The solution suggests a potential metric for measuring natural climate change in certain regions of the world.
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Almost 100 years ago, there was a strange, slow-motion takeover of the Great Plains, says Phys.org.
During the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, as a historic heatwave and drought swept the middle of the United States, there was a dramatic shift in the types of plants occupying the region.
Grasses more common in the cooler north began taking over the unusually hot and dry southern plains states that were usually occupied by other native grasses.
At the time, of course, this shift in plant cover was not the top concern during a disaster that displaced some 2.5 million people and caused at least $1.9 billion in agricultural losses alone.
And, in fact, it didn’t seem all that strange—until scientists started learning more about these types of plants.
“What happened only became a mystery much later, based on our subsequent understanding of the traits of the species that replaced each other,” said Alan Knapp, a University Distinguished Professor in Colorado State University’s Department of Biology in the College of Natural Sciences and the senior ecologist for CSU’s Graduate Degree Program in Ecology.
During the 1960s, researchers found that there was a distinct ecological difference between these two types of what were thought of as warmer- and cooler-climate grasses (one group, known as “C4” use photosynthesis to produce a compound with four carbon atoms, compared to the other, known as “C3,” whose first photosynthesis compound is composed of just three carbon atoms).
The C4 grasses grow best in warm temperatures and are more efficient at using water. The C3 grasses tend to be most abundant in cooler and wetter climates.
Which raised the question: Why, during an infamous drought and heatwave, would C3 grasses suddenly invade some 135,000 square miles of the south-central U.S.? Thus was born the “Dust Bowl paradox.”
Dust Bowl — Encyclopedia Britannica
via Tallbloke’s Talkshop
September 2, 2020 at 06:21AM