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Climate change’s impact on soil moisture could push land past the ‘tipping point’

Soils are critical to our ecological and agricultural systems. It's time we start talking about the impacts of extreme weather on soils and the necessity to transition off fossil fuels to save these soils — while there's still time.

The impact of climate change on soil moisture could push land past a “tipping point” — turning it from a net carbon “sink” to a source of CO2, one study finds.

The research, published in Nature, shows that levels of soil moisture — which are impacted by rising temperatures and extreme events such as droughts — can have a “large negative influence” on the land’s ability to store carbon…

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Judy Anderson

A menu of state actions to promote forest carbon sequestration and storage

To fund and design forest-based natural climate solutions, many states have leveraged existing state and federal programs. They have also created new programs to satisfy unmet needs.

Across the U.S., states are developing policies and programs to help promote forest-based natural climate solutions. This effort is bolstered by growth in forest carbon programs that aim to make entry into the voluntary carbon offset market accessible to all landowners. Here we present a “menu” of policy and program options (that we call action items) derived from existing state programs and policies that decision-makers can leverage to promote forest carbon solutions…

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Conservation Conversations: Pacific Northwest prairies and climate change

Capital Land Trust has been tapping into new ideas in conversations with experts.

Prairies in the western Pacific Northwest are critically endangered ecosystems. Join ecologists Paul Reed and Sarah Hamman for a discussion about how they may be affected by climate change and how they are being restored to the landscape.

Paul Reed is a postdoc at the University of Oregon, where he also completed his Ph.D. in 2021. For his dissertation, Paul and colleagues conducted an experiment across western Oregon and Washington, including at Capitol Land Trust’s Tilley West Preserve, to understand how warming and drought affect Pacific Northwest prairies. Much of his work is in collaboration with regional stakeholders and is motivated by a common vision to improve native prairie conservation and restoration in a changing climate.

Sarah Hamman is the Director of Science for Ecostudies Institute. Her work is aimed at researching and restoring rare species habitat in Pacific Northwest prairies and oak woodlands using rigorous science and collaborative conservation principles. In this virtual event, we hear from Paul about the Heating of Prairie Systems (HOPS) experiment that he and others conducted at Tilley West Preserve.

We will also learn from Sarah about prairie restoration efforts in the South Sound region, and how plant responses to climate change may affect local prairie management in the future.

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Mousam Way Land Trust

Assisted migration project

Given the pace of climate change and extreme weather, many plants/trees will likely need assisted migration.

The following is an excerpt from their website:

“Continued climate warming will disrupt our forests and their ability to lessen the impact of high CO2 levels. We will lose our cool adapted evergreens and hardwoods which, in turn, will change the nature of the forest and everything in and around it. The Mousam Way Land Trust is initiating a project to plant warm-adapted southern tree species on our reserves in anticipation of this radical change.  In time these southern replacements will become part of the forest and restore some balance.

You are invited to help us go one step farther by planting these replacements in your own landscape from which they will eventually spread…”

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Misty Tree

Assisted migration

Given the pace of climate change and extreme weather, many plants/trees will likely need assisted migration. Check out this information on the U.S. Forest Service website. I'll be posting more research on this topic, too.

Trees are adapted to specific combinations of environmental and climatic conditions that allow them to grow, thrive, and reproduce. Climate change is already altering conditions across the planet, and changes are expected to continue in the decades to come. The rapid pace of climate change may exceed the ability of many species to adapt in place or migrate to suitable habitats, and this fundamental mismatch raises the possibility of extinction or local extirpation. Assisted migration, human-assisted movement of species in response to climate change, is one management option that is available to address this challenge. This topic page will examine some of the scientific background and management considerations related to assisted migration, focused primarily on tree species.

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Eggplant Squash Carrots
Judy Anderson

Land conservation combatting climate change

Farms and farmland can be an important part of the climate solution, but we have to understand the barriers and what's realistic. This land trust is working to find creative solutions, including supporting renewables that are compatible with farming, and tapping into federal and state funding for soil health and farming practices.

Agricultural Stewardship Association is working to position farmers and farmland as part of the climate solution. Here’s an excerpt from their website:

ASA is dedicated to helping mitigate climate change. Here’s how:

  1. We are helping farm families permanently protect the most valuable and resilient land for farming and growing food.
  2. We are educating our community about the importance of keeping land in farming and the connection with increasing resilience to a changing climate.
  3. We are partnering with other organizations to help farmers adopt soil health practices and generate renewable energy in ways that are compatible with agriculture and keep productive land in farming…
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Parks as part of the climate solution

Climate change is bearing down on the world faster than scientists predicted, making life in cities especially challenging. Densely built environments, dominated by concrete and pavement, absorb and hold heat longer than natural landscapes. They are also more prone to flooding as extreme precipitation dumps so-called rain bombs on urban areas that become inundated with dangerous — even lethal — amounts of stormwater.

As a warming planet leads to worsening risks and impacts, American cities are taking matters into their own hands. Cities are not only pledging to slash carbon emissions in the coming decades. They are also figuring out how to be more resilient. Because one thing is clear: disadvantaged communities that have been historically neglected will suffer the most as the planet warms.

Park acres, it turns out, are very good at buffering the effects of climate change. Green space has the power to lower air temperature and absorb floodwater and can be designed in such a way as to significantly enhance those climate benefits…

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Hot Grass
Patty Wetli / WTTW News

Flash drought in the making, with high temps, little rain: National Weather Service

Indeed, the concept of "flash droughts" is becoming well-established. This article explains where it's already happening.

The recent heat wave, coupled with lower than normal precipitation, has produced conditions ripe for what’s known as a “flash drought” in the Chicago area, according to the National Weather Service.

The 10-day outlook shows odds leaning toward a continued dry spell.

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Warming Us
The Washington Post

Summer in America is becoming hotter, longer and more dangerous

This recent article speaks to what so many of us are experiencing right now — talking about how summer is becoming more hazardous because of extreme heat and related weather challenges. For those who can relocate or "summer" in cooler and more stable weather, it's an inconvenience. For others, it can be much more devastating.

Wildfires had been burning for weeks, shrouding Reno, Nev., in harmful smoke, when Jillian Abney and her eight-year-old daughter Izi drove into the Sierras last year in search of cleaner air. The eerie yellow haze that filled the sky had brought summer to an abrupt halt, canceling all of the season’s usual delights.

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Unsplash/Maxim Hopman

Is fungi the most underused resource in the fight against climate change?

This is an interesting article focusing on forest health and ecological relationships. It could be something to share with folks, as you talk about the importance of forest conservation and climate change.

Picture a group of “climate change warriors” massing together in a battle to save the planet. Did you imagine a line of mushrooms? Well, maybe you should have, according to scientists at Boston University in the United States.

Fungi play a critical role in helping forests absorb carbon and combat the potential impacts of climate change, two Boston researchers say. Known as the “fifth kingdom of life on Earth”, there are millions of species of fungi and they are present everywhere: in water, in the air, in the soil, and on trees…

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