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Warming global temperatures are changing life on every continent on Earth, including Antarctica, where more microbes are moving in to territory previously covered by ice. How these microbes respond to warming offers us clues about what future Antarctica will look like and who will thrive there. Microbial ecologist and PhD candidate Alicia Purcell from the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society (Ecoss) at NAU recently traveled there on a National Science Foundation grant with a team from Texas Tech to set up a warming experiment in the path of a retreating glacier on the western Antarctic peninsula. Soil Sisters To test their hypotheses about life in this recently ice-free zone, the team—including Natasja van Gestel, formerly at Ecoss and now at Texas Tech, graduate researcher Kelly McMillan, and Ecoss researchers Purcell, Paul Dijkstra and Bruce Hungate—designed an experiment that would...
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New research from Northern Arizona University researchers challenges long-held assumptions that phosphorus limits aboveground plant growth mainly in tropical regions but not others. The paper, published this week in Nature Communications, suggests that this important nutrient actually helps govern plant production in temperate regions, too, and on every continent except Antarctica. Authors Enqing Hou, Yiqi Luo and Lifen Jiang of the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society (Ecoss) at NAU worked with researchers from the South China Botanical Garden of the Chinese Academy of Sciences to analyze data from phosphorus field experiments conducted worldwide between 1955-2017. They saw significant phosphorus effects globally, from sub-arctic to temperate zones in the tropics, and in every major type of terrestrial ecosystem: croplands, forests, grasslands, tundra and wetlands. According to the authors, nearly half (46.2 percent) of 652 P-addition field experiments revealed a significant...
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Stephen Porder from Brown University will talk about how to move universities off of fossil fuels. Illustration by Victor O. Leshyk
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The abrupt thawing of permafrost may affect up to half of all carbon stored in the layer of frozen Arctic soil, according to a new study in Nature Geoscience, and could double permafrost’s contributions to global climate warming compared to some previous model estimates that focused on gradual thaw alone. The study, led by CU-Boulder researcher Merritt Turetsky and co-authored by Ecoss researcher Ted Schuur and other national collaborators as part of the Permafrost Carbon Network, demonstrates the need for climate models that account for this fast and dramatic form of ecosystem change. Abrupt thaw, also known as thermokarst, can trigger collapsing ground, rapid erosion and landslides, and the ice-rich permafrost that makes up around one-fifth of the Arctic region is especially vulnerable to these kinds of events. Permafrost that abruptly thaws is a large emitter of carbon, including the...
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If the fate of carbon is a test that planet Earth is taking right now, one of the answer keys is likely to be found in soil, where microorganisms—which account for nearly 15 percent of global biomass, by some estimates—eat, store and respire carbon and other nutrients. As Earth warms, how these microbes change the way they live will have potentially big consequences for where the carbon goes. Now, a team led by Bruce Hungate of the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society (Ecoss) and researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and West Virginia University have received a three-year, $3.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to investigate how microbes contend with warming. The team, which includes Ecoss professors Michelle Mack, Paul Dijkstra and Egbert Schwartz and research associate Benjamin Koch, will search for clues to...
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Like a long-distance food delivery app with no apparent highway, fungi that associate with shallow-rooted shrubs in the tundra are accessing deep stores of nitrogen being released by thawing permafrost. The findings by Northern Arizona University researchers, announced this week in New Phytologist, could change scientists’ understanding of who accesses nutrients from permafrost, and how. “This just doesn’t fit the paradigm of how we think these plants and their mycorrhizal partners work together,” said lead author Rebecca Hewitt from the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society (Ecoss) at NAU. “Previously, we thought only plants with extended root systems could access nutrients near the permafrost thaw front. But we saw that all these plants were using deep nitrogen, whether they had deep root systems or not, suggesting that mycorrhizal partners may provide access to the deep, cold permafrost table.” Illustration: Victor...
AGU Meeting 2019
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Use this guide to find where Ecoss scientists will be presenting at the annual fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco, Dec. 9 - 13, 2019. If you're tweeting during AGU, or want to follow along from afar, find us on Twitter @EcossNAU #AGU2019.
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NAU joins with ASU, UA and Arizona communities to confront climate crisis As Arizona confronts the impacts of a hotter world, Northern Arizona University is joining partners from Arizona State University, the University of Arizona and communities from throughout the state to convene the first statewide, solutions-focused climate summit. Climate 2020: Seven Generations for Arizona is a two-day event that will bring together youth, community leaders, decisionmakers and researchers Nov. 15-16 in Flagstaff. The summit will feature nationally-recognized voices on climate issues including Texas Tech scientist Katharine Hayhoe, hip-hop artist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, and former Governor of Arizona and Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt. “Arizonans have a long tradition of coming together in moments of urgency, and our quickly changing climate presents us with another one: larger and more frequent wildfires, prolonged drought, extreme heat and reduced snowpack are already changing life in this state,”...
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Wired red oak is first of its kind in North America. As trees across the U.S. continue their picturesque march toward autumn, one 100-year-old oak tree in Massachusetts is attracting a crowd of admirers online. The tree is a scientific wonder—not because of its unique looks or a special way it grows, but because of its voice. The idea for the Harvard Forest Witness Tree, a social media outreach project led by post-doctoral fellow Tim Rademacher of Northern Arizona University and Harvard University, began as a public outreach component of a study investigating the effect of environmental changes on wood growth, funded by the National Science Foundation. “The tree is wired with sensors that measure its growth, sap flow, local climate, and other factors in real-time,” says Rademacher. “Because we were measuring these things anyway, we thought, why not use...
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Ecoss postdoc Drew Peltier led a 2 hour class on tree ring science and climate change at Mangum Ranch on the North rim of the Grand Canyon. Drew joined a Grand Canyon Trust Climate change research trip, where Flagstaff High school students were helping with climate change research at the Southwest Experimental Garden Array (SEGA) sites. Students learned about how trees store energy, why trees form tree rings, what tree rings can tell us about the future, and how to core a tree. Other links: https://www.grandcanyontrust.org/projects-climate-change-research
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