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Tonight's editor: patrickz
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In tonight's Editor's Choice, we highlight a detailed analysis of NOAA's report on the health of the Arctic by DWG, The grim Arctic Report Card:
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has just published its 2010 update on the Arctic environment. This report was produced in collaboration with scientists from the United States, Canada, Russia, and European Union. The bottom line in this report can be summarized in a single sentence:
Return to previous Arctic conditions is unlikely.
Warming of the atmosphere and sea water in the northern hemisphere are expected to produce long-term changes in the polar region, including the loss of summer sea ice, depletion of Greenland glacial ice, permafrost melt, and stress on many animal populations. Scientists first raised the possibility of an Arctic "death spiral" several years ago, which was dismissed as a passing fantasy by the ethically-challenged, half-term governor of Alaska. The possibility of an Arctic "death spiral" now looks highly likely.
This topic was also diaried by greendem in NOAA - Arctic Changes Profound.
<--- Ants and aphids, highlighting one of nature's many mutually beneficial relationships, by imarsman
It stands to reason that as humans change the environment, how mutualisms react, adapt, or disappear will play a major role in the overall health of our ecosystems. Mutualisms occur when organisms interact in a mutually beneficial way. Pollination is a common example, though many other types of partnerships can develop, such as those between corals and bacteria, or the aphids and ants pictured above.
In an attempt to better understand how these relationships will be altered by global environmental change, a recent study has been released:
The authors present evidence that human impacts may be forcing these mutualist systems down unprecedented evolutionary paths.
"With global climate change, evolutionary change can happen very rapidly, over a few years," said Judith Bronstein, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the UA's College of Science and senior author on the paper. "That can be a good thing or a bad thing, we don't know, but people need to start looking at those effects."
In an effort to distill out common traits underlying biological partnerships and to develop a set of lessons to guide future research and conservation efforts, the researchers sifted through almost 200 research studies on the effects of global change on mutualisms, or interactions between organisms that benefit both partners.
While habitat destruction and climate change is having a negative effect on many such organisms, others are adapting:
The authors identify three scenarios that can happen over the course of evolutionary timeframes when mutualist relationships are disrupted by human doing, regardless of their specific nature: a switch to new partners, a shift from mutual benefit to antagonism or abandonment of the interaction.
"If one or both of the groups that were interacting come into contact with new partners and adapt to them, as in the example of flowers adapting to new pollinators, the mutualistic interaction persitsts, just with different partners," Bronstein explained.
How humans shape their environment can drastically change a mutual interaction: One of nature's most widespread and important mutualisms is between tree roots and certain fungi in the soil. The fungi help the plant grow by providing nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus to them, while the plant pays them back in carbohydrates.
CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Oil producer Syncrude Canada Ltd will pay a C$3 million ($2.9 million) penalty for negligence in the deaths of 1,600 ducks in a toxic waste pond, a case that fueled international concern about the environmental impact of developing Canada's oil sands.
Most of the money will be contributed to wildlife and habitat conservation programs in northern Alberta.
Alberta Provincial Court Judge Ken Tjosvold found Syncrude, one of Canada's largest oil sands producers, guilty in the deaths of the birds last June. He accepted the C$3 million sentencing proposal on Friday.
ScienceDaily (Oct. 22, 2010) — Scientists returned this week to the Southern Hemisphere where NASA's Operation IceBridge mission is set to begin its second year of airborne surveys over Antarctica. The mission monitors the region's changing sea ice, ice sheets and glaciers.
Researchers will make flights from Punta Arenas, Chile, on NASA's DC-8, a 157-foot airborne laboratory equipped with a suite of seven instruments. The focus is on re-surveying areas that are undergoing rapid change and embarking on new lines of investigation.
"We are excited to learn how the glaciers and sea ice have changed since last year's campaign," said Michael Studinger, IceBridge project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "We also are going to be mapping uncharted regions that will allow us to better assess future behavior of the Antarctic ice sheets and sea ice."
WarrenS made a New Year's Resolution to write a letter advocating climate action every day. The result is over two hundred letters to congresspeople, newspapers, President Obama, and more. Warren has even had letters published in the New York Times and the Boston Globe.
Business Week ran an AP story on the anticipated costs of climate change in the Gulf of Mexico over the next few decades. Trying to submit letters to print magazines is often problematic, simply because the contact information for LTEs is not easy to find. But I’m persistent. The flood/sandbag motif is new; I’m going to try and use that one more in the weeks to come.
I hope you are all planning on VOTING. For Democrats.
Looking into the future, it’s obvious to everyone but the tea-partiers and the conservative corporatists who fund them that climate change is the most significant threat humanity has ever faced. The scientific evidence is unequivocal; anthropogenic global warming is real and dangerous. Whether describing it in quanta of human misery (hundreds of millions displaced; millions of acres of cropland devastated) or in the dollars-and-cents language of the business sector, there can be no doubt that even if we act quickly, we’re in for a world of hurt. While action is going to be expensive, the short-term orientation of many in the business world leaves them unable to apprehend the costs of inaction. Those, it turns out, are orders of magnitude greater than the economic impacts of responding realistically and robustly to an imminent threat. When a flood is coming, only idiots quibble about the cost of sandbags.
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