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LSM 2251

Lecture 13 Global Ecology

Summary of Lecture 12:


1. A landscape is a heterogeneous area consisting of distinct patches 2. Patches or landscape elements are distinct, relatively homogenous areas. 3. Usually applied at the human scale, although the scale of the organism(s) of interest may be more appropriate. 4. Landscapes can be described by the types, sizes, shapes, numbers and positions of the patches. 5. Patchiness can arise from the physical environment or the action of landscape engineers, but most studied examples are a result of human impacts. 6. The most connected landscape element is the matrix. 7. Understanding and managing landscapes often involves consideration of connectivity.

A regional scale is particularly appropriate for looking at problems like carbon emissions and the extinction of species.

A regional scale is particularly appropriate for looking at problems like carbon emissions and the extinction of species. But this region is connected to all the others on Earth.

This is a new perspective, first seen by human eyes in the 1960s

Reading:
Molles - Chapter 23 Smith & Smith - Chapter 29 [For more detail on plate tectonics, climate and sea-level changes, and human impacts in SE Asia see The Ecology of Tropical East Asia, Chapter 1.] Definitions: Biosphere - the global sum of all ecosystems. Wikipedia - the thin layer about Earth in which all living organisms exist. Smith & Smith - the sum of living organisms

Gaia hypothesis - the idea that the biosphere functions like a [or is a] single living organism, maintaining the physical conditions on the planet within the narrow range suitable for life.
i.e. the Earth + biosphere forms a self-regulating system

No real scientific evidence, but it is nice idea!

James Lovelock, The originator of the Gaia Hypothesis

How are species, communities, ecosystems and landscapes connected at the global scale? 1. They share the same planetary history. 2. They share one atmosphere. 3. The share one ocean. 4. They are connected by the movements of people 5. .. and other organisms.

How are species, communities, ecosystems and landscapes connected at the global scale? 1. They share the same planetary history. This includes gradual changes over millions to billions of years plate tectonics oscillations in the Earths orbit Global catastrophes extraterrestrial impacts rare but devastating supervolcanoes more common

Different arrangements of continents have a huge influence on global climate, sea-level, biotic connectivity etc.

Our region has been assembled like a giant jigsaw puzzle over 400 million years.

Indonesia has more active volcanoes than any other country in the world as a result of the continued collision with the Australia-India plate. The Sunda megathrust.

Mt Merapi in Java last year.

The same process was responsible for the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami

and the one off Sumatra on October 25th

temperature

The gradual cooling of the Earths climate over the last 70 million years has been largely as a result of changes in the concentration of greenhouse gases and in the arrangement of continents.

Robert A.Rohde/Global Warming Art

On a shorter time scale: regular oscillations in the Earths orbit result in changes in the amount and distribution of solar radiation reaching the Earths surface. This in turn was the main driver of the ice ages over the last 2 million years.

Global temperature

3 types of wobbles in the Earths orbit, caused by gravitational interactions with the other planets The influence on solar radiation at 65oN in summer.

The influence on global temperature

Global temperature

65 m years ago, the impact of a 10-km diameter asteroid killed every animal on Earth bigger than a cat (+ numerous smaller, aquatic and plant species)

800,000 years ago, a low-angle impact in northern SE Asia from a comet or asteroid, probably > 1 km diameter, sprayed tektites (glass) from Australia to China. The regional and global impact is unclear and no impact crater has been found yet!

The Toba supereruption in Sumatra 74,000 years ago probably the biggest eruption in 2 million years may have cooled the Earth by as much as 10oC, although this is disputed.

1. They share the same planetary history. 2. They share one atmosphere, so: natural global atmosphere-ocean interactions such as ENSO drive much of local interannual variation in climate unnatural long-lived atmospheric pollutants, such as CO2, CH4, N2O, and chlorofluorocarbons are mixed globally, resulting in: destruction of the ozone layer the greenhouse effect and global climate change

ENSO index above the line, El Nio, below La Nia El Nio-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) a fluctuation between unusually warm (El Nio) and unusually cold (La Nia) sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean in association with changes in the atmospheric pressure pattern (the Southern Oscillation) related to the strength of Pacific trade winds.

ENSO index above the line, El Nio, below La Nia El Nio-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) a fluctuation between unusually warm (El Nio) and unusually cold (La Nia) sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean in association with changes in the atmospheric pressure pattern (the Southern Oscillation) related to the strength of Pacific trade winds.

Western Pacific warm pool

In an El Nio year, sea surface temperatures are warmer than usual in the eastern and central Pacific. [i.e., the western Pacific warm pool shifts east] In a La Nia year, sea surface temperatures are cooler than usual in the eastern and central Pacific.

Sea-surface temperatures during El Nino and normal conditions

Sea-surface temperatures last week (from the NOAA web site), i.e., the eastern Pacific is still cooler than usual.

Fires in Sumatra & Borneo cause haze in Singapore

The ENSO cycle is responsible for much of the interannual variation in the Earths climate, and thus in ecosystems, e.g. Strong El Nios bring droughts to much of SE Asia, resulting in mass flowering in rainforests across the region + forest fires and resulting haze in Singapore. El Nios reduce nutrient-rich upwelling off the west coast of South America, reducing marine productivity and causing a failure of the sardine fishery, deaths and failure to reproduce in seabirds and fur seals, etc. El Nios in South Australia result in droughts that reduce red kangaroo populations.

Strong La Nias bring floods to eastern Australia and parts of SE Asia

Some atmospheric pollutants (e.g. particulates) have only a local or regional impact, but long-lived pollutants accumulate in the atmosphere and have a global impact.

[This shows actual instrumental measurements in Hawaii]

[This graph extends the record back from gas bubbles in polar ice]

Fossil fuels are the major source of CO2 emissions, but c. 15% of the global total comes from land-use changes particularly deforestation making Indonesia the worlds third largest source of CO2 emissions, after China and the USA.

Trends in the major greenhouse gases (from NOAA website)

carbon dioxide

methane
nitrous oxide
CFC12

Greenhouse gas greenhouse impacts (from the NOAA website): the total impact has increased by 30% in your life-time!

This shows the dramatic rise in Chinas carbon emissions over the last 30 years and the increasing importance of India.

China

Europe USA

Emissions per person is a fairer way of comparing countries. Singapore would be red on this map, although the Government disputes this, arguing that it is unfair to include shipping and oil refining. But if every country excludes major parts of its economy, then every country has low emissions!

But China, and particularly India, still have low emissions per person. Singapores per capita emissions are 10-15 million metric tons of CO2, if shipping is excluded.

But different sources give different numbers. If all Singapores emissions are included, with no exceptions, then per capita emissions may be as high as 27.9 tons, which is higher than the USA or any country in Europe.

[Singapore]

Greenhouse Effect

Temperature projections for SE Asia (including Singapore) over the next century. From IPCC 2007.

The most recent 2100 projection from the UKs Hadley Centre. Singapores NCCS is assuming 2.7 4.2oC higher than today.

Latest predictions from the UKs Hadley Centre for a business as usual GHG scenario are +5-6oC for Singapore!

International agreements to control ozone-destroying CFCs worked. Can we do the same for greenhouse gases?

Trends in the major greenhouse gases (from NOAA website)

1. They share the same planetary history. 2. They share one atmosphere. 3. They share one ocean, so:

sea-level changes ENSO and other atmosphere-ocean interactions

global marine pollution


ocean acidification

global overfishing in international waters

Sea-levels over the last 300,000 years relative to the present day, caused by fluctuations in the amount of water in ice sheets (in turn caused by the orbital oscillations mentioned above).

Land exposed by sea-levels 60 and 120 m below present. Global sea-level was at -120 m, 20,000 years ago.

Predicted sea-level rises over the next century as a result of global warming range from: 60 cm, if you only consider thermal expansion of the seawater < 2 m if you allow for the (observed) melting of the icecaps

[to 25 metres if you look at the last time the planet was that warm, in the early Pliocene, 4-5 million years ago!]

Ocean acidification: one of the scariest things we are doing to our planet! This shows the change over the last c. 200 years.

Ocean acidification: 1. Mean pH has already dropped by nearly 0.1 units as a result of rising atmospheric CO2. This is a log scale, so this equates to a 25% increase in acidity. 2. Even if we manage to control CO2 emissions, pH will decline by another 0.3-0.5 units by 2100. 3. This will directly impact all organisms with calcium carbonate skeletons: corals, molluscs, echinoderms, many types of plankton + it is likely to have other effects. The precise impacts are still being debated. See the Wikipedia article for an up-to-date summary of the problem.

Global overfishing, particularly for predatory fishes, such as sharks and tuna, is changing the entire global marine ecosystem.

Fishing down the food web, from Wikipedia. This shows (from left to right) the impact of progressively severe overfishing.

1. They share the same planetary history. 2. They share one atmosphere. 3. The share one ocean. 4. They are connected by the movements of people the initial human expansion out of Africa prehistoric and historic human migrations

modern human movements

The green area is that occupied by Homo erectus, 1-2 million years ago, while the red shows the spread of Homo sapiens.

The first arrival of modern humans resulted in extinctions of vulnerable large vertebrates (megafauna) in Europe, Australia, North and South America. [From Barnosky (2004) in Science]

Possible routes by which modern humans spread through the region 50-40,000 years ago. Sea-levels were 60-120 m below now.

Some large species became extinct and others, such as orangutans and giant pandas, became much more restricted in their distributions.

Population growth in tropical East Asia over the last 10,000 years. After the initial impact of the first human arrivals on a nave megafauna, human impacts were relatively mild in most areas until the 19th and, particularly, 20th centuries.

Clidemia hirta, from South America, is an invasive species at BTNR and on Kent Ridge.

Wherever people have travelled, they have deliberately or accidentally transported other organisms, leading to invasive species problems and increasing homogenization of global biota.

Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker Yellow-vented Bulbul Brahminy Kite Javan Myna Swiftlet Pacific Swallow Spotted Dove Black-naped Oriole Rock Pigeon Common Tailorbird Collared Kingfisher Cattle Egret Olive-backed Sunbird Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

Of the 33 bird species seen at NUS by LSM3251 students, 9 were introduced alien species, including 5 of the top 14 species, and the most abundant single species in Singapore, the Javan myna (Summary from Luan Keng)

Alien species now dominate in all non-forest habitats in Singapore.

In the 1980s, the native green crested lizard (left) was replaced in open habitats by the alien changeable lizard (right)

My FYP student, Cedric Tan, found the alien Yellow Crazy Ant in all habitats in Singapore, including primary rainforest at MacRitchie.

Teh Hong Ying Lee Gang

Recently, two undergraduate project students, Lee Gang and Teh Hong Ying, found the invasive African bigheaded ant, Pheidole megacephala, in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

Molles gives human impacts on the global nitrogen cycle as an additional example of how we are transforming our planet. We now fix more N than all natural processes together. Nitrogen deposition from human activities: 1960 and 2000 (from the Ecosystems lecture)

Bobbink et al. 2010

The sum of all human impacts will be global climate change and a massive loss of global biodiversity over the next century.

My generation messed up the planet (with a lot of help from our parents). You need to do a better job.

Summary of Lecture 12:


Before human impacts: 1. Global processes had major impacts on local ecology on multiple timescales. 2. Most interannual variation in climate and ecosystem processes results from global atmosphere-ocean interactions, such as ENSO, which cannot be understood locally. 3. Climatic fluctuations on timescales of 1000s to 100,000s of years are dominated by the influence of oscillations in the Earths orbit on the amount and distribution of solar radiation. These in turn influence global sea-levels through changes in ice volume. 4. On even longer timescales, plate tectonics becomes the dominant influence + extraterrestrial impacts etc.

Summary of Lecture 12:


After human impacts: 1. Global processes have bigger and more rapid impacts on local ecology. 2. Rising levels of greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4, N20 etc.) are causing global climate change, sea-level rise, and (for CO2) ocean acidification. 3. Other global pollutants include the ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons, which are now being controlled. 4. The spread of modern humans over the Earths surface resulted in immediate extinctions of vulnerable megafauna and, as human populations expanded, threats to numerous smaller species. In the sea, overfishing has drastically changed global marine ecosystems. 5. Introductions of alien species are an additional threat.

Think globally

Act locally

Environmental Biology Specialization: Level 3000 LSM3252 Evolution and Comparative Genomics LSM3253 Plant Physiology LSM3254 Ecology of Aquatic Environments LSM3255 Ecology of Terrestrial Environments LSM3256 Tropical Horticulture LSM3261 Life Form and Function LSM3262 Environmental Animal Physiology LSM3271 Global Change Biology Level 4000 LSM4253 Behavioural Biology LSM4254 Principles of Taxonomy and Systematics LSM4261 Marine Biology LSM4262 Tropical Conservation Biology LSM4263 Field Studies in Biodiversity LSM4264 Freshwater Biology LSM4265 Urban Ecology