Archive for the ‘Science we read’ Category


WWF France released the report “Ancient Forests in the Northern Mediterranean: Neglected High Conservation Value Areas”, by Mansourian, S., Rossi, M. and Vallauri, D.

The report is available to download here:

Mediterranean forests is an ecoregion characterized as priority for conservation for several reasons. This report approaches the so-called “ancient forests”, a category of forest ecosystems that are partially covered by existing legislation and protection status, but not yet documented and described as such. There is a definition for “ancient forest” in the report:

“a general, relatively loose term to signify those forests that exhibit a number of fundamental forest ecological qualities, including ancientness but also complex structures, presence of deadwood, diversity of species and habitats, evidence of disturbance etc.”

Worth reading!



A UNEP publication.

Publication Date: October 2012

CBO – Action and Policy provides the summary of a global assessment of the links between urbanization, biodiversity, and ecosystem services. Drawing on contributions from more than 120 scientists and policy-makers from around the world, it summarizes how urbanization affects biodiversity and ecosystem services and presents 10 key messages for strengthening conservation and sustainable use of natural resources in an urban context.

Filetype: pdf
Filesize: 9.05 MB

A very interesting article on angiosperm evolution and phylogenetic trees. A great weekend lecture to read…

Smith, S.A., Beaulieu, J.M., Stamatakis, A. & Donoghue, M.J. 2011. Understanding angiosperm diversification using small and large phylogenetic trees. American Journal of Botany 98: 404–14. doi: 10.3732/ajb.1000481.

Genetic variation controls predation: Benefits of being a mosaic.

A genetically mosaic Eucalyptus tree is able to control which leaves are saved from predation because of alterations in its genes, finds an study published in BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Plant Biology. Between two leaves of the same tree there can be many genetic differences — this study found ten SNP, including ones in genes that regulate terpene production, which influence whether or not a leaf is edible.


In 1936, leading statistician R. Fisher published a paper where he proves that Mendel’s results (the ones founding genetics as a science) were too good to be true. He – more or less – expressed the suspicion that the Mendel famous pea data were cooked. This has started a controversy that is still active today. Pires & Branco (2011) put an end to this debate. So was Mendel a crook? Read to find out!

A Statistical Model to Explain the MeImagendel–Fisher Controversy

Ana M. Pires, João A. Branco

(Submitted on 15 Apr 2011)

Published in at this http URL the Statistical Science (this http URL) by the Institute of Mathematical Statistics (this http URL).

Pdf available at:

To 1936 o R. Fisher δημοσίευσε μια δευτερογενή ανάλυση των στοιχείων του Mendel υποδεικνύοντας ξεκάθαρα ότι ο ιδρυτής της Γενετικής μαγείρεψε τα στοιχεία του. Αυτή η διαμάχη κρατά μέχρι και σήμερα. Στην εργασία που μπορείτε να κατεβάσετε από τον παραπάνω σύνδεσμο, δίνεται μια οριστική λύση στη διαμάχη. Ήταν λοιπόν λαμόγιο ο Μέντελ; Διαβάστε να μάθετε!

by Víctor Hugo Cambrón-Sandoval, Nahum M. Sánchez-Vargas, Cuauhtémoc Sáenz-Romero, J. Jesús Vargas-Hernández, María Luisa España-Boquera, Yvonne Herrerías-Diego,

New Forests, March 2013, Volume 44, Issue 2, pp 219-232


Pinus pseudostrobus Lindl. is a widely distributed species in Mexico that also occurs in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and has been tested outside its natural range in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, New Zealand, South Africa and Venezuela. Due to its great potential, it is necessary to select genotypes capable of increasing its production in the shortest possible time through genetic improvement strategies, where individuals are subjected to conditions forcing them to express their growth potential in advance. The objectives of the present study were to evaluate the genetic variation among half-sib progenies and to estimate heritability (h 2 ) of stem height (SH) and diameter (SD) for seedlings grown under different competitive conditions in a common garden trial. A split-plot experimental design with four replications and three competitive environments (treatments) was used: (I) low inter-family competition (0.25 × 0.12 m), (II) high inter-family competition (0.12 × 0.06 m), and (III) high intra-family competition; 13 half-sib families were assessed, carrying out monthly evaluations for 10 months. Estimated h 2 at individual and family-means levels for both SH and SD varied among competitive environments. For conditions I and II, a trend towards increasing h 2 with age of seedlings was shown, but for condition III, a reverse trend was observed (values close to zero). High genetic stability in SH performance was found in both I and II, and II and III, pairs of environments, as measured by the type-B genetic correlation (0.70 ≤ r B  ≤ 1.0), but it tended to decrease after 9 months, when competition increased; genetic stability in SD was lower (0.20 ≤ r B  ≤ 0.80) in both pairs of the environments that were sampled. It was concluded that the competition conditions used in field trials for genotype evaluation may significantly affect the variance components, estimation of genetic parameters and genotype stability.

Download and read the latest edition of Unasylva!

4 January 2013

This edition of Unasylva comes in the wake of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, which, among other things, produced a document called The Future We Want. In it, world leaders renewed their commitment to sustainable development and recognized the enormous capacity of forests to address many of the most pressing sustainable development challenges. The articles in this edition of Unasylva suggest that awareness of the role of forests, and a willingness to pay for that role, will grow in coming decades; forests are too culturally, ecologically, economically and socially important to be neglected for much longer. Their move into the mainstream of development policy will do the world a power of good.

by Roberto Bacilieri, Thierry Lacombe, Loïc Le Cunff, Manuel Di Vecchi-Staraz, Valérie Laucou, Blaise Genna, Jean-Pierre Péros, Patrice This and Jean-Michel Boursiquot

BMC Plant Biology 2013, 13:25 doi:10.1186/1471-2229-13-25, Published: 8 February 2013

“This study provides evidence that the cultivated compartment of Vitis vinifera L. is genetically structured. Genetic relatedness of cultivars has been shaped mostly by human uses, in combination with a geographical effect. The finding of a large portion of admixed genotypes may be the trace of both large human-mediated exchanges between grape-growing regions throughout history and recent breeding.”

Woody plant performance in a changing environment

Plant Biology Journal published recently a special issue with some interesting topics about European oaks (Quercus spp.).

This book presents a number of articles about climate change that can be used to teach English as a foreign language using the relevant scientific terminology. Besides the obvious goal of this edition to provide a tool for learning proper English, this book includes interesting articles about climate change at the political and social level. A must read!

English through Climate Change. A Publication of the Department of Forestry and Management of the Environment and Natural Resources, Democritus University of Thrace
Editors: Walter Leal Filho and Evangelos Manolas

Click to access english_through_climate_change.pdf


The Challenge of Climate Change: Walter Leal Filho and Evangelos Manolas
Psychology and Climate Change: Christian A. Klöckner, Silke Leismann and Sunita Prugsamatz
Climate Change and Marine Ecosystems: Konstantinos Kougias
Knowledge and Awareness about Climate Change around the World and its Impacts on Natural and Human Systems: Dieter Gross
Integrated Assessment of Climate Policy Instruments: Stelios Grafakos, Vlasis Oikonomou, Dimitrios Zevgolis and Alexandros Flamos
Climate Change and Wood Production Strategies: Abiodun Oluwafemi Oluwadare.
Climate Change Adaptation: Geoff O’Brien
Adaptation is not enough: Why Insurers Need Climate Change Mitigation: Liam Phelan, Susan Harwood, Ann Henderson-Sellers and Ros Taplin
The Experience of Cap-and-Trade Programs: Julien Chevallier
An Overview of the Climate Refugees’ Issues and Scenario: Maria Sakellari and Constantina Skanavis
Addressing the Impacts of Climate Change in a Caribbean Small Island Developing State: Franziska Mannke
Adaptation and Governance in Transboundary Water Management: Jos G. Timmerman
Climate Change: A Challenge for Ethics: Evangelos Protopapadakis

An international terminology for grazing lands and grazing animals has been published in Grass and Forage Science, the official journal of the European Grassland Federation (EGF).

You can access this terminology in the following link:

A USDA study for USA with relevance for all forests of the planet.

Vose, James M.; Peterson, David L.; Patel-Weynand, Toral, eds. 2012. Effects of climatic variability and change on forest ecosystems: a comprehensive science synthesis for the U.S. forest sector. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-870. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 265 p.


“By the end of the 21st century, forest ecosystems in the United States will differ from those of today as a result of changing climate. Although increases in temperature, changes in precipitation, higher atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), and higher nitrogen (N) deposition may change ecosystem structure and function, the most rapidly visible and most significant short-term effects on forest ecosystems will be caused by altered disturbance regimes. For example, wildfires, insect infestations, pulses of erosion and flooding, and drought-induced tree mortality are all expected to increase during the 21st century. These direct and indirect climate-change effects are likely to cause losses of ecosystem services in some areas, but may also improve and expand ecosystem services in others. Some areas may be particularly vulnerable because current infrastructure and resource production are based on past climate and steady-state conditions. The ability of communities with resource-based economies to adapt to climate change is linked to their direct exposure to these changes, as well as to the social and institutional structures present in each environment. Human communities that have diverse economies and are resilient to change today will also be prepared for future climatic stresses. Significant progress has been made in developing scientific principles.”

Several people believe that climate change will benefit forest production and forestry in general in countries where the climate is cold. This study proves that the anticipated increase in soil productivity will be counter-balanced by the disruption of natural cycles and the outbreak of disease and forest fires. Climate change will not bring profits to anyone!

A very interesting blog publication by the Molecular Ecologist



A Technical Report for the Global Biodiversity Outlook 3 / CBD Technical Series No. 50 / 2010
Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity


Citation: Leadley, P., Pereira, H.M., Alkemade, R., Fernandez-Manjarrés, J.F., Proença, V., Scharlemann, J.P.W., Walpole, M.J. (2010) Biodiversity Scenarios: Projections of 21st century change in biodiversity and associated ecosystem services. Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Montreal. Technical Series no. 50, 132 pages.


“This synthesis focuses on estimates of biodiversity change as projected for the 21st century by models or extrapolations based on experiments and observed trends. The term “biodiversity” is used in a broad sense as it is defined in the Convention on Biological Diversity to mean the abundance and distributions of and interactions between genotypes, species, communities, ecosystems and biomes. This synthesis pays particular attention to the interactions between biodiversity and ecosystem services and to critical “tipping points” that could lead to large, rapid and potentially irreversible changes. Comparisons between models are used to estimate the range of projections and to identify sources of uncertainty. Experiments and observed trends are used to check the plausibility of these projections. In addition we have identified possible actions at the local, national and international levels that can be taken to conserve biodiversity. We have called on a wide range of scientists to participate in this synthesis, with the objective to provide decision makers with messages that reflect the consensus of the scientific community and that will aid in the development of policy and management strategies that are ambitious, forward looking and proactive”.

Main Conclusions:
(a) “Projections of global change impacts on biodiversity show continuing and, in many cases, accelerating species extinctions, loss of natural habitat, and changes in the distribution and abundance of species and biomes over the 21st century”.
(b) “Thresholds, amplifying feedbacks and time-lag effects leading to “tipping points” are widespread and make the impacts of global change on biodiversity hard to predict, difficult to control once they begin, and slow and expensive to reverse once they have occurred”.
(c) “For many important cases the degradation of ecosystem services goes hand-in-hand with species extinctions, declining species abundance, or widespread shifts in species and biome distributions. However, conservation of biodiversity and of some ecosystem services, especially provisioning services, are often at odds”.
(d) “Strong action at international, national and local levels to mitigate drivers of biodiversity change and to develop adaptive management strategies could significantly reduce or reverse undesirable and dangerous biodiversity transformations if urgently, comprehensively and appropriately applied”.

ImageThe location and the nature of glacial refugia, as well as their influence on the genetic diversity of plant species and biodiversity in general, is the main focus of my research during the last 10 years. In this blog, I will upload a series of articles on glacial refugia, in order to stimulate an exchange of views and ideas.

The article of Médail and Diadema of 2009, Glacial refugia influence plant diversity patterns in the Mediterranean Basin, J. Biogeography, 36 (7): 1333–1345, is a very interesting review on the issue. This is so, especially due to the comparison of phylogeographical refugia and regional hotspots, using the outcome of several previous studies on several species. The outcome of their study (as described in the abstract) is that “the locations of refugia are determined by complex historical and environmental factors, the cumulative effects of which need to be considered because they have occurred since the Tertiary, rather than solely during the last glacial period”. This means that postglacial movement has occurred several times for different directions in the past. “Refugia represent climatically stable areas. They constitute a high conservation priority as key areas for the long-term persistence of species and genetic diversity, especially given the threat posed by the extensive environmental change processes operating in the Mediterranean region”. 

The article can be found in J.Biogeography’s website: It can be also downloaded here:

The Macroecology of Sustainability

The discipline of sustainability science has emerged in response to concerns of natural and social scientists, policymakers, and lay people about whether the Earth can continue to support human population growth and economic prosperity. Yet, sustainability science has developed largely independently from and with little reference to key ecological principles that govern life on Earth. A macroecological perspective highlights three principles that should be integral to sustainability science: 1) physical conservation laws govern the flows of energy and materials between human systems and the environment, 2) smaller systems are connected by these flows to larger systems in which they are embedded, and 3) global constraints ultimately limit flows at smaller scales. Over the past few decades, decreasing per capita rates of consumption of petroleum, phosphate, agricultural land, fresh water, fish, and wood indicate that the growing human population has surpassed the capacity of the Earth to supply enough of these essential resources to sustain even the current population and level of socioeconomic development.

Citation: Burger JR, Allen CD, Brown JH, Burnside WR, Davidson AD, et al. (2012) The Macroecology of Sustainability. PLoS Biol 10(6): e1001345. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001345

journal.pgen.1003234.g003Read in PLOS Genetics

Coring a tree_Dan GriffinPromitheus tree, the oldest individual on earth

After a nearly 5,000-year vigil upon a Nevada mountaintop, an ancient tree now finds its home in the UA Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research. A member of the long-lived Bristlecone pine species, the tree called Prometheus is the oldest individual ever known to have lived. Its age was not accurately known until a few years ago.

Worth reading!;jsessionid=F81C55108620D03450CF936CF5EF8C08