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Weekend Rain... NASA View of Sochi... Beatles Tour 50 Years Ago... "Earth Gauge": Wetlands, Mammals, California Drought

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Updated: 2/07 10:41 pm
A wet, cold Sat. will give way to a much nicer Sunday with sun & milder temps.  The milder temps. will continue into the early part of the week.

Click ** here ** for a NOAA description of the satellite image below of Sochi, Russia - home of the Olympic winter games.

 

Interesting note: The Beatles arrived on American soil (NYC) 50 years ago Feb. 7th (1964).  This is noteworthy locally because the Beatles made a stop in Jacksonville 7 months later - a few days after hurricane "Dora" made landfall in Duval County!  There was controversy in the Jacksonville stop well before "Dora" came into the picture.  The Beatles were opposed to segregation & cancelled their hotel reservations on the First Coast.

Earth Gauge: What Makes Wetlands Stink?

One of the most recognizable features of wetlands across the country is their smell. But what is it that makes these areas so pungent? To find out, you’d have to stick your nose all the way down to the mud, and even then, you wouldn’t be able to see the microscopic organisms that are responsible.

Wetlands serve an important function as “recycling stations” of sorts, collecting organic litter in the form of dead plant matter and animal waste and reducing it to usable nutrients again. Through this process, bacteria and fungi break down the structural elements of leaves and other materials, creating byproducts that either enrich the soil with nutrients or escape in the form of gasses.  This escaped gas is what we smell.  Different types of wetlands house different bacteria and fungi, resulting in different gaseous byproducts. Two common – and stinky – wetland gasses are sulfur and methane. In coastal salt marshes and estuaries, smooth cordgrass is a common wetland plant that stores large amounts of sulfuric compounds from the ground and water.  When the plant dies and begins to decompose, these sulfuric compounds are broken down through a series of steps resulting in the release of hydrogen sulfide gas, among other byproducts.  You may recognize this chemical better as the rotten egg smell you pick up around salt marshes and other wetlands.

Tip: Even though we can’t see the bacteria carrying out the decomposition processes, we can still have a major impact on their ability to help cycle nutrients through a wetland. Pollutants like fertilizer runoff or boat engine oil leakage can throw off the chemical balance that the bacteria rely on.  Learn more about small ways you can help protect wetland health in your region here.

(Sources: Sundareshwar, P.V. “Decomposers.” National Estuarine Research Reserve System, 2001)

Climate Trivia: Which Mammals Are More Likely To Respond to Climate Change?

Mammals respond to climate change in a variety of ways. Some species have a positive response such as an increase in population size, while others have a negative response such as a local extinction. Others don’t respond at all. Scientists have documented the response of 73 mammalian species to climate change in North America, as well as the response of eight mammalian species in other regions. The ability of a species to respond to climate change may be influenced by three factors: the species’ traits, such as body size; the location where they live and the relative impact of climate change there; and evolutionary history.

Land mammals come in all shapes and sizes – they can be as small as a shrew or as big as an elephant. They can be diurnal (active during the day), nocturnal (active at night) or have flexibility in their activity time, meaning they can choose what time best suits them to be active. They can also display burrowing and hibernating behaviors, among many others.

Trivia Question: When it comes to land mammals, which body size and activity time is more likely to respond climate change?

a)    Large-bodied mammals; diurnal or nocturnal activity time
b)    Small-bodied mammals; diurnal or nocturnal activity time
c)    Large-bodied mammals; flexible activity time
d)    Small-bodied mammals; flexible activity time

The correct answer is a. As body size increases, the response to climate change also increases (either positive or negative). Large mammals, such as elk and polar bears, are 27 times more likely to respond to climate change than the smallest mammals such as mice. Small mammals have the ability to live within and under vegetation and soil, where “microclimates” mitigate the temperature and humidity levels they experience; large mammals can’t take advantage of these conditions. During the Pleistocene — a period when many extinctions occurred — small-bodied mammals did not increase their extinction rates or have large range shifts. Extinctions and range shifts during this period occurred mainly in large-bodied mammals. Species with flexible activity time also have lower response rates to climate change than diurnal or nocturnal species. Species that are active at certain times of the day are forced to experience the range of temperatures and humidity during time, making them more susceptible to the impacts of climate change. In contrast, flexible species can select the temperature and humidity conditions in which they are active and were the least likely to respond or respond negatively to climate change.

(Source: McCain, C.M. and S.R.B. King. 2014. Body Size and Activity Times Mediate Mammalian Responses to Climate Change. Global Change Biology. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12499. Online Version of Record published before inclusion in an issue. Accessed online 29 January 2014; University of Colorado at Boulder. “Differences in mammal responses to climate change demonstrated.” ScienceDaily, 22 January 2014.)

Climate in the News: “California Drought Reaches New Level of Severity Never Recorded on U.S. Drought Monitor in the State”Wunderground, January 30, 2014 – Although some much needed rain and mountain snow is falling on parts of California to close out January, the month will likely go down as one of the driest on record in what is typically one of the wettest months of the year.

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