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Ecosystems

Can Ice Loss Affect Gravity?
May 21, 2015 04:14 PM - University of Bristol

A group of scientists, led by a team from the University of Bristol, has observed a sudden increase of ice loss in a previously stable region of Antarctica. The research is published today in Science.

National-scale effort addresses pollinator declines
May 20, 2015 03:51 PM - Puneet Kollipara, Science/AAAS

A new White House plan to promote the health of bees and other pollinators calls for boosting research into ongoing population declines—and potential solutions. The plan, released yesterday, also recommends numerous measures to address growing concerns about the threat that bees, birds, butterflies, and other pollinators face from multiple factors, including pathogens, pesticides, climate change, and habitat loss. By addressing scientific knowledge gaps, the research should make the plan’s suggested measures much more effective, the report says.

US Exposure to Extreme Heat is on the Rise
May 18, 2015 02:33 PM - UCAR AtmosNews

U.S. residents' exposure to extreme heat could increase four- to six-fold by mid-century, due to both a warming climate and a population that's growing especially fast in the hottest regions of the country, according to new research. The study, by researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the City University of New York (CUNY), highlights the importance of considering societal changes when trying to determine future climate impacts.

How Genetics Can Save Endangered Mussels
May 18, 2015 09:16 AM - USGS Newsroom

A piece of the restoration puzzle to save populations of endangered freshwater mussels may have been found, according to a recent U.S. Geological Survey led study. Local population losses in a river may not result in irreversible loss of mussel species; other mussels from within the same river could be used as sources to restore declining populations. 

Bird populations responding to climate change
May 16, 2015 08:53 AM - University of Utah

With puzzling variability, vast numbers of birds from Canada’s boreal forests migrate hundreds or thousands of miles south from their usual winter range. These so-called irruptions were first noticed by birdwatchers decades ago, but the driving factors have never been fully explained. Now scientists have pinpointed the climate pattern that likely sets the stage for irruptions – a discovery that could make it possible to predict the events more than a year in advance.

The researchers found that persistent shifts in rainfall and temperature drive boom-and-bust cycles in forest seed production, which in turn drive the mass migrations of pine siskins, the most widespread and visible of the irruptive migrants. “It’s a chain reaction from climate to seeds to birds,” says atmospheric scientist Court Strong, an assistant professor at the University of Utah and lead author of the study.

World's largest herbivores in danger of extinction due to hunting and habitat loss
May 15, 2015 08:25 AM - UCLA Newsroom

Many of the world’s largest herbivores — including several species of elephants, rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses and gorillas — are in danger of becoming extinct. And if current trends continue, the loss of these animals would have drastic implications not only for the species themselves, but also for other animals and the environments and ecosystems in which they live, according to a new report by an international team of scientists.

The study, which was co-authored by Blaire Van Valkenburgh, a UCLA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, was recently published in the open-access online journal Science Advances.

How Rivers Regulate Global Carbon Cycle
May 14, 2015 08:57 AM - Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Humans concerned about climate change are working to find ways of capturing excess carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and sequestering it in the Earth. But Nature has its own methods for the removal and long-term storage of carbon, including the world’s river systems, which transport decaying organic material and eroded rock from land to the ocean.

Urban development causes damage and loss of valuable ecosystems
May 14, 2015 06:29 AM - Harvard University

All land is not created equal. Some ecosystems do triple duty in the benefits they provide to society. Massachusetts forests, for example, filter public drinking water while also providing habitat for threatened species and storing carbon to combat climate change. 

Ecologists and conservation groups single out the hardest-working ecosystems – called “hotspots” – for their exceptional conservation value. A new study published today in the Journal of Applied Ecology reports that the number of ecosystem hotspots has increased in Massachusetts over the past decade, with more and more hotspots popping up in metro Boston. 

But, the study authors say, more hotspots may not be a good thing.

40% of Honey Bee Colonies Lost Last Year
May 13, 2015 10:53 AM - University of Maryland

Beekeepers across the United States lost more than 40 percent of their honey bee colonies during the year spanning April 2014 to April 2015, according to the latest results of an annual nationwide survey led by a University of Maryland professor. While winter loss rates improved slightly compared to last year, summer losses—and consequently, total annual losses—were more severe. Commercial beekeepers were hit particularly hard by the high rate of summer losses, which outstripped winter losses for the first time in five years, stoking concerns over the long-term trend of poor health in honey bee colonies. 

Biofuels: the right crop at the right place
May 12, 2015 04:48 PM - Radboud University

Corn, wheat and rapeseed can be used to produce biofuels, such as bioethanol and biodiesel. According to recent findings by environmental scientists at Radboud University, the location of the agricultural lands used to grow these biofuel crops has a major impact on the greenhouse gas emission they ultimately produce. The study that arrived at this conclusion is due to be published by Nature Climate Change on 11 May.

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