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Public contributes to climate change research / Public News Service

A new report from the National Wildlife Federation warns that the impacts of climate change in the Quad Cities, along the Iowa-Illinois border, will be severe.

But researchers have involved the public in the research to find ways to tackle some of the most pressing problems.

The report says climate change means a warmer, wetter future for the Quad Cities, which straddle the Mississippi River in Iowa and Illinois.

But rather than repeat what experts have already said about drastic flooding along the Big Muddy, Prairie Rivers Network River Health and Resiliency Organizer Nina Struss said researchers and Quad Cities residents brainstormed solutions to address the effects of climate change.

“Floods and flash floods were the biggest concerns,” Struss said. “Extreme heat was also a major concern, as were drought and other extreme weather events.”

Researchers combined that information with hard science from the University of Illinois to create 3D models that depict what climate-induced flooding along the Mississippi River could look like in the future.

The survey also asked people to identify which geographic areas and populations are most at risk from the impacts of climate change, and worked with the community on solutions to mitigate some of these.

Struss said this research proposes so-called nature-based solutions to combat the effects of climate change – restoring, preserving and even expanding existing ecosystems, such as wetlands and tree canopies. But also creating a more environmentally friendly infrastructure.

“Can we work on making our sidewalks that we build more permeable so that they can absorb that water and have a greater water-holding capacity?” Struss said. “Can we focus on areas where we can plant more native plants with stronger root systems, rather than plants with shorter root systems, to help with water retention capacity?”

Struss said this investigation is not a one-off. It will continue to change, she said, as the climate changes, the needs become clearer and the impacts more drastic.

She said progress in tackling climate change depends on increased research, education and funding.

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