Air, land, water, and health are all impacted by our changing climate. In the Northeast, milder winters are leading to changes in the distribution of plants and animals, including forest pests and insects that spread disease. Less snow translates into less snowmelt, to the detriment of groundwater supplies. A lack of insulating snow cover damages plant roots. And intense rain events result in flooding, with damages to infrastructure.
With engineers and state agencies, Cary Institute scientists are working to design Hudson River shorelines that withstand climate change impacts, such as sea level rise. By applying ecological principles, their goal is to create shorelines that meet human needs while performing ecological functions, such as buffering floods and providing fish habitat.
Our ability to track forest pests is shaped by climate change. Warmer winters are expanding the northern range of insect pests and changing the distribution of tree species. Cary Institute scientists are developing a model that predicts how climate-driven tree species shifts will alter the way forests buffer pollution and store carbon, with an eye toward informing management strategies.
In the northeast, climate warming is actually more marked in the winter, and the loss of insulating snow cover can have a ripple effect on plant growth. Cary-led research in the White Mountains of New Hampshire has found that mild winters with less snow cover result in frozen soils that are unable to remain biologically active throughout the winter.
Climate change is also affecting freshwater lakes worldwide. Cary scientists are engaged in global-scale lake research and a national climate data initiative.