Team Explores Salt Marsh Restoration to Offset Global Warming

November 8th, 2017 @

Salt marshes have been flooded by inland freshwater along nearly a third of the U.S. Atlantic coast, due to diversions by dams, dikes, and other human constructs. This hurts more than the natural biodiversity of a saltwater system. As salt marshes freshen, they emit more and more methane—a powerful greenhouse gas.

“A molecule of methane is 30 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than a molecule of carbon dioxide,” says Jim Tang, an associate scientist in the MBL Ecosystems Center.

Tang and his colleagues at the Bringing Wetlands to Market (BWM) project are laying out a framework for returning salt marshes to their natural salinity by removing various tidal restrictions. In a recently published study, they modeled the rate of methane emissions from freshened marshes and suggested mitigations to the problem.

by Stephanie M. McPherson


Measuring the Risky Feedback Between Soil Carbon and Global Warming

November 7th, 2017 @

A radio interview with MBL Distinguished Scientist Jerry Melillo about his 26-year soil warming experiment at Harvard Forest, the results of which were recently reported in the journal Science.

More from The Well

Despite Crabs, Rising Sea Levels, and Man, the Great Marsh Can be Protected to Shield Coastal Communities

October 24th, 2017 @

by John Muldoon.

Poor old Ipswich. It’s at the mouth of a river, where it gets the last leftover water that 330,000 people have already drawn from. “We suffer the consequences of every decision that made upstream,” said Wayne Castonguay, director of the Ipswich River Watershed Association. Yet the town is right beside the ocean, which means it’s the first to feel the impact of rising sea levels.

But, like other communities between Cape Ann and southern New Hampshire, Ipswich has the Great Marsh for protection. While the marsh is beset by man, green crabs, ocean acidification, and rising sea levels, all is not lost, a symposium was told at the weekend.

Hosted by the Ascension Church in Ipswich as part of its 150th anniversary celebrations, the event was attended by over 160 people who came to hear about challenges faced by the river, marsh, clams, Crane Beach, and green crabs.


One of Oldest Climate Change Experiments Leads to Troubling Conclusion | Washington Post

October 6th, 2017 @

One of the regular complaints of climate change doubters and skeptics is that scientific projections of a dire future are too heavily based on computer simulations, or models, which — they say — rest on a variety of questionable assumptions.

But a major climate change study published Thursday relied not on models but experimental data — a 26-year record of observations, no less — to reach a conclusion perhaps just as worrying. The research, tracking the emissions of carbon from artificially heated plots of a forest in Massachusetts, reinforces fears about the possibility of a climate change “feedback” involving the planet’s soils, one that could pile on top of and substantially worsen the ongoing warming trend triggered by the burning of fossil fuels.

“The study is one of the longest if not the longest climate change ecosystem experiment, beyond the one we are running in our own planet,” said Pep Canadell, an expert on the Earth’s carbon cycle at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Australia. He was not part of the research.

by Chris Mooney

Read more …

Alaskan Tundra Research An Inspiration In The Classroom

September 8th, 2017 @

Lawrence School 7th-grade science teacher Celeste Cruse traveled thousands of miles to the Arctic this summer for a hands-on research experience which she plans to bring back to the classroom.

“I want to get these kids enthusiastic about science, to say, ‘You can go in a helicopter and see a herd of caribou,’” Ms. Cruse said.

Ms. Cruse worked with Edward B. Rastetter, a senior scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory, and other scientists on the North Slope of Alaska at the Toolik Field Station. Projects included analyzing soil and plant samples from the tundra and recording the different insect and plant life at certain locations.

by Andrea F. Carter

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Collaborators to Investigate Structure of Microbial Food Webs

August 28th, 2017 @

MBL Senior Scientist Joseph Vallino has received a grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate the structure of microbial food webs. The grant is a collaboration with Julie Huber, associate scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Theoretical studies indicate that microbial food webs may not be highly interconnected, but rather be composed of weakly connected subnetworks.  Preliminary model studies indicate that such a network configuration should give rise to unstable communities that are nevertheless very effective at dissipating available energy.

by Diane Kenney

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Research will Compare Landscape Responses to Climate Variations

August 27th, 2017 @

MBL Senior Scientist Edward Rastetter has received a grant from the National Science Foundation to study the responses of several natural, land-based ecosystems to variations in climate and landscape disturbances.

Read more>>

Monitoring Carbon Emissions to Support Coastal Salt Marsh Restoration

July 10th, 2017 @

Coastal wetlands, including salt marshes, mangroves, and sea grass, have a strong capacity to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. By storing “blue carbon” in marine plants, organisms, and soil, coastal wetlands can offset human emissions of carbon dioxide from burning gasoline and coal.

Read more>>

Creation of National Microbiome Initiative

May 13th, 2016 @

Today, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy announced a new, National Microbiome Initiative, and senior scientists Zoe Cardon and David Mark Welch represented the MBL, and Jack Gilbert represented the new UChicago/Argonne/MBL Microbiome Center, at the event in Washington, DC. The National Microbiome Initiative has emerged over the last several years from the growing recognition that microbes are at the core of organismal health and ecosystem services sustaining humanity world-wide.


Photo Credit: Suzanne Thomas and Francois Thomas

Over the past two decades, building on collaboration between John Hobbie (Ecosystems Center) and Mitch Sogin (Bay Paul Center), the MBL has fostered an uncommon synergy, combining in-depth microbial, genomic, and bioinformatic expertise with organismal and ecosystems research. Created by scientists drawn year-round to Woods Hole and the far-flung research sites the MBL spearheads, this growing microbiomes community is now examining microbial activities in ecosystems from deep mid-ocean ridges to the coastal and polar frontlines of global climate change. The power of field and lab experiments is being combined with the clarity of evolutionary, ecological, and thermodynamic theory to identify commonalities uniting microbiome function. These commonalities -- new paradigms – will provide the framework for new solutions to real-world problems, from improving diagnostic tools for ecosystem, organismal, and human health, to developing novel strategies for environmental resilience and remediation.

For more information about the initiative, please see:
MBL's Press Release
White House Briefing
Related Publications:

Blaser M, Cardon ZG, Cho M, Dangl J, Donohue J, Green J, Knight R, Maxon M, Northern T, Pollard K, Brodie E. (2016) Towards a predictive understanding of Earth's microbiomes to address 21st Century challenges. mBio 7(3):e00714-16, doi: 10.1128/mBio.00714-16

Biteen JS, Blainey PC, Cardon ZG, Chun M, Church G, Dorrestein PC, Fraser SE, Gilbert J, Jansson JK, Knight R, Miller JF, Ozcan A, Prather KA, Taha S, Ven den Engh G,  Quake S, Ruby EG, Silver P, Weiss PS, Wong GCL, Wright AT, Xie XS, Young TD (2016) Tools for the Microbiome: Nano and Beyond. ACS Nano, 10:6-37. DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.5b07826

Alivisatos AP et al. (2015) A unified initiative to harness Earth’s microbiomes. Science 350:507-508. (45 authors in Unified Microbiome Initiative Consortium.)

Arctic Scientists Gather at MBL

April 8th, 2016 @

More than 65 ecologists and earth system scientists gathered at MBL April 6 and 7 for the annual Arctic LTER All-Scientists meeting. The Arctic LTER, led by Ecosystems Center Senior Scientist Gus Shaver, investigates the dynamics of the tundra, lake and stream ecosystems on the North Slope of Alaska and is based at Toolik Field Station.

The Arctic LTER All-Scientists meeting attracts a collaborative mix of senior investigators, post docs and graduate students who take advantage of the long-term experiments and ecological datasets that the LTER develops, maintains and makes available to the broader scientific community.

Ecosystems Center Senior Scientist Edward Rastetter explains the planned transition of the Arctic LTER project to new leadership.

Ecosystems Center Senior Scientist Edward Rastetter explains the planned transition of the Arctic LTER project to new leadership.

Later this year, Ecosystems Center Senior Scientist Edward Rastetter will assume leadership of the Arctic LTER project. Ed led the writing of the 2016 LTER renewal and developed a new theoretical framework for the project that will test the open or closed nature of element cycles and species movements in coupled tundra, stream and lake ecosystems. It will also predict how rapid Arctic climate change will alter these cycles and species rearrangements.

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