Landscape Changes

Global Change Biology: The influence of global warming

­­­­­Paleontologists report that our planet has experienced five mass extinctions. By most accounts we are living through one more (the subject of last year’s Pulitzer-prize winning The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert).  With species estimated to be disappearing perhaps 1000 times faster than prior to the arrival of man, the Yale Climate and Energy Institute sponsors talks next week by scientists seeking to understand how global forces like habitat fragmentation and climate change interact to remake life on Earth.

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…

Land-based Strategies to Reduce Future Heat Island-related Mortality

Urban centers have been warming at double the global rate the last half-century. High daily temperatures are associated with increased mortality. Sustained increases in temperatures projected under most climate models represent a significant public health problem that may increase weather-related mortality in the United States. In a first of its kind study, Stone et al., (2014) modeled how local climate action plans that integrate land-based mitigation strategies through albedo and vegetation enhancement can mitigate future increases in heat-related mortality…

Depopulation and Greenhouse Gas Drops, Professor Bill Ruddiman, UVA

The Thursday talk – first of two in Professor Bill Ruddiman’s visit to Yale – is called “Depopulation and greenhouse-gas drops”. It summarizes evidence for drops in CO2 and CH4 concentrations during historical time prior to the industrial era. Then it reviews two possible causes: natural climate changes, and depopulation events that reduced anthropogenic gas emissions. For the largest CO2 decrease (between 1525-1610), natural causes were not the major factor. The main cause was the huge depopulation of the Americas because of disease brought in by Europeans.

Habitat Corridors: Saving Species. Storing Carbon

One way species adapt to changing climatic conditions is by moving their geographic ranges in the direction of changing climatic niches, usually to either higher latitude or elevations. Successful range shifts, however, are contingent upon the ability of a species to migrate to the new, climatically suitable locations. For example, species might be unable to migrate due to their intrinsic characteristics (e.g., sedentary life style or short dispersal distances) or because of lack of suitable habitats between its current…

Predicting the Cascading Effects of Climate Change on Ecosystems: "Staggeringly Complex"

Predicting the effects of climate change on the structure and function of ecosystems is difficult because most ecosystems are staggeringly complex, with many directly and indirectly interacting animal and plant species. A recent study by Christenson and colleagues attempts to track the effects of climate change through a forest ecosystem in the northeastern US to understand how one climatic alteration might affect the plant community through multiple pathways…

Global Environmental Justice: A Public Political Ecology of the Carbon Economy

Tracey Osborne is Assistant Professor in the School of Geography and Development and Director of the Public Political Ecology Lab at the University of Arizona. Her research investigates the political ecology of environmental markets, particularly carbon markets, and their implications for the lives and livelihoods of forest communities in the Global South. Specifically, she explores the intersection of carbon markets, development, and agrarian change as they relate to forestry-based carbon initiatives in Mexico.

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