Ecosystems

Missouri River Sturgeon need more oxygen to reproduce. Dead zones, dams implicated.
January 24, 2015 08:32 AM - USGS

Pallid sturgeon come from a genetic line that has lived on this planet for tens of millions of years; yet it has been decades since anyone has documented any of the enormous fish successfully producing young that survive to adulthood in the upper Missouri River basin.

Now, fisheries scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey, Montana State University and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have shown why, detailing for the first time the biological mechanism that has caused the long decline of pallid sturgeon in the Missouri River and led to its being placed on the endangered species list 25 years ago.

In a paper published this week in the journal Fisheries, the scientists show that oxygen-depleted dead zones between dams in the upper Missouri River are directly linked with the failure of endangered pallid sturgeon hatched embryos to survive to adulthood.

Arctic Ice Slides into the Ocean
January 23, 2015 08:49 AM - University of Leeds

Satellite images have revealed that a remote Arctic ice cap has thinned by more than 50 metres since 2012 – about one sixth of its original thickness – and that it is now flowing 25 times faster. A team led by scientists from the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling (CPOM) at the University of Leeds combined observations from eight satellite missions, including Sentinel-1A and CryoSat, with results from regional climate models, to unravel the story of ice decline.

Success! Private sector Soy Moratorium effective in reducing deforestation in the Amazon
January 23, 2015 08:12 AM - Kelly April Tyrrell, University of Wisconsin - Madison.

Today, fewer chicken nuggets can trace their roots to cleared Amazon rain forest.

In 2006, following a report from Greenpeace and under pressure from consumers, large companies like McDonald's and Wal-Mart decided to stop using soy grown on cleared forestland in the Brazilian Amazon. This put pressure on commodity traders, such as Cargill, who in turn agreed to no longer purchase soy from farmers who cleared rain forest to expand soy fields.

The private sector agreement, a type of supply chain governance, is called the Soy Moratorium and it was intended to address the deforestation caused by soy production in the Amazon.

Going with the Flow
January 22, 2015 04:14 PM - Julie Cohen, UC Santa Barbara

Millions of Americans live in flood-prone areas. In 2012 alone, the cost of direct flood damage hit nearly half a billion dollars. However, because the factors contributing to flood risk are not fully understood, river basin management — and even the calculation of flood insurance premiums — may be misguided. A new study by UC Santa Barbara’s Michael Singer and colleagues presents a paradigm shift in flood hazard analysis that could change the way such risk is assessed in the future. The results are published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Mystery Goo is Killing Seabirds in the San Francisco Bay
January 22, 2015 04:03 PM - Alicia Graef, Care2

Rescuers are working diligently to save birds who are being killed by a “mysterious goo” that has appeared in the San Francisco Bay, while officials remain perplexed about what the substance is and where it came from.

Atmospheric Rivers Add to Antarctica's Ice Sheets
January 22, 2015 08:47 AM - KU Leuven

Extreme weather phenomena called atmospheric rivers were behind intense snowstorms recorded in 2009 and 2011 in East Antarctica. The resulting snow accumulation partly offset recent ice loss from the Antarctic ice sheet, report researchers from KU Leuven. Atmospheric rivers are long, narrow water vapour plumes stretching thousands of kilometres across the sky over vast ocean areas. They are capable of rapidly transporting large amounts of moisture around the globe and can cause devastating precipitation when they hit coastal areas.

Exeter University study casts doubt on theory of dinosaur extinction
January 22, 2015 08:21 AM - UNIVERSITY OF EXETER via EurekAlert.

Pioneering new research has debunked the theory that the asteroid that is thought to have led to the extinction of dinosaurs also caused vast global firestorms that ravaged planet Earth.

A team of researchers from the University of Exeter, University of Edinburgh and Imperial College London recreated the immense energy released from an extra-terrestrial collision with Earth that occurred around the time that dinosaurs became extinct. They found that the intense but short-lived heat near the impact site could not have ignited live plants, challenging the idea that the impact led to global firestorms. 

These firestorms have previously been considered a major contender in the puzzle to find out what caused the mass extinction of life on Earth 65 million years ago.

Are Marine Mammals Adapting to Avoid Humans?
January 21, 2015 05:17 PM - Catherine Gill, Care2

Remarkable ocean research shows us that certain whale and seal species are reaching new depths and breaking records by diving so far away from the surface that experts are shocked that they can even survive the pressure. Some animals like the Cuvier’s beaked whales can dive almost 10,000 feet and hold their breath for 138 minutes.

What happens with all the organic carbon released from melting glaciers?
January 20, 2015 08:45 AM - Florida State University via EurkeAlert!

As the Earth warms and glaciers all over the world begin to melt, researchers and public policy experts have focused largely on how all of that extra water will contribute to sea level rise. But another impact lurking in that inevitable scenario is carbon. More specifically, what happens to all of the organic carbon found in those glaciers when they melt? That's the focus of a new paper by a research team that includes Florida State University assistant professor Robert Spencer. The study, published in Nature Geoscience, is the first global estimate by scientists at what happens when major ice sheets break down.

Rutgers study shows sea level rising faster than thought
January 20, 2015 08:23 AM - Rutgers University

Researchers at Rutgers and Harvard universities found that between 1901 and 1990 sea-level rose at a rate of about 1.2 millimeters per year, compared to about 1.5 millimeters as calculated in earlier estimates. The scientists say that sea levels are now rising at a rate of 3 millimeters every year.

The new research, “Probabilistic Reanalysis of 20th-century Sea-level Rise,” takes a new look at global tide gauge data. Using a combination of computer modeling and statistical analysis, the researchers sought to close data gaps in accounting for the sources of sea-level rise.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – the international group charting the Earth’s climate trends – has come up short in fully explaining the source of new water flows to the oceans in past decades.

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