Tag Archives: AMA

You Asked, We Answered – Land, Hemlocks, and Climate Change

Last week, Olivia Barksdale, Mass Audubon’s Conservation Restriction Stewardship Specialist, journeyed into Rutland Brook wildlife sanctuary in Petersham to talk about land, hemlock trees, and climate change.

Photo © Clark University

An Overview of Hemlocks

Hemlock trees are evergreen conifers that are widely distributed across Massachusetts. They’re a long-lived tree, reaching up to 300-350 years old. You can find all sorts of critters thriving near hemlock trees, such as Red Efts (Eastern Newts in the middle stage, the “eft” stage, of their three-part life cycle) and Brook Trout.

Hemlock trees are our natural allies when it comes to adapting to impacts from climate change by buffering increasing storm events, providing shade from extreme heat, and even regulating water temperature and quality.

But these trees also need our help to combat the threats they face because of climate change. Eastern hemlocks are currently under attack by an invasive, sap sucking insect called the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid (HWA). Cold, hard winters typically lower the survival rates of HWAs, but climate change-induced milder winters are making more habitats suitable for these voracious bugs. The HWA can take down one ancient hemlock in as few as four years.

How can we Help?

By conserving land! Land conservation provides a wide array of services that help us, wildlife, and plants tackle the climate crisis. Protecting land preserves natural allies in our climate fight like hemlock trees, which not only help us adapt to climate impacts, but also mitigate climate change by soaking up excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We need your help to maximize the climate impact of land conservation – join us in our collective climate fight by supporting one of our current, urgent land projects. You can make a difference.

Here were some questions we received about land, hemlocks, and climate change:

1. How will climate change impact the prevalence of different tree species in our forests?

As temperatures warm, trees can become stressed – which makes them more susceptible to pests that can now find suitable range where they normally wouldn’t. These threatened trees will degrade, which can consequently degrade wildlife habitats. We might also see a “change of guard” as a result, where tree species more tolerant and resilient to climate impacts will emerge or expand in the face of those that are more vulnerable.

2. What is being done to reduce populations of the HWA?

Some universities have looked into different pesticide applications that impact the wooly adelgid’s life cycle, targeting different stages. However, since pesticide use in forest settings or at the scale necessary isn’t the most feasible to tackle our HWA issue, looking at other strategies (like beetles that eat the HWA) will be important as we navigate how to maintain healthy hemlocks in our environments. In fact, Massachusetts has released at least two, Sasajiscymnus tsugae and Laricobius nigrinus (both beetles), to deal with HWAs.

3. How do I get into the land conservation field?

Olivia started her journey through the SCA, or the Student Conservation Association. They place students into internships around the country. Another way to get involved is through state programs, like the Department of Conservation and Recreation, or federal programs like the US Fish and Wildlife Service or US Forest Service. Another way is the Conservation Corps which does fieldwork across the country.

Tune in Next Time

If you didn’t have time to submit your questions, you can ask away in the comments below. We’ll be back the first Friday of every month for Climate Action Instagram AMAs. Visit our Instagram Story in October to learn more and submit your questions for the next round.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for more ways to ask questions, talk about, and learn about climate change, register for our climate café Climate, Community, and Connection on September 29, 5:30-6:30 pm. You can also attend the Climate Change and Human Health virtual webinar  on September 24, 7:00-8:30 pm via the Discovery Museum, where we’ll join Dr. Jay Lemery of the University of Colorado to talk about climate change’s public health impacts.

You Asked, We Answered – Climate Action 101

On August 7, Zach D’Arbeloff, Education Coordinator and Camp Director at Blue Hills Trailside Museum took over Mass Audubon’s Instagram story to answer all your questions about climate action! 

We took it back-to-basics this month to discuss what it means to act, who can get involved, and how we can all start collectively acting on climate. 

Here Were the Top Three Most Asked Questions:

Zach D’Arbeloff holding a Barn Owl.

Q: What is the age group most involved in climate action? 

A: Whether you’re 3 or 93, it’s never too early or late to start thinking about climate action. Climate action at its core starts with small lifestyles changes and then builds up to community, collective impact – which adds up to make a big difference.  

For example, you might start out by trying to eat more plant-based meals. Then you might get your family or friends to start eating more plant-based meals with you. After, you might then figure out how you can get your whole community to join you in eating and serving more plant-based meals: perhaps you look towards local schools or restaurants, even! 

Q: What’s the most effective climate action for my neighborhood to take on? 

A: Think about things that start in a neighborhood but expand beyond it. Planting a rain garden in our backyards, making sure we’re refusing and reusing (and then recycling) single-use plastics, and even composting start right at home, but have regional and even global impacts. Engaging our neighborhoods in simple, daily challenges to embark on your journey is a great way to build up your climate action, together. 

Q: What are daily actions I can take to help fight climate change? 

A: Starting out our climate action journeys is all about consistent, daily actions – from driving your car less to eating less meat to even drying your clothes in the sun in the summer. Remember to continue challenging yourself in your climate action, scaling up as you get more comfortable with what you started with, and looking for ways to get the people around you involved. 

It’s Up to Us to Tackle Climate Change 

No matter who we are, we all have a stake in our collective climate fight. The crisis is something we can solve when we put our hearts and minds together, challenge ourselves, and empower each other. Visit our website for ideas on where you can  start. 

Tune in Next Time

If you didn’t have time to submit your questions, you can ask away in the comments below. We’ll be back the first Friday of every month to takeover Mass Audubon’s Instagram and talk about Climate Action. Visit our Instagram Story in September to learn more about land and climate change and submit your questions. See you then! 

You Asked, We Answered – Climate Change and Cities

Last week, Mass Audubon’s Climate Change Program Director, Alexandra Vecchio, took over our Instagram story to answer your questions about climate change and cities for our First Friday Climate Action Ask Me Anything (AMA).

Here Were the Top Three Most Asked Questions:

Boston Youth Climate Strike, September 2019.

Q: Does climate change affect cities differently?

A: Yes, because of what lies inside cities. Cities contain a large number of impervious surfaces, which don’t absorb water. These surfaces increase runoff and flooding during storm events.

Cities also experience much warmer temperatures compared to surrounding rural or suburban areas due to increased absorption and retention of heat. Our urban centers house less flora than their suburban and rural counterparts, which turn heat into moisture to “sweat” and keep their environment cool. Paired with dark asphalt, buildings, and other typical urban features, our cities are retaining and creating heat at a higher rate.

Q: How can we use nature in our cities to fight climate change?

A: In my city, Somerville, I love to see street trees, which provide habitat for local wildlife, shade for our communities, and natural climate mitigation. Trees mitigate climate change by soaking up the most common greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, like a sponge.

As we see increased temperatures in Massachusetts due to climate change, trees are particularly important to shade our homes and reduce the amount of energy we use to keep cool. Trees also help alleviate the urban heat island effect: when parts of our cities are significantly hotter than neighboring suburbs.

Q: I’ve seen a lot of rain gardens around Boston. Can you tell me about the impact they have?

A: Rain gardens, or bioswales, use vegetation to help absorb storm water during heavy rain events, filter out pollutants, and then allow the water to slowly sink back into the soil. They can also provide habitats for local pollinators and wildlife.

This nature-based climate solution improves water quality and reduces flood risks – protecting our homes and businesses. Green infrastructure like this can be found all throughout Massachusetts.

We Can Help

It’s easy to focus on the risk climate change poses to our urban centers, but we encourage you to look around your own city for the many climate solutions in action. You can get involved in a street tree planting initiative like the City of Boston’s program, help care for a nearby community garden, or serve on a local board to advocate for the increased use of nature-based solutions or green infrastructure in your own neighborhood.

You can also visit one of our urban wildlife sanctuaries to see natural, urban climate solutions in action: Boston Nature Center in Mattapan, Broad Meadow Brook in Worcester, and Oak Knoll in Attleboro.

Tune in Next Time

If you didn’t have time to submit your questions, ask them in the comments below or email us at climatechange@massaudubon.org. If you’re looking for another space to ask questions and have judgement-free conversations about climate change until our next AMA, register for our virtual Climate Café on July 16.

Make sure to follow us on Instagram, @MassAudubon, and visit our Story next month on August 3 to ask your questions for our First Friday Climate Action AMA. We’ll see you then!