On Nature: Nature and Climate

On Nature: David Voigts

It is generally understood that carbon pollution is changing our climate and negatively impacting some native species. One example is the decrease in Monarch butterflies caused, in part, by continuing drought that limits food during migration. However, the opposite is also happening. Nature can reduce the amount of climate change. For example, healthy forests remove great amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in tree biomass and soils.

Grasslands remove even more carbon from the atmosphere than forests, and most of it is stored underground in the massive roots of prairie vegetation. This is enhanced by bison, whose grazing stimulates the growth of new, fast-growing plants that remove even more carbon. In addition, bison hooves penetrate the soil, aerating it, and causing the growth of new vegetation and more carbon removal.

Even the lowly freshwater clam, or mussel, has an important role. They filter large amounts of water each day, making waterways cleaner. This helps provide habitat for many other aquatic organisms, promoting biodiversity and ecosystem balance. Healthy ecosystems remove more atmospheric carbon than degraded ones.

By conserving our natural systems, we can help rehabilitate our planet and reduce the amount of climate change.

David Voigts is a retired ecologist and the current Conservation Chair for the Prairie Rapids Audubon Society. He is a Tama County native, graduating from Dinsdale High School, and lives in rural Jesup on his wife’s family farm.