Friday, May 11, 2012

Icelandic Soils and Blue Coastal Carbon

Amber McCormack / For the Clock / May 3, 2012

On Wed., Apr. 18, at Plymouth State University, Lisa Doner presented a lecture discussing how past environmental changes have affected modern day Iceland and its landscapes.

It may seem that the Icelandic landscape is quite a stretch for a topic at PSU, but there are significant reasons as to why research is done in this part of the world.

“Iceland has had a long record of strong human-induced changes and an even longer record of climate-induced changes,” says Doner. When it comes to the soil and landscape of Iceland there’s a lot to look at and add to research records.

“Winds that blow in Iceland are famous for blowing cars off the road on a regular basis,” says Doner. There are also very little trees and in order to really see them a visitor would have to go to a tree conservation or go to a more inhabited area of Iceland.

Usually when words like climate change and landscapes affected come up, the first conclusion that is drawn is that this is all because of global warming. The idea of global warming isn’t the only reason the Icelandic region is affected.

Along with Iceland’s climate- and human-induced changes, the impact of “deforestation, land drainage and rapid colonization” also affects and plays a large role in the soils of Iceland, continues Doner.

For researchers, one of the main goals is to “evaluate the effects of climate change in Icelandic landscapes, heavily impacted by human land use,” says Doner. Understanding and studying landscapes and different types of soils is not an easy task. Researchers in the field spend hours upon hours digging holes as deep as they can, while their tools are spread out all over the place. “It’s not all fun and games,” claims Doner.

There are soil samples that need to be taken and then recorded. Researchers must also process large amount of data about the soil and area, before they can continue with the task at hand.

Even though the research takes quite a bit of time and is taking places at a very large distance from PSU it’s still beneficial to be aware about and to learn about.

Another part of this series of lectures is on blue carbon. On Wed., Apr. 25 in Boyd, Linwood Pendleton, Director of Coastal and Ocean Policy at Duke University came to Plymouth State University to present on coastal blue carbon.

Blue coastal carbon is carbon that builds up in coastal habitats. The ones mainly discussed in the lecture are mangroves, salt marshes, and sea grasses.

Mangroves are located in the tropic and sub tropic areas and there isn’t a lot known about them at this point. Sea grasses “occur in many places, but there also very little known about them,” says Pendleton. Salt marshes are the most known habitat and are the more abundant coastal habitat out of the three. “These coastal habitats have a lot of carbon in their soil,” continues Pendleton, this can be caused by water pollution, and the fluctuation of sea levels rising too fast.

Keeping these habitats safe are important because these areas trap the carbon. When they are destroyed they release the carbon into the atmosphere and this could lead to climate change and a rise in greenhouse gases.

People make payments for blue carbon conservation meaning that they pay people to protect the different habitats. Another option is instead of earning money for destroying the habitats they are paid to protect them. “It’s even more valuable to protect these areas then reserve them, “says Pendleton.

Through these lectures PSU students have the ability to see how everyday actions affect the earth. There are ways to prevent and further study what’s going on with the world.