Disturbances have big effect on carbon uptake in southeastern forests

Florida oak.

Florida oak.

‘Continued forest carbon accumulation in the region is highly sensitive to land use transitions’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Forest disturbances, such as fire, disease, and cutting, as well as the impacts of land use change, may be slowing the carbon uptake of southeastern U.S. forests, according to a new U.S. Forest Service study.

The research shows that future carbon accumulation rates are highly sensitive to land use changes. Land use choices that either reduce the rate of afforestation or increase the rate of deforestation are key factors in future forest carbon accumulation, the scientists concluded in their report, published in the journal Scientific Reports. Continue reading

Climate: Study says wheat yields to drop 6 percent for every degree of global warming

Wheat field in Upper Austria

A wheat field in Upper Austria ripens under a summer sun.

Global food production needs to grow 60 percent by 2050 to feed 9 billion people

Staff Report

FRISCO — Developing new strains of wheat may be the best way to maintain food security as global temperatures warm, because every 1 degree Celsius of warming will reduce wheat crops by 6 percent, according to a new study led by a University of Florida scientist.

Senthold Asseng, a UF professor of agricultural and biological engineering, used a computer model approach to reach the finding of temperature increases and wheat production. Continue reading

Environment: Saving monarch butterflies won’t be easy

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Can monarch butterflies be saved?

Dwindling populations spur formal review by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Staff Report

FRISCO — Federal biologists said last week they’ll start an in-depth one year review to determine whether monarch butterflies should be listed under the Endangered Species Act.

The formal status review comes in response to a petition from conservation groups claiming the butterfly’s dramatic decline is being driven in large part by the widespread planting of genetically engineered crops in the Midwest, where most monarchs are born. By some estimates, monarch butterfly populations have declined by 90 percent in the past two decades. Continue reading

Will global temps soar when trade winds weaken?

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Will global temps soar when trade winds weaken?

Coral chemistry shows strong link between winds and temperature regimes

Staff Report

FRISCO — In the complex climate puzzle of the Pacific Ocean, the trade winds may be a key piece regulating the rate of global warming, according to new research that links the intensity of those winds to global temperatures.

The study, led by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the University of Arizona, tracked chemical changes in coral to show that when when trade winds weakened in the early 20th century, global temperatures warmed rapidly. When the natural pattern shifted and winds began to strengthen after 1940, the warming slowed. Continue reading

Environment: Cows versus greater sage-grouse?

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Greater sage-grouse need tall grass for nesting. Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Study shows livestock grazing a key factor in greater sage-grouse decline

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new study by sage grouse scientists confirms that the height of grass cover in nesting habitat is a key factor in determining greater sage grouse nest success.

The findings suggest that better grazing management is needed to protect the threatened birds. Cattle eat native vegetation that sage grouse require for hiding their nests from predators. Continue reading

Will the EPA act on neonicotinoid pesticides?

Honeybees may get some relief from deadly pesticides. bberwyn photo.

Honeybees may get some relief from deadly pesticides.

Conservation advocates hopeful that agency will propose new restrictions

Staff Report

FRISCO — Conservation advocates say the EPA may be close to cracking down on systemic neonicotinoid pesticides suspected of playing a key role in the decline of honeybees.

According to Friends of the Earth, a top EPA regulator discussed the agency’s stance on neonicotinoids at a Dec. 8 meeting of state pesticide regulators. The agency was charged with assessing the effects of the pesticides under June 2014 presidential memorandum.

At this point, there is no formal proposal for new pesticide restrictions, which would come in the form of a proposed rule subject to public input. Continue reading

Environment: Defense bill riders may undermine greater sage-grouse conservation efforts

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More political wrangling over greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USGS.

Ranching loopholes proposed

Staff Report

FRISCO — In the West, many eyes are on a defense spending bill pending in Congress, which may include amendments that would exempt ranchers from regulations aimed at protecting greater sage-grouse and potentially strip agencies of funding for sage grouse conservation.

With a little lobbying, the western livestock industry managed to attached the Grazing Improvement Act” into the bill (§3023). Continue reading

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