England's Somerset county can now boast its first beaver dam in more than 400 years.
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To truly get the most out of life, a person needs to be able to get a good night's sleep, which has led many to wonder if there is anything behind the idea of CBD for sleep improvement.
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By Sonya Diehn
More than 2 billion hectares of previously productive land is degraded. For Desertification and Drought Day on June 17, DW spoke with Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
By Keith Schneider
In many ways, the story of Texas over the last century is the state's devout allegiance to the principle that mankind has dominion over nature.
Rising Demand Confronts Lower Supplies<p>There are a couple of ways to examine the coming hardship. The first is in numbers. The <a href="https://www.twdb.texas.gov/waterplanning/data/projections/index.asp" target="_blank">Texas Water Development Board found</a> that by 2070 the state's population will grow to 51 million people, 22 million more than today. The state's annual demand for water, the State Water Board projects, will climb to 21.6 million acre-feet (27 trillion liters), up from 18.4 million.</p><p>At the same time, a severe drought will bring increasing constraint. <a href="https://texasstatewaterplan.org/statewide" target="_blank">State authorities project</a> that in a drought comparable to the most severe on record, water supplies will fall over the next 50 years from 15.2 million acre-feet to 13.6 million acre-feet (17 trillion liters). During the driest periods, more people will have considerably less water.</p><p>Here's how that confrontation is playing out in the Hill Country, a region of rapid population growth and uncertain water supply west of Austin, Texas' capital city.</p><p>Two generations ago, about 40,000 people made their homes in Hays County, an epic, rural, rolling masterpiece of space and sky close to Austin and San Antonio. Authorities in Hays counted 14,000 homes that were supplied with water from the Trinity Aquifer, a giant freshwater reserve that lay below. <a href="https://www.circleofblue.org/2020/world/when-it-rains-texas-forgets-drought-and-worsening-water-scarcity/" target="_blank">In both wet years and dry, water was readily available</a>.</p>
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Thousands of homes were evacuated Wednesday after a Colorado wildfire exploded in size, growing at a rate of 6,000 acres per hour.
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By Jacqui Stol, Annie Kelly and Suzanne Prober
In box gum grassy woodlands, widely spaced eucalypts tower over carpets of wildflowers, lush native grasses and groves of flowering wattles. It's no wonder some early landscape paintings depicting Australian farm life are inspired by this ecosystem.
Native yellow wildflowers called 'scaly buttons' bloom on a stewardship site. Jacqui Stol, Author provided
Huge Increase in Plant Diversity<p>These surveys were part of the Australian government's <a href="http://www.nrm.gov.au/national/continuing-investment/environmental-stewardship" target="_blank">Environmental Stewardship Program</a>, a long-term cooperative conservation model with private landholders. It started in 2007 and will run for 19 years.</p><p>We found huge increases in previously declining native wildflowers and grasses on the private farmland. Many trees assumed to be dying began resprouting, such as McKie's stringybark (<em>Eucalyptus mckieana</em>), which is listed as a <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=20199" target="_blank">vulnerable species</a>.</p><p>This newfound plant diversity is the result of seeds and tubers (underground storage organs providing energy and nutrients for regrowth) lying dormant in the soil after wildflowers bloomed in earlier seasons. The dormant seeds and tubers were ready to spring into life with the right seasonal conditions.</p><p><span></span>For example, <a href="https://www.qld.gov.au/environment/plants-animals/plants/herbarium" target="_blank">Queensland Herbarium</a> surveys early last year, during the drought, looked at a 20 meter (65 feet) by 20 meter plot and found only six native grass and wildflower species on one property. After this year's rain, we found 59 species in the same plot, including many species of perennial grass (three species jumped to 20 species post rain), native bluebells and many species of native daisies.</p><p>On another property with only 11 recorded species, more than 60 species sprouted after the extensive rains.</p><p>In areas where grazing and farming continued as normal (the paired "control" sites), the plots had only around half the number of plant species as areas managed for conservation.</p>
Spotting Rare Marsupials<p>Landowners also reported several unusual sightings of animals on their farms after the rains. Stewardship program surveyors later identified them as two species of rare and endangered native carnivorous marsupials: the southern spotted-tailed quoll (mainland Australia's largest carnivorous marsupial) and the brush-tailed <a href="https://bie.ala.org.au/species/urn:lsid:biodiversity.org.au:afd.taxon:b6930f29-3f26-415e-a760-c12c320c2931" target="_blank">phascogale</a>.</p><p>The population status of both these species in southern Queensland is unknown. The brush-tailed phascogale is elusive and rarely detected, while the southern spotted-tailed quolls are listed as <a href="http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=75184" target="_blank">endangered</a> under federal legislation.</p><p>Until those sightings, there were no recent records of southern spotted-tailed quolls in the local area.</p>
A spotted tailed quoll caught in a camera trap. Sean Fitzgibbon, Author provided<p>These unusual wildlife sightings are valuable for monitoring and evaluation. They tell us what's thriving, declining or surviving, compared to the first surveys for the stewardship program ten years ago.</p><p>Sightings are also a promising signal for the improving condition of the property and its surrounding landscape.</p>
Changing Farm Habits<p>More than 200 farmers signed up to the stewardship program for the conservation and management of nationally threatened ecological communities on private lands. Most have said they're keen to continue the partnership.</p><p>The landholders are funded to manage their farms as part of the stewardship program <a href="http://nrmonline.nrm.gov.au/catalog/mql:2407" target="_blank">in ways</a> that will help the woodlands recover, and help reverse declines in biodiversity.</p><p>For example, by changing the number of livestock grazing at any one time, and shortening their grazing time, many of the grazing-sensitive wildflowers have a better chance to germinate, grow, flower and produce seeds in the right seasonal conditions.</p><p>They can also manage weeds, and not remove fallen timber or loose rocks (bushrock). Fallen timber and rocks protect grazing-sensitive plants and provide habitat for birds, reptiles and invertebrates foraging on the ground.</p>
Cautious Optimism<p>So can we be optimistic for the future of wildlife and wildflowers of the box gum grassy woodlands? Yes, cautiously so.</p><p>Landholders are learning more about how best to manage biodiversity on their farms, but ecological recovery can take time. In any case, we've discovered how resilient our flora and fauna can be in the face of severe drought when given the opportunity to grow and flourish.</p>
The rare hooded robin has also been recorded on stewardship sites during surveys. Micah Davies, Author provided<p>Climate change is bringing more extreme weather events. Last year was the <a href="http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/current/annual/aus/" target="_blank">warmest on record</a> and the nation has been gripped by severe, protracted drought. There's only so much pressure our iconic wildlife and wildflowers can take before they cross ecological thresholds that are difficult to bounce back from.</p><p>More government programs like this, and greater understanding and collaboration between scientists and farmers, create a <a href="https://publications.csiro.au/rpr/download?pid=csiro:EP154278&dsid=DS4" target="_blank">tremendous opportunity</a> to keep changing that trajectory for the better.</p>
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For the second time this year, Colorado is battling the largest wildfire in state history.
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By Tara Lohan
A hailstorm in South Texas. Tornadoes in Tennessee. Wildfires across the West. A barrage of Gulf Coast hurricanes. Those are among the record 22 weather and climate disasters that each topped $1 billion in damages last year in the United States.
A manatee stranded by Hurricane Irma in Melbourne, Florida. Bill Greer, FWC / CC BY-ND 2.0<p>"Some of the negative responses we found were quite concerning, including more than 100 cases of dramatic population declines and 31 cases of local population extinction following an extreme event," says Maxwell. "Populations of critically endangered bird species in Hawai'i, such as the palia, have been annihilated due to drought, and populations of lizard species have been wiped out due to cyclones in the Bahamas."</p><p>Plant species, the researchers found, had the highest number of negative responses to extreme events, followed by reptiles and amphibians.</p><p>"Collectively, the studies in our review suggest that extreme weather and climate events have profound implications for species and ecosystem management," the researchers concluded.</p>
Damage in the Bahamas from Hurricane Dorian. Seaman Erik Villa Rodriguez / U.S. Coast Guard
Kangaroo Island, the only habitat of the endangered Kangaroo Island dunnart, after the 2019-2020 Australia wildfires. StephenMitchell / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Key deer after Hurricane Irene. Carol Lyn Parrish /CC BY-ND 2.0
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The August Complex Fire in California has now burned more than 1 million acres, making the fire the state's first gigafire. For context, that means the Northern California inferno has now burned an area larger than the entire state of Rhode Island, as Vox reported.
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As the planet warms, mountain snowpack is increasingly melting. But "global warming isn't affecting everywhere the same," Climate Scientist Amato Evan told the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego.
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A new report from the United Nations found that political leaders and industry leaders are failing to do the necessary work to stop the world from becoming an "uninhabitable hell" for millions of people as the climate crisis continues and natural disasters become more frequent, as Al-Jazeera reported.
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"This appears to be just the beginning of a more extreme trend toward megadrought as global warming continues," the authors wrote in the study.
A team of researchers from Columbia University conducted the study. They described the ongoing dry spell, which has helped intensify wildfire seasons and threatened water supplies for people and agriculture, as an "emerging megadrought," according to The New York Times.
Of course, nothing is guaranteed. By comparison to the previous 19 years, 2019 was actually a fairly wet year. Unpredictable climate variability may also bring enough rain to the region to end the drought, but global warming boosts the chances that the drought will endure.
"We know that this drought has been encouraged by the global warming process," said lead author A. Park Williams, a bioclimatologist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, as The New York Times reported. "As we go forward in time it's going to take more and more good luck to pull us out of this."
Scientists have suspected for a while that that the dryness is evolving into a megadrought. The new research not only confirms their suspicion, but also concludes this megadrought may be as bad or worse than anything known before.
"We now have enough observations of current drought and tree-ring records of past drought to say that we're on the same trajectory as the worst prehistoric droughts," said Williams, in a statement, as USA Today reported. This is "a drought bigger than what modern society has seen."
The researchers say that man-made global warming caused about half of this drought. Changes in the climate have contributed to dwindling reservoirs and harsher wildfire seasons.
It all could get much worse.
"Anthropogenic global warming and its drying influence in (southwestern North America) are likely still in their infancy," the study warns, as CNN reported. "The magnitude of future droughts in North America and elsewhere will depend greatly on future rates of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions globally."
Without a drastic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, these droughts are just the beginning.
"The effects of future droughts on humans will be further dependent on sustainable resource use because buffering mechanisms such as ground water and reservoir storage are at risk of being depleted during dry times," the study continues, according to CNN.
To conduct the study, the researchers performed a comprehensive long-term analysis of thousands of square miles, stretching across nine states from Oregon and Montana down through California, Arizona, New Mexico and part of northern Mexico. They looked at 1,200 years of tree ring data, modern weather observations and dozens of climate models, according to CBS News.
The tree rings allow scientist to gauge soil moisture dating back centuries. Williams and his team identified dozens of droughts across the region, starting in 800 AD. Four of those stand out as megadroughts — with extreme dryness that lasted for decades — in the late 800s, mid-1100s, the 1200s and the late 1500s.
The team then compared the ancient megadroughts to soil moisture records from the years 2000 to 2018. The current drought ranked as the second-driest, already outdoing the three earliest ones and on par with the fourth period which spanned from 1575 to 1603, as CBS News reported.
The warmer air during this drought is pulling more moisture from the ground, intensifying dry soils. Furthermore, temperatures in the West are expected to keep rising, meaning this trend is likely to continue.
"Because the background is getting warmer, the dice are increasingly loaded toward longer and more severe droughts," said Williams, as CBS News reported.
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