Natural Areas

Climate Change & Conservation eNews

Natural Areas


North American Grasslands Conservation Act brings restoration partnerships to the prairie

The passage of this act will improve not just habitat for wildlife but will slow, and ultimately help reverse, the decline of our nation’s grasslands. If you'd like to see this happen, you'll need to help out.

Last summer, Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon and Michael Bennet of Colorado introduced the North American Grasslands Conservation Act, which will provide resources to farmers, ranchers, and Tribes to voluntarily take steps to prevent the loss of grasslands and, when possible, restore them. Now, in the 118th Congress, lawmakers are considering additional updates to this bill and a bipartisan introduction in both the House and Senate is on the horizon.

This bill will create a voluntary, incentive-based grant program that focuses on partnering with private landowners — the stewards of their lands and waters — to conserve and restore grasslands across the country. The availability of grants is designed to be flexible, as the needs of one landowner to conserve grasslands will vary greatly across the nation: restoration of degraded grasslands, mitigating the threats of wildfire and drought, restoring watersheds, and improving the health of rangelands are among the many eligible activities for such grants…

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Judy Anderson

Report: New England forests can do more to combat climate change

Sharing information related to changes in woodland management is going to be important. No longer do all of the past assumptions pencil out.

“What this report shows is how with even moderate changes in land-use practices we can increase the amount of carbon sequestered and stored in our landscape. To me, as I watch us fail to meet nearly every emissions reduction target, the case for including New England forests in our policy discussions just gets stronger and stronger. These are things we can do today and they come with a range of other benefits that are good for all of society”…

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Coastal Wetland
Toni Greaves for The Pew Charitable Trusts

How can states set ‘blue carbon’ baselines to help meet their climate goals?

Watch Pew’s webinar: Federal resources for states to develop coastal wetland greenhouse gas inventories.

As awareness grows of the important contributions of “blue carbon” habitats—such as salt marsh, tidal forested wetlands, and seagrass beds—in sequestering carbon and reducing climate change impacts, states are beginning to incorporate these coastal ecosystems into their strategies for reducing emissions and enhancing carbon storage through improved management of natural and working lands.

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Low Water
Laura Brophy

States can use federal data to assess ‘blue carbon’ and combat climate change

The Pew webinar explored resources available to help quantify greenhouse gases captured by coastal habitats.

During a recent webinar hosted by The Pew Charitable Trusts, experts from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Silvestrum Climate Associates highlighted how new and expanded federal data resources can help states catalog and conserve “blue carbon”— carbon captured and stored in coastal wetlands…

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Alley cropping case studies in Appalachia

Monoculture cropping is often hard on soils, requiring considerable input of fertilizers and weed killer. Integrated cropping is shown to have multiple benefits to farmers, as well as soil health and climate impacts.

The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) describes alley cropping as having several conservation purposes, including reducing surface water runoff and erosion, improving soil health, altering subsurface water quantity or water table depths, enhancing wildlife and beneficial insect habitat, increasing crop diversity, and increasing carbon storage.

Much like agrivoltaics with crops and/or cattle, the combined farming practice can increase overall yields and benefits. Plus, funding may be available. The case study focuses on Appalachia but could be emulated elsewhere.

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Trees From Below

New York City’s greenery absorbs a surprising amount of its carbon emissions

Urban green spaces face a lot of challenges, from extreme heat to lack of water or adequate care. That said, there is a growing body of research making it clear that urban greenery is important for human health, urban wildlife, and slowing down climate change. We need more people to advocate for investments in urban areas, including villages, hamlets, and small cities as well as larger ones.

A study of vegetation across New York City and some densely populated adjoining areas has found that on many summer days, photosynthesis by trees and grasses absorbs all the carbon emissions produced by cars, trucks and buses, and then some. The surprising result, based on new hyper-local vegetation maps, points to the underappreciated importance of urban greenery in the carbon cycle…

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Marsh monitering
Joanna Carey, Babson College

Low salt marsh habitats release more carbon in response to warming, a new study finds

This complicates the ability of salt marshes to remain carbon sinks as temperatures and sea level rise. It's another wake-up for the need to transition off fossil fuels so that nature-based climate solutions can reach their potential.

Salt marshes, excellent reservoirs of carbon, are living ecosystems with vegetation and microscopic organisms that live, breathe, poop, and die in the marsh mud.

“This is a place where you could get the biggest bang for your buck, if you will, if you’re interested in trying to invest some resources in sequestering carbon using biological systems,” said Serena Moseman-Valtierra, an associate professor of biological science at the University of Rhode Island.

Yet as temperatures rise, marshes at the lowest elevations may also be significant emitters of carbon…

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Scientists sound alarm as ocean temperatures hit new record

This has wide-ranging implications because it affects the exchange of heat, oxygen, and carbon between the ocean and atmosphere, with effects including a loss of oxygen in the ocean. "Deoxygenation itself is a nightmare for not only marine life and ecosystems but also for humans and our terrestrial ecosystems," the researchers said in a statement.

The world’s oceans, which have absorbed most of the excess heat caused by humanity’s carbon pollution, continued to see record-breaking temperatures last year, according to research published Wednesday.

Climate change has increased surface temperatures across the planet, leading to atmospheric instability and amplifying extreme weather events such as storms…

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Ancient grasslands guide ambitious goals in grassland restoration

Published in the journal Science on August 5, 2022 as part of a special issue on grasslands, this study contradicts years of assumptions that grasslands’ ecological development is quick and their recovery is rapid, posing new challenges to their successful restoration.

Grasslands, which constitute almost 40% of the terrestrial biosphere, provide habitat for a great diversity of animals and plants and contribute to the livelihoods of more than 1 billion people worldwide. Whereas the destruction and degradation of grasslands can occur rapidly, recent work indicates that complete recovery of biodiversity and essential functions occurs slowly or not at all. Grassland restoration—interventions to speed or guide this recovery—has received less attention than restoration of forested ecosystems, often due to the prevailing assumption that grasslands are recently formed habitats that can reassemble quickly. Viewing grassland restoration as long-term assembly toward old-growth endpoints, with appreciation of feedbacks and threshold shifts, will be crucial for recognizing when and how restoration can guide recovery of this globally important ecosystem.

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Western Prairie

Oft-overlooked grasslands build biodiversity, resilience over centuries

Grasslands are important for a variety of reasons, including carbon sequestration. As climate change threatens the American West through drought, heat, and wildfire, grasslands are increasingly understood as very important players. Prairies use less water, reduce soil erosion, and keep carbon in the ground over time.

Grasslands’ biodiversity and resilience to disturbances such as fire, heat, and drought is the result of a slow process over hundreds of years, like that of old-growth forests, finds new CU Boulder-led research.

Published in the journal Science on August 5, 2022 as part of a special issue on grasslands, the study contradicts years of assumptions that grasslands’ ecological development is quick and their recovery is rapid, posing new challenges to their successful restoration.

“Old-growth grasslands have a unique suite of characteristics that develop over a really long time…”

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