Natural Areas

Climate Change & Conservation eNews

Natural Areas

Old Growth Trees

Are old-growth forests protected in the U.S.?

Old-growth trees, which are usually hundreds of years old, store enormous quantities of carbon in their wood, and accumulate more carbon annually...

As crazy as it sounds, no one really knows how much old growth is left in America’s forested regions, mainly because various agencies and scientists have different ideas about how to define the term. Generally speaking, “old growth” refers to forests containing trees often hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years old. But even when there is agreement on a specific definition, differences in the methods used to inventory remaining stands of old growth forest can produce major discrepancies.

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Judy Anderson

Keeping trees in the ground where they are already growing is an effective low-tech way to slow climate change

If you're looking to share ideas about how to slow down climate change with natural climate solutions, this is a good article to share.

Mature trees that have reached full root, bark, and canopy development deal with climate variability better than young trees. Older trees also store more carbon. Old-growth trees, which are usually hundreds of years old, store enormous quantities of carbon in their wood, and accumulate more carbon annually…

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Soil organic carbon pools in the northern circumpolar permafrost region

Globally, more carbon is stored in the soil than in all the Earth’s plants and the atmosphere combined. When soil is left bare and washes away, important stores of carbon can be released into the atmosphere, worsening the climate crisis.

The Northern Circumpolar Soil Carbon Database was developed in order to determine carbon pools in soils of the northern circumpolar permafrost region. The area of all soils in the northern permafrost region is approximately 18,782 × 103 km2, or approximately 16% of the global soil area. In the northern permafrost region, organic soils (peatlands) and cryoturbated permafrost-affected mineral soils have the highest mean soil organic carbon contents…

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Judy Anderson

Some surprising aspects of climate change on eastern U.S. forests

Research from Penn State, Department of Ecosystem Science and Management. There's a lot of very interesting climate research happening all over the country.

Forest composition in the eastern U.S. has been changing quite dramatically during the last century. The main change has been an increase in shade tolerant and mesophytic (middle moisture) trees, such as red maple (the #1 increaser), followed by black birch, tulip poplar, blackgum, and others. These increases have been to the detriment of oak, hickory, and pine trees. My research has found that one of the main drivers of this change is the suppression of fire, starting with Smokey Bear legislation in the 1930s.

Greenhouse gases and climate change have impacted eastern forests’ fall colors in various ways…

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Jeff Miller/UW-Madison

Grasslands among the best landscapes to curb climate change

It's going to be helpful if your community understands the various reasons to conserve grasslands. We often forget how important they are and instead focus on trees.

A study published Wednesday, November 14 in Science Advances by The Nature Conservancy and 21 scientific partners in the United States and Europe highlights the power of natural landscapes to resist climate change in the U.S.

Because grasslands, wetlands, forests, and other ecosystems naturally absorb and store carbon, the study shows that protecting and preserving these features of the natural world could allow for the annual absorption of one-fifth of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions — the equivalent to emissions from all U.S. vehicles…

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Planting Trees
Asim Hafeez/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The surprising downsides to planting trillions of trees

Large tree-planting initiatives often fail — and some have even fueled deforestation. There’s a better way.

On November 11, 2019, volunteers planted 11 million trees in Turkey as part of a government-backed initiative called Breath for the Future. In one northern city, the tree-planting campaign set the Guinness World Record for the most saplings planted in one hour in a single location: 303,150.

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Oil Spill Bird
Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP

Why the Huntington Beach oil spill is so harmful to wildlife

A ruptured pipeline spewed crude oil into the Pacific Ocean, and it may foul ecosystems for years to come.

On October 2, an oil pipeline off the coast of Southern California ruptured, spewing an estimated 144,000 gallons of crude into the Pacific Ocean. The leak created a toxic, 13-square-mile oil slick off the shore of Huntington Beach, which has since spread into coastal wetlands rich in biodiversity.

While the spill is far from the scale of infamous past disasters — the BP Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010 released roughly 930 times as many gallons into the ocean — experts say it will have sweeping impacts on Southern California’s coastal wildlife, potentially for years to come.

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Getty Images

Earth is running low on wildlife. Plants will be next.

Many plants need to migrate to survive climate change, but they’re losing their animal rides.

The seeds of this story were planted in a steaming pile of elephant dung somewhere in the African savanna. Elephants love to stuff their faces with fruit, and fruit trees like marulas need a way to spread their seeds, so the two species have developed an intimate and symbiotic relationship. A single African savanna elephant is capable of dumping seeds up to 65 kilometers (40 miles) from the site of its feast, making them the most impressive seed transporters in the animal kingdom.

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Charles Larry/The Nature Conservancy

This map may make you feel better about the state of the planet

If you are looking for hopeful things to share, this might be a good one.

One problem with the onslaught of negative environmental news — extinctionsoil spills, and so on — is that people become numb to it, as Barney Long, senior director of conservation strategies at the nonprofit Re:wild, told Vox last fall.

“I’m a strong believer in flipping this on its head and really starting to talk about the positive stories,” said Long, who’s involved in IUCN’s new tools to measure recovery (but not the Restor map). We want to avoid extinction, he said, “but what do we want to achieve?”

Efforts to restore ecosystems don’t always work, of course, and it’s important to highlight failures and course corrections, Crowther said. His previous research into forest restoration helped inspire enormous tree-planting campaigns, for example, but these efforts often fail to restore forests and can even destroy native ecosystems. Restoration is also not going to stop climate change on its own, experts say…

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Francis Chung/E&E News

Scientists flood forests to mimic rising seas

We are facing choices in how much we want to leave to chance, and how fast we want to slow down climate change. It's not mission creep for conservation groups to prioritize the effort. It's "mission central."

Using a web of PVC pipes and rubber hoses, they inundate sections of woodland half the size of a football field to study how the trees might respond to climate change and its effects — namely rising seas and torrential downpours.

It’s a local experiment, but the researchers said they hope to build a global model that will help scientists understand what events lead to the earliest stages of tree stress and when forests near coasts start converting to wetlands…

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