Restoration paleoecology

Paleoecological records are useful in that they inform ecological restoration efforts by not only providing the most suitable pre-anthropic baselines, but also identifying unrealistic and unfeasible restoration targets due to climatic, cultural, and economic constraints

In a short paper recently published in the PAGES (Past Ecological Changes) Magazine, I disclose some cases in which paleoecology demonstrates that preanthropic scenarios are impossible to be attained for climatic handicaps or are inappropriate restoration targets for cultural reasons.

The case studies come from: 1) the Gran Sabana (northern South America), 2) the Pyrenees (SW Europe), 3) Easter Island (SE Pacific) and 4) the Azores Islands (N Atlantic).

Read the full story at:

Rulll, V. 2022. Paleoecology helps optimize restoration efforts by identifying unrealistic pre-anthropic targets. PAGES Magazine, 30: 18-19.

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Posted in My publications, Society

Inductive predictions in biology

Is biology able to formulate general laws and develop inductive predictions as in physics or chemistry?

The possibility of using prediction in biology as an inductive method is hampered by the lack of fundamental laws that can be formulated mathematically. As a consequence, biological induction is based mainly on generalization after hypothesis testing, an approach that has also been called accommodation.

Contrastingly, inductive predictions, as used in physics or chemistry, are formulated before the desired empirical evidence, which is actually the target of the prediction, is available. Physicochemical laws are viewed as immutable rules, and knowledge advances by finding the evidence needed to fulfill these laws.

There is nothing intrinsically good or bad in inductive prediction and accommodating generalization per se, and different scientific disciplines may have diverse procedures, depending on the nature of the part of the world they study.

It could be asked why biologists need to imitate conceptual methodologies of other scientific disciplines such as physics, chemistry, or mathematics and compulsively seek fundamental laws.

The advances in biological knowledge using these accommodating procedures are plentiful and evident. What if, after all, fundamental laws only work for submolecular and astronomical worlds and life is a disturbing anomaly in between?

Read the full discussion in:

Rull, V. 2022. On predictions and laws in biological evolution. EMBO Reports, 23: e54392.

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Posted in My publications, Science, Society

Cannabis origin, evolution and domestication

In a paper that is about to be published in the journal Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics, the origin, early dispersal, human domestication and anthropogenic diffusion of Cannabis are reviewed and discussed.

According to DNA phylogenies, Cannabis diverged from its sister genus Humulus between the mid-Oligocene (28 Ma) and the early Miocene (21Ma), but the first fossil records date from the early Miocene (20 Ma). Then, this plant expanded from its center of origin (the NE Tibetan Plateau) to Europe and eastern Asia between the Miocene and the Pliocene, before the onset of human evolution.

During the Pleistocene (the last 2.6 Ma), the European and Asian cannabis populations became geographically isolated due to the glacial-interglacial recurrence, which led to the evolutionary origin of the ancestors of the present subspecies – C. sativa subsp. sativa in Europe and C. sativa subsp. indica in Asia. The first is the putative hemp ancestor (PHA) while the second is the putative drug ancestor (PDA).

Human domestication of Cannabis (PDA) took place in E Asia ca. 12,000 ago (early Neolithic), which situates this plant among the earliest human domesticates. The possibility of another center of domestication in the Caucasus region (PHA) is also considered.

Cannabis was transported outside Eurasia in its cultivated forms and reached Africa (drug biotypes) only after 2000 yr BP. The diffusion to the Americas (hemp and drug biotypes) did not occur until 1545 CE and, by 1945 CE, all Cannabis biotypes were already widespread worldwide.

Reference

Rull, V. 2022. Origin, early expansion, domestication and anthropogenic diffusion of Cannabis, with emphasis on Europe and the Iberian Peninsula. Prespectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics, 55: 125670, doi 10.1016/j.ppees.2022.125670.

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Posted in Cannabis, My publications, Sin categoría

A new special issue on forest succession

The journal Forests (JIF 2.364, Q1) is launching a new special issue (SI) entitled Forest Succession: Natural and Anthropogenic Drivers of Ecological Change. The main aim of this SI is to provide an overview of forest successional processes and their main external forcings under a wide spatiotemporal perspective.

The study of forest succession may help to disentangle the effects of natural (climatic) and anthropogenic factors on forested ecosystems, which can be helpful in terms of anticipating future successional trajectories and informing forest conservation.

Biogeographically, all biomes are considered, from coasts to high elevations and from tropical to near-polar latitudes. Chronologically, any temporal scale is contemplated, from short-term ecological studies on living forests to millennial-scale paleoecological surveys using a variety of proxies for forest and environmental reconstruction.

The SI is already open for submission and the deadline for manuscript submission is 30 November 2022. Check the SI website for more information.

Do not hesitate to contact me if you are interested in submitting a manuscript or have any additional questions.

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Posted in Journals, special issues

World’s Top 2% Scientists

Stanford University has recently published an update of the list of the top 2% most widely cited scientists, the World’s Top 2% Scientists. This ranking, considered the most prestigious worldwide, is based on the bibliometric information contained in the Scopus database and includes more than 160,000 researchers from the more than 8 million scientists considered to be active worldwide, with 22 scientific fields and 176 subfields taken into account.

The Stanford ranking is based on a composite citation index (c) that excludes self-citations and considers the position of researchers in the authorship of papers, with emphasis on single, first and last authorship. The same index including self-citations is provided for comparison. The c-scores have been calculated for the period 1996-2020 (career) and also for the year 2020 alone (single year). The full database is available at Mendeley Data (Elsevier).

Now that I am facing the last years of my scientific career it is very encouraging to realize that I have been listed in the World’s Top 2% Scientists, specifically within the top 0.5 %, considering all fields and subfields of research. Regarding specialties, I occupy the number 173 of a total of 19,448 paleontologists and I am among the top-12 palynologists listed in this section, together with outstanding scholars such as John Birks, Keith Bennett, Polychronis Tzedakis, Peter Kershaw, Vera Markgraf or Herbert Wright, just to cite some.

Original reference

Ioannidis, P.A., Boyack, K.W. & Baas, J. 2020. Updated science-wide author databases of standardized citation indicatords. PLOS Biology 18, e3000918.

Latest update

Baas, J., Boyack, K. & Ioannidis, J. 2021. August 2021 data-update for “Updated science-wide autor databases of standradized citation indicators”. Mendeley Data, v3.

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Posted in My publications, Science

Antoni Rosell-Melé

It is very sad to lose a close colleague who is in his scientific prime.

It is also very shameful to realize the poor coverage that local media and scientific institutions, including his own, have devoted to the decease of such a renowned researcher, at an international level.

We live in a parochial country.

Antoni Rosell-Melé: ICREA Research Professor at the Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA) of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB). Research group: ImpactANT.
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Posted in People, Science

Is the sixth mass extinction coming?

Does the current anthropogenic biodiversity crisis really qualify as a mass extinction?

Many people now uncritically accept the reality of a sixth mass extinction, but others contend that this is an unrealistic exaggeration by environmental alarmists.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of threatened species contains nearly 140,000 well-documented species, of which 900 have already gone extinct since the year 1500 (Fig. 1) and almost 80 are extinct in the wild.

Figure 1. Taxonomic distribution of the 900 species extinct since 1500 according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

The current human-driven biodiversity crisis still does not qualify for a mass extinction in terms of the percentage of extinct species yet, but the current rates of biodiversity loss actually fit within the range of the five major mass extinctions during the Phanerozoic.

The magnitude and the high extinction rates of the current biodiversity crisis seem to have led to an obsession for conserving every living species. However, this is contrary to the natural evolutionary process. Stopping extinction is nonsensical in evolutionary terms and is as unnatural as accelerating it.

Read the full story at:

Rull, V. 2021. Biodiversity crisis or sixth mass extinction? EMBO Reports, e54193.

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Posted in anthropocene, biodiversity, My publications, Society

The success of Neotropical Diversification

Springer Nature has just reported that our book entitled “Neotropical Diversification: Patterns and Processes“, included in the collection “Biomedical and Life Sciences”, is being highly successful within the scientific community. Since its publication in 2020, the book has received more than 100 citations and about 21,000 downloads (electronic version). More details on the citing journals/books are available at the Springer’s book page.

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Posted in biodiversity, Books, My publications

Medieval forest dynamics in the Pyrenees

A recent study challenges the idea that present-day Pyrenean landscapes are the result of large-scale anthropogenic deforestation and land degradation that occurred during the Middle Ages.

High-resolution (decadal) pollen analysis of sediments from two lakes situated in the lowest (Montcortès) and the highest (Sant Maurici) forests belts of the Iberian Pyrenees showed contrasting dynamics during the Middle Ages (5th to 15th centuries).

In Montcortès, Medieval deforestation occurred by 1000 CE but forests recovered by 1500 CE. Present-day landscapes originated after a new Modern Age deforestation (1800 CE) and a new recovery during the industrial revolution (1830 CE onward).

Contrastingly, the Sant Maurici forests were not extensively removed during the Middle Ages and remained dense and healthy until today, showing remarkable resilience. It has been suggested that these forests would have acted as a microrefugium for high-mountain conifer forests.

These results are important to inform forest conservation practices, especially in the identification of tipping points beyond which irreversible regime changes may occur.

Reference

Rull, V. & Vegas-Vilarrúbia, T. 2021. Conifer forest dynamics in the Iberian Pyrenees during the Middle Ages. Forests, 12: 1685.

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New book on Easter Island’s prehistory

The book “The Prehistory of Rapa Nui (Easter Island): Towards an Integrative Interdisciplinary Framework” (Springer Nature), edited by V. Rull and C.M. Stevenson, has been sent to the press and will be issued early next year

This book addresses the main enigmas of Easter Island’s prehistory – i.e., the time from the initial settlement to European contact – from a multidisciplinary and unbiased perspective.

The main topics include:

  • the timing of settlement and the origin of the first settlers
  • the main traits of the prehistoric Rapanui culture and its changes
  • the total deforestation of the island, its timing and causes
  • the extinction of the original and the prehistoric biota
  • the occurrence of climatic shifts and their potential effects on socioecological trends
  • the occurrence or not of a Rapanui cultural and demographic collapse before European contact
  • the influence of Europeans on the prehistoric Rapanui society

The book is subdivided into thematic sections and each chapter is written by renowned specialists in disciplines such as archaeology, anthropology, paleoecology, ethnography, linguistics, ethnobotany, phylogenetics/phylogeography and history.

Contributors have been invited regardless their personal approaches and perspectives, to provide an open and objective vision that includes as many views as possible on the topics considered. In this way, the readers may be able to compare different of points of view and make their own interpretations on each subject.

The book is intended for a wide audience including graduate students, advanced undergraduate students, university teachers and researchers interested on the subject. Given its multidisciplinary character and the topics included, the book is suitable for students and researchers from a wide range of disciplines and interests.

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Posted in Books, My publications