In case you missed it: 3 big stories from our world

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park’s glaciers have been receding rapidly over the last 100 years, and it is predicted that the glaciers in the park will disappear by 2030. (© Conservation International/photo by Robyn Dalzen)

Editor’s note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Human Nature shares three stories from the past week that you should know about.

  1. Climate change is destroying our national parks at an alarming rate, study finds

National parks throughout the U.S. are being hit harder by climate change than other parts of the country.

The story: The United States’ national parks may be in danger, Alex Horton with The Washington Post reported Tuesday. The parks are experiencing the effects of climate change more severely because many are at high elevations, where the air warms more quickly. For the eight parks located in Alaska, continually melting snow enables darker surfaces to absorb more heat.

The big picture: The parks, which cover 4 percent of U.S. land, provide essential habitats for plant and animal species, store carbon and house watersheds that provide drinking water. “As the climate changes,” explained Rachel Golden Kroner, Conservation International’s social scientist, “species’ ranges and ecosystems will shift — at different rates and in different directions — necessitating the protection of other lands to ensure that nature is preserved. Yet in the United States,” she continued, “we are witnessing a trend toward reduced protections. In December 2017, President Trump downsized two national monuments — Bears Ears and Grand-Staircase Escalante — in the largest reduction to protected lands in U.S. history, and nine other sites could be reduced or weakened in the future. Such reductions may hinder our nation’s protected areas from being able to buffer against the increasingly severe effects of climate change.” 

Read the story here.

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  1. Back from the brink: the global effort to save coral from climate change

Scientists are using underwater nurseries to grow synthetic materials — and restore coral reefs.

The story: A new type of tree can be found underwater in Florida’s coral reefs — and it’s made of fiberglass and PVC, Oliver Milman with The Guardian reported Wednesday. These “trees” help conserve coral populations in oceans across the globe. The man-made structures allow coral pieces retrieved from the wild to grow three times faster than in their original environment. This year alone, 18,000 corals have been planted on reefs, and the hope is they will take root and spawn with each other.

The big picture: Coral reefs are essential to human livelihoods: They provide shelter for fish and other marine species, protect shorelines from severe damage when storms hit and provide tourism revenue. The bad news: They’re rapidly bleaching and dying due to warming ocean temperatures, acidification and overfishing. Projects such as this one that restore coral populations can help ensure that the oceans will continue to sustain life.

Read the story here.

  1. New York’s next nickname: The big sponge?

A partnership between New York City and Copenhagen is helping to reduce flooding due to climate change.

The story: Seventeen percent of New York City flooded in 2012 after Hurricane Sandy hit, and climate change means more floods are on the horizon, James Barron with the New York Times reported Thursday. Copenhagen experiences similar flooding issues and developed a plan that involves replacing asphalt with grass, adding green space and designing non-vital structures such as basketball courts and playgrounds to hold more water — a plan New York City decided was worth adopting through a partnership.

The big picture: One effect of climate change is changing rainfall patterns, so that areas that were already getting heavy rainfall are getting even more and dry areas are experiencing more droughts. Cities are having to make changes to handle these effects. “There’s no cookbook for how to make cities resilient,” Lykke Leonardsen, a Copenhagen official involved in the partnership said. “It’s new for us, and we all have to figure it out.”

Read the story here.

Olivia DeSmit is a staff writer for Conservation International.

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