Modelling forest growth in a changing environment

On Friday the 5th of December Simon Lloyd, Director of the Royal Forestry Society, gave a talk at the Bangor Forestry Students Association about resilience and new paradigms for British woodlands.

The key message was that accellerated tree diseases, unmanaged pests, climate change, and new economic scenarios are already affecting British forestry, forcing woodland managers to change their management decisions. A shift from traditional even-aged monospecific coniferous plantations was advocated, as well as the idea that natural local broadleaves are a simple panacea for all the problems.

Continuous Forest Cover approaches, use of alternative minor species, accepting to change landscapes were some of the suggestions Simon Lloyd provided. He admitted that there is not enough knowledge about new some of the new approaches and more data must be collected. As an example is silvifuture.org.uk where owners of novel tree species can share their experience.

As a forest modeller, the question I have to ask myself is: how versatile should be a forest model nowadays? Should I prepare one that is able to take into consideration possible climate change scenarios? Or with the option to incorporate easily more species and situations, and to change parameters for the ones already considered? Models based on analysis of the statistical relationships of data collected now might lose validity soon under the drivers of change described by Simon Lloyd.

Postcards from Pripyat, Chernobyl

The following video is now trending on the web, you may have seen it already. Amongst all its the striking features, my first thought was about the new greenery which is now covering the town. So many new trees and plants growing, some clearly in cracks of the concrete and asphalt. It seemed appropriate to post it here, an example of so much regeneration, but not in a forest, not a natural environment.

Post-apocalyptic fictional scenarios sometimes predict a ravaged desert, a wasteland. What if all human beings will disappear instantly? This video should remind us about the power of vegetation and how nature is constantly trying to paint (most of) this Earth in green color.

Spatial search for data

When you are looking for literature and data the most common method is to search in journal databases, library catalogues, Google scholar and so on, using keywords related to your topic of interest. What if you want to search by a particular location? You may use its name as a keyword, but the results will not be very satisfying.

An alternative, discovered thanks to a friend, is in JournalMap, “a scientific literature search engine that empowers you to find relevant research based on location and biophysical attributes combined with traditional keyword searches”. There are already 18,000 georeferenced papers in their database, and everyone can add more. Through this search engine researchers may look for articles more suited to their needs (there is even an option to filter results by site characteristics), or ‘study of studies’ can be carried out. I strongly support the idea, but unfortunately only when a certain critical mass will be reached the website will be really useful. As a comparison, on Google Scholar there are 43,000 results for ‘Sitka spruce’ (my main species of interest) against only 9 on JournalMap (one uploaded by myself!).

journalmap

Results of a search based on “Sitka spruce”

Similar project is Pangaea, an open access library where raw datasets can be searched through keywords or geographical location. I am finding this idea especially useful in forestry, where one of the main limitations for research are the costs, resources and time needed for data collection. If researchers were more willing to share the original datasets after publishing their articles, even if I reckon they were obtained only after hard and expensive work, it would be a great boost for the forestry sciences. So far, there are only 2 main datasets for ‘Sitka spruce’ related researches.

So please support those projects, upload your papers and datasets, and share similar initiatives!

Croeso, if you are a welsh-speaker, or welcome, for everybody else! My name is Simone, a newly enrolled PhD student in Forestry at Bangor University, Wales, UK. My research is focusing on forest regeneration modelling as you can read in this other page with more details. I will use this blog to talk about it, post preliminary results, and ask for help! I hope more people out there will found it interesting or useful. From my part, I am keen to be part of the wider research community and this blog is just one step towards it.

For now, few research-related results. Let’s say that I just started to understand the lay of the land and explore the beautiful surroundings.

Mount Snowdon

On top of Mount Snowdon

Hello, Wales