In a special Earth Day edition of #MBLSciShoots, scientists from the MBL Ecosystems Center talk about Earth Day, the decades-long research happening in coastal wetlands and the Arctic tundra, and take you on a guided tour of the National Climate Assessment!
Questions from the Audience
If you could set up another LTER anywhere in the U.S., where would it be and why?
Anne Giblin: I would set one up in the wetlands of the Gulf of Mexico. These wetlands are experiencing high rates of sea-level rise, high nutrient inputs and have had a high level of disturbance from dredging and oil spills.
Ed Rastetter: Gulf of Mexico, Mississippi delta. It represents a major gap in our coverage of coastal ecosystems at the mouth of the largest watershed in the U.S., major impacts of central-plains agriculture. Another is a Hawaii geologic age transect ranging from decades to 5-million years—a unique transect representing ecosystem development from bare rock (lava flow) to rich productive soil to highly weathered, nutrient poor soil.
How have you seen these ecosystems change in the decades you’ve been studying these sites?
Anne Giblin: Yes at Plum Island we have seen the appearance of some southern species, which were not found in these marshes before, appear over the last decade. One of the fiddler crab which has only recently come north of Cape Cod,
Ed Rastetter: The major changes are associated with the change in climate, including thunder storms and associated wild fire; the vegetation has been very stable thus far with little change in composition. However, warming is expected to increase microbial turnover of soil nutrients and thereby increase fertility. Experimental manipulations increasing fertility show a dramatic increase in woody vegetation, which in turn shade out mosses, sedge, and forbs.
What’s something I could do at home to help?
Anne Giblin: Everyone can make an effort to lower their carbon footprint. The first step is to see what your carbon footprint is using some of the on-line tools available that calculate what your footprint is now. Then work with your family to start making changes to lower it. For example see: globalstewards.org/reduce-carbon-footprint.htm
Ed Rastetter: Help spread the word about the effects of overpopulating the planet and insist that governments take note. These effects include elevated CO2 in the atmosphere and climate warming, but also many other things like the loss of habitat for wildlife, pollution of waterways, the easy spread of pandemic diseases, and many more.
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