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Climate change impacts forests, agricultural lands, estuaries, and oceans, and these ecosystems, in turn, also affect the local and global climate. The need for renewable energy technologies creates new challenges and opportunities for biotechnologists, ecologists, geologists and biogeochemists, climate and atmospheric scientists, hydrologists, toxicologists, and environmental economists to help develop those technologies and to study their pros and cons and trade-offs.
UMCES researchers have strong capabilities in the area of ecosystem responses to climate change, including the study of ancient climates, modern forests, crops, and marine organisms, and the use and interpretation of climate models. They have produced important research on the impacts of regional-scale climate variation, from the Chesapeake Bay watershed to the Arctic. UMCES scientists are evaluating the effects of various types of energy production, such as biofuels, wind turbines, natural gas production from hydraulic fracturing, and offshore oil drilling, on populations of birds, bats, and marine organisms as well as water quality. The potential of microalgae in energy production and carbon sequestration is under study. Energy choices should be informed by knowledge of the environmental, societal, and economic consequences of these activities, including sustainability of energy supplies, habitat fragmentation, pollution of surface and ground waters, atmospheric emission of gases and particulates, erosion and sediment transport, and endangered or invasive species.