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Ecosystems

Why Heat is Accelerating the California Drought
May 28, 2015 04:03 PM - USGS Newsroom

Although record low precipitation has been the main driver of one of the worst droughts in California history, abnormally high temperatures have also played an important role in amplifying its adverse effects, according to a recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey and university partners.

Montreal Protocol Leads to Better Ozone
May 27, 2015 07:53 AM - University of Leeds

We are already reaping the rewards of the Montreal Protocol, with the ozone layer in much better shape than it would have been without the UN treaty, according to a new study in Nature Communications. Study lead author Professor Martyn Chipperfield, from the School of Earth & Environment at the University of Leeds, said: “Our research confirms the importance of the Montreal Protocol and shows that we have already had real benefits. We knew that it would save us from large ozone loss 'in the future', but in fact we are already past the point when things would have become noticeably worse.”

How shade can help trout populations
May 26, 2015 01:54 PM - Oregon State University

As snowpack levels decline with the warming climate, many streams will experience less water flow, especially during summer months, potentially exposing more fish to predation by birds and other animals. A new study has found that providing adequate shade and cover in small streams may reduce predation on trout by as much as 12 percent, from just one species of bird – the kingfisher. 

Could wind farm installation deafen marine life?
May 26, 2015 09:05 AM - Steve Williams, Care2

Wind farms may be a vital source of green energy, but new research shows that the construction of off-shore wind farms could potentially be damaging the hearing of harbour seals and other marine life. Researchers at St. Andrews University in Scotland believe that there is cause for concern that human building operations in our coastal waters, for example the pile driving process that hammers the foundation posts for wind turbines into the sea bed, could be damaging the hearing of marine mammals to an extent we hadn’t previously guessed at.

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.

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