After five years (2015-2020) in the Institute of Earth Sciences Jaume Almera (ICTJA), now Geosciences Barcelona (GEO3BCN), I am coming back to the Botanic Institute of Barcelona (IBB), both belonging to the Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC). The IBB lies within the Montjuïc Park, one of the most beautiful places in Barcelona, situated on a hill with splendid views of the city and the sea, as well as emblematic sites such as palaces, castles and other historical buildings, museums, the Joan Miró Foundation, the 1992 Olimpic Ring and numerous gardens including the city Botanical Garden, just to cite some. The IBB is situated near the top of the hill, inside the terrains of the Botanical Garden (see the interactive map below).
In the IBB, I will be happy again and will spend the last five years of my professional career working on my usual topics, with emphasis on the paleoecology of the Pyrenees, my homeland. I will also take the opportunity to synthesize the research that I have carried out for more than 40 years, to try to leave something useful to future generations, provided they are interested in my experience. This summarizing task has already begun in the last couple of years with the publication of some general books and review papers, and I hope that the IBB will be a perfect place for its continuation.
The research group on palynology and paleoecology that I founded almost 20 years ago and the associated Laboratory of Paleoecology (PALAB) will continue to develop their usual tasks in the GEO3BCN institute, under the leadership of two of my former PhD students, who have already become independent researchers: Encarni Montoya and Núria Cañellas-Boltà, with whom I will maintain permanent contact and collaboration.
Since the declaration of the COVID19 pandemic and the implementation of the corresponding lockdown measures, I have had to work at home, just as many inhabitants of the planet. Fortunately, part of my job is to write scientific publications and that has been my main task in these months, during which I have published three books and have obtained the editorial acceptance for a fourth book to be published next year.
These books have been issued by relevant international publishers like Elsevier/Academic Press and Springer Nature and can be found on the “Books” page of my personal website. You can also click the below titles for more information.
According to a recent paper by Peter Raven and collaborators, the Neotropics is the most biodiverse tropical region in absolute terms, encompassing one third of global diversity, but Southeast Asia is proportionally richer if we consider its smaller area.
Abstract: We compare the numbers of vascular plant species in the three major tropical areas. The Afrotropical Region (Africa south of the Sahara Desert plus Madagascar), roughly equal in size to the Latin American Region (Mexico southward), has only 56,451 recorded species (about 170 being added annually), as compared with 118,308 recorded species (about 750 being added annually) in Latin America. Southeast Asia, only a quarter the size of the other two tropical areas, has approximately 50,000 recorded species, with an average of 364 being added annually. Thus, Tropical Asia is likely to be proportionately richest in plant diversity, and for biodiversity in general, for its size. In the animal groups we reviewed, the patterns of species diversity were mostly similar except for mammals and butterflies. Judged from these relationships, Latin America may be home to at least a third of global biodiversity.
The manuscript entitled: The Anthropozoic era revisited, by V. Rull, has been accepted for publication in the journal Lethaia. The abstract is provided below.
Abstract: This paper explains in some detail the poorly known proposal of Stoppani (1873) regarding the Anthropozoic era, whose beginning was defined by the first traces of human presence on Earth. This author set the stratigraphic bases for the definition of the “human era”, but the proposal had two main weaknesses: the dismissal of biological evolution and the lack of an absolute chronology. Further developments in radiometric/palaeomagnetic dating and the elucidation of the main trends and timing of human evolution have provided the necessary information to update the original Anthropocene proposal in chronological terms, maintaining Stoppani’s original definition and stratigraphic markers. This updated proposal follows the rules of the International Stratigraphic Guide and situates the beginning of the Anthropozoic era at the beginning of the Quaternary, the time at which the first human fossils, corresponding to the first species of the genus Homo, and corresponding cultural manifestations have been identified and dated. Therefore, the new Anthropozoic era would follow the Cenozoic era, which ended with the Neogene period. Defined in this way, the Quaternary period and its Pleistocene and Holocene epochs would be situated in the new Anthropozoic era. The main strengths and weaknesses of the updated Anthropozoic version are discussed. It is suggested that the updated Anthropozoic proposal might be fully elaborated to evaluate whether it should be submitted to the International Commission on Stratigraphy and the International Union of Geological Sciences for its eventual formalization.
The manuscript entitled: Pristinity, degradation and replacement: the three dimensions of human impact on island vegetation, by V. Rull, has been accepted for publication in the journal Progress in Physical Geography. The abstract is reproduced below.
Abstract: This paper presents three extreme examples of the potential consequences of human settlement on the vegetation of oceanic and continental islands. The Neotropical Pantepui continental archipelago of sky islands is an example of pristinity, which is due to the almost nonexistent human impact because of the remoteness and inaccessibility of these islands as well as the lack of natural resources to exploit. Easter Island is used to illustrate total vegetation degradation by deforestation and the exhaustion of natural resources, which has transformed the island into badlands with no signs of recovery. The Azores Islands have been chosen to illustrate replacement as, after initial postsettlement deforestation and extractive practices, a further transformative phase consisting of creating an almost totally anthropogenic vegetation with mostly exotic species occurred. The paper describes in some detail the developments of each case and the historical context in which they took place using historical, archeological and paleoecological evidence. Many intermediate states are possible among these three extremes, which can be represented with a ternary diagram (the PDR diagram), which is useful for characterizing the state of each island or archipelago in terms of human impact on terrestrial ecosystems and informing conservation and restoration practices.
Editorial summary. This book synthesizes the available paleoecological knowledge from the last millennia of Easter Island to pave the way towards an integrated interdisciplinary vision of the island’s environmental-ecological-cultural system as a complex functional unit. Human and environmental deterministic views are avoided, and the Easter Island prehistory is analyzed under a holistic perspective of feedbacks and synergies among the different components of the system. The book examines the Easter lsland’s climatic and ecological history, a topic that is not usually addressed in other literature on the island. The book provides a thorough and synthetic account of all paleoecological works developed to date including the latest discoveries. Finally, it attempts to match paleoecological evidence with the results of other disciplines, in the way towards a multidisciplinary framework. The thorough and detailed view of the climatic, environmental and ecological history of the island provided by the book makes it a useful resource for researchers, university professors and graduate students of a varied range of disciplines including ecology, paleoecology, paleoclimatology, biogeography, sedimentology, limnogeology and others who are interested in incorporating paleoecological knowledge in their investigations.
Download the front matter with the table of contents and the introduction for more information.
Springer has approved the publication of a new book entitled The Prehistory of Easter Island (Rapa Nui): Towards a Multidisciplinary Integrative Framework, edited by Valentí Rull and Christopher M. Stevenson.
The book is aimed at presenting representative papers from a range of research fields (anthropology, archaeology, ethnobotany, ethnography, history, linguistics, paleoecology, phylogenetics, phylogeography), in order to provide a thorough interdisciplinary assessment of Easter Island’s prehistory. The main idea is to offer as many different approaches and points of view as possible for the reader to have a fairly complete vision of the state of the art in Easter Island research and the possible future developments.
The book will have 40 chapters written by 90 researchers including many of the most recognized experts on Easter Island research. These chapters are organized into six thematic sections:
Transpacific voyaging and settlement
The ancient Rapanui culture
Climatic and environmental change
Deforestation and extinctions
Collapse or resilience?
A final chapter will provide a multidisciplinary synthesis considering all aspects and approaches discussed in the book. For more information, download the preliminary table of contents. The book is projected to be issued by fall 2021.
We live in a society that is incapable of controlling itself in the face of an epidemic disease that directly threatens our own individual lives. How can we expect that the same society becomes worried about the possible consequences of global change for Earth and for future human generations? Our future seems clearer than ever.
Editorial summary: This newly published book provides a comprehensive overview of the patterns of biodiversity in a wide of Neotropical biomes and ecosystems, as well as a discussion on their historical biogeographies and underlying diversification processes. All chapters have been written by prominent researchers in the fields of tropical biology, molecular ecology, paleoclimatology, paleoecology, and biogeography, producing an outstanding collection of essays, synthetic analyses, and novel investigations that describe and improve our understanding of the biodiversity of this unique region. With chapters on the Amazon and Caribbean forests, the Atlantic rainforests, the Andes, the Cerrado savannahs, the Caatinga drylands, the Chaco, and Mesoamerica – along with broad taxonomic coverage – this book summarizes a wide range of hypotheses, views, and methods concerning the processes and mechanisms of Neotropical diversification. The range of perspectives presented makes the book a truly comprehensive, state-of-the-art publication on the topic, which will fascinate both scientists and general readers alike.
For more information, you can freely download the front matter with the table of contents and the introduction.