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A Root of Change

Bracing for Impact The harvest of wild American ginseng root has been a part of North American culture for 300 years, but this tradition is in peril. Is it possible to save both a species and a pastime? An aged photograph, archived in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, shows the memorabilia once on display at the Sundial Tavern, near Naoma, W.Va. Photos of babies, teenaged girls in prom dresses and a boy in football uniform adorn the wall. Propped on a ledge is a snapshot of Dolly Parton, dressed in fire red and sequins. At the … Read more…

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Caribou genetics reveal shadow of climate change

Nature Ancient ice ages that shaped modern caribou populations may foretell animals’ fate in a warmer world. When ice sheets marched across North America 20,000 years ago during the Last Glacial Maximum, they devoured liveable areas for caribou and isolated them from their Eurasian relatives for thousands of years. Now researchers have evidence that such climatic events have sculpted the genetics of North American caribou, which may make the animals unable to adapt to future climate change. “Although the past is not a guarantee for the future, it makes me pessimistic about the future of the species,” says Glenn Yannic, … Read more…

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Ozone-hole treaty slowed global warming

Montreal Protocol helped to curb climate change and so did world wars and the Great Depression. Human actions that were not intended to limit the greenhouse effect have had large effects on slowing climate change. The two world wars, the Great Depression and a 1987 international treaty on ozone-depleting chemicals put a surprising dent in the rate at which the planet warmed, says research published today in Nature Geoscience1. Francisco Estrada, an ecological economist at the Free University in Amsterdam, and his colleagues analysed annual temperature data collected from 1850 to 2010, as well as trends in emissions of greenhouse gases … Read more…

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In carbon sequestration, money grows on trees

Guyana’s tropical rainforests protected under the REDD program provide not just natural resources but an income stream to the country. Two hours south of Georgetown, Guyana, a paved highway recedes, giving way to a rutted red road gushing through thick rainforest. In its muddiest spots, the road swallows trucks and spits them out at dangerous angles. Many hours later, it leads to an area of protected land called Iwokrama, a Rhode Island-size forest in the heart of Guyana, crowded with ancient buttress-trunked trees draped in liana vines. [media-credit name=”Hannah Hoag” align=”alignleft” width=”300″][/media-credit]Since 2003, Jake Bicknell has been a fixture within … Read more…

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Arctic snow cover shows sharp decline

Earlier spring could spell trouble for permafrost Arctic snow is fading fast. June snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has dropped by almost 18% per decade during the past 30 years, according to a study published in Geophysical Research Letters1. The drop in snow extent will lower the amount of sunlight reflected away from the planet — a process that has a cooling effect — by exposing darker and less reflective soil, shrubs and trees, which absorb solar radiation and re-emit the heat into the atmosphere. The change also stands to warm the permafrost, alter the timing of spring runoff into … Read more…