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Posts Tagged ‘National Science Foundation’

BY ZACH MORTICE

Texas National Guard and Texas Task Force responders conduct aerial search and rescue in Rockport, Holiday Beach, and the Port Aransas area. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, photo by the Texas National Guard.

An unprecedented storm that dumped more than 50 inches of rain onto Texas over just a few days, Harvey was the kind of hurricane that worsening climate change promises to bring back for a sequel. And if and when that happens, the next round of  recovery and resilience calculus might best begin with the results of the National Science Foundation’s series of research grants dedicated to studying the storm’s effects.

Last month, the agency handed out just over $5 million across 59 research projects prompted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, including several that deal with the ecological and landscape fallout of catastrophic storms. Each promises to generate valuable information about flora and fauna left reeling from extreme weather events. But these studies (four of which are detailed here) are even more vital as mile markers down the path toward a future besieged by climate change—either as guidance on forestalling it or living better within its confines.

Anna Armitage of Texas A&M Galveston is studying how the transition from salt marsh wetlands to mangroves might change how hurricanes affect the coast. In Texas, low, marshy wetlands are common, whereas dense mangroves are rare. That balance is shifting, however, as climate change heats up these ecosystems. As mangroves expand their footprint, Armitage (and researchers at Florida International University and the University of Houston) wonders if they might offer coastal ecosystems and human settlement more protection from hurricane winds and rain—at a cost of biodiversity. “It probably doesn’t provide the same value for birds, fish, and shrimp,” she says.

Climate Change Big Picture: If mangroves do offer more protection for coastal ecosystems in a climate of increasingly severe storms, then Armitage says the next question is, “Should we be planting them in restoration sites?” These kinds of “living shorelines,” she says, could be “more resilient, longer-lasting, and nicer looking protection for our communities” than concrete barriers.

Grant amount: $122,935

Paul Montagna of Texas A&M Corpus Christi is studying the inundation of fresh water (via rainfall) into saltwater ecosystems that Hurricane Harvey caused. From initial measurements after the rain, he’s observed increased amounts of dissolved organic matter in these waterways, and has seen (more…)

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BY JESSICA BRIDGER

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The Arctic could be the next hot place to live.

FROM THE JANUARY 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE

The dock screeches and groans, the noises of cold metal in cold air. It is dawn as 14 students, two instructors, and one journalist board the Langøsund. The boat sits in the Adventfjord in the High Arctic. Barren gray slopes, crusted with snow on their peaks, rise from the glassy surface of the sea. The sky’s colors are reflected in the fjord, a mirror of this strange, cold place.

The mission is an experiment in design education: an expedition for serious research about the human settlement potential of Arctic places. We motor out into the water, leaving Longyearbyen (population 2,144), bound for Barentsburg (population 471). Both towns lie on Spitsbergen in the Svalbard archipelago, halfway between the Norwegian mainland and the North Pole. Longyearbyen is said to be the northernmost town with a permanent population in the world.

Leena Cho double-checks the zipper on her poppy-red jacket as the boat makes headway. She grins at the students; (more…)

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