Ecosystems

Climate warming may not drive net losses of soil carbon from tropical forests
July 23, 2014 12:16 PM - Carnegie Institute for Science

The planet's soil releases about 60 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year, which is far more than that released by burning fossil fuels. This happens through a process called soil respiration. This enormous release of carbon is balanced by carbon coming into the soil system from falling leaves and other plant matter, as well as by the underground activities of plant roots.

Size and Age of Plants Impact Their Productivity More Than Climate
July 22, 2014 12:27 PM - University of Arizona

The size and age of plants have more of an impact on their productivity than temperature and precipitation, according to a landmark study by University of Arizona researchers. UA professor Brian Enquist and postdoctoral researcher Sean Michaletz, along with collaborators Dongliang Cheng from Fujian Normal University in China and Drew Kerkhoff from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, have combined a new mathematical theory with data from more than 1,000 forests across the world to show that climate has a relatively minor direct effect on net primary productivity, or the amount of biomass — wood or any other plant materials — that plants produce by harvesting sunlight, water and carbon dioxide.

New research compares environmental costs of livestock-based foods
July 22, 2014 08:00 AM - Allison Winter, ENN

Trust me, no one loves a nice, big, juicy steak more than me and while I have no immediate plans of becoming a vegetarian, I am a little concerned about the resources and costs it takes to produce the proteins of our favorite meals. From the land that is used by livestock to the supplies and energy it takes to raise these animals for our consumption, it is evident that environmental resources take a toll. But what is the real cost? New research at the Weizmann Institute of Science, conducted in collaboration with scientists in the US, calculates these environmental costs and compares various animal proteins to give a multi-perspective picture of what resources are really being used.

Obama allocates funds to help communities build climate adaptation
July 21, 2014 08:09 AM - Alexis Petru, Triple Pundit

More extreme droughts, floods and wildfires — these are just some of the impacts of climate change that won't just occur in the distant future to our great-great grandchildren, but are happening now. To address the changing climate's current effects on communities in the U.S., President Barack Obama announced a plan to strengthen national infrastructure and help cities, states and tribal communities better prepare for and recover from natural disasters.

Update: Melting permafrost and Global Warming
July 19, 2014 07:14 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

You have probably heard that melting permafrost is a big contributor to increasing the levels of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, and that melting permafrost may even cause an unstoppable acceleration of global warming. New research, however, supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), counters this widely-held scientific view that thawing permafrost uniformly accelerates atmospheric warming, indicating instead that certain arctic lakes store more greenhouse gases than they emit into the atmosphere. The study, published this week in the journal Nature, focuses on thermokarst lakes, which occur as permafrost thaws and creates surface depressions that fill with melted fresh water, converting what was previously frozen land into lakes.

Rainwater discovered below the Earth's fractured upper crust
July 16, 2014 06:40 AM - Allison Winter, ENN

When it rains, where does the water go? Well for one, a lot of rainwater will funnel its way off roads and impermeable surfaces and will make its way into storm sewers. Another path might be directly into rivers and lakes. Or, rainwater might get soaked up by soil where it will then infiltrate into the ground and replenish aquifers. But just how deep does this rainwater infiltrate? According to new research, rainwater can penetrate below the Earth's fractured upper crust - which is at least eight miles below the Earth's surface!

Fertilizer Threatens Grasslands Globally
July 15, 2014 05:10 PM - Paul Sutherland, MONGABAY.COM

The world's grasslands are being destabilized by fertilization, according to a paper recently published in the journal Nature. In a study of 41 grassland communities on five continents, researchers found that the presence of fertilizer weakened grassland species diversity. The researchers surveyed grasslands in countries around the world, such as China, the U.S., Switzerland, Tanzania and Germany, and discovered that grassland communities that had not been managed by humans contained more species. They also had greater species asynchrony, which means that different species thrive at different times so that the grassland produces more consistently over time, resulting in more stable biomass production.

Drought Conditions Linked to Human Activity
July 15, 2014 08:52 AM - ClickGreen Staff, ClickGreen

US Government scientists have developed a new high-resolution climate model that shows southwestern Australia's long-term decline in fall and winter rainfall is caused by increases in manmade greenhouse gas emissions and ozone depletion. "This new high-resolution climate model is able to simulate regional-scale precipitation with considerably improved accuracy compared to previous generation models," said Tom Delworth, a research scientist at NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J., who helped develop the new model and is co-author of the research.

Pesticide impairs bees' ability to forage
July 14, 2014 09:11 AM - ClickGreen Staff, ClickGreen

A study that involved fitting bumblebees with tiny radio frequency tags found long-term exposure to a neonicotinoid pesticide hampers bees' ability to forage for pollen. The research by Nigel Raine, a professor at the University of Guelph, and Richard Gill of Imperial College, London, shows how long-term pesticide exposure affects individual bees' day-to-day behaviour, including pollen collection and which flowers worker bees chose to visit.

The Amazon: A Savannah before a Forest
July 11, 2014 08:11 AM - Jeremy Hance, MONGABAY.COM

The Amazon is the largest tropical forest on the planet, covering about 6.5 million square kilometers, although much has been lost (around 18-20 percent) in recent decades. The great forest also, very likely, contains the highest biodiversity of species on land; for example a single hectare in Yasuni National Park contains more tree species than all of the U.S. and Canada combined. Yet new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) finds that quite recently—just 500 years ago—a significant portion of the southern Amazon was not the tall-canopied forest it is today, but savannah.

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