Treub symposium 2019

Treub Maatschappij – Society for the Advancement of Research in the Tropics & Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED), University of Amsterdam

Biodiversity and global change in the Tropics

Coordinators: Carina Hoorn & W. Daniel Kissling

Thursday 18 October 2019


1400-1410 Opening

1410-1430 Seringe Huisman (University of Amsterdam/Treub grant awardee)

1430-1450 Julia Heinen (University of Copenhagen, Denmark)

1450-1510 Crystal N.H. McMichael (University of Amsterdam)

1510-1530 Jasper Griffioen, Hanne Berghuis & Ewa van Kooten (Utrecht University)

1530-1600 TEA

1600-1645 Robert J. Morley (Palynova & Southeast Asia Research Group, Royal Holloway University of London, UK)

1700-1800 Drinks

Biosketches and abstracts

Characterization of phytoliths in mid-elevation Andean forests

Biosketch: Seringe is currently finishing her Master’s in Biology at the University of Amsterdam. During her Bachelor’s program, she became interested in Tropical Ecology and did an internship with Dr. Crystal McMichael in Tropical Paleoecology. She analyzed fossil charcoal and phytoliths from Ecuadorian lake sediments, reconstructing Holocene vegetation history from the western Amazonian lowlands.
She continued her research in Paleoecology during her Master’s project, this time in a mid-elevation Andean setting. Thanks to grants provided by the Treub Maatschappij and the Amsterdam University Fund, she got the chance to perform fieldwork on the eastern Andean flank in Ecuador. Her project led to the characterization of new mid-elevational palm phytoliths, which were previously unstudied and enable comprehensive local vegetation reconstruction.

Abstract: Mid-elevation Andean forests are some of Earth’s most diverse ecosystems, yet their ecological history remains understudied. We provided the first reconstruction of mid-elevation Andean vegetation (400 years) using phytoliths, which are silica bodies produced by many Neotropical plants that preserve in fossil records. Unlike pollen, that is wind-dispersed, they represent local-scale vegetation dynamics. The Andean phytolith assemblages showed the potential to indicate changes in the cloud base position through time, which strongly influences the distribution of many plant and animal species.

Extinction-driven changes in frugivore communities on tropical islands: worldwide and in Mauritius

Biosketch: Julia Heinen has completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Amsterdam. During this time she became interested in extinctions of fruit-eating animals on islands and published her first paper and large database on this topic. She is now halfway through her PhD in Island Macroecology at the University of Copenhagen at the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate. For this, she is still working as an island macroecologist on the effects of extinction of fruit-eating animals on plants. Besides the global scale island comparisons, she is investigating the frugivore community at local scale in Mauritius and the Krakatau Islands. Julia is also Student-at-Large at the International Biogeography Society, representing young biogeographers. She enjoys explaining her research with videos (

Abstract: Island communities are most vulnerable to extinctions and this affects the interactions between species. We have particularly lost a lot of large, fruit-eating animals. These large frugivores are the ones capable of dispersing the largest seeds, and their loss will in turn affect the plants that are dependent on them. Small and isolated islands have lost the highest proportion of their frugivore community, with many islands losing almost all native seed dispersers. Julia Heinen will discuss extinction-driven changes in frugivore communities on islands worldwide and at a local scale, on Mauritius, famous for the extinction of the Dodo.

Are the current Amazonian fires unprecedented?

Biosketch: Crystal McMichael is Assistant Professor at the Department of Ecosystem and Landscape Dynamics (University of Amsterdam). She is a paleoecologist, tropical ecologist, and biogeographer. Her research focuses on past fire and vegetation change across tropical ecosystems, and the role of humans and climate change in structuring those dynamics. She is also the Vice President of Conferences for the International Biogeography Society.

Abstract: The recent fires across Amazonia have attracted large amounts of academic and public attention. In this talk, I will explore the spatial and temporal patterns of fires in Amazonia. I will put the present fire regimes in the context of those seen in the past, and discuss implications for the future. This talk will highlight ongoing work that we hope to submit for publication soon.

On the relationship between tiger conservation and water management

Biosketch: Jasper Griffioen is professor of Water Quality Management at Utrecht University (2011 to date) and expert researcher at TNO Geological Survey of the Netherlands (1991 to date). He is specialised in environmental hydrology and geochemistry within the framework of sustainable management of soil and water resources. He performed studies for a wide variety of geographical settings and a broad range of environmental management issues, ranging from an acid crater lake in Indonesia to disposal of radioactive waste in the deep subsurface of the Netherlands. Many of his projects refer to the risks and impact of anthropogenic measures on groundwater and subsequent effects on drinking water and groundwater-dependent ecosystems. At TNO Geological Survey, he pays attention to the geochemical and hydrological characterization of the subsurface, which has given him extensive insights in geo-scientific surveying of our environment as well as its importance. Preferably, he combines field campaigns with modelling studies.

As member of the former ministerial Dutch Technical Committee on Soil, he was involved in c. 100 ministerial advices during October 2007 – March 2016. He has been an expert in several cases for Dutch Courts of Justice as well as for the Netherlands Commission of Environmental Assessment. His research frequently reaches Dutch national newspapers and other media.

Abstract : There are less than 4000 wild tigers alive. The Global Tiger Initiative aims to double the number of wild tigers in 2022 relative to 2010. The Terai at the foot of the Himalayas is the most important conservation area of tigers. Clearly, habitat conditions are of key importance to double the tiger population. Typically, the tiger habitat consists of free roaming deer, which rely on open grasslands for grazing. The grasslands areas are deteriorating (e.g. overgrown by forest) which threatens the deer and consequently tiger habitats. The hydrology and river morphodynamics are two abiotic factors that seem to control the grassland dynamics in the Terai. Associatedly, the impact of water management measures needs attention, where the following question may become raised: what is the impact of gravel extraction in the river floodplain, what is the impact of intake of river water for irrigation. Two studies will be briefly presented that address these two factors: one of them focuses on the hydrology of the Karnali River in Western Nepal. This river is the western boundary of Bardia National Park, where c. 80 tigers exist. The other addresses the groundwater hydrology at Bardia NP, including the interaction with the Karnali River.

Assembling the diverse rain forest flora of SE Asia by evaluating the fossil and molecular record in relation to plate tectonics

Biosketch: Robert (Bob) Morley was introduced to palynology by the late John Flenley, and was John’s first research student, and was further inspired by Jan Muller from the Rijksherbarium in Leiden. After completing a PhD thesis on the Late Quaternary palynology of Sumatra and Malaysia he joined Robertson Research International, a geological consultancy company as ‘Tertiary palynologist’ mainly working in SE Asia and West Africa. In 1986 he was acting manager for a short while at the Robertson Bogota office, where he met Henry Hooghiemstra and Carina Hoorn for the first time in a remote field on the Sabana de Bogota!

In the early 1990’s he joined the British Geological Survey overseas division, and set up a palynology lab for the Indonesian Government in Jakarta, after which time he established the consultancy company Palynova, together with his wife Santi, which provides expertise in biostratigraphy to petroleum exploration companies and government research laboratories.

His major research interests are: evolution of tropical rain forests, resolving stratigraphic problems using biostratigraphy, and especially using the methods of ‘sequence biostratigraphy’ to develop a better understanding of sequence stratigraphy. A further primary aim is to ensure that unpublished petroleum industry archives of biogeographic interest are brought into the public domain. He authored a book ‘Origin and Evolution of Tropical Rain Forests’ published by Wiley, and has published over 120 papers on biostratigraphy and SE Asian geology.’

Abstract: In the 1960’s, the renowned Russian botanist Armen Takhtajan published a treatise suggesting that Southeast Asia formed the birthplace of the angiosperms. This idea prevailed for 40 years, but today, the opposite seems more likely, that Southeast Asian rain forests are the youngest of the three major rain forest blocks. The ultra-diverse flora of the Southeast Asia has become established largely as a result of immigration following different phases of plate tectonic collision during the Cenozoic. However, trying to piece together the details of the tectonic events that led to the different plate tectonic and palaeoclimatic scenarios that facilitated the different phases of floristic immigration into the region leaves many unanswered questions. There are major issues regarding the timing of plate collisions, the positions of plates and microplates through time, the areas of origin of the main clades and the timing of floral and faunal dispersals. This discussion builds on the palaeoclimatic maps and dispersal events proposed recently by Morley (2018) firstly by examining Late Cretaceous to Paleocene dispersals from Africa to the Indian Plate, and secondly by an evaluation of dispersals from India to SE Asia during and after the Palaeogene collision of India with Asia. Thirdly, the history of upland Sundaland floras over time is evaluated, from the pollen record of gymnosperms and temperate angiosperms from unpublished petroleum exploration wells, contesting the timing and direction of the rotation of Borneo into its present position during the mid-Cenozoic. To move forward, on the one hand detailed palynological and palaeobotanical evaluations are needed from the African Late Cretaceous, and the Palaeogene of both northern India and the Southeast Asian region (the most recent studies of Palaeogene leaf floras from Sumatra and Borneo was by Geyler and Heer in the 1870’s). This needs to be coupled with novel evaluations of plate tectonics prior to the Indian collision with Asia, and for the Sunda region utilising new dating that is emerging for the multiple non-marine basins that formed across the region during the Paleogene.

Reference: Morley, R.J. (2018). Assembly and division of the South and South-East Asian flora in relation to tectonics and climate change Journal of Tropical Ecology 34:209–234.