Forests & CO @ Climate-Conference

I’m presenting FORESTS & CO’s results on primary forests, including challenges and trade-offs when it comes to carbon management at the UNFCCC-COP24 Climate conference in Katowice. I hope to see you there!

Panel: Forests and Climate Policy under the Paris Agreement
EU Pavilion – Brussels Room, Friday, Dec. 7th: 16:30 – 20:00

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The more (carbon in forest), the better (for biodiversity)?

Credits: S. Burrascano, F.M. Sabatini, Pixabay.com

 Forests host a huge range of animals and plants, and provide a wealth of services to us, including the provision of timber and other forest products (mushrooms!), protection from landslides and avalanches in mountain areas, clean water and clean air. In addition, forests capture and store large amounts of carbon, mostly in wood and soils, thus contributing to mitigating climate change. When managing forests, we should keep all these services in mind, and since not all of them can be maximised at the same time, make choices and set priorities. In our paper ‘Trade‐offs between carbon stocks and biodiversity in European temperate forests, recently published in Global Change Biology, we focus on one of the possible trade-offs. Can we manage forests to both support biodiversity and maximize the amount of carbon they store? In short, can we fill two needs with one deed?

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Could we reduce the functional diversity of plant communities to a few schemes?

The functional configuration of plant communities follows a limited number of dominant schemes, which are surprisingly similar to those found for individual plant species.

Too strong is the temptation to paraphrase the famous incipit of the novel ‘Anna Karenina’ by Leo Tolstoy:

Are plant communities all alike or is every plant community unique in its own way? “

The ‘Anna Karenina principle’ applied to plant communities is, in a nutshell, the core of the new paper we have just published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. The exuberance of the plant world when it comes to self-organizing into variously assorted communities puzzled ecologists for decades in their search for patterns and commonalities across regions. Thanks to the unprecedented collection of data made available by sPlot – The Global Vegetation-plot database, we found that the organization of plants into communities follows a limited number of dominant schemes, which are surprisingly similar to those existing at the level of individual plant species.

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Mapping the extinction debt in the Chaco

Although my heart beats for temperate forests, collaborating with Asunción Semper-Pascual took me for once (alas, only figuratively) to the tropical dry forests of the Argentinian Chaco, to do research on a very important questions:

Given the high rate of deforestation currently observed in the Chaco, what proportion of the mammal and bird diversity we currently observe in the landscape is deemed to go extinct in the near-future? In other words, is there an Extinction debt? And can we map it to highlight areas where a high extinction rate is expected, so to priotize areas in urgent need of restoration?

In the paper just published on the Journal of Applied Ecology, we showed we can.

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Of Beta-diversity and its decrease with increasing elevation

Credits – Valerio Giacomini (1958) La Flora – Conosci L’italia, Touring Club Italiano. Milano

It’s a fact. Biodiversity is not uniformly distributed over the Earth’s surface. Some regions are lush with a rich, heterogeneous flora, others are homogeneously covered by only a few plant species. A recurrent pattern is the decrease of the number of animal and plant species from the equator to the poles, as well as from to low to high elevation. What happens when rather than considering the number of species, one focuses on the variability in species composition (=beta-diversity) and compares this variability across geographical regions?

We have just published a new study in Ecography to understand how beta-diversity varies along elevation gradients. There is evidence that, similarly to species richness, beta-diversity also decreases with increasing elevation and latitude. But what are the mechanisms behind this pattern?

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LIFE+ FAGUS – Project of the month

Venacquaro Valley, Gran Sasso National Park. Ph. D. Di Santo

Here’s another piece of news relative the LIFE+ project – FAGUS, a project I collaborated with from 2013-2015. The Italian Ministry of the Environment elected FAGUS as Project of the Month – Jan 2017, and published a long press release summarizing objectives, actions and achievements of FAGUS.

The press release can be found at the url (only in Italian, unfortunately):

http://www.minambiente.it/pagina/progetti-del-mese

Congratulations to all the staff of FAGUS!

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Afforestation, Common Agricultural Policy and Biodiversity

Tuesday 11 Oct 2017, the staff of Radio Colonia, the show in Italian language of the German Radio station Funkhaus Europa, interviewed Sabina Burrascano our colleague from Sapienza, University of Rome, on the content of our latest paper titled: ‘Current European policies are unlikely to jointly foster carbon sequestration and protect biodiversity‘.

Listen to the interview (in Italian) on Radio Colonia:

RadioColonia.PNG

 See also the description of the study in a recent blog post.

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Conflicting EU policies may hamper biodiversity conservation without mitigating climate change

Photo credits: Sabina Burrascano

We’ve just published a new paper: ‘Current European policies are unlikely to jointly foster carbon sequestration and protect biodiversity‘ on ‘Biological Conservation’ together with an international, interdisciplinary research group from five universities.

Is there the risk that European carbon policies may threaten grassland biodiversity? In the paper we raised the concern that carbon centered policies favouring one land-use (i.e. forest) over another (e.g. semi-natural grasslands) may not only fail at delivering the expected environmental benefits, but also create severe shortcomings, when biodiversity or other unique ecosystem services are considered. Given the context of high scientific uncertainty, we asked, what’s the situation in Europe? Do the current environmental policy acknowledge these uncertainties and balance coherently different environmental goals?

Err… not exactly…

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Look who’s back! A visit from Rosalia alpina

Photo Credits: Daniele Di Santo

I have already mentioned the FAGUS project in a previous post (“The mess of sampling biodiversity”, where I described the results we obtained when analyzing the pre-intervention biodiversity data, as they are published in the paper (open access):

One taxon does not fit all: Herb-layer diversity and stand structural complexity are weak predictors of biodiversity in Fagus sylvatica forests

I just got a great news today from the staff of the LIFE+ project – FAGUS, Daniele Di Santo (Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park) and Sabina Burrascano (Sapienza, University of Rome). A pair of individuals of Rosalia alpina were found in one of the intervention areas of the project. Read below!

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FORESTS & CO – Overview

Background

Forests play a major role in the global carbon cycle, contain a substantial proportion of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, and are valued for the services they provide to society1,2. Forest products alone are estimated at $120 billion annually3, although this estimation disregards the value of regulating, cultural and supporting services3. Importantly, forests are major carbon pools and play a critical role in mitigating climate change4, while harboring the majority of the world’s biodiversity2.

Unfortunately, the rate of biodiversity loss is still alarmingly high and accelerates5, which is worrisome considering emerging close links between biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, and human well-being.

A large body of evidence now suggests biodiversity loss affects the functioning of ecosystems. Likewise, high species diversity is often associated with high productivity and ecosystem service (ES) provisioning, including carbon storage and sequestration. Protecting forests and managing them sustainably is therefore important both to preserve biodiversity, and the services it underpins. However, our ability to understand the consequences of biodiversity loss on the supply of a portfolio of multiple ES is still incomplete.

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