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Lovejoy presents 30 years of climate research

Mar 7, 2016

Thomas Lovejoy will present his talk “The Land of Cinnamon and Gold: 500 Years of Amazon Exploration and Science,” as part of the Jessica Catto Dialogues, Tuesday night at Paepcke Auditorium.
Credit Image via bagheera.com

The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies is hosting Dr. Thomas Lovejoy in a lecture this evening focusing on his 30 years of research as a conservation biologist. Lovejoy’s work has earned him the title, “godfather of biodiversity” and experts say his findings are key for understanding global warming.

While Lovejoy’s research is primarily about biodiversity in the Amazon, his discoveries regarding deforestation and its effects on climate can be applied to the Roaring Fork Valley too.

“Locally here in Aspen, especially looking at our high elevation spruce fir forests, those ones are very sensitive to changes in climate and under the worst case scenario we could lose up to 90 percent of our high elevation subalpine forest,” said Jamie Werner, forest program director at ACES.

Losing trees through climate change across the Elk Mountains would create a feedback loop — exponentially wiping out the current flora species in the valley. Once there are fewer trees to absorb carbon in the atmosphere, the entire region will get warmer.

“Under the best case scenario, Aspen's forest would absorb 33 percent less carbon in 2080 than they do today, but under the worst case that number drops to 81 percent reduction of carbon intake,” said Werner.

That’s the the equivalent of putting 200 more cars on the road in the Roaring Fork Valley every day.

Lovejoy is a professor at George Mason University and a fellow at the National Geographic Society for Conservation. His decades of research reveal that when forests are fragmented, species are no longer able to travel in their habitat and die off.

Lovejoy suggests though, that the problem and solution are one in the same — increasing forest growth can help protect the planet from detrimental global warming.

“If there is a concerted effort at scale and restoration, all of that Co2 could potentially be taken back out of the atmosphere before it traps the radiant heat,” said Lovejoy.

Lovejoy’s talk, “The Land of Cinnamon and Gold: 500 Years of Amazon Exploration and Science,”will cover his 30 years of research in the Amazon, and looks ahead to what humans can do to mitigate a rapidly shifting climate. The lecture begins at 6:30 p.m. at Paepcke Auditorium.