On The Radio- Climate change affecting the moss in Antartica


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Red lichens, moss, hair grass, and pearlwort make up the fauna of Antarctic (Karen Chase/ flickr)

Kasey Dresser | October 15, 2018

This weeks segment highlights the affect of climate change on plant life in East Antartica.

Transcript:

There is evidence of climate change affecting moss beds in East Antarctica.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

In East Antarctica, green moss beds emerge after the snow melts for 6 weeks. West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula have experienced significant climate changes, but East Antarctica was yet to experience anything major.

Professor Sharon Robinson from the University of Wollongon in Australia was surprised to see abrupt changes in the moss. In 2003 the monitoring system was first set up and the moss beds were lush and bright green. When her team returned in 2008 the majority of the plants were red. The dark red color indicates the plant is stressed.

The red pigment is meant to act as sunscreen. On the team’s most recent trip to East Antarctica, there were also patches of grey moss indicating the plant is starting to die. This behavior is caused by a drying climate in the region. It is now too cold and windy for the moss beds to live primarily under water. The drier climate is a result of climate change and ozone depletion.

For more information, visit iowa-environmental-focus-dog-org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Sara E. Mason.

Farm conservation on the line in 2018 Farm Bill


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At risk USDA conservation programs include provisions to promote sustainable stewardship of forest and pasture on farms (flickr).

Julia Poska | September 28, 2018

Farmers nationwide are waiting anxiously for the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, a crucial piece of legislation that authorizes U.S. Department of Agriculture programs and funding for research in agriculture and food.

The current bill expires Sept. 30. If congress can not settle on a new bill by then, funding for those conservation, nutrition, and rural development programs, among others, could be lost for a time.

A conference committee of both House of Representatives and Senate representatives are currently working out the differences between the draft bills proposed by each chamber in June. The Senate draft is widely regarded as friendlier to conservation.

One of the House’s most controversial proposals is to cut the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), which provides contractual support for people who actively mange agricultural land or forest for conservation on their property.

The House bill proposes folding the CSP’s “best features” into the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), a similar program that covers some cost for conservation practices on farms.

Critics say this move would eliminate the advanced  conservation practices the CSP promotes, and totally cuts funding for working lands. They believe the CSP is necessary because it allows for long-term conservation efforts, whereas EQIP deals with one-time practice establishments.

Conservation practices like cover cropping and on-farm forestry ease the stress agriculture can put on our natural resources, but they can be expensive for farmers. USDA programs provide critical resources to ensure eco-friendly farms can still turn profit.

Groups like the Nature Conservancy and Natural Association of Conservation Districts are actively advocating for the conference committee to maintain or increase conservation funding in their final version of the bill.

 

 

 

 

Tracking pesticide behavior to protect pollinators


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Beneficial insects, like the bee shown above, can be harmed by chemical pesticides (flickr). 

Julia Poska| September 27, 2018

A recent study from Japan’s Osaka University aims to help protect pollinators from harm by studying how insects metabolize pesticides.

Researchers sliced fruit flies into very thin layers with a special technique developed to keep their delicate features in tact. They used a laser to glean tissue from the layers, which they analyzed to see how Imidacloprid-a, a common agricultural pesticide, spread through the fruit fly bodies.

Imidacloprid-a is one of a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids, which have received a lot of negative attention for being linked to declining bee populations. France recently banned five types of neonicotenoids, including imidacloprid, in an effort to protect pollinators.

Scientific studies have yielded mixed results on the actual effects of neonicotinoids on bees, however. Some have found that bees can get addicted to the nicotine derivatives, and claim they kill. Others say that only certain species are affected, and that concentration levels in the field are insufficient to do real harm.

This report, published in the journal Analytical Sciences, may help bring clarity to the confused issue. It is the first of its kind, due to the exceptional difficulty of  preparing and imaging detailed tissue specimens of fruit flies. The researchers hope others will use their technique to look further into pesticide metabolism in the future.

 

 

 

An analysis of early farming practices


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Farming (cjuneau/flickr)

Kasey Dresser | September 26, 2018

A study from the University of Wisconsin- Madison theorizes how agriculture would have affected the climate without the Industrial Revolution.

According to the Early Anthropogenic Hypothesis, early farming practices produced mass amounts of carbon dioxide and methane. Without the presence of the industrial revolution ancient agriculture would have trapped enough methane in the atmosphere to create a similar state of climate change.

The Early Anthropogenic Hypothesis was originally developed by William Ruddiman, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Virginia 15 years earlier. The climate reconstructions are based on ice core data. Our current geological time frame is called Holocene and the one before is referred to as MIS19. Both time periods started with similar carbon dioxide and methane concentrations based on evidence from ice core data. MIS19 saw a steady drop in greenhouse gasses. The numbers have since spiked to our current state of emissions. The data currently stops at the start of the Industrial Revolution but people are continuing to develop the hypothesis.

Stephen Vavrus, a senior scientist on the project concludes, “science takes you where it takes you,” and “things are so far out of whack now, the last 2,000 years have been outside the natural bounds. We are so far beyond what is natural.”

The Land Institute Prairie Festival


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Tall Bluestem Praire Grass Against Thunderstorm (L Fischer/flickr)

Kasey Dresser | September 24, 2018

The 2018 Prairie Festival will be held this week, September 28-30. The festival is held in Salina, Kansas. This is a yearly festival put on by the Land Institute, an environmental organization that aims to increase agricultural production without decreasing environmental sustainability.

The festival will host agricultural scholars, scientists, environmental justice advocates, and artists from all over the country. There will be in depth tours and workshops for plant breeding and ecology work.

If you cannot make it down to Kansas, they will also post several video displays online.

This is the link to last year’s videos.

Anti-fish electric barrier successful during summer floods


Julia Poska | August 23, 2018

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Asian carp, found in the Iowa Great Lakes in 2011, are one of the most notorious invasive freshwater species in the Midwest (flickr).

An electric barrier between Dickinson County’s Milford Creek and the Iowa Great Lakes proved its worth this summer, protecting the lakes from invasive fish during the region’s second highest flood on record.

Invasive carp species were first found in the Great Lakes in 2011. Flooding accelerates their entry via streams by allowing them to swim upstream and over dams. Such species can disrupt food chains, ecological processes and even recreation (see invasive Asian carp body slamming boaters here).

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources installed the $1 million barrier in 2012. During floods, it ramps up its electric field to prevent fish from passing through. Floods in late June and early July were the highest since 1933.

Scientists have since found invasive fish in Milford Creek but say the barrier seems to have fenced in most, if not all of them. DNR fisheries biologist Mike Hawkins told Iowa Public Radio that if any individuals made it in, they should not be able to reproduce in the lake.

Read the full story on Iowa Public Radio.

Get your conservation “on tap” this week


Julia Poska | August 19, 2018

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Like-minded locals will discuss local conservation over beer Wednesday night at “Conservation on Tap.” (flickr)

The Iowa Wildlife Federation is hosting a “Conservation on Tap” gathering Wednesday night at Tin Roost, 840 W. Penn St. in North Liberty, to bring together local conservationists for beer, appetizers and discussion.

The non-profit collaborates with stakeholders like anglers, hunters and outdoors enthusiasts to conserve wildlife on a local level. At the state level, they raise awareness at events and online, support research and restoration efforts and endorse pro-conservation legislature.

Co-Director Tammy Mildenstein said the board hopes Conservation on Tap will help the federation expand its reach with new members, ideas and collaborations. All sorts of people can play a role in conservation, from scientists to policy makers to recreational nature lovers.

A $10 ticket includes appetizers and the first round of beer. For $40, attendants get a year of Iowa Wildlife Federation membership, discounted $5. Tickets must be purchased in advance at iawildlife.org.