Anderegg: Know the Risks of Investing in Forests

William Anderegg, Assistant Professor in the School of Biological Sciences, has a central research question: What is the future of ecosystems in a changing climate?

His lab studies how drought and climate change affect forest ecosystems, and seeks to gain a better mechanistic understanding of how climate change will affect forests around the world. In a new study, Anderegg and colleagues look at the risks of banking on forests to store atmospheric carbon when forests themselves face a number of risks.

Read about the study in AtTheU.

From the Science paper:

“Forests have considerable potential to help mitigate human-caused climate change and provide society with a broad range of cobenefits…Widespread climate-induced forest die-off has been observed in forests globally and creates a dangerous carbon cycle feedback, both by releasing large amounts of carbon stored in forest ecosystems to the atmosphere and by reducing the size of the future forest carbon sink. Climate-driven risks may fundamentally compromise forest carbon stocks and sinks in the 21st century. Understanding and quantifying climate-driven risks to forest stability are crucial components needed to forecast the integrity of forest carbon sinks and the extent to which they can contribute toward the Paris Agreement goal to limit warming well below 2°C. Thus, rigorous scientific assessment of the risks and limitations to widespread deployment of forests as natural climate solutions is urgently needed.”

Exploring Environmental Change in Cataract Canyon

An interdisciplinary cohort of GCSC faculty joined government researchers and community partners over Fall Break for a week-long trip down the Colorado River to explore environmental change in Cataract Canyon.  It was an exceptional immersive week integrating geology, hydrology, ecology, art, philosophy, history, policy, education, recreation, and more in Utah’s spectacular wilderness redrock river landscape.

The goals of this field trip included discussing research and educational opportunities along Cataract Canyon, exploring use of the river as an experiential classroom, promoting awareness of Colorado River issues, and collecting data that catalogues the dramatic changes occurring in Cataract Canyon.

Lake Powell flooded Glen Canyon and half of Cataract Canyon at its maximum elevation. Since 2000, lake elevation dropped 120 ft due to a complex combination of water management, drought and climate change. Low lake elevation has cascading effects, including the reemergence of rapids, the re-establishment of riparian ecosystems, and changes in sediment deposition. One goal of the trip is to help catalog ongoing environmental changes by developing repeatable measurements of change.

UU faculty and researcher participants included Wendy Wischer (Art & Art History), Bill Brazelton and Susan Bush (Biology), Sarah Hinners (City & Metropolitan Planning),  Lauren Barth-Cohen (Education), Jennifer Follstad Shah (Geography), Danya Rumore (Law), and Brenda Bowen and Pete Lippert (Geology & Geophysics).

 

researcher with instrument on canyon river bank researchers standing and crouching to survey rocky desert canyon landscape three researchers on canyon riverside looking at something in the distance

Understanding forest’s response to climate change

GCSC affiliate Dave Bowling, Professor of Biology, studies ecosystem ecology. His research focuses on how organisms in their natural habitats are affected by biological and physical factors, and how these organisms in turn modify their environment.

Bowling is part of a team whose recent study shows how satellite technology enables researchers to better measure CO2 uptake of evergreen forests. This knowledge will enable scientists to better understand how forests are responding to climate change and to better predict responses to future climate change.
Read more here https://unews.utah.edu/forest-glow/

Award to Anderegg for studying the future of forests

Bill Anderegg, GCSC affiliate and Assistant Professor in the U’s School of Biological Sciences, has been awarded a Packard Fellowship to support his research to understand the future of forests in a changing climate. He aims to use this flexible funding to conduct long-term climate change research that’s hard or nearly impossible to fund with traditional grants. Read more in U News.

Seed grants grow collaboration.

By Liz Ivkovich, Global Change & Sustainability Center, originally published on April 9, 2018.

Water uptake in plants, the neurocognitive underpinnings of certain personality traits and food as a cultural process. How are these starkly different areas connected?

Each topic relates to environmental change. And each topic is the thrust of a new interdisciplinary research collaboration. These projects and six others have received funding through the Global Change & Sustainability Center (GCSC) and the Society, Water, & Climate Research Group’s (SWC) new seed grant initiative.

“The GCSC is thrilled that we were able to partner with SWC to support interdisciplinary faculty seed grants to help catalyze new collaborations between U faculty from different disciplines as they pursue sustainability research,” said Brenda Bowen, director of the center. “These grants were specifically targeted to help bring new faculty into existing interdisciplinary projects and to facilitate new research that will lead to future external funding opportunities.”

In total, $132,000 in grant funds has been awarded to nine different collaborations.

Funded projects include research being pursued by faculty from anthropology, atmospheric sciences, biology, cognition and neural science, environmental and sustainability studies, environmental humanities, family and consumer studies, geography, geology and geophysics, law, neuroradiology, pediatrics, psychology and sociology.

Here are three examples of funded research:

  • For the project, “Leveraging the Wasatch Environmental Observatory to Improve Prediction of Western U.S. Forest Carbon and Water Cycling,” investigators will gather data about how plants take in water and use it to build better models for predicting how Intermountain forests will change in the future.Utah’s mountain forests provide highly valuable ecosystem goods and services to local communities, including timber, tourism and recreation, water purification, and carbon sequestration. These forests fundamentally affect carbon and water cycling, thus influencing water resources upon which Utah’s communities and economy rely. Climate change is projected to increase stress on mountain forests through more frequent and severe droughts, more and larger wildfires and other disturbances like insect outbreaks. The complicated scale of these changes requires new kinds of models that can predict the future of U.S. forests.One fundamental data gap currently limits researchers’ ability to develop rigorous models for ecosystems in the Wasatch Mountains. Data required to model drought stress in mountainous forests, such as the plant traits that comprise water transport via xylem, are not yet available. Through this funding, the team will be able to begin collecting these data.Researchers on this project include William Anderegg, biology; Paul Brooks, geology and geophysics; John Lin, atmospheric sciences; and David Bowling, biology.

 

  • In a project entitled “Individual Differences in Environmental Attitudes and Behavior: Examination of Personality, Neurocognitive Mechanisms, and Malleability,” faculty investigators will explore the neurocognitive underpinnings of the personality trait “openness to experience.” Openness to Experience — the breadth, depth and permeability of consciousness, and the recurrent need to enlarge and engage experience — is the personality factor most consistently associated with pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors. Behaviors associated with this trait include reducing emissions to address climate change, belief in human behavior-driven climate change and a sense of connection to humanity and nature.There has been scant research examining the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying pro-environmental attitudes and behavior. Understanding this personality trait may inform how programs and policies can be tailored to create social change in environmental attitudes and behavior. The team will also examine the extent to which environmental attitudes and behaviors can be changed through exposure to nature/aesthetic experiences.Faculty investigators on this project are Paula Williams, psychology; Jeff Anderson, neuroradiology; Jeanine Stefanucci, cognition and neural science; Yana Suchy, neuropsychology; David Strayer, cognition and neural science.

 

  • The project, “Exploring Indigenous Lifestyles for Justice, Sustainability, and Health: Native Food Knowledge and Practice,” will explore the livelihoods of Great-Basin Shoshone tribal members and evaluate whether participation in traditional diets and land management and use of native language are correlated with positive health outcomes. With the loss of indigenous languages comes the loss of traditional cultural practices. This project is unique in that while much traditional knowledge has disappeared with the loss of language, the traditional knowledge of the Shoshone community partners exists in untranslated ethnographic data in the University of Utah’s possession. While many health interventions in local indigenous communities are based in Westernized approaches to health, including a focus on exercise and nutrient consumption, this research team, including tribal partners, share the perspective that food and health are cultural processes and products. They are committed to working toward increased food sovereignty — the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.Researchers on this project include Adrienne Cachelin, environmental and sustainability studies; Brian Codding, anthropology; Lillian Tom-Orme, epidemiology; and Marianna Di Paolo, anthropology

“These kinds of interdisciplinary research endeavors are crucial to addressing today’s urgent social and environmental challenges,” said Andrea Brunelle, chair of the Society, Water, & Climate Research Group executive committee. “The diverse range of projects supported by the seed grants is a testament to the importance of multiple perspectives on climate, society and water. The work doesn’t stop with these grants. Through other ongoing collaborations between GCSC and SWC, as well as with partners such as Red Butte Garden, we will continue to support this relevant research.”

The seed grants were awarded through a competitive interdisciplinary peer-review process that considered impact of the research in terms of new publications and future external grant funding. Funding for some projects was supplemented with financial support from Red Butte Garden specifically aimed at supporting student and postdoctoral research linked to plants.