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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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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Can seaweed farming help fight climate change?

Seaweed farming is the fastest growing sector of food production and provides healthy, nutritious sea vegetables. Farming seaweed can also have positive benefits by decreasing wave action, taking up carbon dioxide, and locally reducing the effects of ocean acidification. Spatial planning, market analyses, and infrastructure development are needed to facilitate the expansion of seaweed aquaculture.

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Why was it so hot during the years 2014-2016?

The extreme heat in recent years has led to many unprecedented events, such as global coral bleaching and reductions in Arctic sea ice.  A study by Yin et al. suggests that El Nino released huge quantities of heat from the oceans, resulting in record-breaking warm temperatures during the years 2014-2016.  The rise in temperatures has been so extreme that global temperatures have now increased by one degree Celsius relative to the pre-Industrial era.  For those of you who have been following the Paris Climate Agreement, that’s already two-thirds of the 1.5 degree threshold that they’re working to avoid!

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Microbes, marshes, and mangroves: Implications for coastal carbon storage

Salt marshes and mangroves are coastal ecosystems known to store excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thus helping to reduce negative consequences of climate change. Despite their importance, the relative distribution of marshes and mangroves is changing due to increasing temperatures and sea level rise. It is unclear, though, what these shifts mean for carbon storage. Since microorganisms are crucial in soil carbon cycling, we need to better understand how they function in response to whether marshes or mangroves dominate. A research team in Florida set out to address this question, finding significant changes to the microbial community.

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