BROWN

NEW WORLD

[The following is an extract from one of my posts in the Sciart initative's Bridge Residency blog]

Carbon is life. Carbon atoms combine with others to build the molecules that constitute the basis of cells and tissues. Carbon is present in bacteria, in plants, in animals, in algae and in fungi; and on the Earth’s surface, plants are in charge of building life from non-living carbon compounds. Carbon makes up natural fibers and organic pigments; carbon is art.

Carbon is the absence of life. Carbon is in the Earth’s crust, in CO2 that is emitted through respiration and combustion, and that is exchanged between atmosphere and oceans. In fact, most of the Earth’s carbon is stored in rocks and oceans. Carbon is in diamonds, in marble, and in graphite; carbon is art.

Carbon is death. Carbon is released from decaying leaves and animals in forest soils by bacteria. It is emitted as CO2 and transformed into other compounds that will dissolve in water and flow through streams, lakes, and rivers, before reaching the oceans. Carbon is in constant motion. And motion is the cause of all life.

Causes and consequences of soil carbon export and lake browning in northern forested landscapes

(Senar, 2018).

Carbon is history. Agricultural and industrial practices and our reliance on carbon-based energy sources have given carbon the status of defining element of our times. The Anthropocene is (allegedly) the current geological epoch, in which human action is the major driving force of the planet. Carbon is change.

Causes and consequences of soil carbon export and lake browning in northern forested landscapes

(Senar, 2018).

Besides shifting between the no-life, life, and death realms, carbon-based compounds physically move through the different global carbon pools. In our planet, carbon is stored in rocks (like ###), oceans (as dissolved carbonates or CO2), soils (as organic material), the atmosphere (as CO2, CH4 and other carbon compounds), the living beings (mostly constituting forest biomass), and freshwaters (as dissolved CO2, carbonates, and organic compounds).

While the carbon transfer between some of these pools happens relatively fast (for example, between the atmosphere and plants, which exchange CO2 through photosynthesis and respiration)

Lakes are considered sentinels of change, as they quickly react to alterations in atmospheric, terrestrial, and aquatic processes. This susceptibility to alterations in different environments make them useful to study how a combination of large-scale (global, regional) and small-scale (local) pressures affect nature. Northern lakes are becoming brown as a result of the rapid changes that ecosystems in these latitudes are experiencing.

Change affects lakes in many ways; like warmer waters, or increasing nutrient availability, or even changes in the organisms living in their waters (for example, the introduction of invasive species, or the formation of harmful algal blooms).

Just like tea leaves in hot water, products of the decomposition of tree leaves in forest soils that are transported to aquatic systems dye the water in a yellowish colour. This visual trait has given name to the process of

BROWNING,

observed in increasing trends

in lakes across northern Europe and eastern North America.

Many changes have ​been identified as drivers of lake browning, including recovery from acidification (one of our major environmental alerts during the 70s and 80s that was addressed thanks to effective policies to reduce the emission of nitrogen and sulphur oxydes), warmer temperatures (one of our current major environmental alerts that we are not really acting on -at least effectively), and increasing frequency and intensity of droughts and floods. These changes not really acting on -at least effectively), and increasing frequency and intensity of droughts and floods. These changes and increasing frequency and intensity of droughts 

In a completely different level, ecology has allowed me to explore the combination of data analysis, cartography, and graphic design as a solid toolset to investigate and communicate complex narratives from a transdisciplinary and systems-thinking approach.

BROWN NEW WORLD is the origin of senaretal and my passion for visual storytelling.

The consequences of browning in aquatic ecosystems and the services these provide to human communities are diverse in scale and magnitude. From changes in

algal

assemblages, to changes in the quality of the ecosystem services that lakes provide, browning can put food and water security at risk, especially for those populations that rely on lakes as their main food and water sources.

Increasing temperatures, changing atmospheric composition, recovery from acidification, and changes in 

hydrologic 

connectivity

are altering the atmospheric-terrestrial-aquatic continuum and altering major nutrient cycles that control life on the planet. Among all regions on Earth, northern latitudes are experiencing the fastest rates of change, which means that natural systems in these regions are more vulnerable to global change; and so are the human communities inhabiting these harsh environments.

Causes and consequences of soil carbon export and lake browning in northern forested landscapes

(Senar, 2018).

Browning is a regional consequence of global alterations in carbon cycling, and the focus of my ecological research in landscapes in central Ontario.

In a completely different level, ecology has allowed me to explore the combination of data analysis, cartography, and graphic design as a solid toolset to investigate and communicate complex narratives from a transdisciplinary and systems-thinking approach.

BROWN NEW WORLD is the origin of senaretal and my passion for visual storytelling.