Species loss varies significantly under different climate change scenarios

Insects were found to be more susceptible to climate change than other land animals and plants. (Joe Hatfield/flickr)

Jenna Ladd | May 24, 2018

According to a recent study published in the journal Science, limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels rather than 2 degrees Celsius could significantly reduce terrestrial plants and animal species loss.

The study analyzed the geographic habitat ranges of 100,000 land plant and animal species, including insects. Scientists monitored how suitable habitat ranges changed under three climate change scenarios: the 1.5 degrees Celsius warming limit goal set by the Paris Climate Accord, a 2 degrees Celsius increase and the 3.2 degrees Celsius increase Earth is expected to experience by 2100 if no further climate action is taken.

They found that if global warming is held at 2 degrees Celsius, 18% of insects, 16% of plants and 8% of vertebrates will lose more than half of their suitable habitat range. In contrast, if global temperature increase is kept under 1.5 degrees Celsius, just 6% of insects, 8% of plants and 4% of vertebrates would experience the same fate.

Rachel Warren is an environmental biologist at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England and one of the study’s others. She said to the Los Angeles Times, “All the previous scientific literature looked at 2 degrees as the lower limit because that was what was being discussed at the time.” Warren continued,”The takeaway is that if you could limit warming to 1.5 degrees, the risk to biodiversity is quite small. At 2 degrees it becomes significant, and at 3 degrees almost half the insects and plants would be at risk.”

Of note, the study found that insects were more sensitive a warming climate than vertebrates and plants. For example, the typical insect under the 3 degrees Celsius warming condition would lose 43 percent of its habitat range.

Iowa DNR works to establish 10,000 acre bird conservation area

The wood thrush, a cinnamon-colored song bird, is one of the species that would benefit from a proposed bird conservation area in Jones County. (Kelly Colgan Azar/Flickr)
Jenna Ladd | November 10, 2016

Iowa Department of Natural Resources will host a public meeting next week to discuss a proposed bird conservation area in Jones County.

The proposed area, which will include Indian Bluffs State Preserve and Pictured Rocks Wildlife Management Area, would be Iowa’s 23rd bird conservation area (BCA). According to a 2007 watchlist, about 25 percent of all bird species in the United States are experiencing sharp population declines. Bruce Ehresman is the Wildlife Diversity Program biologist for Iowa DNR. He said, “Creating bird conservation areas is a high priority for the Iowa DNR. The proposed Indian Bluffs-Pictured Rocks BCA is a very unique area containing woodland, grassland and wetland habitats that provide homes to at least 111 nesting bird species, many of which are declining at an alarming rate.”

The conservation area, like others in Iowa, will operate at a large-landscape level in order to accommodate birds of all sizes. Ehresman indentified the area’s potential beneficiaries, he said, “Birds of large forests, like the broad-winged hawk and wood thrush, savanna species such as the red-headed woodpecker and Baltimore oriole, to declining grassland birds like the eastern meadowlark and bobolink will benefit.”

Each BCA is made up of about 10,000 acres, and therefore requires a collaborative effort between conservation organizations, public agencies, and private landowners. This reserve, like the others, would have one or more areas of permanently protected bird habitat bordered by privately owned lands that provide additional habitat. Private land consultants and wildlife biologists say that they are willing to offer guidance to any landowner willing to make their land a more suitable place for birds. The BCA program is completely voluntary for landowners and poses no restrictions or regulations for participants.

Curt Kemmerer is DNR wildlife biologist for the Jones County area. He said, “Establishing a bird conservation area helps draw attention to the needs of birds that are in trouble, while allowing the local community and concerned citizens an opportunity to help these birds.”

The public meeting will be held Wednesday, November 16th at the Jones County Conservation Central Park Nature Center. More information can be found here.

On The Radio – Central U.S. states unite to protect pollinators

(Matina Donaldson-Matasi/Flickr)
Jenna Ladd | June 27, 2016

This week’s On The Radio segment discusses a memorandum to protect and revive pollinator habitat that was signed by five U.S. states last month. 

Transcript: Iowa Department of Transportation joins regional effort to protect pollinators

The Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) and transportation departments in five other states have joined forces to improve pollinator habitat along Interstate 35.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Supported by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), transportation officials from Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Texas met last month in Des Moines to sign a memorandum of understanding. The memo asks that states work together to promote habitat conservation and renewal for monarch butterflies, honeybees and other pollinators along Interstate 35. The interstate, otherwise known as “the Monarch Highway,” is the primary route that Monarchs take between Mexico and Canada.

Mark Masteller, Chief Landscape Architect for the Iowa DOT, led the Interstate 35 initiative.

Masteller: “This memorandum provides additional support for the Iowa DOT’s practice of seeding native grasses and wildflowers in the highway rights of way. In addition to benefiting pollinators, these native species provide improved erosion control and improved control of blowing and drifting snow for the highway user.”

A 2014 memo by the Obama Administration declared that pollinators are vital to the United States’ economy, food security, and environmental health. Quantified, honey bees alone add upwards of $15 million dollars to agricultural crops every year.

For more information about these five states’ efforts to protect pollinators, visit Iowa-Environmental-Focus-dot-org.

From the University of Iowa Center for Global and Environmental Research, I’m Nick Fetty.



On the Radio: Native habitat to be restored

The Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge near Monroe, Iowa, features over 5,000 acres of native prairie. (Rachel Gardner / Flickr)
The Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge near Monroe, Iowa, features over 5,000 acres of native prairie. (Rachel Gardner / Flickr)
January 12, 2015

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at an upcoming prairie restoration taking place in northwest Iowa. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

A native habitat that once covered northwestern Iowa is being partially restored.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The bur oak savanna, a plant community of open-grown trees, tall prairie grasses and water fowl, once flourished in northwest Iowa. The introduction of new plant species, particularly high shade-producing trees, has choked out native plant growth and reduced the savanna’s size to one one-hundredth of a percent of its original size.

To conserve this native habitat near Trumbull Lake in Clay County, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources will be removing non-compatible trees which outcompete younger oaks and shade out the prairie understory. The DNR will also be conducting controlled burns. Studies have shown that these measures are the most effective ways of restoring grassland habitats and species to the area. These native plant species are an important factor in maximizing water quality benefits for the area.

For more information about native habitats, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerry Schnoor.

Frigid weather threatens Decorah eagle eggs

Photo by Brendon Lake, Flickr.
A bald eagle nest in Iowa.
Photo by Brendon Lake, Flickr.

This winter’s polar vortex is expected to generate subzero low temperatures and daytime temperatures hovering around ten degrees for over a week, threatening the Decorah eagle’s eggs.

The pair laid their first egg on Sunday and more are expected to arrive this week.

In order to keep the eggs from freezing, one of the parents will have to stay on the nest at all times.

To read more about the Decorah eggs in peril, head to the Gazette. Or, the eagle pair and their nest can be live streamed here.