Ecosystems

In hot water: Climate change is affecting North American fish
June 30, 2016 04:54 PM - US Geological Survey via EurekAlert!

Climate change is already affecting inland fish across North America -- including some fish that are popular with anglers. Scientists are seeing a variety of changes in how inland fish reproduce, grow and where they can live, according to four new studies published today in a special issue of Fisheries magazine.

Fish that have the most documented risk include those living in arid environments and coldwater species such as sockeye salmon, lake trout, walleye, and prey fish that larger species depend on for food.

Climate change can cause suboptimal habitat for some fish; warmer water, for example, can stress coldwater fish. When stressed, fish tend to eat less and grow less. For other fish, climate change is creating more suitable habitat; smallmouth bass populations, for example, are expanding.

Ocean circulation implicated in past abrupt climate changes
June 30, 2016 04:25 PM - The Earth Institute at Columbia University via EurekAlert!

There was a period during the last ice age when temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere went on a rollercoaster ride, plummeting and then rising again every 1,500 years or so. Those abrupt climate changes wreaked havoc on ecosystems, but their cause has been something of a mystery. New evidence published this week in the leading journal Science shows for the first time that the ocean's overturning circulation slowed during every one of those temperature plunges - at times almost stopping.

"People have long supposed this link between overturning circulation and these abrupt climate events. This evidence implicates the ocean," said L. Gene Henry, the lead author of the study and a graduate student at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Ocean acidification affects predator-prey response
June 29, 2016 05:25 PM - University of California - Davis via EurekAlert!

Ocean acidification makes it harder for sea snails to escape from their sea star predators, according to a study from the University of California, Davis.

The findings, published in the journal Proceedings of The Royal Society B, suggest that by disturbing predator-prey interactions, ocean acidification could spur cascading consequences for food web systems in shoreline ecosystems.

For instance, black turban snails graze on algae. If more snails are eaten by predators, algae densities could increase.

"Ocean acidification can affect individual marine organisms along the Pacific coast, by changing the chemistry of the seawater," said lead author Brittany Jellison, a Ph.D. student studying marine ecology at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory.

Crucial peatlands carbon-sink vulnerable to rising sea levels
June 29, 2016 05:06 PM - University of Exeter via EurekAlert!

Rising sea-levels linked to global warming could pose a significant threat to the effectiveness of the world's peatland areas as carbon sinks, a new study has shown.

The pioneering new study, carried out by Geographers at the University of Exeter, examined the impact that salt found in sea water has on how successfully peatland ecosystems accumulate carbon from the atmosphere.

The researchers studied an area of blanket bog - a peat bog that forms in cool regions susceptible to high rainfall - at Kentra Moss, in Northwest Scotland.

Pipelines affect health, fitness of salmon, study finds
June 28, 2016 02:26 PM - University of Guelph via EurekAlert!

Pipelines carrying crude oil to ports in British Columbia may spell bad news for salmon, according to a new University of Guelph-led study.

Exposure to an oil sands product - diluted bitumen - impairs the swimming ability and changes the heart structures of young salmon.

The research will be published in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, and is available online now.

It's a timely finding, says U of G post-doctoral researcher and lead author Sarah Alderman.

The National Energy Board (NEB) recently approved the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project; the federal government is expected to make a final decision by December.

 

 

Climate Change Is Happening Faster Than African Crops Can Handle It
June 28, 2016 11:20 AM - Susan Bird, Care2

Crop yields in Africa will nosedive ten years from now unless we can develop varieties that can better deal with climate change. Unfortunately, we’re not breeding those hardier varieties fast enough.

That’s the sobering conclusion of a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change by researchers from the University of Leeds. As temperatures rise, crop yields fall. This is particularly true for staple crops like corn, bananas and beans raised in hot tropical areas.

 

Picky eaters: Bumble bees prefer plants with nutrient-rich pollen
June 27, 2016 04:39 PM - Penn State via EurekAlert!

Bumble bees have discriminating palettes when it comes to their pollen meals, according to researchers at Penn State. The researchers found that bumble bees can detect the nutritional quality of pollen, and that this ability helps them selectively forage among plant species to optimize their diets.

"Populations of many bee species are in decline across the world, and poor nutrition is thought to be a major factor causing these declines," said Christina Grozinger, director of the Center for Pollinator Research, Penn State. "Our studies can help identify plant species and stocks that provide high-quality nutrition for bumble bees and potentially other bee species, which will help in the development of pollinator-friendly gardens and planting strips."

Wind-blown Antarctic sea ice helps drive ocean circulation
June 27, 2016 11:34 AM - The Earth Institute at Columbia University via EurekAlert!

Antarctic sea ice is constantly on the move as powerful winds blow it away from the coast and out toward the open ocean. A new study shows how that ice migration may be more important for the global ocean circulation than anyone realized.

A team of scientists used a computer model to synthesize millions of ocean and ice observations collected over six years near Antarctica, and estimated, for the first time, the influence of sea ice, glacier ice, precipitation and heating on ocean overturning circulation. Overturning circulation brings deep water and nutrients up to the surface, carries surface water down, and distributes heat and helps store carbon dioxide as it flows through the world's oceans, making it an important force in the global climate system. The scientists found that freshwater played the most powerful role in changing water density, which drives circulation, and that melting of wind-blown sea ice contributed 10 times more freshwater than melting of land-based glaciers did.

Neonicotinoid pesticides cause harm to honeybees
June 24, 2016 04:38 PM - Johannes Gutenberg Universitaet Mainz via EurekAlert!

One possible cause of the alarming bee mortality we are witnessing is the use of the very active systemic insecticides called neonicotinoids. A previously unknown and harmful effect of neonicotinoids has been identified by researchers at the Mainz University Medical Center and Goethe University Frankfurt. They discovered that neonicotinoids in low and field-relevant concentrations reduce the concentration of acetylcholine in the royal jelly/larval food secreted by nurse bees. This signaling molecule is relevant for the development of the honeybee larvae. At higher doses, neonicotinoids also damage the so-called microchannels of the royal jelly gland in which acetylcholine is produced. The results of this research have been recently published in the eminent scientific journal PloS ONE.

Where do rubber trees get their rubber?
June 24, 2016 03:33 PM - RIKEN via EurekAlert!

Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science (CSRS) in Japan along with collaborators at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) have succeeded in decoding the genome sequence for Hevea brasiliensis, the natural rubber tree native to Brazil. Published in Scientific Reports, the study reports a draft genome sequence that covers more than 93% of expressed genes, and pinpoints regions specific to the biosynthesis of rubber.

Natural rubber flows in latex ducts and protects plants from insects when the plant becomes injured. For humans, it is an important resource for many industrial applications because it has several useful properties that have not been reproducible in synthetic petroleum-based rubber. While some strains of rubber tree yield higher amounts of rubber than others, the reasons for this are still unknown. The team led by Minami Matsui at the RIKEN CSRS and Alexander Chong at USM set out to sequence and analyze the H. brasiliensis genome. Explains first author Nyok Sean Lau, "genomic information can reveal which genes contribute to the rubber tree's capacity to produce high amounts of latex. This in turn will help us develop rubber trees with higher yields."

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