Inuit of northern Greenland and global warming


This video says about itself:

Living with the Inugguit

In 2010, Dr Stephen Leonard embarked on a year-long trip to live with the Inugguit of north-west Greenland, the northernmost settled people on Earth. His aim was to record the language, stories and songs of these communities. The traditional life of the community and its future is potentially threatened by a number of factors, one of which is climate change. Dr Leonard lived as a member of those communities, travelled on hunts, and recorded and filmed as he went. Here he talks about some of his experiences and reflects on a year spent in the midst of a fading culture.

By Gwyn Griffiths in Britain:

Book review: The Polar North

Monday 17th November 2014

A new book on the Inugguit people, who are struggling to survive in the face of environmental catastrophe, is a warning to us all, says GWYN GRIFFITHS

The Polar North
by Stephen Pax Leonard
(Francis Boutle Publishers, £20)

THE POLAR North is a remarkable story of tiny Inugguit communities with a culture and a language spoken by less than 1,000 people struggling to survive in the hostile environment of west Greenland and in a world that is changing culturally and environmentally.

The book’s two main concerns are the effects of global warming and globalisation on a precarious way of life and it is no small feat of endurance that Stephen Pax Leonard was able to survive the harsh environment and be accepted by a close-knit, often claustrophobic, society for a whole year during his research.

The immediacy of the writing makes for a gripping narrative and although Leonard at times hints at depression in the dark period of the year as well as discomfort during that of 24-hour daylight, he does not dwell on it. What he has produced is a scrupulously honest but hugely sympathetic view of these communities.

The book has stark warnings, primarily of climate change. Since the early 1990s it has not been possible to travel by dog sledge to Canada because the Smith Sound is now partly open all year round.

In January 2011, the sun rose two days earlier than normal over Ilulissat and the best explanation for this is a shocking one. The ice cap is melting, lowering the horizon.

As the sea ice, fundamental to the Inugguit way of life, contracts so does the culture. The transmission of stories, through which vital survival information was transferred, is dying out and the young people of north-west Greenland have only a fraction of the knowledge of the old hunters.

Empty minds become glued to Danish children’s television and violent video games. Alcohol abuse and suicide are major social problems.

The passing of a language and culture of fewer than 1,000 speakers may be irrelevant to many but if the polar Inugguit are the canary in our cultural coal mine, then such a loss may have more relevance than we realise.

There is never any opposition to biodiversity but language activists, linguists and anthropologists are constantly being asked to defend linguistic and cultural diversity.

Fifty per cent of the world’s languages will not exist by the end of this century and we are on the road to the fastest rate of linguistic and cultural destruction in history, driven by the forces of globalisation and consumerism.

The book examines with fascinating detail the links between language and the environment, along with the subtleties and nuance of Inugguit communication.

An excellent introduction to the subject and, in providing a wider context of concern, an essential read.

Will little penguins survive climate change?


This video from Australia is called Little Penguins Return to the Open Ocean.

From Wildlife Extra:

Penguins‘ personalities could help them cope with climate change

According to a new study, the individual personalities of birds could be one of the key factors that improve its chances of coping with environmental stressors, especially in times of rapid weather changes due to climate change.

John Cockrem from the Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedial Sciences at Massey University in New Zealand was behind the study. He studied differences in levels of the stress hormone corticosterone in Little Penguins when they were exposed to stressful stimulus. He found that there was ‘considerable individual variation in corticosterone responses’.

“Corticosterone responses and behavioural responses to environmental stimuli are together determined by individual characteristics called personality,” Cockrem explains. “Birds with low corticosterone responses and proactive personalities are likely to be more successful (have greater fitness) in constant or predictable conditions, whilst birds with reactive personalities and high corticosterone responses will be more successful in changing or unpredictable conditions.”

Birds are thought to be particularly at risk from the effects of climate change, and these findings could be helpful in predicting the adaptability of species of birds as they face a ‘new normal’.

Endangered North American butterfly fights back against climate change


This video is called The Endangered Quino Checkerspot Butterfly.

From Wildlife Extra:

Endangered butterfly fights back against climate change

April 2014: The endangered Quino Checkerspot butterfly, found in Mexico and California, is defying climate change by adapting both its habitat and diet, a study has revealed.

The butterfly suffered dramatic population collapses during the last century along the southern edge of its range in Baja California as a result of climate change and agricultural and urban development.

But rather than heading toward extinction the butterfly has adapted to the changing climate by shifting to a higher altitude and changing its host plant to a completely new species.

Other species have been seen changing either habitat or diet to cope with a changing climate but the Quino Checkerspot may be amongst the first butterfly species to change both.

Professor Camille Parmesan from Plymouth University, explained:

“Quino today is one of the happy ‘surprises’, having managed to adapt to climate change by shifting its centre of abundance to higher elevation and onto a plant species that was not previously known to be a host.”

See also here. And here. And here.

Murdoch-owned media hypes lone metereologist’s climate junk science: here.

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United States chickadees and climate change


This video from the USA is called Carolina Chickadee Sound.

From All About Birds blog in the USA:

Warming Temperatures Are Pushing Two Chickadee Species—and Their Hybrids—Northward

By victoria on Thursday, March 6th, 2014

The zone of overlap between two popular, closely related backyard birds is moving northward at a rate that matches warming winter temperatures, according to a study by researchers from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Villanova University, and Cornell University. The research was published in Current Biology on Thursday, March 6, 2014.

In a narrow strip that runs across the eastern U.S., Carolina Chickadees from the south meet and interbreed with Black-capped Chickadees from the north. The new study finds that this hybrid zone has moved northward at a rate of 0.7 mile per year over the last decade. That’s fast enough that the researchers had to add an extra study site partway through their project in order to keep up.

“A lot of the time climate change doesn’t really seem tangible,” said lead author Scott Taylor, a postdoctoral researcher at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “But here are these common little backyard birds we all grew up with, and we’re seeing them moving northward on relatively short time scales.”

This video from the USA is about black-capped chickadees.

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United States trees leafing out sooner than in Thoreau’s time


This video from the USA is called Henry David Thoreau‘s Walden: A Tribute.

From Boston University in the USA today:

Walden trees leafing out far earlier than in Thoreau’s time

9 minutes ago by Richard Primack

Climate-change studies by Boston University biologists show leaf-out times of trees and shrubs at Walden Pond are an average of 18 days earlier than when Henry David Thoreau made his observations there in the 1850s. However, not all plants respond in the same way, the result of which is that native species eventually may be threatened and lose competitive advantage to more resilient invasive shrubs such as Japanese barberry, according to a study published in the new edition of New Phytologist.

Walden trees

“By comparing historical observations with current experiments, we see that climate change is creating a whole new risk for the native plants in Concord,” said BU Prof. Richard Primack. “Weather in New England is unpredictable, and if plants leaf out early in warm years, they risk having their leaves damaged by a surprise frost. But if plants wait to leaf out until after all chance of frost is lost, they may lose their competitive advantage.”

The study began when Caroline Polgar, a graduate student with Primack, examined Thoreau’s unpublished observations of leaf-out times for common trees and shrubs in Concord in the 1850s, then repeated his observations over the past five springs.

“We started to wonder if all trees and shrubs in Concord are equally responsive to warming temperatures in the spring,” Polgar said. What she found was surprising. “All species—no exceptions—are leafing out earlier now than they did in Thoreau’s time,” she said. “On average, woody plants in Concord leaf out 18 days earlier now.”

In New England, plants have to be cautious about leafing out in the early spring. If they leaf out too early, their young leaves could suffer from subsequent late frost. Since leafing-out requirements are thought to be species-specific, the group designed a lab experiment to test the responsiveness of 50 tree and shrub species in Concord to warming temperatures in the late winter and early spring.

For the past two winters, the researchers traveled to Concord and collected leafless dormant twigs from each species, and placed them in cups of water in their lab. Over the following weeks, they observed how quickly each species was be able produce their leaves in these unseasonably warm lab conditions.

“We found compelling evidence that invasive shrubs, such as Japanese barberry, are ready to leaf out quickly once they are exposed to warm temperatures in the lab even in the middle of winter, whereas native shrubs, like highbush bluberry, and native trees, like red maple, need to go through a longer winter chilling period before they can leaf out—and even then their response is slow,” says Amanda Gallinat, a second-year graduate student and third author of the paper.

The strength of this study, Gallinat said, is the pairing of observations and experiments.

“Our current observations show that plants in Concord today are leafing out earlier than in Thoreau’s time in response to warm temperatures,” she said. “However, the experiments show that as spring weather continues to warm, it will be the invasive shrubs that will be best able to take advantage of the changing conditions.”

The spring growing season is of increasing interest to biologists studying the effects of a warming climate, and in coming decades non-native invasive shrubs are positioned to win the gamble on warming temperature, Primack said. The BU group is adding these findings to a growing list of advancing spring phenomena in Concord and elsewhere in Massachusetts, including flowering dates, butterfly flight times, and migratory bird arrivals.

Explore further: Warm winters let trees sleep longer.

More information: docs.google.com/file/d/0B05KETqlwfNmdnRhTHF3QTNzYkU/edit?pli=1

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