When Fire and Water Collide: Looking to Lakes to Understand Fire’s Deep Past

As I woke up this morning, I learned that a wildfire raging in our local forest had grown to nearly 70,000 acres. A mixture of emotions subsequently flooded in, combining thoughts of concern with questions about how climate change is altering wildfire patterns. In order for scientists and land managers to better predict wildfire outbreaks and to understand the role that climate plays in their behavior, they must first examine the fire history of an area over a long period of time—longer than recorded history. Charcoal and pollen deposits in lake sediments may be able to provide answers to the mysteries of fire’s deep past. Read on to hear about this interesting approach and how one study of lake sediments mapped out 1.5 million years of fire history in China.

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Leaving a Legacy: Plants leave “memories” in the soil that can affect future generations

It’s easy to drive by grasslands, forests, and deserts without thinking too deeply about how and why they have developed to be unique from one another. Still, most of us have an intuition of how community drivers work, such as recognizing that sandy soils and very hot climates encourage the growth of cacti instead of oaks. As an ecologist that has done a lot of work with restoration projects, I am particularly interested in thinking about all of the environmental “ingredients” that go into the recipe for each unique plant community. The day that I found out that plants can leave “memories” in soil which change communities long term, I immediately began thinking about how we could harness this knowledge for good and whether or not humans play a role in the development of these legacies.

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Could We “Dilute” Disease by Protecting Biodiversity?

So you are a passionate conservation activist distracted in the time of global pandemic- perhaps you haven’t had the mental space to prioritize biodiversity protection in your ever growing laundry list of pressing societal issues. What if I told you that the preservation of biodiversity could have the potential to check off a few items on that list- including disease impact? Read on to hear how science has worked tirelessly to determine if diversity can actually “dilute” disease in a variety of organisms, ending with a new comprehensive study that looks at this effect in plants.

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Where have all the flowers gone? Climate change is driving the loss of forbs and diversity in Californian grasslands

Science predicts that climate change will disrupt many natural processes and cycles and there is ever increasing media coverage regarding expectations for Earth’s future under these pressures. Yet there is little popular discussion about how plant communities will be impacted by these changes despite the fact that they represent the first level of the food web, support entire ecosystems of species, and contain one of the only organisms that can capture free energy to produce life. Understanding the ways that these communities are changing and will change in the future is crucially important to seeing the full picture of how climate change will re-shape life as we know it.

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