How much do trees vary in the way they suck carbon dioxide from the air and use it to make roots, trunks, branches and leaves? The answer to that question is an important one because it has a huge impact on our ability to predict how destroying or creating forests influences climate change. And the correct answer is a surprising one, according to two related studies published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week by University of Minnesota forest ecologist Peter Reich and colleagues in Minnesota, Arizona, Australia, China, Poland and Germany.
Conventional models used to assess the impact of forests on greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere assume that the way trees use carbon to build roots, leaves and trunks is fairly constant across a range of conditions — that is, that trees everywhere devote the same fraction of new growth to each component and that components have the same durability everywhere. However, analyzing massive amounts of data gathered from around the globe, Reich and colleagues documented predictable differences in key properties of forests across north-south climate gradients. Continue reading
Policy makers, land managers, and other stakeholders confront a dizzying array of environmental decisions. How do we best manage our natural resources? Where should we invest in conservation? Do we need stricter regulation of development or industry?
The Natural Capital Project, a core program of the Institute on the Environment, develops innovative tools and approaches to inform these important questions. Starting this year, the Minnesota team will add three full-time research positions — a lead scientist, an ecologist and an economist. The growing NatCap presence at IonE will enhance the program’s ability to meet increasing demand for data and tools that quantify the values of natural capital. Continue reading
If you’re interested in soil biodiversity, educational technology, the relationship between justice and sustainability, or just about anything else related to life on Earth and humans’ interactions with it, take a look at #ESA2013 - the Ecological Society of America annual meeting to be held at the Minneapolis Convention Center Aug. 4-9. Continue reading
When scientists ask big questions, it’s always difficult to get the big answer. When scientists ask big ecological questions that require synthesizing data from a variety of geographical locations and different research protocols, it can seem downright impossible.
In the case of the Nutrient Network, a project that recently began receiving funding from the Institute on the Environment, that frustration with such scientific incongruence fueled a solution. Continue reading
Tom Johnson, a University of Minnesota Duluth Regents professor and Institute on the Environment resident fellow, knew his work on Lake Malawi in 2005 would yield significant scientific discoveries. Now, eight years later, he and his colleagues have announced research that impacts our knowledge of the near extinction of the human race. They have determined that 75,000 years ago, the Toba volcanic eruption in Sumatra did not cause a volcanic winter or the dramatic drop in human population in Africa, as some anthropologists had proposed.
It always seems that the more extreme the seasons, the more extreme the opinions about them tend to be. Here in Minnesota, as spring arrives and the cold snowy winter says goodbye, we hear a multitude of opinions, ranging from “I love winter!” to “Finally!” to “I wish it were summer all year long.”
Then we see changes occurring around us, such as the beginning of mosquito season, flowers blooming, the return of the geese, the end of cold and flu season.
What is noise, and how does it affect the natural world? These are among the questions Mark Pedelty, IonE resident fellow and College of Liberal Arts associate professor, posed at his February 27 Frontiers in the Environment seminar, “Sound Ecology: The Environmental Effects of Mechanical Noise and Human Music.”
Pedelty is hoping to influence land development policy to take the effects of mechanical and human noise into account. For example, he noted that some songbirds sing louder and at a higher pitch in urban landscapes, and industrial noise has been shown to inhibit foraging and reproduction in certain frog species.