Ecosystems

The Colony-Killing Mistake Backyard Beekeepers Are Making
August 12, 2016 03:31 PM - Dan Gunderson via National Public Radio

Jonathan Garaas has learned a few things in three seasons of backyard beekeeping: Bees are fascinating. They're complicated. And keeping them alive is not easy.

Every two weeks, the Fargo attorney opens the hives to check the bees and search for varroa mites, pests that suck the bees' blood and can transmit disease. If he sees too many of the pinhead-sized parasites, he applies a chemical treatment.

Global warming's next surprise: Saltier beaches
August 12, 2016 10:41 AM - New Jersey Institute of Technology via ScienceDaily

Batches of sand from a beach on the Delaware Bay are yielding insights into the powerful impact of temperature rise and evaporation along the shore that are in turn challenging long-held assumptions about what causes beach salinity to fluctuate in coastal zones that support a rich network of sea creatures and plants.

The findings have implications for the migration and survival of invertebrates such as mussels and crabs as global warming drives temperatures higher.

A first major study of the effects of evaporation on the flow of subsurface water and salinity, or salt content, in the beach intertidal zone -- the section of the beach between the low and high tide marks -- is being published today in Scientific Reports, an online affiliate of Nature.

Greenland shark revealed to have longest life expectancy of all vertebrates
August 12, 2016 09:10 AM - University of Oxford

An international team of scientists led by the University of Copenhagen and including the University of Oxford has found that the Greenland shark has a life expectancy of at least 272 years. This discovery shows it is the longest living vertebrate known to science, exceeding even bowhead whales, turtles and tortoises. The findings are published in latest issue of the journal, Science. 

Feds Say California's Endangered Channel Islands Foxes Are Recovered
August 11, 2016 03:48 PM - Center for Biological Diversity

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced the successful recovery of three out of four unique subspecies ofisland fox on San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz islands, removing them from the endangered species list. The agency also upgraded the protection status of the Santa Catalina Island fox — the fourth subspecies — from “endangered” to “threatened” to reflect its status improvement.

"Because they evolved separately on the islands for 16,000 years, these adorable little foxes are some of the only carnivores endemic to California,” said Jeff Miller with the Center. “They were on the brink of extinction just 12 years ago when they were protected under the Endangered Species Act. Now, thanks to successful reintroduction and recovery efforts, numbers of foxes are way up and threats have been reduced."

Discovery of sunlight-driven organic chemistry on water surfaces
August 11, 2016 03:41 PM - American Association for The Advancement of Science via EurekAlert!

Fatty acids found on the surface of water droplets react with sunlight to form organic molecules, a new study reports, essentially uncovering a previously unknown form of photolysis.

The results could affect models that account for aerosol particles, including models related to climate. Conventional wisdom holds that carboxylic acids and saturated fatty acids, which are abundant throughout the environment, only react with hydroxyl radicals and are not affected by sunlight.

Virus attracts bumblebees to infected plants by changing scent
August 11, 2016 03:18 PM - University of Cambridge via EurekAlert!

Plant scientists at the University of Cambridge have found that the cucumber mosaic virus (CMV) alters gene expression in the tomato plants it infects, causing changes to air-borne chemicals - the scent - emitted by the plants. Bees can smell these subtle changes, and glasshouse experiments have shown that bumblebees prefer infected plants over healthy ones.

Scientists say that by indirectly manipulating bee behaviour to improve pollination of infected plants by changing their scent, the virus is effectively paying its host back. This may also benefit the virus: helping to spread the pollen of plants susceptible to infection and, in doing so, inhibiting the chance of virus-resistant plant strains emerging.

U.S. to World: Protect Dolphins, Whales or Lose Access to U.S. Seafood Market
August 11, 2016 01:46 PM - Center for Biological Diversity

The National Marine Fisheries Service issued regulations today prohibiting seafood imports from nations whose fisheries kill more whales and dolphins than U.S. standards allow. Each year around 650,000 whales, dolphins and other marine mammals are unintentionally caught and killed in fishing gear worldwide. Under the new rule, foreign fishermen must meet the same marine mammal protection standards applied to U.S. fishermen or their fish will be banned from the lucrative American seafood market. The rule is the result of a settlement in a lawsuit brought by conservation groups two years ago.

“The new regulations will force countries to meet U.S. conservation standards if they want access to the U.S. market, saving thousands of whales and dolphins from dying on hooks and in fishing nets around the world,” said Sarah Uhlemann, international program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The U.S. government has finally recognized that all seafood consumed in the United States must be ‘dolphin-safe.’”

With droughts and downpours, climate change feeds Chesapeake Bay algal blooms
August 11, 2016 10:15 AM - Princeton University via ScienceDaily

A study shows that weather patterns tied to climate change may increase the severity of algal blooms in Chesapeake Bay as extreme rainfall cycles flush larger amounts of nitrogen from fertilizer and other sources into the Susquehanna River. The researchers found that a spike in rainfall can increase nitrogen levels in the bay even if the amount of fertilizer used on land remains the same, leading to explosive algae growth that poisons humans and wildlife, and devastates fisheries.

While efforts to restore the bay have been successful during the past several years, a study led by Princeton University researchers shows that weather patterns tied to climate change may nonetheless increase the severity of algal blooms by changing how soil nutrients leach into the watershed.

Galápagos faces first-ever bird extinction
August 10, 2016 02:34 PM - California Academy of Sciences via EurekAlert!

Scientists have discovered a new species of colorful songbird in the Galápagos Islands, with one catch: it's extinct. Researchers from the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco State University (SFSU), the University of New Mexico (UNM), and the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory (SFBBO) used molecular data from samples of museum specimens to determine that two subspecies of Vermilion Flycatchers, both found only in the Galápagos, should be elevated from subspecies to full species status. One of these newly recognized species--the characteristically smaller San Cristóbal Island Vermilion Flycatcher--hasn't been seen since 1987 and is considered to be the first modern extinction of a Galápagos bird species. The findings were published online earlier this May in the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.

Why we need to keep rivers cool with riverside tree planting
August 10, 2016 02:21 PM - Ecologist reporter, Ecologist

With some climate predictions warning that river water temperatures will exceed safe thresholds for river fish, the Keep Rivers Cool (KRC) campaign is calling for more riverside tree planting.

Fish in Britain's rivers are under threat from warmer waters. Cold-water species such as Atlantic salmon and brown trout, are struggling to cope as climate change brings significant increases in temperature.

Today there's a call for urgent action to Keep Rivers Cool by planting broadleaf native trees alongside river banks, creating dappled shading and stopping water from warming up.

Shade can reduce temperatures in small rivers by on average 2- 3C compared to un-shaded streams; and by more on hot summer days.

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