Scientists warn CO2 from warming soils could lead to uncontrollable temperature rise

October 6, 2017 by  
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There’s a lot scientists don’t know about how global warming could impact Earth’s natural systems. Now, a 26-year-study of soil in Massachusetts’ Harvard Forest provides new insight. Researchers discovered warming soils are releasing more carbon than once thought, with the potential to lead to a tipping point , kicking off an uncontrollable increase in temperature . The scientists started the Harvard Forest experiments back in 1991. They scrutinized plots of soil, heating some to five degrees Celsius higher than normal levels with underground cables. Microbes played a role in the greater production of carbon. In the first 10 years, the scientists saw a spike in the carbon the heated plots released, and then there was a seven-year period when the release lessened – scientists think soil microbes were adjusting to the warmer conditions. But then the release of carbon increased again. The past three years has seen carbon release slow again, with researchers thinking microbes might be reorganizing. Related: Tipping points accelerated climate change in the last Ice Age, new research shows The heated plots lost around 17 percent of the carbon stored in the soil’s top 60 centimeters. Study lead author Jerry Melillo, of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts, said in a statement , “Each year, mostly from fossil fuel burning, we are releasing about 10 billion metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere …The world’s soils contain about 3,500 billion tons of carbon. If a significant amount of that is added to the atmosphere, due to microbial activity in warmer soils, that will accelerate the global warming process. And once this self-reinforcing feedback begins, there is no easy way to turn it off.” Daniel Meltcalfe of Lund University, who was not a part of the study, told The Guardian if the findings hold across other terrestrial ecosystems, a larger amount of soil carbon might be vulnerable to decomposition than we thought. The journal Science published the study today. Scientists from institutions in Massachusetts and New Hampshire contributed to the research. Via The Guardian Images via Daniel Spiess on Flickr ( 1 , 2 )

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The roots of forest bathing

September 29, 2017 by  
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Power suits, meet “Power Forests.” In Japan, Nissan and Mazda maintain agreements with a Forest Therapy Base.

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The roots of forest bathing

Brazilian federal judge blocks move to destroy huge swath of Amazon forest

September 4, 2017 by  
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Brazilian president Michel Temer recently attempted to open up a national reserve to mining companies, but a federal judge put a stop to that plan. The National Reserve of Copper and Associates, or Renca, is a 17,760-square-mile area of the Amazon forest that’s been protected since 1984, and Temer’s move was met with outcry from activists. But with the decision of judge Rolando Valcir Spanholo, the president’s bid won’t move forward – at least for now. Campaigners and activists criticized Temer’s recent endeavor to dissolve the national reserve; one opposition lawmaker said it was the “biggest attack on the Amazon of the last 50 years.” Now a federal judge approved an injunction requested by public prosecutors. Spanholo says Temer went beyond his authority when he issued the decree to abolish the protected area. He said only the country’s Congress can dissolve Renca. Related: Colombian town turns down $35B gold mine – prefers a clean environment Renca is thought to possess gold, manganese, copper, nickel, tantalum, and iron ore – and The Guardian said the judge’s decision may only offer a temporary respite for the forest. The attorney general appealed the decision. But the injunction could help put pressure on Temer, who has been criticized more than once for prioritizing economic interests above the environment . Temer withdrew his original decree. He then re-issued it including clarification on safeguards for conservation areas and indigenous territory. But environmental activists said the decree would still open up 30 percent of the region to mining companies, and was simply a marketing ploy. The New York Times described Temer as an unpopular leader who has reduced protections for the environment and cut back on the budgets for agencies that fight illegal deforestation and implement environmental laws. He’s also slashed the budget of the agency that guards indigenous communities’ rights. Via The Guardian Images via Rafael Vianna Croffi on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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How orange peels helped barren land in Costa Rica spring back to life

August 23, 2017 by  
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There’s more to oranges than juice! Back in the 1990’s, two ecologists suggested orange juice manufacturer Del Oro donate some of their land near a national park in Costa Rica ; in exchange, they’d be able to deposit agricultural waste for free on degraded land inside the park. Del Oro agreed and dumped 1,000 truckloads of orange pulp and peels on the land. Today, that area is a thriving forest . A Princeton University -led team of researchers journeyed to the forest to discover just how much that food trash transformed the forest – and how other businesses might do the same. Del Oro donated land to Área de Conservación Guanacaste at the suggestion of husband and wife ecologist team Daniel Janzen and Winnie Hallwachs, who’d worked as advisors at the park. The company unloaded around 12,000 metric tons of orange waste for biodegradation until rival company TicoFruit sued, saying Del Oro had defiled the park. TicoFruit won and the land went largely overlooked for over a decade. Related: 16-year-old South African girl invents drought-fighting super material from orange peels Years later, environmental researchers decided to evaluate the site. They discovered a lush forest that had a 176 percent increase in aboveground biomass – what Princeton described as the trees’ wood – in the seven acres they studied. They also found a difference between areas where orange peels hadn’t been dumped and where they had – according to Princeton, the latter showed richer soil, greater tree-species richness, and more closure in the forest canopy. The researchers think regenerating forests with agricultural waste could help us sequester carbon . Princeton graduate student Timothy Treuer said in a statement, “This is one of the only instances I’ve ever heard of where you can have cost-negative carbon sequestration. It’s not just a win-win between the company and the local park – it’s a win for everyone.” Princeton University ecologist David Wilcove thinks more businesses could help the environment in similar ways. He said while companies do generate environmental problems, “…an awful lot of those problems can be alleviated if the private sector and the environmental community work together. I’m confident we’ll find many more opportunities to use the leftovers from industrial food production to bring back tropical forests. That’s recycling at its best.” University of Pennsylvania , Beloit College , and University of Minnesota scientists joined the Princeton researchers to write a study published by the journal Restoration Ecology this week. Via Princeton Environmental Institute Images via Pixabay and Princeton University

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Spiraling treetop walkway gives visitors a birds eye view of a Danish forest

June 13, 2017 by  
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A stunning new adventure park in Denmark is taking visitors to new heights—literally. Architecture studio EFFEKT designed the Camp Adventure Treetop Experience, a unique destination that aims to reconnect people to nature by elevating them high above the treetop canopy. Located in the preserved forest Gisselfeld Klosters Skove, the Treetop Experience aims improve accessibility to the forest while minimizing landscape disturbance. EFFEKT unveiled their designs for the Treetop Experience this year as part of an expansion to Camp Adventure, an existing sports facility with treetop climbing and aerial zip-lines located one hour south of Copenhagen , Denmark. A wide variety of landscapes are found in Gisselfeld Klosters Skove, including various forest types, lakes, creeks, and wetlands. To show off environmental diversity, EFFEKT designed a winding 600-meter-long treetop walk that sensitively passes through the landscape. The treetop walk is divided into a higher and lower walkway with the former located in the oldest parts of the forest, while the latter is situated in the forest’s younger areas. The walk begins at Camp Adventure Farmhouse and is punctuated with educational features and activities such as an aviary , suspended amphitheater, walkway loops for tree observation, and a variety of viewpoints. Related: Sinuous Boomslang Walkway Gives Kirstenbosch Visitors a Taste of the Treetops in Cape Town The walkway culminates with the star built attraction, a 45-meter-tall observation viewpoint platform with an accessible spiraling ramp. The tower’s hourglass shape gives visitors an up-close look at the tree canopy, and is wrapped with a structural skeleton made up of 120-degree rotated steel elements. “The geometry and spacing of the ramp fluctuates according to the changing curvature, write the architects. “The ramp becomes a sculptural element in itself making the journey to the top a unique experience.” The observation platform offers 360-degree panoramic views of the preserved forest. + EFFEKT

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This incredible forest park lets you trampoline in the treetops

March 27, 2017 by  
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Imagine if your next trip to the forest allowed you to meander hidden pathways into the treetops, swing on hammocks, and bounce on giant trampolines, like an oversized playground for grown-ups. Architects Studio Dror envisioned a bold new urban park experience for a “city with no Central Park” — Istanbul , Turkey. Studio Dror’s goal was to “design a love story between people and nature” for their new “Parkorman” park, with numerous pathways, swings, hammocks and trampolines scattered throughout. The design transforms the existing green space located six miles north of Istanbul’s city center into a playground where visitors can create their own unique experiences. While providing clear paths and spaces, the park also allows people to be surprised by unexpected discoveries along their journey. Related: Dallas is building one of America’s biggest urban nature parks The park comprises five main zones, each with its own distinct qualities. The Loop features swings and hammocks suspended above the forest floor, while giant ball pits, inspired by Turkish spice markets, dominate The Pool. A footpath meanders through the forest and twists around tree trunks into giant loops with trampolines at the center in The Chords. A maze-like trail surrounded by sculptures, called The Grove, aims to encourage exploration, while a cube-shaped Fountain of Clarity envelops visitors in water. + Studio Dror

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This incredible forest park lets you trampoline in the treetops

German forester says trees are social beings with friends and personalities

January 4, 2017 by  
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A German forester said in a recent interview that trees are social beings that have friends and their own personality. Author of The Hidden Life of Trees , Peter Wohlleben shared with Yale Environment 360 fascinating stories of relationships between different trees he has observed. His revelation of their inner lives may be vital for the battle against climate change . We rarely attribute feelings to trees, but Wohlleben does so without hesitation. He spun compelling tales to illustrate why he says trees are sentient. For example, he said in about one in 50 cases, trees form special friendships, such as the one he glimpsed between two beeches. He told Yale Environment 360, “Each one was growing its branches turned away from the other rather than toward each other, as is more usually the case. This kind of partnership is well known to foresters. They know that if you see such a couple, they are really like a human couple; you have to chop down both if you chop one down, because the other will die anyway.” Related: Trees form special bonds with “friends and family” Trees send signals to warn others of dangerous insects, and pass along food to nearby sick trees. Wohlleben describes an instance of trees keeping each other alive: “This one beech tree was cut four to 500 years ago by a charcoal maker, but the stump is still alive – we found green chlorophyll under the thick bark,” he said. “The tree has no leaves to create sugars, so the only explanation is that it has been supported by neighboring trees for more than four centuries.” He has heard similar stories from other foresters. Some people have criticized Wohlleben for attaching emotional language to trees, but it’s all part of his strategy to help people view trees as living beings instead of commodities. Sustainable forest conservation is crucial in a changing, hot world, and Wohlleben eschews heavy machinery and insecticides, instead hand-harvesting trees and hauling them via horses. He cautioned against the trend of “indiscriminately cutting timber ,” which weakens ecosystems and the trees’ “social structures.” You can read the full interview here . You can also find Wohlleben’s book on Amazon or at your local bookstore. Via Yale Environment 360 Images via Pixabay ( 1 , 2 )

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Mother trees recognize kin and send them "messages of wisdom"

August 2, 2016 by  
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More information continues to surface that trees may be far more connected than we thought. Forest ecologist Suzanne Simard of The University of British Colombia gave a TED talk in June, during which she detailed research that shows mother trees recognize their kin. At a time when an increasing number of people are disconnected from the natural world, Simard hoped to persuade the audience to think differently about forests . In the talk Simard said, “…we set about an experiment, and we grew mother trees with kin and stranger’s seedlings. And it turns out they do recognize their own kin. Mother trees colonize their kin with bigger mycorrhizal networks. They send them more carbon below ground. They even reduce their own root competition to make elbow room for their kids. When mother trees are injured or dying, they also send messages of wisdom on to the next generation of seedlings…so trees talk.” Related: Researchers believe trees may have their own living Internet Trees send each other carbon through mycelium , or fungal threads, and it looks like the sending process isn’t simply random. According to Simard’s research, mother trees prioritize their offspring when it comes to providing them with key nutrients and other resources. Trees can send not only carbon through mycorrhizal networks, but also nitrogen, water, defense signals, phosphorous, and allele chemicals. Simard says mycorrhizal networks have “nodes and links.” Fungi act as links, and trees as the nodes. The busiest nodes she calls mother trees. Mother trees can sometimes be connected to hundreds of trees, and the carbon they pass to those trees is said to increase seedling survival by four times. Her findings are incredibly relevant for conservation . If too many mother trees are cut down, “the whole system collapses.” Simard thinks we’d be more careful about cutting down trees if we were aware of the deep connections between their “families”. You can watch her whole TED talk here . Via Treehugger Images via Pixabay ( 1 , 2 )

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Mother trees recognize kin and send them "messages of wisdom"

One place on Earth where climate change is actually beneficial

June 29, 2016 by  
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Canada’s boreal forests may not suffer as much as other areas on Earth from climate change . Armed with climate data from as far back as 1960, scientists from Quebec and the United States scrutinized datasets of tree rings from black spruce trees to gather a sense of how the trees respond to varying weather conditions. Their discovery is incredibly hopeful: some of these forests might actually thrive in the warmer temperatures brought on by climate change. The scientists looked at tree ring datasets from 26,000 black spruce trees, matching rings with growth rates to see how the trees reacted to different weather. Around the 49th parallel, they found something intriguing. South of the parallel, when trees encounter hot, dry weather, they tend to show stress. North of the parallel, the reaction changes: the trees respond much better to warmer weather. These trees could thrive in the longer growing season climate change could afford them. Related: China’s eco-civilization plan calls for 23% forest cover by 2020 Lead author of the study Loïc D’Orangeville told Gizmodo, “Generally, the scientific community agrees that because boreal forests are constrained by low temperatures, they should see some benefits from global warming .” Where the forests grow in Quebec, winters are typically long and harsh. If winter shortens due to climate change, the trees might be able to grow for longer periods of time. Of course, there’s still the caveat of water : in warmer temperatures, trees need greater amounts to grow. At this point, however, the scientists think the warmer weather could outweigh the potential that there could be less water available. Harvard senior ecologist and co-author Neil Pederson said, “It’s hope. It’s a bright spot…this dataset is showing us an area that might be dynamically okay. The trees are telling us that it might not be so bad.” Via Gizmodo Images via Wikimedia Commons and Pixabay

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One place on Earth where climate change is actually beneficial

Students build a stunning solar-powered multi-use space from salvaged materials

June 29, 2016 by  
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Created for the University of Utah’s annual Design Build Bluff project, Cedar Hall is located next to the historic John Albert Scorup House, a historic 1890s property that, despite twelve years of effort, is unable to accommodate the multifunctional needs of the student body. The objective of the Cedar Hall project was to design a simple yet elegant flexible assembly space that could also attract the Bluff community to campus. The 850-square-foot Cedar Hall building is clad in handsome, high-grade cedar planks coated in a marine-grade finish that wrap around the facade and the roof. “The idea was to create a portal that brings the energy of outsiders into the campus, which is why the north exterior wall is faceted with a natural plaster finish to enhance the funneling effect,” write the students. “The south face on the other end is extruded, into a trellis system. Blending with the landscape the trellis attracts visitors towards the inner workings of the campus.” Around 70% of the framing is constructed from materials reclaimed from a deconstructed house in Park City. Other salvaged materials were also upcycled into windows and furniture. Related: Students design and build a gorgeous LEED Platinum-seeking forum in Kansas The simple open-plan interior was designed for flexibility. Steel barn doors for a storage closet double as a magnetized pin-up space and are flanked by dry-erase marker walls. Opposite the steel bars on the west wall is a built-in shelf space that houses two large moveable partition walls that can also be used as additional writing surfaces. A custom spiral staircase built with salvaged glulam treads leads up to the roof where the PV solar panel array is located. The trellis features a water-catchment system to collect rainwater. + Design Build Bluff Via ArchDaily Images via Design Build Bluff , by Spotlight Home Tours

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Students build a stunning solar-powered multi-use space from salvaged materials

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