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29 June 2022

Bonsai trees tell of winters long past

“These are museum-class bonsais,” Ben Gaglioti says as we walk through an elfin forest. Gaglioti, a University of Alaska Fairbanks ecologist, has led me into another landscape I have never seen in Alaska. This terrace of spongy ground above the rainforest is home to trees that Dr. Seuss might have dreamed up.

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22 June 2022

Rugged science on the Southeast coast

To the woman wearing earbuds and sitting next to me in seat 7E: I’m sorry; I did not get to shower before boarding the plane after 12 days of accompanying four scientists in the hills north of Lituya Bay. I will try to keep my arms pinned to my side and lean toward the window.

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12 August 2021

Pine grove near Yakutat is farthest north

We were on the Yakutat Forelands — a sweep of forested lowlands left behind after glaciers retreated from the landscape hundreds of years ago. Taking steps that felt like walking on a trampoline, we moved through a pine grove in a few-acre spread of open green muskeg.

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19 February 2021

‘Ghost forest’ got run over by a glacier

A “ghost forest” exposed as La Perouse Glacier in Southeast Alaska retreated. In the past, the glacier ran over the rainforest trees. Two people are also in the photo. Photo by Ben Gaglioti.

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4 December 2020

Lidar hillshade imagery hints at the location of a future coal spoil landslide

A coal spoil landslide in southeastern Wise County, Virginia, appears traceable to a faint scarp visible in the spoil pile in a 2017 lidar dataset. The slide pre-dates October 2019 Google Earth imagery and post-dates the 2017 lidar data acquisition.

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2 October 2020

Fall equinox and the big turn

On the first day of October, a little girl pulls on her rubber boots and rushes outside into crisp fall air. She knows the days are getting shorter, but she doesn’t realize Alaska is a week past the autumnal equinox. On the equinox, the sun appears to sit over Earth’s equator, causing days and nights to each last about 12 hours everywhere in the world. It is time for Alaskans to start paying the bill for all that summer daylight.

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9 September 2020

Orange trees in the Alaska Range

While wandering middle Alaska this summer, I noticed orange spruce trees along the entire length of the Denali Highway, from Paxson to Cantwell. In what looked like a dendrological case of frostbite, tips of every branch were afflicted with something. The real show happened when the wind blew: An entire valley glowed apricot. After the wind died, a Tang-like orange powder floated on rivers and puddles. It was as if someone had pepper-sprayed the Denali Highway.

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4 June 2020

A tale of glacier mice and young love

Green and spongy, glacier mice are not really rodents at all. They consist mostly of moss, and are the subject of a recent published study. Two of its authors are former Alaska graduate students, who met and fell in love in the company of the little green pincushions.

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Hydrologists show environmental damage from fog reduction is observable from outer space

A new paper presents the first clear evidence that the relationship between fog levels and vegetation status is measurable using remote sensing. The discovery opens up the potential to easily and rapidly assess fog’s impact on ecological health across large land masses — as compared to painstaking ground-level observation.

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29 August 2019

Celebrating 100,000 students doing field work on the Rio Grande

Since 1996 “100,000 students have walked the halls, tested in the labs, and hiked these trails,” observed Rep. Deb Haaland.

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22 July 2019

Dragons of summer now on the hunt

Worldwide, there are about 3,000 species of dragonfly. Thirty types live in Alaska. The largest in the state is the lake darner, a cool blue dragonfly that turns dark when the air is chilly.

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3 April 2019

Budding scientists communicate river science to elected officials in New Mexico

Last week, two 6th grade scientists and one 12th grade scientist took a trip to downtown Albuquerque to share the story of ongoing Rio Grande field science with city councilors and county commissioners….and, wow, did these students do a tremendous job!

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28 March 2019

California ‘browning’ more in the south during droughts

Like a climate chameleon, California turned brown during the 2012–16 drought, as vegetation dried or died off. But the change wasn’t uniform. Large areas of the northern part of the state were not severely affected, while Southern California became much browner than usual… 

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11 March 2019

Pondering the power of the ocean

Yakutat, Alaska, once found quirky fame as a surfing destination for the adventurous. Now, residents are looking into capturing wave energy to provide the town’s power.

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21 September 2018

From Greenland to Alaska, via New Jersey

Leaving cloven hoofprints from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, more than 3,500 muskoxen live in Alaska. All of those shaggy, curly-horned beasts came from one group of muskoxen that survived a most remarkable journey in the 1930s.

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27 July 2018

Alaska’s big river never stops flowing

It’s midsummer, a good time to slip a canoe onto the Yukon River.

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22 June 2018

Warming in the north continues as predicted

Just outside my window here at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, workers are drilling into the asphalt of a parking lot using a truck-mounted rig. They twist a hollow bit 25 feet into the ground and pull up hard, clear evidence of why the blacktop is sinking.

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6 April 2018

Alaska creatures without us

“The bottom line is salmon — and the marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems that support them — would be better off without us.”

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23 March 2018

The Bosque’s Broken Heart: The Future of the Rio Grande Cottonwood

People use this forest for recreation, education, and for some it even has spiritual meaning. The cottonwood tree, specifically is held sacred in many tribes of the southwest.

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17 November 2017

Beavers slapping tails on far-north waters

Animals the size of Labrador retrievers are changing the face of Alaska, creating new ponds visible from space.

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