Evidence, Causes, and Consequences of a Global Decline in Available Nitrogen
Virtual seminar presented by Dr. Rachel Mason
Abstract: Nitrogen (N) is both necessary for life and potentially harmful to it, so the amount and distribution of reactive forms of nitrogen around the world is an important matter. While N is often viewed as a pollutant (think fertilizer runoff and ocean dead zones), there are reasons to expect that rising atmospheric CO2 and a warming climate will render N less accessible as a nutrient for plants and micro-organisms. In this talk I will summarize the evidence, from sources ranging from pollen chemistry to satellite imaging to spectroscopy of cattle manure, that N is indeed becoming less available in ecosystems to which it is not being added through human activities. N is a vital component of plant proteins, so declining N availability is likely to affect the health of creatures that eat plants. I will outline how lower N availability may contribute to insect population declines and locust swarms, impact the livelihoods of grazing livestock producers, and exacerbate nutritional deficiencies in humans.
Bio: Dr. Rachel Mason is an Assistant Research Scientist at SESYNC. Her research has most recently focused on connections between agriculture and climate change, in both directions. At SESYNC, she is investigating the effects of global change factors on the nitrogen cycle and the likely consequences for insects, animals, and people who depend on plants for protein. Environmental science is a change of field for Dr. Mason. After earning a PhD in astronomy, she spent several years as a scientist at international astronomical observatories before re-orienting her research to address the question of “How can we have good food, happy people and animals, and a healthy environment— preferably all at the same time?”.
Does Ocean Planning Deliver Socio-Ecological Benefits Relevant to the Sustainable Use of Ocean Ecosystems?
Virtual seminar presented by Dr. Rachel Zuercher
Abstract: Over the past two decades, there has been a sustained increase in the development and number of marine spatial plans. Managers and governments have embraced the approach as a way to maintain ecological integrity of marine environments while ensuring continued provisioning of economic, social, and cultural benefits. However, there is limited empirical evidence that plans and associated management measures have effectively achieved stated goals. To address this information gap, we performed an assessment of existing marine spatial plans to better understand the current landscape of planning goals, objectives, and indicators. We then convened a team of experts to develop an evaluative framework, based both on site-specific objectives and global, overarching goals of ocean planning. Our framework is designed to assess progress toward social, ecological, and economic objectives in the context of enabling conditions (critical factors related to planning and ongoing governance processes) and externalities (unexpected events that influence progress toward a goal). It allows for data-driven assessment of plan objectives, identification of conditions under which progress toward goals has been made, and examination of site-specific context. And importantly, it accommodates a diversity of data types and disciplinary priorities. As governments and practitioners continue the development and implementation of marine spatial plans, and as opportunities for adaptive management arise, an understanding of outcomes is essential. Our framework and synthesis of existing plans represent a new and concrete step forward in the difficult task of evaluation, and provide information and tools for scientists and practitioners working to understand ocean planning outcomes.
Bio: Dr. Rachel Zuercher is a Postdoctoral Fellow at SESYNC doing research on social-ecological connections in coastal and marine ecosystems. She is passionate about work that furthers our ability to manage coasts and fisheries sustainably for people, ecosystems, and non-human species. In addition to the work she will discuss in this seminar, her ongoing research focuses on flexibility in the management and operation of small-scale fisheries in California and the development of predictive models of fishing and fish biomass to inform ocean planning. She earned her PhD from the University of California, Santa Cruz in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department.