Environmental Science Seminar with Prof. emer. Roland Brandl


 Environmental Science Seminar

Functional traits mediate the response of animal communities to environmental challenges

 Prof. emer. Roland Brandl
 Animal Ecology, Phillips-University Marburg, Hesse, Germany

Location: Chuo University, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Building 2, Room 2901


The biosphere shows distinct spatial patterns linked to environmental factors. In the case of plants, these patterns become visible e.g. as forests or grasslands. Plant communities with similar morphological appearance can be taxonomically very different, and botanists have developed concepts such as plant life-forms to obtain generally applicable tools for analysing such different groups. In zoology, the use of functional traits to predict the response of species to environmental factors also has a long history (e.g. ecogeographic rules), and the use of traits to predict community processes has recently developed into a hot topic in the face of global change. 

Body size is often utilized as a key trait that influences community composition across spatial and temporal scales in both ecto- and endothermic organisms: In endotherms, mean body size of communities decreases with increasing environmental temperature. In ectotherms, the direction of the response is less clear. Some taxonomic groups show a positive response (e.g. dragonflies), others a negative response (e.g. spiders). Body size is also used to standardize other traits correlated with body size (e.g. brain size). Recently, colour lightness has been recognized as a trait that influences the response of ectotherms to climatic characteristics: dark-coloured species dominate communities of high latitudes. This leads to the prediction that climate warming should allow light-coloured species to expand their northern range limits while the southern range limits of dark-coloured species may move northwards.  An explicit test of this prediction remains to be carried out, but discussions of potential consequences of such shifts for agriculture, forestry and ecosystem management should be started now.


Paper on the relationship between ecosystem services and the abandonment of agricultural land in Japan is out 🙂 -> https://www.mdpi.com/2073-445X/10/10/1031


Hotspots of Agricultural Ecosystem Services and Farmland Biodiversity Overlap with Areas at Risk of Land Abandonment in Japan

Read here: https://www.mdpi.com/2073-445X/10/10/1031


Agriculture provides a wide range of ecosystem services and has the potential to contribute to biodiversity conservation. In Japan, many of the resources associated with agroecosystems are threatened by farmland abandonment. Identifying where and to what extent agricultural ecosystem services and farmland biodiversity are affected by farmland abandonment is essential for developing effective strategies to counter the potential loss of these services and the biological communities that support them. Our study aimed to examine how a set of indicators for ecosystem services and biodiversity linked to agroecosystems (proportions of land dedicated to rice production and other agricultural production, proportion of agricultural land on slopes potentially providing landscape aesthetics, proportion of villages promoting rural tourism, and densities of forest edges and irrigation ponds in agricultural land) are distributed at the municipal level across the Japanese Archipelago, and to analyze their spatial patterns in relation to the distribution of farmland abandonment. It was hypothesized that hotspots of agricultural ecosystem services and farmland biodiversity occur in areas at risk of farmland abandonment owing to shared drivers. The cluster analysis identified four distinct ecosystem service bundle types, two of them representing areas specializing in agricultural production, while the other two provided high levels of cultural services and habitats for diverse biological communities. The latter two bundles were located in hilly and mountainous areas and accounted for 58% of rice production, 27% of other agricultural production, 77% of landscape aesthetics, 77% of rural tourism, 64% of forest edges, and 87% of irrigation ponds in Japan. In support of the hypothesis, farmland abandonment was pronounced in these areas, with 64% of recently abandoned fields located where 44% of agricultural land was found. This spatial overlap suggests that substantial losses of ecosystem services and biodiversity may occur if current patterns of farmland abandonment continue. In order to prevent large-scale losses of agricultural ecosystem services and farmland biodiversity, measures to counteract the ongoing abandonment trends should prioritize hilly and mountainous areas, and future studies should further evaluate the multiple functions of agricultural areas to improve policies that aim to ensure sustainable development of rural areas in Japan


The contribution of insects to global forest deadwood decomposition


Read here: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-03740-8


The amount of carbon stored in deadwood is equivalent to about 8 per cent of the global forest carbon stocks. The decomposition of deadwood is largely governed by climate with decomposer groups—such as microorganisms and insects—contributing to variations in the decomposition rates. At the global scale, the contribution of insects to the decomposition of deadwood and carbon release remains poorly understood. Here we present a field experiment of wood decomposition across 55 forest sites and 6 continents. We find that the deadwood decomposition rates increase with temperature, and the strongest temperature effect is found at high precipitation levels. Precipitation affects the decomposition rates negatively at low temperatures and positively at high temperatures. As a net effect—including the direct consumption by insects and indirect effects through interactions with microorganisms—insects accelerate the decomposition in tropical forests (3.9% median mass loss per year). In temperate and boreal forests, we find weak positive and negative effects with a median mass loss of 0.9 per cent and −0.1 per cent per year, respectively. Furthermore, we apply the experimentally derived decomposition function to a global map of deadwood carbon synthesized from empirical and remote-sensing data, obtaining an estimate of 10.9 ± 3.2 petagram of carbon per year released from deadwood globally, with 93 per cent originating from tropical forests. Globally, the net effect of insects may account for 29 per cent of the carbon flux from deadwood, which suggests a functional importance of insects in the decomposition of deadwood and the carbon cycle.


 The graduation ceremony for the class of 2020 was held today at the Korakuen Campus of Chuo University. Congratulations everybody!

 (don't worry - we put the masks back on immediately after taking the photo)


New Water Distillation Apparatus

Prof. Hotes with the Applied Landscape Ecology Lab's newly installed water distillation apparatus. The water is being used to mimic rainwater in a sphagnum moss experiment. Many thanks to Chiyoda Science and Chuo University support staff with their assistance in this project!

Prof. Hotes with the Applied Landscape Ecology Lab's newly installed water distillation apparatus. The water is being...

Posted by Stefan Hotes' Applied Landscape Ecology Lab on Wednesday, 24 February 2021


New Publication: The Aesthetics of Sustainability

Munroe Hotes, Catherine and Stefan Hotes. 
 マンロー ホーテス ・キャサリン とホーテス ・シュテファン 
The aesthetics of sustainability: Japanese landscapes examined from viewpoints of cultural studies 
In the special issue: 
 Perspectives from around the world as inspiration for landscape and regional planning 
Journal of the Japanese Institute of Landscape Architecture. 
84.4 (Jan 2021),340-345. 


Effects of projected climate change on the distribution of Mantis religiosa suggest expansion followed by contraction


Read Here:  https://we.copernicus.org/articles/20/107/2020/


Climate change influences the global and regional distribution of many species. For thermophilic insects, range expansions towards the north and to higher elevations are expected in the course of climatic warming across the Northern Hemisphere. The distribution of the European mantis (Mantis religiosa) has recently expanded from Mediterranean regions in France to Hesse in central Germany. This is interpreted as a response to rising mean temperatures, and further northward expansion is expected to occur with increasing climate warming. In this study, potential changes in the regional distribution across Hesse were modeled for Mantis religiosa using the present distribution and climate across Europe as the baseline. We estimated potential changes in the regional distribution for two time periods until 2080 based on two climate change scenarios. The results showed that the current range of M. religiosa in Hesse is smaller than expected based on its climatic niche, i.e., the distribution is not in equilibrium with the present climate. With climate warming the model predicts an expansion of the potential distribution for the period 2041–2060. For the period 2061–2080, our model predicts, however, a range contraction in spite of continued warming. This unexpected result warrants further investigation in order to elucidate whether the ongoing climate change may have negative consequences for thermophilic species such as M. religiosa. 

Steger, J., Schneider, A., Brandl, R., and Hotes, S.: Effects of projected climate change on the distribution of Mantis religiosa suggest expansion followed by contraction, Web Ecol., 20, 107–115, https://doi.org/10.5194/we-20-107-2020, 2020.