplinary research has been conducted in the Kemena and the Tatau catchment basins in Bintulu District, by a team of natural and social scientists in order to examine the emerging dynamics of landscapes of Sarawak with the expansion of planted forest of oil palm and Acacia mangium. The riverine societies connecting inland and coast were strategically chosen to examine the characteristics of human and non-human communities as well as the interactions between the two. I will then elaborate on a long-term objective of realizing holism in social science research both as an anthropologist and a principal investigator. By envisioning a new form of multi-disciplinary area studies of high biomass society in Southeast Asia, the current confluence of geosphere, biosphere and human society under global capitalism can be investigated in a new light.


October 20, 2014

Ryoji Soda

Faculty of Literature and Human Sciences, Osaka City University

Thirty years of forest development and the responses of indigenous people in Sarawak, Malaysia

This presentation will begin with outlining the last few decades of forest exploitation and the responses of indigenous people against the movement. Excessive logging, tourism development, the expansion of oil palm plantation, and other economic activities have had both negative and positive impacts on local societies. In the latter half of the presentation I will show socio-cultural adaptation of inland shifting cultivators to recent drastic landscape changes by using case study in Bintulu region, and reconsider the meaning of the research outcome in terms of human-nature interactions which is a main theme of Ishikawa's project.


October 20, 2014

Yayoi Takeuchi

National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan

Biodiversity reservoirs in a human-modified landscape: Role of remnant forests used by local communities in regional species diversity conservation in Sarawak, Malaysia

Indigenous communities in Sarawak, Malaysia, leave forest patches within the land-use system in an area of shifting cultivation for collecting forest-based materials and/or water catchment. Those forests would have both social and ecological functions. I have conducted field investigations of social background and tree species diversity within those forests. I will present my preliminary results and discuss about the role of those remnant forests in the regional biodiversity conservation.


October 16, 2014

Paul C. Stoy

Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences, Montana State University

Interpreting processes by observing patterns: Data-intensive strategies for understanding the role of ecosystems in the climate system

Terrestrial ecosystems play an important role in the climate system by exchanging trace gases, water, and energy between the biosphere and the atmosphere. Dramatic improvements in our ability to observe or infer the biogeochemical, biogeophysical, and hydrological function of ecosystems have resulted in a deluge of data that has not been fully explored. Here, I discuss the role played by measurement networks and data-intensive scientific strategies in improving our understanding of ecological climatology. I focus on observations from the FLUXNET database of eddy covariance and micrometeorological measurements, eScientific approaches for exploring FLUXNET and remote sensing databases, and opportunities to use these observations in atmospheric and climate science.


March 17, 2014

Kate A. Brauman

Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota

Hydrological Ecosystem Services: Managing Landscapes for Water, Nature and People

Human modification of the landscape affects the flow of water, and managing land to manage water is becoming increasingly common in Payments for Watershed Services projects worldwide. Focusing on cases from Hawai’i and Latin America, I will explore some of the most productive ways to quantify hydrologic services and illustrate potential synergies and tradeoffs between water and other services. Insights from hydrology highlighted by this work can help improve the design of Payments for Watershed Services projects.


September 18, 2013

F Stuart (Terry) Chapin, III

University of Alaska Fairbanks

The Ecosystem and Societal Consequences of Northern Biodiversity Loss in a Rapidly Changing World

The world is currently in the midst of the sixth major extinction event in the history of life on Earth—caused largely by human activities. At a more subtle level, there are changes in the types of species and their relative abundances, due to migration or importation of species from other places—i.e., species invasions. Although we know a lot about why these changes are occurring, we know much less about the consequences. Changes in biodiversity have two important categories of effects: (1) changes in the traits of species that affect how ecosystems function and (2) changes in the response of species to environmental and biotic conditions and therefore the capacity of ecosystems to respond to environmental variation and change. This talk will describe how these components of biodiversity affect ecosystems and indigenous societies in the north and their response to climate change, using examples from Alaska.


September 13, 2013

Prof. Dr. Ilan Chabay

Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, Potsdam, Germany and Dept. of Social Science and Technology Assessment, University of Stuttgart, Germany

Thinking across boundaries: notes on transdisciplinary global change research 

The great challenge of rapid global change requires disciplinary depth, multi-disciplinary breadth, and trans-disciplinary processes at multiple scales, levels, and socio-ecological contexts. As examples of efforts in this context, two projects and the international research alliance to which both projects belong will be discussed. One project, just initiated at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, is on risk and opportunities in the Arctic region enabled by climate change retreat of sea ice, driven by resource extraction, and leading to societal and governance transformations. The second is a large international collaborative effort on knowledge systems for sustainable provisioning of humanity at the land/water/energy nexus. These and two other projects are part of the International Human Dimensions Program (IHDP) Alliance on Knowledge, Learning, and Societal Change (KLSC), which provides a conceptual framework connecting these and other projects.


April 15, 2013

Prof. Dr. Margaret Torn

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California at Berkeley

Meet the GCB Advisory Board Member Margaret Torn 

Margaret will briefly introduce herself and her work in Berkeley. She will also summarize the results of a policy briefing on potential future energy solutions which she gave to the United Nations in New York