13 Nov. 2015 - Tiziana Di Lorenzo

20151113 Seminario Di Lorenzo

Does it matter what lies beneath?
The disregarded role of groundwater bioindicators

Presenta: Tiziana Di Lorenzo

CNR Istituto per lo Studio degli Ecosistemi, Sesto Fiorentino (FI)

Groundwater, including over 70% of fresh waters on the Earth, plays a crucial role for the maintenance of most surface environments and has profound implications for human well-being and socio-economic development. Groundwater ecosystems are featured by a high and valuable biodiversity, consisting of rare and strictly endemic species. Groundwater taxa show specific adaptations to groundwater habitats. One of the most striking is the low metabolism that, nevertheless, may entail an inability to cope with groundwater environment modifications induced by anthropogenic disturbance and natural drastic event. Aside the obvious loss of valuable biodiversity, the damage to groundwater communities leads to the irreversible loss of ecosystem services such as the recycle of nutrients, the degradation of pollutants and the loss of the early-warning system.
The European Directives state the importance of protective measures for groundwater bodies, however the role of groundwater as an ecosystem has lagged behind its importance as a drinking water reservoir so that no specific measures have been yet addressed to protect groundwater fauna. The result of the current legislative myopia is that many European groundwater ecosystems, considered in a good status from a chemico-physical point of view, are actually at risk.
The results of recent studies concerning the role of groundwater bioindicators will be presented, with particular reference to the responses of groundwater communities to: 1) agricultural pollutants; 2) volatile organic compounds; 3) temperature increasing; 4) earthquakes.

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06 Nov. 2015 - Nicoletta Riccardi

20151106 Seminario Riccardi

In muddy waters: the plight of World's threatened freshwater mussels

Presenta: Nicoletta Riccardi

CNR Istituto per lo Studio degli Ecosistemi, Verbania Pallanza

Freshwater mussels provide important ecosystem functions and services, yet many of their populations are in decline. Being nearly sessile, with a long span-life and a complicated life cycle, freshwater mussels are forcedly so vulnerable to environmental changes that they have been declining for decades and are among the most imperiled aquatic animals worldwide. Water pollution, habitat alterations and impact of alien species are overwhelmingly indicated as the major causes of mussel extirpation. Because nearly all mussel larvae (glochidia) are obligate parasites on fish, declines in host fish populations may also contribute to mussel declines. Even though the study of freshwater mussels has increased over the past few decades, their conservation still faces several challenges. Foremost, basic life history and distributional information of mussels and the habitat features that characterize refugia or are essential for mussels conservation are lacking for many species. In the present lecture, the conservation status in Europe and the knowledge gaps for addressing the major conservation issues are briefly presented.

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30 Ott. 2015 - Andrea Di Cesare

20151030 Seminario Di Cesare

Worldwide spread of antibiotic resistance

Presenta: Andrea Di Cesare
CNR Istituto per lo Studio degli Ecosistemi, Verbania Pallanza

The “golden era” of antibiotics in which many new molecules were discovered is over. Antibiotic resistance is spreading worldwide. Many antibiotics are of natural origin, and, thus many antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) are of natural origin, meaning that the contribution of environmental bacterial communities to the spread of ARGs is crucial. For this reason the environmental and clinical settings are strictly connected. Moreover, antibiotic resistant bacteria from human or animal hosts can reach the environment, in particular waters, by different routes such as industrial and agriculture discharges, hospital wastes, and others. They can come back to the original host through the food chain or through human recreational activity (e.g. swimming). The importance of these different paths for the spread of antibiotic resistance (AR) is only partially known. The exchange of ARGs between environmental and human bacteria by horizontal gene transfer was only recently reported. Moreover, different selective pressures with respect to the human host (e.g. heavy metals) influence the aquatic environment. This suggests the presence of AR selection systems like heavy metal resistance genes that can co‐select ARGs, driving the spread of ARGs potentially also to humans. Further studies on the presence and the abundance of ARGs in aquatic environments, and the transfer of ARGs (particularly also in respect to the AR selection systems) to humans are needed.

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12 Ott. 2015 - Beatrice Mosello

20151012 Seminario Mosello

A political scientist and water: stories from Africa (and the UK)

Presenta: Beatrice Mosello
Senior Research Officer, Water Policy Programme (WPP)
Overseas Development Institute, London, UK

As a consequence of population growth, climate change impacts on temperature and rainfall, increasing agricultural and industrial production, the spread of a urban lifestyle in more and more parts of the world, and little attention being paid to the environment, the threat of water scarcity seems to loom on the wellbeing of our societies and the prospects for development of others. In this context, ‘hard’ solutions such as dams and pipes can only help to a certain extent; it becomes paramount to recognize the importance of the institutional and political dimensions of water resources management: what are the rules of the game? Who gets what, how much, when and where? In this seminar, Dr Mosello will illustrate how her current research is trying to unpack some of these institutional and political processes underlying water resources management in developing and conflict‐ affected countries. Building on the methodology that she developed in the framework of her doctoral research, she will discuss some of the research questions that she is considering, with examples from Ethiopia, Ghana, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In so doing, she will also present some of the challenges and lessons learned from reporting to international donors, collaborating with local research partners, dealing with governmental authorities, involving communities and other interested parties through interviews, focus groups, and other ‘participatory methodologies’, and disseminating research results with social media and photography.

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22 Sett. 2015 - Ruben Sommaruga


When glaciers and ice‐sheets melt: consequences for planktonic

Presenta: Ruben Sommaruga
University of Innsbruck, Institute of Ecology, Lake & Glacier Ecology Research Group,
Innsbruck, Austria

The current melting of glaciers and ice sheets is a consequence of climatic change and their turbid meltwaters are filling and enlarging many new proglacial and ice‐contact lakes around the world, as well as affecting coastal areas. Paradoxically, very little is known on the ecology of turbid glacier‐fed aquatic ecosystems even though they are at the origin of the most common type of lakes on Earth. In this talk, the consequences of those meltwaters for planktonic organisms will be discussed. A remarkable characteristic of aquatic ecosystems receiving the discharge of meltwaters is their high content of mineral suspensoids, so‐called ‘glacial flour’ that poses a real challenge for filter‐feeding planktonic taxa such as Daphnia and phagotrophic groups such as heterotrophic nanoflagellates. In consequence, the planktonic food‐web structure in highly turbid meltwater lakes seems to be truncated and microbially‐dominated. Low underwater light levels leads to unfavorable conditions for primary producers, but at the same time, cause less stress by UV radiation. Further, meltwaters are a source of inorganic and organic nutrients that can stimulate secondary prokaryotic production and in some cases (e.g., in distal proglacial lakes) also phytoplankton primary production. The accumulating information on the consequences of glacier retreat for glacier‐fed lakes is crucial to predict ecosystem trajectories regarding changes in biodiversity, biogeochemical cycles, and function.

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