SCIENTIFIC METHODS AS THE MODERN DAY'S CRYSTAL BALL? LESSONS FROM PREDICTING THE FUTURE OF FOREST ECOSYSTEMS
To predict the future based on patterns observed in the past is a central theme of science.
However, we have entered an age in which humans are fundamentally changing the ways the earth operates (e.g., through processes such as anthropogenic climate change). This makes anticipating the future a challenging task, as past patterns might no longer apply under future conditions we are facing a no analogue future. Yet, predicting possible future pathways also becomes increasingly important in order to anticipate tipping points and adapt society to substantially altered environmental conditions.
Epitomizing the challenges faced by predictive ecosystem science the talk will focus on forest ecosystems, which are complex (i.e., reductionism is not sufficient to understand their behavior), long-lived (i.e., the current rate of environmental change is outpacing their internal adaptation mechanisms), and a key element of our biosphere (being a biodiversity hotspot and providing invaluable ecosystem services to society). The Jour Fixe will explore methodological issues of prediction in ecology, and how they relate to the crystal ball of the days of yore.
Rupert Seidl holds a PhD in forestry from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) Vienna, where he is currently senior scientist at the Institute of Silviculture. He has recently completed a three-year Marie Curie Research Scholarship in Oregon (USA) and Sweden, working on predictive modeling of forest landscapes ( http://iLand.boku.ac.at). His research focuses on forest ecosystem dynamics with particular consideration of natural disturbances, and the sustainable management of forests under changing climate conditions.
More info: www.wabo.boku.ac.at/seidl.html