Symposium highlights landscape, ecosystem interaction

09/22/05

Extreme events, such as floods, landslides, erosion will be discussed

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Extreme natural phenomena like hurricanes, floods, landslides and wildfires wreak complex environmental effects that are magnified by short-term and long-term changes in the geomorphology, physical landscapes, with the ecosystems, the flora and fauna, that they sustain.

Effective mitigation of these drastic effects through integrated environmental management that includes the perspectives of geomorphologists and ecosystem scientists is the focus of the interdisciplinary 36th International Geomorphology Binghamton Symposium to be held Oct. 7-9 at the University at Buffalo.

The annual interdisciplinary symposium brings together researchers to investigate complex environmental processes in landscapes. This year, geographers, earth scientists and environmental engineers who study the physical landscape will interact with biologists and ecologists who study ecosystem processes.

Understanding of the fundamental concepts and behavior of landscapes and ecosystems is crucial to studying and managing effectively all kinds of extreme events, said Chris Renschler, Ph.D., assistant professor of geography at UB and conference committee chair.

He noted that if an infrequent extreme event, such as a hurricane or a forest fire, changes the landscape and ecosystem processes, and then a more frequent, low-magnitude event, such as a rainstorm or a small flood, turns into a disaster, that is evidence that we are not fully understanding and effectively managing our environment.

"Spending resources to monitor, investigate and appropriately manage environmental systems upfront is typically a fraction of what it costs to respond and restore the system following a disaster," Renschler said.

"What we hope will emerge from this conference is information that environmental managers can use to build effective monitoring and management systems for ecosystems, that take into account the understanding of natural processes and combined effects on the landscape," he said.

"Society needs this knowledge and an ability to deal with, for example, soil erosion, algae blooms, floods, invasive species, wildfires and landslides," he said. "This meeting creates a platform to exchange ideas and learn about the latest research in this emerging, interdisciplinary field of integrated environmental management."

Speakers will discuss the analysis, protection and restoration of various ecosystems. Research findings will be presented on a wide range of ecosystems and landscapes, including restoration of streams and river ecosystems, the reconstruction of pre-human contact vegetation patterns, the impact of aeolian dust on soil nutrients and how variations in soil nutrients affect agriculture.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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