School of forestry and environmental studies

School Notes: School of the Environment
March/April 2023

Ingrid C. “Indy” Burke |

Ukrainian scientists research war’s impact on the environment

As the war in Ukraine heads into its second year, two Ukrainian scientists are researching the impact on the country’s environment through a YSE sponsorship. Oleg Skrynyk, senior researcher for the Ukrainian Hydrometeorological Institute, is assessing potential accidental radioactive emissions from attacks and loss of power at the country’s nuclear power plants, including the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP)—the largest power plant in Europe—which is currently occupied by Russian military forces. Lesia Danyliuk, lecturer at Vasyl Stefanyk Precarpathian National University in western Ukraine, is researching the impact of the war on environmental rights, management, and public access to environmental information. The sponsorship is part of the Universities for Ukraine Non-Residential Fellowship Program, which matches Ukrainian researchers with colleges, universities, and research institutions worldwide that can provide funding for their work. Economics professor Matthew Kotchen brought the program to the attention of Dean Indy Burke.

Animals vital to restoring forests

Efforts to restore forests have often focused on planting trees, but a new YSE-led study has found that animals play a crucial role in reforestation. The research team—led by Sergio Estrada-Villegas, a postdoctoral associate at YSE, working with Professor of Tropical Forest Ecology Liza Comita, codirector of the Yale Center for Natural Carbon Capture—analyzed a unique, long-term data set from the forest in Barro Colorado Nature Monument in Panama to compare what proportion of tree species in forests were dispersed by animals or other methods, like wind or gravity, and how that changes over time. They found that animals play a key role in the recovery of tree species by carrying a variety of seeds into previously deforested areas. The study comes at a time when the world’s wildlife population has declined by almost 70 percent in the last 50 years.

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