The churning seas are slowing down: The Atlantic Ocean circulation at its weakest in millennia

In the Atlantic Ocean there is a giant “river” that affects many aspects of life for us terrestrial dwellers, from the regional climates we enjoy to the sea level at our shore. This “river” is the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), one of the planet’s major ocean circulation systems. The ocean has been churning for millenia through this circulation system, but now there are signs of change.

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Increasing Temperatures and Decreasing Insect Populations

Without insects, we wouldn’t have all of the edible plants that we rely on as important parts of our diets and entire ecosystems would be in trouble. Despite their importance, insects face many threats, including climate change. Through a literature review, a group of scientists found that increasing temperatures due to climate change and the resulting ecosystem changes are a leading cause of insect population declines globally. Some species have disappeared completely. However, different species respond to climate change differently. Monitoring and understanding their responses can help us prevent their loss.

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Tackling Tradeoffs: Tree Functional Groups and Ecosystem Services in Tree Planting

Deciding which trees to replant in cities stressed by climate change and pests can be daunting, but considering the traits of trees and the “functional groups” they belong to can help. In Québec City, computer simulations showed that a “stratified” approach to replanting that aims to evenly represent species of different functional groups did not increase ecosystem services as much as a “conifer-focused” strategy, suggesting a tradeoff between representation of functional groups and ecosystem services provided. Even so, the stratified strategy increased ecosystem services more than “business as usual” and produced the canopy least vulnerable to pests and disease.

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Dead plants breathe new life into botanical research

I’ll never forget the first time that I stepped into a herbarium. Picture a room full of towering metal cabinets. Inside, there are thousands of pressed plants carefully glued onto special paper upon which thoughtfully recorded field notes describe the plant’s habitat, location, life stage, and more. At a moment’s notice I can still recall the unique smell of preserved plants, reminiscent of the comforting scent that lofts when ruffling the pages of an old book. In those days, as a budding botanist, I never questioned the immense value of these collections. Then, when I learned that one herbarium in seven has closed in the last twenty-five years (Deng 2015), I realized that we simply aren’t talking enough about all the unique ways that old plants can fuel modern science.

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Will climate change bring cultural change?

Sometimes science isn’t enough to protect a species. Sometimes, culture is necessary. People are likely to care most about protecting species they find culturally important. But are these culturally important species the most threatened due to climate change? A case study from Costa Rica offers some insights into this question.

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Blue Carbon and Green Kelp: Kelp forests could reduce carbon emissions

Blue carbon is the carbon that is stored within marine ecosystems. It is being used more frequently within global carbon budgets, which are calculated to help us reduce climate change. Historically, only tidal marshes, mangrove forests, and seagrass beds have been used in calculating stored carbon for carbon budgets. A team of researchers from Norway wanted to see if kelp forests could significantly contribute to carbon storage. They studied the kelp forests along Australia’s southern coast and found their storage potential to be similar to that of the other historically used ecosystems. Conserving and restoring kelp forests could therefore increase carbon storage and help reduce climate change.

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In otter news: Disappearing otters and climate change spell double trouble for reefs

As many people know, sea otters are great at being adorable. But do sea otters also play an important role in combating the impacts of climate change? In this study, scientists looked at how the loss of sea otters might be making reefs more susceptible to climate change.

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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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Moving into the Hyporheic Zone

Climate change is causing some alpine streams to change from always flowing to flowing only part of the time. This is a challenge that the bugs in those streams have not had to face, but the might have a way out: hunkering down in the hyporheic zone, a subsurface component of the stream. By waiting out drought in this new environment, the bugs might be able to come back and resume life as normal when conditions are more favorable.

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Warming oceans may affect the reproductive success of many fish species

Up to 60 percent of all fish species may eventually be forced to find new mating areas due to traditional areas becoming too warm for them. By studying fish species from all over the world, experts released a new report suggesting that many fish have a low tolerance for heat during mating. Water temperature may have a larger than previously acknowledged effect on fish reproduction success. If global warming continues, fish populations may not be as strong or as plentiful as they once were unless they find new mating locations.

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