Forests in the south-central United States are some of the country’s most productive and diverse. They also sit in a warming “hole”—an area where the progressive rise in temperature affecting most of the continent hasn’t yet taken hold. A team from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory is studying how these forests might shift—or even disappear—when climate change does catch up with them, as expected.
One foggy spring morning just after a hard rain, Park Williams was tromping through the woods deep in Arkansas’ Ozark Mountains. Toiling down a steep slope, he supposedly was keeping a simultaneous eye out for rattlesnakes, copperheads, poison ivy and big old trees. Williams seemed mostly focused on the trees, though; attention to the other stuff was just slowing him down. Williams studies how forests react to changes in climate, and the Ozarks’ deeply dissected hills and hollers—what some might refer to as typical hillbilly country—are a kind of ground zero for this.
In a rapidly warming world, conflicts inevitably arise between those affected by dwindling resources and changing climate conditions. Josh Fisher’s work centers on trying to avert conflict and provide opportunities for cooperation through understanding the relationships between conflict, environment and development.
Rosario Costa-Cabral and her brothers harvest hundreds of fruits, oils and wood products from the stream-laced forest of the Amazon River delta. But the climate here is changing: Tides rise higher, and seasonal floods are growing worse.