Environment

Good News for once: Global Biomass Gains

Changes in vegetation biomass can significantly alter the Earth’s carbon budget and are thus an important factor in regulating the consequences of anthropogenic climate change.  Global estimates of above ground vegetation biomass, however, have been few in number.  Recent advances in remote sensing—such as data from satellite passive microwave observations—now make it it possible to derive detailed estimates of biomass across the entire globe. Liu et al. (2015) utilized this latest technology to estimate global above ground…

How Much CO2 Can the Amazon Absorb?

Atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide would be much higher today if not for the world’s forests, which generally act as “carbon sinks,” absorbing and storing large amounts of carbon dioxide emissions which have been rising steadily since the start of the industrial revolution.  A persistent question for climate change scientists is how much carbon dioxide can forests absorb? A recent analysis of the dynamics of the Amazon ecosystem, one of the largest forests in the world, suggests that we may be approaching the limit of how much…

Study Tests Pacific Salmon Tolerance for Warming Temperatures

Salmon are an iconic Pacific Ocean species upon which millions of people’s livelihoods depend. Their epic migrations link marine, freshwater, and terrestrial ecosystems, transporting nutrients from the oceans to hundreds of miles upstream. Salmon enhance the productivity of rivers and terrestrial ecosystems, but populations have been over-fished and cut off from their habitat. A new study by Munoz, et al. suggests that climate change further threatens remaining stocks.

The authors investigated the ability

Sensitivity-based Modeling to Better Estimate Future Extinction

The effects of climate change on biodiversity can be quantified by assessing vulnerability of species to changing climatic conditions. Such assessments usually include three elements: assessment of sensitivity, adaptive capacity, and potential exposure of individual species to climate change (Jarzyna et al. 2013, Foden et al. 2013). While sensitivity and adaptive capacity are generally determined by traits intrinsic to the species—physiological tolerance, behavioral traits, genetic diversity, dispersal abilities, or high reproductive rates—exposure is governed by the degree of climate change…

Climate Change Impacts on Coral Reefs Felt in Surrounding Ecosystems

Studies have shown that variation in species responses to changing climate will result in disruption of biotic interactions such as predation, parasitism, competition, and mutualism, ultimately leading to changes in community composition and ecosystem functioning (e.g., Both et al. 2009). Just as different species are linked by a network of interactions, ecosystems are connected by…

"Can New York City Survive the Sea?" Ted Steinberg, Davee Professor of History, Case Western University

Yale Environmental History hosts historian Ted Steinberg for a talk on New York’s ecological past and future: “Can New York Survive the Sea?”  Of his latest book, Gotham Unbound, Kirkus Review says “he has done a grand public service … examining the history of one of the most drastically transformed natural environments in the world.” 

Climate Changing the West Antarctic Food Web

The western Antarctic Peninsula is experiencing rapid climate change evidenced by warmer air temperatures, increased westerlies, glacial and ice shelf retreat, reduced sea ice cover and delayed time of sea ice formation.  The west Antarctic Peninsula food web shows influences of this rapid climate change: reduction in phytoplankton biomass, abundance of Antarctic krill and Adélie penguins have all been associated with changed environmental

Mapping Fungal Biogeography

Understanding fungal biogeography, the distribution of fungi, bacteria, and viruses, is key to understanding how ecosystems function. A thorough understanding of the ecological linkages between communities, their environment, and ecosystem function requires analysis across multiple spatial or temporal scales. In a recent study, Talbot et al. (2014) explored the taxonomic and functional distributions of fungi at the continental scale, with findings that…

Lifestyles of the High and Low GHG Emitters

Where should you live to most reduce your carbon footprint? It seems obvious that city life with smaller homes, mass transportation, and easy access to shops and restaurants is preferable to the suburbs with its cars and bigger homes. But how about the benefits of rural areas where people grow their food and live closer to the land? What about regional climate, income and energy price differences? A recent analysis by Jones and Kammen (2013)…

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