Science Diary: Climate Change - Complexity: The Pulse of the Planet daily radio program offers free legal online mp3 downloads, exploring the world of sound in nature, culture and science, with audio adventures, world music, extraordinary sound portraits, science diaries, and nature ring-tones; an amazing sonic experience.

Airdate: May 03, 2012
Scientist: Steve Williams

Science Diary: Climate Change - Complexity

Science Diary: Climate Change - Complexity
Unraveling an ecosystem to discover the effects of climate change is challenging work for Science Diarist Steve Williams.

Science Diary: Climate Change - Complexity

Music; Ambiance: Gathering leaf litter, setting insect traps,

“We’re setting up a Malaise trap, which is a trap for catching flying insects, especially things like flies and wasps and moths.”

We’re in a rainforest in North Queensland, Australia, where a team of volunteers is setting up insect traps and gathering leaf litter. It’s all part of a project to monitor the effects of climate change on the region. Welcome to Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. According to field biologist Steve Williams, the data gathered by this team is just one small piece of a large puzzle.

“A tropical rainforest is inherently an extremely complex system to try to understand. Once you try to understand how climate change will affect it, it becomes very, very challenging to say the least. Because we’re not trying to understand just individual species, we’re trying to understand everything from the processes how nutrients flow through the system, how water is trapped by the rainforest canopy out of the clouds, how productive the system is, how temperature will affect each animal. And then of course, to add another whole layer of complexity, is how do all these things interact. Because they’re not all doing these things in isolation. What affects the insects in the leaf litter will affect the birds that eat those insects in the leaf litter. Anything that affects the insects in the leaf litter, affects how that leaf litter is decomposed and breaks down, which affects the nutrients going into the system, which affects the trees that grow using those nutrients, which affects the insects that eat those leaves up in the canopy, which affects the birds that eat those insects in the canopy. Basically everything is interrelated.”

“We’ll start doing the leaf litter. So remember, twelve of them.”

Our thanks to Earthwatch. For more information on Steve Williams’ work, take an audio adventure with him on Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.