Researchers Find Climate Change Alters Vegetation

Recent research of the fossil record shows the perennial evolution of tree species will change the compositions of forests across the world and coincide with changes in climate.

The findings of UCSB post-doctoral fellow John Williams and co-authors show that very different groups of tree types resulted from climate changes over the past 25,000 years.

“A lot of trees are dying right now – oaks in California, chestnut, elm and spruce in the East – and while the direct causes are pests and fungal attacks, the indirect cause could be climate change, making the trees more stressed out,” Williams said. “It becomes harder for them to defend against other causes of mortality.”

Williams, who studies at the UCSB National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis and is a co-author of the study recently published in Ecology, based the research on data from fossil pollen records in lake sediments and climate model simulations.

The research illustrates that composition of vegetation has undergone rapid change over the past two centuries and could continue to change rapidly in upcoming years.

“The implications of change are large,” Williams said. “They include things like water availability, habitat for endangered species, and use of recreational areas.”

Scholar Wins Linguistics Award

The Linguistic Society of America awarded UCSB linguistics professor Marianne Mithun the Bloomfield Book Award for her book “The Languages of Native North America,” in late January. The society first presented the award in 1992 and bestows it upon members whose volume has made an outstanding contribution in understanding languages and linguistics.

Mithun, who is an internationally known authority on North American indigenous languages, documented their variety in her book. Mithun is also recognized internationally as a grammatical theorist.

“There were nearly 300 mutually unintelligible languages spoken in North America at the time of first European contact,” Mithun said. ” … nearly half of the languages have now disappeared, and all others, apart from the Greenlandic, are endangered. Probably no more than a couple of dozen at best will survive this century.”

Mithun, a UCSB faculty member since 1986, said these languages would survive in archives after they fall out of common usage.

Mexican Singer’s Memory Lives in Book

UCSB Chicano studies professor Yolanda Broyles-Gonzalez listened to and was influenced by Texas and Mexican borderlands singer Lydia Mendoza while she was growing up in Mexico.

Broyles-Gonzalez recounted Mendoza’s life to the public in her book “Lydia Mendoza’s Life in Music: La histor’a de Lydia Mendoza.” Mendoza’s career as a vocalist lasted until she suffered a stroke in 1987, one year after she came to Santa Barbara for a concert.

“I fist heard about Lydia Mendoza from my mother when I was a child,” Broyles-Gonzalez said. “When my mother was a child in Sinaloa, the people would share a record player between villages and they would play Lydia’s records. Lydia sang all of our borderlands Mexican songs and is greatly loved.”

-Compiled by Diana Ray