environmental studies

dickinson college environmental studies department

World Longest Running C02 Experiment

Posted in Climate Change, Science with tags , , on November 4, 2010 by hoffmand

I just stumbled this article on the BBC, “The Worlds Longest Running Carbon Dioxide Experiment” about a climate change experiment being conducted on a saltmash marshland near the Chesapeake Bay. Scientists have been artificially simulating projected atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide and observing the effects on marsh plants. What they have discovered is that CO2 makes some plants grow more quickly, meaning that increased concentrations of CO2 may actually allow marshlands to keep up with rising seal levels. Increased levels of Nitrogen in combination with higher CO2 however, seems to slow down growth levels.

What I found most interesting in this article, is the bit about invasive  species like Phragmites australis. The article discusses the pros and cons of invasive species.

“Certain invasive species may degrade the marshland in terms of habitat, but their accelerated growth may help offset the effect of rising sea levels. If we better understand that trade-off we can decide whether to allow the plant to invade.”

I have always been fascinated with this discussion and debate around invasive species. For a while, I thought they were terrible, but when I actually began to think about, I realized the “system,” (Earth) is just doing what it need to survive.  Who are we to try to keep a living, growing, finely tuned network of systems from changing? Are we anti invasive for own benefit or for the Earth? Honey bees were invasive way back when, and now they are as American as Apple pie right? But then again, what do I know!?

Let me know if you want to have a longer discussion. For the time being check out this book Timothy Lee Scott just wrote Invasive Plant Medicine: The Ecological Benefits and Healing Abilities of Invasives.