Forest Owners’ Response to Climate Change: University Education Trumps Value Profile

by Charlie Thomson

A study conducted by the University of Freiburg in Germany, in conjunction with Lund University in Switzerland, aimed to answer the question of whether or not forest owners’ response to climate change had any correlation to their level of education and personal values. The study was conducted to test the cultural cognition thesis (CCT), which has historically cast significant levels of doubt over the frequently-mentioned and criticized “knowledge deficit” model –an assumption that the average person is less concerned about climate change and the effects of climate change due to a lack of scientific literacy and knowledge of the matter. Proponents of the cultural cognition thesis believe that citizens with the highest levels of education and scientific literacy fall under a category of people who are least concerned about climate change, due to a high level of cultural polarization and a difference of cultural values. Continue reading

Tourism Causing Behavioral Changes of Whale Sharks in Western Australia

by Isabelle Ng

Western Australia’s Ningaloo Marine Park (NMP) is one of the few locations in the world where whale sharks are known to aggregate, which makes it a popular destination for nature-seeking tourists. Tourism levels are high between March and July, when whale sharks aggregate in high nutrient waters. While tourism may benefit from these aggregations, the whale shark is threatened and listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN, most likely a result of human impacts such as tourism. The whale shark tourism industry is managed by the Department of Parks and Wildlife under a species and management program, which is supposed to exercise “sustainable best practices” through a code of conduct. Continue reading

Climatic Tipping Points and Optimal Fossil Fuel Use

by Emil Morhardt

Should we plan to decrease fossil fuel use as quickly as possible to decrease damage from global warming? Maybe not according to Gustav Engström and Johan Gars (2016), Swedish economists, who consider the possibility that planned reduction of fossil fuel use might cause suppliers of it to increase production now in advance of potential decreased value of it in the future.

Their focus is economically-important climatic tipping points—relatively sudden climatic changes triggered by gradual global warming—that could have drastic economic consequences; they are less concerned with environmental damage with low immediate economic consequences, and they argue that most economists have modelled the effects of climate change without taking climatic tipping points into consideration. These potential tipping points, however, might not exist, in which case, they argue, it would be best to proceed gradually with climate reforms, but develop a strategy to deal with any tipping points should they occur. Continue reading

Mosquitoes on the Move

by Emil Morhardt

The mosquito on the left is an Aedes aegypti female of the sub-Saharan African subspecies formosus. The one on the right is the cosmopolitan subspecies aegypti. Both species are vectors  of yellow fever, dengue, and now Zika, but the African form historically breeds in tree holes and prefers non-human sources of blood; the cosmopolitan form evolved between 4000 and 6000 years ago, breeds primarily in human-generated containers, and prefers to feed on humans. Recently, the African form has taken up the breeding and feeding habits of the cosmopolitan one, though, and hybridization is apparently taking place. At the same time, the African form is moving into forested areas in South America, and the cosmopolitan form has gradually spread clear across the southern edge of the US, from Southern California to Florida, not doubt exacerbated by the warming trends. Continue reading

Balancing the Use of Crop Residues for Biofuels with Impacts on Soil and Greenhouse Gases

by Jessica Bass

The use of crop residues as a second-generation source of biofuels may hold potential to help the United States fulfill its 2022 goal production quota outlined in the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act. Yet, this annual accumulation plays an important role toward maintaining soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks and reducing soil erosion, protecting field health to sustain year-after-year of yields. Adler et al. (2015) use the DayCent biogeochemical model to analyze the costs and benefits of crop residue removal and use based upon its impact on crop yield, SOC content, and N2O emissions, over the course of twenty years. They examined these relationships with respect to a variety of anticipated treatment options, including: a baseline condition with no residue removal, a sample of 50% residue removal without any replacements, 50% residue removal with a nitrogen replacement equivalent to the amount removed, and a 50% residue removal and equivalent application of a high-lignin fermentation byproduct (HLFB). Continue reading

Verbal Warming: Labels in the Climate Change Debate

by Owen Dubeck

Justin Gillis discusses a movement to alter the terminology used by the media to describe climate change deniers. Mark B. Boslough, a New Mexican physicist, started the movement with an open letter urging the phrase “climate skeptic” to be discontinued. His letter gained support from Bill Nye and Lawrence M. Kraus. There is now a petition with 22,000 signatures to make the phrase “climate denier” a convention for news outlets. Continue reading

Climate Change and Resource Competition

by Marina de Castro Deus

Species that live in competition are always susceptible to shifts in competitive abilities. Variable conditions such as temperature, rainfall, soil condition, food availability, and many other environmental factors may result in different responses. Higher temperatures related to climate change have the potential to dramatically change how species interact. If one considers the large time scale from the time species originated often millions of years ago, recent climate change is relatively fast. Each population responds differently and may be benefited or harmed with these changes. Those that benefit from warmer temperatures can adversely alter the organisms they interact with. Continue reading

Permafrost Thawing due to Rising Temperatures Predicted to Accelerate Climate Change

by Lindsay McCord

As a warming climate impacts Arctic and sub-Arctic regions, frozen soils, called permafrost hold the potential to release large amounts of greenhouse gases as they thaw, triggering a feedback cycle that can further accelerate climate change.

Permafrost is frozen soil that often contains large amounts of undecomposed organic matter. When permafrost thaws, microbes start to break it down, releasing carbon dioxide and methane gas, which accelerates atmospheric warming and furthers thawing of the permafrost in a positive feedback loop.

Much of the soil in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions is permafrost, containing 1,330–1,580 billion tons of carbon. This estimate is probably low because it does not include subsea permafrost (frozen sediment at the bottom of shallow seas). It is also uncertain because current modeling does not accurately take into account variation in soil composition across the permafrost area. There also remain large, mostly remote areas where the amount of permafrost is entirely unknown. Continue reading

Sustainable to Whom? Fisheries for Food Security in the Developing World


by Hannah Tannenbaum

It is widely accepted that fish stocks worldwide have been over-exploited, and that both commercial and small-scale fisheries face economic challenges due to the lack of certainty in stock security. While studies have focused on the environmental and economic considerations to the fishing industry, few studies have examined the social context of the industry: fisheries as a means of providing national food security. Hall et al. (2013) examined the relationship between national GDP (per capita gross domestic product) and dependence on fish for protein in diet, as well as data on wild-caught vs. imported aquaculture for those nations heavily reliant on fish. The authors found that nations that were most dependent on fish as a source of protein and food security were reliant on wild-caught species, and were mostly in the developing world. Ultimately the authors suggest that the site-specific complexity of the international fishing industry demands site-specific, comprehensive management which is inclusive of environmental, economic, and social considerations in policy. Continue reading

Symbionts Impact the Behavior of Coral Larvae

by Kimberly Coombs

Climate change is known for causing adults corals to become bleached, but it is also affecting the early life stages of corals. The larval stage of a coral reef’s lifecycle is very important to its survivorship. Corals disperse their larvae out into the water, then the larvae are responsible for finding a suitable substrate to settle on. After settlement, corals are able to start growing accumulate symbionts. Several studies have observed how different symbionts influence juvenile coral growth rates and thermotolerance; however, no data currently show if there are any influences from symbionts on the coral larvae before settlement occurs. Continue reading