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Posts Tagged ‘forests’

Erie Times E-Edition Article-Farms, forests are short-sighted spots for solar projects

Posted by M. C. on October 22, 2021

Let Amazon know destroying farmland and forests for solar farms is nuts.

With continuing advances in technology and declining costs, large-scale solar projects are popping up all over the commonwealth. Hundreds more seem possible in the coming years.

Many of these solar farms are being developed to offset the carbon footprint of companies like Amazon, who earlier this year announced a 618-acre project proposed on forestland in McKean County and another of 150 acres on farmland in Potter County.

Most solar farm projects in Pennsylvania have been proposed for farms and forestland. These locations are not only short-sighted and counter-intuitive to tackling climate change, they have the potential to lead to a cascade of other negative ecological impacts.

Trees are one of nature’s greatest inventions. According to Penn State Extension, trees are also ‘…without a doubt the best carbon capture technology in the world.’ They’re also protect and cleanse rivers and streams. They do this by slowing down, spreading out, and soaking up vast amounts of precipitation that could otherwise carry vast amounts of polluted runoff to the nearest waterbody. Along the way, pollutants are filtered out. Incredibly, streamside forests have been shown to dramatically increase a stream’s ability to cleanse itself of many types of pollution.

Although farmland doesn’t function like a forest, a well-managed farm has its own ecological benefits. For example, healthy farm soils are key to productive, nutritious crops. Keeping soils and nutrients on the land instead of in the water, also help infiltrate large amounts of precipitation.

Clear cutting forests and compacting and covering healthy soils for large-scale solar farms threaten to replace the vast array of benefits, with polluted runoff degrading streams, increased nuisance flooding, loss of critical wildlife habitat, and even the release of soil carbon back into the atmosphere.

In the spring of 2020, CBF released a report to help guide decision-makers on where solar projects should be located, called ‘Principles and Practices for Realizing the Necessity and Promise of Solar Power.’

In our state, better placement of solar projects starts with local municipal governments having up-to-date local comprehensive plans and ordinances that direct solar farms away from forests and farmland, streams, and wetlands. Ideal alternative locations include under-performing malls and their parking lots, abandoned mine lands, and other industrial locations.

Secondly, local governments need to include design standards that require native pollinator species be planted, which also reduces polluted stormwater runoff, instead of non-native species like turfgrass, or semi-hard surface like gravel that have little ecological value.

Taxpayers should advocate that companies, as well as state and federal governments, should not be proposing and subsidizing projects in less-than-ideal areas.

Regardless of whether you believe humans are the cause of climate change, the myriad of impacts from it are here and projected to get worse in the coming decades. With advances in technologies, generating energy from sources like solar is increasingly being seen as a viable, less carbon-releasing alternative to fossil fuels.

The decisions we allow our elected officials make on land-use issues like solar projects today will have implications for Pennsylvania’s health, well-being, and quality of life for generations to come.

Harry Campbell is science policy and advocacy director for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Pennsylvania.

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CO2 SAVES THE PLANET: Research confirms that high levels of carbon dioxide result in “global greening” as forests and food crops flourish –

Posted by M. C. on August 25, 2020

In this time of habitat loss and deforestation, as in the Amazon, maybe this isn’t such a bad thing.

(Natural News) Plants were efficient absorbers of carbon dioxide during the early Miocene – a period with high levels of carbon dioxide, found a study published in the journal Climate of the Past.

Researchers from New Zealand analyzed plant fossils from a former lake and discovered that the levels of carbon dioxide at the time exceeded those recorded today. They added that Miocene plants had features that equipped them to grow in drier and hotter climate. With such enhanced plants, the high carbon levels provided a “forest fertilization effect.”

These findings are useful in the context of today’s rising levels of carbon dioxide. With the study’s reconstruction of early Miocene as an analog, they provide a picture of the world several years from now.

Efficient early Miocene plants

The Miocene epoch was a time marked by global warming. It occurred from about 23 to 5.3 million years ago and is credited for the appearance of grasslands and kelp forests, underwater ecosystems that are dense with the plant kelp.

During Miocene, global temperatures rose after a period of global cooling in the preceding epoch. Ice largely disappeared at the poles and land became more arid. It is estimated that Earth was 37-44 F hotter than today.

While experts agree that temperatures rose at the time, the levels of carbon dioxide were hotly debated. Some experts contended that carbon levels were around 300 parts per million (ppm) – near the same amount before the Industrial Revolution started. Others estimated that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 400 ppm, which is around today’s global average.

“Evidence has been building that carbon dioxide was high then, but there have been paradoxes,” said lead author Tammo Reichgelt, a scientist at Columbia University.

For the current study, the researchers unearthed plant fossils from a now-extinct volcanic crater located in the city of Dunedin, southern New Zealand. The crater dubbed Foulden Maar once hosted an isolated lake where blackish layers of carbon matter are deposited within the bed, including different leaves from a subtropical evergreen forest.

The researchers analyzed the carbon isotopes within the leaves of a half-dozen tree species. By looking at the isotopes, they could determine the carbon content of the atmosphere at the time. They also examined the geometry of the stomata, pores in a plant tissue used for gas exchange, as well as other anatomical features and compared them to those of modern leaves.

After combining all the data into a model, they discovered that levels of carbon dioxide at the time were about 450 ppm, matching the information on the epoch’s global temperatures.

Furthermore, the leaves absorbed carbon dioxide more efficiently and without leaking much water through the same route. This process of leaking water, called transpiration, is similar to sweating in humans. When too much water is shed, plants could wilt or not grow right. According to the researchers, the leaves under study were able to grow amid the warmer conditions of early Miocene.

Will Earth experience global greening?

By 2040, the levels of carbon dioxide are estimated to reach 450 ppm – similar to the average of the study’s reconstructed early Miocene.

Previous experiments showed that when levels of carbon dioxide rise, various plants increase their rate of photosynthesis. That’s because they can more efficiently remove carbon from the air and conserve water in the process.

In another study, researchers looked at satellite data and found a “global greening” effect that was mainly due to rising levels of anthropogenic carbon dioxide over the recent decades. Leaf volume among a quarter to a half of vegetated lands increased since 1980, said the researchers. And this effect is expected to continue as the levels of carbon dioxide rise. (Related: Carbon Dioxide revealed as the “Miracle Molecule of Life” for re-greening the planet.)

These findings provide a glimpse into Earth decades from now. So far, the scenario is optimistic.

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