Tag Archives: Climate Change

Penn State University study: Eastern forests shaped more by Native Americans’ burning than climate change

26 May

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) wrote about the benefits of prescribed burning:

Definition Prescribed burning is the deliberate use of fire to help manage a forest. It is a complex management tool and should be used by only those who are trained and experienced in its use.

Benefits Hazard Reduction Prescribed burning helps to eliminate fuels such as pine needles, hardwood leaves, fallen branches, and herbaceous vegetation that accumulate on the forest floor. These fuels increase the chance of destruction of young stands if a wildfire erupts.

Control of Understory Vegetation Prescribed burning helps control low-quality hardwoods and shrubs. Understory vegetation competes with pines for moisture and nutrients, and may interfere with regeneration….

Definition Prescribed burning is the deliberate use of fire to help manage a forest. It is a complex management tool and should be used by only those who are trained and experienced in its use.

Benefits Hazard Reduction Prescribed burning helps to eliminate fuels such as pine needles, hardwood leaves, fallen branches, and herbaceous vegetation that accumulate on the forest floor. These fuels increase the chance of destruction of young stands if a wildfire erupts.

Control of Understory Vegetation Prescribed burning helps control low-quality hardwoods and shrubs. Understory vegetation competes with pines for moisture and nutrients, and may interfere with regeneration. https://efotg.sc.egov.usda.gov/references/public/AL/338_js_PrescribedBurning.pdf

Native Americans used prescribed burning as a forest management practice. See, Indian Use of Fire in Early Oregon https://oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/anthropogenic_fire/#.XOte93dFzIU

Science Daily reported in Eastern forests shaped more by Native Americans’ burning than climate change:

Native Americans’ use of fire to manage vegetation in what is now the Eastern United States was more profound than previously believed, according to a Penn State researcher who determined that forest composition change in the region was caused more by land use than climate change.
“I believe Native Americans were excellent vegetation managers and we can learn a lot from them about how to best manage forests of the U.S.,” said Marc Abrams, professor of forest ecology and physiology in the College of Agricultural Sciences. “Native Americans knew that to regenerate plant species that they wanted for food, and to feed game animals they relied on, they needed to burn the forest understory regularly.”
Over the last 2,000 years at least, according to Abrams — who for three decades has been studying past and present qualities of eastern U.S. forests — frequent and widespread human-caused fire resulted in the predominance of fire-adapted tree species. And in the time since burning has been curtailed, forests are changing, with species such as oak, hickory and pine losing ground.
“The debate about whether forest composition has been largely determined by land use or climate continues, but a new study strongly suggests anthropogenic fire has been the major driver of forest change in the East,” said Abrams. “That is important to know because climate change is taking on an ever larger proportion of scientific endeavor.”
But this phenomenon does not apply to other regions, Abrams noted. In the western U.S., for example, climate change has been much more pronounced than in the East. That region has received much more warming and much more drought, he explained.
“Here in the East, we have had a slight increase in precipitation that has ameliorated the warming,” said Abrams.
To learn the drivers of forest change, researchers used a novel approach, analyzing both pollen and charcoal fossil records along with tree-census studies to compare historic and modern tree composition in the forests of eastern North America. They looked at seven forest types in the north and central regions of the eastern United States. Those forest types encompass two distinct floristic zones — conifer-northern hardwood and sub-boreal to the north, and oak-pine to the south.
The researchers found that in the northernmost forests, present-day pollen and tree-survey data revealed significant declines in beech, pine, hemlock and larches, and increases in maple, poplar, ash, oak and fir. In forests to the south, both witness tree and pollen records pointed to historic oak and pine domination, with declines in oak and chestnut and increases in maple and birch, based on present-day data.
“Modern forests are dominated by tree species that are increasingly cool-adapted, shade-tolerant, drought-intolerant pyrophobes — trees that are reduced when exposed to repeated forest burning,” Abrams said. “Species such as oak are largely promoted by low-to moderate-level forest fires. Furthermore, this change in forest composition is making eastern forests more vulnerable to future fire and drought.”
Researchers also included human population data for the region, going back 2,000 years, to bolster their findings, which recently were published in the Annals of Forest Science. After hundreds of years of fairly stable levels of fire caused by relatively low numbers of Native Americans in the region, they report, the most significant escalation in burning followed the dramatic increase in human population associated with European settlement prior to the early 20th century. Moreover, it appears that low numbers of Native Americans were capable of burning large areas of the eastern U.S. and did so repeatedly.
After 1940, they found, fire suppression was an ecologically transformative event in all forests…. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/05/190521162443.htm

Citation:

Eastern forests shaped more by Native Americans’ burning than climate change
Date: May 21, 2019
Source: Penn State
Summary:
Native Americans’ use of fire to manage vegetation in what is now the Eastern United States was more profound than previously believed, according to a researcher who determined that forest composition change in the region was caused more by land use than climate change.

Journal Reference:
Marc D. Abrams, Gregory J. Nowacki. Global change impacts on forest and fire dynamics using paleoecology and tree census data for eastern North America. Annals of Forest Science, 2019; 76 (1) DOI: 10.1007/s13595-018-0790-y

Here is the press release from Penn State:

Eastern forests shaped more by Native Americans’ burning than climate change

Jeff Mulhollem

May 21, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Native Americans’ use of fire to manage vegetation in what is now the Eastern United States was more profound than previously believed, according to a Penn State researcher who determined that forest composition change in the region was caused more by land use than climate change.
“I believe Native Americans were excellent vegetation managers and we can learn a lot from them about how to best manage forests of the U.S.,” said Marc Abrams, professor of forest ecology and physiology in the College of Agricultural Sciences. “Native Americans knew that to regenerate plant species that they wanted for food, and to feed game animals they relied on, they needed to burn the forest understory regularly.”
Over the last 2,000 years at least, according to Abrams — who for three decades has been studying past and present qualities of eastern U.S. forests — frequent and widespread human-caused fire resulted in the predominance of fire-adapted tree species. And in the time since burning has been curtailed, forests are changing, with species such as oak, hickory and pine losing ground.
“The debate about whether forest composition has been largely determined by land use or climate continues, but a new study strongly suggests anthropogenic fire has been the major driver of forest change in the East,” said Abrams. “That is important to know because climate change is taking on an ever larger proportion of scientific endeavor.”
But this phenomenon does not apply to other regions, Abrams noted. In the western U.S., for example, climate change has been much more pronounced than in the East. That region has received much more warming and much more drought, he explained.
“Here in the East, we have had a slight increase in precipitation that has ameliorated the warming,” said Abrams.
To learn the drivers of forest change, researchers used a novel approach, analyzing both pollen and charcoal fossil records along with tree-census studies to compare historic and modern tree composition in the forests of eastern North America. They looked at seven forest types in the north and central regions of the eastern United States. Those forest types encompass two distinct floristic zones — conifer-northern hardwood and sub-boreal to the north, and oak-pine to the south.
The researchers found that in the northernmost forests, present-day pollen and tree-survey data revealed significant declines in beech, pine, hemlock and larches, and increases in maple, poplar, ash, oak and fir. In forests to the south, both witness tree and pollen records pointed to historic oak and pine domination, with declines in oak and chestnut and increases in maple and birch, based on present-day data.
“Modern forests are dominated by tree species that are increasingly cool-adapted, shade-tolerant, drought-intolerant pyrophobes — trees that are reduced when exposed to repeated forest burning,” Abrams said. “Species such as oak are largely promoted by low-to moderate-level forest fires. Furthermore, this change in forest composition is making eastern forests more vulnerable to future fire and drought.”
Researchers also included human population data for the region, going back 2,000 years, to bolster their findings, which recently were published in the Annals of Forest Science. After hundreds of years of fairly stable levels of fire caused by relatively low numbers of Native Americans in the region, they report, the most significant escalation in burning followed the dramatic increase in human population associated with European settlement prior to the early 20th century. Moreover, it appears that low numbers of Native Americans were capable of burning large areas of the eastern U.S. and did so repeatedly.
After 1940, they found, fire suppression was an ecologically transformative event in all forests.
“Our analysis identifies multiple instances in which fire and vegetation changes were likely driven by shifts in human population and land use beyond those expected from climate alone,” Abrams said. “After Smokey Bear came on the scene, fire was mostly shut down throughout the U.S. and we have been paying a big price for that in terms of forest change. We went from a moderate amount of fire to too much fire to near zero fire — and we need to get back to that middle ground in terms of our vegetation management.”
Also involved in the research was Gregory J. Nowacki, with the Eastern Regional Office, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.
The Agricultural Experiment Station of Penn State funded this research.
(MEDIA CONTACTS)
Jeff Mulhollem
jjm29@psu.edu
Work Phone:
814 863-2719
A’ndrea Elyse Messer
aem1@psu.edu
Work Phone:
814-865-9481
Last Updated May 21, 2019

The Royal Parks of the United Kingdom summarized the benefits of urban trees. The Royal Parks wrote in Why are trees so important?

Trees are vital. As the biggest plants on the planet, they give us oxygen, store stabilise the soil and give life to the world’s wildlife. They also provide us with the materials for tools and shelter.
Not only are trees essential for life, but as the longest living species on earth, they give us a link between the past, present and future.
It’s critical that woodlands, rainforests and trees in urban settings, such as parks, are preserved and sustainably managed across the world….
Trees benefit health
The canopies of trees act as a physical filter, trapping dust and absorbing pollutants from the air. Each individual tree removes up to 1.7 kilos every year. They also provide shade from solar radiation and reduce noise….
Trees benefit the environment
Trees absorb carbon dioxide as they grow and the carbon that they store in their wood helps slow the rate of global warming.
They reduce wind speeds and cool the air as they lose moisture and reflect heat upwards from their leaves. It’s estimated that trees can reduce the temperature in a city by up to 7°C.
Trees also help prevent flooding and soil erosion, absorbing thousands of litres of stormwater.
Trees boost wildlife
Trees host complex microhabitats. When young, they offer habitation and food to amazing communities of birds, insects, lichen and fungi. When ancient, their trunks also provide the hollow cover needed by species such as bats, woodboring beetles, tawny owls and woodpeckers.
One mature oak can be home to as many as 500 different species. Richmond Park is full of such trees, which is one of the reasons it has been designated a National Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Trees strengthen communities
Trees strengthen the distinctive character of a place and encourage local pride. Urban woodland can be used as an educational resource and to bring groups together for activities like walking and bird-watching. Trees are also invaluable for children to play in and discover their sense of adventure.
Trees grow the economy
People are attracted to live, work and invest in green surroundings. Research shows that average house prices are 5-18% higher when properties are close to mature trees. Companies benefit from a healthier, happier workforce if there are parks and trees nearby.
Trees protect the future
Soon, for the first time in history, the number of people with homes in cities will outstrip those living in the countryside. Parks and trees will become an even more vital component of urban life. We must respect them and protect them for the future…. https://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/the-regents-park/things-to-see-and-do/gardens-and-landscapes/tree-map/why-trees-are-importantcarbon,

See, Envisioning a Great Green City: Nature needs cities. Cities need nature. https://www.nature.org/en-us/what-we-do/our-insights/perspectives/envisioning-a-great-green-city/

Resources:

Urban Forestry & Energy Conservation Bibliography https://articles.extension.org/pages/71120/urban-forestry-energy-conservation-bibliography

Urban Forestry Bibliography Created by the Forest Service … https://www.milliontreesnyc.org/downloads/pdf/urban_tree_bib.pdf

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Harvard study: Large-scale US wind power would cause warming that would take roughly a century to offset

11 Oct

Argonne National Laboratory described wind power in Wind Energy Basics:

Basic information on wind energy and wind power technology, resources, and issues of concern.
Wind Energy and Wind Power
Wind is a form of solar energy. Winds are caused by the uneven heating of the atmosphere by the sun, the irregularities of the earth’s surface, and rotation of the earth. Wind flow patterns are modified by the earth’s terrain, bodies of water, and vegetative cover. This wind flow, or motion energy, when “harvested” by modern wind turbines, can be used to generate electricity.
How Wind Power Is Generated
The terms “wind energy” or “wind power” describe the process by which the wind is used to generate mechanical power or electricity. Wind turbines convert the kinetic energy in the wind into mechanical power. This mechanical power can be used for specific tasks (such as grinding grain or pumping water) or a generator can convert this mechanical power into electricity to power homes, businesses, schools, and the like.
Wind Turbines
Wind turbines, like aircraft propeller blades, turn in the moving air and power an electric generator that supplies an electric current. Simply stated, a wind turbine is the opposite of a fan. Instead of using electricity to make wind, like a fan, wind turbines use wind to make electricity. The wind turns the blades, which spin a shaft, which connects to a generator and makes electricity.
Wind Turbine Types
Modern wind turbines fall into two basic groups; the horizontal-axis variety, like the traditional farm windmills used for pumping water, and the vertical-axis design, like the eggbeater-style Darrieus model, named after its French inventor. Most large modern wind turbines are horizontal-axis turbines.
Turbine Components
Horizontal turbine components include:
• blade or rotor, which converts the energy in the wind to rotational shaft energy;
• a drive train, usually including a gearbox and a generator;
• a tower that supports the rotor and drive train; and
• other equipment, including controls, electrical cables, ground support equipment, and interconnection equipment.
Turbine Configurations
Wind turbines are often grouped together into a single wind power plant, also known as a wind farm, and generate bulk electrical power. Electricity from these turbines is fed into a utility grid and distributed to customers, just as with conventional power plants.
See Wind Energy Photos page for wind farm photographs.
Wind Turbine Size and Power Ratings
Wind turbines are available in a variety of sizes, and therefore power ratings. The largest machine has blades that span more than the length of a football field, stands 20 building stories high, and produces enough electricity to power 1,400 homes. A small home-sized wind machine has rotors between 8 and 25 feet in diameter and stands upwards of 30 feet and can supply the power needs of an all-electric home or small business. Utility-scale turbines range in size from 50 to 750 kilowatts. Single small turbines, below 50 kilowatts, are used for homes, telecommunications dishes, or water pumping.
See Wind Energy Photos page for wind turbine photographs.
Wind Energy Resources in the United States
Wind energy is very abundant in many parts of the United States. Wind resources are characterized by wind-power density classes, ranging from class 1 (the lowest) to class 7 (the highest). Good wind resources (e.g., class 3 and above, which have an average annual wind speed of at least 13 miles per hour) are found in many locations (see United States Wind Energy Resource Map). Wind speed is a critical feature of wind resources, because the energy in wind is proportional to the cube of the wind speed. In other words, a stronger wind means a lot more power. http://windeis.anl.gov/guide/basics/

Harvard Researchers found wind power could cause warming.

Science Daily reported in Large-scale US wind power would cause warming that would take roughly a century to offset:

All large-scale energy systems have environmental impacts, and the ability to compare the impacts of renewable energy sources is an important step in planning a future without coal or gas power. Extracting energy from the wind causes climatic impacts that are small compared to current projections of 21st century warming, but large compared to the effect of reducing US electricity emissions to zero with solar. Research publishing in the journal Joule on October 4 reports the most accurate modelling yet of how increasing wind power would affect climate, finding that large-scale wind power generation would warm the Continental United States 0.24 degrees Celsius because wind turbines redistribute heat in the atmosphere.
“Wind beats coal by any environmental measure, but that doesn’t mean that its impacts are negligible,” says senior author David Keith, an engineering and public policy professor at Harvard University. “We must quickly transition away from fossil fuels to stop carbon emissions. In doing so, we must make choices between various low-carbon technologies, all of which have some social and environmental impacts.”
“Wind turbines generate electricity but also alter the atmospheric flow,” says first author Lee Miller. “Those effects redistribute heat and moisture in the atmosphere, which impacts climate. We attempted to model these effects on a continental scale.”
To compare the impacts of wind and solar, Keith and Miller started by establishing a baseline for the 2012-2014 US climate using a standard weather forecasting model. Then they added in the effect on the atmosphere of covering one third of the Continental US with enough wind turbines to meet present-day US electricity demand. This is a relevant scenario if wind power plays a major role in decarbonizing the energy system in the latter half of this century. This scenario would warm the surface temperature of the Continental US by 0.24 degrees Celsius.
Their analysis focused on the comparison of climate impacts and benefits. They found that it would take about a century to offset that effect with wind-related reductions in greenhouse gas concentrations. This timescale was roughly independent of the specific choice of total wind power generation in their scenarios….
More than ten previous studies have now observed local warming caused by US wind farms. Keith and Miller compared their simulated warming to observations and found rough consistency between the observations and model.
They also compared wind power’s impacts with previous projections of solar power’s influence on the climate. They found that, for the same energy generation rate, solar power’s impacts would be about 10 times smaller than wind. But both sources of energy have their pros and cons.
“In terms of temperature difference per unit of energy generation, solar power has about 10 times less impact than wind,” says Miller. “But there are other considerations. For example, solar farms are dense, whereas the land between wind turbines can be co-utilized for agriculture.” The density of wind turbines and the time of day during which they operate can also influence the climatic impacts.
Keith and Miller’s simulations do not consider any impacts on global-scale meteorology, so it remains somewhat uncertain how such a deployment of wind power may affect the climate in other countries….
Keith and Miller also have a related paper, “Observation-based solar and wind power capacity factors and power densities,” being published in Environmental Research Letters on October 4, which validates the generation rates per unit area simulated here using observations. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181004112553.htm

Citation:

Large-scale US wind power would cause warming that would take roughly a century to offset
Date: October 4, 2018
Source: Cell Press
Summary:
Extracting energy from the wind causes climatic impacts that are small compared to current projections of 21st century warming, but large compared to the effect of reducing US electricity emissions to zero with solar. Researchers report the most accurate modelling yet of how increasing wind power would affect climate, finding that large-scale wind power generation would warm the Continental United States 0.24 degrees Celsius because wind turbines redistribute heat in the atmosphere.
Journal Reference:
Lee M. Miller, David W. Keith. Climatic Impacts of Wind Power. Joule, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.joule.2018.09.009
________________________________________
Cite This Page:
Cell Press. “Large-scale US wind power would cause warming that would take roughly a century to offset.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 October 2018. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181004112553.htm>.

Here is the article summary from Joule:

Climatic Impacts of Wind Power
Author links open overlay panelLee M.Miller13David W.Keith12
Show more
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.joule.2018.09.009Get rights and content
Highlights
• Wind power reduces emissions while causing climatic impacts such as warmer temperatures
• Warming effect strongest at night when temperatures increase with height
• Nighttime warming effect observed at 28 operational US wind farms
• Wind’s warming can exceed avoided warming from reduced emissions for a century
Context & Scale
Wind power can impact the climate by altering the atmospheric boundary layer, with at least 40 papers and 10 observational studies now linking wind power to climatic impacts. We make the first comparison between the climatic impacts of large-scale wind power and site-scale observations, finding agreement that warming from wind turbines is largest at night. Wind power’s climatic impacts will continue to expand as more are installed.
Do these impacts matter? How do these impacts compare to the climate benefits of reducing emissions? We offer policy-relevant comparisons: wind’s climatic impacts are about 10 times larger than solar photovoltaic systems per unit energy generated. We explore the temporal trade-off between wind’s climatic impacts and the climate benefits it brings by reducing emissions as it displaces fossil fuels. Quantitative comparisons between low-carbon energy sources should inform energy choices in the transition to a carbon-free energy system.
Summary
We find that generating today’s US electricity demand (0.5 TWe) with wind power would warm Continental US surface temperatures by 0.24°C. Warming arises, in part, from turbines redistributing heat by mixing the boundary layer. Modeled diurnal and seasonal temperature differences are roughly consistent with recent observations of warming at wind farms, reflecting a coherent mechanistic understanding for how wind turbines alter climate. The warming effect is: small compared with projections of 21st century warming, approximately equivalent to the reduced warming achieved by decarbonizing global electricity generation, and large compared with the reduced warming achieved by decarbonizing US electricity with wind. For the same generation rate, the climatic impacts from solar photovoltaic systems are about ten times smaller than wind systems. Wind’s overall environmental impacts are surely less than fossil energy. Yet, as the energy system is decarbonized, decisions between wind and solar should be informed by estimates of their climate impacts. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S254243511830446X

As with various energy sources there are pros and cons.

Energy.Gov lists the pros and cons of wind energy:

Advantages of Wind Power
• Wind power is cost-effective. Land-based utility-scale wind is one of the lowest-priced energy sources available today, costing between two and six cents per kilowatt-hour, depending on the wind resource and the particular project’s financing. Because the electricity from wind farms is sold at a fixed price over a long period of time (e.g. 20+ years) and its fuel is free, wind energy mitigates the price uncertainty that fuel costs add to traditional sources of energy.
• Wind creates jobs. The U.S. wind sector employed more than 100,000 workers in 2016, and wind turbine technician is one of the fastest-growing American jobs of the decade. According to the Wind Vision Report, wind has the potential to support more than 600,000 jobs in manufacturing, installation, maintenance, and supporting services by 2050.
• Wind enables U.S. industry growth and U.S. competitiveness. Wind has an annual economic impact of about $20 billion on the U.S. economy, The United States has a vast domestic resources and a highly-skilled workforce, and can compete globally in the clean energy economy.
• It’s a clean fuel source. Wind energy doesn’t pollute the air like power plants that rely on combustion of fossil fuels, such as coal or natural gas, which emit particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide—causing human health problems and economic damages. Wind turbines don’t produce atmospheric emissions that cause acid rain, smog, or greenhouse gases.
• Wind is a domestic source of energy. The nation’s wind supply is abundant and inexhaustible. Over the past 10 years, cumulative wind power capacity in the United States increased an average of 30% per year, and wind now has the largest renewable generation capacity of all renewables in the United States.
• It’s sustainable. Wind is actually a form of solar energy. Winds are caused by the heating of the atmosphere by the sun, the rotation of the Earth, and the Earth’s surface irregularities. For as long as the sun shines and the wind blows, the energy produced can be harnessed to send power across the grid.
• Wind turbines can be built on existing farms or ranches. This greatly benefits the economy in rural areas, where most of the best wind sites are found. Farmers and ranchers can continue to work the land because the wind turbines use only a fraction of the land. Wind power plant owners make rent payments to the farmer or rancher for the use of the land, providing landowners with additional income.
CHALLENGES OF WIND POWER
• Wind power must still compete with conventional generation sources on a cost basis. Depending on how energetic a wind site is, the wind farm might not be cost competitive. Even though the cost of wind power has decreased dramatically in the past 10 years, the technology requires a higher initial investment than fossil-fueled generators.
• Good wind sites are often located in remote locations, far from cities where the electricity is needed. Transmission lines must be built to bring the electricity from the wind farm to the city. However, building just a few already-proposed transmission lines could significantly reduce the costs of expanding wind energy.
• Wind resource development might not be the most profitable use of the land. Land suitable for wind-turbine installation must compete with alternative uses for the land, which might be more highly valued than electricity generation.
• Turbines might cause noise and aesthetic pollution. Although wind power plants have relatively little impact on the environment compared to conventional power plants, concern exists over the noise produced by the turbine blades and visual impacts to the landscape.
• Turbine blades could damage local wildlife. Birds have been killed by flying into spinning turbine blades. Most of these problems have been resolved or greatly reduced through technological development or by properly siting wind plants. https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/advantages-and-challenges-wind-energy

This Harvard study highlights there is no one energy solution for sustaining the global economy.

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