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Speaker: Dr Alexandra Morel, Post-doctoral Researcher, Zoological Society of London/Honorary Research Associate, University of Oxford
Even under current climate conditions, it is difficult to predict how a complex system such as a forest ecosystem or agriculturally dependent community will respond to a climate shock. Unfortunately, at the same time our knowledge of these systems is dramatically improving, our accelerating carbon emissions are rapidly changing the conditions under which these systems have evolved. Globally, we need to balance efforts to mitigate carbon emissions while attempting to adapt to the novel climate conditions we are creating; hence, the interest in concepts like resilience and resistance. Resilience and resistance can be conceptualised as emergent properties of a complex system. Resilience is often measured as the rate at which a system can recover following a disturbance, while resistance refers to the ability for a system to absorb a shock with minimal change in function. Therefore, taking into account the variability in climate conditions and their impact on forest or farm productivity will be necessary for supporting climate resilient or resistant communities. Often these impacts act over a landscape, whereby forests or farms can be positively or negatively affected by the proximity to or size of intact natural systems, which suggests that achieving resilience or resistance will require spatially coordinated planning. This talk will present some of our latest findings from smallholder coffee and cocoa landscapes in Ethiopia and Ghana impacted by the recent 2015/16 El Niño as well as discussion of the latest metrics on estimating forest resilience to accelerating climate change.
Alexandra Morel has focused her research at the interface of ecosystem science and development, primarily through understanding the ecology of agricultural commodity production in the tropics. She has combined ground-data and remote sensing methods to look at the carbon footprint of palm oil production in Malaysian Borneo, landscape and management drivers of smallholder coffee and cocoa yields, the scale of productivity captured for human consumption in a cocoa landscape and the immediate impacts of the 2015/16 El Niño on smallholder livelihoods in Ghana and Ethiopia. Dr. Morel completed her MSc and DPhil at the Environmental Change Institute followed by a fellowship at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. She is currently a post-doctoral researcher with the Zoological Society of London and Honorary Research Associate at the University of Oxford.