Climate change can make it harder to help your neighbors – increased insect damage in diverse forest stands during drought

if you’re a tree trying to avoid being eaten by insects, it matters who you’ve got next to you: is it your own species, or another one? Often you’re better off with another species as a neighbor, but a new study shows that climate change can turn this upside down.

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Drought! What is it good for? Native plants

Climate change predictions show that extreme events, including extreme droughts, will be more common in the future. From 2012-2015, California experienced the most extreme drought in over 1,200 years. Scientists from the University of California examined seeds in the soil and plants growing in grassland communities at the beginning of the drought and two years into the drought. They found that the seeds of native plants increased in the soil during the drought, while seeds of non-native grass species that generally dominate the landscape decreased significantly. Their findings suggest that brief, periodic droughts may benefit native plants that produce drought-resistant seeds.

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Are Harmful Algal Blooms a New Concern For Coral Reefs?

Coral reefs are marine invertebrates that create a diverse ecosystem that supports sea life, fish communities, and humans. Corals have a symbiotic relationship with the algae that grows inside their shell, providing coral food through photosynthesis, and allowing the coral to expand its reef. However, coral reefs are already under pressure from a changing ocean climate, human pollution, overfishing, and development, all which can stress the coral and their algae counterparts. Harmful algal blooms (HABs), a consequence of human derived nutrient pollution, were investigated to determine their impact to coral reef or fish communities. Reef and fish communities at two sites in the Gulf of Oman were surveyed before and after a HAB in 2008. One site saw coral reef abundance reduced from 53% before the bloom, to 6% after, and both sites had a significant decrease in total fish biomass. These results demonstrate that HABs have a negative impact on both coral and fish communities. HABs cloud surface waters, preventing the coral’s algae from photosynthesizing and providing food for corals. Once the HAB dies, it decays and depletes the oxygen along the seafloor, suffocating corals. These changes to corals impact fish, as a struggling coral reef cannot provide food and shelter to attract sea life and fish communities. These impacts are felt by the nearly 30 million people that depend on coral reefs for their livelihood. Nutrient pollution to coastal waters resulting in HABs, along with other stressors, need to be addressed to safeguard coral reef ecosystems for the future.

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Salt marsh and mangroves are equally vulnerable to sea level rise

Mangroves have extended their range as a result of climate change and have established in areas that were previously salt marshes. Both mangrove stands and salt marshes act as buffers against coastal storms. Studies have suggested that mangroves and salt marshes have the ability to cope with global sea level rise by increasing local elevation through trapping soil and expanding their root structure. A recent study in the Mississippi River Delta reports that black mangroves and salt marsh plants have similar abilities to build sediment in coastal areas, but the rate of elevation increase is still lower than sea level rise. Therefore, both salt marsh and mangrove-dominated habitats of the Mississippi River Delta are at risk from sea level rise.

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Snow: More Than Just the Backdrop for your Favorite Winter Olympic Sport

Even if you don’t live anywhere near mountains, it is very possible that the water that comes out of your tap originated as snow in the mountains. Many places rely on melting snow from the mountains to supply water downstream for cities, agriculture, and ecosystems. However, melting is not the only thing that can happen to mountain snowpack and scientists are trying to figure out where else it goes and how that could change in the future.

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Reversing the loss of biological diversity: Money talks

The planet is losing biological diversity at alarmingly high rates. As a result, ecosystems are compromised, and so is their ability to support humans. Scientists, environmentalists and other concerned groups have been pointing out the urgent need to stop or reverse the loss of biodiversity. That action often requires substantial investments, which raises the question of whether the benefits we obtain from nature can outweigh the cost of conservation. In this study, a group of scientists and representatives of international NGOs make a case that the benefits of reversing biodiversity loss outweigh the costs.

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Climate change altering wine-making: from landscape to conservation

Our changing climate (Marcott et al., 2013) is at the forefront of global politics and economic planning decisions. There is growing evidence that climate change will affect most fields of study and many professions from agriculture to zoning. One such field that is gaining attention is viticulture, or wine production. A study published in PNAS led by Dr. Hannah and colleagues (2013) looked at how changes in temperature and precipitation will affect global wine production. In addition, the researchers explored how the locations of wine-making regions may shift due to climate stress, and how this might affect conservation.

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