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How Climate Change Makes Poison Ivy Stronger

Climate change isn’t just warming the oceans and endangering polar bears.

It’s also breeding larger, more toxic poisonous plants. 

Plants basically need three things to grow: sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide. For millions of years, the supply of each of these ingredients remained relatively steady. Then came the Industrial Revolution, and people started burning fossil fuels to power their factories and vehicles, and heat and cool their homes. Today, there is more carbon dioxide in our atmosphere than at any other time in human history.

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture wanted to see how this atmospheric disturbance affected plant health. In the depths of Duke Forest, they planted giant rings of PVC pipes, which rose out of the forest floor all the way up to the top of the tree canopies. Through holes in the pipes, the scientists released either copious amounts of carbon dioxide or equivalent rations of ambient air. 

After six years, they found that poison ivy grew 149 percent faster in the presence of elevated levels of the greenhouse gas than it did under normal conditions. Not only did the supercharged plants grow larger, but they also produced more urushiol, the compound responsible for its characteristic itchy rash.

Follow-up studies have shown that the nasty weed’s growth and potency have doubled over the last fifty years.

That’s particularly bad news for […]

By |July 26th, 2017|Climate Change|0 Comments

Coral Bleaching, or, how to drown a marine animal

Coral = tiny, tentacled animals called “polyps” (with a crunchy outer shell!) + algae. They’re ancient!

In addition to giving corals their stylish colors, those algae turn coral wastes into oxygen, sugars, and other important things that keep our waters in check. In turn, corals provide the algae with homes and steady incomes of nutrients.

They’re kind of a big deal.

Even though they cover only 0.1% of earth’s surface, corals harbor at least 25% of known marine creatures. Plus, reef structures provide a barrier that protect our beaches from storms and erosion.

And they can get a little stressed out.

Temperature, light, and food changes all give corals the willies. When they get frazzled, they spit out their colorful algae friends, and they turn white.

A recent study in the Mediterranean shows an 80% decline in coral reef cover. Without their internal food factories, corals get pretty hungry.

Two changes that can cause corals to majorly freak?

  1. Higher or lower temperature, and plummeting water pH because of increasing levels of CO2 in the ocean from greenhouse gases. Climate change.
  2. Sea-level rise, declining water quality, and overexploitation of key reef-loving species can also whitewash our waters. When corals bleach, many species find themselves out of their homes.

They’re still around, for now. We have a little time to help make things right. Figure out how to alter our greenhouse gas output. Protect reefs from over-fishing and trawling damage. We can help keep these underwater creatures from drowning.

 


 

Written by Roar.

Illustrated by Allison […]

By |April 6th, 2017|Climate Change|0 Comments