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Aquatic Transitions: Couth East Asia-Oceania workshop

Working groups

PAGES' Aquatic Transitions working group will hold a workshop, titled "Aquatic Transitions: South East Asia-Oceania" in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from 15-17 February 2017.


The meeting is open to approximately 30 participants.

The workshop will take place at the University of Nottingham's Kuala Lumpur teaching centre on the 2nd floor of the Chulan Tower on Jalan Conway in the centre of Kuala Lumpur. Directions can be accessed here.


Global (e.g. Future Earth, UN Sustainable Development Goals) and local policymakers have defined an urgent need for understanding how aquatic systems function under increasing threats from human impacts (e.g. catchment disturbance, pollution) and climate changes.

Human activities have negatively impacted aquatic ecosystems and the services they provide through the release of contaminants and the abstraction and regulation of both surface and ground waters. Coupled with these anthropogenic stressors are those associated with long-term changes in temperature and effective precipitation (both past and projected). Many aquatic systems exhibit a non-linear response to these pressures, with ecosystems either responding abruptly or showing a level of resilience until an [internal] threshold is breached.

Many of the observed (and modeled) changes have existed in the past and so research on major transitions in aquatic systems represents a significant field of enquiry that demands contribution from both neo- and palaeoecology. Further, long term records of change provide evidence of the ecosystems dynamics that may have occurred leading up to a threshold change and, thereby, can reveal early warning signals that may be lessons to prioritise intervention measures for future management.

This working group will integrate regional records of change in aquatic systems to provide a global synthesis of the sensitivity of sites to critical stages of human impact, detailing the nature of changes that can provide insights for management of these aquatic ecosystems.

The two principal objectives are:

[1] to document the history of human impact on aquatic systems through the identification of the first point of human impact, and the inception and peak of the impact of the industrialised phase, revealing the responsiveness of aquatic systems to the presence of humanity, within a framework of climate variability.

[2] examine the nature of these transitions to identify the ecosystem dynamics that have resisted human pressures, as well as the changes leading up to the point where the system succumbed, and the degree to which new, stabilising forces have entrenched the system in a new regime.

The WG will collate published paleolimnnological records and attribute observed changes to critical phases in human activity. We will focus on establishing critical points of impact which may be time transgressive with a view to creating a global database to identify timing and causes of change, at regional/continental and global scales.


We ask ALL participants to prepare a Speed Talk for the morning of Wednesday 15 February. These talks will act as your introduction to the group. We are limiting these talks to 5 minutes per person, and you are welcome to prepare a powerpoint presentation, but please limit these to 3 slides.

You may want to consider summarising the following:
(i) Yourself!
(ii) What you are currently working on/where you are working.
(iii) What are you most interested in/what you would like to get from this meeting.

Wednesday 15 February
09.00-11.00 Welcome & Introduction
11.00-13.00 Participant introductions
14.00-15.30 Participant introductions
16.00-18.00 Intro. to breakout sessions
18.00- MINDSET

Thursday 16 February
09.00-11.00 Breakout Groups
11.00-13.00 Breakout Groups
14.00-15.30 Outputs/Visit (see below)
16.00-18.00 Visit to Bukit Nanas and KL Tower (optional)
18.00- Meal (optional)

Friday 17 February
09.00-11.00 Working on Outputs
11.00-13.00 The Future of the WG
14.00-15.30 Q&A session & Summary

Workshop aims

(i) To bring together SE Asian researchers to build capacity and explore the possibility of a ‘regional chapter’ of Aquatic Transitions
(ii) To launch the Aquatic Transitions Database for population by scientific community
(iii)To continue to develop scientific papers for publication
(iv) To progress the Springer DPER Aquatic Transitions book
(v) Host a University of Nottingham MINDSET public lecture and panel discussion
(vi) To identify the steps and people to move the Working Group into the next phase

WG Steering Committee

Carl Sayer (UCL)
John Dearing (University of Southampton)
Keely Mills (British Geological Survey)
Marie-Elodie Perga (INRA, University of Lausanne)
Peter Gell (Federation University Australia)
Peter Langdon (University of Southampton)
Suzanne McGowan (University of Nottingham)


The Aquatic Transitions working group seeks to examine the first and maximum impact of humans on lake ecosystems across the globe. It seeks to do this by reviewing and synthesizing the literature and by establishing a palaeolake record data base. At the Maine working group meeting, protocols were agreed for the establishment of a data base that drew on ‘lakecores’ and the varves data base. Time will be dedicated to finalise this and make it ‘live’ for populating by members. Progress was made on a first human impacts paper (Dubois et al.) which will be finalised in KL and submitted to The Anthropocene Review.

Two papers on regime shifts (review of evidence (Reid et al.); modeling stable state shifts (Taranu et al.)) have been outlined and these will be progressed. Previously, the WG framed the chapter outline for the Springer Developments in Palaeonvironmental Research book proposal. A full proposal with abstracts is being assembled and this meeting will allow for a meeting of the editorial panel to check on progress of chapters, and review of structure and authorship.

Meetings to date have been held in the UK, China (IPC, INTECOL Wetlands), USA (AGU, Maine), and this KL meeting will allow the WG to engage with south-east Asian/Oceania researchers identified as a gap in global paleolimnological research. Subsequent meetings are planned for ASLO (Hawaii) and PAGES OSM (Zaragoza), ensuring wide exposure of the group’s activities worldwide.

Several strongly committed early-mid career researchers have emerged and this meeting will review its leadership structure with a view to a next WG phase.

Stakeholder engagement

As part of this workshop, we will hold a panel symposium on ‘Aquatic Transitions and Socio-ecological Systems’ as part of the MINDSET seminar/webinar series hosted by the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus. Previous workshops in this series attract between 80-120 participants. The meeting is held in the centre of Kuala Lumpur and has been designed to attract local communities, business and stakeholders.


Please email Suzanne McGowan: and Keely Mills: with an expression of interest, also stating if financial support would be required.

The deadline for expressions of interest is 16 December 2016.

Further information

Go to the Aquatic Transitions webpage or contact Suzanne McGowan: