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Nature Volve

Nature Volve

Issue 11 Special theme:
Conserving our lands


In Pictures:
Land conservation
challenges in Central &
South America...

Plus much more

Front cover image: “Luminescent Inflorescence Copper Sulphate”. © Karl Gaff. All rights reserved.
Karl Gaff is our highlighted science communicator of the issue. Find out about Karl’s stunning scientific photography in theScicomm section.

Science Conservation Scicomm Art Written Word

© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved. p1 Editorial note

Communicating science Welcome to NatureVolve issue 11
Combining art
At NatureVolve, we are an international community
Find NatureVolve on uniting to share our ideas in science and art with
the world, through the common appreciation of
Twitter Facebook Instagram nature. While sharing diverse topics within science,
conservation and art, in this issue we emphasize the
#naturevolve value of looking after the lands on which we live.

Thank you to the following contributors to this In the section Science we cover land-based ecology
issue (in page number order): research, and then move onto wildlife protection and
best practices in Conservation, where we deep-dive
Paulo Pereira into conservation issues in South America, with some
Emilio Pagani-Núñez illustrative snaps.
Hannah K. Levenson
Keith Kirby The front cover of this issue is a small taster of what is to
Enya O’Reilly come in the Scicomm section, where we highlight science
Hamed Gholizadeh photography that captures stunning crystallization patterns.
Risa Sargent There is more science inspired creativity to see through to
Eden Gerner the Art section, where diverse creatives’ influences from
Irene Holm Sørensen nature are shown.
Thomas Skou Grindsted
Anthony Snead Our digital magazine continually shares the ideas of both
Ek del Val scientists and creatives with worldwide communities as
Manuel-Angel Dueñas we all unite to celebrate nature. Being open and inclusive,
Subhajit Bandopadhyay contributions in many forms are welcome.
Alistair Campbell
Leonardo Galetto If interested to join us and contribute to an upcoming
Vallejos Maria issue, please go to
Donald Brown If you enjoy this issue please shout on social media, and
Lucia Tamburino so your friends can also enjoy free copies, share the free
Misagh Parhizkar subscription link:
Karl Gaff
S. Paola López Ramírez Thank you for your support and
Alex Mayer enjoy the issue!
Byron Lamont
Phillip Vannini Clarissa Wright
April Vannini
Karen Romano Young Editor-in-Chief
Aiswarya PS
Amy Louise Lee p2
Antonio Polidano Vella
Star Holden
Mark Noble
Ying Kit Chan
Ronan Quinn
Edward B. Barbier
Tina Claffey

Thanks to NatureVolve’s writers of this issue:
Heidi Schmelzer, Duc L, Glenn Molina.

Copyright notice

© NatureVolve digital magazine - all original content
providers retain the copyright to their work.
No materials in this publication may be
reused without explicit

© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved.

SCIENCE Contents 5
conservation Struggles in sustaining land resources 10
Long-tailed Shrike 11
scicomm Bees buzzing in soybean fields 12
Bluebells hiding history 13
Written Word Art Making bird counts count 14
Sericea - an invasive “alien” plant
Flower-bee connections 16
Cork and Cultural Landscapes in the Montado 26
Seeing the sustainable value of wetlands 30
Microevolution can guide conservation efforts 30
Conservation threats in South & Central America 31
Socorro island vegetation 33
Species at risk of extinction 34
Deforestation by logging 35
Bees at risk in the Amazon 36
Native bee pollinators 37
Subsistence living at Dry Chaco 38
Terrestrial salamanders amid climate change
Sustainability trade-off 40
Recovering deforested hillslopes 45
Creating colorful imagery from crystallized chemicals 53
Solving water scarcity with art and science 54
Illustrating drought-tolerant plant’s unique features 55
A scenic pose in Iceland
I Was A Kid 57
SciArt for bee research 61
Minimalist elegance 63
Antonio Polidano Vella 64
Star Holden
Mark Noble 66
Ying Kit Chan 67
River Liffey
Economics For a Fragile Planet
Portal: Otherworldly Wonders of Ireland’s Bogs, Wetlands & Eskers

© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved. p3


SCIENCE environment

Struggles in sustaining land resources

Written by Heidi Schmelzer

Humans make a lasting impact on the environment, often through land-use change:

modifying the natural landscape, which can be temporary or permanent, occuring
through human activity like agriculture, urbanization, and deforestation. While these
all negatively impact the environment, there are positive impacts of land use change
like reforestation.

Negative land-use actions do not only affect the local environment, they have wider-
reaching effects, like contributing to raising greenhouse gases in the atmosphere
or impacting natural flood control (a type of ‘ecosystem service’). One obstacle with
managing land-use change is that much of it occurs on privately owned land. Many
governments don’t have systems in place to regulate activities in non-public areas,
and this presents a challenge in preserving important ecosystem services. It can
be difficult to persuade private landowners to adopt sustainable practices if it does
not financially help them. Often, implementing sustainable use strategies can cause
them to lose money.

It is imperative to tackle this problem, as the actions on private land have far
reaching consequences for widespread habitats and the global environment. We
speak with Paulo Pereira, professor at Mykolas Romeris University in Lithuania.
Together with his team (Marius Kalinauskas; Miguel Inacio; Katarzyna Bogdziewicz,
and Luis Pinto), he investigates humans impact on the environment and how to
address sustainability during the climate crisis.

Above: A natural waterway. © Paulo Pereira. All rights reserved. p5

© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved.

SCIENCE environment

Q & A: Paulo Pereira

Please introduce your background and why What are some common conflicts between
you entered into environmental management. ecosystem services (ES) and property
I am a Geographer with a PhD from the University of
Barcelona, working in different environmental fields There are indeed many conflicts between ecosystem
such as soil science, fire impacts on ecosystems, services and property rights. From a management
land degradation, ecosystem services, nature-based point of view, public property is always easier to
solutions and spatial analysis. I always liked nature, manage than private. The supply of ecosystem
but this love and search for understanding the services depends on the land use type and the
interaction between humans and the environment practices conducted. On public land, this can
appeared when I was finishing my bachelor’s degree. be regulated. Establishing specific land uses
The curiosity and passion that I developed for science representing a benefit (e.g., flood retention) for the
laid the foundation for pursuing a career as a scientist community is easier than on private land. Some
and contributing to the environmental management local plans regulate land use at the municipal level
field. that impose some restrictions on land use. It is more
challenging to do so on private land. Encouraging
How can land-use change impact farmers to diversify their crops, apply fewer
ecosystems, and eventually negatively affect agrochemicals, and deep tillage practices because
human society? of the negative impacts on the environment (e.g., soil
degradation, water pollution, biodiversity loss) is very
Land-use changes affect ecosystems dramatically. challenging since their income depends on how much
Nowadays, coupled with climate change, land-use they can take from the land in a short period.
change like agriculture intensification and urban These conventional agricultural practices are highly
expansion are among the most important drivers of damaging to ecosystems and the benefits they
ecosystem change. The increasing demand for food
and resources exponentially converts forested areas
into farmlands (e.g., Amazon or Borneo forests).

This represents a loss of habitats and biodiversity
and different goods that can be supplied by these
environments, such as carbon sequestration, water
purification, nutrients regulation, pollination, air
quality regulation, oxygen production, microclimate
regulation, wild-food, medicinal plants or cultural
heritage sites. Some forests are sacred to indigenous
cultures. Also, urban expansion on fertile soils
drastically increases soil degradation (e.g., sealing,
erosion, pollution) and reduces the areas available for
food production.

Deforestation and urban growth negatively impact p6
human society since they represent a loss of goods.
Also, they can trigger the effects of extreme climate
events such as floods and heatwaves that usually
have tragic impacts on human health and life. Before
cutting a tree or sealing soil, we need to understand
the loss that this represents.

Right: Evidence of soil erosion. © Paulo Pereira. All rights reserved.

© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved.

SCIENCE environment

provide to society. Of course, the owner has the right Also, what should land-planning decision
to use their land as they want according to the law. makers be considering, so we can meet our
However, although the land-use practices respect the global sustainable development goals?
law, this does not mean that they are exempt from
being harmful to the environment and the services Definitely, it is needed to reduce our footprint on the
that ecosystems provide to humanity. environment. Decision-makers can do this by having
better territorial planning. It is important to reduce
Based on your team’s study published in deforestation and the expansion of intensive farming
Geography and Sustainability, how can we practices that are among the most important causes
raise awareness about the benefits of a of land degradation, biodiversity loss and climate
healthy ecosystem to land owners? change. It is also important to limit urban sprawl and
the consumption of fertile soils. Making cities greener
This was great work. Personally, I liked the outcomes will also be an excellent measure to reduce the
very much. Raising awareness about the benefits impacts of climate change and urban heat islands.
of living in a healthy ecosystem is essential, but
this depends very much on how the landowners From an environmental perspective, by doing this,
implement the necessary changes. If this implies an decision-makers would contribute significantly to
economic loss, it is challenging to convince them. To several sustainable development goals:
overcome this, it is essential to show the long-term • Good Health and Well-Being (Goal 3),
benefits of establishing a particular practice or land • Clean Water and Sanitation (Goal 6),
use. We can list and communicate to landowners • Affordable and Clean Energy (Goal 7),
many benefits, such as agriculture management with • Sustainable Cities and Communities (Goal 11), Climate
reduced impacts on the environment (e.g., no-till,
cover crops, organic farming). Nevertheless, they Action (Goal 13),
may imply an immediate economic loss compared to • Life Bellow Water (Goal 14),
conventional practices, and some are not willing to • Life on Land (Goal 15).
take these losses.
From a socioeconomic standpoint, decision-makers
To raise awareness, it is vital to invest in education, need to make urban areas more inclusive and invest
transfer knowledge and show the advantages of in renewable energies. Doing this would contribute as
having sustainable farming practices. Nevertheless, well to other Sustainable Development Goals:
this is not possible in many cases, and some • No Poverty (Goal 1),
compensation • Gender Equality (Goal 5),
(e.g., payment for • Responsible Consumption (Goal 12).
ecosystem services)
is needed for the
owners to engage
in sustainable

A field being ploughed
on agricultural land.

© Paulo Pereira.
All rights reserved.

© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved. p7

SCIENCE environment Below: Portrait image of Prof. Paulo Pereira.
© Paulo Pereira. All rights reserved.
and urban growth
negativvely impact
human society since
they represent a
loss of goods... they
also trigger the
effects of extreme
climate events that
can have tragic

Final thoughts

Passionate about the environment, Paulo explains how negative land-use changes
can harm the environment and have a negative impact on humans. There are many
valuable benefits nature gives us, described as ‘ecosystem services’, that are being
disrupted by unsustainable practices like rapid urbanization and deforestation.
This includes a loss of natural water purification and air quality control.
Persuading private landowners to adopt more sustainable practices is challenging
because it takes money from their livelihoods in the short term. Education can be
an important tool for convincing them to adopt strategies for better conservation, but
oftentimes, it is not enough.

Another strategy governments can use is to pay landowners the difference in
money earned through using sustainable practices compared to higher pay-out
conventional practices that deplete the land’s resources. Paulo’s interview highlights
the fact that intervening in unsustainable practices requires multiple approaches to
better conserve the land, protect biodiversity and mitigate climate change.


Full professor at Mykolas Romeris University (Lithuania) and invited full professor at Beijing Normal
University (China). He published more than 500 publications in books, peer-reviewed articles and
conferences. Paulo received several international prizes (e.g., “European Geosciences Union Soil
System Sciences Division Outstanding Young Scientist Award”). In 2020 was identified as one of the
world’s most-cited researchers (Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researcher).



© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved. p8

SCIENCE snapshot

Long-tailed Shrike

Long-tailed Shrike (Lanius schach), a generalist Long-tailed Shrikes perfectly exemplify this
predator, hunting around Dushu Lake Wetland process – they are strong and aggressive
Park (Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, P.R. China).
birds and even larger species do not dare to
(below) © Emilio Pagani-Núñez. All rights reserved. challenge their supremacy.

Across the natural-to-urban gradient some About
species persist, winners, and others are
Emilio Pagani-Núñez is a field ornithologist
lost, losers. The Long-tailed Shrike clearly
with broad interests in ecology, evolution,
is one of the winners of this story, as they
and behaviour. Currently an Assistant
thrive in agricultural and urban landscapes
Professor at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool
all around Asia. I am particularly interested
University, Emilio is particularly interested
in understanding why some species persist
in studying the impact that human activities
to intense habitat transformation and what
mechanisms they employ to cope with these have on nature and investigating ways in
changes. Recently, we have found that, whilst in which these impacts can be minimized.

natural areas birds depend on highly specialized

morphologies such as long beaks to find food, Contact
other features such as size and aggressiveness Publication:
determine resource use in transformed habitats.

SCIENCE snapshot

Bees buzzing in soybean fields

Bombus impatiens (common eastern bumble bee) queen About
visiting a soybean flower, documented while the authors were
conducting visual surveys of pollinators in soybean fields Hannah K. Levenson is a
community ecologist who
(below) © Hannah K. Levenson. All rights reserved. is broadly interested in
investigating the impacts that
Bees provide critical pollination services to agricultural humans have the environment
systems; however, these areas can be harsh to pollinators. and how best to mitigate them.
As such, augmented pollinator habitat is commonly
added as a conservation tool. Even though soybean The main tool she uses to
is considered a pollinator-independent crop by many, address these concerns
previous research contradicts this thinking. is bees in agricultural
A paper authored by Hannah K. Levenson, April E. Sharp, systems. She is currently a
and David R. Tarpy is the first to show the addition of postdoctoral research scholar
pollinator habitat results in increased soybean
yield, as measured by seed weight. at North Carolina State
This paper also documents University.
that bees in soybean fields,
as shown in the image,
actively collect resources
from the crop. These
findings suggest that
the management
of pollinator-
crops should be
reevaluated as
these crops can
be attractive to
and benefit from
This image
shows a Bombus
(common eastern
bumble bee) queen
visiting a soybean
flower and was taken
while the authors were
conducting visual surveys
of pollinators in soybean fields.

SCIENCE snapshot

Bluebells hiding history

Wytham beech bluebells trenches About

(below) © Keith Kirby. All rights reserved. Keith Kirby (D.Phil.) worked for 33 years as a forest
ecologist for the British government conservation
Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) agency (now called Natural England).
are one of the delights of our woods Since retiring he has returned to Wytham Woods
in spring. They are often thought where his research career began. His particular
to only occur where the woodland interest is in long-term woodland vegetation change
has existed for hundreds of years. and what drives this: from the human management
However we know this area was and impacts of large herbivores to the effects of
rough farmland, used for grazing in increased nitrogen pollution and climage change.
the Second World War and was only He is also still involved with the debates about how
planted with the beech trees in 1948. best to preserve native woodland communities in
Hidden amongst the bluebells are the Britain in a changing environment.
remains of ditches that hark back to an
earlier conflict – they are the remains Contact
of practice trenches dug by soldiers
in World War I before they went off to Website:
fight in the trenches for real in France.

SCIENCE snapshot

Making bird counts count

Firecrest (Regulus ignicapillus) (below) About

Image taken by Jo Garbutt on Flickr. CC by 2.0. Enya O’Reilly is a PhD
student with RSPB and
Defining species’ association with and degree of specialization the University of East
for a habitat is often reliant on static, categorical classifications. Anglia, United Kingdom.
These fail to account for spatial and temporal variation in the Her research explores
extent of species’ association with a habitat. The Relative quantitative methods for
Habitat Use (RHU) metric quantifies species’ association with species selection in the
and degree of specialization for a habitat using species’ count development of multi-
data. It can be calculated at any scale so can account for any species indicators.
variation over time and space and allows for between-species Her main research interests
comparisons. are populations dynamics,
The image below is of a Firecrest (Regulus ignicapillus) which functional ecology and the
we identified as being specialized to forest habitat using the application of science into
RHU metric. In our research we compared RHU scores of land management and
habitats for 246 European breeding bird species to literature- policy decisions.
based classifications for each species’ association with and
degree of specialization for the same habitats. We found the Contact
two methods were highly correlated showing that RHU is an
accurate yet more robust approach. Twitter: enya_oreilly

SCIENCE snapshot

Sericea - an invasive “alien” plant

Patches of sericea (below) [shown inside dashed About

white rectangles] Image credit: Hamed Gholizadeh. Image Hamed Gholizadeh is an assistant professor
originally published by Elsevier in the Remote Sensing of Environment and the co-director of Center for Applications
journal under CC BY-NC-ND end user license. of Remote Sensing in the Department of
Geography at Oklahoma State University.
Lespedeza cuneata (or “sericea”) is an For the past several years, his research has
invasive alien plant brought to the U.S. from focused on using spaceborne, airborne,
East Asia in the 1890s for use as forage. and unoccupied aerial system (UAS)-based
It has now become a “nightmare plant” in remote sensing for monitoring terrestrial
grasslands of several states in the U.S. ecosystems. Hamed’s most recent research
southern Great Plains, including Oklahoma, focuses on developing remote sensing
Kanasa, and Missouri. At maturity, this plant approaches for assessing the impact
has high levels of tannin that can cause of management practices on terrestrial
discomfort in some grazing animals, like ecosystems. In doing so, he bring together
bison and cattle. concepts from remote sensing, image
Sericea has some other competitive processing, plant ecophysiology, chemical
advantages over native species, especially ecology, and landscape ecology.
in nitrogen-poor soils, being a nitrogen-
fixing legume. Sericea is also taller than the Contact
majority of native plants which reduces the
amount of light captured by native species. Twitter: @GholizadehRS
Interestingly, some of these characteristics
or traits, such as plant
nitrogen content or height
can be estimated with
relatively high level of
accuracy using optical
remote sensing technology.

Through support from NASA
and Oklahoma Center
for the Advancement of
Science and Technology,
we used remote sensing
technology to estimate
key traits that distinguish
sericea from native species
and then mapped sericea
presence from the sky at
the Joseph H. Williams
Tallgrass Prairie Preserve.

SCIENCE snapshot

Flower-bee connections

A bumblebee and a solitary bee visit a native rose flower

(below) © Risa Sargent. All rights reserved.

This image was taken during site surveys where a team of
researchers recorded and identified flowers that were in bloom.
Protecting wild bee populations in urban areas is critical as they
pollinate wildflowers, gardens, and urban food systems.

To conduct their ecological study, Gerner & Sargent surveyed
residential yards in Ottawa, Ontario to look at how bee diversity
(i.e., a metric that looks at number and species of wild bees
present) at yards along a gradient of urbanization
(i.e., differing degrees of hard surface cover
in the land surrounding the site), and tree

They found that having a higher
number of flowering plants in
a yard was a better predictor
of wild bee diversity than
urbanization or tree cover.
These results suggest
that that homeowners and
municipalities can increase
their local bee populations by
simply adding more flowering
plants to the lands they manage!
Their study didn’t specify which
types of plants were best, however,
recommend focusing on planting


Eden Gerner is a former master’s student and research technician in the Sargent lab.
Risa Sargent is a professor in the Applied Biology program at the University of British
Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. Her research focuses on how ecological context
impacts plant-pollinator dynamics. To address questions in this field, her lab studies
the impacts of disruptions, including species introductions and land use changes
(especially agriculture and urban use) on this key ecosystem service.




conservation ecosystem

Cork and Cultural Landscapes in
the Montado

Written by Duc L

The montado (as it is known in Portuguese) is a unique agro-forestry ecosystem found

only in the Mediterranean region, known in Spanish as dehesa. This landscape is made
up of savanna-like woodlands and is dominated by the cork oak, Quercus suber.
Cork is an impermeable buoyant material and is harvested for commercial use,
commonly for producing bottle stoppers, timber for building and making charcoal.

Cork oak woodlands have also offered grasslands for keeping livestock, while also
providing habitats for animals and plants. Not only is there sustenance and income
generated from cork and cattle, it provides space for recreation, social communities
and culture. However, this precious ecological system is facing numerous pressures:
rural abandonment, tree mortality, depreciation of cork market value, overgrazing and
climate change.

Irene Holm Sørensen (Universities of Kassel in Germany and Copenhagen in
Denmark) has studied the cultural landscape of southern Portugal and focuses on how
agricultural landscapes change in time. She speaks to us about the montado and some
of the socio-cultural traditions that developed around the cultivation of cork, as well as
what happening to Portugal’s cork oak forests.

Above: Cork oak trees as they look when freshly harvested. Photo credit José Muñoz-Rojas. Rights are reserved. p16

© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved.

conservation ecosystem

Q & A: Irene Holm Sørensen are several colleagues doing research on cultural
landscapes, which are the result of centuries-
Tell us a little about your backgrounds and what long cultivation of the landscape. This could be
you’re now focusing on within your research agriculture, forestry, wild collection of plants,
department at the University of Kassel. hunting, and also, patterns created by agri-silvo-
pastoral, which combines pastoralism — extensive
My educational pathways have always revolved livestock and agriculture in a partially wooded
around the importance of securing habitats to provide environment, and a transhumance lifestyle — a
opportunities for all life to thrive in balance. This might type of nomadic farming. The practices performed
sound utopic and like a classic answer from any idealist on the landscape provides the backbone of the
working with nature conservation, but it is true. I have a uniqueness a specific culture brings to an area.
background in practical garden and landscape design,
being hands-on and project oriented. I always thought For just under three years, I have been engaged
something was missing in the big picture, so I shifted with the cultural landscape of southern Portugal.
my focus to nature management and planning. Again, Here, the landscape is made up of savanna-like
there was something missing. This led me to study woodlands, known in Portuguese as montado, and
ethnobotany, which is the study of the cultural use of in Spanish as dehesa. The special thing about this
plants. One particular aspect that I took with me was the landscape is that it is dominated by the cork oak,
focus of unique values, knowledge, and motivations that Quercus suber L. This tree species has its natural
people have for engaging with nature. distribution range limited to the western part of
the Mediterranean Basin, which makes this a very
In our research group, Socio-ecological Interactions in unique landscape, rarely observed from a global
Agricultural Systems, we have a wide range of focus perspective.
areas, but as the name suggests, we all work at the
intersection between people and nature. Currently, we Below: Cork ready for the industrial processing.
Photo credit: Tobias Plieninger. Rights are reserved.

© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved. p17

conservation ecosystem

We don’t normally think about where our cork material for isolation purposes. In the newest
materials come from. Give us some examples trends, cork is being used in components for
of how cork from Portugal is being used in aeronautics, clothes, handbags, pencil cases, and
products we may easily see in our everyday music instruments. The imagination is the only limit
lives. to its uses!

First of all, cork is both the name of the tree but also of Please share with us some of the social
the material. It is the outer bark layer harvested without cultural traditions that developed around
killing the tree, something we also know from harvesting the cultivation of cork.
birch bark (Betula spp.). The first written sources that
mention cork go back to Theophrastus (372-285 BC) Cork and Portugal go hand in hand. In Portugal,
first describing the cork oak, to Pliny the Elder (23-79 trade and industrial processing developed and
AD) who mentions the uses in his Naturalis Historia specialised since the 18th century. In Catalunya
XVI. Natural scientists have since described the unique in Spain, there are also certain industrial hubs
qualities of cork as a natural sealant, such as Robert specialised in producing bottle stoppers for
Hooke in Micrographia (1665). The first uses recorded champagne, and in France and Italy, particularly
were the utilisation of cork for building beehives, wine on Sardinia, where there are remnants of cork oak
casks, and floats, and in 1680 the cork stopper was forests, there will be some degree of harvest and
made popular by the Benedictine monk Pierre Perignon processing. Portugal, being the country with the
(1638-1715), who until today still lends his name to one richest concentrations of cork oak, has naturally
of the most popular champagne brands worldwide. developed into the main place for the global cork
market, receiving raw cork from all over the western
In our daily life, we may come across cork without Mediterranean.
realising it. If we are wine drinkers, we will know the thrill
of unscrewing the cork and hearing the characteristic The socio-cultural traditions linked to cork are
“plop”, smelling the cork, and tasting the wine. Others inextricably linked to the uses of the material, but
may know cork from the soles of their sandals or also to the landscape itself. The montado as a
flooring, but cork is also used as an ecological building cultural landscape is very multi-faceted and has

Left: Cork appears in
multiple forms.

Photo credit:
Irene Holm Sørensen.
Rights are reserved.

© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved. p18

conservation ecosystem

been the scenery for agri-silvo-pastoral traditions for Through to today, intensive cattle rearing often
centuries. This means that there has been a use of all clashes with attempts to regenerate populations
the resources the cork oak woodlands have offered, of cork oak, which are under stress from heavy
such as timber for building and making charcoal, trampling and soil compactisation. Meanwhile,
grasslands for keeping livestock, and habitats for wild changes in climate are adding stress to the
game and in some cases, endangered animals and montado because of the increases in drought,
plants. hampering the rejuvenation of oak trees and
increasing the risk of wildfires.
Many people might know the Iberian black footed pig
breed residing in the Iberian Peninsula. During winter, What researchers and the industry are now working
the pig feeds off of the acorns from the oak trees, on is finding a way to make the montado profitable
yielding a particularly flavourful meat. Olive groves for more than only a few commodities. On some
and wine fields are other characteristic features in the estates there are experiments going on to integrate
southern Portuguese landscape, which attracts s tourists elements from permaculture and regenerative
interested in the local and regional foods and the cultural agriculture in order to improve soil properties,
history. especially focusing on water storing capacity.

What is happening to Portugal’s cork oak The montado is a unique ecosystem where humans
forests and why is it important to protect them? and nature have co-existed for many years, and it
is necessary to apply the correct balance of care,
For centuries, the use of the montado varied in intensity, let-be, and extraction to sustain the landscape for
and some practices have been given up whilst other the future.
have emerged. Particularly since the increase of modern
agricultural methods and population trends in the 1950s, Below: Cork oak woodlands or montado in southern Portugal.
the woodlands experienced a polarisation between land Photo credit: José Muñoz-Rojas. This was published in the following
abandonment and intensification of commodities, which open-access article via Frontiers under the CC BY license: Sørensen
have been s profitable, supported by liberal market IH, Torralba M, Quintas-Soriano C, Muñoz-Rojas J and Plieninger
forces. T (2021) Linking Cork to Cork Oak Landscapes: Mapping the Value
Chain of Cork Production in Portugal. Front. Sustain. Food Syst.

© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved. p19

conservation ecosystem

Final thoughts

Around the world, unique landscapes provide very specific and
highly valorized food products. Landscape products are embedded
in strong social-ecological relationships between local communities,
global consumers and production environments. The montado is
a potential system of high nature and social value, providing vital
ecosystem services and conserving the biodiversity of the area.

It is a system that results from a high diversity in vegetation, fauna
and land cover, as well as a particular balance between forestry and
grazing. The characteristics of the resulting landscapes all co-exist
within the limited environmental conditions of the Mediterranean
region. These days, it is essential to sustainably manage these
cultural landscapes while maintaining a social-ecological balance.

Irene Holm Sørensen now continues to study how to promote
the improved management of the montado as a multifunctional
ecosystem, reconciling resources use with conservation interests.
Much more is needed to fully support management solution that
require her type of research to continue.


Irene Holm Sørensen is a PhD candidate at the Universities of Kassel (Germany) and Copenhagen
(Denmark). She has a background in landscape planning and nature management, as well as in
ethnobotany. Her current research focuses on how products from cultural landscapes can provide
incitement for sustainable management practices that help preserving the biocultural diversity of
these landscapes.

Within our research group, we do not only produce scientific work, but we have also engaged
with outreach. We have created a blog and an Instagram account where we make our research
available and easily readable in a non-academic language.



© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved. p20

conservation landscape

Seeing the sustainable value
of wetlands

Written by Glenn Molina

Wetlands are natural settings where water completely covers the ground,

throughout the year or seasonally. Wetlands can help us adapt to climate
change by capturing and storing carbon, which minimizes greenhouse gas
emissions in the atmosphere, as well as offering resilience to threats like
flooding, storm surge, and coastal inundation.

Changes in temperature, as well as the timing and amount of precipitation,
are projected to have an impact on wetlands as a result of climate change.

Thomas Skou Grindsted investigates how dynamics like climate change
relate to public, political, and scientific discourse. According to him,
nature is social, and there is no vantage point from which we can study
natural processes without considering social influences.

Over the years, he has been studying local responses to socio- Below: Wetlands.
natural transitions in a Nature Park in Denmark’s Amosen basin Source - Sofie Cold-Ravnkilde.
and water system, described in our interview. Rights are reserved.

© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved. p21

conservation landscape

Q & A: Thomas Skou Grindsted “Denmark is a highly
intensified country
Tell us about your political ecology with different forms of
background and how social and manipulated landscapes...
environmental factors are combined in this the landcover’s climate
field. impact has changed
dramatically during the
I am a geographer that comes from critical past century.”
interventions in urban political ecology, particularly
drawing from a social nature approach - which
means that nature is social and there is no position
from which we can examine natural processes
separately from social factors.

Anthropogenic climate change is a process that
socializes nature and involves a more serious
examination of “humanity” as a driving force. I study
the multiple ways in which concepts like natural and
climate change “dynamics” are deployed in public,
political and scientific discourse.

Currently, I am exploring both their historical,
cultural, and scientific origins, as well as adaption
and mitigation efforts in geography education,
urban planning and beyond. I draw inspiration from
geography, environmental history and political
ecology. My research into the human dimensions
of global climate change can be seen as a critical
intervention in the social responses and policies
involved in landscape transformation. Currently,
I research local responses to socio-natural
transformations in a Nature Park, located in the
Åmosen basin and water system in Denmark.

In recent years, why have you been studying
the Danish Nature Park Åmosen?

Denmark is a highly intensified country with different
forms of manipulated landscapes, and the landcover’s
climate impact has changed dramatically during the
past century. Until the middle of the 1800 century
bogs, peat, and wetlands, occupied 20-25% of the
land. Today it covers less than 1%.

The restoration of peatlands and wetlands worldwide
is important to mitigate climate change. The scientific
understanding of climate change, biodiversity

Right: Water boat recreational activities at a wetland. p22
Source - Friluftsrådet. Rights are reserved.

© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved.

conservation landscape

degradation, the function of wetland as carbon sinks Spanning 8000 hectares, the Danish Nature Park
and so forth, become distilled into international Åmosen is one of Denmark’s biggest wetland
policy frameworks, such as the EU Common systems, hosting carbon dense soils. This is the
Agricultural Policy and EU biodiversity Strategy but largest bog and peatland on the Isle of Zealand, the
local responses in such areas may not resonate with island in which Copenhagen is located. At the same
climate or biodiversity agendas produced at national time, the area hosts some of the best archaeological
or international scales. remains from around 8000BC in northern Europe,
preserved by wetlands.
While the EU and national policies recognize the need
for the restoration of bogs, peat, and wetlands to What is environmental blindness and how
mitigate the effects from global environmental change, does it apply to wetlands?
local communities may embrace them, oppose them,
or even create conflicts between local stakeholders. Environmental blindness is a concept that relates to
In Denmark, one of the core debates in re-naturalizing inattentional blindness which is sometimes describes
nature has revolved around the political construction when individuals fail to pay attention towards what
of nature parks during the past 20 years. The critique is in front of them. Also, plant blindness arises when
of them has been that nature parks are essentially individuals do not at all see, know, or pay attention to
a rough drawing on a map with little or no impact on plants in their own environment.
conservation or the restoration of nature.

Above: Plants growing in the wetland environment. Source - Friluftsrådet. Rights are reserved. p23

© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved.

conservation landscape

In this context, I describe localized environmental blindness as “..tourists reported
the inability to notice the climate impact of land transformation only seeing beauty
in one’s own environment as far as locals are concerned. while looking over
Meanwhile, impartial environmental blindness describes when the landscape of
tourists see nothing but the beauty in the former wetland. the former wetland.
Thus, we have
In Åmosen’s Nature Park, the area of the wetland sank found a kind of
1-2.5 meters in some areas, several landowners report, collective blindness
mainly because of the agricultural process of peat-cutting for towards the climate
Carlsberg beer production and drainage. In any case, the peat mitigation potential
was burned, causing carbon emissions to be released into the of the area.”
Below: Horseriding - a type of outdoor recreational
Farmers are aware of the value of their carbon dense soils. activity, popular with tourists. Source - Friluftsrådet.
Their strategic responses to carbon dense soils could raise the Rights are reserved.
value of their land further, and local strategies around possible
compensation models evolve, if restored. Yet, after doing
interviews with 70 tourists and local citizens in the Nature
Park, tourists reported only seeing beauty while looking over
the landscape of the former wetland. Thus, we have found
a kind of collective blindness towards the climate mitigation
potential of the area.

© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved. p24

conservation landscape

What can be done in nature tourism and
outreach to gain more visibility for the

Although we continue to need research the physical action. I would strongly advocate that we learn about
and biological aspects of climate change in various the landscapes we inhabit. I could also imagine
contexts and scales, social considerations are needed nature parks around the world took upon their
to understand and challenge different national and shoulders to develop climate trails and experiences
local responses to wetlands policies. Local interests in their developments. Art, movies, poetry, and the
are diverse among landowners, tourism, agriculture, like could play a much bigger role in embracing
forestry, and hunting, but blindness about these environmental knowledge where there are blind spots.
carbon sinks will not help the democratic debate over Formal or informal education could also be a starting
what needs to be preserved or restored. point to gain more visibility on the environment.
The change should involve different parties, Bottom up processes and a new economy to
politicians, landowners, and many others to motivate landowners are also needed to accompany desired
landscape changes.

Final thoughts

Globalization and industrial development will always be taking place in these
times, but we still need to understand the richness and the value of the
environment we live in. Showing the antiquity of the land and its transformations
could cure environmental blindness through tourism destinations, exhibitions, or
recreational activities in nautre. That is why protecting and restoring wetlands
could be a climate and biodiversity hack.

While it is a key challenge to unify local and national responses, we live on the
same planet and saving it with one wetland and peatland at a time should be
achievable. Appropriate education, whether formal or informal, can offer different
lenses to different people that show the value of carbon sinks and how they can
slow down climate change. With this, collective effort is needed to be able to
shape more sustainable landscapes in the future.


Thomas Skou Grindsted is an Associate Professor of geography and planning at
Roskilde University, Denmark. His research focuses on urban political ecology, and
he studies the multiple ways in which conceptions of climate change is deployed in
public, political and scientific discourse. Particularly he focuses on the knowledge base,
upon which different parties, planners and geographers shape cities and landscapes
of tomorrow. Furthermore, his research aims to foster dialogue on sustainable urban
planning models. This research is funded by the Nordea Foundation.


Academic profile:

© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved. p25

conservation biodiversity

Microevolution can guide
conservation efforts

Written by Heidi Schmelzer

The mangrove rivulus fish is native to mangrove forests in Florida, the

Caribbean, and Central America. Most individuals in this species are self-fertilizing
hermaphrodites, allowing them to reproduce on their own. Because of this quality, and
their tolerance to a wide range of environmental conditions, rivulus is an important
species in researching genetics, ecology, and evolution. One question that studying
rivulus helps answer is how species adjust in harshly changing environmental
conditions. Mangrove forests in which this fish lives are located in saltwater or
brackish water in coastal intertidal zones. The forests experience changing tide levels
as well as have general susceptibility to changing environmental conditions such as
salinity, temperature, and precipitation.

Mangrove forests are heavily impacted by climate change and are a major focus for
conservation efforts. As the rivulus is mostly composed of hermaphrodites and after
many generation of self-fertilization, offspring are nearly genetically identical to their
parents. This fish makes the perfect system to study how changing environmental
conditions in mangrove forests affect individual traits within species that live in this
habitat. Anthony Snead, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Alabama studies the
mangrove rivulus fish in the Early Lab in the Biological Sciences Department. He
uses rivulus to study both basic research in microevolution and apply it to broader
conservation strategies in the face of climate change.

Right: Two hermaphroditic
mangrove rivulus fish.
© Scott Taylor. All right

© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved. p26

conservation biodiversity

Q & A: Anthony Snead Why does your lab particularly focus on the
Rivulus fish inhabiting the mangroves of
Please tell us about your PhD studies at the Central America, the Caribbean, and Florida?
Earley Lab at the University of Alabama and
how you came to enter into this program.

Life in science and academia is a combination The mangrove rivulus is a unique system that enables
of luck, timing, and hard work. Unknowingly, my my lab to diversify our research. Hermaphrodites and
undergraduate research at Saint Leo University few males dominate populations. The hermaphrodites
(SLU) and the University of South Florida (USF) generally self-fertilize and form lineages of nearly
made me uniquely qualified for the Earley Lab. In genetically identical individuals. We use these
2012, I began volunteering with an Australian-based lineages to isolate the genetic and environmental
organization called Mangrove Watch to map the contributions to an individual’s traits.
health of mangrove forests across Tampa Bay, FL. I
immediately fell in love with research and mangrove Rivulus are also extremophiles capable of tolerating
forests. Shortly after, I worked with Dr. William Ellis a wide range of salinities, oxygen concentrations,
to identify the environmental drivers of tumor-like and hydrogen sulfide. The fish can even live outside
growths known as galls on red mangroves. Galls of water for up to 66 days and move across the
serve as weak points that increase mangrove death land! This unique constellation of traits enables my
during extreme weather events. At USF, I worked lab to investigate diverse questions from behavioral
with Dr. Thomas Crisman, a well-respected and evolution to the potential for personalized medicine
accomplished wetland ecologist, to quantify the and everything in between.
impacts of urban landscapes on invertebrate and fish
communities in local ponds.

Through my projects with Above: Gee traps deployed at field site within the Florida Keys.
Mangrove Watch, Dr. Ellis, Rights: © Ryan Earley. All rights reserved
and Dr. Crisman, I gained
experience within mangrove
forests and fish, making
me exceptionally suited to
collaborate with Dr. Ryan
Earley on the mangrove
rivulus fish. I have been with
the Earley lab for almost four
years, and I am now in the
final stages of my doctoral
degree. While working on my
doctorate, I have expanded
the previous research
program with a new direction
dedicated to combining basic
and applied research.
My basic research focuses
on quantifying environmental
drivers of microevolution and
fish community structure.
In contrast, my applied research aims to predict
the future of rivulus under climate change to guide
effective conservation strategies.

© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved. p27

conservation biodiversity

I work with rivulus because the habitat they occupy is Mangrove forests are projected to expand their
complex. Mangroves are impacted by climatic factors range northward under climate change. In my recent
(e.g., temperature, rainfall) and marine variables publication in Ecological Informatics, I first developed
(e.g., salinity). To add further complexity, the tides a model to quantify the impact of both climatic
and landscape properties like elevation mediate the and marine variables on rivulus habitat suitability
impact of these environmental conditions. The habitat to evaluate if rivulus would respond similarly to
changes rapidly across short distances and time, mangrove forests. I found that rivulus will not follow
making it the perfect system to explore the effect of mangroves. In fact, rivulus may lose suitable habitat
temporally variable environmental factors. I focus on and become more restricted, even though the species
rivulus because the small killifish is tolerant of these is highly tolerant of environmental conditions.
environmental shifts. I want to know how rivulus
survive in this harsh environment and the genes that I demonstrate that umbrella protection for mangrove
confer this resilience. If the habitat gets too stressful, trees will not necessarily protect their community
the fish irreversible change sex, even though members. Therefore, managers should consider
males do not often get the chance to reproduce. all the target species when designing conservation
Hence, we wonder, why do males even exist in this plans. Additionally, I project future habitat suitability
species? These factors make rivulus ideal to study under different climate change scenarios to 2050.
microevolution and climate change. I show that the rate of climate change is essential
even over short timescales, meaning that time is of
As mentioned in your recent publication in the essence for climate change action.
Ecological Informatics, what is the effect
of climate change on mangrove dependent “...time is of the
species? essence for climate
change action.”
Mangroves are considered foundation species.
Foundation species are groups of or individual
species essential for their habitat. Foundation
species are often primary producers like trees, but
they do more than provide food. They are ecosystem
engineers, provide structure,
and are critical to maintaining
habitat integrity. Therefore,
conservation managers often
design plans to protect the
foundation species in hopes of
saving the entire community.
However, each species,
including foundation species,
have unique combinations of
environmental conditions in
which they thrive.

Climate change has and will
continue to change these
conditions impacting where
species can live. Hence,
climate change will disintegrate
biological communities because
species-specific responses drive
distributional changes.

Above: Mangrove forest field site in 2021 within Florida Keys. © Anthony Snead. All rights reserved.

© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved. p28

conservation biodiversity complex root system limits erosion. Mangroves
also store carbon and other nutrients from human
Why is it important to do further research on activities like agriculture, limiting their release
mangrove habitats and biodiversity as the into our oceans. Mangroves serve as nursery
world faces ongoing climate change? habitats for estuarine and marine fishes. In Florida,
mangroves provide critical habitat for about
Biodiversity is often considered important for its intrinsic 90% of the commercially important fish. Even
value; species have an inherent right to exist. However, though mangroves are essential, urbanization
biodiversity also supports all life on earth, including is decreasing mangrove area globally, with an
humans. Agriculture depends on pollinators like birds, estimated 33% already lost due to human activity.
bees, butterflies, and other insects, but agriculture also Even the mangroves that remain are threatened by
depends on microbes and invertebrates in the soil to coastal squeeze.
recycle nutrients. While plants provide oxygen, many
plants also prevent flooding. Many of our medicines are Coastal squeeze occurs when the sea level rises
produced or originate from bacteria, fungi, or plants. As and forces coastal habitat to migrate upland, but
human-induced climate change progresses, we need to barriers like urbanization limit migration, resulting
continue studying biodiversity to know how to protect it. in habitat loss. By studying these habitats, we
can better understand their utility and role within
Mangrove habitats are especially important for both the ecosystem to further protect them and design
humans and wildlife communities. Mangroves protect conservation strategies for mitigating their loss.
coastal communities from storms surge, while the

Final thoughts

We have learned about the importance of mangrove forests both for the
ecosystem and human soceity. By studying the mangrove rivulus fish,
we can learn how species adjust to changing environments and use this
information to guide conservation efforts. While current efforts are aimed at
preserving the general habitat, Anthony has discovered that this strategy
does not always protect individual species within the habitat.

To preserve biodiversity both for its intrinsic value and for the value it brings
humans, such as protection from flooding and medicinal properties, we need
to study the species at risk due to climate change and apply conservation
efforts both individually and to the whole habitat.


Anthony Snead is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Alabama in the Biological
Sciences Department, applying integrative, interdisciplinary methods to understand the
impact of environmental and biotic variables on a mangrove obligate, the mangrove
rivulus fish. His work includes both applied projects focused on conservation and
basic research in evolutionary biology. He is particularly interested in quantifying
microevolution to better predict the future of species under climate change.



© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved. p29

conservation world in pictures

Conservation threats in
South & Central America

We take a journey through some of the key environmental challenges and

conservation threats faced in South and Central America, while shining a keen
lens on the communities in sync with nature who are directly affected.

Socorro island vegetation

Pteridum caudatum invading Socorro Island in Mexico. Photo credit:. Ek del Val took the picture. Rights are reserved.

Socorro island in Mexico was subject to herbivory from feral sheep for 100 years that devastated the
native vegetation. Once sheep were removed, the island was colonized by the aggressive Pteridium
caudatum that currently is hampering natural regeneration. Our investigation aims to provide tools to
restore ecosystem functioning on the island using native plant species.

Bio Ek del Val studied Biology at UNAM and a Phd in Ecology at Imperial College, UK.

Since 2005 she has been a Professor at IIES-UNAM, in Morelia Mexico. She is interested in
understanding how anthropogenic activities affect biotic interactions, in particular invasive species and
insect pests. She is passionate about science outreach.

Horacio Paz studied Biology and a Phd in Ecology at UNAM. Since 2004 he has been a Researcher at
IIES-UNAM, in Morelia, Mexico. His research interests are to understand morphophysiological aspects
that allow tropical plants to cope with drought and to use this knowledge for ecological restoration.

See more at the following page:

© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved. p30

conservation world in pictures

Species at risk of extinction

Galápagos petrels in flight © Lip Kee CC-by-sa/2.0.

The photo below shows a pair of Galápagos petrels, a seabird endemic to the
Galápagos Islands, affected mainly by invasive mammal predators. The first global
review of the research literature undertaken on the impact of invasive species on
critically endangered species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature
(IUCN) Red List shows that a small proportion of species globally are impacted, but not
evenly distributed among the different taxonomic groups.
The majority of species impacted are terrestrial vertebrates, mostly on islands by
invasive mammal predators (mainly rodents and feral cat), although it is birds that
face the highest risk of extinction, with almost half of critically endangered birds on
islands affected. Amphibians is the next group at risk of extinction by invasive species,
threatened by the chytrid fungal pathogen, mainly in Central America.


Manuel-Angel Dueñas is currently a visiting scientist at the UK Centre for Ecology
and Hydrology (UKCEH), based in Oxfordshire, UK. His research focuses on
biological invasions as one of the drivers of global biodiversity loss – using a scientific
evidence-based approach.
Find out more at the webpage:
Dr. Manuel Angel Dueñas | UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (

conservation world in pictures

Deforestation by logging in Peru

Deforestation caused by timer logging, wildfires Our projection model illustrates an increasing trend
captured during field visits in the parts of Peruvian of deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon in the
Amazon, Peru. near future in the form of habitat fragmentation that
requires very urgent attention.
© Mr. Alexander Cotrina Sánchez and Dr. Subhajit Bandopadhyay.
To combat massive deforestation and landscape
change, the government of Peru created Protected Dr. Subhajit Bandopadhyay is a remote sensing
Areas to conserve the Peruvian Amazon and maintain scientist dedicated to research in the domain of
floral diversity, and sustainable environmental services. carbon cycle, forest loss, agriculture and climate
Despite several measures taken to promote the change. Dr. Bandopadhyay is currently working at
conservation of the Peruvian Amazon, our 20 years of the University of Southampton, UK. In 2019, he
observation shows that the Protected Areas experienced was awarded with Iwanowska fellow and STSM
losses at lower rates than unprotected forests. However, grants to conduct his research at the University of
the trends of forest loss in the Protected Areas are quite Zurich and German Aerospace Center, Berlin.
similar to the global deforestation trends.
The spatio-temporal transformations are not only limited Find out more via LinkedIn:
to the Protected Areas but also in their buffer zones
at a much higher scale. Although the Protected Areas bandopadhyay-41197264/
are under surveillance, timber logging remains the
most important cause of the accelerated deforestation
followed by cropland extension.

conservation world in pictures

Bees at risk in the Amazon

Small bee pollinators at risk from Amazon deforestation

© Erin J 2018 – 2022 Cristiano Menezes.

The below image shows a stingless bee (Plebeia minima) collecting nectar from the
flowers of the açaí palm (Euterpe oleracea). Three quarters of the world’s crops rely
on animal pollinators for yield, including many of the fruits and vegetables needed
for healthy human diets. This includes the açaí palm, the Amazon region’s most
important native crop, providing vital income and food security to thousands of rural
families in the Brazilian state of Pará.

Açaí palm is pollinated by an immense diversity of insects, including bees, flies,
wasps, beetles and even ants. For example, this photograph taken under laboratory
conditions shows a small sized (4mm in length) stingless bee (Plebeia minima)
collecting nectar from the palm’s flowers. However, our recent study published in
Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment found that visitation by such small-sized
bees is highly sensitive to deforestation in the surrounding landscape, due to the
limited dispersal abilities of small bees which predominantly nest in surrounding

Ongoing deforestation
not only risks the
conservation of native
bee fauna, but also the
long-term sustainability
of açaí palm production
in the Brazilian Amazon.


Dr Alistair Campbell is a researcher based at Embrapa Amazônia Oriental in
Belém, Brazil, as part of the “Projeto Polinizaçaí” team. He seeks to better
integrate pollinator conservation and management in crops to enhance
productivity and sustainability.

Find out more through the published study:

conservation world in pictures

Native bee pollinators

Flowers that attract native bee

Photos: Leonardo Galetto. All rights reserved.

Native bee pollinators provide the
essential ecosystem service of
pollination (which involves carrying
pollen from a plant’s anthers to its

Pollination can occur when the bees
visit flowers, enabling fruit and seed
production of many kinds of crops
(such as the sunflower; shown on
the right) and native plants (and
Cactaceae, shown below).

We need to enhance conservation
strategies to guarantee food
sovereignty and well-being for

© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved. Bio

Leonardo Galetto is a Professor at the
Universidad Nacional de Córdoba and
Researcher at CONICET, Argentina.
His team studies socio agro-
ecosystem ecology from a landscape
perspective, trying to better integrate
the practices of the different social
actors with the functionality of the
biodiversity and improve conservation
and food production.

Find out more on Researchgate:


conservation world in pictures

Subsistence living at Dry Chaco

A community operating on subsistence living.

© Vallejos Maria All rights reserved.

The above photo was taken on a trip taken by the University The future of the Dry Chaco forests, the
of Buenos Aires. The aim was to provide indigenous permanence indigenous people in their
communities with tools for the legal defense of their territories, and their coexistence with the
territories. Copyright: Vallejos Maria. model based on agribusiness are still in
debate. It is essential to design systems
Agricultural expansion in the South American Dry Chaco that consider not only the conservation of
takes place on lands historically inhabited by indigenous biodiversity, but also sociodiversity as an
communities, who practice a subsistence economy, including important aspect.
hunt and gathering. In the last decades, new capitalized
actors were expanded in a context characterized by legal Bio
insecurity and weakness of the enforcement authorities.
Vallejos Maria’s work is based on the
The advancement of land-intensive systems, poorly adapted sustainable management of ecosystems
to local socio-ecological conditions and heterogeneity is using remote sensing tools. She focuses on
not only intensifying environmental degradation but also the problems associated with agricultural
causing the communities expulsion, feeding back the poverty expansion and land use changes.
traps in which these people is involved. Despite existing Find out more at the following site:
laws that promote the conservation of native forests, illegal
deforestation and logging were detected.
© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved.

conservation in focus

Terrestrial salamanders amid
climate change

Cow Knob Salamander (below) About

© Donald Brown. All rights reserved Donald Brown is a research assistant
professor with West Virginia University
The Appalachian Mountain region of the eastern and the U.S. Forest Service Northern
United States is a global biodiversity hotspot for Research Station.
amphibians and contains many high elevation-
endemic woodland salamanders (genus He and his graduate students conduct
Plethodon). research to assist with conservation of
wildlife populations and communities
In mountainous regions, many wildlife species under changing environmental and
are responding to increasing temperatures by management conditions.
shifting their distributions to higher elevations.
Unfortunately, these high elevation salamanders Contact
are already at the mountaintops and have
nowhere to go. Website:
Our research suggests the majority of potential
habitat for two of these species, the Cow Knob
Salamander (Plethodon
punctatus) and Cheat
Mountain Salamander
(Plethodon nettingi),
will disappear by the
end of the century
due to climate


© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved. p36

conservation in focus

Sustainability trade-off

Sustainability trade-off graph (below) Background image: In the Public Domain by NASA.

Data and overlying graphics: created by Lucia Tamburino.

It is often argued that over-consumption and inequality, not population, are the true causes
of the current overshoot of planetary boundaries: through a consumption reduction in rich
countries and through a fair resource distribution, humanity could become environmentally
sustainable. Nevertheless, a quantitative analysis to prove this idea was never done.

To prove it, we estimated the potential eco-balance, namely the eco-balance of a
hypothetical world where resources are equally distributed and individual impacts are
reduced to τ, an empirically determined threshold corresponding to an acceptable level of
human development. Results show that even under this scenario, the global eco- balance,
albeit improved, would stay negative.

About p37

Lucia Tamburino has a background in Mathematics and Natural Sciences.
She holds a PhD in Forest Ecology, has a post-doctoral research
experience at Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and is currently
a researcher at IGDORE. Population-resource dynamics are her main
research interest.


Original article: science/article/pii/S1470160X21006385

© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved.

conservation in focus

Recovering deforested hillslopes

Hydromulching can help conserve deforested hillslopes (below)

© Dr. Misagh Parhizkar. All rights reserved

Deforestation and inappropriate forest management practices are key causes of soil erosion.
In the northern part of Iran, the reduction of forestland cover, due to the expansion of arable
land and intensive cultivation, population growth, and technological development, has led
to soil degradation in large areas. To present a new method, Misagh Parhizkar made some
striking discoveries about how Hydromulch affects rill erosion, and its potential as a technique
for rill erosion control. Hydromulching involves spraying a particular mix of liquid to prevent
soil erosion. The below image shows “deforested hillslopes” in a forestland of Guilan province
(Northern Iran), where there is a very high susceptibility to rill erosion and great potential for
Hydromulch to help.


Misagh Parhizkar is a Dr of Soil physics and conservation graduated from the
Guilan University of Iran. One of his honors is the brilliant talent of Guilan University
in undergraduate and graduate courses and also his selection as top doctoral
researcher of the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, in 2020. In addition, he was
selected as one of Iran’s elites in 2020. His research focuses on soil conservation
techniques, especially the control of rill erosion and the reduction of soil detachment
capacity in forestlands.


Instagram: @misaghparhizkar


scicomm photography

Creating colorful imagery from
crystallized chemicals

written by Pamela Policarpio

We can view nature around us as a form of art, whether it be majestic

mountain ranges, the colorful diversity of flowers, and the blue shades of
ocean water. When we see the picturesque varieties of nature around us, we
cannot help but grab our camera to capture that moment.

Karl Gaff must have felt the same when he saw the visually stunning
formations that are only visible from the microscope. Karl is a scientific
photographic artist and has a degree in Physical and Life Sciences.
His passion for science and photography led him to discover the colorful
spectacles that can be formed from crystallized chemicals. Inside Karl’s
laboratory, through the lens of his microscope and camera, a fusion of art and
science is beautifully interwoven to make art like no one has seen before.

Above: Potassium and Sodium Salts. © Karl Gaff. All rights reserved.

© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved. p40

scicomm photography

Q & A: Karl Gaff

Please tell us about your university
degrees and how you became a scientific
photographic artist.

The first degree that I undertook was called
the BSc Physics & Life Sciences. This degree
cultivated a knowledge of the biological, chemical
and physical sciences with emphasis on biological
systems. Having grown up with a deep-rooted
fascination of science, it greatly enhanced my
appreciation of the mystery and awe of the tapestry
of nature.

I then took the degree called BSc Physics
& Physics Technology which explored
the fundamental operations of scientific
instrumentation from the point of view of the
electronics and the physics at work.

To give an example, one module of the course
explored the design of ground and space-based
imaging platforms fitted with spectroscopic
instruments, their basic electronic instrumentation,
digital image sensors, advanced optics and
electromagnetic theory of light.

Top left: Sodium Salts. © Karl Gaff. All rights reserved. Directly above: Ammonium Iron Salts. © Karl Gaff. All rights reserved. p41

© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved.

scicomm photography

In combination with other modules such as samples in. Even the smallest of ponds contains

thermodynamics, astronomy, etc you would see how a fascinating biodiversity of flora and fauna with

all of the information is woven together to give a big which you can observe and document through the

picture of our world. This degree as you can imagine, microscope.

further helped to flourish my curiosity for science and

technology. The Wicklow mountains is just a short drive away

which hosts a nature reserve and is a botanical

Finally, I took an MSc Imaging & Microscopy through haven of wild flowers, fungi, and bryophytes.

which I gained specialist experience in the operation The bark of the trees are cloaked with mosses and

of a wide range of microscopes. At the same time, I lichens waiting to be photographed, not to mention

began funding my own imaging laboratory at home, the ferns, fungi and host of creatures that inhabit

building microscopes and macro imaging setups and the forest floor and the river that meanders beneath

this is where I do all of my photographic explorations the canopy. During the winter-time when I am

that you see on my website and social media. limited for samples, I can work on researching new

chemical recipes and creating beautiful artworks.
How has growing up in Dublin influenced you

and your works? “I began funding my own imaging

Living on the suburbs of Dublin, with one foot in laboratory at home, building

the city and the other in the countryside, there are microscopes and macro imaging

numerous botanical gardens and wild life ponds set ups...”
a short distance away where I enjoy collecting

Above: Cobalt Chloride Vines. © Karl Gaff. All rights reserved.

© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved. p42

scicomm photography Below: Copper Salts. © Karl Gaff. All rights reserved.

© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved. p43

scicomm photography

Tell us about how you do your chemical work, gently heated from beneath. Once the water has

and what this reveals about the process of completely evaporated and a thin film has grown,

crystallization. the sample is mounted on the microscope stage.

The microscope is configured for cross polarised

All substances are made up of molecules. A molecule light. The addition of a wave plate in the optical
path converts phase differences within the light
is a constellation of atoms and they come In many
different sizes and shapes. Atoms may have a positive field into different colours which depend on the
thickness as well as the orientation of the crystal or
charge, a negative charge or they may be neutral.
When linked together into molecules, different regions its molecules at each point. In other words, nature
chooses the colour palette depending on the
of the molecules may possess differing amounts of
charge. So, depending on the size, shape and charge physics and chemistry of the sample and setup.

distribution, molecules can link together to create an There is no artificial colouring applied to any of
infinite array of crystalline patterns. my imagery or digital manipulation. Most of the

To make pictures of chemicals, the chemicals are imagery I make are of mixtures of chemicals. By
dissolved in a solvent, such as water or alcohol. altering the ratios of each compound, it is possible
The solution is smeared onto a glass slide and for nature to come up with wildly different patterns.

Final thoughts Each month, I have printed and framed to a very
high quality, my most favourite works which I
sometimes use to carry out science-art exhibitions.

Karl’s interest in crystallography and photography led him to discover a
whole new world under his microscope. We have seen how Karl’s idea
of altering the ratios of each compound allowed him to create colorful
photographs. Another fascinating discovery is how nature chooses a
specific color palette through a particular crystallization process.

It is exciting to think of the endless possibilities there are to discover
even more natural patterns and forms that waiting to be seen and
captured through Karl’s microscope and camera. Keep up with Karl’s
scientific photography on his website and Instagram account to see
how nature will continue to surprise and astound us.


Karl Gaff is a technical officer in the School of Physics, Clinical & Optometric Sciences at
TU Dublin. In his free time, he is a scientific photographic artist who works from his home
laboratory creating visually stunning photography of flowers, microscopic lifeforms and
photographic artworks of chemicals that he cooks up in his laboratory, chemicals that take on
the appearance of botanical-like patterns.


Instagram: @electron_micronaut
email: [email protected]

© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved. p44

scicomm environmental awareness

Solving water scarcity
with art and science By Heidi Schmelzer

Before the 1930’s, the area surrounding the Rio Grande river on the border of the United States
and Mexico was filled with wetlands and riverside forests. Canals were built along the river to
allow for the division of water between the United States and Mexico. While this system allowed
for sharing of important water resources, it destroyed the surrounding habitat. In the face of
climate change and further drought in the area, communities are looking into how to better
utilize our resources and ensure water availability in the desert environment.

The Center for Environmental Resource Management (CERM) at The University of Texas
at El Paso (UTEP) aims to address environmental health and water resources. One project
includes restoring a small section near the river back to the native wetlands environment it
once had. Somos Agua/ We Are Water is another group that aims to address water scarcity in
the Paso del Norte Region. It uses an interdisciplinary approach combining arts and sciences
to understand connections to the environment, facilitate community engagement, and ensure
all living beings, humans, animals, and plants, have equal access to water in the area. We
speak with two collaborators on these projects about the interdisciplinary approach and the
importance of their work. Sandra Paola López Ramírez is an artist, cultural organizer, and Dr.
Alex Mayer, Professor of Civil Engineering and Director of CERM. Both are located at The
University of Texas at El Paso and collaborate in Somos Agua/ We Are Water.

Above: Somos Agua/We Are Water collaborators S. Paola López Ramírez and Melissa Melpignano performing at the Río Bosque Wetlands Park in April 2022.
Rights are reserved.

© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved. p45

scicomm environmental awareness

Q & A: Paola and Alex

As a community organizer at The University of and radical space committed to making
Texas at El Paso, how do you incorporate your contemporary interdisciplinary art practices
arts and dance experience? [Paola] accessible and relevant in our border
community. The robust support I get from
As a performance activist, I have worked the Rubin allows me to make the work more
to radically integrate my interdisciplinary visible and magnify the impact of each
dancemaking with my community organizing project I develop.
for over a decade. I am passionate about
democratizing the creative process and reigniting Tell us about why the project Somos
the creativity inherent in all human beings. Agua/We Are Water was founded
In my work, the activity of making a dance or and how you merge art and science
performance is the organizing activity. I create collaboratively. [Paola]
culture to organize community and organize
community in the process of culture production— Founded in 2020, Somos Agua/We Are
an activity that a mentor of mine describes as Water brings together an interdisciplinary
cultural organizing. group of scholars, artists and activists at
The University of Texas at El Paso who
In our consumer capitalist society, cultural are interested in finding innovative ways to
expression— our songs, dances, poems, stories— solve water scarcity issues in our region.
have become commodified to such an extent that We all came together from a variety of
most of us have become passive consumers of fields and understandings about water with
culture. I want people to remember that culture is a desire to have a designated research
not something static we are born into, but rather a space that was artist-led. Nurtured by a
complex, dynamic, living thing that we are actively growing collaboration between the Rubin
and continuously co-creating. Using performance Center for the Visual Arts and the Center for
both as an organizing
tool and as the result
of the organizing itself,
enables me to create
spaces where people
can rehearse their
creativity while creating
new ways to relate to
themselves, each other,
and the environment.

In my current position Above: Participants are brought through the park during a community workshop in February 2022. Rights are reserved.
at The University of p46
Texas at El Paso, I
create these cultural
organizing activities
out of my home at the
Rubin Center for the
Visual Arts, a vibrant

© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved.

scicomm environmental awareness

Environmental Resource Management (CERM), planting and protecting native vegetation, and
Somos Agua offers an opportunity for us to providing water to the channel and wetlands.
learn from each other while generating shared The goal is to approximate the rich mosaic of
understandings, having difficult conversations habitats typical of the Río and its floodplain
and creating new ways of moving forward. in pre-colonial days (since around 1600 CE).
Today, much of the native vegetation has
For our work to be truly collaborative, the returned, and the Park is an oasis for wildlife and
how we do this is being constantly recreated people next to the channelized Río, which also
according to the needs and desires of our happens to coincide with the US-Mexico border.
members. For example, a handful of us are The success of the habitat restoration in bringing
working on a multi-year intervention at the Río back birds to the Park is especially remarkable-
Bosque Wetlands Park that aims to reconnect the Park now hosts more than 200 different
people to land and water while we learn about bird species over the year, including close to a
the Río Grande valley environment. We are hundred waterfowl species.
doing this through the activity of creating a
performance together in relationship to our What can be done to better manage our
students and the broader El Paso community. precious water resources and wetlands
Through events at the park, we share our elsewhere in the world? [Alex]
research with the public and each other
creating ways to integrate sensory experience I think we need continued advances in science
with scientific research. After each encounter, and engineering to understand how to manage
we document participants’ experiences our water better. But, I think the big lesson from
with gestures, poems, written reflections, or successful efforts to restore or protect our water
drawings, which are then curated to create the is that it takes hard, sustained, collaborative
content for the performance that will culminate
the first phase of the project.

At CERM, why have you been focusing on
the management of Río Bosque Wetlands
Park? What impact have you had compared
to its condition 100 years ago? [Alex]

Before the channelization of the Río Grande-
Río Bravo in the mid-1930s, a bend in the river
wound through today’s 372-acre Río Bosque
Wetland Park. Instead of being confined to a
straight, concrete channel, as we see today, the
Río used to meander with many complicated
loops and would periodically avulse and migrate
within in its floodplain. Inside the Park is one
of the loops that was cut off when the Río was
channelized. The dream to restore this 2-mile,
remnant section of the Río began in the mid-
1970s, but it took another 20 years to begin
the restoration. CERM, along with our partners,
agreed to manage the restoration activities,
including removal of invasive vegetation,

Right: Metals students sketch textures of the Bosque after a blind sensory
walk through the Park in November 2021. Rights are reserved.

scicomm environmental awareness

political work to convince people and institutions Like elsewhere, our region is not
that it is worth it. We are approaching 50 years homogeneous. Our arts-sciences collaboration
of work for the Río Bosque and can begin to say is finding ways to connect to groups in the
that the dream of restoring the habitat is almost community who may not have interacted with
there. There is yet work to be done into the future the Park in the past, and to strengthen our ties
to continue to restore and protect habitats in the with our partners.
Park, especially as the land around the Park
continues to be developed. I think that the arts can play a very important
role in solving water problems in that the arts
These efforts include carefully maintaining and allow us to imagine what others may think are
growing the network of partners that contribute impossible and to approach problem solving in
to sustaining the Park. Our arts and sciences new, creative ways.
collaboration, Somos Agua/We Are Water, is an
example of how we want to expand engagement Finally, as an individual scientist-engineer, I
with the community. would add that the collaboration is allowing
me to see the human connections with the Río
Final thoughts ecosystem in new ways, which is critical for
advancing my own scientific research.

We have learned that culture and community are important factors
in understanding and assessing environment resources and their
utilization. Combining art and community organization with the science
of ecology and climate change is a fascinating approach to solve water
scarcity in drought-prone and desert areas. It facilitates innovation and
sharing ideas to find creative solutions to complex modern problems.
Involving the community is an important aspect of this program because
this hard work of addressing water scarcity requires much political effort
and sustained engagement.

About the team Find out more

Dr. Alex Mayer is Professor of Civil Engineering and Director of Center for Environmental Resource
the Center for Environmental Resource Management at University Management (CERM):
of Texas at El Paso. Dr. Mayer’s teaching and research focus on
solving water resources problems. Current research topics include Río Bosque Wetland Park: https://
impacts of sea level rise on groundwater aquifers, water accessío-bosque/Río-
in desert cities and underserved populations, and climate change bosque-home.html
impacts on water availability. Sandra Paola López Ramírez artist:
Sandra Paola López Ramírez, MFA, is an interdisciplinary
dancemaker, cultural organizer, and mother. Her work radically Improvisa:
integrates her creative process and her community organizing The Rubin Center for the Visual Arts:
efforts creating small and large scale works that activate public
spaces, non-traditional and formal performance venues, and natural Somos Agua:
landscapes. She is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at The rubin/community-engaged-practices-
University of Texas at El Paso. in-the-arts1/we-are-water.html

© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved. p48

scicomm illustration

Illustrating drought-tolerant
plant’s unique features

Written by Heidi Schmelzer

Left: Actual cross-section through Hakea
meisneriana leaf. Stained with safranin
(picks up lignin in red), and fast green
(picks up cellulose in blue-green). Note
the orange/red tannin in certain cells that
increases drought resistance. Pink ring
surrounds two sunken guard cells that
control water loss from the leaf. Section
here is 500 µm wide. © B. Lamont.
All rights reserved.

Hakea is a plant genus that includes about 150 species p49
native to Australia. They grow as shrubs or small trees
that can reach up to 6 meters tall. Hakeas have leaves
that are flat or circular in cross-section as well as woody
fruits where seeds are held that stay intact until there is
a fire or the plant dies. These features help support the
plants’ tolerance of drought conditions.

We speak with Professor Byron Lamont, Distinguished
Professor Emeritus in Plant Ecology at Curtin University
in Western Australia. He researches how plants such
as Hakea and other Mediterranean flora are adapted to
drought and fire conditions and uses his artistic abilities
to illustrate intricate details that allow these plants to
thrive in harsh conditions.

© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved.

scicomm illustration

Q & A: Byron Lamont

Why do you focus on the Hakea group of

In 1968, I was looking for a botanical topic on which This group was clearly going to satisfy my
to undertake a possible PhD so I toured the Botanic increasing interest in how the Australian flora has
Garden in Perth, Australia, for inspiration. I marvelled adapted to these severe constraints on survival
at its collection of Hakeas with their hard, sculptured over many millions of years. I began my research
leaves, beautiful clusters of flowers and shiny, rounded, on this archetype genus of the Australian bush the
woody fruits that they retain on the plant until they next year. I have now done research on all species
release their winged seeds in response to fire. of Hakea in southwestern Australia with the help
of Dr Philip Groom in the early 1990s who did his
This group of plants, with 102 species in southwestern PhD with me, and published 95 papers that mention
Australia (I have since named a few too), was obviously Hakea, the latest, this year (see Links section).
well adapted to the world’s poorest soils. Here there are
the severe summer droughts of a mediterranean/semi- Together with my work on equivalent species (all
arid climate, moderately frequent intense fires, and birds in the Protea family) in South Africa we contributed
that either pollinate the plants (honeyeaters) or consume 10% of the data to a review in Nature (2004) that
their nutritious seeds (cockatoos). has now been cited over 7000 times.

“the beautiful
symmetry of
their structure
and kaleido-
scope of colors
that are nothing
short of an

© NatureVolve digital magazine. All rights reserved. Left: Paintings of
cross-sections of
needle leaves of
Hakea species.
Each painting is about 1 m
wide for actual leaf
widths of about 2 mm.

Hakea meisneriana,
H. lehmanniana,
H. invaginata.
H. sulcata,
© B. Lamont. All rigths reserved.


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