Monday, February 3, 2020

February 2020 science journal article summary

Ice crystals on windshield

Greetings,

This month is a mix of topics; some papers came out recently that were too cool for me to wait to review with other similar ones, and I couldn't resist plugging the latest paper I worked on (Hamel et al. 2020). If you know someone who wants to sign up to receive these summaries, they can do so at http://bit.ly/sciencejon

Also, a 12-minute video came out recently about the 2017 March for Science, and I show up in it a few times. It's called "SciComm: Raising Our Voice for Science and Public Policy," it's directed & produced by Larry Kirkman (larry@american.edu) and Shannon Shikles at the Center for Environmental Filmmaking at American University, and you can watch it here: https://vimeo.com/383209723


CLIMATE CHANGE:
Sippel et al. 2020 bucks the pattern where climatologists emphasize how distinct climate and weather are. Past research has shown the impact of climate change on certain weather events, but this paper actually detects the impact of climate change on any given day since late March 2012! By summarizing weather data all over the world, they found that we’ve been clearly outside of natural variability for the past 8 years on a daily basis. On a monthly basis, climate change has been detectable from global weather data since 2001. You can read a newspaper article about the paper at https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2020/01/02/signal-human-caused-climate-change-has-emerged-every-day-weather-study-finds/  I love the description of this paper from meteorologist Maria LaRosa: “[it’s] like looking closely at an impressionist painting –  you can't say what the picture is until you step back and look at the whole”


ECOSYSTEM SERVICES:
Chaplin-Kramer et al. 2019 produced global maps summarizing ecosystem services (sort of) for coastal protection, water quality regulation, and crop pollination, now and in 2050 (under three different scenarios). One twist is that they go beyond the usual definition of ecosystem services (benefits provided by nature and received by people who need them) to also look at the 'benefit gap' where there are people with needs nature is not currently meeting (see Fig 2, bottom row, pink / lavender color). There's a lot to explore here, but one finding is that both SE Asia and Africa are expected to have increasing gaps for all three services. There's plenty of uncertainty, but this is a great set of data to think about trade-offs under different future paths. You can explore their results in a web map at http://viz.naturalcapitalproject.org/ipbes/

Johnson et al. 2019 analyzed where it makes economic sense to protect undeveloped land within 100-year floodplains across the U.S. They compared  expected flood damages (over the next 30-50 years) to land acquisition cost (to prevent development and avoid damages). They found benefits exceeded acquisition cost for about 1/3 of unprotected natural areas, and that the strongest benefits were within the 20-year floodplain but outside of the 5-year floodplain. Compared to the 5-year floodplain, these areas are more likely to get developed even though they flood less often, leading to more potential damages. Figure 3 has a map of the counties with the highest benefit:cost ratio, focused in Appalalachia, Arizona, and a mix of other places. Note that buying undeveloped lands avoids the controversy associated with asking or forcing people already living within floodplains to move.

Brancalion et al. 2019 looks at opportunities to restore lowland tropical rainforests around the world. They evaluate both the benefits (including biodiversity, climate mitigation & adaptation, and water security) and feasibility (land opportunity cost, ecological uncertainty, and chance of forest persistence). Figure 2 shows where there's the most opportunity, both by area (Brazil) and by combined benefit and feasibility (Madagascar, Tropical Andes). Where to focus depends on your goal - the places with the most total benefits are generally less feasible (higher land costs and competition, e.g. areas where habitat loss is recent and ongoing). But Figure 3 shows several examples of countries with restoration commitments who appear to have large areas with relatively high benefits and feasibility.


LANDSCAPE ECOLOGY:
Fahrig 2017 & Fahrig et al. 2019 are challenging but important reviews on the ecological impact of habitat fragmentation at the landscape scale (big areas). Their key findings are that with the amount of habitat loss being equal, fragmentation per se typically (70% of the time) didn't significantly impact biodiversity or ecological function at all. Even stranger, when it did have a significant impact, 3/4 of the time it was positive (even for threatened and rare species)! Section 5 in the 2017 paper summarizes the different explanations that authors of the primary studies provided, from fragmentation boosting functional connectivity (by reducing distance between patches) to edge effects and others. She concludes that in most cases we confound habitat loss with fragmentation, and that most of the time our intuition (that fragmentation per se is bad) is incorrect. She also notes that authors sometimes bury or caveat their findings of positive effects of fragmentation, which is one reason her findings continue to seem so wrong. My key take-aways are: 1) it's very hard (but very important) to examine our biases and deeply held beliefs when reading contrary science, 2) there is a good case made in the 2019 paper that small patches are under-protected, given their importance in many landscapes.

Jones et al. 2019 used GPS collars to track both migratory and resident pronghorn, and to model what features they avoided and which they ignored. They found that pronghorn were very reluctant to cross fences (consistent with under studies - they tend to crawl under rather than jump over), and avoided roads, but mostly ignored oil and gas well pads. There's a lot of other findings in their model, but the one I found most interesting was the concern that if ranches add more fencing to allow rotational grazing, it could have serious negative impacts on pronghorn and  mule deer unless wildlife-friendly fences are used.


RESEARCH IMPACT:
Hamel et al. looks at how scientific information was perceived and used in decision making for a water fund in Brazil. Through interviews, we determined that the hydrological modeling and monitoring data was NOT used in designing and implementing the water fund. But counter-intuitively, having done the analysis using complex models and high-resolution data was seen as important for the water fund to be seen as scientifically credible. So ironically, even though the credible models were not actually used, their existence helped build support for the overall water fund. Despite this, as long as monitoring data was used to calibrate and validate the model, a simpler model (InVEST, as opposed to SWAT) and coarser data resolution (30m, as opposed to 1m) would have met the information needs of the users. We should have had more frank discussions up front with the ultimate users of the information to produce a model seen as credible and actually used, while avoiding over-investment in model complexity that wasn't needed.

Samanta et al. 2019 is a paper about a program in Michigan to improve water quality issues from agriculture via a really well thought out collaboration (w/ scientists, practitioners, universities, farmers, and industry). Lack of public funding has pushed many farmers to rely on private crop advisors, who don't always share conservation opportunities (like cover crops, reduced tillage, and nutrient management) with farmers (especially as tied to programs involving lots of paperwork). They found it was critical to improve active communication & trust at all levels (especially about funding available).  Conservation was constrained by funding, and potentially by the shift of crop advisors to often be less comprehensive and represent a single company. The authors emphasize the need to integrate social science like this from the very beginning of projects.


REFERENCES:
Brancalion, P. H. S., Niamir, A., Broadbent, E., Crouzeilles, R., Barros, F. S. M., Almeyda Zambrano, A. M., … Chazdon, R. L. (2019). Global restoration opportunities in tropical rainforest landscapes. Science Advances, 5(7), eaav3223. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aav3223

Chaplin-Kramer, R., Sharp, R. P., Weil, C., Bennett, E. M., Pascual, U., Arkema, K. K., … Daily, G. C. (2019). Global modeling of nature’s contributions to people. Science, 366(6462), 255–258. https://doi.org/10.1126/SCIENCE.AAW3372

Fahrig, L. (2017). Ecological Responses to Habitat Fragmentation Per Se. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, 48(1), annurev-ecolsys-110316-022612. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-ecolsys-110316-022612

Fahrig, L., Arroyo-Rodríguez, V., Bennett, J. R., Boucher-Lalonde, V., Cazetta, E., Currie, D. J., … Watling, J. I. (2019). Is habitat fragmentation bad for biodiversity? Biological Conservation, 230(October 2018), 179–186. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2018.12.026

Hamel, P., Bremer, L. L., Ponette-González, A. G., Acosta, E., Fisher, J. R. B., Steele, B., … Brauman, K. A. (2020). The value of hydrologic information for watershed management programs: The case of Camboriú, Brazil. Science of The Total Environment, 135871. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.135871

Johnson, K. A., Wing, O. E. J., Bates, P. D., Fargione, J., Kroeger, T., Larson, W. D., … Smith, A. M. (2019). A benefit–cost analysis of floodplain land acquisition for US flood damage reduction. Nature Sustainability. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-019-0437-5

Jones, P. F., Jakes, A. F., Telander, A. C., Sawyer, H., Martin, B. H., & Hebblewhite, M. (2019). Fences reduce habitat for a partially migratory ungulate in the Northern Sagebrush Steppe. Ecosphere, 10(7). https://doi.org/10.1002/ecs2.2782

Samanta, A., Eanes, F. R., Wickerham, B., Fales, M., Bulla, B. R., & Prokopy, L. S. (2019). Communication, Partnerships, and the Role of Social Science: Conservation Delivery in a Brave New World. Society & Natural Resources, 0(0), 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1080/08941920.2019.1695990

Sippel, S., Meinshausen, N., Fischer, E. M., Székely, E., & Knutti, R. (2020). Climate change now detectable from any single day of weather at global scale. Nature Climate Change, 10(1), 35–41. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-019-0666-7

Sincerely,

Jon

p.s. If you'd like to keep track of what I write as well as what I read, I always link to both my informal blog posts and my formal publications (plus these summaries) at http://sciencejon.blogspot.com/

Monday, January 6, 2020

Can science boost credibility even if it isn't used?

Hamel et al. 2020 ("The value of hydrologic information for watershed management programs: The case of Camboriú, Brazil") looked at how scientific information was perceived and used in decision making for a water fund in Brazil (where a water treatment company pays for upstream conservation to reduce the costs of treating the water).

Through interviews, we determined that the hydrological modeling and monitoring data that we provided was NOT used in designing and implementing the water fund. But counter-intuitively, having done the analysis using complex models and high-resolution data was seen as important for the water fund to be seen as scientifically credible.

So ironically, even though the credible models were not actually used, their existence helped build support for the overall water fund. Despite this, as long as monitoring data was used to calibrate and validate the model, a simpler model (InVEST, as opposed to SWAT) and coarser data resolution (30m, as opposed to 1m) would have met the information needs of the users. We should have had more frank discussions up front with the ultimate users of the information to produce a model seen as credible and actually used, while avoiding over-investment in model complexity that wasn't needed.

You can read the full article here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969719358668

Reference:
Hamel, P., Bremer, L. L., Ponette-González, A. G., Acosta, E., Fisher, J. R. B., Steele, B., … Brauman, K. A. (2020). The value of hydrologic information for watershed management programs: The case of Camboriú, Brazil. Science of The Total Environment, 135871. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.135871

Thursday, January 2, 2020

January 2020 science journal article summary: best of 2019

Frozen roots

Happy new year!

I’ve decided once again to kick the new year off by listing my favorite 15 articles that I reviewed last year. I picked them for a mix of importance and being interesting, plus my favorite two publications that I contributed to (Bradford et al. 2019, Fisher & Kareiva 2019). If you know someone who wants to sign up to receive these summaries, they can do so at http://bit.ly/sciencejon

I also have gotten a great response from a webinar I hosted in December on how scientists can improve the impact of their research! If you weren't one of the almost 1,000 registrants, you can watch the webinar here: https://www.openchannels.org/webinars/2019/improving-your-impact-guidelines-doing-science-influences-policy-and-management It's about 23 minutes of presentation followed by lots of Q&A and discussion, and you can also download the full paper the talk is based on from http://bit.ly/strongerscience 

Anderson et al. 2019 argues that while investing in natural climate solutions (aka NCS, e.g. trees) is important to mitigate climate change, cuts to emissions from energy and industry are also urgent and imperative. As they put it, it's not "either/or" but "yes, and." Their key point is that while NCS offer many benefits, delaying emissions reductions from energy and industry by even a few years can add up to more than offset the reductions from NCS. They close by calling for conservationists to ensure that NCS mitigation is optimized, while also amplifying the need to work on complementary solutions to reduce anthropogenic emissions at their source.

Bradford et al. 2019 is an opinion piece on soil carbon. The opening two lines sum it up well: "Soil-based initiatives to mitigate climate change and restore soil fertility both rely on rebuilding soil organic carbon. Controversy about the role soils might play in climate change mitigation is, consequently, undermining actions to restore soils for improved agricultural and environmental outcomes." In other words, while scientists disagree a lot about whether boosting soil carbon is useful for climate mitigation, we all pretty much agree it's important for fertile and productive agricultural lands. Read a bit more at http://sciencejon.blogspot.com/2019/11/soil-carbon-what-is-it-good-for.html  or just read the paper (it's only 1,800 words).

Burivalova et al. 2019 is a literature review of how effective four strategies were in delivering environmental, social, and economic outcomes. They looked at creating protected areas (PAs), forest certification and reduced impact logging (RIL), payment for ecosystem services, and community forest management. The results are varied and complex but Figure 2 summarizes them very well - no strategies always succeed, but all sometimes succeed (and note the caveat that each square is not equivalent). PAs performed well environmentally (after certification & RIL), but very poorly socially and economically. The authors conclude that there are surprising gaps in the literature on monitoring the efficacy of conservation strategies, and that before implementation local evidence should be examined to minimize the chance of failure or even having a strategy backfire.

Catalano et al. 2018 argues that conservation would do well to learn how to deal with failure from other disciplines like medicine, business, and aviation. Specifically, we need to recognize how much we can learn from failure (sometimes more than success), rather than fearing it and avoiding tough measures as a result. They cover how we learn from failure, why it's hard to constructively engage with it, how understanding cognitive biases can help (see Table 1 for a great list to consider), and the role of leaders in supporting efforts to identify and learn from failure. The example of "no rank" military aviation debriefs is interesting - they promote a culture with sharing useful feedack at its core. My main take-away is that dealing with failure is not only key, but it's hard and requires careful thought to do well.

The U.N.'s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) released a summary of a major report in May describing global biodiversity loss and extinctions (Diaz et al. 2019). The short version is "nature is in trouble, and so are we as a result." The most reported estimate is that about 1 million species face extinction (many within decades) unless we act to prevent that. I'd recommend looking at the policy summary and at least reading the bold headlines to get a bit more of the key findings. A few others worth highlighting include: declines in crop and livestock diversity is undermining agricultural resilience, drivers of change in nature (e.g. land use, direct exploitation, climate change, pollution, and invasives) are accelerating, goals like the Aichi Biodiversity Target and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development cannot be met without major transformative changes (changes which are possible, albeit challenging), the parts of the world where declining nature is expected to hit people the hardest tend to be poor and/or indigenous communities, international cooperation to build a more sustainable global economy will be key to solve this problem, addressing the sustainability of food will also be important, and land-based climate solutions (e.g. bioenergy plantations and afforestation) have some tradeoffs. Many of these are obvious; the summaries under each headline often include useful detail, but there's too much to summarize at this level. So skim through and dive into the topics that pique your interest. Download the whole report from https://ipbes.net/global-assessment

My long-overdue book chapter "Using environmental metrics to promote sustainability and resilience in agriculture" (Fisher & Kareiva 2019) came out in "Agricultural Resilience: Perspectives from Ecology and Economics" from Cambridge University Press: https://www.cambridge.org/gb/academic/subjects/life-sciences/ecology-and-conservation/agricultural-resilience-perspectives-ecology-and-economics?format=PB Unfortunately I wrote it when I knew far less about agriculture, but it has some useful content. The section "Food labels and sustainability" is still unique as far as I know in providing a concise (2 page) summary of research around food labels and consumer preferences around sustainability (although there are more comprehensive resources, e.g. "The Green Bundle" by Magali Delmas and David Colgan). The corporate sustainability information is badly dated but a decent primer for folks new to the field. Anyway, you can read my chapter here if interested: http://fish.freeshell.org/publications/FisherKareiva_CUP_2019_preformatted.pdf or buy the book from the link above.

Grill et al. 2019 estimates only about a third of the world's longest rivers (<1,000 km) are freely flowing (defined here with a new metric that means neither dammed, nor significantly impacted by water consumption or infrastructure in riparian areas and floodplains). Those long free rivers are mostly in remote parts of the Amazon, Arctic, and Congo. On the other hand, shorter river reaches are doing better: 56% of long rivers (500-1000km) are freely flowing, rising to 80% and 97% for medium (100-500km) and short (10-100km) rivers respectively. However, since they rely on global dam databases, they caution that they likely overestimate freely flowing rivers due to missing data on small dams. The figures (and table 1) have great details on how well connected each river reach is, what limits connectivity most (96% one of the impacts of dams: fragmentation, flow regulation, and sediment trapping), and connectivity broken down by river length.

Kennedy et al. 2019 calculates how modified by human activities land around the world is. While only 5% of land area was 'unmodified', most of the world was 'moderately modified.' The authors argue that ecoregions with moderate modification may be good candidates for high priority conservation action, because they tend to have some relatively intact lands near to highly modified lands (which thus may pose a threat in the near future). In particular, the tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf forests biome (mostly in Mexico, India, Argentina, & SE Asia) was found to be the most threatened (high conversion relative to protection). While they didn't include all threats (e.g. logging, invasive species, climate change, and more) these data can be used to evaluate the suitability of lands for protection. You can explore the findings and maps at http://gdra-tnc.org/current/ and you can download the data from http://s3.amazonaws.com/DevByDesign-Web/Apps/gHM/index.html

Li et al. 2015 compares the net impact of different kinds of forests on local weather, considering albedo and evapotranspiration. Their key finding is that "tropical forests have a strong cooling effect throughout the year; temperate forests show moderate cooling in summer and moderate warming in winter with net cooling annually; and boreal forests have strong warming in winter and moderate cooling in summer with net warming annually." This means that the net climatic effect (accounting for carbon sequestration as well as local weather) of tropical forests (and to a lesser extent, temperate forests) is stronger than indicated by carbon alone, while for boreal forests the carbon benefit is significantly offset.

Minx et al. 2018 is an overview from a 3-part series on negative emissions (which they define as reforestation, soil carbon, biochar, BECCS, DACCS, enhanced weathering & ocean alkalinization, and ocean fertilization). Table 2 summarizes potential impact and costs from various studies, and Fig 6 has a great visual synthesis of these data. They find afforestation, reforestation, and soil carbon as ready for large-scale deployment (albeit reversible), and all but ocean fertilization as having potential to deliver benefits by 2050. There are lots of other good insights here and it's worth reading.

Two new lidar satellites were launched recently: ICESat-2 launched in Sep 2018 and GEDI in Dec (initial GEDI data should be released in June, ICESat-2 hasn't announced a date yet). While GEDI is more focused on measuring forest canopy height, ICESat-2 is also mapping vegetation (in addition to ice sheets, clouds, land surface, and more). GEDI will focus on middle latitudes, and ICESat-2 on the poles. Having these data available globally will be a big deal, especially for estimating forest carbon. For more on ICESat-2, Neuenschwander and Pitts 2019 has details on one of the planned data products (ATL08) which maps both ground surface and tree canopies. It's a dense paper, but Figures 4 & 8 are useful to get a sense of the output (they used simulated data), and the discussion has several useful details. The raw data is grouped into 100m cells to have enough photons per cell, but another data product (ATL03) maps each photon individually and can be used to investigate patterns within each 100m cell. Note that tree canopy height is consistently underestimated by ATL08.

Soil organic carbon (SOC) is often claimed to improve crop yields.  Oldfield et al. 2019 tests that claim with a global meta-analysis of maize and wheat. They find higher SOC is associated with higher yields, up to ~2% SOC. They then look at the ~2/3 of global maize and wheat lands below 2% to estimate the opportunity to improve yield by boosting those soils to 2% SOC. Globally they estimate that we could produce ~5% more maize and ~10% more wheat, which represents 32% of the global yield gap for maize (largely in the US), and 60% for wheat (largely in China). Check out Figure 4 for global opportunity maps. Note that there is a lot of variance in the data, and it's even possible yields could decline slightly as SOC increases.

Pohl et al. 2017 is a cool but unusual science paper. The authors provide clear instructions in 10 steps for researchers to improve their impact (similar to the concepts in Enquist et al. 2017 but aimed at implementation). Table 1 has a great summary of the process - at a high level they recommend matching research questions to knowledge needed to inform action, thinking about who to involve (e.g. stakeholders) throughout the research process, and reflecting on lessons learned. The authors have walked a variety of researchers through these 10 steps in a single day. Steps 5-9 provide helpful tips on how to identify a body of stakeholders, and figure out how to break them down into who to co-produce knowledge with, who to consult with, and who to simply inform. It seems like a great framework to get scientists started, although it's a bit ironic to have scientists think on their own about how to better incorporate input and perspectives from stakeholders.

Sanchez-Bayo & Wyckhuys 2019 looks across 73 studies of insect decline from cross the world, and look at the drivers and other commonalities. A key limit of the paper is that they excluded any study that did NOT show a chance in abundance or diversity, so its utility is limited to explaining declines where they have happened (see section 4.1) as opposed to quantifying how insect populations are changing overall. The take-away is that habitat loss seems to be the primary driver (~50% of declines), followed by 'pollution' (~26%, mostly pesticides and fertilizer), then disease and invasive species (18%) and climate change (7%). That means a sole focus on pesticides will miss key drivers of the problem. Figure 3 has a breakdown by taxonomic order, highlighting that dung beetles are in real trouble.

Photosynthesis in plants relies on an enzyme called RuBisCO, sometimes called 'the most incompetent enzyme in the world' due to its inefficiency and energy loss during respiration. South et al. 2019 present a new transgenic GMO tobacco plant which improves the efficiency of respiration. As a result, their best modified tobacco plants had 41% higher biomass (including 33% more leaf biomass but also larger stems). It's not clear how much of the biomass gain could be translated to improved yields for grains or other crops, but that's still a potentially huge step forward which should be further explored. Eisenhut & Weber 2019 is a nice very short (1.5 page) summary of the article, and you can also read a blog about it here which includes some nice diagrams: https://phys.org/news/2019-01-scientists-shortcut-photosynthetic-glitch-boost.html


REFERENCES:
Anderson, C. M., DeFries, R. S., Litterman, R., Matson, P. A., Nepstad, D. C., Pacala, S., … Field, C. B. (2019). Natural climate solutions are not enough. Science, 363(6430), 933–934. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aaw2741    

Bradford MA, Carey CJ, Atwood L, Bossio D, Fenichel EP, Gennet S, Fargione J, Fisher JRB, Fuller E, Kane DA, Lehmann J, Oldfield EE, Ordway EM, Rudek J, Sanderman J, Wood SA. 2019. Soil carbon science for policy and practice. Nature Sustainability. http://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-019-0431-y

Burivalova, Z., Allnutt, T., Rademacher, D., Schlemm, A., Wilcove, D. S., & Butler, R. A. (2019). What works in tropical forest conservation, and what does not: Effectiveness of four strategies in terms of environmental, social, and economic outcomes. Conservation Science and Practice, in press(March), 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1111/csp2.28

Catalano AS, Redford K, Margoluis R, Knight AT. 2018. Black swans, cognition, and the power of learning from failure. Conservation Biology 32: 584–596. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/cobi.13045

Díaz, S., Settele, J., Brondízio, E., Ngo, H. T., Guèze, M., Agard, J., … Zayes, C. (2019). Summary for policymakers of the global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services-unedited advance version. Retrieved from https://www.ipbes.net/news/ipbes-global-assessment-summary-policymakers-pdf and https://ipbes.net/global-assessment

Fisher, J.R.B. and Kareiva, P. 2019. Using environmental metrics to promote sustainability and resilience in agriculture. In Gardner et al. (Eds), Agricultural Resilience: Perspectives from Ecology and Economics. Cambridge University Press. https://www.cambridge.org/us/academic/subjects/life-sciences/ecology-and-conservation/agricultural-resilience-perspectives-ecology-and-economics?format=PB

Grill, G., Lehner, B., Thieme, M., Geenen, B., Tickner, D., Antonelli, F., … Zarfl, C. (2019). Mapping the world’s free-flowing rivers. Nature, 569(7755), 215–221. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1111-9

Kennedy, C. M., Oakleaf, J. R., Theobald, D. M., Baruch-Mordo, S., & Kiesecker, J. (2019). Managing the Middle: A Shift in Conservation Priorities based on the Global Human Modification Gradient. Global Change Biology, (June 2018), 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.14549
Li Y, Zhao M, Motesharrei S, Mu Q, Kalnay E, Li S. 2015. Local cooling and warming effects of forests based on satellite observations. Nature Communications 6: 1–8. https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms7603

Minx JC, Lamb WF, Callaghan MW, Fuss S, Hilaire J, Creutzig F, Amann T, Beringer T, De Oliveira Garcia W, Hartmann J, Khanna T, Lenzi D, Luderer G, Nemet GF, Rogelj J, Smith P, Vicente Vicente JL, Wilcox J, Del Mar Zamora Dominguez M. 2018. Negative emissions - Part 1: Research landscape and synthesis. Environmental Research Letters 13. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aabf9b/meta

Neuenschwander, A., & Pitts, K. (2019). The ATL08 land and vegetation product for the ICESat-2 Mission. Remote Sensing of Environment, 221 (April 2018), 247–259. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rse.2018.11.005

Oldfield, E. E., Bradford, M. A., & Wood, S. A. (2019). Global meta-analysis of the relationship between soil organic matter and crop yields. SOIL, 5(1), 15–32. https://doi.org/10.5194/soil-5-15-2019

Pohl, C., Krütli, P., & Stauffacher, M. (2017). Ten reflective steps for rendering research societally relevant. GAIA, 26(1), 43–51. https://doi.org/10.14512/gaia.26.1.10

Sánchez-Bayo, F., & Wyckhuys, K. A. G. (2019). Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers. Biological Conservation, 232(January), 8–27. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2019.01.020

South, P. F., Cavanagh, A. P., Liu, H. W., & Ort, D. R. (2019). Synthetic glycolate metabolism pathways stimulate crop growth and productivity in the field. Science, 363(6422), eaat9077. https://doi.org/10.1126/SCIENCE.AAT9077

Monday, December 2, 2019

December 2019 science journal article summary

Pig in mud at poplar springs 2018 open house
Greetings,

This month I've just got a couple articles each on soil and learning from failure, plus one on social and environmental synergies and trade-offs. If you know someone who wants to sign up to receive these summaries, they can do so at http://bit.ly/sciencejon

Also, as a reminder, I'm hosting a webinar on December 3 (1p EST) with recommendations on how scientists may be able to achieve more real world impact via their research. You can learn more and register here: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_Q78ubqH9TL6tkmLQCRyAsw and read the draft paper the talk is based on at http://bit.ly/strongerscience

SOIL:
Our paper opining on soil carbon (Bradford et al. 2019) is out! The opening two lines sum it up well: "Soil-based initiatives to mitigate climate change and restore soil fertility both rely on rebuilding soil organic carbon. Controversy about the role soils might play in climate change mitigation is, consequently, undermining actions to restore soils for improved agricultural and environmental outcomes." In other words, while scientists disagree a lot about whether boosting soil carbon is useful for climate mitigation, we all pretty much agree it's important for fertile and productive agricultural lands. Read a bit more at http://sciencejon.blogspot.com/2019/11/soil-carbon-what-is-it-good-for.html or just read the paper (it's only 1,800 words).

Lugato et al. 2018 uses daycent to model the net GHG impact of building soil carbon in farms via cover crops, reduced tillage, and keeping crop residues. They found a lot of variation across sites, but that overall reducing tillage and crop residue retention offered modest but long term (>80 years) net GHG benefits without impacting crop yield much. N-fixing cover crops led to stronger C sequestration and net GHG reductions over the first 20 years, but after 40 years it switched to being a GHG source (due to N2O) that strengthened over time (albeit with a small crop yield boost). If fertilization wasn't reduced to account for the new N from the cover crop, it would be a stronger GHG source much sooner. They also didn't model non-N-fixing cover crops like rye.


ORGANIZATIONAL LEARNING / FAILURE:
Catalano et al. 2018 argues that conservation would do well to learn how to deal with failure from other disciplines like medicine, business, and aviation. Specifically, we need to recognize how much we can learn from failure (sometimes more than success), rather than fearing it and avoiding tough measures as a result. They cover how we learn from failure, why it's hard to constructively engage with it, how understanding cognitive biases can help (see Table 1 for a great list to consider), and the role of leaders in supporting efforts to identify and learn from failure. The example of "no rank" military aviation debriefs is interesting - they promote a culture with sharing useful feedack at its core. My main take-away is that dealing with failure is not only key, but it's hard and requires careful thought to do well.

Catalano et al. 2019 is an analysis of 59 peer-reviewed articles discussing reported conservation failure (Table 2 has a great list of synonyms and euphemisms for failure). Most articles did use the term failure, and almost half did so in the abstract. See Table 3 for an interesting typology of causes of failure (including people, action, information, funding, and economic and political) and how common each was, and Table 4 for example text of each kind. Overall they found reporting failure in conservation is rare (~1/4 as often as reporting success), it's typically not framed as useful for learning, and 'people' are the most common cause of failure (e.g. especially stakeholder relationships, but also bad past experiences, fear, etc.). They also call for authors to report failure in a way that makes it easy for others to learn from their mistakes.


PEOPLE AND NATURE:
Gill et al. 2019 looks at 75 studies across 4 kinds of marine conservation work to evaluate social and environmental synergies and tradeoffs (as well as equity). Specifically: marine protected areas (MPAs - representing the majority of studies considered), community-based MPAs, environmental certification, and community-based management (CBM). They found diverse impacts, but with very few rigorous studies designed to show causality. But there was potential for both positive and negative cascading effects depending on access to resources (especially for fishers). Fig 6 has an interesting breakdown of how many studies covered each subtopic, and provides some potential categories of trade-offs to think about.


REFERENCES:
Bradford MA, Carey CJ, Atwood L, Bossio D, Fenichel EP, Gennet S, Fargione J, Fisher JRB, Fuller E, Kane DA, Lehmann J, Oldfield EE, Ordway EM, Rudek J, Sanderman J, Wood SA. 2019. Soil carbon science for policy and practice. Nature Sustainability .

Catalano AS, Redford K, Margoluis R, Knight AT. 2018. Black swans, cognition, and the power of learning from failure. Conservation Biology 32: 584–596.

Catalano AS, Lyons-White J, Mills MM, Knight AT. 2019. Learning from published project failures in conservation. Biological Conservation 238: 108223.

Gill DA, Cheng SH, Glew L, Aigner E, Bennett NJ, Mascia MB. 2019. Social Synergies, Tradeoffs, and Equity in Marine Conservation Impacts. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 44: 347–372.

Lugato E, Leip A, Jones A. 2018. Mitigation potential of soil carbon management overestimated by neglecting N2O emissions. Nature Climate Change 8: 219–223.


Sincerely,

Jon

p.s. If you'd like to keep track of what I write as well as what I read, I always link to both my informal blog posts and my formal publications (plus these summaries) at http://sciencejon.blogspot.com/

Monday, November 11, 2019

Soil carbon - what is it good for?

A while back I was on a soil carbon working group with the Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP). Our recent journal article is about soil carbon and soil health. It’s a good read, and only 1,800 words: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-019-0431-y or https://rdcu.be/bWGfa if you don't have access.

Pondering soil health

The lead author did a phenomenal job getting the text to be clear and succinct, and the opening two lines actually sum it up very well:
"Soil-based initiatives to mitigate climate change and restore soil fertility both rely on rebuilding soil organic carbon. Controversy about the role soils might play in climate change mitigation is, consequently, undermining actions to restore soils for improved agricultural and environmental outcomes."

In other words: scientists disagree about how effective soil carbon is as a climate change mitigation strategy. We disagree a lot - more than you'd expect. Everything from "this is our best bet to start scaling up now" to "building soil carbon will not result in any net climate mitigation." So we argue about it a lot.

But that debate hides the fact that we generally strongly agree that rebuilding soil carbon is good for farmers and ranchers. Most agricultural soils have lost carbon over time. Regaining it can mean less erosion, better water retention, and better crop resilience to stress. With good management it can even mean less fertilizer use and cleaner water. How much carbon is ideal in different landscapes, and how to best increase it, varies. But it's worth remembering how strong the consensus is on the value of building soil carbon from an agricultural perspective.

Read the paper here: Soil carbon science for policy and practice
There's also a press release here: Building A ‘Solution Space’ for Soil

Monday, November 4, 2019

November 2019 Science Journal Article Summary

Spider at Bodie lighthouse
Happy (belated) Halloween!

This month I'm focused on landscape ecology and climate change (yet again), and unfortunately not spiders or other spooky topics. I also have a webinar on research impact to plug, and a new paper out on the adoption of new practices. As always people can sign up for this newsletter at http://bit.ly/sciencejon

Are you a scientist who produces research that you want to have real-world impact? If so, I'll be hosting a session on December 3 (1p EST) with a series of recommendations from a paper that I have in review. You can learn more and register here: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_Q78ubqH9TL6tkmLQCRyAsw and can read the draft paper at http://bit.ly/strongerscience


ORGANIZATIONAL LEARNING / BEHAVIOR CHANGE:
Reddy et al. 2019 (I'm a co-author) looked at the adoption of a new conservation planning framework (Conservation by Design 2.0) being rolled out by The Nature Conservancy. Some staff & teams were early adopters, but it was slow to spread. But people who worked on projects with early adopters from different teams were more likely to use the new practices. Having early adopters work with people from different teams who are slower to change can speed exposure to new ideas and help everyone to learn and adapt. Supervisors should encourage talent-sharing and learning exchanges so this happens more.


LANDSCAPE ECOLOGY:
Sawyer et al. 2019 looks at how which route animals take during migration impacts their survival. Their key finding was that both their choice of destination ("summer range") and how to get there had a big impact on survival. They found 'exterior' routes (near the edge of the migration corridor) had 30% lower survival compared to interior routes. However - look close at Figure 3 (red means high mortality risk, green low, blue medium). It appears to me that their finding may be an artifact of the fact that mortality is driven by specific destinations, and they didn't report this b/c of how they aggregated summer range boundaries. So it's unclear whether the risk comes from where they go or how they get there.

Tucker et al. 2018 uses GPS data from ~800 animals from 57 mammal species around the world (see Fig 1 for locations) to assess how animals move differently depending on how much humans have modified the landscape (e.g. through buildings, farms, lights, transit, etc.). Unsurprisingly they found more modified areas resulted in significantly less animal movement - especially over time periods of a day or more. They also compared species and confirmed that predators and larger animals tended to move farther, as did animals in resource-poor areas. No big shocks here, but an interesting read.

Tambosi et al. 2014 presents a method to identify priority areas that are highly likely to improve the ecological resilience of a landscape. They look for areas with intermediate resilience - meaning they have decent amounts of habitat and connectivity already, and through targeted restoration they could better connect more intact areas. They then apply this method to the Atlantic Forest in Brazil to identify ~15 million ha of priority areas to reforest (they don't report which subset of that is high vs low priority). It's a relatively simply graph theory approach to connectivity.


CLIMATE CHANGE:
Betts 2000 has a point that should be better known. He found boreal forests' ability to mitigate climate change is weak (and may even be negative). Dark needles (present year round) absorb a lot more infrared radiation than typically snow-covered ground. This reduction in albedo (diffuse reflectivity) reduces and in some cases outweighs the carbon sequestration. He compared forest to cropland, but didn't account for N2O emissions from fertilizer.

Li et al. 2015 compares the net impact of different kinds of forests on local weather, considering albedo and evapotranspiration. Their key finding is that "tropical forests have a strong cooling effect throughout the year; temperate forests show moderate cooling in summer and moderate warming in winter with net cooling annually; and boreal forests have strong warming in winter and moderate cooling in summer with net warming annually." This means that the net climatic effect (accounting for carbon sequestration as well as local weather) of tropical forests (and to a lesser extent, temperate forests) is stronger than indicated by carbon alone, while for boreal forests the carbon benefit is significantly offset.

Minx et al. 2018 is an overview from a 3-part series on negative emissions (which they define as reforestation, soil carbon, biochar, BECCS, DACCS, enhanced weathering & ocean alkalinization, and ocean fertilization). Table 2 summarizes potential impact and costs from various studies, and Fig 6 has a great visual synthesis of these data. They find afforestation, reforestation, and soil carbon as ready for large-scale deployment (albeit reversible), and all but ocean fertilization as having potential to deliver benefits by 2050. There are lots of other good insights here and it's worth reading.

Fuss et al. 2018 is a look at costs, potential, & side effects from a 3-part series on negative emissions (which they define as reforestation & afforestation, soil carbon, biochar, BECCS, DACCS, enhanced weathering & ocean alkalinization, and ocean fertilization). It has good details for each negative emissions option, but the most useful part for me was Figure 2, which shows the relative contribution needed from 'conventional abatement' (e.g. reducing fossil fuel emissions via clean energy & efficiency, and reducing land use change) vs 'negative emissions' over time.


REFERENCES:
Betts RA. 2000. Offset of the potential carbon sink from boreal forestation by decreases in surface albedo. Nature 408: 187–190.

Fuss S, Lamb WF, Callaghan MW, Hilaire J, Creutzig F, Amann T, Beringer T, Garcia W de O, Hartmann J, Khanna T, Luderer G, Nemet GF, Rogelj J, Smith P, Vicente JLV, Wilcox J, Dominguez M del MZ, Minx JC. 2018. Negative emissions — Part 2 : Costs , potentials and side effects. Environmental Research Letters 13: 063002.

Li Y, Zhao M, Motesharrei S, Mu Q, Kalnay E, Li S. 2015. Local cooling and warming effects of forests based on satellite observations. Nature Communications 6: 1–8.

Minx JC, Lamb WF, Callaghan MW, Fuss S, Hilaire J, Creutzig F, Amann T, Beringer T, De Oliveira Garcia W, Hartmann J, Khanna T, Lenzi D, Luderer G, Nemet GF, Rogelj J, Smith P, Vicente Vicente JL, Wilcox J, Del Mar Zamora Dominguez M. 2018. Negative emissions - Part 1: Research landscape and synthesis. Environmental Research Letters 13

Reddy SMW, Torphy K, Liu Y, Chen T, Masuda YJ, Fisher JRB, Galey S, Burford K, Frank KA, Montambault JR. 2019. How different forms of social capital created through project team assignments influence employee adoption of sustainability practices. Organization & Environment .

Sawyer H, LeBeau CW, McDonald TL, Xu W, Middleton AD. 2019. All routes are not created equal: An ungulate’s choice of migration route can influence its survival. Journal of Applied Ecology 1–10.

Tambosi LR, Martensen AC, Ribeiro MC, Metzger JP. 2014. A framework to optimize biodiversity restoration efforts based on habitat amount and landscape connectivity. Restoration Ecology 22: 169–177.

Tucker MA, Böhning-Gaese K, Fagan WF, Fryxell JM, Van Moorter B, Alberts SC, Ali AH, Allen AM, Attias N, Avgar T, Bartlam-Brooks H, Bayarbaatar B, Belant JL, Bertassoni A, Beyer D, Bidner L, van Beest FM, Blake S, Blaum N, Bracis C, Brown D, de Bruyn PJN, Cagnacci F, Calabrese JM, Camilo-Alves C, Chamaillé-Jammes S, Chiaradia A, Davidson SC, Dennis T, DeStefano S, Diefenbach D, Douglas-Hamilton I, Fennessy J, Fichtel C, Fiedler W, Fischer C, Fischhoff I, Fleming CH, Ford AT, Fritz SA, Gehr B, Goheen JR, Gurarie E, Hebblewhite M, Heurich M, Hewison AJM, Hof C, Hurme E, Isbell LA, Janssen R, Jeltsch F, Kaczensky P, Kane A, Kappeler PM, Kauffman M, Kays R, Kimuyu D, Koch F, Kranstauber B, LaPoint S, Leimgruber P, Linnell JDC, López-López P, Markham AC, Mattisson J, Medici EP, Mellone U, Merrill E, de Miranda Mourão G, Morato RG, Morellet N, Morrison TA, Díaz-Muñoz SL, Mysterud A, Nandintsetseg D, Nathan R, Niamir A, Odden J, O’Hara RB, Oliveira-Santos LGR, Olson KA, Patterson BD, Cunha de Paula R, Pedrotti L, Reineking B, Rimmler M, Rogers TL, Rolandsen CM, Rosenberry CS, Rubenstein DI, Safi K, Saïd S, Sapir N, Sawyer H, Schmidt NM, Selva N, Sergiel A, Shiilegdamba E, Silva JP, Singh N, Solberg EJ, Spiegel O, Strand O, Sundaresan S, Ullmann W, Voigt U, Wall J, Wattles D, Wikelski M, Wilmers CC, Wilson JW, Wittemyer G, Zięba F, Zwijacz-Kozica T, Mueller T. 2018. Moving in the Anthropocene: Global reductions in terrestrial mammalian movements. Science 359: 466–469.


Sincerely,

Jon

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Paper on what gets people to adopt new practices

I've already mentioned two earlier papers I've published on the adoption of a new conservation planning framework (Conservation by Design 2.0, or CbD 2.0 for short) being rolled out by The Nature Conservancy. Those covered knowledge diffusion and how 'boundary spanners' can increase it. The latest (probably the last) paper from that research is now available here:
https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1086026619880343 

Here's the submitted version of the article (not the nicely formatted one, which you need a subscription for): http://fish.freeshell.org/publications/Reddy2019-BehaviorChange.pdf

This paper is not very accessible to a broad audience, so here's a short summary:
Reddy et al. 2019 looked at the adoption of a new conservation planning framework (Conservation by Design 2.0) being rolled out by The Nature Conservancy. Some staff & teams were early adopters, but it was slow to spread. But people who worked on projects with early adopters from different teams were more likely to use the new practices. Having early adopters work with people from different teams who are slower to change can speed exposure to new ideas and help everyone to learn and adapt. Supervisors should encourage talent-sharing and learning exchanges so this happens more.

That's about it!