Próxima presentación de libro de divulgación sobre Isla de Pascua

ei-bookEl libro de divulgación titulado: ‘La Isla de Pascua. Una visión científica‘ (Editorial CSIC-La Catarata), escrito por el Dr. Valentí Rull, investigador del Institut de Ciències de la Terra Jaume Almera (CSIC), será presentado el martes 18 de Abril, a las 18:00, en la Residencia de Investigadores del CSIC (Calle Hospital 64, 08001 Barcelona). La presentación correrá a cargo del Dr. Joandomènec Ros, presidente del Institut d’Estudis Catalans, el Dr. Francesc Amorós, profesor de historia de la Universitat de Barcelona, y el autor del libro.

Resumen editorial. La diminuta isla de Pascua es el lugar habitado más remoto del mundo y la sede de uno de los mayores enigmas históricos. Su aislamiento geográfico es extraordinario, a más de 2.000 kilómetros del punto habitado más cercano, lo que le ha permitido tener una historia ambiental y cultural muy peculiar y todavía bastante desconocida. Sus misterios han cautivado a científicos y exploradores; sus imponentes estatuas megalíticas o moai suponen el enigma más debatido. ¿Cómo es posible que una civilización neolítica con poco desarrollo tecnológico hubiese podido erigir esculturas de hasta 20 metros de altura y 250 toneladas de peso? ¿Quiénes eran esos pobladores? ¿De dónde venían? ¿Cuándo llegaron y por qué desaparecieron de la isla? Sin duda, no es menos sorprendente el descubrimiento de que la isla, actualmente tapizada por praderas de gramíneas, habías estado cubierta de bosques de palmeras que desaparecieron súbitamente, lo que produjo un cambio radical en la historia ecológica y cultural de la isla. ¿Fueron los habitantes de Rapa Nui los que causaron la deforestación o fueron cambios climáticos?. Valentí Rull analiza lo que se sabe de la misteriosa isla de Pascua, siempre desde una visión científica, alejada de mitos y especulaciones, exponiendo cómo se ha ido produciendo y acumulando el conocimiento sobre su historia climática, ecológica y cultural, gracias a disciplinas como la paleoecología o la arqueología.

Referencia:

Rull, V. 2016. La Isla de Pacua. Una Visión Científica. Editorial CSIC-La Catarata, Madrid. ISBN 978-84-00-10150-3

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Posted in Books, My publications

Postgraduate course on Paleoecology

The next edition of the CSIC postgraduate course on Paleoecology is coming!

FotoCurspPaleo_20170131_03

The course will be held at the Institute of Earth Sciences Jaume Almera (ICTJA-CSIC) between May and June 2017 and is intended for graduate students of a variety of fields including biology, geology, geography, history, anthropology, environmental sciences, climatology, conservation and similar disciplines. Teachers are recognized scholars from a variety of paleoecological, paleoclimatic and related disciplines. The course is focused on the Quaternary and consists of theoretical and practical sessions, as well as featured talks by experts in some fields that are not covered by the program, such as documentary archives, sedimentary DNA, phylogeography, speleothems or dendroecology, among others.

  • Click here for more detailed information and contact
  • Download the flyer of the 2017 edition
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Posted in Teaching

Book on the biodiversity of the “Lost World”

northern-saThe famous novel of Arthur Conan Doyle entitled “The Lost World” was inspired by the remote, enigmatic and still pristine flat summits of the neotropical table mountains known as the Guayana Highlands (GH), whose unique, diverse and largely endemic biota has warranted the definition of a peculiar biogeographical province of the Neotropical realm called Pantepui. Click here to see a video on the GH.

roraima-2A couple of weeks ago, Elsevier Academic Press, one of the most renowned scientific editorials, contacted me to write a book on biodiversity and I suggested to focus on the origin and conservation of the unique Pantepui biodiversity. Elsevier found the idea fascinating and now we are in the process of assembling a book proposal to be submitted for approval.

The book will be a compendium of scientific papers on the current GH biodiversity patterns, their origin, maintenance and conservation, from a biogeographical, ecological and evolutionary perspective. I managed to assemble an editorial team conformed by Teresa Vegas-Vilarrúbia, Otto Huber, Celsa Señaris and myself, to cover a wide range of fields such as biogeography, botany, zoology, conservation, ecology, paleoecology and evolution. We estimate to have a final proposal in a month or so.

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Posted in Books

The Azores Islands were populated a century and a half before their official colonization

In our latest paper published in Quaternary Science Reviews, we provide sound evidence for agriculture and livestock farming in the São Miguel Island by 1290, about a century and a half prior to its official settlement.

lake-azulThe most accepted date of human colonization of the Azores Islands is 1432, when Gonzalo Velho Cabral arrived at Santa Maria and took possession of the island in the name of the King of Portugal. Velho Cabral reached São Miguel in 1434. The official settlement of the islands began in 1449. Some historians believe the Azores Islands were already known, although not settled, a century before the Portuguese colonization. This idea is based on a map dated to 1339, where the islands Corvo and São Miguel were already present, though with different names. However, our recent paleoecological study of the sediments of Lake Azul, in the caldera of Sete Cidades, is changing this view.

In order to reconstruct the vegetation and landscape changes occurred in the island and their potential environmental drivers, we studied palynologically a short sediment core (150 cm) representing the last 700 years. The largest shift observed was the disappearance of the original and unique forests called laurisilvas coinciding with the official colonization of the island (1449 onwards). The present vegetation of São Miguel is mostly anthropogenic and the modern forests are dominated by naturalized trees brought from Japan, Australia and the Mediterranean region.

secale-pollenIt is supposed that the sediments representing pre-colonization times should be devoid of indicators of human presence. However, to our surprise, we found consistent occurrence of rye pollen together with spores from coprophilous fungi characteristic of the feces of domestic animals, which was interpreted as evidence for cereal cultivation and livestock farming around the lake. The small amount of these indicators and the continuity of the laurisilvas suggest that human populations were small and unable to produce significant landscape transformations. It is possible that these human communities were temporary and their presence intermittent, but their sedimentary imprint is uninterrupted between 1290 and the Portuguese colonization.

The early settlers reached the island just before the last known volcanic eruption occurred by 1280. It is not known whether or not the island was inhabited before this volcanic eruption, a question that should be resolved with future studies.

Reference

Rull, V., Lara, A., Rubio-Inglés, M.J., Sáez, A., Giralt, S., Gonçalves, V., Raposeiro, P., Hernández, A., Sánchez-López, G., Vázquez-Loureiro, D., Bao, R., Masqué, P. & Sáez, A. 2017. Vegetation and landscape dynamics under natural and anthropogenic forcing on the Azores Islands: a 700-year pollen record from the São Miguel Island. Quaternary Science Reviews, 159: 155-168.

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Posted in Research papers

Neotropical diversification – the book

biodiversityIn November 2016, Springer contacted me to write a book on neotropical diversification. I proposed an edited book including as many views as possible on this fascinating topic and inivted Ana Carnaval, from the City University of New York, to join me as co-editor. She accepted. We invited all relevant researchers we know who are working on the subject and most of them have accepted to contrribute. To date, we have managed to gather about 50 confirmed papers including a wide range of geographical settings and organism types, as well as several meta-analyses and a number of theoretcial and conceptual pieces.

We plan to subdivide the book into four main parts, namely:

  • an introductory part describing current neotropical biodiversity patterns (both terrestrial and aquatic) in relation to environmental features
  • a conceptual part with chapters on the role of past tectonic, paleogeographic and climatic changes on Neotropical diversification, containing as many visions as possible (multidisciplinary views combining phylogeography, paleoecology and other relevant disciplines are especially welcome)
  • an empirical part composed by emblematic or relevant case studies, representing a variety of environments and taxonomic groups (meta-analyses are especially encouraged)
  • a synthetic part with theoretical papers on the current status of the problem and suggestions for future developments

We submitted the proposal to Springer a couple of weeks ago and are now we waiting for an answer.

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Posted in Books

A book on the “Anthropocene” is coming

  • Is the “Anthropocene” the new geological epoch in which we live?
  • Is the current human footprint on recent rocks conspicuous and widespread enough to define a new unit of the geological time scale?
  • Should we define a new epoch or a new era?

anthropocene_0These and other related questions are addressed in a popular book in Spanish to be published by Editorial CSICLa Catarata this year. I submitted the proposal a couple of months ago and it was finally approved last week. The main objective of this book is to explain to the general public the current status of the “Anthropocene” in its way to eventually become, or not, a new formal unit of the International Stratigraphic Chart, the international standard for the geological time scale. The book begins with a historical overview aimed at showing that the “Anthropoceneis not a new concept, as it was already proposed one century and a half ago. Then, the ocurrence and characteristics of the human footprint on the stratigraphic record is analyzed, with emphasis on those features that could be used to define a new epoch of geological time. The third chapter, explains the rules required by the International Commission on Stratigraphy to formalize new stratigraphic units and the current status of the “Anthropocene” in such process, as well as the probabilities of success. The debate about the convenience or not of defining the “Anthropocene” as a new geological epoch is presented at following, considering the main pros and cons existing to date. The book ends with a chapter on the possible futures for both humankind, as a species, and the geological time scale, as the international standrad, whether or not the “Anthropocene” is finally formalized as a new epoch.

Reference

Rull, V. (in press). El “Antropoceno”. Editorial CSIC-La Catarata, Madrid.

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Posted in Books

New popular book on Easter Island

ei-bookIn December 2016, I published a popular book on the misterious Easter Island (Rapa Nui) and its emblematic giant stone statues (moais). The aim of this book is to inform the society about the latest results of scientific research on the socio-cultural history of this enigmatic island. I decided to write the book in Spanish to make it accessible for all inhabitants of the island and the South American public (politically, the island belongs to Chile), in general, as the main bulk of popular and scientific literature on Easter Island is in English. In the book, I try to disentangle the views that are supported by sound empirical evidence from those still relying on fantastic histories and myths, including pseudo-scientific beliefs such as the cultural collapse of the ancient moai-building Rapanui civilization only as a result of the overexploitation of natural resources, traditionally represented by the purported (but still undemonstrated) total and abrupt deforestation of the island by the Polynesian colonizers. Other long-standing mysteries, as for example the origin of the first colonizers (Eastern Polynesia vs. South America) or the techniques used by the ancestral rapanuis to transport the gigantic moais from the quarry to their final destination, are also explored, on the basis of the scientific knowedge available so far. The book is available at the publisher website (Editorial CSIC) and also at Amazon, among other distributors.

Reference

Rull, V. 2016. La Isla de Pascua. Una visión científica. Editorial CSIC-La Catarata, Madrid. ISBN 978-84-00-10150-3 (CSIC), 978-84-9097-221-2 (Catarata).

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Posted in Books

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