Category: Adaptation

Peter Kareiva on How Nature Can Protect Us from Coastal Risk: An Interview

New York Public Television interviews Peter Kareiva on a new study touting the importance of nature in reducing the risk to people from coastal storms. Click through to watch the interview.

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Can Mangroves Adapt to Rising Seas?

Mangroves have had a hard-knock life, with coastal development destroying at least 35% of the world’s tidal forests in recent decades. Scientists have feared that rising seas would be the final blow. But mangroves just might be able to rise above, says a new report.

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A Green Contagion: What Could Make Investing in Nature Catch On?

New information and data is never enough to make ideas contagious, says new research. We need to add behavioral economics, social psychology and a healthy dash of emotion, too.

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Farming, Adapting to Climate Change & the Limits of Imagination

A new study from Conservancy scientists says irrigation needs are going to increase significantly under future climate change projections. Can farmers be equally radical in how they respond to these drier conditions?

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Climate Change and the Future of Bison

When the world gets warmer, what happens to bison and other grassland grazers such as cattle? A new paper, based on research conducted at Nature Conservancy preserves, is helping answer that question.

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Ocean Acidification: The Next Big Threat to Coral Reefs?

As if the long list of threats to coral reefs weren’t enough, we can now add ocean acidification to the list.

Perhaps you’ve seen the gloomy headlines likeOcean Acidification: ‘Evil Twin’ Threatens World’s Oceans, Scientists Warn.

Perhaps it is no wonder that folks think coral reef scientists are never finished “crying wolf” about the next global challenge threatening to wipe out coral reef ecosystems.

How serious is this threat and what can we do to address it? To answer these questions, we decided to enlist the help of some global acidification experts. But first, we have to understand the problem.

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Adapting the Science of Adaptation – The Importance of Seeing Through Others’ Eyes

Helping people and nature adapt to climate change is a hot topic in conservation.

But the science behind planning such adaptation — particularly for human communities — isn’t as clean as the rhetoric, and you can’t do it simply in a lab or on paper. Whether we’re talking about major developed world cities or small coastal villages, we have to run our theories by what we call the “test of people” — so they lead to strategies that work. That test often involves understanding how the world looks through the eyes of the people we are trying to help. Nothing like a good reality check.

Case in point: My recent trip to the Grenadines, where I was attending an “action planning meeting” with community members, my colleagues from The Nature Conservancy’s ‘At The Water’s Edge’ project team, and our local partners. Our aim: to identify specific actions that can be taken to help reduce the communities’ vulnerability to coastal hazards (i.e., flooding from sea level rise and storm surge). As conservationists, we hope nature might be a part of the equation — what we call “nature-based adaptation.”

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Keep It Cool: What Desert Plants Can Teach Us About Climate Change

Climate change isn’t new. The earth’s organisms have faced the “cope, adapt, or die” paradigm presented by changing climatic conditions since the inception of life on earth more than 3 billion years ago.

Some species already live in extreme conditions (a topic I covered in my last blog post) – at the earth’s freezing poles in the dead of winter, at the apex of tropical mountain peaks that receive tens of meters of rainfall a year, and deep in the dry deserts that comprise a third of  the earth’s land area.

The plants and animals able to survive these extreme conditions may have something to teach us about climate change adaptation—especially when the organisms are incapable of crawling up to a cooler elevation or slithering into a deeper riverine pool to escape a heat wave.

As a general rule, plants spend their lives rooted to a single spot on the earth. So they need to be able to withstand 365 days per year of whatever nature can dish out in terms of weather.

Plants from hot deserts—such as the prickly cholla cactus—are no exception, and they have evolved a broad range of impressive strategies for coping with the hottest, driest climate in North America, where a years’ worth of rainfall may come in a single extreme event.

These desert denizens provide us with valuable insight into biological and physical adaptations that allow for survival on a hotter, drier planet that is subject to extreme events (as climate change experts are currently forecasting).

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Connect: Helping Animals Move in a Changing Climate

Imagine you’re on a long hike, and you are trying to get to a valley on the other side of a mountain. Do you take a gentle trail that leads you easily around it? Or do you hike straight up the mountain, braving waist-deep snow, frigid wind, slick rocks and risk of death?

It really isn’t much of a decision, is it?

Animals take similar routes when they migrate and roam. A mule deer or a lynx won’t waste calories or risk its life by taking a precarious route. To survive and thrive, they need relatively easy paths to move to feeding, breeding and resting areas.

Now animals face a new reason to move: climate change. As vegetation and climactic conditions change, many species will need to move to new ranges.

But how do they get to these new habitats? Will they find an easy route, or will they have to risk roads, inhospitable terrain, housing developments and other dangerous paths?

Questions like these are at the heart of what ecologists call connectivity: the degree to which a landscape allows wildlife to move from one place to the next. A well-connected landscape is one where animals can move easily. In a disconnected landscape, populations and habitats become isolated from each other.

A new paper published in Conservation Biology by Tristan Nuñez and colleagues from the Washington Wildlife Habitat Connectivity Working Group provides a simple and straightforward method for land managers to account for species shifting their ranges in response to climate change, and to protect and restore land accordingly.

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Oceans and Climate Change: Protecting the “Invisible”

Coral bleaching, increasing storms, the loss of polar bears: many impacts of climate change are already vivid in our minds. We naturally worry about the things we can see. Huge waves and the loss of big fish and colorful corals get our attention.

But what about things we can’t see, like the tiny creatures called plankton? They are also poised for dramatic changes.

A recent dive in the sapphire waters of the Caribbean offers a close encounter with plankton. While most of my dive buddies hurry to reach the bottom, I linger as I usually do, pondering the “blue” and looking out for the visible and the invisible.

Suddenly, clouds of tiny filaments come sharply into focus. It’s blue-green algae–Trichodesmium–a type of phytoplankton that plays an important role in these nutrient-poor waters. They essentially break gaseous nitrogen’s tough triple bond and convert it into a form other phytoplankton can feed on.

What would these waters look like without them?

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