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Andy Reago and Chrissy McClarren / Flickr

Smaller-brained birds shrink in response to climate change, WashU study finds

WashU says the study is the first to identify a direct link between cognition and animal response to climate change.

“We were really struck by how some species seem to be decreasing a lot more than others,” said study co-author, Justin Baldwin, a Ph.D. candidate with the Botero Lab at Washington University.

And the reason, researchers believe, is rising temperatures. Baldwin said further research could shed light on how exactly climate change has catalyzed the differences in size. Right now, he sees two possible explanations…

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Light Through Trees
Judy Anderson

Earth’s coldest forests are shifting northward with climate change

Forestlands are feeling the impacts of climate change. You can help people understand what that means.

New research from Northern Arizona University shows rising temperatures are causing Earth’s coldest forests to shift northward, raising concerns about biodiversity, an increased risk of wildfires, and mounting impacts of climate change on northern communities…

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Regenerative ranching is better for the environment, but can it be profitable?

All over the country, people are waking up to the importance of soils. Part of that realization is moving away from growing corn for ethanol and thinking about how soil, and animal agriculture, can also work together to slow down climate change.

Ellis tells me that she did the math, and the amount of beef she produces on her ranch in a year is about the same quantity that McDonald’s uses globally in 45 minutes. “I’m this tiny blip on the radar,” she says. “But if I could get all ranchers across the nation doing the job sustainably, then we’d have a lot of clout.”

She says most consumers have no idea if their beef comes from a ranch with environmental goals. “I want to give them that choice”…

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Bee On Yellow Flowers
Judy Anderson

Trait-based filtering mediates the effects of realistic biodiversity losses on ecosystem functioning

The loss of plant species that are especially vulnerable to climate change might lead to bigger problems than previous studies have suggested, according to this new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

We present multiyear results from a realistic biodiversity loss experiment, examining how two key ecosystem functions (productivity and invasion resistance) responded to randomized and realistic (drought-driven) species losses across years with high yearly climatic variation. We show that realistic low-diversity communities do not always have high functioning under the conditions that drove species loss, indicating a disconnect between functional response and effect traits.

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Flower Field
Erika Zavaleta

Study on climate change impacts on plants could lead to better conservation strategies

Grasslands and prairies can be a critical part of natural climate solutions as well as wildlife habitat. Yet they, too, are feeling the stress of climate change. That's why researchers are working to figure out what climate change will mean for them, over time.

The loss of plant species that are especially vulnerable to climate change might lead to bigger problems than previous studies have suggested, according to a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. If confirmed, the findings can help inform conservation strategies and lead to more accurate predictions about what ecosystems will look like in the future.

Researchers are now working on a follow-up study to see whether the same results apply to other ecosystems.

“I think studies like this can help set conservation priorities and help us predict where things are headed,” Wolf said. “Species have important impacts within an ecosystem, and they have effects that we can quantify — and if some species are gone, ecosystems will change in a quantifiable way. Some of these changes might not be noticeable to most people, but many of these changes are likely to be consequential for humans.”

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Kale Solar
Hyperion Systems LLC/NREL

Farms under threat: the state of the States

We are losing small farms at an alarming rate. Dual-use agrivoltaics could help keep families on the farm and improve soil health.

American Farmland Trust’s new report used spatial mapping analyses of agricultural land conversion to provide unprecedented insights into the status and fate of American farmland. Our findings and maps of agricultural land at the state, county, and even sub-county levels show that between 2001 and 2016, 11 million acres of farmland and ranchland were converted to urban and highly developed land use (4.1 million acres) or low-density residential land use (nearly 7 million acres).

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Growing plants — and providing solar energy

We are losing small farms at an alarming rate. Dual-use agrivoltaics could help keep families on the farm and improve soil health. Check out the research from Oregon State.

Access to fresh food is already a problem in many countries, and will likely get worse with more mouths to feed. This is where the concept of agrivoltaics could create a massive change. This farming setup mixes water, energy, and plant growth all in one space. Solar panels collect energy from the sun’s rays; underneath those panels is where the plants grow. The setup takes less water than the traditional way of farming, all-in-all creating a more sustainable way to grow food and create energy.

Joining Ira to talk about the promise of agrivoltaics is Dr. Chad Higgins, associate professor of biological and ecological engineering at Oregon State University, in Corvallis, Oregon.

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Screen Shot

Federal agrivoltaics research and programs

This is an interesting webinar: increased farm viability, soil health, and pollinator habitats are possible with well-designed solar installations. Land trusts can help advocate for this type of solar just as they do soil and water conservation initiatives and farmland protection efforts.

In this webinar Zachary Eldredge with the US Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) discussed the government’s agrivoltaics programs and recent developments in agrivoltaics engineering.

You can listen to the webinar and download the slides. You might want to join American Solar Grazing Association ($75/year) to stay abreast of research and practices related to dual-use, grazing/crop solar.

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Climate Change

The latest IPCC report: What is it and why does it matter?

It's key is to remember that natural climate solutions are central to pulling climate polluting gasses from the air (and helping to manage extreme weather events). They can help reduce the impacts of extreme weather. And they can provide for better production of food, assist with plant and animal survival, and improve water quality.

The IPCC has released a new climate report, building on the findings of a previous report released in February. But what exactly is the IPCC? What do these reports mean, and how are they different from previous reports? Is our situation as grim as some of the news headlines make it sound?

We’ve prepared this guide to help you understand what these latest climate reports are, what their findings mean for our world and what we can do about them.

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Climate change: a threat to human wellbeing and health of the planet

This recent climate report makes it very clear that we are going to have to move away from fossil fuels rapidly and that farms, forests, woodlands, wetlands, and grasslands are an important part of the natural climate solution.

Human-induced climate change is causing dangerous and widespread disruption in nature and affecting the lives of billions of people around the world, despite efforts to reduce the risks. People and ecosystems least able to cope are being hardest hit, said scientists in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, released today.

“This report is a dire warning about the consequences of inaction,” said Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC. “It shows that climate change is a grave and mounting threat to our wellbeing and a healthy planet. Our actions today will shape how people adapt and nature responds to increasing climate risks.”

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