Climate Change Weekly Roundup: 07/30/14

Publication: Science News

Author:  Sarah Zielinski

Date: July 11, 2014

Title: How species will, or won’t, manage in a warming world

Climate change is happening at a rate that most vertebrate species cannot keep up with evolutionarily, according to a 2013 report in the journal Ecology Letters. And while humans have played a large role in pushing animal and plant populations to this critical point, there may be ways to help organisms adapt.

Researchers around the globe are preparing species for the increased temperatures and other changes related to climate change and global warming, and they’re doing this through assisted migration. Scientists aided in restoring a decimated Floridian panther population by introducing Texas panthers with different genetic makeups for mating. The new panthers added variation to the existing Floridian panther gene pool, which increased the cats’ ability to adapt and brought their population, which was down to fewer than 30 in the 1990s, to more than 100.

Researchers across biological and environmental disciplines are looking for ways to help species adapt to climate change, especially keystone species, which keep entire ecosystems in line. Researchers are also conducting studies to find which populations are most at-risk from the effects of climate change.

Studies have found that organisms that can easily migrate, have flexible behaviors, and that withstand moderate environmental fluctuations, such as with temperature or pH, have the best chance at long-term adaptation and survival.

Still, many factors are standing in the way of a variety of species’ ability to adapt. Many organisms are not prepared for fast climate change, and are hindered by shallow or highly specialized gene pools, physical limitations or slow reproduction. Human intervention has also, often literally, road blocked species migration. Cities, farms, landscaping and infrastructure have increasingly limited the mobility and migratory capabilities of many animals.

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Publication: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

Author:  Emily Chung

Date: July 21, 2014

Title: Beef’s environmental costs called exceptionally high

The next time a Chipotle employee asks what meat you want in your burrito bowl, do the world a favor a pick anything but steak, as a new study found that producing beef is exponentially more damaging to the environment than all other forms of animal farming.

U.S. and Israeli researchers found that cow production uses 28 times more land, six times more nitrogen fertilizer and 11 times more irrigation water for feed than dairy, poulty, pork and egg production, which all had similar effects on the environment.

Beef production also proves to be a much greater greenhouse gas emitter, releasing five times more of the gases than the other types of protein farming.

In an interview with Canadian Broadcasting Corporation News, Gidon Eshel, the study’s leader and an environmental physics professor at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson in New York, Eshel advised straying from eating beef as often as possible, and hoped  people take a greater interest in how their diets effect both local and global climate change.

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Publication: The New York Times

Author:  Carl Zimmer

Date: July 24, 2014

Title: Study Gives Hope of Adaptation to Climate Change

In terms of an organism’s ability to adapt to Earth’s rapidly transforming climate, evolution may help, but it might not be enough to save a species, according to Andrew Hendry, an evolutionary biologist at McGill University.

Though many scientists would agree with Hendry’s claim, new studies from researchers at Monash University and Australia’s University of Melbourne show that many species have a decent chance of moderate climate change.

The university researchers conducted two experiments to test whether tropical flies could adapt to more arid environments and pass on the genes necessary for survival to their offspring. The studies found that the flies were unable to adapt when exposed to extreme climate change (i.e. when humidity levels were dropped to 10 percent). However, a different set of genes responsible for adaptation in more moderate climate changes allowed the flies to adapt in humidity levels of around 35 percent, resulting in subsequent generations living 23 percent longer than their ancestors.

The studies’ findings suggest that organisms that possess genes not only for temporary survival in harsh conditions but long-term adjustment to modest climate change have a good shot at adapting to Earth in years to come.

To read more, visit the following link.


Publication: The Washington Post

Author:  (via Associated Press)

Date: July 29, 2014

Title: Report: More acidic seawater poses risks in Alaska

As ocean acidification increases, important Alaskan commercial and subsistence fisheries and communities face potential decreases in profit, according to a NOAA research study released Tuesday.

The mollusks and other small creatures that live in the Alaskan waters may find it more difficult to form and maintain their skeletons or shells because of the change in the ocean’s chemistry, caused by excessive anthropogenic releases of carbon dioxide.

At their current rate, the burning of fossil fuels could cause pH levels to drop significantly by the end of the century, said NOAA oceanographer Jeremy Mathis. Evidence shows that oceans are about 30 percent more acidic today than they were at the start of the Industrial Revolution.

“We could have a 300 percent greater change between now and the end of the century than we have in the past 250 years combined,” said Mathis. “So the rate of change is what’s accelerating.”

For Alaskan fisheries, these research findings could mean a huge change in their industries as population dynamics change, current organisms adapt and new organisms emerge.

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Publication: USA Today

Author:  Doyle Rice

Date: July 25, 2014

Title: Firefighting costs soar as warming worsens wildfires

While wildfires occur naturally in the West Coast states, overdevelopment and climate change over the past 40 years have caused costs to increase dramatically, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

“Temperatures have risen in the West by 2 degrees since 1970, and there’s been a big change in length of wildfire season, which has risen from five months to seven months,” said UCS scientist Jason Funk.

ording to Rachel Cleetus, the senior UCS climate economist, the costs of fighting wildfires have increased with the expanded wildfire season, rising from the equivalent of $440 million in 1985 to more than $1.7 billion in 2013.

Tourism loss, harm to public health and expenses relating to watershed damage are further side effects of wildfire damage, said Cleetus, and the prolonged season means more wildfires occurring.

Funk said that the average number of big western fires has risen from about 140 per year in the 1980s to 250 in the 2000s.

To read more, visit the following link.