From Vermont Research Climate Change News: a summary of recent Vermont research related to energy and climate change.
Species’ ability to adapt to a warming climate has significant implications for future ecological systems. A study led by researchers at Yale University examined grasshopper populations in Vermont and Connecticut finding that species in regions where temperature drastically varied throughout the year would more successfully acclimate to changing conditions.
ENERGY and THE ENVIRONMENT
The Vermont start-up business Packetized Energy has proposed a new way of saving energy by converting water heaters into battery-like appliances that could utilize solar energy and turn off when sufficiently recharged. While the common water heater presently works by turning on and off at programmed times, instead by absorbing available renewable energy throughout the day it could ultimately save power later during prime energy consumption time.
The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department has asked hunters not to hunt the black bears included in their Deerfield Wind Black Bear Study Update in regard to wind energy’s impact on bear activity. The report examines concerns that the implementation of the Deerfield Wind Energy Project could reduce the population of American beechnuts and therefore alter foraging patterns.
Vermont orchards are expecting smaller apples this fall due to the dry summer weather, particularly from farms without irrigation systems. The number of fruit harvested, however, is similar to that of last year; it’s estimated that 4,000 bushels will be picked over the next several weeks.
Research on Vermont’s burgeoning wine industry examines the issues in growing a hardier variety of grapes, less susceptible to the state’s cold winters. The winegrape cultivars, mostly derived from Minnesota and Cornell, also have a greater immunity to disease and are resistant to insects, according to the research by UVM’s Lorraine P. Berkett.
Examining past climate changes can often help scientists design global models that give insight into future climate patterns. In his 2016 thesis, Middlebury graduate Andrew Gorin examined the climate of Weybridge, Vermont and conducted a paleoclimate reconstruction of a speleothem from Weybridge Cave.
The Research on Adaptation to Climate Change project has conducted a study focusing on the water quality of Lake Champlain. The report argues that the Lake Champlain Basin should be viewed as a social ecological system that is in the process of adjusting to climate change in order to best address the steady decline in water quality.
Ultimately, the project’s goal is to closely monitor the changes in the Lake Champlain Basin’s ecosystem and propose policy changes that reflect the likely increase in daily precipitation and air temperature due to climate change.
Lake Champlain’s health has been undeniably harmed in recent years, drastically altering the wildlife ecosystem.
A group of researchers collaborated to study the effect of the introduction of alewife fish, which are non-native in Lake Champlain, on the native rainbow smelt.
The report suggests that cannibalism is the main threat to year-old rainbow smelt, as their early hatching causes a difference in optimum conditions for adult and first-year fish. While later hatching has historically prevented this phenomenon, the introduction of alewives, which prey on late-hatching smelt, could alter this pattern. The fish have additionally been hatching at increasingly earlier rates due to the gradual water temperature increase.
This systems-based approach striving to consider all aspects of environmental shifts has been utilized loosely throughout the country in the form of climate assessments by region. National climate assessments are essential for addressing climate change on a large scale, but they often aren’t ideal for state and local application due to lack of detail.
Using their research from the Vermont Climate Assessment, researchers from the Gund Institute wrote a report presenting a framework for engaging knowledge brokers and decisions makers in state climate assessments (SCA). This article will help other states create their own effectively structured SCAs by encouraging them to “provide relevant, actionable information to state and local authorities, and to generate primary sources, build networks and inform stakeholders.”
Despite temperature increases, Ranch Brook near Stowe was found by the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (VT DEC) to support an extremely healthy ecosystem. High levels were reported of macroinvertebrate species which rely on clean water to survive, although in recent years the density has been slowly declining due to increased peak flow from the changing climate.
Much can be done in terms of preserving the stream’s health, though, as Ranch Brook still has two to three times lower macroinvertebrate density compared with similar-sized streams sampled across Vermont over the last three years.
In horticultural news, Vermont farmers have turned to milkweed as a potential new cash crop despite its long-held reputation as an agricultural nuisance. The plant is known for sustaining Monarch butterflies while they are caterpillars, but has no use once the adult butterflies fly south for the winter.
The Canadian company Encore3 plans to convert milkweed to “American silk” to line high-quality Canadian parkas, and the milkweed pods are proposed to be used as ultra-absorbent battens to aid in cleaning up oil spills. See the Burlington Free Press article for more information.
The Vermont Research News is a bi-monthly curated collection of Vermont research, focused on research in the Vermont “laboratory,” that provides original knowledge to the world and research that adds to understanding of the state’s social, economic, cultural and physical environment. For links, more information, or to receive the Vermont Research News go to www.uvm.edu/~crvt/?Page=news.php.