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Common species will also be lost with global warming

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Even common backyard plants and animals will be affected by global warming. Bob Berwyn photo.

New study projects percent of all plant species will lose half their climatic range

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Plenty of relatively rare plants and animals have already been flagged because of threats from global warming, but even common backyard plants and animals are likely to decline this century as their climatic ranges shift.

Plants — being sessile— reptiles and particularly amphibians are expected to be at highest risk. Sub-Saharan Africa, Central America, Amazonia and Australia would lose the most species of plants and animals. And a major loss of plant species is projected for North Africa, Central Asia and South-eastern Europe, according to new research from the University of East Anglia published May 12 in the journal Nature Climate Change. Continue reading

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Global warming: Are oceans headed for a dead zone?

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Jurassic-era fossils are offering new climate clues.

Early Jurassic warming nearly wiped out all marine life

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Careful analysis of the marine fossil record from the Early Jurassic era (about 180 million years ago), suggests that warmer global temperatures and lower oxygen levels led to dramatic ecosystem changes, with a near extinction of ocean life.

Those ecosystems later rebouned, but with a completely different species composition, according to Plymouth University (UK) scientists who studied ocean sediments along the North Yorkshire coast.

“Our study of fossil marine ecosystems shows that if global warming is severe enough and lasts long enough it may cause the extinction of marine life, which irreversibly changes the composition of marine ecosystems,” said researchers Richard Twitchett. Continue reading

Global warming to disrupt Arctic species migration

Arctic foxes. Photo courtesy Yvonne Cox.

Study shows impacts to Arcit fox populations

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — It’s very likely that human-caused global warming will disrupt the natural cycles of glaciation that have prevailed in recent millennia, and that could spell trouble for species that have relied on bridges of sea ice to maintain genetic diversity.

That includes Arctic foxes that were able to colonize Iceland during the Little Ice, according to research by scientists at the UK’s Durham University, who said that Arctic foxes were able to migrate to Iceland from Russia, North America and Greenland when such a bridge formed, between 200 and 500 years ago.

Iceland’s population of about 10,000 arctic foxes is not at risk, the researchers said, but explained that increasing isolation from the rest of the Arctic, caused by warmer temperatures and a lack of sea ice, could further differentiate the island’s population from their mainland relatives. Continue reading

British team set to drill deep into subglacial Antarctic lake

Sampling of lake will provide climate, evolutionary clues

British camp deep field, Lake Ellsworth. PHOTO COURTESY BRITISH ANTARCTIC SURVEY.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — For many years, scientists have wondered if life in some form has persisted at the very margins of the Earth’s enviroment, perhaps tucked two miles deep beneath the surface of Antarctica’s ice sheets.

After recent discoveries of organisms that can survive in the super-heated environment around deep-sea volcanic vents, or in near-boiling geothermal pools in Yellowstone, it might not be such a stretch to imagine that some equally astounding form of life may exist in frozen parts of the world, but we just don’t know, at least not yet.

Some of the answers may be forthcoming from the results of an expedition by the British Antarctic Survey to drill into the subglacial Lake Ellsworth, on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Learn more at the  Lake Ellsworth project website, visit the researchers on the Lake Ellsworth Facebook page and follow the expedition on Twitter.

Their quest is to reveal vital secrets about the Earth’s past climate and discover life forms that may live in subglacial Lake Ellsworth on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Researchers say their findings may even offer clues as to whether life is possible on other planets.

Lake Ellsworth is one of 387 subglacial lakes that havebeen discovered beneath Antarctica’s vast ice sheet. The most well-known of these is Lake Vostok in East Antarctica. A Russian team hopes to penetrate and collect samples from Vostok. Continue reading

Antarctica: British team to explore subglacial Lake Ellsworth

Advance team to set up base camp for drilling and sampling

British camp deep field, Lake Ellsworth. PHOTO COURTESY BRITISH ANTARCTIC SURVEY.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — British scientists are preparing to explore a subglacial lake in Antarctica where some scientists speculate that new and unique forms of microbial life may have evolved in a cold, pitch black and isolated environment.

The mission to collect water and sediment samples from Lake Ellsworth, buried beneath three kilometers of solid ice, will yield new knowledge about the evolution of life on Earth and other planets, and will provide vital clues about the Earth’s past climate.  Sediments on the lake bed are likely to reveal vital clues about the history of life in the lake and the ancient history of the Western Antarctic ice shelf, including past collapse and the likely consequences for future sea-level rise.

“For almost 15 years we’ve been planning to explore this hidden world.  It’s only now that we have the expertise and technology to drill through Antarctica’s thickest ice and collect samples without contaminating this untouched and pristine environment,”said the University of Edinburgh’s Professor Martin Sieger, principal investigator for the Lake Ellsworth project.

You can learn more about the expedition on the Lake Ellsworth Facebook page and follow the expedition on Twitter. Continue reading

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