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Weird Weather, Ecosystems, and Cute, Furry Animals

Invasive Japanese Barberry
Invasive Japanese Barberry, Bartholomew’s Cobble,

Sheffield, Massachusetts, USA. Photo by Amy Siever

(Scroll down for image of cute, cuddly, charismatic koala)

We at Berkshire Publishing Group are very aware of the vagaries of the current weather, as we seem to be alternating on a daily basis from full-on winter, including sitting huddled in scarves and fingerless gloves in the office, to taking long walks in what seems to be a strange early spring. 2011 set a number of weather records, including 90 days of 100 degree heat in Austin, Texas, 27 of them consecutive. The extreme weather of 2011 has continued into the new year, with the first week of January 2012 the driest since records began. As Dr. Jeff Masters at Weather Underground explains in this blog entry, this weather was the result of “the most extreme configuration of the jet stream ever recorded.” Scientific American gives an overview of the possible explanations in this article, and of course, one of the culprits may be the melting of the polar icecaps due to global climate change. These changes affect us here in the Berkshires in the short term, as ours is very much a seasonal economy and the area relies on outdoor sports to bring visitors to the area in winter. The longer term effects of climate change, however, are indeed global and it is in everyone’s interest to be aware of how our own actions influence not only the weather, but all aspects of our ecosystems.

We would like to offer you this free article, “Global Climate Change,” by Charles E. Flower, Douglas J. Lynch, and Miquel A. Gonzalez-Meler. An excellent introduction to the subject, it is taken from volume 5 of the Berkshire Encyclopedia of Sustainability.

Koala in the Wild
Koala in the wild, Gunnedah, Liverpool Plains, New South Wales, Australia. Photo by Daniel Lunney.

Read another sample article, “Charismatic Megafauna,” on the potential problems that come with concentrating conservation efforts on cute, furry animals. As author Daniel Lunney writes, “Few people are keen to hear about the ecology of rats, even though they provide insights for conservation of certain ecosystems, such as forests or riparian strips, which rare animals never can.”


3 thoughts on “Weird Weather, Ecosystems, and Cute, Furry Animals

  1. The koala is cute but Amy Siever’s photo of barberry is my favorite – I would never have guessed I could be entranced by the sight of barberry, a prickly miserable plant to root out.

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