ALUMNI / OUTSTANDING STUDENTS:
Rachael Bessler, Outstanding Student for 2016
I wanted to go back to school but did not know if it was a good time. I knew the longer I waited the harder it would be, so I decided to go back to school. I looked at the catalog and decided that accounting would be the field of study that I would love. I loved math and working with budgets and bills. My husband and my family have been huge supporters for me. My husband even told me to just focus on school and he would work. Now that I’ve graduated and as I look back I am so glad I decided to get my Associates in Accounting. I can better manage my life financially. I am thankful to all the teachers that helped me understand some of the challenging classes. Jay Wright and Ray Wurzburger were a big help, especially in two of my more difficult classes. They both were very patient and explained the concepts to me, making it easier for me to understand. I’m thankful for all of the teachers and faculty at New River Community College for helping me be able to achieve this degree and making my life better.
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Symbiotic nitrogen (N)-fixing trees can drive N and carbon cycling and thus are critical components of future climate projections. Despite detailed understanding of how climate influences N-fixation enzyme activity and physiology, comparatively little is known about how climate influences N-fixing tree abundance. Here, we used forest inventory data from the USA and Mexico (>125,000 plots) along with climate data to address two questions: (1) How does the abundance distribution of N-fixing trees (rhizobial, actinorhizal, and both types together) vary with mean annual temperature (MAT) and precipitation (MAP)? (2) How will changing climate shift the abundance distribution of N-fixing trees? We found that rhizobial N-fixing trees were nearly absent below 15°C MAT, but above 15°C MAT, they increased in abundance as temperature rose. We found no evidence for a hump-shaped response to temperature throughout the range of our data. Rhizobial trees were more abundant in dry than in wet ecosystems. By contrast, actinorhizal trees peaked in abundance at 5–10°C MAT and were least abundant in areas with intermediate precipitation. Next, we used a climate-envelope approach to project how N-fixing tree relative abundance might change in the future. The climate-envelope projection showed that rhizobial N-fixing trees will likely become more abundant in many areas by 2080, particularly in the southern USA and western Mexico, due primarily to rising temperatures. Projections for actinorhizal N-fixing trees were more nuanced due to their nonmonotonic dependence on temperature and precipitation. Overall, the dominant trend is that warming will increase N-fixing tree abundance in much of the USA and Mexico, with large increases up to 40° North latitude. The quantitative link we provide between climate and N-fixing tree abundance can help improve the representation of symbiotic N fixation in Earth System Models.