19 results for “Old Nature”

How Amazon trees write their own autobiographies

Chris Hunt
February 24th 2020

Tropical forests are one of the world’s largest carbon stores and they help regulate the global climate. But they’re being erased at a terrifying rate. Deforestation claimed an area the size of Belgium in 2018. These habitats are often cleared to make way for palm oil plantations and grazing pasture for livestock. For most forests, destruction on this scale is a fairly modern phenomenon.

Tropical forest ecosystems tend to have very high biodiversity, but often in the places you’d least …

Color Lessons from the Cotinga Bird

Lydia Halders
January 15th 2017
Brighter inks, without pigment: nanostructured capsules could bring about paints and electronic displays that never fade.

Untouched Nature Is Entirely Gone

Margherita Olivo
June 9th 2016
Researchers prove that pristine landscapes haven’t existed for thousands of years, therefore we should change or mindset before trying to save the planet.

Turning Leaves into Batteries

Margherita Olivo
February 18th 2016
Other than decompose and give nutrition to the soil, leaves can be used to store energy, becoming the raw material of batteries.

Rainforests Regrowth Boosts CO2 Capture

Margherita Olivo
February 15th 2016
Newly grown rainforests can absorb 11 times as much carbon from the atmosphere as old-growth forests, a study has shown.

Animals Give Leadership Lesson to Humans

Margherita Olivo
December 18th 2015
What are the characteristics of the perfect leader? The answer could be found looking at nature.

Space Archeologist Unlocks Secrets of Ancient Civilizations

Margherita Olivo
November 14th 2015

Sarah Parcak is a pioneering "satellite archaeologist" from University of Alabama, a sort of Indiana Jones with 21st century tech. She has been awarded the 2016 TED Prize for her work applying infrared imagery from satellites to help locate ancient sites lost in time. Her revolutionary methods helped her discover ancient cities and astonishing sites around the world, but especially in Egypt, where she came across 17 unknown pyramids, more than 1000 tombs and 3100 settlements.…

Swedish Underground Cabins

Alexandra Bremers
October 9th 2015
In this era we are reaching for the sky. But back in the 17th century however, something different was happening in Sweden.

Mother Nature is Speaking

Van Mensvoort
January 9th 2015
She has the voice of Julia Roberts.

Living in the Forest in the 21st Century

Alessia Andreotti
September 11th 2014
Portraits of people who live alone in the forest.
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Tropical forests are one of the world’s largest carbon stores and they help regulate the global climate. But they’re being erased at a terrifying rate. Deforestation claimed an area the size of Belgium in 2018. These habitats are often cleared to make way for palm oil plantations and grazing pasture for livestock. For most forests, destruction on this scale is a fairly modern phenomenon.

Tropical forest ecosystems tend to have very high biodiversity, but often in the places you’d least expect. Research has found that there is often more wildlife in areas where there is an ancient history of human activity.

So how have indigenous people in tropical forests nurtured biodiversity in tropical forests while still domesticating tree species, building cities and growing crops? New research published in Trends in Plant Science suggests that the answer may be written in the trees themselves.

Ancient time capsules

Over 50,000 years ago, people in Borneo managed tropical forest vegetation using fire. They burned the edge of advancing forests, and this targeted disturbance was enough to prevent a large number of tall tree species dominating. It allowed habitats to regenerate that were rich in wild food plants and attractive to the animals that people hunted.

Other traditional methods of forest management included opening the forest canopy by carefully selecting trees to cut down. The light that flooded to the forest floor could then encourage edible species such as wild yams to grow amid the regenerating vegetation. These practices are similar to the modern ideas of edible forests and agroforestry, which maintain relatively high biodiversity and retain soil carbon and nutrient stores. Much of this is lost upon conversion to industrial plantations or ranches.

Traditional forest management encouraged biodiversity, whereas modern methods erode it. Via Caeteno-Adrade et al. / Trends in Plant Science

In the past, vast areas of the world’s tropical forests were managed by indigenous peoples in this way. Trees keep their own accounts of this history in their wood. It has always been thought that tropical trees have short lifespans, usually less than 400 years. But recent research shows that many tropical trees live for a very long time, and can preserve over 1,000 years of history in their timber.

You’re probably familiar with the idea that you can measure how old a tree is by counting the rings beneath its bark. One ring usually equates to one year, so dendrochronology (the study of tree rings) offers a fairly easy way to understand the life of a tree. Thicker rings tend to denote a year when conditions were good for growth – ample sunshine and water – whereas thinner rings suggest a lean year of drought and competition with other trees.

Many tropical trees don’t lay down annual rings, but in the new study dendrochronologists identified over 200 species that do. Typically wider rings reflect higher rainfall, but many trees put on a growth spurt if light intensity rises. These are called release events and can happen if trees around them are cut down, allowing more light to break through the canopy. Finding these markers helps researchers to recognise and date past episodes of forest clearance. In the Amazon, these records help scientists understand the enormous extent of pre-Columbian agriculture and forest management.

Researchers extract a core of wood to measure the tree’s rings and find out its age. Via Victor Caetano-Andrade

The rings also preserve evidence of changes in the climate through the different isotopes (types) of oxygen and carbon laid down in the wood. Carbon isotopes tend to reflect light availability and other factors that control photosynthesis, whereas oxygen isotopes help scientists track changes in a nearby water source and annual rainfall. Isotopic studies showed that the abandonment of Angkor Wat in the 14th century coincided with severe drought.

Forest histories can also emerge from new DNA studies. Heavily logged species go through what we call “genetic bottlenecks”, where part of the genetic material of a species is lost as many individuals die or are unable to reproduce and pass on their genes. This leads to restricted gene pools.

Researchers would expect to see the same patterns in species which were strongly affected by logging or fires started by people in the past. Genetics can also identify species that were spread by ancient people, like the Brazil nut.

Living tropical trees record within themselves a history of human activity and the forest’s response to it. The regeneration of forests after disruption by people in the past offers some hope for the future, but only if current rates of deforestation can be halted, allowing the lungs of our planet to regenerate.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

[post_title] => How Amazon trees write their own autobiographies [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => amazon-trees-write-autobiographies [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-02-24 16:26:59 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-02-24 15:26:59 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=127026 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 70548 [post_author] => 1319 [post_date] => 2017-01-15 20:25:51 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-01-15 19:25:51 [post_content] => You don't need to be a birdwatcher to appreciate the magnificent colors of the feathers of the male spangled cotinga flaunt. This bird finds its natural habitat in the canopy of the Amazonian Rainforest and has captivated the curiosity of scientists and bird fanatics for decades. Its dazzling blue body and deep red throat contain no pigment. The color effect is created by the shape of the material. This is known as structural coloration. Now researchers at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) together with Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) have found a way to imitate these biological nanostructures and potentially replace the pigments we use today.Current paints and dyes fade in intensity over time as they absorb light. Contrastingly, structural color amplifies certain wavelengths and, as a consequence, the color remains intact as long as the material does. This process happens in nature, and it is extremely difficult to reproduce, as each color relies on a very specific crystalline pattern. Peacocks and butterflies, for example, use photonic crystals or arrays of nanofibres that are precisely structured to establish the color. What makes the cotinga particularly interesting is the fact that its formal network is porous and much more random, resulting in a surface that looks like a sponge.[caption id="attachment_70549" align="aligncenter" width="650"] A microcapsule shrinks as it dries, arriving at its final color.[/caption]SEAS and KAIST created “microcapsules filled with a disordered solution of nanoparticles suspended in water”. As these capsules dry out, they shrink, reducing the distance between the particles. In turn, these alterations in structure will reflect light differently and will result in a spectrum of color for our eyes to see.Aside from generating color that is resistant to weathering caused by sunlight, this technology could hold great benefits in replacing synthetic dyes that are toxic and harmful to the environment. More applications could be found in electronic display technology. “The dream is that you could have a piece of flexible plastic that you can put graphics on in full color and read in bright sunlight” Says Professor Vinothan N. Manoharan, author of the study.Sources: Asian Scientist, SEAS Harvard Images: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, SEAS Harvard [post_title] => Color Lessons from the Cotinga Bird [post_excerpt] => Brighter inks, without pigment: nanostructured capsules could bring about paints and electronic displays that never fade. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => color-lessons-cotinga-bird [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-01-18 15:16:14 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-01-18 14:16:14 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=70548/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 64274 [post_author] => 864 [post_date] => 2016-06-09 14:31:51 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-06-09 12:31:51 [post_content] => Human impact on this planet is evident, we modified ecosystems and landscapes. Since day one of our appearance on Earth we tried to know, understand and ultimately control our surroundings. Travelers all over the world constantly look for untouched lands and real nature, although lately this is harder and harder. After a long research, scientists now say that untouched nature is almost entirely gone.This research was led by Archaeologist Nicole Boivin (University of Oxford and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany) with the help of fellow researchers. They analyzed existing archaeological studies and looked at new datasets on ancient DNA and microfossils, along with statistical models. The results showed that human impact began much earlier the so-called Age of Discoveries, when Europeans started to travel, spread diseases, conquer and claim untouched lands. The experts were able to date the beginning of human impact on Earth many thousands of years before, in the Late Pleistocene.According to them the event which had dramatic consequences on ecosystems was the decline of the megafauna, between 50.000 and 10.000 years ago. After this the implementation of agriculture shaped even more our landscapes and had a dramatic effect on plants and animals, creating "unprecedented and enduring impacts on species distributions". New species were introduced in islands or remote areas in order to feed humans or produce materials and this impacted on indigenous species, which decreased dramatically."Archaeological evidence is critical to identifying and understanding the deep history of human effects" said Boivin"If we want to improve our understanding of how we manage our environment and conserve species today, maybe we have to shift our perspective, by thinking more about how we safeguard clean air and fresh water for future generations and rather less about returning planet Earth to its original condition".In brief, what they are trying to prove is how an "original condition" is something that hasn't existed for so long (thousands of years), we only have a discussion about how we want to preserve and defend our planet, rather than picturing a future where we would restore a "nirvana" that is only present in our romantic view of nature."Rather than an impossible return to pristine conditions, what is needed is the historically informed management of emerging novel ecosystems to ensure the maintenance of ecological goods and services" the authors explain in their study, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "Such efforts need to account for the needs of all stakeholders and balance local livelihoods against first world agendas".Source: University of Oxford. Image: Daily Overview [post_title] => Untouched Nature Is Entirely Gone [post_excerpt] => Researchers prove that pristine landscapes haven’t existed for thousands of years, therefore we should change or mindset before trying to save the planet. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => untouched-lands-entirely-gone [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-06-11 22:39:34 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-06-11 20:39:34 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=64274 [menu_order] => 216 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 61098 [post_author] => 864 [post_date] => 2016-02-18 14:40:12 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-02-18 13:40:12 [post_content] => What to do with fallen leaves? Other than decompose and give nutrition to the soil, they could also be used to store energy, becoming the raw material of batteries.Since long time scientists were looking for alternative materials for the production of batteries, able to be easily accessible but above all sustainable. A team of researchers at the University of Maryland has found a new solution in fallen leaves, abundant raw material at no cost."Leaves are so abundant. All we had to do was pick one up off the ground here on campus" said Hongbian Li, professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at UMD. Previous studies had shown that the skin of fruit such as melon and banana could be used as raw material to produce batteries, but leaves certainly require less processing and preparation.On this basis, scientists in Maryland have considered using leaves and sodium instead of lithium, commonly used. Why sodium? In their opinion, sodium is able to hold a charge, although it can not handle many charge and discharge cycles as lithium does. One of the most challenging obstacles was to find a material for the anode that was compatible with the sodium. Graphene has been tested but times and production costs are very high. At that point, researchers simply tried to heat a maple leaf for one hour at 1,000 ºC  to burn the carbon structure underneath.The bottom side of the maple leaf is rich in pores for absorbing water. "The natural shape of a leaf already matches a battery’s needs: a low surface area, which decreases defects; a lot of small structures packed closely together, which maximizes space; and internal structures of the right size and shape to be used with sodium electrolyte" said Fei Shen, a visiting student in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering author of the study.According to scientists, leaves have been designed by nature to store energy for later use, and using leaves in this way could allow humans to create batteries with a low environmental impact.The next step now will be to study different types of leaves to find those characterized by a certain thickness, structure and flexibility to achieve the best electrical energy storage. The solution, once again, resides in the hands of Mother Nature.Source: The Tree Hugger. Image: Shutterstock [post_title] => Turning Leaves into Batteries [post_excerpt] => Other than decompose and give nutrition to the soil, leaves can be used to store energy, becoming the raw material of batteries. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => turning-leaves-batteries [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-02-18 14:40:12 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-02-18 13:40:12 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=61098 [menu_order] => 357 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 61012 [post_author] => 864 [post_date] => 2016-02-15 16:15:59 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-02-15 15:15:59 [post_content] => Secondary tropical forests are able to regenerate after cutting, and this process can often be quite fast. This news comes from Panama, home to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, where a group of scientists recently released results of a study aimed to investigate the forestry regeneration capacity of earlier surfaces almost completely deforested for agricultural purposes.Less than half world heritage of tropical forests can be considered as primary. In fact, the rest are regrown forests (called secondary), as a result of human activity. And although we know that growing forests can accumulate carbon quickly, none so far had proven how fast this regeneration happens. The group of scientists has shown that half of the surveyed forests in the study have reconstituted 90% of the biomass level of a primary forest in 66 years or less.[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9JDSIwBegk[/youtube]An extremely significant discovery since "the regeneration of secondary forests could play a key role in carbon capture and sequestration operations, and then in the mitigation of climate change. However, other studies so far have focused on individual sites. This research instead combines data from several stations at the turn of the neotropical region" as Daisy Dent, professor at the University of Stirling involved in the project, stated.In fact, this is quite an unprecedented project: 45 sites in eight countries, for a total of 1478 survey points between Mexico and Brazil, along a positive gradient of precipitation and soil fertility. The international team of scientists compiled data from almost 1.500 plots at 45 sites across the Neotropics, covering southern and central America. This allowed them to produce a map highlighting the carbon sequestration potential of areas across the Neotropics. In order to have more access to sunlight, nutrients and water, new trees grow quickly. This means the plants sequester a much greater amount of carbon from the atmosphere and uses it as part of the photosynthesis process. The team found that in optimum conditions, new-growth vegetation could sequester up to 11 times as much carbon as old-growth forests.Co-author Lourens Poorter from Wageningen University, The Netherlands, explains that while it is important to halt deforestation, it is also important to recognize the role of secondary forests in a climate mitigation context. "There is a potential for forests to regrow" he said. "You can either do that actively by planting but it can also be done passively (via natural regrowth). What we have tried to do in this study is to get a comprehensive picture of how fast this recovery is in terms of biomass. If you have abandoned areas that have been used for agriculture, how fast do the forests regrow naturally and how much biomass has been taken up - we call that the recovery or resilience of biomass".The right conclusions to be drawn concern the managerial instructions to be implemented. This study has shown us a map of the biomass and carbon sequestration recovery in the Neotropical region. So, if in the forests of Central America and Amazon, characterized by a high potential for recovery, it is right to plan the restoration and reforestation, in the forests of Mexico and northeastern Brazil, with a pronounced dry season, it is more convenient to focus on the retention of residual limbs.Details of the study have been published in the journal Nature.Source: BBC. Image: Shutterstock [post_title] => Rainforests Regrowth Boosts CO2 Capture [post_excerpt] => Newly grown rainforests can absorb 11 times as much carbon from the atmosphere as old-growth forests, a study has shown. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => rainforests-regrowth-boosts-co2-capture [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-02-14 11:48:19 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-02-14 10:48:19 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=61012 [menu_order] => 364 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 59265 [post_author] => 864 [post_date] => 2015-12-18 16:00:46 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-12-18 15:00:46 [post_content] => For a long time science has wondered what were the characteristics of the perfect leader, those who really make a difference and can face various and difficult decisions. The answer could be found looking at nature, and more specifically at animals.Researchers from the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis at the Mills College in Oakland, California, have just added an important element to this puzzle: in a study published in Trends in Ecology & Evolution they analyzed the social dynamics of different animal species (including primates, elephants and humans), concerning the nature of leadership trying to identify the particular traits."While previous work has typically started with the premise that leadership is somehow intrinsically different or more complex in humans than in other mammals, we started without a perceived notion about whether this should be the case" said Jennifer Smith of Mills College in Oakland. "By approaching this problem with an open mind and by developing comparable measures to compare vastly different societies, we revealed more similarities than previously appreciated between leadership in humans and non-humans".In fact, examples of cooperation and leadership in the animal kingdom are not lacking: chimps travel together, hyenas hunt in crews, but the way in which the leaders of each group promote and coordinate these collective activities is not yet clear. To clarify this aspect, the team - composed of biologists, anthropologists, mathematicians and psychologists - has analyzed the dynamics of leadership in four specific scenarios: movement, mediation of conflicts, food procuration and social interactions. They then classified their attitude to rule according to various parameters, such as how to achieve physical strength, the benefits of their “ruling” position, and so on. An analysis that has led experts to conclude that leadership, in general, goes hand in hand with the acquisition of more experience, both in animal and human species. Of course in both cases they found exceptions: in herds of spotted hyenas and the community of Nootka, a tribe of native Canadians living in the west coast of North America, the scepter of the leader passes from father to son, rather than being recognized attributed to the individual with the most experience.According to Smith these similarities probably reflect a shared set of cognitive mechanisms related to dominance, subordination, formation of different social groups and decision-making processes. To justify the difference between human and non-human behavior they took in account more complex cultural factors of men, such as the tendency to engage in distinct roles within the social group. As Smith explained: “Even in the least complex human societies, the scale of collective action is greater and presumably more critical for survival and reproduction than in most other mammalian societies”.Source: Mills College. Image: Shutterstock [post_title] => Animals Give Leadership Lesson to Humans [post_excerpt] => What are the characteristics of the perfect leader? The answer could be found looking at nature. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => animals-give-leadership-lesson-humans [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-12-17 10:30:22 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-12-17 09:30:22 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=59265 [menu_order] => 416 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 58621 [post_author] => 864 [post_date] => 2015-11-14 09:31:26 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-11-14 08:31:26 [post_content] => Sarah Parcak is a pioneering "satellite archaeologist" from University of Alabama, a sort of Indiana Jones with 21st century tech. She has been awarded the 2016 TED Prize for her work applying infrared imagery from satellites to help locate ancient sites lost in time. Her revolutionary methods helped her discover ancient cities and astonishing sites around the world, but especially in Egypt, where she came across 17 unknown pyramids, more than 1000 tombs and 3100 settlements.This was the result of her satellite mapping of North-Africa, but she won't stop at this, her future work will include Middle-East, which is under the spot in the last months.The TED annual prize is given to a person whose project warrants funding for a large-scale, high-impact project. Her work has resulted to be very useful and effective against looting of ancient sites. According to the New York Times, this is a serious problem, mostly in Egypt where, only last week, the government prevented a plan to smuggle 1124 sacked antiquities. The preservation of ancient monuments is a hot topic nowadays, especially after ISIS's destruction of major sites in Syria and Iraq.de3d8aa4bfe6c55dba2d3a5e60101d6f9ffde7cb_800x600Stolen antiquities have always been profitable goods, but these activities now seem to be connected to organized crime. "Is it funding terrorism?" Sarah Parcak said in a statement. "The answer is yes, but we don't know the scale. [...] The last four and half years have been horrific for archaeology. I've spent a lot of time, as have many of my colleagues, looking at the destruction, this Prize is not about me. It's about our field. It's about the thousands of men and women around the world, particularly in the Middle East, who are defending and protecting sites." Here you can see her TED talk from 2012, where she displays her methods and some of her results.Source: The New York Times. Image: University of Alabama at Birmingham [post_title] => Space Archeologist Unlocks Secrets of Ancient Civilizations [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => satellite-archaeologist-sarah-parcak-wins-2016-ted-prize [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-11-14 09:31:26 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-11-14 08:31:26 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=58621 [menu_order] => 454 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 57336 [post_author] => 861 [post_date] => 2015-10-09 17:31:40 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-10-09 15:31:40 [post_content] => If you try to picture a modern city in your mind, it is almost inevitable to think about high buildings. In this era we are reaching for the sky. Back in the 17th century however, something different was happening in Sweden.They are called 'backstuga', literally meaning hill cottages, as most of the houses were actually built low in the ground against hills. By doing this it was possible to use only three walls with the forth one being the bare ground.Due to this the houses were cheap and inhabited by people, often old, who didn't participate in farming and who lived on the support of the landowner or the village. These backstugusittare, or hill cottage sitters, were mostly very poor and supported themselves with jobs in handicrafts or charity. The choice for the house was in essence just for economical reasons.Äldre_kvinna_framför_backstuga_(jordstuga)_-_Nordiska_Museet_-_NMA.0051913As times changed and circumstances as well, a lot of these cottages got abandoned. However, occasionally the cottages would come in handy again as hiding places that families or individuals would choose to live in for various reasons. Oftentimes the houses merged in completely in the woods, and probably with the history of poor peasants living in these houses they raised little suspicion.031An example of this was a family that used a backstuga in Småland as a refuge to hide from the Russians in the 70's. Nowadays the cottages are rarely being inhabited anymore, with a few exceptions being maintained for cultural proposes or renovated as a special AirBnB experience.But, even though it belongs to the past, these houses are interesting. Of course the use of hillsides as walls is curious, but also the privacy aspect is interesting. It seems completely unimaginable that we could hide away to such an extent in a modern city. Why? Is it because of the location and the fact that these houses are covered with vegetation, or because of the times they existed in, without WiFi or social networks? Or is it because we don't really build underground? What a version of this, adjusted to these times, would look like? And I who would choose to live in it?Images: Wikipedia Commons, The Work Of Castor Source: Smith Journal [post_title] => Swedish Underground Cabins [post_excerpt] => In this era we are reaching for the sky. But back in the 17th century however, something different was happening in Sweden. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => swedish-underground-cabins [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-10-09 17:33:40 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-10-09 15:33:40 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=57336 [menu_order] => 514 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 42353 [post_author] => 4 [post_date] => 2015-01-09 22:17:49 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-01-09 21:17:49 [post_content] => [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmVLcj-XKnM[/youtube]She has the voice of Julia Roberts. And while we typically think of her as fragile and threatened, she is in fact an invincible and independent lady.Video by Conservation International. Thanks Dagan. [post_title] => Mother Nature is Speaking [post_excerpt] => She has the voice of Julia Roberts. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => mother-nature-is-speaking [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-01-09 22:17:49 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-01-09 21:17:49 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=42353 [menu_order] => 804 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 40891 [post_author] => 809 [post_date] => 2014-09-11 16:00:31 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-09-11 14:00:31 [post_content] => While most people spend their frenetic lives in civilized cities surrounded by other human beings, Russian photographer Danila Tkachenko immortalizes those that choose to live a solitary existence in the wilderness.Despite the technological advances that we use every day to improve our social life, there are still some that - consciously or not - prefer to live as hermits in self-imposed exile, far away from any city or village.Tkachenko’s series, called Escape, portraits men that have rejected the modern lifestyle and made their homes in the Russian and Ukrainian forest. They live alone among nature, where they create makeshift dwellings from the land and lose their social identity.“School, work, family – once in this cycle, you are a prisoner of your own position. You should be pragmatic and strong, or become an outcast or a lunatic. How to remain yourself in the midst of this?” Tkachenko asks, raising questions about what identity truly means when we are forced to live how society tells us to.These charming and disconcerting pictures make us wonder if we could ever survive without constant communication, connections, technology and facilities and live in a place where solitude is a virtue.danila_tkachenko2 danila_tkachenko3 danila_tkachenko4 danila_tkachenko5 danila_tkachenko7danila_tkachenko8Source: My Modern Met [post_title] => Living in the Forest in the 21st Century [post_excerpt] => Portraits of people who live alone in the forest. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => living-in-the-forest-in-the-21st-century [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2014-09-10 15:54:07 [post_modified_gmt] => 2014-09-10 13:54:07 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=40891 [menu_order] => 908 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 ))[post_count] => 10 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 127026 [post_author] => 2362 [post_date] => 2020-02-24 16:25:20 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-02-24 15:25:20 [post_content] =>

Tropical forests are one of the world’s largest carbon stores and they help regulate the global climate. But they’re being erased at a terrifying rate. Deforestation claimed an area the size of Belgium in 2018. These habitats are often cleared to make way for palm oil plantations and grazing pasture for livestock. For most forests, destruction on this scale is a fairly modern phenomenon.

Tropical forest ecosystems tend to have very high biodiversity, but often in the places you’d least expect. Research has found that there is often more wildlife in areas where there is an ancient history of human activity.

So how have indigenous people in tropical forests nurtured biodiversity in tropical forests while still domesticating tree species, building cities and growing crops? New research published in Trends in Plant Science suggests that the answer may be written in the trees themselves.

Ancient time capsules

Over 50,000 years ago, people in Borneo managed tropical forest vegetation using fire. They burned the edge of advancing forests, and this targeted disturbance was enough to prevent a large number of tall tree species dominating. It allowed habitats to regenerate that were rich in wild food plants and attractive to the animals that people hunted.

Other traditional methods of forest management included opening the forest canopy by carefully selecting trees to cut down. The light that flooded to the forest floor could then encourage edible species such as wild yams to grow amid the regenerating vegetation. These practices are similar to the modern ideas of edible forests and agroforestry, which maintain relatively high biodiversity and retain soil carbon and nutrient stores. Much of this is lost upon conversion to industrial plantations or ranches.

Traditional forest management encouraged biodiversity, whereas modern methods erode it. Via Caeteno-Adrade et al. / Trends in Plant Science

In the past, vast areas of the world’s tropical forests were managed by indigenous peoples in this way. Trees keep their own accounts of this history in their wood. It has always been thought that tropical trees have short lifespans, usually less than 400 years. But recent research shows that many tropical trees live for a very long time, and can preserve over 1,000 years of history in their timber.

You’re probably familiar with the idea that you can measure how old a tree is by counting the rings beneath its bark. One ring usually equates to one year, so dendrochronology (the study of tree rings) offers a fairly easy way to understand the life of a tree. Thicker rings tend to denote a year when conditions were good for growth – ample sunshine and water – whereas thinner rings suggest a lean year of drought and competition with other trees.

Many tropical trees don’t lay down annual rings, but in the new study dendrochronologists identified over 200 species that do. Typically wider rings reflect higher rainfall, but many trees put on a growth spurt if light intensity rises. These are called release events and can happen if trees around them are cut down, allowing more light to break through the canopy. Finding these markers helps researchers to recognise and date past episodes of forest clearance. In the Amazon, these records help scientists understand the enormous extent of pre-Columbian agriculture and forest management.

Researchers extract a core of wood to measure the tree’s rings and find out its age. Via Victor Caetano-Andrade

The rings also preserve evidence of changes in the climate through the different isotopes (types) of oxygen and carbon laid down in the wood. Carbon isotopes tend to reflect light availability and other factors that control photosynthesis, whereas oxygen isotopes help scientists track changes in a nearby water source and annual rainfall. Isotopic studies showed that the abandonment of Angkor Wat in the 14th century coincided with severe drought.

Forest histories can also emerge from new DNA studies. Heavily logged species go through what we call “genetic bottlenecks”, where part of the genetic material of a species is lost as many individuals die or are unable to reproduce and pass on their genes. This leads to restricted gene pools.

Researchers would expect to see the same patterns in species which were strongly affected by logging or fires started by people in the past. Genetics can also identify species that were spread by ancient people, like the Brazil nut.

Living tropical trees record within themselves a history of human activity and the forest’s response to it. The regeneration of forests after disruption by people in the past offers some hope for the future, but only if current rates of deforestation can be halted, allowing the lungs of our planet to regenerate.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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