Monday, August 11, 2014

Venice Italy

I only had the opportunity to visit Venice for about 13 hours, but it was still an incredible place to see and an experience of this World Heritage Site that will stay with me forever. This was one of the most unique cities that I have ever visited. It is an aggregate of 118 islands situated in the Venice Lagoon that are separated by 150 small canals and joined by 409 bridges. The tourism page for Venice reports that the city received approximately 15 million visitors a year although it only houses 270,400 permanent residents. It also reports one of the lowest crime rates in the world.

It has narrow streets that reminded me of the curving paths on the island of Mykonos, but with three story tall buildings on either side. We thought that we would walk from where we parked the car on the outskirts of the city to my hotel for the night, and just navigating the streets is an adventure. Because of the all of the canals dissecting the city, you need to find a good winding path to travel through the city.

San Marcos is the main square of the city and also is the lowest point of the city. Most tourists head to this square as part of their experience in the city, but there is not a clear path to get there. After a while of walking, we found hand painted signs and arrows that direct people through the maze of buildings to the square. It was interesting that these wayfinding marks where not an officially signed way, but something that appeared to have been done as a grassroots (almost graffiti) effort.

Boat taxis are one of the main ways to get around the city and they range in price of €8 for the official ferry that leaves the Riva degli Schiavoni and navigates down the Canale Della Giudecca to the main dock across from the Venezia Santa Lucia train station. This is a well spent eight Euros because it is a half hour boat ride that gives you a good waterside view of the city. I also had to spend €140 for a personal water taxi from my hotel to the airport (on the mainland) at 4am for my early morning plane back to Athens. That was a cool night time taxi ride that crossed open water, but it was a very efficient way to arrive at the airport for my flight. Puente de la Constitución de Venecia (Constitution Bridge) on the left, is one of the main pedestrian thoroughfares on the northwest side of Venice near the Venezia Santa Lucia train station.

The Palazzo Cavalli Franchetti, erected in AD 1565, is in the foreground which currently houses the Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere e Arti. In the background is the Santa Maria della Salute which was constructed in the honor of Saint Maria of Health after the black plague devastated the city in AD 1630.

San Marcos Square is evident from the water just off of the Riva degli Schiavoni with the Campanile (bell tower) di San Marco reaching into the sky and the Doge’s Palace to the right. The spire is the bell tower for St. Mark’s Basilica and it was completed in AD 1514, although it collapsed in AD 1902 and was reconstructed in AD 1912. I imagine that it is difficult to construct spires on islands in a lagoon and there are only a few of these landmarks in the city. The Doge’s Palace (or Ducal Palace) was built in AD 1340 and has been the resident of the supreme authority of the Republic of Venice for most of its history, although now it serves as a museum.

Bucentaur's return to the pier by the Palazzo Ducale painted by Giovanni Antonio Canal (aka Canaletto) from 1728 – 1729. This painting is currently in the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow where it has been since AD 1930. I appreciate these historical paintings for providing a time-lapse perspective on these major landmarks.

Across from the Palazzo Ducale is the Biblioteca Marciana which was constructed in the late 1500s and is said to house one of the greatest classical texts collections in the world. On the pillars are the symbols of Venice on the left column, which was erected in AD 1268 is the winged lion which is thought to be designed from a griffin statue that was on a temple to the god Sandon at Tarsus in Cilicia located in Southern Turkey from 300 BC. The lion now represents the Lion of St. Mark and is a symbol of the city of Venice. The figure on the western column is St. Theodore of Amasea standing on a crocodile that is supposed to represent a dragon that he had slain. St. Theodore was the patron saint of the city of Venice prior to St. Mark.

Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco (Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark) is the seat of the archbishop of Venice and is located on a site of early churches that where built around AD 828 which housed the relics of Mark the Evangelist which were stolen by Venetian merchants from Alexandria in AD 832. That original church was later destroyed and the current building had it start around AD 1093 (multiple suggested dates around that time). Above the entrance are the replicas of four bronze horses which were taken by Crusaders from Constantinople (now called Istanbul) in the thirteenth century. The original bronze horses are now housed in a museum as of AD 1970.

There are many of the cathedrals throughout the city. Across the bay from San Marcos Square is a beautiful church that sets the view. The first church for the Basilica San Giorgio Maggiore was built in AD 790, but it was destroyed in an earthquake in AD 1223. The current buildings where built at this location between AD 1566 – 1610. The bell tower (campanile) was first built in AD 1467 but it fell in AD 1774. It was pater rebuilt in 1791. As you can see, Venice has an issue with buildings collapsing or receiving damage from earthquakes.

Gondole (plural for gondola) are the classic transportation for the city of Venice and there are a controlled number of gondaliers in the city which has been set at 425. The price for a gondola ride is set at €90 for a 30-45 minutes ride. We saw so many gondole in the canals that they made traffic jams.

The Torre dell’Orologio (Clock Tower) on San Marcos square is an astronomical clock that was commission in AD 1493 and completed in AD 1499. 

Bridges are, of course, a great architectural feature and focus of the landscape in Venice. The Bridge Ponte Longo is one of the major bridges along the Fondamenta delle Zattere Ai Gesuati. Each of these bridges provides a great view as you cross the canals.

Ponte di Rialto is probably the most photographed bridge in Venice and was the location of the first bridge in Venice which was a pontoon bridge built in AD 1181. This original bridge was destroyed and subsequent timber bridges collapsed on multiple occasions until the current bridge was built in stone and completed in AD 1591. This night time picture was taken from the water taxi at about 4am.

One of the coolest market ideas that I saw in Venice was a vegetable barge that pulled up along a canal to sell its wares. I did not spend much time in the city and did not have the chance to explore grocery stores options, but it is an interesting dilemma to provide food for all of the residents and visitors to an island city that does not have any property dedicated to food production in the city limits.

There are no sewers in the city as all refuse goes directly into the canals and is washed into the lagoon or out to sea. Because of this, there are only 20 plumbers that work in the city. I was surprised that the city itself did not have much of an odor when I was there. The only time that I noticed any bad smell was in San Marcos square which I later learned is one of the lowest points in the city.

The city of Venice has been sinking into the Adriatic Sea for much of its history as people continue to build on the sediment in the lagoon. Reports state that the city sank 23 cm (about 9 inches) over the last century and that the city was sinking more quickly in the past due to pumping fresh water from the aquifer under the city. Because of this expected water logging, many of the buildings are constructed from Russian larch wood which is known to resist decay when it is submerged for long periods of time.

The MOSE (MOdulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico, Experimental Electromechanical Module) was developed as a series of mobile gates that could protect Venice from tides of up to 3 meters in height.  This project was started in 2003 and was 80% complete in 2013. When work on this system started, Dr. Tony Rathburn and his students at Indiana State University were invited to study the forms of benthic foramnifera ( small marine invertebrates that live in sediment) in the Venice Lagoon.  The foramnifera were known to deform when living in heavily contaminated sediment so the amount of malformed organisms could be used to map contamination levels in the Venice Lagoon (Kluesner et al. 2005, Waggoner et al. 2007). More work was done on the pore fluids to document the amount of contamination present in the sediment that was being disturbed in the Venice Lagoon from this series of gates that was bring installed (Gieskes et al. 2011). The hopes are that this gate system will protect Venice from future flooding due to climate change related sea-level rise.

Such famous people as Casanova Giacomo (usually just known as Casanova), the composer Antonio Vivaldi, and the explorer Marco Polo were all born in Venice.

Kluesner, J., Rathburn, A.E., Perez, E., Basak, C., & Gieskes, J.M. (2005). Living (Rose Bengal Stained) Benthic Foramnifera from the Venice Lagoon, Italy. In 2005, Salt Lake City Annual Meeting.
Gieskes, J. M., Han, S., Rathburn, A., Perez, E., Barbanti, A., Perin, F., & DeHeyn, D. D. (2011). Geochemistry of Sedimentary Pore Fluids in Venice Lagoon, Results of the SIOSED Program from 2005-2007, A Background Report. Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Waggoner, J., Rathburn, A.E., Perez, E., Brouillette, E., Gray, C., Kluesner, J., & Gieskes, L. (2007). Rose Bengal Stained Benthic Foramnifera from a Conatamination Gradient in the Venice Lagoon, Italy. In 2997, GSA Denver Annual Meeting.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Eastern Italian Alps

Dr. Daniele Castagneri took me for a tour to the Eastern Italian Alps (also called the Dolomites ) after visiting the University of Padua. The stone that many of the peaks are made out of are dolomite which is a calcium and magnesium carbonate that has formed on the sea floor and later been uplifted through plate tectonics.

We drove up from Padua through wine country. We found many rolling hills with vineyards and old homes, mansions, or castles. It was a beautiful landscape. We later found out that this is mainly a white wine producing area and tried some of the wine as we went out to dinner at restaurants back in Padua.

There was still snow on the ground, but most of the roads and trails where clear. The mountains are very sharp and contain some clear glacial features such as U-shaped valleys, arêtes, and horns.

The deciduous trees on this side of the Alps are beech (Fagus) with fewer Larch (Larix) trees. Much of the Dolomites are above tree-line exposing severe rock walls that reached into the azure blue sky.

Much of this valley has been used for agricultural production for more than 800 years in a collective land ownership model (see the Sustainability in Italy post for more details). Wide grassy valleys are located throughout the mountains along forested tracks making a very nice mixed land management design that would provide high diversity production on the landscape.

After visiting the University of Padua field station, called Study Centre on the Alpine Environment (See the University of Padua Dendrochronology Lab Blog Post) outside of San Vito, we drove up to Cortina D’Ampezzo. This is an alpine town that is known for its ski resorts and winter sports.

This area has been the film location for many famous films such as The Pink Panther (1963), For Your Eyes Only (1981), Krull (1983), and Cliffhanger (1993). Ernest Hemingway wrote Out of Season here.

This spire is relatively new with the plaque dedicating it to Carlo D’Austria who (according to the plaque) preserved the bells in this tower in 1917 with the plaque itself dated to 2005. It was unclear when the tower was built, but it appears to have been in the 20th century.

We drove up to Passo Giau at 2,236 meters (which is 7,335 feet) above sea level. This area was still covered in about 10 feet of snow. We drove through a snow canyon where the road had been plowed and when we reached the pass, it was hard to find a place to park because the snow covered just about everything.

This pass provides a great view where you can see for long distances in about every direction. There was a lodge up here, but we just stopped a short while for the view before heading back down.

Monday, August 4, 2014

University of Padua Dendrochronology Laboratory

I had the opportunity to visit the University of Padua Dendrochronology Laboratory which is run by Dr. Marco Carrer, for a few days at the end of my Northern Italy tour. Dr. Daniele Castagneri was my gracious host and tour guide. Daniele and I had met at the WorldDendro post-conference tour in New Zealand back in January so it was good to see him again. Although seeing Daniele in his home territory made me start to think about how I had been gone from my home for about four months at this point. Daniele met me at the train station and took me to my accommodations. Over a three day period, he showed me around the University of Padua lab, took me up to the Eastern Italian Alps (see a later post on that), gave me a tour of the Study Centre on the Alpine Environment (C.S.A.I.), and brought me to Venice for a wonderful evening before my flight back to Greece early the next morning.

University of Padua Dendrochronology Laboratory
Dr. Marco Carrer (Assistant Professor, Specialties: Dendrochronology - Forest Dynamics - Climate Change)
Dr. Tommaso Anfodillo (Professor of Forest Ecology, Specialties: Water Relations in Forestry Species - Forest Dynamics - Hydraulic Architecture)
Dr. Gaia Petit (Assistant Professor, Specialties: Ecology)
Dr. Emanuele Lingua (Assistant Professor, Specialties: Forest ecology)
Dr. Daniele Castagneri (Post doc, Specialties: Dendroecology - Wood Anatomy)
Vinicio Carraro (Technician - Wood Anatomy)

Study Centre on the Alpine Environment
Raffaella Dibona Measurements and data collecting in forest - dendrochronological analysis
Roberto Menardi Fields activities - dendrochronological measurements - Trephor tool

Dr. Daniele Castagneri and Dr. Marco Carrer in Venice.

The dendrochronology laboratory is headed up by Dr. Marco Carrer who specializes in dendroclimatology and dendroecology. He has examined Larix decidua, Abies alba, and Pinus cembra for climate response (Carrer and Urbinati 2004, Carrer and Urbinati 2006, Carrer et al. 2007, Carrer et al. 2010) and has examined high-elevation tree response to global warming (Career et al. 1998, Carrer and Urbinati 2001).  Dr. Carrer was invited to a workshop at the WSL in Switzerland to collaborate on the Old World Drought Atlas with Dr. Ed Cook and others, so he was not able to meet with me at the lab. He was kind enough to rush back to Venice at the end of that workshop so that I could meet with him in Venice on my last night. Dr. Carrer had relatives in Venice as he was growing up, so he spent much time in the city. It was great to have a tour of Venice from some locals and to spend a pleasant meal and evening talking with Marco and Dr. Giai Petit who was also a resident of Venice and affiliated with the University of Padua Dendrochronology Laboratory.

I met with Dr. Tommaso Anfodillo at the University of Padua who works very closely with Dr. Marco Carrer for climate response and with Dr. Giai Petit on wood anatomy of tree rings. These three researchers have been examining wood anatomy in trees (specifically on vessel size in angiosperms as well as xylem conduits in conifers) for many years and have been able to demonstrate that vessel area can be a function of climatic parameters although tree height needs to be normalized out of the equation for accurate measurement other parameters (Anfodillo et al. 1998, Anfodillo et al. 2002, Anfodillo et al. 2006, Petit et al. 2008, Petit and Anfodillo 2009, Petit et al. 2010, Petit et al. 2011, Anfodillo et al. 2012, Olson et al. 2014, Petit et al. 2014). I was very excited to hear about their work and use of the program WinCell (part of the WinDendro package by Regent Instruments Inc.) to quantify vessel area per ring. I would like to apply their methods to examine disturbance ecology in trees (specifically with periodical cicada outbreaks, fire, and defoliating insects), but tree height is a very important determination of vessel size and currently I don’t systematically collect tree height as I sample for disturbance ecology.  This is another piece of information that I will need to collect in the future if I want to start to explore wood anatomy as another indicator of disturbance events. I think this technique would be especially useful to examine how periodical cicadas may be affecting the water use efficiency in hardwood trees in the eastern United States during their nymphal stages underground as they act as a root parasite to these trees and drain water and nutrients form the trees.

Dr. Daniele Castagneri and Vinicio Carraro in one of the lab spaces.

Dr. Daniele Castagneri is a post doc in the Dendrochronology lab who specializes in dendroecology and works with wood anatomy as well. I was excited to hear about his work with coarse woody debris (Castagneri et al. 2010a) since I had a masters student (Ross Alexander) who recently completed a MS Thesis on the subject for the Eastern Deciduous Forest. Dr. Castagneri also works with stand structure, ecological factors, and climate response with Picea abies (Norway Spruce) in sites in Italy (Castagneri et al. 2008, Castagneri et al. 2010b, Castagneri et al. 2012) as well as Norway (Castagneri et al. 2013).

Dr. Emanuele Lingua works in the Ecology Group at the University of Padua although I had the opportunity to meet him while I was visiting Dr. Renzo Motta at the University of Turin. Dr. Lingua focuses on forest ecology and specifically has studied stand structure along an elevational gradient in the Italian Alps (Lingua et al. 2008).

The University of Padua Dendrochronology Laboratory was similar to many of the dendrochronology labs that I have toured throughout Europe, Canada, and the United States. They had a room dedicated to sample storage for cross sections and cores.


They used a variety of measuring machines (the greatest variety that I have seen) which included Velmex (at the field station) and Aniol (an older measuring system) at the University. I do not recall seeing any LinTab measuring systems which are the European standard and developed by RinnTech.

They use a rotary microtome by Leica RM2145 for their wood anatomy slide preparation.

They have a very nice camera imaging system connected to a slide microscope to capture the data from their wood anatomy slides.

Because I organize the North American Dendroecological Fieldweek (NADEF), I am always excited to see a good field station that is equipped to handle large groups for field studies and include lodging. The University of Padua has the Study Centre on the Alpine Environment which is located in San Vito di Cadore in the Dolomite Mountains in the Eastern Italian Alps near the town of San Vito.

The Study Centre on the Alpine Environment was developed in 1962 and has a meteorological station, bunk rooms, lecture hall, and laboratory rooms. The field station seemed to be equipped to house about 20 people.

This was the first time that I have seen a Velmex measuring stage in Europe (as most use the LINTAB system). They also had pictures of the Bristlecone pine trees on their walls which made me feel at home.

Along the stairwell, they had soil monoliths which are a soil profile cut out and preserved for study along with the requisite charismatic cross sections.
Roberto Menardi locking up the xiloteque collection in its protective glass case.

They have an antique xiloteque which is a library of books about tree identification where the actual books are made out of the tree species showing the radial, cross section, and transverse section of the wood, the bark, and the interior has leaves, seeds, and other parts of the plant for identification. These where created in the 19th century and consists of 56 species/books. Many where lost or destroyed in the intervening years, but these pieces where saved and are preserved in a glass case. They are truly amazing examples of craftsmanship as well as useful guides for tree identification.

They also had historical sketches of the root systems of a variety of local trees which were really well done and a great way to understand the below ground function of these trees.

The Trephor microcorer was developed at the University of Padua and the Study Centre on the Alpine Environment. This is a great tool that is used to take shallow small diameter plugs (15 mm in length and 2 mm in diameter) of wood for repeat sampling of phenology work that examines the weekly growth of cells throughout the season. This sampler is placed on the bark of the tree (which can be shaved down if the bark is particularly thick) and hammered into the tree.  Then the tool is pulled out of the tree and the core can be stored in a plastic ampule container with a solution to keep it moist and free of fungus.

Anfodillo, T., Carraro, V., Carrer, M., Fior, C., & Rossi, S. (2006). Convergent tapering of xylem conduits in different woody species. New Phytologist, 169(2), 279-290.
Anfodillo, T., Deslauriers, A., Menardi, R., Tedoldi, L., Petit, G., & Rossi, S. (2012). Widening of xylem conduits in a conifer tree depends on the longer time of cell expansion downwards along the stem. Journal of experimental botany, 63(2), 837-845.
Anfodillo, T., Di Bisceglie, D. P., & Urso, T. (2002). Minimum cuticular conductance and cuticle features of Picea abies and Pinus cembra needles along an altitudinal gradient in the Dolomites (NE Italian Alps). Tree physiology, 22(7), 479-487.
Anfodillo, T., Rento, S., Carraro, V., Furlanetto, L., Urbinati, C., & Carrer, M. (1998). Tree water relations and climatic variations at the alpine timberline: seasonal changes of sap flux and xylem water potential in Larix decidua Miller, Picea abies (L.) Karst. and Pinus cembra L. In Annales des sciences forestières (Vol. 55, No. 1-2, pp. 159-172). EDP Sciences.
Carrer, M., Anfodillo, T., Urbinati, C., & Carraro, V. (1998). High-altitude forest sensitivity to global warming: results from long-term and short-term analyses in the Eastern Italian Alps. In The impacts of climate variability on Forests (pp. 171-189). Springer Berlin Heidelberg.
Carrer, M., Nola, P., Eduard, J. L., Motta, R., & Urbinati, C. (2007). Regional variability of climate–growth relationships in Pinus cembra high elevation forests in the Alps. Journal of Ecology, 95(5), 1072-1083.
Carrer, M., Nola, P., Motta, R., & Urbinati, C. (2010). Contrasting treering growth to climate responses of Abies alba toward the southern limit of its distribution area. Oikos, 119(9), 1515-1525.
Carrer, M., & Urbinati, C. (2001). Spatial analysis of structural and treering related parameters in a timberline forest in the Italian Alps. Journal of Vegetation Science, 12(5), 643-652.
Carrer, M., & Urbinati, C. (2004). Age-dependent tree-ring growth responses to climate in Larix decidua and Pinus cembra. Ecology, 85(3), 730-740.
Carrer, M., & Urbinati, C. (2006). Longterm change in the sensitivity of treering growth to climate forcing in Larix decidua. New Phytologist, 170(4), 861-872.
Castagneri, D., Garbarino, M., Berretti, R., & Motta, R. (2010a). Site and stand effects on coarse woody debris in montane mixed forests of Eastern Italian Alps. Forest ecology and management, 260(9), 1592-1598.
Castagneri, D., Lingua, E., Vacchiano, G., Nola, P., & Motta, R. (2010b). Diachronic analysis of individual-tree mortality in a Norway spruce stand in the eastern Italian Alps. Annals of forest science, 67(3), 304.
Castagneri, D., Nola, P., Cherubini, P., & Motta, R. (2012). Temporal variability of size–growth relationships in a Norway spruce forest: the influences of stand structure, logging, and climate. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 42(3), 550-560.
Castagneri, D., Storaunet, K. O., & Rolstad, J. (2013). Age and growth patterns of old Norway spruce trees in Trillemarka forest, Norway. Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research, 28(3), 232-240.
Castagneri, D., Vacchiano, G., Lingua, E., & Motta, R. (2008). Analysis of intraspecific competition in two subalpine Norway spruce (Picea abie (L.) Karst.) stands in Paneveggio (Trento, Italy). Forest Ecology and Management, 255(3), 651-659.
Lingua, E., Cherubini, P., Motta, R., & Nola, P. (2008). Spatial structure along an altitudinal gradient in the Italian central Alps suggests competition and facilitation among coniferous species. Journal of Vegetation Science, 19(3), 425-436.
Olson, M. E., Anfodillo, T., Rosell, J. A., Petit, G., Crivellaro, A., Isnard, S., ... & Castorena, M. (2014). Universal hydraulics of the flowering plants: vessel diameter scales with stem length across angiosperm lineages, habits and climates. Ecology letters.
Petit, G., & Anfodillo, T. (2009). Plant physiology in theory and practice: an analysis of the WBE model for vascular plants. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 259(1), 1-4.
Petit, G., Anfodillo, T., Carraro, V., Grani, F., & Carrer, M. (2011). Hydraulic constraints limit height growth in trees at high altitude. New Phytologist, 189(1), 241-252.
Petit, G., Anfodillo, T., & Mencuccini, M. (2008). Tapering of xylem conduits and hydraulic limitations in sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) trees. New Phytologist, 177(3), 653-664.
Petit, G., DeClerck, F. A., Carrer, M., & Anfodillo, T. (2014). Axial vessel widening in arborescent monocots. Tree physiology, tpt118.
Petit, G., Pfautsch, S., Anfodillo, T., & Adams, M. A. (2010). The challenge of tree height in Eucalyptus regnans: when xylem tapering overcomes hydraulic resistance. New Phytologist, 187(4), 1146-1153.
Rossi, S., Anfodillo, T., & Menardi, R. (2006). Trephor: a new tool for sampling microcores from tree stems. Iawa Journal, 27(1), 89.