University of Cambridge > > Department of Geography - main Departmental seminar series > Measuring landscape resilience: tephra, soil and spatial patterns

Measuring landscape resilience: tephra, soil and spatial patterns

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A key challenge this paper addresses is understanding how and when landscapes are likely to become degraded. The concept of ecological ‘resilience’ and the related idea that there are generic ‘early warning signals’ prior to changes in state have created the possibility that we might be able to quantify the vulnerability of systems to change. This paper highlights the possibilities for both using both tephra layers (layers of volcanic ash) and the analysis of spatial patterns of erosion as approaches to understanding the resilience of landscapes, past and present. When tephra falls onto vegetated surface its thickness reflects aspects of the vegetation structure at the time. These variations in tephra thickness preserve information that can be used to assess the resilience of the land surface at the time of the eruption. This approach could be used to assess land surface resilience in the past. Using UAV imagery we can quickly and easily capture high-resolution images from currently eroding landscapes. These images are used to generate metrics such as patch-size distributions, which can be used to assess present landscape resilience. This paper will review these approaches and report on findings from fieldwork in the sub-arctic landscapes of Iceland.

This talk is part of the Department of Geography - main Departmental seminar series series.

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