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Noon seminar - Using rapid-inventory techniques in hydrology and biogeochemistry to preserve Amazon

Monday, April 15, 2013, 12:00PM - 1:00PM


Bob Stallard



ARC 620

Full title: Using rapid-inventory techniques in hydrology and biogeochemistry to preserve Amazon rain forest

Abstract: Land-cover, geomorphology and climate interact to regulate the movement of water through soils. Water-soil interactions influence weathering and erosion rates, which in turn, affect the composition and dispersal of solutes and sediments in rivers and trace gases in the atmosphere. Over the past several decades, I have used intensive watershed sampling and monitoring of natural and human-altered landscapes in the Amazon, Orinoco, Mississippi, and Panama Canal Basins and eastern Puerto Rico to explore these linkages in great detail. However, in the waning twilight of wilderness on our planet, I am also interested in describing how wildlands function in a minimally impacted state. These landscapes do not easily loan themselves to high-intensity, long-duration monitoring programs.  As such, for the last 14 years I have been working on using knowledge gained from intensely studied watersheds to develop techniques for the rapid assessment of hydrologic and biogeochemical conditions in remote, pristine ecosystems.

My focus has been tropical, and for the last eight years I have applied these techniques in conjunction with the ECCo (Environment, Culture, and Conservation) Program of the Chicago Field Museum to rapidly inventory and assess remote landscapes in the Peruvian Amazon. The purpose of the inventories is to promote conservation and in this they have been remarkably successful; in the six inventories with which I have been directly involved, 35,128 km2 of rainforest has been protected, almost 4 times the area of Yellowstone National Park. The objective is to apply rigorous biological, social, and now earth science to understand landscapes and translate this knowledge so that it is accessible to non-scientists, including members of indigenous tribes,  with whom we are working, local conservationists, and government policy makers. In this seminar, I will describe the science behind developing a simplified field approach for hydrologic and biogeochemical watershed assessment and its application to an inventory during October-November of 2012 in a remote landscape on the Peruvian side of the middle Putumayo River.

Bio: Robert Stallard studies how land-cover and climate change affect water movement through soils, weathering, and erosion, and how these, in turn, affect the composition and dispersal of dissolved and solid phases in rivers and trace gases in the atmosphere. He has studied natural and human-altered landscapes, in the Americas, Southeast Asia, and Africa, including most of the Amazon, Orinoco, Mississippi and Panama Canal Basins. His areas of expertise include surface-water hydrology, major element and nutrient biogeochemistry, soil formation and sediment genesis, vegetation-landscape interaction, carbon-cycle characterization on land and in the ocean, and assessment of land-use change.  He has the a BS in Earth and Planetary Sciences, MIT and a PhD in Chemical Oceanography, MIT-Woods Hole.


Free and open to the public