HAB, Series of plotter prints on paper, 2018
Ochroma, continuous plotter print on paper, 2018
The planet is changing. Human activity imposed, for the first time, a new geological era into the planet’s history. Population growth, climate change and biological mass extinction are altering, both visibly and invisibly, earth’s landscape, leading to a new age of rapid selective adaptation. This means the end of the line for certain organism, but also new possibilities for others species: native species, non-native species, hybrid species, invasive species, niche species and eventually new species. We in turn keep reacting to these changes through the same processes we always used: control and erase. We do it in the hope to preserve some of the known biodiversity, and rightfully so, as all these changes represent unmeasurable losses to our planet. Nevertheless, we keep doing it from a position of power. But this age of environmental stress could induce the opportunity for another type of change: a fundamental change in our position towards the natural world. It could simultaneously allow and force us to reform our idea of nature, creating a new type of relationship. One where we no longer perceive nature as a property or resource, but rather as a living entity, with its own rights, needs and desires to evolve. An entity that does not belong to us, but to whom we belong. A new symbiotic relationship through which the human and the natural world can evolve together, thrive and survive.
Harmful Algae Bloom
Harmful algal blooms, or HABs, occur when colonies of algae—simple photosynthetic organisms that live in the sea and freshwater—grow out of control while producing toxic or harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals and birds. HABs can severely lower oxygen levels in natural waters, create light barriers and produce high amounts of toxins, killing marine life. Blooms can last from a few days to many months. After the bloom dies, the decompositions process uses up more oxygen, which can create fish die-offs. Large scale HABs can create dead zones where neither fish nor plants are able to survive. Red tides, blue-green algae and cyanobacteria are examples of HABs that can have severe impacts on human health, marine ecosystems and the economy. HABs are induced by an overabundance of nutrients in the water, like fixed nitrogen (nitrates, ammonia, urea) and phosphate. These nutrients are emitted by agriculture, aquaculture, other industries, excessive fertilizer use in urban/suburban areas and associated urban runoff. Higher water temperature, low circulation and acidification (high CO2 levels) are also contributing factors. HABs have been reported worldwide and have been increasing in size and frequency, a fact that many experts attribute to global climate change.
Summary definition built from the official classification by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration U.S. (NOAA) and Wikipedia.
Ochroma is a genus of flowering plants in the mallow family, Malvaceae, containing the sole species Ochroma pyramidale, commonly known as the balsa tree. It is a large, fast-growing tree that can grow up to 30m tall. Balsa trees are native to southern Brazil and northern Bolivia, up to southern Mexico, but can now be found in many other countries (Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Thailand, Solomon Islands). It is a pioneer plant, which establishes itself in clearings in forests, either man-made or where trees have fallen, or in abandoned agricultural fields. It grows extremely rapidly, up to 27m in 10–15 years, and lives up to 30–40 years. The speed of growth accounts for the lightness of the wood, making it a valued material for many uses, harvested and cultivated through commercial plantations, especially in Ecuador.1
Ochroma pyramidale has been predicted to be one of the dominant species to take over the tropical forest in the future.
Rainforest have long been described as one of the most vital ecosystems of the earth. Around 40% to 75% of all biotic species are indigenous to the rainforests, and there may be millions of species of plants, insects and microorganisms still undiscovered. Tropical rainforests are also vital to medical and pharmaceutical sciences, as over 1/4 of all natural medicines has been discovered there. Rainforests are also responsible for 28% of the world’s oxygen turnover, through the massive photosynthesis of its leaf canopy.2
Rainforests as well as their endemic species are rapidly disappearing due to deforestation, habitat loss and pollution of the atmosphere. The rapid corrosion of these biomes has been exposed extensively for many years, with urgent preservation distress calls being made regularly by the environmental and scientific community.
To understand the consequences of a warmer planet, researchers3have been trying to predict how the rainforest will look like in the future, forecasting a decrease of ‘climax species’ and the rise of fast-growing ‘pioneer species’ such as the Coralwood Tree (Adenanthera pavonina), a particular fig tree called Ficus insipida and the Balsa tree (Ochroma pyramidale). Research resonances paleontologic data from eras with higher temperature and CO2 levels, hinting that warmer temperatures might be a plus for tropical forest growth. Pioneer species that can disperse very well, will quickly move into cleared areas and take over. These species can be very helpful to the regeneration processes of destructive events like floods, fires or the collapse of large trees that support a great amount of organisms. But the same aspects that make them vital for the restoration processes make them harmful in overly abundant scenarios. As they quickly spread through available areas, they also occupy the space needed for ‘climax species’ to grow. These are large long living species that show up later but act as stabilizers of rainforests, serving as ecological linchpins for a variety of species in the long run. Without them the rainforest can’t mature, and biodiversity levels drop. Unable to compete with pioneer trees and vines that can set roots anywhere, as climax species die off, they won’t manage to replace themselves. Rainforest will thus gain new dominant species, along with other unpredictable nimble ones that will pop up in the new niches that environmental change and selection processes will open. Biodiversity levels may even be restored naturally in the very long future, but unfortunately, we probably won’t be here to see it.
1 Wikipedia Source
2 Wikipedia Source
3 Klaus Winter, plant physiologist in the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, developed an endurance experiment with different tropical species in Geodesic Greenhouses in his Panama lab, which continues to study how tropical plants, particularly trees, function and interact with their environment. // Christopher Dick, evolutionary geneticist at the University of Michigan, investigates evolutionary processes that underlie the rich diversity of tree species in tropical forests // Simon Lewis, plant ecologist at University College London and the University of Leeds, focus his research on the synthetic understanding of the recent, current, and likely future compositional and functional trajectory of the tropical forest biome.
Other sources: Climate Change Means One World’s Death And Another’s Birth, by Lizzie Wade for Wired, 01.09.15, wired.com // Here’s What Our Future World Might Look Like, by Marissa Fessenden for Smithsonian Magazine, 3.09.2015, smithsonian.com
November 2018, Treino de Bancada, Open Studio Campanice, Porto.