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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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Feed people; power economies; foster peace with agrivoltaics

I continue to grapple with the climate news, the war in the Ukraine, and how they are actually linked. I don't know if you've been following this line of thinking, but there's a lot of data on what this means. There is also the realization that we can turn this around. Check out this post; I'll be curious to know what you think.

“Amidst the noise, haste, and chaos of modern life there are more positive developments for humanity than one might think. Everyone focuses on the disasters of the climate crisis, and while those do motivate our daily work, we also feel it’s important to highlight the hopeful – the very real innovations pushing our clean energy movement forward…”

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Coastal Reivers Conservation Trust

Land trust installs their own solar project

This land trust got creative. They figured out how to make the funding work. Now they are working to include solar grazing as part of the installation.

Coastal Rivers is working toward a goal of achieving carbon neutrality within the next five years. A major step toward this goal was to install energy-efficient heat pumps to heat and cool the renovated Denny Conservation & Education Center at Round Top Farm. The next step is to power those heat pumps — and the bulk of our electrical needs overall — with solar-generated energy.

We have a prime site for a solar installation at Round Top Farm in the southwest field below the large dirt parking lot by Darrows Barn. The slope aspect is ideal, and the topography limits visual impacts. We also have three-phase power to the site already, which will reduce construction costs…

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Bird With Fruit
Andrew C/Wikimedia Commons

With fewer animals to move their seeds, plants are stuck in threatened habitats

Given the pace of climate change, migration to suitable habitats isn't a given. This research provides some insights. You'll also want to be following research on assisted migration.

Half of all plant species rely on animals to scatter their seeds through hitchhiking in scat, fur, or beaks. When animal populations decline, so does the ability plants have to disperse their seeds and adapt to climate change. Against the backdrop of a heating planet, species are shifting away from their historically-adapted climate conditions…

A study published this month in the journal Science found that 60 percent of all plants globally are already having trouble keeping up with climate change as seed-spreading species face major drops in population numbers…

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Judy Anderson

SunCommon financing program helps Vermont organic farmers go solar

Organic Valley, the largest farmer-owned organic cooperative in the U.S., is teaming up with SunCommon to help Vermont farmers go solar — with zero up-front costs.

SunCommon, headquartered in Waterbury, Vermont, launched a program that offers to help Organic Valley farmers go solar with zero upfront costs. Organic Valley is the largest farmer-owned organic cooperative in the US with a footprint of 100+ Vermont farms. The program provides Organic Valley farmer-members with financing for solar and other renewable energy projects. Farmers benefit from a fully-funded solar installation with no upfront costs, and they save on their energy bill…

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