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Author Topic: Adaption to Climate Change (Natural Ecosystems)  (Read 1786 times)

Shared Humanity

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Adaption to Climate Change (Natural Ecosystems)
« on: November 11, 2017, 05:08:19 PM »
I have been here since February, 2013 and due to the wealth of data and information available, I have come to the conclusion that, like it or not, we are headed to a much warmer planet no matter what we do. While I firmly believe that prevention and mitigation are the two most important responses to the climate change crisis, we need to begin now to study and implement adaptation strategies, assist our natural and built environments to deal with the inevitable warming that is baked into the system. This thread is not intended to be a venue for discussing whether we are heading to a 2C, 3C, 4C, 5C warmer world. Warming is happening, what kinds of adaptation techniques are needed to adjust to this fact.

http://www.global-greenhouse-warming.com/climate-mitigation-and-adaptation.html

Humans have always altered the surrounding environment, adapting it to meet our needs, usually ignoring the impacts on ecosystems as a whole. Given the global nature of warming, we now need to aggressively alter this environment with the intent of maintaining the health of the global ecosystem and ensure the continued survival of human built ecosystems.

The good news? We are already doing this across the planet. Initiatives everywhere exist that are designed to adjust to our changing climate. The problem is that these efforts are occurring in fits and starts with insufficient study and there is not enough effort to identify best practices. Also, most of these initiatives address a very local concern and we now find ourselves at a place where the impact of global warming on large ecosystems must also be addressed through adaptation.

(Example) The entire Rocky Mountain ecosystem (U.S. and Canada) is under attack by climate change. Studies proliferate that indicate dramatic shifts are in store in snow cover, precipitation (droughts and excess rainfall) proliferation of pests. Huge swaths of forest, Aspen, fir etc, are dying and fueling wildfires of an intensity never before witnessed. This is just one simple example. They exist across the planet.

With large ecosystems, this is actually a natural process, has occurred for hundreds of millions of years. The real problem is that natural adaptation is far too slow to deal with the rapid change that is occurring due to our burning of fossil fuels. Never in the history of the planet have temperatures risen so rapidly. Our adaptation strategies for large ecosystem impacts ought to involve studying and understanding the natural impacts that global warming will have on weather (studies already furiously underway) as well as understanding the natural adaptations that are likely to occur as a result of these weather changes.

We have one thing going for us. Humans have always done this to our natural environments. We simply need to shift the intent of these efforts. We no longer approach this issue of adaptation with the intent of solely bending nature to suit our needs. We must now employ every bit of knowledge and engineering know how to adapt our natural ecosystems to ensure the ongoing health of the planet.

This thread is also intended to focus on only adaptation efforts to address natural ecosystems as opposed to built ecosystems like cities. Another thread should be started to address this.

Examples: (I would like to make the point that these examples are being suggested by me from a position of relative ignorance of ecosystems in general and therefore may be poor examples. I only ask that individuals far more informed than I approach this by defining a problem and exploring potential interventions for assisting the process of adaptation.

Forest management: Climate zones are shifting north. There are studies in Arizona that show that specific species of trees are slowly marching north and being replaced by other species more suited to the new environment as a natural adaptation process. Unfortunately, this natural adaptation does not prevent massive fires of existing stands, the resulting inevitable soil erosion followed by the far too slow colonization by other species.

Coral Reef Destruction: Bleaching due to elevated water temperatures. Could identifying locations where coral reef might thrive and introducing a wide array of species serve to protect this vital ocean ecosystem?

Flooding due to excess precipitation: Wetland restoration and/or creation. Short article on natural rocky weirs...

https://www.usbr.gov/tsc/techreferences/mands/mands-pdfs/RockWeirDesignGuidance_final_ADAcompliant_031716.pdf

Finally, we must be careful not to think that we are trying to replicate the existing natural ecosystems. This will inevitably cause some consternation for environmentalists who wish to perfectly reestablish prairies to the state that existed before we plowed them over. Yes, prairie restoration is worthwhile but we need to accept the fact that species, formerly considered invasive, belong in these new environments.The simple fact is their are no ecosystems on the planet that are not disturbed ecosystems, significantly altered by man over the millennia. We instead should focus on sustainable ecosystems that can survive and adapt moving forward.

We had better get going. Absent assistance, it takes an Aspen forest quite a while to move north.
« Last Edit: November 11, 2017, 05:23:26 PM by Shared Humanity »

TerryM

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Re: Adaption to Climate Change (Natural Ecosystems)
« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2017, 08:59:39 PM »
SH
I'm unsure of why you wish to isolate cityscapes from more "natural" environments. As things warm up, and central control becomes more difficult to maintain, those seeking security, or shelter, or assistance, may flood into existing cities, exacerbating problems that already exist, and bringing new problems with them.


Reintroducing beaver while culling cattle herds might do wonders for many western watersheds. I've noticed a recent increase in problems associated with older, medium sized dams. When historic precipitation patterns are altered, many of the structures put in place to facilitate irrigation, flood control or Hydroelectric production may need to be shored up, torn down, or altered to meet the altered precipitation we're now facing.
Should cities below dams be abandoned, or should ongoing maintenance and repair be given a very high priority?


Terry


Shared Humanity

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Re: Adaption to Climate Change (Natural Ecosystems)
« Reply #2 on: November 12, 2017, 12:48:30 AM »
SH
I'm unsure of why you wish to isolate cityscapes from more "natural" environments. As things warm up, and central control becomes more difficult to maintain, those seeking security, or shelter, or assistance, may flood into existing cities, exacerbating problems that already exist, and bringing new problems with them.
 
Terry

Not absolutely wedded to the idea. In part I was concerned that the thread might become unwieldy. Could certainly expand this thread to include built ecosystems as there certainly are overlaps. There are endless examples where separating the two is not practical.

Example: New Orleans increased susceptibility to flooding as sea levels rise.

One thing perhaps not generally known is that the Army Corp of Engineers has been fighting a century long battle to keep the Mississippi River flowing east through New Orleans. The natural behavior of a river at its mouth is to take the shortest path through the delta to the sea. Because of the Corps successful efforts to steer the river against its nature, the delta now looks like this. The corps has done this for a number of legitimate reasons, to maintain a navigable river, to ensure drinking water for New Orleans.

The problem is that the delta is no longer able to do what deltas do, distributing the silt load in a relatively uniform manner. Large areas of the delta are washing away because silt no longer is transported to settle and replenish these areas. In a real sense, the rivers natural behavior to seek the shortest route to the sea, naturally maintains the health of the entire delta which supports wildlife but, more importantly, protects the coast from storm surge and erosion.

The Army Corps knows it has a problem that needs to be addressed.

http://www.mvn.usace.army.mil/Missions/Environmental/Louisiana-Coastal-Area/Mississippi-River-Hydrodynamic-and-Delta-Managemen/

This is a huge problem which will take a lot of time, money and effort to address but at least conceptually, This particular adaptation is easier than many adaptive strategies to conceptualize and implement. This is due to the fact it focuses primarily on restoring an ecosystems normal functioning.

Contrast this with problems related to drastically reduced winter snow cover with increases in rain in the western mountain regions or coral reef or fishery destruction.
« Last Edit: November 12, 2017, 01:22:26 AM by Shared Humanity »

Shared Humanity

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Re: Adaption to Climate Change (Natural Ecosystems)
« Reply #3 on: November 12, 2017, 02:18:08 AM »
It is entirely possible that the delta region of the Mississippi River has been so altered that there are no practical solutions. One aspect of large river deltas is they are laced with distributaries, branches of the river that split off and flow away from the river.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distributary

It is this network of distributaries that serve to carry the silt load and distribute it across the delta. Many of these distributaries have been destroyed, dredged and/or filled in for farmland while the banks of the main channel of the Mississippi has been fortified to carry all of the water to the Gulf.

You can find historic locks all along the western banks of the Mississippi where early settlers worked to harness the river and clear farmland, forever altering the existence and function of distributaries throughout the delta. Below is a aerial view of one of these, the Plaquemine Lock and a link that describes it. What is important to realize is that all of these distributaries flowed to the gulf, depositing silt and replenishing the delta.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plaquemine_Lock_State_Historic_Site

Shared Humanity

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Re: Adaption to Climate Change (Natural Ecosystems)
« Reply #4 on: November 12, 2017, 02:44:38 AM »
The Port Allen Locks in Baton Rouge have harnessed a major distributary for inland water transport while destroying its natural function of carrying water and silt to the Gulf.


Shared Humanity

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Re: Adaption to Climate Change (Natural Ecosystems)
« Reply #5 on: November 12, 2017, 02:56:37 AM »
It is the Old River Control Structure where the Army Corps is proving its mettle, battling the Mississippi to prevent it from turning south into the Atchafalaya Basin, a former channel of the Mississippi and re-establish the basins function as one the rivers major distributaries.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_River_Control_Structure