WTF acronym buster: REDD+ and GCF

about-redd-940x410REDD+ (Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) is nothing new, but how exactly does it help reduce deforestation and green house gas emissions and will it be given a new lease of life through the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

The concept of REDD was extended with a ‘+’ to more specifically focus on the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries

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Science can identify illegally logged timber – so lets start implementing

EPSON MFP imageScience  can  identify the source of timber and verifying legality. So it should be a simple case to apply the science to new international legislation that aims to limit illegally logged timber in global supply chains. Well not quite,  the application of  science requires understanding of the timber industry and supply chain dynamics. A new paper helps identify how science can help eliminate illegal logging.

Artists impression of illegal timber in supply chains. The image plays on the idea of identification by arranging logs into a visual barcode – DNA barcoding is also a method of species identification. A single red log dripping  blood depicts the environmental and societal damage caused by illegal logging and the fingerprints highlight our ability to now identify these types of products in global supply chains (attribution: Little Bones and the Environment Institute) .


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Islands in the sky

hallelujah-mountains-avatar-5849Roof top gardens aren’t just a quasi hipster architect’s dream concept, but really help insulate and cool buildings, capture rainwater and provide locally sourced food. Scientists are now extending their uses  to help conserve endangered plant species.

The Hallelujah Mountains from Avatar – floating islands that circulate slowly in  magnetic currents like icebergs at sea (image from

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What are ecovillages?

A global movement is underway to design and live in ecovillages, but what are they and what can they offer?

The original ecovillage? The hobbit hovels of Hobbiton (image from

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Conserving the fertile crescent

2833666-fertile-valley-ladkh-0The fertile crescent is the birth place of modern agriculture,  where humans changed from shifting nomads to become settled farmers. But in a world where biodiversity is being lost, how do we conserve the future adaptability of crops from this region, and others, to ensure we can keep feeding the world?

The fertile crescent – an area in ancient Mesopotamia (present day southern Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and northern Egypt) of unusually high soil fertility and plant diversity  (image –

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Shifting restoration’s mindset away from the ‘Garden of Eden’

garden of edenThere has been a recent recommendation to set restoration baselines as pre-degradation ecological communities. However this is a nostalgic aspiration, akin to restoring the ‘Garden of Eden’. It is unrealistic, expensive and does not acknowledge ecosystem change. Restoration should respond to the current drivers of biodiversity loss by addressing declines in ecosystem function and provisioning of ecosystem services.

Adam et Ève au Paradis Terrestreby Wenzel Peter, showing wonderful biodiversity but an unrealistic ideal.

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Are you a threat to the Siberian tiger?

tigerYou are probably unintentionally contributing to the future demise of the Siberian tiger. Tiger habitat, predominantly Mongolian oak, is being destroyed by illegal logging. As consumers of oak furniture, which has potentially been illegally sourced from tiger habitat, we are all part of the problem, but we can also be part of the solution. The next time you buy solid oak furniture, ask where it comes from?

The Siberian tiger, at home in the Mongolian oak forests (

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Plant adaptation under a changing climate

plantMany plants, and trees in particular, have been standing where they are today for 100s and even 1000s of years. How have they been able to cope with the changing conditions over such a long time? Will this intrinsic ability to stay put and cope with changing conditions help them survive the rapid and human-induced climate change of today?

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Biodiversity hotspots in South Australia

ResearchBytes_SA-biodiversity-hotspots.jpgSix major biodiversity hotspots have been identified across South Australia, including Western Kangaroo Island, Southern Mount Lofty Ranges, Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands, Southern Flinders Ranges, Southern Eyre Peninsula and the Lower South East. However  each of these areas is also currently under threat from a combination of habitat fragmentation, invasive species, altered fire regimes and climate change.

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New research outputs from the Lowe lab group

Details of recent research outputs from my group at the University of Adelaide can be found on our website:

A couple of ‘ResearchByte’ articles, recently released, detail a review paper on plant adaptation to climate change, published in Conservation Genetics, and a research paper on identifying centres of plant biodiversity in South Australia, published in PLoS ONE, and can be found here.

Also, you may have seen recent media coverage of my group’s involvement in a legal trial in the US, where four men have pleaded guilty to theft and environmental crimes under the Lacey act. My group were involved in providing the genetic fingerprinting evidence that demonstrated that a batch of big leaf maple (Acer macrophyllum), sold to guitar companies, had been illegally logged from a protected stand. Check out more details here.

As well as the website, you can follow my group’s scientific undertakings through our Facebook page

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