Monday, May 6, 2013

Roadside vegetation and climate change: Time to put some real science to work

Management of roadside vegetation is an issue at many state DOT research divisions.  However, it is usually studied with the objective of reducing mowing costs, sometimes through better planting but often with herbicides.  But roadside right-of-way has, in my opinion, a huge potential to provide climate change benefits through sequestering carbon dioxide, and I’m not sure anyone is looking at that.  Some people have begun to consider the effect of climate change on roadside environments, but that’s a different issue.
Now comes a study (reported here) suggesting that woodland vegetation can provide other climate change benefits, through the “concentration of natural aerosols,” which can counteract, to some degree, atmospheric warming.  (Please don’t expect me to explain this.)
Of course, a well-managed roadside environment provides multiple benefits, including highway beautification, visual buffering of adjacent land uses, protection of habitats, and even service as “living snow fences” in northern climates.
I hope that someone is formulating research problem statements on the topic of using roadside environments to ameliorate climate change.   I haven’t seen any, but will keep looking!

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