The Largely Unacknowledged Impact of Climate Change on Mental Health

by Ellen Broaddus

Eva and Robert Gifford (2016) assess the relationship between climate change and mental health, looking at the environmental causes, effects, and social factors, the individuals and communities that are most vulnerable, and possible solutions. This largely untouched field of climate change research traces many of today’s physical and mental diseases to the environmental uncertainty and fear-driven anger caused by both drastic and incremental weather pattern changes. The most ubiquitous link emphasized the increase in climate-connected psychological responses: citing floods and droughts accompanying “anxiety, shock, depression, sleep disruptions”, and heat waves being linked to increases in “homicide, suicide, and spousal abuse”. In addition to these short-term reactions, environmental insecurity has led to long-term consequences, especially in children. Recently there has been a rise of respiratory conditions and asthma as a result of air pollution, causing anxiety for children and their families. The link between natural disasters and prevalence of social withdrawal and PTSD has been shown to alter the stress responses of adolescents, putting them at “higher risk for later health challenges”. Continue reading

Influence of Extreme Weather Disasters on Global Cereal Production

by Coco Coyle

Increases in numbers and intensity of extreme weather disasters are linked to climate change and rising global temperatures. Agriculture is both a cause and a victim of climate change, and is susceptible to natural disasters and extreme weather disasters (EWDs). Lesk et al (2015) estimate global cereal production losses resulting from four major types of EWDs—extreme heat, droughts, extreme cold, and floods—in the period 1964–2007, analyze the underlying processes resulting in those losses, and identify several areas with potential for further study. They found that extreme heat disasters and droughts on average reduced national cereal production by 9–10%, while there was no significant drop in production from extreme cold and floods. Continue reading

Community Composition is Different at Forest Edges, but Carbon Storage Remains the Same

by Stephen Johnson

Forest fragmentation is one of the leading ways that humans alter natural habitat. Forests are frequently fragmented as land is cleared piecemeal for the expansion of agriculture, logging, and human settlement. Often, rather than clearing an entire forest, fragments of forest are left embedded in a matrix of agricultural and other habitats. As an increasing percentage of the world’s forests are fragmented, it is crucial to understand how forest fragments function. Fragments are subject to a variety of influences, most notably edge effects. Edge effects occur at the edges of two habitats, and include altered microclimate, reduced biodiversity, and vegetation changes. These edge effects can bring about altered species communities, which in turn could affect the amount of carbon that can be sequestered near forest edges. As forest fragmentation continues, a greater percentage of forest will be exposed to edge effects, potentially inhibiting forests’ ability to act as carbon sinks. To understand these effects, Ziter et al. (2014) examined how tree species composition and carbon storage capacity change with proximity to forest edge in large and small fragments. Using tree measurements and allometric data in the literature, they determined how much carbon was stored, and which species were present. Using linear mixed models and multidimensional scaling, they found that community composition shifts with proximity to the forest edge. Despite this shift, however, carbon storage did not decrease closer to the edge. Continue reading