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Global warming triggers surge in tree growth

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Global warming speeds tree growth. bberwyn photo.

Some species growing up 70 percent faster than 50 years ago

Staff Report

FRISCO — Some trees are growing up to 70 percent faster than just a half century ago, as global warming supercharges their metabolism, German researchers report in a new study published in Nature Communications.

Three decades ago, forest dieback was a hot topic, with the very survival of large forest ecosystems seemingly in doubt. But instead of a collapse, the latest studies indicate that forests have actually been growing at a faster rate. The new data from the Technische Universität München comes from forest plots that have been closely monitored since 1870. The forested areas are also representative of the typical climate and environmental conditions found in Central Europe. Continue reading

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Southwestern bird populations in steep decline

Report shows that even many common species are dwindling

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Global warming threatens ptarmigan habitat in the mountains of the West.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Bird populations are dwindling all over North America, especially in the Southwest, where some species have declined by as much as 48 percent since the late 1960s, according to the 2014 State of the Birds report released last week.

In Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, habitat loss and fragmentation due to development are the largest threats. These are also significant threats in the nation’s grasslands, where breeding birds like the eastern meadowlark and the bobolink have declined by 40 percent since 1968, with the steepest declines coming before 1990, when stakeholders started investing in grassland bird conservation.

And experts say it’s not just rare birds that are vanishing. The report includes a list of 33 common species in steep decline, losing ore than half their global populations over the past four decades — a clear warning sign that birds can undergo a massive population collapse with surprising rapidity. For example, passenger pigeon populations crashed from 2 to 3 billion birds to none in the wild in just 40 years. Continue reading

Is Austria a climate change hotspot?

Alpine country warming faster than global average

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A map showing the changing climate suitability  for different varieties of grapes suggests how the country’s climate is going to warm in coming decades.

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Austria’s glaciers are dwindling fast. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Austria is one of Europe’s climate change hotspots, scientists said last week as they released a comprehensive climate assessment showing that temperatures in the alpine country are climbing much faster than the global average.

“Already by now, Austria has warmed by 2 degrees Celsius in contrast to the rest of the world, with 0.85 degrees Celsius,” said project leader Nebojsa Nakicenovic, deputy director of the Vienna-based International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.

Not surprisingly, the warming has also lead to a big jump in the average temperatures of Austria’s lakes and rivers, which since the 1980s, warmed by 1.5 degrees in summer and 0.7 degrees Celsius in winter, according to the assessment. Continue reading

Morning photo: Saturday set

Perfect morning

Roadside. Lower Blue Valley, Colorado.

Roadside. Lower Blue Valley, Colorado.

FRISCO — I made a pre-dawn start to try and set up in a good position to watch sunrise light up the Gore Range, then made a few roadside stops heading back toward Frisco. Today will be a very, very good day to check some fall colors in Colorado. There’s a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon, but if you’re a shutterbug, all the better — storm clouds and shadows will only add depth and texture to your images. Check out my Instagram feed for daily photo updates, and if you would like to purchase fine art prints or greeting cards, visit our online gallery. Continue reading

Global warming aids spread of invasive fish in Mediterranean Sea

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A juvenile rabbitfish, an invasive species blamed for wiping out huge areas of ocean habitat. Photo courtesy Zafer Kizilkaya.

Ocean ecosystems at risk from fish that kills algal forests

Staff Report

FRISCO — The spread of invasive tropical fish into previously temperate waters is also affecting the Mediterranean Sea, according to Australian scientist monitoring the spread of rabbitfish which have already devastated algal forests in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Global warming may help the fish spread into the entire Mediterranean Basin, researcher warned in a new paper published in the Journal of Ecology (Authors: Dr. Adriana Vergés, of the University of New South Wales, Australia, and Dr. Fiona Tomas of the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies in Spain). Continue reading

Microplastic pollution widespread in St. Lawrence River

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A NASA Earth Observatory image shows ice formations on the St. Lawrence river.

Microbeads are pathway for other environmental contaminants

Staff Report

FRISCO — Microplastics have long been documented as an environmental threat to oceans. European researchers recently warned of similar problems in Italian lakes, and now, Canadian scientists say they’ve found 2-millimeter plastic microbeads widely distributed along the bottom of the St. Lawrence River.

The team of researchers from McGill University and the Quebec government published their study this month in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.

The paper explains that the pollution probably comes from cosmetics, household cleansers, or industrial cleansers, to which they are commonly added as abrasives. Owing to their small size and buoyancy, they may readily pass through sewage treatment plants.  Microplastics are a global contaminant in the world’s oceans, but have only recently been detected in the surface waters of lakes and rivers. Continue reading

Climate: August global temp sets new record

2014 on track to be one of the warmest years ever

August 2014 global warming map

August 2014 was record warm.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Planet Earth was record warm in August 2014, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists said Thursday, explaining that warm oceans continue to drive temperatures around the world to the highest levels seen since observations started more than 100 years ago. Continue reading

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