Climate Change, Nature, Sustainability, Uncategorized

Danish Seagrass Sequesters Carbon at Record Rates

Danish seagrass sequesters carbon at record rates.
Tropical seagrass. Photo: Shutterstock

Seagrass, a type of underwater plant which flowers and grows quite like terrestrial grasses, is apparently a huge contributor to the world’s ability sequester carbon. Seagrass grows in “meadows,” large patches dominated by one or two species, which are home to many shallow-water and coastal creatures. It forms an integral part of their local ecosystems.

But seagrass also sequesters carbon dioxide at a very high rate, and in one Danish bay, it’s much better at it than anywhere else. Outside of Thurøbund, no meadow seems to hold more than 11,000 grams of carbon per square meter, but the Danish bay sequesters upwards of 27,000 grams per square meter.

Biologists think this might have something to do with the protected nature of the bay. Not protected in a legal sense, but by having less direct contact with the larger ocean. There, when the plants die, they sink to the bottom of the ocean and get buried in sediment, so the carbon they had been storing stays there. In other meadows, these plants are washed out to sea, after which nobody is sure what happens to them.

Seagrass is threatened, as are so many species on the planet. Since 1879, the Earth has lost about 29 percent of its seagrass meadows. Denmark itself has lost between 80 and 90 percent since the 1930s. But because these plants are so good at storing carbon, it’s certainly worth our time to not only find ways to preserve those meadows which still exist, but to find ways to shore them up. If we can get more seagrass to grow, returning to levels before 1879, that could be a huge help in reducing global warming.

While the Earth’s processes of naturally sequestering carbon aren’t likely to save the day, they do put in a lot of work, and finding ways to increase the effectiveness with which they do so could make quite a difference.

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Conservation, Green, Sustainability

China’s Forests Are Shrinking Despite Reforestation Efforts

China’s forests are facing a crisis as the economy continues to grow and consumes wood for construction and manufacturing. Despite reforestation programs China continues to import wood from other countries, which does solve problems related to wood use and carbon sequestration, it just moves them to another country.
China’s forests are facing a crisis as the economy continues to grow and consumes wood for construction and manufacturing. Despite reforestation programs China continues to import wood from other countries, which does solve problems related to wood use and carbon sequestration, it just moves them to another country. Photo: Province of British Columbia | FlickrCC.

Since the beginning of the 21st Century, China has been engaged in a massive reforestation project. It is a large part of the government’s plan to develop clean energy sources and reduce their carbon footprint.

The reforestation project has taken on several forms, from banning logging to replanting trees. According to researchers at Michigan State University, those efforts have been paying off.

Since the program’s inception, 1.6% of China’s territory has seen a significant gain in tree growth. That may not sound like a lot, but remember that China is a huge country, and that 1.6% amounts to almost 61,000 square miles, which is bigger than the state of Georgia.

Compare that success to the ongoing loss and it’s revealed a falling short of the promised results. Nearly .38% of their territory, about 14,400 square miles, has experienced significant loss, so it’s not a total gain. While these efforts are good for China, that country is still using a lot of lumber, and they’re importing and exporting it at about the same rate as before.

Other countries like Vietnam or Indonesia are shouldering some of that burden, cutting their own forests in order to sell wood to China. This essentially means that the problems of forest loss, namely a drop in biological diversity and in carbon sequestration, are happening elsewhere.

China hasn’t ceased cutting down trees, and they’re still exporting lumber and wood products, but that wood is simply coming from other parts of the country, which are hopefully well managed and grown for that specific purpose.

Still, it’s a step in the right direction. Maybe if other countries can adopt some of the Chinese reforestation practices, we can make some more significant gains around the world. The problem remains though, of how to manage lumber and meet needs for wood, without damaging the environment.

Climate Change, Science

Climate Change Computer Models Prove The World Is Doomed!

The Philippines is one of many densely populated nations in and around Southeast Asia that are endangered by rising sea levels caused by global warming. Global average sea level is rising 3.1 centimeters per decade.
The Philippines is one of many densely populated nations in and around Southeast Asia that are endangered by rising sea levels caused by global warming. Global average sea level is rising 3.1 centimeters per decade. Photo: Department Of Foreign Affairs And Trade.

Thanks to computer modeling of climate change we know that world is doomed. Actually, doomed might be to strong a word, but it’s definitely in for a wild ride. A ride in which climate change is the driver. He’s a bad driver with a license that will not expire for millennia.

A bad driver with a license to kill is an apt metaphor for climate change. After all, automobiles drove carbon dioxide in the air. Due to the increase of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere our planet will be substantially changed within several centuries. These changes could last up to 10,000 years.

We know that climate change is caused by human activity. But most people seem to think that by reducing the amount of carbon we’re putting into the atmosphere we’ll start mitigating that change soon. That’s not how it works though.

According to a new study by researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, even if we severely reduce the amount of carbon we create, we’ll suffer from the results of climate change for centuries.

This is because carbon sticks around. Sure, by creating less of it we’re adding less, but we’re not getting rid of what’s already there.

Climate change projections generally don’t go more than a few centuries into our future, and many don’t go past 2100, because most humans are shortsighted and don’t much care about a time after they, and maybe their kids, are dead. The problem is that we spend a lot of time patting ourselves on the back about how much better we’re going to be about the creation of carbon dioxide.

We fail to realize that we might limit the temperature rise over the next century or so.

We fail to understand that it’s going to take thousands of years for those temperatures to fall.

Climate Change, Nature, Science

Icebergs Are Essential to Fighting Global Warming

Surrounded by ice, bright green phytoplankton bloom in open water areas—called polynyas—in the Ross Sea during Antarctica’s spring and summer.
Surrounded by ice, bright green phytoplankton bloom in open water areas—called polynyas—in the Ross Sea during Antarctica’s spring and summer. Photo: NASA Earth Observatory | FlickrCC.

According to the University of Sheffield, icebergs in the Southern Ocean have a pretty big impact on how much carbon is sequestered in those waters.  Runoff from the icebergs is rich in nutrients, and helps phytoplankton grow. Phytoplankton work like plants, and so they breathe in carbon in the air and contribute to keeping that carbon from getting trapped in the atmosphere and contributing to global warming. The Southern Ocean is responsible for about 10% of oceanic carbon sequestration.

The researchers looked at satellite imagery of the oceans color, an easy way to determine phytoplankton activity, taken between 2003 and 2013. They focused on icebergs that were at least 19 kilometers long (about 11 miles, almost as long as Manhattan Island), which could leave trails of fertile water hundreds of kilometers long. All told, it looks like icebergs are responsible for about 20% of the total carbon sequestered in the Southern Ocean.

Now for the bad news—icebergs have been calving or breaking into smaller units, more rapidly in recent years, because global warming has been increasing average ocean temperatures. With more miniature icebergs, there will be fewer phytoplankton blooms, meaning less carbon gets sequestered and more carbon enters the atmosphere. More carbon in the atmosphere means more global warming, higher water temperatures, and fewer icebergs.

While icebergs have contributed to carbon sequestration for much longer than humans have been around, there’s already more carbon in the atmosphere than they handle. That means we’re looking at a downward spiral. This change will happen gradually, of course, but we’re already getting pretty close to the point of no return as far as climate change is concerned. While this new information about icebergs and their relationship with carbon sequestration is fascinating, it also serves to point out another problem we need to fix.