High-altitude ecology

28 08 2014
A constant hazard in the Tibetan Plateau - yakjam

A constant hazard in the Tibetan Plateau – yakjam

I’ve been out of the social-media loop for a few weeks, hence the abnormally long interval since my last post. As you might recall, I’ve been travelling overseas and most recently blogged from Monterey, California where I was attending a symposium on invasion genetics.

The next phase of my travels couldn’t have been more different.

The reason I couldn’t access the blog was because I was well behind the Great Firewall of China. I was, in fact, in the Tibetan region of Gansu and Sichuan Provinces in western China for most of the last 10 days. While I’ve travelled to China many times before, this was by far the most evocative, interesting and unique experience I’ve ever had in this country. Reflecting on the past 10 days while waiting in Hong Kong for my flight back to Australia, I am still reeling a little from what I saw.

Top bloke: Jiajia Liu of Fudan University

Top bloke: Jiajia Liu of Fudan University

What the hell was I doing at 3500-4000 m elevation on the Tibetan Plateau? Good question. I have been most fortunate to be included in a crack team of Chinese ecologists who have designed and implemented a most impressive set of experiments in plant community ecology. The team, led by Professor Shurong Zhou and Dr. Jiajia Lui of Fudan University, has been working relentlessly to put together some of the sexiest plant ecology experiments going in China.

Having now so far published two papers from the some of the experiments (see here and here), my Chinese colleagues thought it was high time I visited the famous site. Situated at 3500 m in the Tibetan region of Gansu Province in western China, the Lanzhou University research station Azi Shi Yan Zhan is about a 20-hectare area of meadow fenced off from the grazing of the ubiquitous domestic yaks herded by the local Tibetans. If that sounds pretty exotic, let me assure you that it is. Read the rest of this entry »





Seven signs your country has an environmental problem

29 04 2013

1. It’s almost always hazy – and not just in the cities. The particulate matter pollution makes even sunny days appear like it’s about to rain. To add insult to injury, almost every advertisement with anything to do with ‘outside’ pictures a pristinely blue sky and copious sunshine, without the hint of grey. When stepping off the aeroplane, the distinct taste of tar hits the back of your throat.

2. You can’t drink the water from the tap – not anywhere. In fact, you can’t even brush your teeth with it or risk getting some nasty intestinal parasite.

3. You can’t plant trees fast enough because the frequency of landslips kills hundreds of people yearly.

4. While catching a taxi from the airport, the driver plays a continuous loop of birds singing, because most residents never hear those sounds.

5. You have an economy in over-drive, and yet you still think of yourself as ‘developing’.

6. Emerging infectious disease jumping from livestock to humans is now a near-regular occurrence, with new and weird diseases that threaten to become human pandemics and mutating with alarming speed popping up everywhere. Read the rest of this entry »





Who gives a rodent’s bum about conservation?

14 11 2008

I thought this might be an interesting thing to ponder for a Friday – where in the world do people appear most interested in issues to do with biodiversity conservation science?

Impossible Difficult question to answer, but the map of ConservationBytes.com viewers since August might reveal some interesting trends:

© ClustrMaps
© ClustrMaps

The above map shows our viewers’ locations since 19 August 2008 (to 19 November). The salient features are:

  1. Most viewers are from Europe (especially UK) and the USA. Not really a surprise here given the availability of internet, the number of people and average education level.
  2. Australia comes out next as a centre of activity – again, no surprise here given I’m from Australia and I feature many Australian issues.
  3. Almost nothing from China – the most populous country. I originally thought that the Chinese weren’t interested, but I have since discovered that the Great Firewall of China blocks all WordPress blogs (see blogs and posts on this issue). While there are ways around this, it isn’t easy for this vast body of internet surfers to see what I write. My recent trip there highlighted to me how much this country needs to pay attention to the issues raised in ConservationBytes.com (extensive pollution, huge human population and associated demand, GHG emissions, massive livestock industry, demand for oil palm, etc., etc., etc.).
  4. India was a bit of a surprise. Sure, second-highest human population, so a lot of potentially interested people. It also suggests that increasing internet access and a growing middle class are driving greater awareness and concern in conservation issues.
  5. Very little from Africa and South America. Internet access issues, education, awareness?
  6. Canadians – don’t care? They should.
  7. Russia & the Middle East – not sure why nothing much from these areas.

Of course, my little survey based on web hits from one tiny blog isn’t necessarily the most representative tool to gauge these issues, but it does allow me to pose some interesting hypotheses.

CJA Bradshaw

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