The human jungle

Are pristine rainforests the only ones that matter? We know that forests do change as they age, developing some unique characteristics when mature, and that some species cannot live outside of large swaths of ancient tropical forests. But what about the rest of tropical forests- the younger ones, the forests that people live in or have cut in recent decades […]

A glimpse of the future from the past

by Jonathan Dandois It is incorrect to think that something is not possible when considering how remote sensing tools and technology can be used to improve our understanding of local, regional and global landscapes. Publications and texts from just 15 years ago assert that remote sensing technology was not being used to its full potential and that improvements must be […]

How best to chill a hot planet?

Even if we manage to slash our carbon emissions, planet earth is going to get a whole lot warmer this century. But maybe we can just chill the planet! For more than a decade, Ken Caldeira and many others have been discussing geoengineering solutions to global warming by cooling the planet using technical means – especially by altering the albedo, […]

You CAN get there from here

A new global “accessibility” map further demonstrates that humans now have easy access to almost all of Earth’s land. Using global data for roads and other transportation systems, researchers at the European Commission and the World Bank developed a map of access time, in minutes to cities. This has yielded many interesting statistics- for example, more than 90% of Earth’s […]

The costs of carbon

What is the best way to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere? We all know that reducing global warming will require reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. But there are so many ways to do this- by reducing our energy use (driving a fuel efficient car, using less electricity, …), by pulling carbon from the air […]

Remember the matrix! (no habitat is an island)

Conservation of biodiversity requires the conservation of habitat, and for a long time, this has meant preserving the largest possible “pristine” habitats and excluding humans. Now that humans have fragmented most of earth’s landscapes into mosaics that combine croplands, settlements, and remaining wilder and recovering habitats, the task of conserving or restoring large, unbroken wildlands is daunting, and often impossible. […]

Campfires degrade local ecosystems

Humans have been using fire since prehistory- indeed, it is one of our defining characteristics -distinguishing us from all other species. There is little doubt that burning of forests to attract game and later, to clear land for agriculture have had long-term global impacts on climate and the biosphere. There is also much evidence of serious ecological consequences to the […]

Forest change in China

An interesting new historical study of forest cover change in China from 1700 to present reveals that up to the 1960s, deforestation prevailed, while since the 1960s, forests have been recovering. Read the paper by Fanneng He et al., in the (Chinese) Journal of Geographical Sciences, here (may require permission): http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11442-008-0059-8 Reference: He, F., Q. Ge, J. Dai, and Y. […]

Guns, Germs and Carbon: post-Colombian pandemics drive global cooling

Diseases introduced by Europeans after 1492 are now known to have caused massive population declines in the Americas, and the failure of ancient agricultural systems across huge regions, many of which depended on the regular burning of forests. Now, researchers, led by Richard Nevle and Dennis Bird have investigated the climate consequences of this massive decline in agriculture and the […]