A study out March 13 finds that urban trees can survive increased heat and insect pests fairly well - unless they are thirsty. Insufficient water not only harms trees, but allows other problems to have an outsized effect on trees in urban environments.
"We would see some vibrant urban trees covered in scale insects, but we'd also see other clearly stressed and struggling urban trees covered in scale insects," says Emily Meineke, a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard and first author of a paper on the study. "We wanted to know what allowed some trees to deal with these pests so much more successfully."
"This is important because trees need to grow in order to perform valuable ecosystem services, such as removing pollutants from the air and storing carbon," says Steve Frank, an associate professor of entomology at North Carolina State University and co-author of the paper.
It's extremely difficult to design a field study that addresses these questions about the role of various environmental variables, given all of the uncontrolled factors in an urban environment. So the researchers used both field data and controlled laboratory experiments.
The researchers collected detailed data on 40 urban willow oaks (Quercus phellos) over the course of two years. The data included temperature, how water-stressed the trees were, and the density of scale insects. Scale insects (Parthenolecanium species) are well-known tree pests.
But the researchers also conducted laboratory experiments using willow oak saplings. In these experiments, the researchers manipulated three variables while growing the willow oaks: temperature, water and the presence of scale insects.
The researchers found that higher temperatures could actually have a positive effect on tree growth, as long as the trees had adequate water. And scale insects had little or no adverse effect on the trees if the trees were not water stressed.
The researchers also found that water stress limited tree growth all by itself. But the presence of increased heat and/or scale insects, when combined with water stress, had a multiplier effect - curtailing growth far more than water stress or scale insects alone.
"This tells us that management strategies aimed at increasing tree hydration in cities may reduce the adverse effects of all three of these key stressors," says Meineke, a former Ph.D. student in Frank's lab. "And that is likely to become increasingly important as water availability, temperature and pest abundance are affected by further urbanization and climate change."
"For example, urban planners could design urban landscapes that retain stormwater in vegetation; invest in hydration strategies, such as appropriate soil quality and soil volume; and plant drought-tolerant tree species and genotypes in the hottest parts of their cities," Frank says.
"Moving forward, we're very curious about the prevalence of water stress in urban trees globally - and whether this leads to similar problems regarding the impact of tree pests," Meineke says. "If so, improved tree hydration could become a higher priority for urban forestry management."
Photo: Urban Willow Oak, Architect of the Capitol.
Published Date: March 24th, 2018
Northeast CSC Graduate Fellow Marketa Zimova is co-author on a new paper in the journal Science on how the worldwide decrease in snow cover already may have dramatic impacts on animals that change coat colors with the seasons. Marketa has been working towards a PhD studying species' responses to climate change, investigating hares and adaptation to decreasing snow cover. She was a fellow at the Southeat CSC while she completed the work highlighted in this publication.
MISSOULA – As winters arrive later and snow melts earlier, the worldwide decrease in snow cover already may have dramatic impacts on animals that change coat colors with the seasons. An international scientific team led by University of Montana Professor L. Scott Mills has set out to discover whether adaptive evolution can rescue these animals in the face of rapidly changing climate.
Twenty-one species of mammals and birds rely on the ability to change their coat color from brown in summer to white in winter to avoid fatal encounters with predators, but in some parts of their range individuals forgo the white molt and remain brown in winter.
“Weasels in the southern U.S. and mountain hares in Ireland, for example, have evolved to remain brown year-round,” Mills said. “This is a genetic adaptation to retain camouflage in areas where snow is intermittent or sparse.”
Mills’ group previously found that winter white snowshoe hares confronting snowless ground have higher mortality rates that could drive massive population declines as snow duration continues to decrease. Other scientists have pointed to coat-color mismatch against snowless ground as a cause for recent range decreases of hares, ptarmigan and other species.
In a new article in Science, Mills’ team identified areas that could foster rapid “evolutionary rescue” of these species particularly vulnerable to climate change. The study describes how the international team mapped “polymorphic zones” for eight color-changing species, including hares, weasels and the Arctic fox. In these zones, both brown and white individuals coexist in winter.
“These areas hold the special sauce for rapid evolutionary rescue,” Mills said. “Because they contain winter-brown individuals better adapted to shorter winters, these polymorphic populations are primed to promote rapid evolution toward being winter brown instead of white as climate changes.”
The authors emphasize that these hotspots for evolutionary rescue are not magic fortresses that will prevent climate change effects on wild animals.
“Ultimately, the world must reduce carbon dioxide emissions or else the climate effects will overwhelm the ability of many species to adapt,” co-author Eugenia Bragina said. “But by mapping these adaptive hotspots, we identify places where people could help foster evolutionary rescue in the short term by working to maintain large and connected wildlife populations.”
For this research, UM partnered with North Carolina State University, the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna, the Universidade do Porto in Portugal, the German Remote Sensing Data Center, the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg and Russia’s Institute of Systematics and Ecology of Animals.
Five UM graduate students also were co-authors on the paper and part of the international research team.
See the original University of Montana press releasehere.
To learn more about a related NCCWSC-funded project,click here!
Photo Credit: Snowshoe hare, Tim Rains, NPS
Published Date: March 24th, 2018
This year, 2018, marks the 10-year anniversary of the establishment of the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center (NCCWSC). In those 10-years, the eight regional Climate Science Centers (CSCs) were established, and together, NCCWSC and the CSCs funded over 425 science projects and built a network of research partners, resource management stakeholders, interdisciplinary staff, fellows, and early career researchers.
In celebration of our work and accomplishments over the last 10 years, we are kicking off a monthly series featuring “10 Things You May Not Know” about different topics our science has focused on, including drought, glaciers, and wildfire. To get things started, here are 10 things you may not know about the NCCWSC and CSC network.
Partners & Stakeholders:Our network was built on partner and stakeholder input. In 2008 and 2009, a group of partners, including the Ecological Society of America, The Wildlife Society, and other state and federal agencies, tribal organizations, academia, and nongovernmental organizations came together to help define priorities for the structure, scope, and implementation of the NCCWSC and CSC network. Input from our partners continues today as a crucial part of our mission to provide useful scientific knowledge to decision makers.
University Hosts:The CSCs were officially established between 2010 and 2012 at eight universities across the U.S. After NCCWSC was established, 2008 and 2009 were filled with stakeholder engagement, strategic planning, initial funding of science projects, and planning for the competitions that would determine the first CSC host universities. In 2010, the Alaska, Southeast, and Northwest CSCs were established, followed by the North Central and Southwest CSCs in 2011. The last three CSCs, Northeast, South Central, and Pacific Islands, were set up in 2012.
Usable Science:We take an innovative approach to research, producing science that directly informs resource management decisions. A main goal of our program is to provide science that achieves "on-the-ground" impact. We work closely with natural and cultural resource managers, federal and state agencies, tribes, and other decision makers to ensure that our science and tools can directly inform their planning and adaptation needs.
Small Scale to Big Picture: Our science projects range in scale from the genetic level up to national-scale. Our funded projects focus on a variety of topics, ranging from understanding how genetic traits affect a species’ ability to adapt to changing environments, to examining the factors that impact migratory bird populations across the country. Many of our projects are on a regional-scale, answering questions that relate to ecosystems, coastlines, or landscapes that cross state boundaries.
Projects: Every year, we fund approximately 50 new science projects. Our research looks at how intense droughts, sea-level rise, extreme storms, and other consequences of climate change affect wildlife, ecosystems, and other important resources. Our projects involve researchers from public universities, Tribal communities, non-profits, USGS and other federal bureaus, and other partner institutions. Interested in submitting a proposal? Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date on funding opportunities or monitor our website.
Grand Challenge:In 2015, NCCWSC, the CSCs, and university partners undertook a “grand challenge” to understand the effects of drought on valued resources. This national-scale initiative is helping our scientists to identify what we know about the impacts of ecological drought across the country (the Knowns), where information is lacking (the Needs), and how managers can plan for these impacts and adapt to changing conditions in the future (the Solutions). Activities include the convening of an expert drought working group, regional workshops to synthesize information, webinars, and a number of science projects.
Science Communications: Communicating our science is crucial to achieving our mission. We’ve even won some awards for it! Earlier this year (January 2018), the Northeast CSC-funded interactive decision-support tool, Shifts in Fish Habitat Under Climate Change, won the prestigious USGS Shoemaker Award for Communications Excellence. In 2015, a poster by the Alaska CSC and partners depicting the linkages between glaciers and the ocean, From Icefield to Ocean, won a “Vizzie” award for excellence in science communication in an international competition cosponsored by Popular Science magazine and the National Science Foundation. Products like these provide important scientific information in an accessible and easy-to-understand manner to our stakeholders and partners.
Tribal & Indigenous Communities:We actively partner with Tribes and indigenous communities, and nearly all CSCs are now working with a Tribal Liaison. The CSCs are working with tribes and indigenous communities to help them understand and adapt to the impacts of climate change. This work includes research projects, training workshops, stakeholder meetings, and other activities. The CSCs are also working with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to place "Tribal Liaisons" at several of the CSCs to help identify the information needs of tribes and indigenous communities and work with partners to address those needs.
Students & Fellows: Every year, our network supports a large cohort of students and early career researchers. Our education and training opportunities include regional week-long “boot camps” and retreats that bring together students and early career professionals, summer-long internships for undergraduate students of underrepresented minorities, a national training to bring together students and fellows from across the U.S. and much more. The CSCs also support an online Early Career Climate Forum which provides a venue for communication, collaboration, and professional development.
Interdisciplinary Staff:The CSCs consist of USGS and university staff working side by side. The CSCs are made up of a mix of university and USGS staff from many different scientific disciplines, including both a federal-side director and a university-side director. Some CSCs even have staff from other partner organizations, like Tribes, and some CSCs share office spaces with other federal programs and bureaus. These unique partnerships provide for close, interdisciplinary scientific collaboration and allow USGS to leverage a wide range of scientific resources.
Symbols courtesy of the Integration and Application Network, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (ian.umces.edu/symbols/)
Published Date: March 24th, 2018
The 2017 hurricane season has heavily impacted many Caribbean countries and coastal U.S. states. Several scientists have joined together to study the impacts of these hurricanes on landscape changes and hydrology.
The team plans to compile and process satellite data and streamflow records to provide information on landscape recovery rates and changes to eco-hydrologic processes following the hurricane events.
The scientists will analyze time-lapse photography, multi-scale satellite-derived images and data, and hydro-meteorological datasets. Satellite data is continuously collected and hydrologic data collection, although compromised due to some storm damage of stream gaging stations, is also ongoing. On-site data collection is expected to start as soon as possible, with outputs including data syntheses and analyses expected starting in the summer of 2018.
Partners will include Greg Guannel of the Caribbean Green Technology Center, who will be leading local data collection and interpretation, as well as other EROS researchers, who will help develop satellite-derived environmental parameters such as phenology metrics (seasonal cycles of natural systems) and evapotranspiration (ET).
Results will help inform planning and management for these major storm events.
Image: GOES-16 satellite captured this geocolor image of three hurricanes in the tropical Atlantic on the afternoon of September 8, 2017. Left to right, they are: Hurricane Katia, which made landfall in Mexico that night. Hurricane Irma, which was passing between Cuba and the Bahamas; and Hurricane José, which was churning in the open ocean.
Published Date: March 24th, 2018
This year, from December 11-15, 2017, scientists from across the country will head to New Orleans for "the largest and preeminent Earth and space science meeting in the world", the American Geophysical Union (AGU) annual Fall meeting. If you're heading that way, don't miss these presentations, sessions, and posters authored and organized by staff and partners from across our Climate Science Center network!
Statistically downscaled climate projections: some pitfalls that may be encountered when bridging the research to applications gap (Oral Presentation at the NOAA booth) Author/Presenter: Keith Dixon, NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, South Central CSC Consortium Partner Thursday, 14 December 2017 10:45am - 11:00am, Exhibitor's Hall NOAA Booth 1025
Heading for Higher Ground: Adapting Marsh Bird Management as Sea Level Rises Presenters/Authors: Paul J. Taillie, Southeast CSC Global Change Fellow; Christopher E. Moorman, Southeast CSC Faculty Affiliate; Benjamin Poulter, North Central CSC Funded Researcher Sunday, September 24, 2017: 3:40 PM; Rooms 18 – Cochiti and 30 – Taos Combined Symposium: Conservation and Ecology of Birds II
Picture: Black Skimmers, Georgia; Credit: Alan Cressler
Published Date: March 24th, 2018
The USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center (NCCWSC) website, which provides information on research and activities from NCCWSC and the DOI Climate Science Centers (CSCs), has been revamped. The website has a fresh new look and a more user-friendly interface, with improvements that include new search capabilities to help you find exactly what you’re looking for. See below for highlights of some of the new and updated features – we hope you’ll spend some time checking it out!
>> Search by Topic: From the Home page or the Explore By Topic page, you now have the ability to explore projects and products based on six different Science Topics (see list below). Once you land on a topic page, you can break down your search further by Subtopic, CSC, or Product Type (e.g. project, publication, etc.).
>> Science Snapshots: This page is home to a new series of short snapshots highlighting science from across the country. These snapshots provide a good overview of the types of science we do – and why it matters.
>> Search by Region: Like before, you can search our projects by CSC region. However, once you’ve arrived at a CSC page, you can find the information you are interested in more easily by filtering based on a Science Topic of interest. As before, you still have the capability to search projects based on Fiscal Year.
>> Project Pages: Once you click on a project that you’re interested in, you’ll be taken to that project’s own unique webpage. These project pages have a new look – the information is no longer hidden in a series of drop-down tabs, but instead is all laid out up front. You can read the project summary, look at the study area map, and scan the list of products that have resulted from the project.
Published Date: March 24th, 2018
Heading to the 2017 Ecological Society of America (ESA) meeting (August 6-11, 2017) in Portland, OR? Check out these presentations from leadership, staff, and affiliates of the Climate Science Centers! The theme for this year's meeting is: Linking biodiversity, material cycling and ecosystem services in a changing world.
Following an open competition and extensive review by scientific experts, host institutions and consortium partners have been selected for the Alaska, Northwest, and Southeast Climate Science Centers.
The Department of the Interior Climate Science Centers (CSCs) are dedicated to delivering science that helps fish, wildlife, water, land, and people adapt to a changing climate. The CSCs are deeply rooted in federal-university partnerships. Each CSC is hosted by a public university, composed of a multi-institution consortium and managed by the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center. These partnerships ensure access to a broad range of scientific expertise, production of high-quality science, and sharing of funds, resources and facilities. University involvement also allows the CSCs to introduce students to the idea of “co-producing” science, in which scientists and decision-makers work closely together to ensure scientific research and products are usable and directly address real-world problems.
Approximately every five years, host universities and consortium partners for the CSCs are selected through a competitive re-compete process. The Alaska, Northwest, and Southeast CSCs were established in 2010 and underwent their first re-competition in 2016. These three CSCs are now structured as follows:
Alaska CSC The University of Alaska Fairbanks will remain the host institution for the Alaska CSC, led by University Director Scott Rupp. The University of Alaska Anchorage remains a partner institution, and is joined by the University of Alaska Southeast, a new consortium partner.
Northwest CSC The University of Washington was selected to be the new host for the Northwest CSC, led by University Director Amy Snover. Consortium institutions include Boise State University, the University of Montana, Washington State University, and Western Washington University.
Southeast CSC North Carolina State University will remain the host institution for the Southeast CSC, and will be led by University Director Harry Daniels. New consortium partners include Auburn University, Duke University, the University of Florida, the University of South Carolina, and the University of Tennessee.
As temperatures rise and rainfall patterns change, many wildlife species are expected to shift their range and move into new habitats in search of more suitable conditions. Yet in the eastern U.S., it’s estimated that less than 2% of natural areas are connected enough to allow for the movement of wildlife from one area to the next. Urban areas, roads, and farms fragment natural areas, creating a patchwork of natural and developed lands – and limiting the ability of species to move.
WHAT: The lack of connected habitats in the face of warming temperatures is one of the biggest threats facing wildlife today. Many species will seek cooler locations that are farther north or at higher elevations, as a means of adapting to changing conditions. Yet barriers on the landscape, such as highly developed areas, could prevent movement and result in local species extinctions.
As a result of this concern, researchers assessed current and future connectivity for three species found in the Southeast’s bottomland hardwood forests, a habitat of high conservation concern: black bear, Rafinesque’s big-eared bat, and the timber rattlesnake. Researchers first mapped landscape connections that would be important for these species, then identified how these connections will hold up in the face of changes in climate and urban growth.
FINDINGS: Under anticipated future climate conditions, the Southeast will have fewer suitable connections that allow species to move to new habitats. This loss of connectivity adds to other threats facing wildlife in the region, such as urbanization and sea-level rise.
Results also reveal that the future suitability of landscape connections will vary depending on the species. For example, a landscape that might be suffiently connected for black bears, which can more easily traverse long distances, might prove to be too disconnected for a rattlesnake. This result demonstrates that managers will need to consider multiple species when making decisions to improve connectivity.
SIGNIFICANCE:Maintaining habitat connectivity is a key strategy for conserving wildlife, but is a challenge in the highly developed southeastern U.S. The results of this study can be used by managers and regional landscape planners to determine where conservation efforts and resources should be focused, in order to maintain connectivity into the future.