Alaska Astragalus “murder”: Who killed the sassafras?

On the snowy field of Alaska, the stretched coniferous forest has become a striking color, and Astragalus is an important component. However, this species of culturally and commercially valuable species is facing the threat of massive dieback in the coastal areas of Alaska. These trees gradually wither from the canopy and eventually end in life within a few years.

Who is the culprits who ruthlessly “kill” Huang Qi? There is only one truth – the black hand behind the scenes is warming.

In Alaska, North American scutellaria ( Chamaecyaris nootkatensis ) is suffering from the death of the top dead. Image source: stanford.edu

Determine the “method”: Why is Huang Qi harmed by climate change?

In general, rising temperatures are the gospel of vegetation in the cold regions, but for Huang Qi, the opposite is true. The secret of this is that the snow forms a natural thermal insulation layer for the shallow roots of the yellow scorpion. When the outside temperature suddenly becomes cold, the covered snow is like the clothes we wear, ensuring that the roots of the scutellaria are not frostbitten. However, as the local climate warms, the snow gradually melts away, and the roots that have lost this protection become more vulnerable when the spring cools down.

Recently, a research team led by Stanford University conducted a study on the health status of Astragalus in the Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, and investigated the environmental awareness of local people. Therefore, a protection framework for the integration of ecology and sociology is proposed for the conservation of Astragalus. 1 published its findings in a recent issue of “Conservation Biology” (Biological Conservation) journals.

The first author of the paper, Lauren Oakes, an assistant researcher at Stanford University, first introduced the motivation for this interdisciplinary study. She tells us that this stems from the transformation of the concept of conservation of species: “The traditional conservation strategy of species is to establish a special ecological protection zone to continue the initial state of the protected object.” Now, we also need to consider the climate. The impact of change on the world.

The increase in temperature causes the snow to melt, and the roots of the scutellaria are more susceptible to sudden cooling. Image source: stanford.edu

Looking for evidence: the sad report of field monitoring

In order to grasp the latest situation of jaundice in the area, the first part of the study is the wild health monitoring of jaundice. The research team randomly selected 18 jaundice observation points in the glacial bay national park and the protected area and the wasteland on the south side of the reserve. In order to obtain data from these observation points, they need to arrive at the study area by boat. “This is a challenging job,” Oaks told us. “In order to reach all the observation points, we have to draw a rubber boat through the bay and walk through the dense forest. In order to carry out a day’s measurement work before noon, We have to get up at 6 o’clock every day. This high-intensity work lasts 10-15 days at a time.”

After a arduous field work, the research team collected data on the health status of the scutellaria and the soil temperature in the 18 observation points. Through comparative analysis, they found that the health status of the jaundice in the protected area was significantly better than that of the jaundice located outside their southern park, and the comparison of soil temperature explained the difference: the spring temperature of the soil in the wilderness outside the park is higher and the temperature is higher. Fluctuations are also more intense, which means that the roots of the jaundice outside the park are more likely to suffer from sudden cooling.

For jaundice in protected areas, temporary health does not mean they can sit back and relax. On the contrary, leaf necrosis and canopy wilting that began to appear outside the park indicate that the top dead has been common in the relatively warmer south. As the temperature rises further, the breath of death will spread in the protected area on the north side.

In order to better verify the future situation of jaundice in the protected area, Paul Hennon, David D’Amore and Dustin Witt of the US Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service Dustin Wittwer studied it through a model. Previously, the research team mapped the distribution of jaundice in the protected area through an aerial survey. Based on this, the Netherlands and others confirmed that the jaundice in the protected area will not be spared by simulating the snowfall and soil drainage capacity.

Researchers are investigating the jaundice and surrounding environment. Image source: stanford.edu

Ask “Witnesses”: Unexpected investigation

If the above research object is the “tree” itself, the next investigation is for “people.” As the geographical distribution of species changes due to climate change, protected species begin to cross the nature reserve and begin to share territory with humans. Therefore, local residents’ knowledge and awareness of environmental protection and attitudes toward protection measures will have an impact on the effectiveness of species conservation. As the leader of the study, Eric Lambin, a professor at Stanford University and a senior researcher at the Woods Environmental Institute, said: “The impact of climate change on ecosystems is not just an academic issue in the natural sciences. Many people’s livelihoods also depend on the ecosystem.”

Therefore, understanding the ideas of local residents and managers becomes part of an adaptive management strategy. In a study of Alaska’s jaundice, Oaks and researchers surveyed 45 local residents and land managers, hoping to know their understanding of climate change leading to jaundice, and to protect the Beibu Gulf National Park through human intervention. The attitudes of species and the interventions they should take.

In analyzing the results of the survey, Oaks found an unexpected and interesting phenomenon: some of the respondents believed that the protected area was “a special existence separated in nature”, and these people strongly opposed the human intervention in the protected area. . Conversely, respondents who view humans as part of the protected area have a more endorsed view of human intervention.

For those who hold the latter view, they believe that humans are an intrinsic part of the ecosystem that can bring intangible values to humans, such as spiritual beliefs and recreational values. “The Alaska Natives told me to walk through the Huanghua Forest and walk with their ancestors.” Oaks said, “There are other respondents who say they go to the banyan tree every day just to witness their existence. For these people, there is no barrier between humans and jaundice, and it is obvious that the protection of human intervention is also a matter of course.

Rambin said that he is not surprised by the divergence of individual views, because people’s choice depends on their value orientation. But what surprised him was that the differences in these views also appeared in the land managers who worked for the government. “We often look at an organization and its mission from a holistic perspective, but ignore the day-to-day decisions of the organization and the decision-maker’s own value system and risk awareness,” added Lanbin.

There are some local residents in the area surveyed by this institute. But they have different views on whether human intervention should be involved in the protection of jaundice. Image source: research paper

“Closed report” and the future of bioprotection

For a nature reserve, what the original people hoped was to preserve the unique ecological characteristics of the protected area. But as climate change begins to affect every inch of the world , these measures are already incapable of protecting species. At this time, resource managers are beginning to realize that in order to deal with the impact of climate change on species, species conservation strategies need to shift to “adaptive management”. In other words, the climate is changing and the means of protection must be adapted. The researcher monitors and analyzes the protected objects during the protection process, so that the protection strategy can be adjusted at any time.  

“With the new concept, the protection of Astragalus scutellaria can be achieved by: strengthening the monitoring of trees in protected areas, enhancing cooperation with other monitoring agencies, and working with local community residents to better understand how they are Look at the value of protected species,” concluded Nicole Ardoin, an assistant professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Education and a core researcher at the Woods Environmental Institute.

The research team believes that their research philosophy, especially for local residents and local managers, applies not only to the case of Alaska’s jaundice protection. From the redwood forests of California to the herbivores on the African savannah, many ecosystems and species that struggle with environmental changes and human activities can also benefit.

“In this human-dominated planet, similar research will become the norm.” Rambin explained: “For this ever-changing terrestrial ecosystem, we humans are also part of it.”

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