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s the climate changes, drought may reduce tree productivity and survival across many forest ecosystems; however, the relative influence of specific climate parameters on forest decline is poorly understood. We derive a forest drought-stress index (FDSI) for the southwestern United States using a comprehensive tree-ring data set representing AD 1000-2007. The FDSI is approximately equally influenced by the warm-season vapour-pressure deficit (largely controlled by temperature) and cold-season precipitation, together explaining 82% of the FDSI variability. Correspondence between the FDSI and measures of forest productivity, mortality, bark-beetle outbreak and wildfire validate the FDSI as a holistic forest-vigour...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Nature Climate Change
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In light of mounting empirical evidence that planetary warming is well underway, the climate research community looks to palaeoclimate research for a ground-truthing measure with which to test the accuracy of future climate simulations. Model experiments that attempt to simulate climates of the past serve to identify both similarities and differences between two climate states and, when compared with simulations run by other models and with geological data, to identify model-specific biases. Uncertainties associated with both the data and the models must be considered in such an exercise. The most recent period of sustained global warmth similar to what is projected for the near future occurred about 3.3–3.0 million...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Nature Climate Change
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The contribution of climate change to declining populations of organisms remains a question of outstanding concern. Much attention to declining populations has focused on how changing climate drives phenological mismatches between animals and their food. Effects of climate on plant communities may provide an alternative, but particularly powerful, influence on animal populations because plants provide their habitats. Here, we show that abundances of deciduous trees and associated songbirds have declined with decreasing snowfall over 22 years of study in montane Arizona, USA. We experimentally tested the hypothesis that declining snowfall indirectly influences plants and associated birds by allowing greater over-winter...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Nature Climate Change
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Sea-level rise (SLR) poses a range of threats to natural and built environments1, 2, making assessments of SLR-induced hazards essential for informed decision making3. We develop a probabilistic model that evaluates the likelihood that an area will inundate (flood) or dynamically respond (adapt) to SLR. The broad-area applicability of the approach is demonstrated by producing 30 × 30 m resolution predictions for more than 38,000 km2 of diverse coastal landscape in the northeastern United States. Probabilistic SLR projections, coastal elevation and vertical land movement are used to estimate likely future inundation levels. Then, conditioned on future inundation levels and the current land-cover type, we evaluate...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Nature Climate Change
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Coastal marshes are considered to be among the most valuable and vulnerable ecosystems on Earth, where the imminent loss of ecosystem services is a feared consequence of sea level rise. However, we show with a meta-analysis that global measurements of marsh elevation change indicate that marshes are generally building at rates similar to or exceeding historical sea level rise, and that process-based models predict survival under a wide range of future sea level scenarios. We argue that marsh vulnerability tends to be overstated because assessment methods often fail to consider biophysical feedback processes known to accelerate soil building with sea level rise, and the potential for marshes to migrate inland.
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Nature Climate Change
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Increasing temperatures in northern high latitudes are causing permafrost to thaw, making large amounts of previously frozen organic matter vulnerable to microbial decomposition. Permafrost thaw also creates a fragmented landscape of drier and wetter soil conditions that determine the amount and form (carbon dioxide (CO2), or methane (CH4)) of carbon (C) released to the atmosphere. The rate and form of C release control the magnitude of the permafrost C feedback, so their relative contribution with a warming climate remains unclear. We quantified the effect of increasing temperature and changes from aerobic to anaerobic soil conditions using 25 soil incubation studies from the permafrost zone. Here we show, using...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Nature Climate Change
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Atmospheric mass balance analyses suggest that terrestrial carbon (C) storage is increasing, partially abating the atmospheric [CO2] growth rate, although the continued strength of this important ecosystem service remains uncertain. Some evidence suggests that these increases will persist owing to positive responses of vegetation growth (net primary productivity; NPP) to rising atmospheric [CO2] (that is, ‘CO2 fertilization’). Here, we present a new satellite-derived global terrestrial NPP data set, which shows a significant increase in NPP from 1982 to 2011. However, comparison against Earth system model (ESM) NPP estimates reveals a significant divergence, with satellite-derived increases (2.8 ± 1.50%) less than...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Nature Climate Change
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Soils deliver several ecosystem services including carbon sequestration and nutrient cycling, which are of central importance to climate mitigation and sustainable food production. Soil biota play an important role in carbon and nitrogen cycling, and, although the effects of land use on soil food webs are well documented the consequences for their resistance and resilience to climate change are not known. We compared the resistance and resilience to drought--which is predicted to increase under climate change of soil food webs of two common land-use systems: intensively managed wheat with a bacterial-based soil food web and extensively managed grassland with a fungal-based soil food web. We found that the fungal-based...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Nature Climate Change
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Global temperature rise and extremes accompanying drought threaten forests and their associated climatic feedbacks. Our ability to accurately simulate drought-induced forest impacts remains highly uncertain in part owing to our failure to integrate physiological measurements, regional-scale models, and dynamic global vegetation models (DGVMs). Here we show consistent predictions of widespread mortality of needleleaf evergreen trees (NET) within Southwest USA by 2100 using state-of-the-art models evaluated against empirical data sets. Experimentally, dominant Southwest USA NET species died when they fell below predawn water potential (Ψpd) thresholds (April–August mean) beyond which photosynthesis, hydraulic and...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Nature Climate Change
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The recent climate-exacerbated mountain pine beetle infestation in the Rocky Mountains of North America has resulted in tree death that is unprecedented in recorded history. The spatial and temporal heterogeneity inherent in insect infestation creates a complex and often unpredictable watershed response, influencing the primary storage and flow components of the hydrologic cycle. Despite the increased vulnerability of forested ecosystems under changing climate1, watershed-scale implications of interception, ground evaporation, and transpiration changes remain relatively unknown, with conflicting reports of streamflow perturbations across regions. Here, contributions to streamflow are analysed through time and space...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Nature Climate Change
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Sea-level rise threatens coastal salt-marshes and mangrove forests around the world, and a key determinant of coastal wetland vulnerability is whether its surface elevation can keep pace with rising sea level. Globally, a large data gap exists because wetland surface and shallow subsurface processes remain unaccounted for by traditional vulnerability assessments using tide gauges. Moreover, those processes vary substantially across wetlands, so modelling platforms require relevant local data. The low-cost, simple, high-precision rod surface-elevation table–marker horizon (RSET-MH) method fills this critical data gap, can be paired with spatial data sets and modelling and is financially and technically accessible...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Nature Climate Change
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Climate warming does not force sea-level rise (SLR) at the same rate everywhere. Rather, there are spatial variations of SLR superimposed on a global average rise. These variations are forced by dynamic processes, arising from circulation and variations in temperature and/or salinity, and by static equilibrium processes, arising from mass redistributions changing gravity and the Earth's rotation and shape. These sea-level variations form unique spatial patterns, yet there are very few observations verifying predicted patterns or fingerprints. Here, we present evidence of recently accelerated SLR in a unique 1,000-km-long hotspot on the highly populated North American Atlantic coast north of Cape Hatteras and show...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Nature Climate Change
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In September 2012, Arctic sea-ice extent plummeted to a new record low: two times lower than the 1979–2000 average. Often, record lows in sea-ice cover are hailed as an example of climate change impacts in the Arctic. Less apparent, however, are the implications of reduced sea-ice cover in the Arctic Ocean for marine–atmosphere CO2 exchange. Sea-ice decline has been connected to increasing air temperatures at high latitudes. Temperature is a key controlling factor in the terrestrial exchange of CO2 and methane, and therefore the greenhouse-gas balance of the Arctic. Despite the large potential for feedbacks, many studies do not connect the diminishing sea-ice extent with changes in the interaction of the marine...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Nature Climate Change
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Heavy precipitation has increased worldwide, but the effect of this on flood magnitude has been difficult to pinpoint. An alternative approach to analysing records shows that, in the central United States, floods have become more frequent but not larger.
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Nature Climate Change
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The response of the terrestrial water cycle to global warming is central to issues including water resources, agriculture and ecosystem health. Recent studies indicate that aridity, defined in terms of atmospheric supply (precipitation, P) and demand (potential evapotranspiration, Ep) of water at the land surface, will increase globally in a warmer world. Recently proposed mechanisms for this response emphasize the driving role of oceanic warming and associated atmospheric processes. Here we show that the aridity response is substantially amplified by land–atmosphere feedbacks associated with the land surface’s response to climate and CO2 change. Using simulations from the Global Land Atmosphere Coupling Experiment...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Nature Climate Change
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Arid and semi-arid ecosystems cover ~40% of Earth’s terrestrial surface, but we know little about how climate change will affect these widespread landscapes. Like many drylands, the Colorado Plateau in southwestern United States is predicted to experience elevated temperatures and alterations to the timing and amount of annual precipitation. We used a factorial warming and supplemental rainfall experiment on the Colorado Plateau to show that altered precipitation resulted in pronounced mortality of the widespread moss Syntrichia caninervis. Increased frequency of 1.2 mm summer rainfall events reduced moss cover from ~25% of total surface cover to <2% after only one growing season, whereas increased temperature had...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Nature Climate Change
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As the climate changes, drought may reduce tree productivity and survival across many forest ecosystems; however, the relative influence of specific climate parameters on forest decline is poorly understood. We derive a forest drought-stress index (FDSI) for the southwestern United States using a comprehensive tree-ring data set representing AD 1000-2007. The FDSI is approximately equally influenced by the warm-season vapour-pressure deficit (largely controlled by temperature) and cold-season precipitation, together explaining 82% of the FDSI variability. Correspondence between the FDSI and measures of forest productivity, mortality, bark-beetle outbreak and wildfire validate the FDSI as a holistic forest-vigour...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Nature Climate Change
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Climate change will decrease worldwide biodiversity through a number of potential pathways, including invasive hybridization (cross-breeding between invasive and native species). How climate warming influences the spread of hybridization and loss of native genomes poses difficult ecological and evolutionary questions with little empirical information to guide conservation management decisions. Here we combine long-term genetic monitoring data with high-resolution climate and stream temperature predictions to evaluate how recent climate warming has influenced the spatio-temporal spread of human-mediated hybridization between threatened native westslope cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii lewisi) and non-native...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Nature Climate Change
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Climate change in the Arctic is a growing concern for natural resource conservation and management as a result of accelerated warming and associated shifts in the distribution and abundance of northern species. We introduce a predictive framework for assessing the future extent of Arctic tundra and boreal biomes in northern Alaska. We use geo-referenced museum specimens to predict the velocity of distributional change into the next century and compare predicted tundra refugial areas with current land-use. The reliability of predicted distributions, including differences between fundamental and realized niches, for two groups of species is strengthened by fossils and genetic signatures of demographic shifts. Evolutionary...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Nature Climate Change
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Climate-sensitive Arctic lakes have been identified as conduits for ancient permafrost-carbon (C) emissions and as such accelerate warming. However, the environmental factors that control emission pathways and their sources are unclear; this complicates upscaling, forecasting and climate-impact-assessment efforts. Here we show that current whole-lake CH4 and CO2 emissions from widespread lakes in Arctic Alaska primarily originate from organic matter fixed within the past 3–4 millennia (modern to 3,300 ± 70 years before the present), and not from Pleistocene permafrost C. Furthermore, almost 100% of the annual diffusive C flux is emitted as CO2. Although the lakes mostly processed younger C (89 ± 3% of total C emissions),...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Nature Climate Change


map background search result map search result map Changes to dryland rainfall result in rapid moss mortality and altered soil fertility The impact of lower sea-ice extent on Arctic greenhouse-gas exchange Changes to dryland rainfall result in rapid moss mortality and altered soil fertility The impact of lower sea-ice extent on Arctic greenhouse-gas exchange