There are currently two main themes within the Group: Research developing novel methods for monitoring coral colony growth using image analysis, computer modelling with a remote operated vehicle (ROV). This is being used to monitor the effects of climate change, global warming and other anthropogenic influences on coral reef ecosystems. Research in volcanology. Current research embraces two themes (a) investigating volcanic processes, in particular lava flows, to better understand the hazard and (b) consider ways of reducing vulnerability through research into the nature of communities living on the flanks of volcanoes.

Recent Submissions

  • Local understandings of conservation in southeastern Mexico and their implications for community-based conservation as an alternative paradigm

    Reyes-Garcia, Victoria; Ruiz-Mallen, Isabel; Porter-Bolland, Luciana; Garcia-Frapolli, Eduardo; Ellis, Edward A.; Mendez, Maria-Elena; Pritchard, Diana J.; Sanchez-Gonzalez, Maria-Consuelo; Institucio Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avancats; Centro de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas; et al. (Wiley, 2013-08)
    Since the 1990s national and international programs have aimed to legitimize local conservation initiatives that might provide an alternative to the formal systems of state-managed or otherwise externally driven protected areas. We used discourse analysis (130 semistructured interviews with key informants) and descriptive statistics (679 surveys) to compare local perceptions of and experiences with state-driven versus community-driven conservation initiatives. We conducted our research in 6 communities in southeastern Mexico. Formalization of local conservation initiatives did not seem to be based on local knowledge and practices. Although interviewees thought community-based initiatives generated less conflict than statemanaged conservation initiatives, the community-based initiatives conformed to the biodiversity conservation paradigm that emphasizes restricted use of and access to resources. This restrictive approach to community-based conservation in Mexico, promoted through state and international conservation organizations, increased the area of protected land and had local support but was not built on locally relevant and multifunctional landscapes, a model that community-based conservation is assumed to advance.
  • Community based biodiversity monitoring in Mexico: current status, challenges, and future strategies for collaboration with scientists

    Pritchard, Diana J. (Springer, 2013-07-18)
    An array of social and political actors, from international to local levels, increasingly demand monitoring data on biodiversity and ecosystem functions. As elsewhere, prevalent approaches in Mexico emphasize the collection of scientific data regarding biological indicators, by professionals, for conservation planning, global targets, and biological inquiry. These are complicated, expensive, and dependent on external funding. They also fail to engage with communities, many of whom practice traditional forms of monitoring to manage their local environments and livelihoods. Community-based monitoring, an approach involving collaborations between scientists and communities, has the potential to contribute to sustainable forms of resource use management and as a cost-effective method. Efforts could develop once local rights of use and traditional knowledge systems are recognized, access to information is ensured, and a broad array of relevant environmental and social indicators are included.
  • The importance of religion in shaping volcanic risk perception in Italy, with special reference to Vesuvius and Etna

    Chester, David K.; Duncan, Angus M.; Dibben, Christopher J.L.; University of Liverpool; University of Bedfordshire; University of St Andrews (Elsevier, 2008)
    With the exception of societies that are relatively untouched by modernism, the academic consensus holds that since the Eighteenth Century Enlightenment popular perception of divine responsibility for disasters has been progressively replaced by a perspective that views losses as resulting from the effects of extreme natural events upon vulnerable human populations. Nature is considered to be de-moralised. By means of examples of volcanic eruptions that have occurred over the past one hundred and fifty years and which transcend place, culture and faith tradition, the present authors have maintained a contrasting position, by arguing that religious perspectives are still important features of the ways in which people in many societies perceive volcanic eruptions. In the present paper it is argued that religious terms of reference have been and remain vital elements in the perceptions held by a significant proportion of the population in southern Italy when confronted by volcanic eruptions, particularly those that have occurred on Vesuvius and Etna. Within the context of what is termed popular Catholicism, the development of distinctive religious responses in pre-industrial times is first described.
  • Diversity of the rice blast pathogen populations in Ghana and strategies for resistance management

    Nutsugah, S.K.; Twumasi, J.K.; Chipili, J.; Sere, Y.; Sreenivasaprasad, Surapareddy (Asian Network for Scientific Information (ANSINET), 2008)
    The present study describes the outputs of a collaborative research programme funded by the UK`s Department for International Development-Crop Protection Program to investigate the genetic (lineages) and pathogenic (pathotypes) diversity of the blast fungus populations and characterize the key sites suitable for resistance screening. Seventy-one Magnaporthe grisae isolates were collected from seven regions where rice is grown, representing blast populations in Ghana.
  • Agrobacterium-mediated transformation and insertional mutagenesis in colletotrichum acutatum for investigating varied pathogenicity lifestyles

    Talhinhas, Pedro; Muthumeenakshi, S.; Neves-Martins, João; Oliveira, Helena; Sreenivasaprasad, Surapareddy; Technical University of Lisbon; University of Warwick (Humana Press, 2008)
    Colletotrichum acutatum is a cosmopolitan pathogen causing economically important diseases known as anthracnose on a wide range of hosts. This fungus exhibits varied pathogenicity lifestyles and the tools essential to understand the molecular mechanisms are still being developed. The transformation methods currently available for this species for gene discovery and functional analysis involve protoplast transformation and are laborious and inefficient. We have developed a protocol for efficient Agrobacterium tumefaciens-mediated transformation (ATMT) of C. acutatum. Using this protocol we were able to transform C. acutatum isolates belonging to different genetic groups and originating from different hosts. The transformation efficiency was up to 156 transformants per 10(4) conidia, with >70% transformants showing single location/single copy integration of T-DNA. Binary vector pBHt2-GFP was constructed, enabling green fluorescence protein tagging of C. acutatum strains, which will be a useful tool for epidemiology and histopathology studies. The ATMT protocol developed was used to identify putative pathogenicity mutants, suggesting the applicability of this technique for rapid generation of a large panel of insertional mutants of C. acutatum leading to the identification of the genes associated with the varied lifestyles.
  • Coral reef populations in the Caribbean: is there a case for better protection against climate change?

    Crabbe, M. James C.; University of Bedfordshire (Scientific Research Publishing, 2013-06)
    Knowledge of factors that are important in coral reef growth help us to understand how reef ecosystems react following major environmental disturbances due to climate change and other anthropogenic effects. This study shows that despite a range of anthropogenic stressors, corals on the fringing reefs south of Kingston harbour, as well as corals on fringing reefs on the north coast of Jamaica near Discovery Bay can survive and grow. Skewness values for Sidastrea siderea and Porites astreoides were positive (0.85 1.64) for all sites, implying more small colonies than large colonies. Coral growth rates are part of a demographic approach to monitoring coral reef health in times of climate change, and linear extension rates (mm.yr-1) of Acropora palmata branching corals at Dairy Bull, Rio Bueno, and Pear Tree Bottom on the north coast of Jamaica were c. 50 90 mm.year-1 from 2005-2012. The range of small-scale rugosities at the Port Royal cay sites studied was lower than that at the Discovery Bay sites; for example Rio Bueno was 1.05 ± 0.15 and Dairy Bull the most rugose at 2.3 ± 0.16. Diary Bull reef has for several years been the fringing reef with the most coral cover, with a benthic community similar to that of the 1970s. We discuss whether Jamaica can learn from methods used in other Caribbean countries to better protect its coral reefs against climate change. Establishing and maintaining fully-protected marine parks in Jamaica and elsewhere in the Caribbean is one tool to help the future of the fishing industry in developing countries. Developing MPAs as part of an overall climate change policy for a country may be the best way of integrating climate change into MPA planning, management, and evaluation.
  • Environmental regulation of reproductive phase change in Agaricus bisporus by 1-octen-3-ol, temperature and CO2

    Eastwood, Daniel C.; Herman, Bram; Noble, Ralph; Dobrovin-Pennington, Andreja; Sreenivasaprasad, Surapareddy; Burton, Kerry S.; University of Swansea; University of Warwick; East Malling Research; University of Bedfordshire; et al. (Elsevier, 2013)
    Reproductive phase change from vegetative mycelium to the initiation of fruiting in Agaricus bisporus is regulated in large part by the sensing of environmental conditions. A model is proposed in which three separate environmental factors exert control at different stages of the reproductive developmental process change. The eight carbon volatile 1-octen-3-ol controls the early differentiation from vegetative hyphae to multicellular knots; temperature reduction is essential for the later differentiation of primodia; and carbon dioxide level exerts quantitative control on the number of fruiting bodies developed. Analysis of transcriptomic changes during the reproductive phase change was carried out with initiation-specific microarrays, and the newly published A. bisporus genome was used to analyse the promoter regions of differentially regulated genes. Our studies have shown there to be both early and late initiation responses relating to sensing of eight carbon volatiles and temperature respectively. A subset of 45 genes was transcriptionally regulated during the reproductive phase change which exhibited a range of functions including cell structure, nitrogen and carbon metabolism, and sensing and signalling. Three gene clusters linking increased transcription with developmental stage were identified. Analysis of promoter regions revealed cluster-specific conserved motifs indicative of co-ordinated regulation of transcription
  • A framework for assessing threats and benefits to species responding to climate change

    Thomas, Chris D.; Hill, Jane K.; Anderson, Barbara J.; Bailey, Sallie; Beale, Colin M.; Bradbury, Richard B.; Bulman, Caroline R.; Crick, Humphrey Q. P.; Eigenbrod, Felix; Griffiths, Hannah M.; et al. (Wiley Blackwell, 2011-04)
    Current national and international frameworks for assessing threats to species have not been developed in the context of climate change, and are not framed in a way that recognises new opportunities that arise from climate change. The framework presented here separates the threats and benefits of climate change for individual species. Threat is assessed by the level of climate-related decline within a species’ recently occupied (e.g. pre-1970s) historical distribution, based on observed (e.g. repeat census) and/or projected changes (e.g. modelled bioclimate space). Benefits are assessed in terms of observed and/or projected increases outside the recently occupied historical range. Exacerbating factors (e.g. small population size, low dispersal capacity) that might increase levels of threat or limit expansion in response to climate change are taken into consideration within the framework. Protocols are also used to identify levels of confidence (and hence research and/or monitoring needs) in each species’ assessment.
  • Experimentally testing the accuracy of an extinction estimator: Solow's optimal linear estimation model

    Clements, Christopher F.; Worsfold, Nicholas T.; Warren, Philip H.; Collen, Ben; Clark, Nick; Blackburn, Tim M.; Petchey, Owen L.; Butler, Simon; University of Sheffield; University of York; et al. (Wiley Blackwell, 2013)
    Mathematical methods for inferring time to extinction have been widely applied but poorly tested. Optimal linear estimation (also called the 'Weibull' or 'Weibull extreme value' model) infers time to extinction from a temporal distribution of species sightings. Previous studies have suggested optimal linear estimation provides accurate estimates of extinction time for some species; however, an in-depth test of the technique is lacking. The use of data from wild populations to gauge the error associated with estimations is often limited by very approximate estimates of the actual extinction date and poor sighting records. Microcosms provide a system in which the accuracy of estimations can be tested against known extinction dates, whilst incorporating a variety of extinction rates created by changing environmental conditions, species identity and species richness. We present the first use of experimental microcosm data to exhaustively test the accuracy of one sighting-based method of inferring time of extinction under a range of search efforts, search regimes, sighting frequencies and extinction rates. Our results show that the accuracy of optimal linear estimation can be affected by both observer-controlled parameters, such as change in search effort, and inherent features of the system, such as species identity. Whilst optimal linear estimation provides generally accurate and precise estimates, the technique is susceptible to both overestimation and underestimation of extinction date. Microcosm experiments provide a framework within which the accuracy of extinction predictors can be clearly gauged. Variables such as search effort, search regularity and species identity can significantly affect the accuracy of estimates and should be taken into account when testing extinction predictors in the future.
  • A re-evaluation of the role of ex situ conservation in the face of climate change

    Pritchard, Diana J.; Harrop, Stuart R. (Botanic Gardens Conservation International, 2010)
    In situ and ex situ conservation have been established as two distinct approaches to the protection of “wild” biodiversity with ex situ approaches relegated to a subsidiary position. In this article, we explore whether ex situ conservation should still be subordinated in this manner, particularly in view of climate change models which predict the extinction of species and drastic, rapid and chaotic shifts in the distribution of habitats and species across the globe.
  • Bring the captive closer to the wild: redefining the role of ex situ conservation

    Pritchard, Diana J.; Fa, John E.; Oldfield, Sara; Harrop, Stuart R.; University of Sussex; Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust; Imperial College London; Botanical Gardens Conservation International; University of Kent (Wiley Blackwell, 2011)
    In situ conservation is central to contemporary global biodiversity protection and is the predominant emphasis of international regulation and funding strategies. Ex situ approaches, in contrast, have been relegated to a subsidiary role and their direct contributions to conservation have been limited. We draw on a variety of sources to make the case for an enhanced role for ex situ conservation. We note the advances occurring within institutions specializing in ex situ conservation and stress that, although much remains to be done, many constraints are being addressed. We argue that the evidence of increasing extinction rates, exacerbated by climate change, challenges the wisdom of a heavy dependence on in situ strategies and necessitates increased development of ex situ approaches. A number of different techniques that enable species and their habitats to survive should now be explored. These could build on the experience of management systems that have already demonstrated the effective integration of in situ and ex situ techniques and hybrid approaches.
  • A hard instrument goes soft: the implications of the Convention on Biological Diversity's current trajectory

    Harrop, Stuart R.; Pritchard, Diana J. (Elsevier, 2011)
    The relentless loss of biological diversity, which will have a direct impact on human society and degrade ecosystem buffers against the extremes of climate perturbation, requires a strong global governance response. Of the numerous international legal instruments relating to the protection of nature, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is the most comprehensive. This paper examines its current emphasis on global biodiversity targets to extend our understanding of its trajectory, and its evolving nature as an instrument of global governance. We review CBD documents, and early examinations of its emergent character, in the context of the distinction between hard and soft law approaches, and combine analysis on the issue of targets from the literature on development, climate change and conservation biology. We emphasise that the CBD, created as a hard law instrument with a framework character, had the clear facility to develop subsidiary hard law instruments in the form of protocols but has not significantly followed this route.
  • Context-dependent effects of predator removal from experimental microcosm communities

    Worsfold, Nicholas T.; Warren, Philip H.; Petchey, Owen L. (Nordic Ecological Society, 2009)
    The loss of a predator from an ecological community can cause large changes in community structure and ecosystem processes, or have very little consequence for the remaining species and ecosystem. Understanding when and why the loss of a predator causes large changes in community structure and ecosystem processes is critical for understanding the functional consequences of biodiversity loss. We used experimental microbial communities to investigate how the removal of a large generalist predator affected the extinction frequency, population abundance and total biomass of its prey. We removed this predator in the presence or absence of an alternative, more specialist, predator in order to determine whether the specialist predator affected the outcome of the initial species removal. Removal of the large generalist predator altered some species’ populations but many were unaffected and no secondary extinctions were observed. The specialist predator, though rare, altered the response of the prey community to the removal of the large generalist predator. In the absence of the specialist predator, the effects of the removal were only measurable at the level of individual species. However, when the specialist predator was present, the removal of the large generalist predator affected the total biomass of prey species. The results demonstrate that the effect of species loss from high trophic levels may be very context-dependent, as rare species can have disproportionately large effects in food webs.
  • United Arab Emirates: disaster management with regard to rapid onset natural disasters

    Dhanhani, Hamdan Al Ghasyah; Duncan, Angus M.; Chester, David K. (IGI Global, 2010)
    The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has more exposure to natural hazards than has been previously recognized. In the last 20 years the UAE has been subject to earthquakes, landslides, floods and tropical storms. This chapter examines the structure and procedures for management of natural disasters in the UAE, in particular issues of governance, accountability and communication within states that are part of a federal system. The study involved interviews with officials at both federal and emirate levels and case studies are presented of the impact of recent natural hazard events. Two emirates were selected for more detailed examination, Fujairah the most hazard prone and a rural emirate and Dubai which is a highly urbanized emirate which has undergone rapid development. There is now increasing awareness of natural hazards in the UAR and progress is being made at regional and federal levels. There needs to be a clear delineation between regional and federal roles and an understanding of the need for effective channels of information to relevant agencies.
  • Religious interpretations of disaster

    Chester, David K.; Duncan, Angus M.; Sangster, Heather (Routledge, 2011)
  • Challenges for sustainability in cultures where regard for the future may not be present

    Crabbe, M. James C. (ProQuest, 2006)
    A concept of time depends upon both culture and linguistics, and one person’s future may be another person’s present. Temporal and spatial concepts are crucial to sustainability issues and a concept of “the future” may depend upon ethnicity, linguistic background, lifestyle, and life expectancy. Many currently threatened natural systems are in locations where the indigenous people have a linguistic and conceptual background very different from those in the so-called developed countries. One example is the Bajau people who live off the southeast coast of Sulawesi in Indonesia, close to highly endangered coral reefs. How can we connect the “future perspective” mismatch between Austronesian people like the Bajau and conservationists from developed countries who want to protect the reefs for future generations? Many challenges are ahead, not the least being a practical one of providing the right education for the Bajau to show how certain actions – for example, “no-take” fishing zones – can help achieve their aspirations. Perhaps even more important is the moral challenge of reassessing our own assumptions about worthwhile aspirations, about what is good for the Bajau – and similar people – and their rights and roles in determining the outcomes.
  • Climate change and tropical marine agriculture

    Crabbe, M. James C. (Oxford University Press, 2009)
    The coral reef ecosystem forms part of a ‘seascape’ that includes land-based ecosystems such as mangroves and forests, and ideally should form a complete system for conservation and management. Aquaculture, including artisanal fishing for fish and invertebrates, shrimp farming, and seaweed farming, is a major part of the farming and gleaning practices of many tropical communities, particularly on small islands, and depends upon the integrity of the reefs. Climate change is making major impacts on these communities, not least through global warming and high CO2 concentrations. Corals grow within very narrow limits of temperature, provide livelihoods for millions of people in tropical areas, and are under serious threat from a variety of environmental and climate extremes. Corals survive and grow through a symbiotic relationship with photosynthetic algae: zooxanthellae. Such systems apply highly cooperative regulation to minimize the fluctuation of metabolite concentration profiles in the face of transient perturbations. This review will discuss research on how climate influences reef ecosystems, and how science can lead to conservation actions, with benefits for the human populations reliant on the reefs for their survival.
  • Quaternary corals from reefs in the Wakatobi Marine National Park, SE Sulawesi, Indonesia, show similar growth rates to modern corals from the same area

    Crabbe, M. James C.; Wilson, Moyra E.J.; Smith, David J. (John Wiley and Sons, 2006)
    The authors have used digital photography, image analysis and measurements in the field to determine the growth rates of Quaternary corals in the Wakatobi Marine National Park, Indonesia, and compared them to growth rates of similar corals in the same area. In the Quaternary deposits it was possible to measure the growth rates of two massive coral genera Porites and Favites. The study highlights that it is possible to compare coral growth rates, and their influencing parameters, from modern and well-preserved ancient examples.
  • Climate change, global warming and coral reefs: modelling the effects of temperature

    Crabbe, M. James C. (Elsevier, 2008)
    Climate change and global warming have severe consequences for the survival of scleractinian (reef-building) corals and their associated ecosystems. This review summarizes recent literature on the influence of temperature on coral growth, coral bleaching, and modelling the effects of high temperature on corals. Satellite-based sea surface temperature (SST) and coral bleaching information available on the internet is an important tool in monitoring and modelling coral responses to temperature. Within the narrow temperature range for coral growth, corals can respond to rate of temperature change as well as to temperature per se. We need to continue to develop models of how non-steady-state processes such as global warming and climate change will affect coral reefs.
  • Identifying management needs for sustainable coral-reef ecosystems

    Crabbe, M. James C.; Martinez, Edwin; Garcia, Christiana; Chub, Juan; Castro, Leonardo; Guy, Jason (ProQuest, 2009)
    In 2007, it was developed with the aid of the Earthwatch Institute and the Oak Foundation a capacity-building program in southern Belize to address issues of marine reserve management underpinned by science. The first component included group discussions on important issues related to the management of the reserves and review of scientific papers, strategic plans, and action plans. The second component included field research in the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve and the Port Honduras Marine Reserve. The project’s overall objectives and outcomes were to increase the participants’ capacity to lead and educate regarding sustainable development and to promote networking among organizations that manage marine resources, enhancing their collective influence over policy decisions. From that program, the project group developed the concepts and management protocols for coral-reef sustainability elucidated below.

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