January 17, 2011

Fight the Flu with More CO2

Filed under: Adaptation, Plants

Like it or not, winter is here and with it comes the dreaded cold/flu season. We have heard it since we were kids—wash your hands, get plenty of rest, avoid folks who are already sick, and drink lots of orange juice to maintain higher levels of vitamin C. We are skeptical of just about everything, and if one seriously addresses the issue of vitamin C reducing the misery of having the flu, be advised that some studies in adults have shown that taking high doses of vitamin C daily may significantly reduce cold and flu symptoms. Other studies have seen a modest benefit in reducing the duration of a cold or flu symptoms, and a few studies in adults and children have shown that taking vitamin C might help prevent colds or flu, although the research is inconsistent.

It ultimately does not matter whether vitamin C can or cannot prevent or ease cold and flu symptoms, because it offers numerous health benefits when consumed through eating enough fruits and vegetables (3 or more cups per day). Plus, vitamin C acts as a cell-protecting antioxidant and an immune booster, which means it will help keep you healthy anyway—even if it is not a magic elixir for colds and flu specifically. Just remember to sidestep the supplements and stick to whole foods—especially vitamin C-rich foods such as strawberries, oranges, sweet red peppers, and broccoli—when you want to make sure you or your child gets enough of this powerful nutrient.

Given all the biological benefits of elevated atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), we wondered if we could be so lucky to have CO2 increase the vitamin C of various fruits. Our search for an answer ended quickly when we discovered an article in Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment entitled “The effect of elevated atmospheric CO2 on the vitamin C concentration of (sour) orange juice.”

And while this study may be a bit of an oldie (published in 2002), the results are such a goodie, that we couldn’t resist dusting them off and shining them up!


January 6, 2011

Pumpin’ Up Pineapples!

Filed under: Adaptation, Agriculture, Plants

Winter is here for most Americans and doesn’t a trip to Hawaii sound perfect over the upcoming months? Sun, beaches, tropical drinks garnished with pineapple, pineapple at breakfast, pineapple on pizza, pineapple on hamburgers… pineapple here, there, and everywhere. Somehow a trip to Hawaii without pineapple just wouldn’t be a trip to Hawaii, would it?

Turns out a little extra carbon dioxide in the air will add to your experience as the extra CO2 boosts productivity of those perfect-with-anything pineapples from our Pacific paradise.


December 21, 2010

Happier Holidays From CO2

Filed under: Adaptation, Plants

Our Thanksgiving edition of World Climate Report—in which we searched through our archives and highlighted the articles that illustrated the benefits that elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have on your Thanksgiving feast—turned out to be quite a hit, coming in as one of our more popular issues this year. So for Christmas, we thought we’d reprise the Thanksgiving story with a twist—this time, we’ll review how CO2 helps to make your Christmas holiday just a bit merrier!


December 13, 2010

A Frog Revival

Filed under: Adaptation, Animals

About 15 to 20 years ago, folks began to notice problems in amphibian communities around the world. At first, physical deformities were being noticed and then large population declines were being documented.

The finger was initially pointed at the coal industry, with an idea that perhaps mercury was leading to the deformities. But this didn’t pan out. Next, farm practices came under fire, as excess fertilizer running off into farm ponds became the leading suspect. But that theory didn’t hold water either. Then, attention turned to the ozone hole, with the idea that increased ultraviolet radiation was killing the frogs. No luck there either.

Then came the Eureka moment—aha, it must be global warming!

This played to widespread audiences, received beaucoup media attention and, of course, found its way into Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.

But, alas, this theory, too, wilted under the harsh glare of science, as new research has now pretty definitively linked an infection of the chytrid fungus to declines, and even local extinctions, of frog and toad species around the world.

Perhaps the biggest irony in all of this, is that while researchers fell all over themselves to link anthropogenic environmental impacts to the frog declines, turns out that as they traipsed through the woods and rainforests to study the frogs, the researchers themselves quite possibly helped spread the chytrid fungus to locations and populations where it had previously been absent.

Now a bit good—although hardly unexpected—news is coming out of the frog research studies. Some frog populations in various parts of the world are not only recovering, but also showing signs of increased resistance—gained through adaptation and/or evolution—to the chytrid fungus.

Thus opens a new chapter in the ongoing Disappearing Frog saga, and one that likely foretells of a hoppy ending.


December 8, 2010

CO2-induced Vegetation Growth Slows Global Warming

Filed under: Adaptation, Climate Models, Plants

We are continually deluged with talk about positive feedbacks leading to even higher levels of global warming, but aside from the great water vapor debate, we rarely hear much about negative feedbacks which could act to slow the rate of temperature rise.

Well that is about to change.

A new study has identified a negative feedback between carbon dioxide-enhanced vegetative growth and global warming—the denser that vegetation becomes, the greater the cooling influence it has on any global temperature rise. The enhanced vegetation doesn’t offset all of the projected warming, but a sizeable chunk of it—13% globally, 20% over land areas, and more than 50% over the eastern United States. And this negative feedback is not included in current climate models.


December 7, 2010

Another Reason to Love Global Warming: Great Tits Out Earlier in the Year

Filed under: Adaptation, Animals

You read the title right, the great tit watching season is lengthening because of global warming.

This has been documented in a new scientific study which finds that rising temperatures are causing tits, both great and blue, to come out earlier and earlier in the year.

Now, before our InBox gets flooded with emails asking how to sign up for this kind of research, the tits that are being studied are of the feathered variety—the bird species Parus major (the great tit) and Cyanistes caeruleus (the blue tit).


November 30, 2010

CO2 is Sustenance for Seaweed

Filed under: Adaptation, Plants

Americans continue to fall in love with sushi—even the smallest towns far away from metropolitan areas somehow are providing tasty bits of sushi to local customers. Sushi has gone from upscale and trendy to a popular and substantial component of American’s food intake. From fast food sushi to high-end restaurants to sushi at the ballpark, sushi is now everywhere!

Many of the items at a sushi restaurant contain any number of varieties of seaweed, and several days ago, someone asked us if seaweed benefits from elevated concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2). We promised to look into the question and found several articles in leading journals that bring us all good news about the future of seaweed plants we love to eat.


November 24, 2010

Let’s Give Thanks for CO2

Filed under: Adaptation, Agriculture, Plants

As Americans sit down on Thursday and give thanks for the food on their table, hopefully many will say a good word for enhanced atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, as much of the foodstuff filling their plates will have benefited from the anthropogenically-elevated CO2 levels in the air.

And even if we don’t produce the food ourselves, we contribute to the growth of crops around the world through emissions of CO2 whenever we use energy derived from fossil fuels—a large component of the energy that we use to power our daily lives.


November 5, 2010

Good News for Polar Bears: Goose Eggs on the Menu

Filed under: Adaptation, Animals, Arctic, Polar

Back in May, we reported on the Trumpeter Swan’s recovery from the edge of extinction that was being made a bit easier by a warming Arctic. Now comes word of another Arctic bird that is benefiting from the warming—and at the same time, helping the polar bear cope with climate change.

This time around it is the snow goose—a rather plentiful denizen of the far north.


November 1, 2010

Quaking Aspen Rejoice

Filed under: Adaptation, Plants

The fall is here again, and deciduous trees across America are putting on their annual display of fall colors. Americans are particularly fond of Quaking Aspen trees that really know how to put on a show in the fall with leaves turning spectacular tints of red and yellow in the autumn. The range of Quaking Aspen is extensive in North America including many picturesque locations in the Rockies (makes us think about John Denver). The tree appear to quake (shake, quiver) due to the unusual architecture of the leaves that makes them move a bit even in the lightest of winds. Aside from putting on a great show in the fall, Aspen wood is white and soft, but fairly strong, and has low flammability. Accordingly, it is used to make matches, packing and stuffing materials, animal bedding, and even serves as a popular material for the interior of saunas.

Two articles have appeared recently in major journals showing us that Quaking Aspen cannot wait for higher levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations.

Figure 1. Range of the Quaking Aspen.


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