Trees, Tempests, and Time: What trees can tell us about weather in the past

For storms along the Gulf Coast, first-person recordings are only reliable for the past 150 years. But knowing more about when storms happened in the past helps us understand how the climate is changing and how to reduce storm risks for coastal communities. To do that, we have to use even more unusual records: tree rings.

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Preserving Culturally-Important Xochimilco Wetlands Requires Policy and Personal Change

Created by the Aztecs in 500 CE for agriculture, Xochimilco is an area of culturally important wetlands in southern Mexico City. Despite its cultural and economic importance, this area is experiencing wetland degradation and loss due to urban development and water quality issues. Even with a high level of local concern about wetland degradation, little effort will be made toward conservation without a change in public policies regarding local infrastructure and development.

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Growing Conditions Improve with a Pinch

Salt marshes are full of crustacean inhabitants. In particular, fiddler crabs and purple marsh crabs of New England modify these coastal ecosystems by burrowing beneath the waterlogged soils, chewing up plants, and increasing nutrient exchange rates. But it is uncertain to what extent each species contributes to the modification of a salt marsh. Research by Alexandria Moore found the presence of crabs had a significant effect on multiple aspects of salt marsh health and that the herbivore, purple marsh crab, modifies salt marsh ecosystems beyond eating plants.

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Where the mangrove grows

A 65 meter tall mangrove. Imagine that. A tree growing in saltwater that is 20 stories tall. Considering the only mangroves I have seen look like shrubs, I couldn’t believe that some mangroves could reach such heights. But then I saw some photos on Twitter and talked with a scientist who is using new technology to estimate the enormous amount of carbon stored by these beastly coastal trees. Mind Blown.

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Sinking Rails

Coastlines and estuaries are often densely populated with a wide diversity of birds. Many species have adapted to the salty coast and thrive in its waves, beaches and marshes. However, sea-level rise is changing the coast. Researchers, representatives from both universities and governmental agencies of southern California collaborated to predict what habitat for the Ridgway’s rail may look like in the next ten, twenty, thirty years all the way until the year 2110 with several predicted rates of sea-level rise. As sea levels increase, more habitat may become available; but too much flooding could destroy habitat as well.

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Making Amends with Wetland Soils

Wetlands provide ecosystem services, which are services that are free to humans and extremely valuable to the environment. In particular, wetlands can improve water quality through denitrification. Denitrification eliminates nitrate, a nitrogenous compound often found in pollutants, by converting it into gaseous forms of nitrogen and emitting these gases into the atmosphere. Because of the wetland losses happening largely due to human activity, efforts are being made to restore wetlands in an attempt to recapture the ecosystem services they provide. Recent research has investigated the capacity of restored wetland soils to perform denitrification compared to that of natural wetland soils.

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Bacteria, Viruses and Carbon: how microorganisms in arctic soils can alter our climate

Wetland soils store 20-30% of global soil carbon, that carbon is mostly controlled by bacterial populations. Arctic wetland soils store twice as much carbon as the atmosphere, but are frozen year round as permafrost which limits microbial activity. We try to predict what will happen with microbial communities and soils when temperatures continue to warm, but we’re finding out it’s more than just bacteria that are driving arctic carbon cycles.

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Is there enough dirt in the Mississippi River to save the delta?

I know what you’re thinking: dirt flowing down a river doesn’t sound too exciting. But what if I told you this dirt could be the difference between building and losing physical land on our coastlines? Information like how much sediment is flowing down the river, what kind it is, and where it might end up is important in deciding how people will manage coastlines in a delta. For some places, like the Mississippi River Delta, sediment can be the difference between saving and losing precious natural resources, and even people’s homes.

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