Tag Archives: Ecology

Droughts: Competing With Nature For Water

Climate change is causing rising temperatures, extreme weather events and more and more drought. And, in this changing reality, everyone needs more water. Humans are competing with the natural world for water. What does this mean for biodiversity? Fewer and fewer countries still have an abundance of water. The climate crisis, overpopulation and overexploitation are the root of this global problem. And, in a warming world, everyone is using more water: people, agriculture and industry. In Germany, streams and ponds are disappearing, forests and soils are drying out. What does this mean for biodiversity? And how do people cope with drought in countries that have even less water — for example, in the USA or Mexico? What happens when our water dries up?

Droughts: The ‘Shrinking’ Of The Colorado River

August 2022 Cover
  • “Tier Drops,” by Lisa Owens Viani.
    Regulations and apportioning that were set up 100 years ago are under pressure as the Colorado River shrinks. As climate change accelerates and record-breaking drought worsens, cities, tribes, and industries must prepare for a future with less water. (Online  August 10)

The Coming Crisis Along the Colorado River

It’s past time to get real about the Southwest’s hardest-working river.

About 40 million people rely on the Colorado River as it flows from Wyoming to Mexico. But overuse and climate change have contributed to its reservoirs drying up at such a rapid rate that the probability of disastrous disruptions to the deliveries of water and hydroelectric power across the Southwest have become increasingly likely. Now the seven states that depend on the river must negotiate major cuts in water use by mid-August or have them imposed by the federal government.

Those cuts are merely the beginning as the region struggles to adapt to an increasingly arid West. The rules for operating the river’s shrinking reservoirs expire in 2026, and those seven states must forge a new agreement on water use for farmers, businesses and cities.

Read more at The New York Times

Cover: National Wildlife Magazine – Aug/Sep 2022

Surrounded by golden light, a mule deer stands in grasslands.

National Wildlife Magazine – August/September 2022

Burning Up

Heat, drought and wildfires are ravaging western wildlife while conservationists try to help ecosystems adapt

By Brianna Randall – Conservation, Aug 02, 2022

Dead mussels lie along the Pacific shore of Vancouver, British Columbia, during 2021’s summer heat wave. Scientists estimate that the record-breaking heat killed more than 1 billion marine animals off the coasts of British Columbia and Washington state.
(Photo by Christopher Harley/University of British Columbia)

GASPING SALMON WITH INFECTED LESIONS. Emaciated deer searching sagebrush flats for water. Clams and mussels boiled to death in their shells. Last summer, temperatures in the Northwest soared to record highs in the triple digits, killing more than 1 billion marine animals in the Salish Sea and stressing wildlife from the Pacific to the Rocky Mountains. Simultaneously, ongoing drought in the Southwest—which began in 2000 and is the region’s driest 22-year period in 1,200 years—is causing plants to wither, springs to dry up and wildfires to engulf entire landscapes.

Sustainability: Island Of Tilos, Aegean Sea, Greece

The remote Greek island of Tilos has pioneered a recycling plant that could act as a blueprint for other islands — including popular holiday destinations — that struggle with waste disposal. (May 11)

Tílos is a small Greek island and municipality located in the Aegean Sea. It is part of the Dodecanese group of islands, and lies midway between Kos and Rhodes. It has a population of 780 inhabitants.

Reforestation: Tanzania Restores Its Dry Land

Sustained droughts are making farming near impossible in Tanzania. The soil is to dry for planting. The organization Justdiggit wants to alleviate the situation by planting trees in a way that encourages moisture collection. Not only do the trees grow better, the soil is can recover in their shade.

Ecology: Importance Of Peatlands In CO2 Capture

As more of the world’s forests are destroyed, it makes you wonder: what’s going to absorb CO2 in their place?! In an ironic twist of fate, one of Earth’s “deadest” habitats might be our best hope for an ongoing supply of breathable air.

Called peatlands, these wetland environments are named for their tendency to accumulate decayed plant matter. Unlike most other ecosystems, like forests, where branches and leaves typically decompose in a matter of months… in peatlands, that plant material can stay intact for millenia. You see, peatlands mostly exist in high altitude places where temps are low and there’s not much water flow. This results in their having extremely low oxygen and high acidity levels.

These harsh conditions aren’t very hospitable to microbes and fungi, which are instrumental to the whole decomposition process. So without them around, the plant material sort of… just sits. Over time, that it globs together to form peat, a thick, spongy material that can soak up 20x its weight in water. Peat also soaks up loads of carbon. Through a process known as the Calvin cycle, living plants absorb CO2 from the air and convert it into organic molecules that they can then use as energy to grow.

Through decomposition, the carbon that’s “fixed” in a plant’s structure gets released but since peat doesn’t decompose, that carbon can stay put! It’s estimated that peatlands contain 550 gigatonnes of organic carbon, which is twice as much organic carbon as all the world’s forests combined. That’s absolutely wild, considering that forests cover about 30% of the world’s land area… and peatlands only account for 3%! Like most of the world’s habitats, peatlands aren’t immune to the threats of human development and exploitation.

Peat is also are a very in-demand resource. Its incredible water holding capacity makes it a favorite amongst horticulturists; If you’ve ever picked up a bag of soil amendment, chances are it’s full of the stuff. Since peat is also a fossil fuel with a long burn, it’s used in some parts of the world. Peatlands are also often drained to accommodate other land use activities, like agriculture.

Ecosystems: Seed-Firing Drones Planting Trees

Views: The Bonneville Salt Flats In Northwest Utah

The Bonneville Salt Flats are perfect for speed. Every year, cars and motorcycles break land speed records on the flat expanse of the Bonneville Salt Flats. It’s been a tradition for more than a century, and racers have built a thriving community around the salt races. But how did these salt flats form, and why are they disappearing now?