In January of this year the Coastal Resources Center (CRC) adopted the Sea Level Affecting Marshes Model (SLAMM), which maps the predicted effects of sea level rise in all 21 Rhode Island coastal communities. Over the past 200 years, Rhode Island has lost 50 percent of its salt marshes due to man made alterations. Today, the remaining 4,000 acres are threatened by sea level rise.
Salt marshes provide the Ocean State with commercial and recreational fishing as well as shoreline protection. The SLAMM maps illustrate how the salt marshes will be affected by one foot, three feet, and five feet of sea level rise in the decades to come.
Rhode Island residents can view the public maps to find out how their neighborhood could be affected by climate change and sea level rise. The maps aim to create a plan of action in terms of restoration and also aim to predict where wetlands may develop in the future as sea levels continue to rise.
BRISTOL, R.I. __ After a record-breaking winter, Rhode Island’s growing season has been pushed back by a couple of weeks. Due to this shift, the production and tapping of maple syrup has gotten off to a late start.
The process of maple sugaring is based highly on the weather. Ideally, the best maple sap flow occurs during warm daytime temperatures and below freezing temperatures at night. Usually the trees are ready to be tapped in late February or early March. However, this year, the cold temperatures and late winter weather decreased syrup production in areas of the Northeast.
The tapping season in Rhode Island was also shortened after this long, cold winter. Coggeshall Farm in Bristol is one of the many maple syrup producers in the state.
“Although it was a tough year in some ways, late season was highly productive, so it’s not all bad news,” says Cindy Elder, Executive Director of the Coggeshall Farm Museum.
Syrup production has changed in the past ten years, and maple trees in the region could face some problems by the next century. The U.S. Forest Service predicts that they will not be as affluent or may even slowly die out. Their studies look at what climate changes are doing to the trees in the long term. Right now maple syrup producers may be doing well, but their success might tap out down the line.
EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK, Flo. __ President Barack Obama, like many other democratic presidents, took a trip on Earth Day to make public remarks on climate change and global environmental issues. This year, he decided to fly down to the Everglades in Air Force One so he could take a tour afterwards.
The 1,836-mile roundtrip consumed 9,180 gallons of fuel, according to CBS White House reporter Mark Knoller. And that’s just the president’s plane.
There were a half-dozen support planes, Marine One helicopters, and a 25- to 30-vehicle motorcade along for the ride too, releasing chemicals into the air the entire way.
There are a few sources that believe President Obama’s trip was hypocritical. Although it’s common for democratic presidents to make announcements and hold events on Earth Day, the fuel used to travel was extremely excessive.
BRISTOL, R.I. __ It’s no secret that ocean wildlife is just as (if not more) affected by sea level rise as we humans are. Their habitats are compromised largely because of our contribution to global climate change.
As climate change continues and warms the ocean, underwater species become endangered. At the Marine and Natural Sciences building at Roger Williams University, students build temporary habitats for fish with regulated temperatures in an attempt to spare some species.
According to Molly Waters, a senior at RWU, “One of the reasons the ocean is increasing in temperature is because of carbon emissions in the atmosphere that get sequestered into the ocean, which change the chemistry of the ocean as well as its pH level.”
Roger Williams students work closely with clownfish specifically, but they are not the only undersea life form affected by the temperature change. It’s important to spread awareness of this issue because these animals do not have the voices to save themselves.
BRISTOL, R.I. __ As lobsters migrate north to avoid the warming waters along the Southern New England shore line, the annual Roger Williams University lobster and steak dinner (normally held in April) could be in danger. In 2014, RWU spent $11,700 on lobster for the popular dinner, today the price of lobster stands nearly $2 per pound higher.
In mid-March, Chef Jonathan Cambra began to shop around for lobster prices. He believes that although the price of lobsters will fluctuate as they migrate north, the university will still be able to buy their lobsters for roughly $10 per pound since they buy in such bulk. Cambra is confident that the university will always have a budget for the dinner.
“We serve a lot of fish, if we have to cut back elsewhere that’s something we will do,” Cambra said.
Climate change forces the American lobster to move north in search of colder waters to sustain their lively hoods which has nearly destroyed the local market. David Andrade of Andrade’s Catch on Wood St. in Bristol has seen the decline in local lobsters first hand.
“If we sell lobsters, they’re lobsters that were caught in Maine,” said Andrade.
Warmer waters increase the lobsters chances of contracting lobster shell disease, which is a bacterial infection. Researchers believe the increased correlation between water temperature and shell disease could be the result of two theories: Either the warmer water decreases the lobster immune system (which makes them more susceptible to contracting the disease) or the bacteria live in larger numbers in warmer waters.
Whatever the case may be, this April RWU students won’t eat local Rhode Island lobsters.
BRISTOL, R.I. __ As the planet gets warmer and warmer, signs of spring come earlier and earlier. This phenomenon alters the idea of the traditional “four seasons” New England usually faces annually.
Although the cold is deceiving, it has been proven that spring is springing earlier than usual. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) used 39 years of data to conclude that wildflowers in the Colorado Rocky Mountains are blooming weeks earlier than they once did.
Despite the longer blooming season, plants aren’t producing more flowers. With the same number of flowers blooming over a longer period of time, bees will likely face a situation where there are fewer in bloom at any given time. A earlier blooming season can also be dangerous for wildflowers if they’re hit by a late frost.
There’s no telling what the change in normality of seasons will bring, but scientists are sure it can’t be good.
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