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Posts from the ‘Human ecology’ Category

Where does land use matter most? – new paper in Sci. Tot. Env.

The lab is active in Tanzania in an inter university collaboration with the Nelson Mandela Institute for Science and Technology in Arusha. In one of the first papers of this project, Grite Nelson shows that studies of river quality and integrity should cautiously infer the influence of surrounding land use activities. Water quality and biota responded to land use at differentn scales.  What is more, the spatial buffers used to calculate land use had a strong impact on the detected land use effects. The work stresses the need to standardize approaches to investigate effects of land use on different aspects of river quality.

The paper is out in the journal Science of the Total Environment

Workshop: Uncoupling a meaningful life from the destruction of nature

Workshop picture

In a joint VUB Global Minds project between VUB and the University of the Free State, South Africa, we generated course material that can be used to organize workshops for university students (both in developing and in developed nations) to tackle the important question of whether it is possible to lead a meaningful life without destroying nature.  Participants fill out standardized scientific questionnaires that test:

1. Meaning in life (how meaningful do you find your life?)

2. Ecocentricity (how is your life connected to nature?)

3. Ecological footprint (to what extent does your life style impact nature?)

By correlating the scores of participants on these different tests our aim is to raise awareness to what extent these life traits are correlated. What is more, if applied to a large number of participants from different backgrounds and cultures it can also allow to generate more generic insights in how these concepts are connected globally. A first work shop took place at VUB on December 4th.

 The supporting electronic course material can be downloaded  here

and here

Below are some photos from the event 

New paper: human settlement patterns

In a collaboration with the department of archeology at KU Leuven (Ralf Vandam and Eva Kaptijn) we used an ecological perspective and a statistical framework developed in community ecology, to investigate the drivers of human settlement patterns in a valley in Turkey over a time period of 8000 years. Not unsurprisingly typical ecological concepts such as sorting along environmental gradients, spatial autocorrelation and dispersal limitation can also be detected in the structure of early human settlements. It was cool to see that what started out as a fun discussion among friends in a bar (one biologist, one archeologist) now resulted in a proper paper. It was a difficult choice where to submit. Archeology journals have notoriously low impact factors and take a VERY long time to process reviews. On the other hand most ecological journals would not take this type of data. In the end we opted for the open access provided by PlosOne and hope the paper will find an audience. At the time I also conveniently had some remaining bench fee left to spend on publication costs.

In any case, I had a lot of fun playing around with distributions of a species that (often) makes rational decisions and we might try more interdisciplinary stuff in the future.

graph Fig 1 website full

The study area: the Burdur plain in central Anatolia with examples of different human artifacts corresponding to different time periods.


site scores rda1

Maps of fitted site scores of the first canonical axis of RDA models explaining the abundance of archeological artefacts. Predictor variables are the significant Moran’s eigenvector maps retained after forward selection. A red color indicates high values, blue areas are
indicative of low values. Separate maps are provided for RDA models for each of the six considered time periods. NEO_ECH: Late Neolithic/Early Chalcolithic (6500–5500 BC); LCH_EBI: Late Chalcolithic/Early Bronze Age I (4000–2600 BC); EBII: Early Bronze Age II (2600–2300 BC); A-CH: Archaic-Classical/Hellenistic (750–200 BC). HELL: Hellenistic (333–25 BC); BYZ: Byzantine (610–1300 BC).

Vandam et al. 2013 PloS One