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Elena E. Burgos-Martínez is a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology at Durham University writing from her field site on the Celebes Sea in the province of North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Here she is living amongst the indigenous Bajo people who live a nomadic lifestyle on the sea, making them highly attune to environmental change.

The definition and contrast of concepts such as ‘culture’ and ‘nature’ do not apply in the same way across the globe. Dualities such as the environmental vs. the social, the material vs. the biological are not pieces that fit in all socio-ecological puzzles. Environmental change is perceived by the Bajo as part of the defining flux of interactions that grants social cohesion on the island and, thus, it is expected and desired.

Their social environment does not differ from the ecological one since they constantly interchange (e.g. an animated nature of ‘iblis‘ that requires collective Bajo knowledge to be understood and acknowledged). This world view relies on interactions between social and ecological forms of knowledge that cannot be isolated to a particular location. Read the rest of this entry »

The Iberian brown bear was one of a wide range of species that retreated into southern Europe since the Last Glacial Maximum 21,000 years ago. Photo:

Dr Ralf Ohlemüller and Brett Cherry report on recent research at IHRR on the influence of climate on species migration.

If you want to understand where plant, animal and other kinds of species came from and where they are going, climate is one of the most important factors that affect species migration.  Climate sets the tone for how species colonise and persist across landscapes.  Research into how suitable climate space for species changes over time has been shown to influence where they move and how far.  For example, some species have been found to be moving north and to higher latitudes because of the changing climate in different parts of the world (see Climate change causes species to move north and to higher elevations).  Many of them are running out of suitable climate space, which could mean risk of extinction, but there is also the possibility that others could thrive because new suitable climate conditions are becoming available. Read more

A new report from the United Nations Development Programme argues that development, equity and environmental sustainability must be addressed together in order to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing the world today, such as poverty, rising food prices, deforestation and climate change.

Similar to the international advice given in the World Risk Index, it is ambitious in scope and presentation.  Many developed and developing countries alike have been struggling to work out an economic and environmentally sustainable plan for the future that mitigates climate change and other environmental crises.  What this report emphasises is that such a strategy should not be separate from equity — fairness and social justice and greater access to a better quality of life.

Some countries have provided model examples in developing their economies through environmentally sustainable initiatives including Bangladesh, Vietnam, Nepal, Chile, Cameroon and many others.  The Report argues that ‘health, education, income, gender disparities and energy production, combined with protection of the ecosystem’ are part of ‘environmental sustainability’.  As I’m sure many of you are aware, the term ‘sustainability’ is often ambiguous and frequently exploited, such as for ‘green washing’ campaigns by some private companies whose aims may be anything but ‘sustainable’.  Yet the UNDP argues for the importance of sustainability, perhaps helping to breathe new life into an environmental movement that has been incorrectly interpreted as promoting ecology at the expense of economic development. Read more

A new report from the United Nations Environmental Field Programme (UNEP) was launched recently during ‘World Water Week’ in Stockholm, Sweden – ‘An Ecosystems Approach to Water and Food Security’.  It was ‘written by over 50 contributors from 21 organizations and uses case studies from China, Guatemala, Jordan and other communities’.

It not only highlights how to conserve food and water resources and make them more widely available, but explains in detail how ‘ecosystem services’ can play a crucial role in resilience to climate change, a growing world population and increasing scarcity of food and water resources. Read more

A new study reveals how climate change is causing species in the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere to move on average 12.2 metres higher in elevation per decade and northwards 17.6 kilometres per decade.  Species are moving the most in regions showing the highest levels of warming, but some are more influenced by climate change than others.  Authors of the study found that individual species vary greatly in their rates of change and that traits internal to a particular species need to be accounted for along with external factors other than climate change, such as habitat destruction.

Dr Ralf Ohlemüller, a co-author of the study who is an ecologist based at IHRR part of the programme of research Ecosystems and Climatic Change says:

We were able to calculate how far species might have been expected to move so that the temperatures they experience today are the same as the ones they used to experience, before global warming kicked in. Remarkably, species have on average moved towards the poles as rapidly as expected. Read more

Despite severely cold weather in the UK and other parts of the world, 2010 is one of the top three warmest years on record. (World Meteorological Organisation)

This year is one of the warmest years on record and 2001-2010 is the warmest decade in history, according to the World Meteorological Organisation.  New developments in COP16 thus far include Japan saying it will no longer back the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012, the first international agreement to reduce carbon emissions that was founded in Kyoto.  Although Japanese officials say that they would sign on to a new legally binding agreement with other countries that also pledge to reduce their emissions over time.  This may send the wrong message to large developing countries such as India and China who are equally if not more concerned about rich nations doing their part to combat the rise in global temperature. Read more

River Eden flowing through Appleby, Cumbria

IHRR works closely with community organisations, government and the public to develop solutions to some of the biggest flood hazards in UK.  One particular strategy is using the landscape to reduce flood risk by making small changes in land use.  This could potentially have a large impact on flood risks and hazards, but also local ecology.  By making changes to the land in order to prevent flooding, it is also possible to create ecological benefits at the same time, such as creating new wildlife habitats for different kinds of animal species imperative to the overall health of the river and surrounding countryside.

One local organisation that IHRR works closely with is the Eden Rivers Trust located in Cumbria.  The Eden Rivers Trust’s aims and goals are focused on conservation, scientific research and education.  It includes large involvement from the public in conservation projects and helps local communities become increasingly aware of the ecological importance of the Eden and its tributaries. Read more

ResearchBlogging.orgSome of the research at the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience deals specifically with how suitable climates for plants, animals and ecosystems in different parts of the world may change over time due to climate change.  Rapid changes in the earth’s climate can create problems for plant and animal species. Species basically have two choices: adapt to the new conditions or relocate and follow the conditions to which they are already adapted to.

Dr. Ralf Ohlemüller, an ecologist with IHRR and School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Durham University, studies how climate change affects biological systems. By mapping climate suitability for plant species, for example, researchers are able to understand how climate change can affect biodiversity or determine suitable climates in the future for different plants. Ohlemüller is also interested in changes in the spatial distribution of climate itself and how this is likely to change in the future. Read more

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