[permaculture] Pumped Up on Carbon Dioxide, Vines Strengthen Their Grip
saor at ycbtal.net
Wed Jul 19 20:25:53 EDT 2006
Pumped Up on Carbon Dioxide, Vines Strengthen Their Grip
By Elizabeth Williamson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 15, 2006; A01
Vines -- poison ivy, Japanese honeysuckle, kudzu -- snake through the
back yard, girdling trees and strangling shrubs, thriving, scientists
say, on the same pollution they blame for global warming.
>From backyard gardens to the Amazon rain forest, vines are growing
faster, stronger and, in the case of poison ivy, more poisonous on the
heavy doses of carbon dioxide that come from burning such fossil fuels
as gasoline and coal.
Complaints about vine infestation have increased tenfold in a decade,
said Carole Bergmann, forest ecologist for the Maryland-National Capital
Parks and Planning Commission, which serves Montgomery and Prince
George's counties. Vines have choked gardens, ruined brickwork,
disrupted bird habitat and clogged paths, ponds and air conditioning and
"The woods they used to know have just changed character," Bergmann
said. "They're covered with vines. The trees are being weakened and
falling over -- or strangled."
That leaves scientists worried that the forest of the future could
become a weedy tangle of hyper-vines choking off the trees, which absorb
more carbon dioxide.
As vines become stronger, they also grow more various, a problem
researchers say is at least partly attributable to climate change.
"Fifteen years ago, kudzu" -- known as the vine that ate the South --
"would not survive in the D.C. area," Bergmann said, because the climate
was too cold. "Now it survives even up in New York."
For six years, Jacqueline Mohan has worked at Duke University to study
elevated carbon dioxide levels' effect on woodland life.
Pumping carbon dioxide through pipes into a North Carolina pine forest,
Mohan found that poison ivy grew at 2 1/2 times its normal rate, an
increase five times the average gain for trees. The noxious vine grew
thicker, used water more efficiently and became far more allergenic to
"Poison ivy is fascinating, with its medical implications. But what's
really important scientifically is these woody vines have been
increasing in abundance all over the planet [and] inhibiting the growth
and regeneration of the forest," said Mohan, who released her findings
"This work suggests that atmospheric carbon dioxide is at least
But the vines also hint at a tantalizing solution to global warming:
Perhaps scientists can engineer a plant that would absorb extraordinary
amounts of carbon dioxide and clean the air without throwing forests
wildly off kilter.
"There's some reason for optimism that we could use vegetation to stave
off global warming," said William H. Schlesinger, an expert on climate
change and dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth
Sciences at Duke University. "But there's no telling that the mix you
come to is going to be stable or functional the way today's ecosystems are."
Trees and plants play a vital role in soaking up carbon dioxide that is
released into the atmosphere. Scientists are trying to determine whether
plants can keep pace with -- or perhaps even begin to reverse -- the
rise in carbon dioxide.
For 20 years, Bert Drake has been exposing marsh grasses to twice as
much carbon dioxide as normally found in the atmosphere. On a recent
day, he strolled the wooden decking that winds through his laboratory, a
swath of Chesapeake Bay marsh at the Smithsonian Environmental Research
Center in Edgewater.
Drake said his research suggests that most plants grow faster on higher
levels of carbon dioxide -- including plants already used as alternative
fuels, such as switch grass. If burned instead of fossil fuels, these
plants, the theory goes, could form a defense against climate change.
But whether every plant will grow faster in those conditions, or how
fast, or at all, is maddeningly unpredictable.
At Edgewater, Drake found that most grasses grow about 35 percent faster
in the altered atmosphere. But they are able to grow much faster than
that, a variance he can't fully explain. Similarly, his experiments on
oak trees in Florida found that each oak species responds differently to
the same carbon dioxide overload.
"It's quite imaginable that we could make an oak tree [that is] more
efficient at trapping carbon dioxide for us," Drake said. "But until we
know a lot more about how each species responds, we can't make solid
In a Prince George's park, poison ivy, Japanese honeysuckle and other
vines wind around most vertical surfaces and creep across the ground,
looking for more.
"Anytime we move earth" -- for construction or repair projects -- "all
we see is invasive species," said Mark Smith, who handles weed
management at the Maryland Department of Agriculture. "We are seeing a
tremendous variety of things, and we're getting more calls from the public."
In 1999, when the federal government recognized invasive plants as a
national problem, Bergmann, of the Parks and Planning Commission,
founded Weed Warriors, volunteers who patrol the region, ripping out
offenders. Now an army of 500, they can't keep up. Many of the vines --
English ivy, porcelain berry, winter creeper -- were planted by
homeowners who prized them as fast-growing, attractive ground cover.
"Just not buying these would really help a lot," she said. "I'd rather
see native trees doing well than have some robotic tree developed that a
vine can live on and create a super-jungle."
Published on Wednesday, July 19, 2006 by the Independent
<http://www.independent.co.uk> / UK
Temperature Set to Hit 100 Degrees - and Global Warming is to Blame
by Michael McCarthy and Steve Connor
Think before you enjoy it. The near-record temperatures expected today
are a sign of things to come, and will become commoner and hotter in
future years as man-made global warming takes hold, scientists predict.
With the mercury expected to approach 100F (37.8C) for only the second
time in Britain's history - but also the second time in under three
years - researchers said the unusual heat was entirely consistent with
predictions of climate change caused by rising emissions of greenhouses
gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2) from power stations, motor transport
and, increasingly, aircraft.
Temperatures are expected to peak today. In some parts of southern
England, in particular the London area, they may reach the high 30s,
nearing or even exceeding 38C.
The UK's air temperature record was set on 10 August 2003, when 100F was
breached for the first time, with a reading of 101.3F (38.5C) at
Brogdale, near Faversham in Kent.
The Met Office says there is a 30 per cent chance that this all-time
record will be beaten today. Even if it is not, it certainly seems
likely that the record for the hottest July day will be beaten, a record
nearly a century old. It was set on 22 July 1911 in Epsom, Surrey, with
a temperature of 36C (96.8F).
The immediate reason for the heatwave is a prolonged period of very
settled weather, with cloudless skies and strong sunshine which has
allowed temperatures to rise. Over recent days, hotter air has moved
across from the Continent, causing the temperature to rise further.
But a look at the temperature records - and Britain has the
longest-running set in the world - strongly suggests it is much more
part of a pattern showing the advent of global warming. The Central
England Temperature Record dates to 1659 and we show here a graph of it
since 1772. The smooth line shows how far the annual mean temperature
diverged from the mean of 1961-1990; and it will be seen that from about
the 1980s, the line starts to rise steadily above all previous values.
It is still rising.
For most of the 20th century, British temperatures did not exceed the
record of 98F (36.7C) set at Raunds in Northamptonshire on 9 August
1911. But on 3 August 1990, this was smashed when 98.8 F (37.1C) was
recorded in Cheltenham, then broken again at Brogdale in 2003. Now it
may be broken yet again.
These new peaks do not in themselves prove global warming, say
scientists - but global warming makes them much more likely. "As you get
a warming trend in temperatures, which is what we are observing, the
risk of exceeding extreme temperatures increases dramatically," said
Peter Stott of the Met Office's Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and
Research. "This is what we saw with the European heatwave of 2003. When
we analysed it, we found that the rise in average temperatures over the
previous century of about one degree had doubled the risk of an extreme
event like the heatwave of that year.
"And, as we go into the future, the risk of what was quite a rare event
rises dramatically. We think by 2040, a summer like 2003 will be a
regular event; the chances of it happening will increase from one in 250
all the way to one in two." He added: "We have an increasing amount of
confidence that we are observing rising temperatures caused by
human-induced rising greenhouse-gas concentrations. Unless the world
changes what it is doing, we are going to see these extreme temperatures
very much more."
People should remember the downside to rising temperatures, said Sir
John Houghton, former head of the Met Office, and chairman of the
scientific working group of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change (IPCC) from 1988 to 2002. "Yes, we can enjoy the heatwave when it
comes," said Sir John. "There's no point in saying let's be miserable.
But let's remember, let's recognise that the world is warming, and let's
remember that the downside is very severe. We are already going outside
the range of what a lot of people can cope with and what a lot of
ecosystems can cope with, and a lot of crops."
Tony Juniper, the director of Friends of the Earth <http://www.foe.org>,
said last night: "Our society needs to get real about climate change,
and understand it isn't a distant future event - it's happening now and
it's causing major problems already. The longer we leave it, the worse
it will get. Any person who claims to be representing the best interests
of our society must demand urgent action, now, and not tomorrow."
Feeling the heat
* Temperatures on buses in the hottest parts of Britain hit 52C
yesterday while the London Underground reached 47C. EU guidelines state
that cattle should not be transported at temperatures exceeding 27C.
* Speed restrictions were implemented on trains because of "hot rails"
and sagging overhead wires.
* Council gritters were on stand-by to prevent roads melting.
* A Level 3 health warning has also been issued, requiring primary care
trusts to provide additional care for those most at risk from
dehydration and heat stroke.
* More than 170 people were forced to swelter on a grounded plane at
Heathrow for five hours after its air conditioning broke down.
* Charities for the elderly expressed concern about the effects of the
heatwave, advising those at risk to take precautions such as staying
indoors or in the shade.
* The Government has issued smog warnings across Britain for the coming
* The House of Commons Speaker Michael Martin granted an "unprecedented"
request to give 500 bottles of water to demonstrators outside Parliament
suffering in the heat.
* With southern England facing the worst drought in 100 years, initial
signs are that customers are being more careful with water - a total of
300 million fewer litres a day were used during June.
* Fish are threatened by reduced water levels as oxygen levels drop.
Toxic algae bloom can form and fish struggle to breathe.
* Employers have been urged to relax office dress codes to enable
workers to wear casual clothes in the heat.
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