Peter will present, “Taking Nature’s Pulse on a Changing Planet: What have we learned and what do we do next?”
Here is the abstract for his talk:
“Understanding and stewarding nature is our collective challenge. How many tree species are there on Earth, how many will go extinct in the next 50 years, and why does it matter? Will ecosystems continue to sequester carbon and slow climate change? Can traits simplify the complexity of ecology enough that we can make predictable sense of it? Even harder is understanding why we (human society) act against our own self-interests in our relationship with nature and learning how to turn those actions into win-win scenarios for people and the planet. And what are the roles and responsibilities we face as students, teachers, scientists and citizens in this age of the Anthropocene?
“Raising such questions is easier than answering them. In my talk I will both get down in the weeds about some things we have learned about nature and zoom out to focus on why that may be immaterial — and how we can and must work to make sure it is not immaterial.
“Figuring out how diverse ecosystems will respond to multi-factorial global change (climate change, land use, biodiversity loss, etc.) is difficult – due to uncertainty about generality of behavior and scaling among taxa, ecosystems, and biomes; weak understanding of complex interactions; and a limited toolbox with which to examine these knowledge gaps. To help address these issues I engage in studies at scales from leaf to globe and on topics from biodiversity to biogeochemistry. This work ranges from identification of global trait-tradeoff and metabolic response functions; to ecosystem-scale experiments with factors such as CO2, temperature, rainfall, fire and biodiversity; to cross-continental observations and earth system modeling. Using examples from diverse ecosystems – including boreal forest, temperate grassland, and tropical savanna – I will show how framing research around fundamental hypotheses about complex issues can help uncover both predictable general patterns and unexpected surprises. That is the easy part of my talk. I will then also ask how we as scientists can make a difference– i.e. make positive change in the world. I will need your help in answering that one.”
The SEFS Seminar Series is made possible with support from the Corkery Family Environmental and Forest Sciences Director’s Endowed Chair fund.