Global Change Biology

Cover image for Vol. 21 Issue 12

Edited by: Steve Long

Impact Factor: 8.044

ISI Journal Citation Reports © Ranking: 2014: 1/44 (Biodiversity Conservation); 3/223 (Environmental Sciences); 5/145 (Ecology)

Online ISSN: 1365-2486

Associated Title(s): GCB Bioenergy


Global Change BiologyGlobal hotspots for marine debris ingestion by sea turtles

Plastic pollution has rapidly become one of the major threats to global marine conservation. Nearly 700 species are at risk from ingestion and entanglement, and sea turtles are among the most heavily impacted species. We conducted a risk assessment to determine which factors are most relevant in predicting plastic ingestion by sea turtles, and in which geographic regions sea turtle populations are most at risk. We found hot spots of high risk to turtles, and discovered that this risk is increasing over time. Young, oceanic turtles and olive ridley turtles are most at risk of plastic ingestion.

Global Change BiologyBiotic homogenization due to urbanization

Urbanization is one of the major current land-use changes in many parts of the world. Since 2008 more than 50% of human population is cities. It is thus very likely that urbanization has a major impact on biodiversity. Yet, the consequences of urbanization for insect diversity are poorly understood. The study shows, that from city to city one finds similar insect species, whereas from rural area to rural area the composition of insect species changes more, in particular of specialist species. This shows that on a large scale urbanization leads to a loss of biodiversity.

Global Change BiologyCO2 mitigates the impact of heat on coffee

It is believed that the coffee crop is threatened by the predicted global warming conditions, but it is virtually unknown how the coffee plant responds to the interaction of high air [CO2] and temperature. It was herein demonstrated that elevated [CO2] mitigates the impact of heat via a global strengthening of the carbon assimilatory machinery. Therefore, predictions concerning the impacts of climate change scenarios on the coffee crop should consider the role of CO2 as a key player in heat tolerance, and future perspectives on the sustainability of the coffee crop should not be as catastrophic as previously predicted.

Global Change BiologySpecies with wide geographic ranges are more likely to survive

To predict how marine biodiversity will respond to future climate change, researchers must understand how environmental conditions of the past influenced the link between ecology and extinction risk. The authors conducted the first quantitative summary of published studies on extinction risk in fossil marine bivalves and gastropods that span almost 500 million years. Species that burrow into the seafloor are relatively buffered from extinction during warmer climate states. Species with broad geographic distributions are three times more likely to survive an extinction than narrow-ranging species, regardless of the environmental conditions. This emphasizes the critical role of geographic range size in setting conservation priorities.

Global Change BiologyQuantifying GHG emissions from cryptogamic covers

Technical Advance: Cryptogamic covers including lichens, cyanobacteria and mosses are among the oldest forms of terrestrial life on Earth and cover a large area of terrestrial soil and plant surfaces. They have recently been found to fix large amounts of nitrogen and carbon from the atmosphere (Elbert et al. 2012, Nature Geosciences). Since these communities have never been previously considered as emitters of nitrous oxide or methane, the authors undertook a study to measure emissions of these greenhouse gases from 68 different cryptogamic covers.

Global Change BiologyCharcoal and its role in the global C cycle

Research Review: Pyrogenic carbon (PyC; charcoal) is produced in every burnt landscape. Its pyrogenic nature increases its resistance to degradation, with over half of the PyC produced by vegetation fires potentially sequestering carbon over centuries. Here the authors evaluate current knowledge, identify critical gaps and propose new research directions to achieve a full understanding of the role of PyC in the global carbon cycle. They suggest that the PyC produced annually could account for up to a quarter of the missing terrestrial carbon sink. Global climate change is expected to increase PyC production due to the rise in extent and intensity of wildfires in some regions.

highlight1May2015Investigating deoxygenation in the Saanich Inlet

The northeast Pacific Ocean is a global hot spot of oxygen loss. However, the response of the animal community to this deoxygenation has not been resolved. Over eight years, the authors used remotely operated vehicles and the cabled observatory VENUS to document the lower oxygen limits of multiple fish and invertebrate species that are common to this region. Using the natural hypoxia cycle of Saanich Inlet, they illustrate how the community structure collapses when hypoxic waters expand. Future oxygen loss in this region may homogenize animal distributions when the extent of suitable habitat becomes compressed over smaller areas.

highlight2May2015Consequences of climate change on bird communities worldwide

Species fulfill critical ecological functions that may be altered substantially as climate change is causing them to shift in and out of their current communities. Here the authors assessed how geographic range changes projected under climate change for this century would impact the diverse functional attributes of bird communities worldwide. They found that the functional consequences of climate change are geographically highly uneven. Range expansions may counter functional losses in high-latitude regions, but offer little compensation in many tropical and sub-tropical biomes where substantial losses of functional diversity could have severe consequences for ecosystem health.

highlight3May2015As nitrogen emissions increase, so too will forest carbon sequestration

Human activities have increased carbon dioxide and nitrogen emissions to the atmosphere. Deposition of nitrogen pollutants in boreal forests has the potential to sequester large amounts of carbon, however there’s a lack of data describing the impacts of this sequestration. The authors used a long term experiment in the boreal region to assess how soil carbon accumulation responded to simulated nitrogen deposition. Their study shows that soil carbon sequestration increases with long-term nitrogen addition. These results will enable researchers to improve their models of the global carbon cycle.

highlight1jan2015Wildfire charcoal as a missing carbon sink

Charcoal is highly resistant to degradation and can act as long-term carbon sink. Using an experimental boreal wildfire the authors provide, for the first time, a complete quantification of the biomass carbon that is converted to charcoal instead of emitted to the atmosphere. If scaled up, their results translate into a five times greater charcoal production by wildfire in the global boreal regions than estimated previously.

highlight2jan2015Impacts of Arctic warming on seabird foraging

David Grémillet and coauthors studied little auks, the smallest, yet most numerous seabird of the Arctic, at their northernmost breeding location on Franz-Josef Land (FJL), Russian Arctic (80°N). Using satellite images recorded since 1979, they show that the FJL archipelago has been virtually sea-ice free each summer since 2001. Little auks lost their sea-ice associated zooplankton prey, but switched to feeding inshore. Such unforeseen predatory strategies complicate forecasts of future ecosystem dynamics in a warming Arctic.

highlight3jan2015Opinion: Leaf phenology and nutrient proficiency

Leaf senescence, which leads to leaf fall, is the last stage in the lives of leaves. The purpose of leaf senescence is the recovery of nutrients before the leaves fall. On average, climatic warming will delay and drought will advance leaf senescence. Nutrient resorption is less efficient when the leaves senesce prematurely as a consequence of water stress. Changes in nutrient resorption will impact production in the following year, because the construction of new foliage relies almost exclusively on nutrients resorbed from foliage during the preceding leaf fall. Changes in the phenology of leaf senescence will thus impact carbon uptake, but also ecosystem nutrient cycling.

Distribution shifts of 2 woody speciesDistribution shifts of two woody species
Changes in global climate are altering ecological conditions for many species, and its consequences are typically most evident at the very edge in distribution of a species, where range expansions or contractions may occur. Luis Matías and Alistair Jump studied differences in the demography, growth, reproduction investment and herbivory damage of Scots pine and Common juniper populations through altitudinal and latitudinal gradients covering their complete distribution range. Populations at the lowermost altitude presented older individuals, higher mortality, decreased growth and lower reproduction than at the upper limit. This trend was maintained across latitude, suggesting an upland and northern displacement of the studied species.

Heat waves alter community structureHeat waves alter community structure
Gang Ma and coauthors used laboratory and field experiments, analysis of field observations, and a meta-analysis to determine how extreme events influence the structure of natural communities. Using aphids, their results indicate that changes in frequency and intensity of extreme high temperatures can alter the structure of natural communities over time, and that these changes are driven by a multitude of varying responses of species to high temperatures. They highlight the importance of understanding how extreme events affect the life-history of species for predicting the impacts of climate change at the individual and community level.

Chinese Maize growing season prolongedChinese Maize growing season prolonged
Changes in crop phenology across long periods of time and large scales is important in understanding the effects of climate change on crops. Here, maize observations at 112 stations across China from1981–2009, were used to investigate maize phenology changes, as well as any relations to temperature changes and cultivar shifts. The results show that maize production is adapting to climate change by shifting sowing dates and adopting cultivars that have longer growing periods. These findings can guide further maize management options under a changing climate.

Southern Oceans and Climate Change Southern Oceans and Climate Change

This invited article by Andrew J. Constable and coauthors reviews changes in Southern Ocean habitats, the direct effects those changes will have on marine life and priorities for future work. Habitats will not change uniformly around the continent, particularly sea-ice. Those lower on the food chain are expected to move south. The northern extent of Antarctic krill and finfish will depend on their tolerance to warming oceans and changes to productivity. Ocean acidification will negatively affect calcifying organisms, as well as Antarctic krill. Marine mammals and birds may be affected by changes in the location of food.

Methane Emissions from Amazonian RiversMethane Emissions from Amazonian Rivers

Methane is an important greenhouse gas and we know little about its natural emission from rivers to the atmosphere. Henrique O. Sawakuchi and coauthors show the results of fluxes between water and air, measured with static chambers deployed in the Amazon mainstem and its major tributaries during both high and low water seasons. The measurements indicate that the Amazon alone releases to the atmosphere significant amounts of methane -corresponding to 22-28% of the global river methane emissions- much higher than previous estimates.

High Altitude Competition for Habitat High-altitude Competition for Habitat

In mountainous regions, climate change is forcing many animal populations to higher elevations where it is cooler. Tom H.E. Mason and his coauthors show that Alpine chamois, a species of mountain goat-antelope, can avoid moving to higher altitudes by spending less time feeding when it is hotter. However, the presence of domestic sheep – which compete with chamois for food – pushes chamois to much higher elevations, where their habitat is scarcer. Thus, the effects of interactions with competing species outweigh those expected from future climate change. Appropriate management of livestock might mitigate for climate change impacts on this and similar species.

Climate and host plant availability impact the future distribution of the bean leaf beetle (Cerotoma trifurcata) Emily A. Berzitis and her co-authors modelled the future potential distributions for soybean and the bean leaf beetle, a serious soybean pest in North America. While the model predictions for Canada have a some uncertainty associated with them, two strong predictions are that the Mississippi Delta region will become less favorable to the beetle, and the southeastern US will continue to remain favorable to the beetle under future climate scenarios.

Elevated carbon dioxide and ozone alter productivity and carbon content in northern temperate forests For 11 years, Alan Talhelm and co-atuhors exposed three young forests in the north-central United States to increased concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and/or tropospheric ozone (O3) pollution, representing likely future conditions. Increased CO2 enhanced forest productivity by 39%, while increased O3 caused a 10% decline in productivity. Increased CO2 and increased O3 each also decreased soil carbon content. Cumulatively, increased CO2 enhanced total ecosystem carbon by 11%, elevated O3 decreased ecosystem carbon content by 9%, and both gases together had offsetting effects. The authors conclude that increased O3 air pollution may negate potential gains in C storage caused by increased CO2.

Linking interdecadal changes in British river ecosystems to water quality and climate dynamics Understanding the roles of climate (temperature and discharge) and improving water quality in the changing invertebrate populations of European rivers is a major challenge. Ian Vaughan and Steve Ormerod used data from >2300 rivers across England and Wales to try to separate these factors. We found that population increases or decreases since 1991 were consistent with improving water quality, whilst variations in temperature and nutrients were linked with short-term variation. Despite the complexity of simultaneous human and climate impacts on rivers, their results suggest that distinct signals can be identified: since 1990, continuing recovery from poor water quality appears to have outweighed climate impacts.

Effects of ocean acidification on zooplankton underestimatedEffects of ocean acidification on zooplankton underestimated
Carbon dioxide released by human activity enters the oceans, making them more acidic (ocean acidification; OA). Copepods are microscopic animals of critical importance to marine ecology and as food for fish. Previous studies have indicated resilience of copepods against OA. However, these studies have only used adult female copepods. The study by Kevin Flynn and his coauthors used all stages of the life cycle, finding heightened sensitivity to OA in the earliest stages. Their results show that copepods are more sensitive than has been claimed, and that it is essential that all stages of the life cycle be studied during experiments on the effects of OA.

Sandy beaches with a view: investigating a beautiful habitatSandy beaches with a view: investigating a beautiful habitat
Scientific experiments and computer models have built an impressive understanding of how species might respond to future climate change. But only long-term field observations of biota and of corresponding environmental conditions can demonstrate responses to climate change already experienced. There are few such data series for inhabitants of one of the world’s iconic habitats: ocean-exposed sandy beaches. In this Opinion, David Schoeman and his coauthors synthesize available information for resident beach invertebrates and for beach-nesting turtles. Both groups are found to be vulnerable to climate change, and beaches are shown to be unusually useful model systems in which to test hypotheses of climate-change ecology.

Altered soil moisture 'mite' affect soil animalsAltered soil moisture ‘mite’ affect soil animals
Climate change can alter soil moisture availability by changes in precipitation, temperature, and evaporation rates. How will this affect the mites and nematodes that live in the soil? Zachary Sylvain and his coauthors answer this question by sampling mite and nematode communities in naturally varying landscapes under different precipitation manipulations. At a broad scale across all landscapes, mite and nematode communities increased with available soil moisture while individual ecosystems tended to decrease. Changes in population ratios may have important consequences for soil food webs and consequently, ecosystem functioning.

Increase in avian malaria transmissionsIncrease in avian malaria transmissions
Hawaii’s endemic forest birds are iconic examples of adaptation, but face extraordinary rates of extinction. While many factors have contributed to these declines, their high susceptibility to introduced avian malaria is a primary reason why many species have disappeared from lowland habitats and are able to persist only in cool, high elevation mountaintops, where disease transmission is limited. Carter Atkinson and coauthors demonstrate that recent climatic changes that favor increased transmission of malaria may be responsible for rapid declines in native forest bird populations that are taking place at higher elevations on the island of Kaua`i.

Optimizing rice yields under global warmingOptimizing rice yields under global warming
A sustainable increase in agriculture is needed to meet growing global food demand with reduced greenhouse gas emissions among other environmental impacts. However, management practices to achieve these goals remain few. Addressing both food demand and climate change concerns, Cameron Pittelkow and coauthors synthesized recent data to evaluate greenhouse gas emissions and rice yield in response to nitrogen fertilizer addition. The results suggest it is possible to achieve high rice yields with minimal greenhouse gas emissions through optimal nitrogen fertilizer application rates.

Climate change impacts on West Nile virusClimate change impacts on West Nile virus
Since its introduction, West Nile virus (WNV) has spread rapidly across the North American continent, threatening wildlife populations and posing serious health risks to humans. In order to better understand how the distribution of WNV will further impact human and wildlife populations, and how these impacts may change under future climate conditions, Ryan Harrigan and coauthors modeled the occurrence of WNV infections under current conditions, and used these models to predict where the disease may occur in the future. The risk assessment identifies hotspots of WNV and presents an important new approach for monitoring this and other vector-borne diseases under climate change.

Russian farming collapse and ecological benefitsRussian farming collapse and ecological benefitsThe collapse of collective farming in Russia after 1990 and the subsequent economic crisis led to the abandonment of more than 45 million ha of arable lands (23% of the agricultural area). The withdrawal of land area from cultivation led to several ecological benefits including carbon (C) sequestration in soil. Here, Irina Kurganova and her coauthors demonstrate a geographically complete and spatially detailed analysis of C sequestered in these abandoned lands. It compensates all fire and post-fire CO2 emissions in Russia and covers about 4% of the global CO2 release due to deforestation and other land use changes.

Climate change projected to reduce seafloor lifeClimate change projected to reduce seafloor life
The global ocean houses the largest ecosystem on earth. Over half of the biomass, or weight of life, resides on the deep sea floor. Climate change simulations project reductions in biological food production in surface waters. As deep-ocean life mostly relies on sinking food from above, we project that climate-related changes will lead to around 5% reductions in the biomass of seafloor life. Daniel O.B. Jones and his colleagues also predict that creatures will get smaller, with fewer fishes and more microscopic organisms present. These changes will fundamentally alter the nature of deep ocean life and may ultimately increase the rate of climatic change..

Forest growth decline in boreal North AmericaForest growth decline in boreal North America
The study by Girardin et al. uses several methods of data study and gathering to provide an integrated perspective on climatic, physical, and ecosystem changes over past decades and centuries in black spruce dominated forests of eastern Canada. Declines in tree productivity during the past decades were found and attributed to summer warming. While episodes of productivity declines happened during the past 300 years, the recent decline was the first one to occur under climatic warming and co-occurs with Arctic sea-ice declines. These results highlight the sensitivity of these forests to relatively modest changes in temperature.

New global study better identifies response of croplands to climate changeNew global study better identifies response of croplands to climate change
Climate change impacts on agricultural lands will be felt through changes in temperature, rainfall, and the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide. In general, crops respond favorably to increased rainfall and carbon dioxide but can see lowered yields under warmer and drier conditions, but the impact of a given climate change depends on the crop and region affected. This study by Alex Ruane and colleagues, uses a peanut-growing region of Alabama to demonstrate a new, global study investigating the response of the world's croplands to changing climate conditions, allowing us to better identify vulnerable regions and prepare for coming changes.

Increasing evidence for a surface-atmosphere effect on precipitationIncreasing evidence for a surface-atmosphere effect on precipitation
Vegetation on Earth’s surface influences the atmosphere via the water vapor and energy fluxes it generates. Plants also release aerosols, some containing microorganisms able to catalyze ice formation in clouds near 0° C. This can cause precipitation under conditions where it might not otherwise occur. The resulting precipitation is beneficial for growth of plants and microorganisms leading to a bioprecipitation feedback cycle. There is mounting evidence for this cycle. In this Opinion paper, Cindy E. Morris and her coauthors call for intensified research to fully explain this cycle, to assess the impact that modified landscapes have on regional weather and to avoid inadvertent, negative consequences of landscape management.

Equatorial fish must adapt to temperature increasesEquatorial fish must adapt to temperature increases
Equatorial populations of marine species may be most impacted by global warming because they experience a narrow temperature range throughout their lifetime and are adapted to perform best at those temperatures. Jodie Rummer and her coauthors show that a 3°C increase in ocean temperatures projected by 2100 will significantly reduce metabolic performance in six coral reef fish species. Even minor warming (1-3°C) could result in population declines and redistribution of equatorial species to higher latitudes if adaptation cannot keep pace. Higher latitude populations experience a broader range of seasonal temperatures, however, which may mean wider safety margins for performance in a future, warmer, ocean. Photo by Ian McLeod

Analysis of fish scales provides insight into river health - Photo by Kylie PittOcean warming not so hot for Irukandji jellyfish
Many tropical marine species are moving polewards as oceans warm. There is concern that dangerous tropical Irukandji jellyfish may expand into subtropical waters, posing a significant threat to tourism and human health. Researchers at Griffith University, Australia undertook climate change simulation experiments to assess whether polyps of Irukandji jellyfish could tolerate current and future conditions predicted in the sub-tropical waters of eastern Australia. They found that Irukandji polyps tolerated current and predicted future conditions in subtropical waters but are unlikely to thrive in the long term. Factors, such as lack of suitable habitat for polyps, may currently limit their distribution. (Photo by Kylie Pitt)

The history of a forest helps manage its future The history of a forest helps manage its future
Many researchers focus their efforts on the forecasted effects that climate change may have in the future. This is important and necessary but what about species’ ability to manage the disturbances that have already occurred as a result of a changing climate? Ben Bond-Lamberty and his coauthors used a comprehensive combination of inventory records, dendrochronological sampling, and algorithms to understand how tree growth and death have changed at a highly studied site in Canada. They suggest that past climate extremes have led to significant mortality that is still visible in the forest. The results have significant implications for forest management in a changing climate.

Accuracy and precision of photoacoustic spectroscopy not guaranteed
Accuracy and precision of photoacoustic spectroscopy not guaranteed
Photoacoustic spectroscopy (PAS), a method of studying solids, liquids, and gasses using electromagnetic energy and acoustic detection, has been increasingly used to investigate soil-atmosphere exchange of nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide. Therefore, it is critical that this method provides accurate results because they may be used in various climate change studies. Todd Rosenstock and his coauthors tested the accuracy and precision of 3 PAS instruments and found that they performed more poorly than previous assessments. The instruments deviated from the known sample concentrations by as much as 16% and variables such as ambient temperature and moisture content influenced accuracy by as much as 100%. The authors urge caution if PAS is chosen in gas studies.

Analysis of fish scales provides insight into river healthAnalysis of fish scales provides insight into river health
The study by Roussel et al. utilizes 35-year records of dissolved inorganic nitrogen concentrations together with carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes in the food web of two rivers that experienced different anthropogenic N loadings. Stable isotope values were derived from the analysis of unique archived fish scale collections. A positive correlation was observed between carbon stable isotopes and N loads in the river where agricultural activities have intensified for decades. This result illustrates for the first time the mechanism by which excessive loads of anthropogenic N delivered to a river catchment over decades can affect ecosystem function and C cycling in running waters.

Soil moisture’s underestimated role in impact modelingSoil moisture’s underestimated role in impact modeling
Le Roux and his coauthors document the influence of soil moisture on several vegetation properties in arctic-alpine tundra to determine the potential importance of changes in moisture regimes. This is important given the assumption that changes in hydrology are less influential than shifts in temperature in cold environments. Soil moisture was strongly related to key plant community characteristics, having a similar or greater influence than soil temperature, pH and solar radiation. The notable spatial variation observed in soil moisture may assist species local survival under changes in precipitation. These results call for the careful examination of the impacts of changes in soil moisture.

Drought and sea-level rise threaten coastal areas. Photo credit: Felipe Hadler
Drought and sea-level rise threaten coastal areas
Coastal freshwater wetlands buffer nitrogen delivery to sensitive coastal waters, but increased salinity from droughts and sea-level rise may threaten this important service. To test for salinity effects on nitrogen cycling, Ardón et al. studied two natural and one restored coastal wetland in North Carolina for five years. The wetlands experienced episodes of increased surface water salinity due to drought. The increased salinity caused nitrogen release from all wetlands, with the highest releases in the restored wetland, potentially due to its fertilizer legacy. The results suggest that increased salinity in coastal wetlands could lead to large nitrogen losses from freshwater wetlands worldwide.

Unraveling drivers of an increase in fungi fruitingUnraveling drivers of an increase in fungi fruiting
In seeking to unravel environmental drivers of mushroom fruiting, Ulf Buentgen et al. explore fluctuations in the world’s longest fungal inventory, together with nearby tree growth, meteorological observations and plant phenology. Longer and warmer summers not only significantly improved but also delayed mycorrhizal and saprotrophic fruit body production since 1975 in Switzerland. No other fungal inventory includes permanent yield data over a comparable duration, completeness and temporal resolution. Results contradict previously reported declining mushroom harvests, propose rethinking the conceptual role of symbiotic pathways in fungi-host interactions, foster new cross-disciplinary research, and stimulate questions about a warming-induced amplification of the global carbon cycle.

Expansion of black mangrove under climate changeExpansion of black mangrove under climate change
Many species are expanding their distributions to higher latitudes due to global warming. Understanding the mechanisms underlying these distribution shifts is critical for better understanding the impacts of climate change. The work of Hongyu Guo and fellow authors represents a novel advance in understanding how biotic interactions mediate the expansion of black mangrove into salt marshes under climate change, and emphasizes that a better understanding of the impacts of climate change on ecological communities may require not only incorporating biotic interactions into the models predicting species distribution shifts, but also considering the variation of these biotic interactions across different ecological gradients and life history stages.

Extreme weather disrupts obligate mutualism
Extreme weather disrupts obligate mutualism
Large areas over tens or hundreds of meters will experience temperature variations in many different locations and these variations may help lessen climate-change impact on species distributions. However, we know little about the effects that small and local temperature variations across a large geographical area may have on species. Using temperature estimates from a large, high-quality database on plant communities, Jonathan Lenoir and coauthors were able to provide the first broad-scale assessment of small-scale temperature differences across a wide change of terrains. They determine that even flat terrains may provide local refuge for species to cope with rapid climate change.

Climate change exposes polar bears to more pollutantsClimate change exposes polar bears to more pollutants
It is very challenging to assess ecosystem change in remote environments like the arctic seas. Melissa A. McKinney and her coauthors used polar bear diets as an indicator of ecosystem change off the coast of East Greenland. Dietary intake shifted from mainly arctic seals to mainly subarctic seals over the past three decades. The shift was related to climate fluctuations, implying links to global climate change. Levels of persistent organic pollutants in the bear’s tissues declined more slowly as a result of this shift towards feeding on more contaminated prey. These findings indicate substantial changes in the East Greenland marine ecosystem with potential health consequences.

A change in global nitrous oxide estimatesA change in global nitrous oxide estimates
Nitrous oxide, an important greenhouse gas, is increasing in Earth's atmosphere at about 0.4%/yr. Nitrous oxide is derived from various sources, primarily agricultural soils. Some nitrous oxide is consumed (destroyed) by soil microbes. A Commentary by William H. Schlesinger provides an estimate of nitrous oxide removal from Earth's atmosphere, amounting to about 2% of current estimated annual emissions.

Nitrogen and warming impact subarctic phytoplankton
Nitrogen and warming impact subarctic phytoplankton
Large areas over tens or hundreds of meters will experience temperature variations in many different locations and these variations may help lessen climate-change impact on species distributions. However, we know little about the effects that small and local temperature variations across a large geographical area may have on species. Using temperature estimates from a large, high-quality database on plant communities, Jonathan Lenoir and coauthors were able to provide the first broad-scale assessment of small-scale temperature differences across a wide change of terrains. They determine that even flat terrains may provide local refuge for species to cope with rapid climate change.

Authors note future coral reef conditions may be worse than originally thoughtAuthors note future coral reef conditions may be worse than originally thought
We know that ocean acidification, caused by human-related increases in CO2, is a major threat to ocean ecosystems. Many methods have been undertaken to understand the complex relationship between CO2 levels and long-term ocean acidification rates. It is not quite clear how the daily local variations of conditions at coral reefs may affect estimates on long-term response to acidification. Emily Shaw and her colleagues incorporated these short-term variations into future projections and found that reef acidification is expected to be amplified beyond original estimates. Reef organisms may become more exposed to extreme fluctuations from day to day and further research is needed to study this possibility.

Coping with climate change: a detailed look
Coping with climate change: a detailed look
Large areas over tens or hundreds of meters will experience temperature variations in many different locations and these variations may help lessen climate-change impact on species distributions. However, we know little about the effects that small and local temperature variations across a large geographical area may have on species. Using temperature estimates from a large, high-quality database on plant communities, Jonathan Lenoir and coauthors were able to provide the first broad-scale assessment of small-scale temperature differences across a wide change of terrains. They determine that even flat terrains may provide local refuge for species to cope with rapid climate change.

Improving CO2 estimatesImproving CO2 estimates
Soil respiration (Rsoil) , the production of CO2 from soil organisms, is one of the largest CO2 fluxes in the global carbon cycle. Continuous year-long data records for estimating annual Rsoil sums are generally not utilized because they contain far too many gaps of missing Rsoil values to create an accurate estimate. Many methods for gap-filling have been attempted but there is no standard procedure for producing usable estimates of Rsoil. In the latest Technical Advance from GCB, Nuria Gomez-Casanovas and coauthors tested the reliability of various gap-filling techniques. This analysis provides guidance to find the best techniques for estimating reliable annual Rsoil sums and may have important implications for understanding the role of Rsoil in the global carbon cycle.

An ocean threat worsens anotherAn ocean threat worsens another
Much of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted by human activities finds its way into the oceans. When CO2 dissolves in seawater it causes a phenomenon known as ocean acidification (OA). Dr. David Roberts and his colleagues have shown that when marine organisms are exposed to OA they are much more sensitive to contaminated sediments than under ambient conditions. This demonstrates that OA may interact with other existing stressors and that marine pollution may have greater biological effects in the future. Interactions between multiple stressors such as OA and pollution should be taken into account when determining how to best manage contaminants from human activities.

Designing ecologically aware cities
Designing ecologically aware cities
Urbanization causes severe environmental degradation, but little is known about how we should design cities to minimize their ecological impact. Here, Dr. Jessica Sushinsky and her team compare the consequences of compact and sprawling urban growth patterns on bird distributions across the subtropical city of Brisbane, Australia. They show that urban growth of any type reduces bird distributions overall, but that compact development substantially slows these reductions at the city scale. Our results suggest that cities built to minimize ecological impact are characterized by high residential density, with large interstitial green spaces and small backyards.

Snow buts about it! Climate change alters Tibetan flowering timeSnow buts about it! Climate change alters Tibetan flowering time
Tsechoe Dorji and his team have found that increases in temperature and snowfall alter flowering timing and number of flowers produced in a common Tibetan flower, K. pygmaea. Increases in temperature significantly delayed the timing of flowering and decreased the number of flowers while increases in snowfall advanced the timing of flowering and increased the number of flowers. Because K. pygmaea is the most abundant plant in the central Tibetan plateau, the results of this study may have important implications for ecosystem functioning and for pastoralists and wildlife in the region.
Accepted Article

GCB encourages debate in the scientific communityGCB encourages debate in the scientific community
A recent compilation of forest carbon stocks published in Science suggests that carbon sinks in the atmosphere, the oceans, and global forests, closely match global emissions from all human-related sources (Pan et al. 2011 Science). In a Letter to GCB, Dr. S. Joseph Write argues that there are two compelling reasons to believe the carbon sink estimated for intact tropical forests is too large: an overestimate of forest area and the second is an overlooked source that reports lower carbon uptake by tropical forests.
Accepted Article

The beef on livestock and greenhouse gassesThe beef on livestock and greenhouse gasses
A team of scientists examined management options for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the EU27 livestock sector with a main focus on the beef and dairy sector- one of the largest GHG contributors. GHG emissions from all aspects of production and consumption of livestock products are covered. A reduction in food waste and consumption of livestock products linked with reduced production, are the most effective GHG-reducing options, and if encouraged, would also deliver environmental and human health benefits.
Accepted Article

The life of GCB published scientists: making models more beautiful
The life of GCB published scientists: making models more beautiful
Although on-going global changes are currently threatening biodiversity, the ability of humans to predict its effects at smaller scales remains limited. Most models that are currently used are unable to represent vegetation diversity at regional scales. Based on the latest advances in ecology, Isabelle Boulangeat and her coauthors overcome this limitation and improve the “plant functional groups” that are the best representatives of plant biodiversity for regional vegetation modeling. This new approach, together with recent progresses in modeling, paves the way in our ability to more accurately determine the complex and changing impacts of climate change.
Accepted Article

Sages of the forest: herbs provide acidification insight Sages of the forest: herbs provide acidification insight
Forest ecosystems have been altered due to atmospheric pollution, and little evidence of ecosystem recovery from acidification has been reported until now. In this study, scientists reconstructed changes in soil pH across the French forest territory over the last 100-year period using herb species as indicators of pH. The herbs reveal a trend during recent decades that shows the stabilization and recovery of soil acidification. Because plant species respond to conditions in the soil below them, monitoring plants could reflect the health of forests and be used in conserving them.
Accepted Article.

Looking back to prepare for the future of mossesLooking back to prepare for the future of mosses
Bryophytes, non-vascular plants such as moss, directly rely on rainfall to sustain their water needs, making them ideal candidates to investigate the impact of climate change. Species distribution models coupled with climate scenarios for 2080 in a temperate moss suggest that the species will experience a range reduction of 20-31% in the Mediterranean, wherein the bulk of its genetic diversity accumulates. Since, as opposed to the traditional view of spore-producing plants as efficient dispersers, spatial genetic structure analyses point to substantial limitations to dispersal, significant changes are to be expected in the composition of the Mediterranean moss flora during the next decade.

Multi-country effort outlines food security for the futureMulti-country effort outlines food security for the future

21 European countries participated in a Joint Programming Initiative on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change (FACCE - JPI ). An integrated research agenda has been designed and is focused on delivering key outputs: i) to sustainably intensify European agriculture to avoid increasing the demand on food production in other (e.g. developing) world regions, ii) to operate agriculture within greenhouse gas, energy, biodiversity and contaminant limits and iii) to build resilience to climatic change in agricultural and food systems. Jean-Francois Soussana and fellow scientists expect that the research undertaken by the JPI will provide the foundation for a European strategy for agriculture, food and bioeconomy that will lead to environmentally sustainable climate smart food systems.

Flying flowers: when butterflies migrateFlying flowers: when butterflies migrate
Elise Zipkin and coauthors explore how climate impacts migrating monarch butterflies. Because migratory species experience multiple climates during their annual cycles, it is difficult to determine what factors affect changes in monarch abundances and life cycles. By building a model that estimates the relative importance of climate at various times during migration, the study is able to pick apart the complex climate factors along monarch migration that impact population. The results emphasize the difficulties in understanding how climatic conditions impact migrating species and highlight the challenges associated with making predictions on how monarchs and other migrating species will do under future climate regimes.

Warming trends a serious threat to polar bear survivalWarming trends a serious threat to polar bear survival
Ian Stirling and Andrew Derocher show that climate warming is a direct threat to the long-term survival of polar bears. The loss of sea ice, the primary habitat of polar bears, threatens populations by reducing the bears’ ability to hunt. With increasingly poor access to prey such as seals, polar bears experience longer fasting periods, fewer and smaller cubs, lower survival rates of cubs and older bears, and an overall reduction in health. Warming effects are predicted to impact the more southerly populations first with a large disappearance of polar bears by the mid-century.

Bats may not benefit from LED lightsBats may not benefit from LED lights
Artificial lighting is a global threat to biodiversity that can disrupt key animal behaviors such as breeding and foraging. Although LEDs are energy efficient, the ecological impact of the increasing usage LED lights has not yet been assessed. Dr. Emma Stone and her colleagues tested the impact of LED lights on bats and found that LEDs caused a reduction in the activity of two bat species which led to avoidance behavior. Avoidance behavior may lead to reduced fitness and reproduction. New lighting strategies should therefore integrate climate change targets with the cultural, social, and ecological impacts of lighting.

Coastal zones altered by precipitation increasesCoastal zones altered by precipitation increases

Climate change models suggest changes in precipitation as a consequence of increased greenhouse gas emissions. A natural increase in precipitation, and consequently river discharge, during the millennium shift was used to investigate its influence on coastal productivity. By using 13 year long time series data, Dr. Johan Wikner and Dr. Agneta Andersson demonstrated a shift from phytoplankton dominance to greater influence by small bacteria and microorganisms. Negative impacts on phytoplankton production seemed to override any positive effect created by the resulting increase of nutrient discharge. The consequence of increased precipitation may be a lower coastal productivity of fish and shellfish.

Understanding the effects of environmental change on heritage sitesUnderstanding the effects of environmental change on heritage sites
It is well known that biological activity has an impact on heritage structures: sometimes the impact is negative (biodeterioration) and sometimes it is positive (bioprotection). However, the effects of environmental change on biodeteriorative and bioprotective processes are poorly understood. In Dr. Heather Viles and Dr. Nick Cutler’s paper, they review the literature on this topic and identify ‘hotspots’ where the effects of environmental change on biodeterioration/bioprotection are likely to be most marked in the future. They also provide a novel synthesis of existing ecological data to outline possible directions for future research. This work has important implications for the conservation and management of heritage sites in a changing environment.

The dirt on species range shifts under climate change “Soiling” species range shift modelsThe dirt on species range shifts under climate change “Soiling” species range shift models
Current studies which focus on the predictions of species range shifts over the 21st century consider mainly climate variables. Here, Dr. Romain Bertrand and his coauthors studied the importance of accounting for soil nutritional resources or soil toxicity to predict future plant range shifts throughout the study of Quercus pubescens in metropolitan France. The scientists demonstrated that the combination of climate and soil variables greatly improve predictions under climate change. Predictions based on climate-only variables lead to conclusions that are likely wrong for conservation and management of plants..
Article first published online: 30 MAR 2012

Immigrants and refugees: Birds respond to climate changeImmigrants and refugees: Birds respond to climate change

Climate change is likely to pose many threats to global biodiversity. Mountain ecosystems may be especially prone to these threats. In addition to extinction of mountaintop species, one impact is likely to be the loss of species in increasingly hot lowlands. When warm-adapted species are not available to recolonise, this may result in biodiversity losses and changes to the way ecosystems function. Using rainforest birds in northeastern Australia, Dr. Alexander Anderson and his colleagues tested the effects of changes to bird biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. They found that loss of lowland diversity is likely, but that barriers to movement such as unsuitable habitat will play an important role in determining future diversity of rainforest birds.

Carbon cycling in eroding landscapesCarbon cycling in eroding landscapes
Recent studies have suggested that eroding landscapes can stabilize more carbon than their non-eroding counterparts, reducing emission to the atmosphere. However, large uncertainties remain in regards to carbon storage in soil and many studies are lacking in their inclusion of physical observations. Here, Dr. Sebastian Doetterl and his fellow scientists measured soil carbon stocks and distribution, then merged the results with other combined soil studies. Their results show that carbon stocks in eroding landscapes differ significantly from non-eroding landscapes as does the carbon quality, stability and distribution.

Will climate warming lengthen the growing season in temperate forests?Will climate warming lengthen the growing season in temperate forests?
Dr. Carla A. Gunderson and her team strove to answer this question by growing and artificially warming four species of trees from cool habitats as well as warm-temperate environments in an effort to understand the effect temperature has on their growing season. They found that warming alone extends the growing season at both ends, with buds bursting 6-9 days earlier and fall leaf loss 8-13 days later. These results were comparable to observations in a nearby forest, demonstrating that the likely result of future warming is a longer growing season in forests.
Article first published online: 16 DEC 2011

 Global model to assist in the reduction of agricultural GHGsGlobal model to assist in the reduction of agricultural GHGs

Agriculture is a significant contributor to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As such, it is crucial that actions are taken to reduce agricultural impact on GHGs. However, the natural variation in agriculture means it is not possible to establish “one-size-fits-all” policies for emissions reduction. In this article, Dr. Jonathan Hillier and colleagues combine several emission source models related to crop production to explore how certain agricultural GHG reductive practices change with soil and climate. The best practices were mapped globally using standard fertilization rates. The model will help screen and map the best ways farmers, industry and policy makers across the world can reduce GHG emissions.
Article first published online: 21 FEB 2012

 Environmental change accelerates forest regrowthEnvironmental change accelerates forest regrowth
Forest biomass dynamics, which can be thought of as the continual loss and gain of forest matter over time, is becoming recognized as strongly influenced by environmental conditions. Much of the understanding of these dynamics has come from theory based on models, and is therefore limited. To better understand forest biomass dynamics, Dr. Robbie A. Hember and his coauthors investigated historical dynamics through an extensive forest inventory developed by the Province of British Columbia, Canada. Their innovative analysis can be used locally and globally, with the study finding strong evidence of growth enhancement in response to environmental change. The results highlight the value of permanent forest inventories to better understand climate change response,
Article first published online: 17 FEB 2012

 How will a decline in snow impact dryland regions?How will a decline in snow impact dryland regions?

The impact of warmer temperatures and declining snowpack on water balance in dryland ecosystems is uncertain and important, especially in sagebrush ecosystems of the western U.S. where water is a primary driver of ecological and human activity. Dr. Daniel R. Schlaepfer and his team used simulation experiments to assess how sagebrush ecosystems are influenced by factors including precipitation, temperature, and snow. Their results suggested that sagebrush may decline in areas of increasing water-limitation but may increase in areas of longer snow-free seasons. Additionally, whether it rains or snows may be of less importance than precipitation that falls predominantly during the cold rather than the warm season.
Article first published online: 1 MAR 2012

Helpful Information from America's Big DryHelpful information from Australia’s “Big Dry”
Jim Johnson and coauthors were interested in determining the effects that surrounding vegetation had on stream health during extreme climate events such as Australia’s drought deemed “The Big Dry”. Using 20 years of biomonitoring data from Victoria, Australia, the authors discovered that stream condition was consistently better in watersheds that were extensively covered by native plants. Native plant cover reduces the impact that severe drought can have on streams. These results show that vegetation management is useful tool for diminishing the harmful effects of climate extremes on aquatic ecosystems.
Article first published online: 20 JAN 2012

Slow and steady wins the extinctionSlow and steady wins the race…to extinction

Human-induced global climate change has already altered species diversity by affecting species distribution. Currently, half of the world’s freshwater turtles and tortoises are considered threatened with extinction and climate change may worsen these declines. Flora Ihlow and her team used existing climate models to determine the effect future climate change may have on tortoises and turtles. Their results show climate change may alter species life habits negatively and significantly reduce populations.
Article first published online: 20 JAN 2012

Novel findings result from wheat studyNovel findings result from wheat study
Altering carbon dioxide and ozone levels will produce trade-offs in the production of wheat: A positive trait may be enhanced while a new negative trait appears. Very little is known about the underlying causes of these responses to ozone and carbon dioxide. Hakan Pleijel and Johann Uddling explore the relationship between wheat yields versus quality of wheat and discover an important and novel effect of CO2 on wheat.
Article first published online: 1 AUG 2011

Amphibians prduce their own antibioticsAmphibians produce their own “antibiotics”

Many amphibians around the world are threatened with extinction by a recently discovered skin fungus. Some of the affected amphibians have an arsenal of self-produced “antibiotics” that are secreted onto the skin that kill the fungus. Once released onto the skin, the compound is active for fifteen minutes but slowly disappears, protecting the skin from injury. Dr. Pask and his colleagues note their results as an important tool for furthering research into protecting the world’s amphibians.
Article first published online: 9 JAN 2012

Future productivity of Pinus radiata in New Zealand under expected climatic changesHow will climate change effect lumber production in New Zealand?
Miko Kirschbaum and fellow authors modeled changes in Monterey pine wood productivity with climate change for New Zealand. Comparing either constant or increasing carbon dioxide in different scenarios, the authors found that the greatest increase in wood productivity occurs if carbon dioxide levels continue to increase, citing a 37% productivity increase by 2090. Monterey pine modeled under constant carbon dioxide experienced only a slight growth response of 3% through 2090. New Zealand wood production will depend critically on rising carbon dioxide concentrations.
Future productivity of Pinus radiata in New Zealand under expected climatic changes. Miko U . Kirschbaum, Michael S. Watt, Andrew Tait, Anne-Gaelle E. Ausseil

Exploring consensus in 21st century projections of climatically suitable areas for African vertebrates
African Vertebrates help determine global change impacts.
Africa is predicted to be highly vulnerable to future climate change, but determining how biodiversity will be impacted is filled with uncertainties. These uncertainties lead to varying results among biodiversity projections. Raquel Garcia and authors were interested in sub-Saharan Afria and how they may address and summarize the variable impact projections on vertebrates. Their approach may prove to be increasingly useful in ecological modeling studies.
Exploring consensus in 21st century projections of climatically suitable areas for African vertebrates Raquel A. Garcia, Neil D. Burgess, Mar Cabeza, Carsten Rahbek, Miguel B. Araújo

 Attribution of climate change: a methodology to estimate the potential contribution to increases in potato yield in Scotland since 1960Scottish potato yields on the rise since 1960b>
Peter Gregory and Bruce Marshall used data from 5 weather stations across Scotland along with physiologically-based crop models to determine what effect climate change may have had on Scotland’s potato yields. The authors conclude that with conservative calculation, increased air and soil temperatures have contributed up to 23-26% of the increased yield from 1960-2006. Annual precipitation and the timing of yearly frosts have not changed, leading Gregory and Marshall to attribute increased yields to a rise in temperature
Attribution of climate change: a methodology to estimate the potential contribution to increases in potato yield in Scotland since 1960 P J Gregory, B Marshall

Interactions between climate and habitat loss effects on biodiversity: a systematic review and meta-analysisInteractions between climate and habitat loss provide insight to effects on biodiversity
Mantyka-Pringle and authors conducted a comprehensive review of over 1000 papers on habitat loss and fragmentation from the past 20 years. The goal was to determine the interacting effects between current climate, climatic change and habitat loss on biological populations. The authors found that the most important determining factor of habitat loss and fragmentation effects is current maximum temperature. The study is the first of its kind and will help to identify appropriate actions for conservation in the present as well as future.
Interactions between climate and habitat loss effects on biodiversity: a systematic review and meta-analysis Chrystal S. Mantyka-pringle, Tara G. Martin, Jonathan R. Rhodes

The human induced balance between C, N and P in Earth's life-systemPhosphorus limitation offsets Earth’s balance
Human-induced carbon and nitrogen fertilization are generating a strong imbalance with phosphorus. This imbalance places increasing importance in the role of phosphorus availability in the Earth’s life system, affecting ecosystem carbon storage and the structure, function and evolution of the Earth’s ecosystems. Read the letter addressing this issue by Peñuelas and colleagues.
The human induced imbalance between C, N and P in Earth's life-system. Josep Peñuelas, Jordi Sardans, Albert Rivas-Ubach and Ivan A. Janssens

 Adult exposure influences offspring response to ocean acidification in oystersOffspring acclimated from adult exposure
It is known that CO2-driven ocean acidification affects marine organisms, but not whether adult exposure can influence the response of their larvae. New research by Parker and colleagues suggests that there are carry-over effects from adults exposed to elevated CO2 which may help to compensate or reduce the negative effects of exposure.
Adult exposure influences offspring response to ocean acidification in oysters, Laura M. Parker, Pauline M. Ross, Wayne A. O'Connor, Larissa Borysko, David A. Raftos, Hans-Otto Pörtner

 Radiocarbon bomb spike reveals biological effects of Antarctic climate changeResponse of Antarctic ecosystems to climate change
For the first time, 14C signal was traced along intact, living moss shoots. The radiocarbon signals were used to generate detailed growth rate data of the dominant Antarctic moss flora over a period of several decades. This data shows that even the biota of continental Antarctica has displayed striking responses to recent climate change.
Radiocarbon bomb spike reveals biological effects of Antarctic climate change. Laurence J. Clarke, Sharon A. Robinson, Quan Hua, David J. Ayre and David Fink