Ecosystems

Magnitude 7.4 quake hits near New Zealand
September 30, 2007 09:21 AM - Reuters

A strong earthquake with a magnitude of 7.4 hit some 500 km (300 miles) southwest of New Zealand on Sunday, but there were no reports of damage and authorities discounted the risk of a major tsunami.

The quake occurred at around 6:24 p.m. local time, and was felt throughout the south of New Zealand's South Island, said Warwick Smith of state agency GNS Science.

Wasp Study Suggests Altruism Evolved From Maternal Behavior
September 29, 2007 07:29 PM - Diana Yates, University of Illinois

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Researchers at the University of Illinois have used an innovative approach to reveal the molecular basis of altruistic behavior in wasps. The research team focused on the expression of behavior-related genes in Polistes metricus paper wasps, a species for which little genetic data was available when the study was begun. Their findings appear today online in Science Express.

Like honey bee workers, wasp workers give up their reproductive capabilities and focus entirely on nurturing their larval siblings, a practice that seems to defy the Darwinian prediction that a successful organism strives, above all else, to reproduce itself. Such behaviors are indicative of a eusocial society, in which some individuals lose, or sacrifice, their reproductive functions and instead work to benefit the larger group.

Increasing Atmospheric Moisture Tied To Human Activities
September 29, 2007 05:43 PM - Lawrence Livermore Laboratory

LIVERMORE, Calif. –Observations and climate model results confirm that human-induced warming of the planet is having a pronounced effect on the atmosphere’s total moisture content.

Those are the findings of a new study appearing in the Sept. 17 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“When you heat the planet, you increase the ability of the atmosphere to hold moisture,” said Benjamin Santer, lead author from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Program for Climate Modeling and Intercomparison. “The atmosphere’s water vapor content has increased by about 0.41 kilograms per square meter (kg/m²) per decade since 1988, and natural variability in climate just can’t explain this moisture change. The most plausible explanation is that it’s due to the human-caused increase in greenhouse gases.”

Study: Global Warming Effecting North America's Northernmost Arctic Lake
September 29, 2007 05:35 PM - Paul Schaefer, ENN

Quebec, Canada - Analyses conducted by researchers from Université Laval’s Center for Northern Studies reveal that aquatic life in Ward Hunt Lake, the continent’s northernmost lake, is affected by climate change.

Ward Hunt Lake is a body of water located on a small island north of Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic, has undergone major transformations within the last two centuries. The speed and range of these transformations—unprecedented in the lake’s last 8,000 years—suggest that climate change related to human activity could be at the source of this phenomenon.

The researchers’ conclusions are based on the analysis of a sediment core extracted in the center of Ward Hunt Lake in August 2003. This 18 centimeter long sediment core containing algae pigments and diatom remnants was used by the researchers as a biological archive in order to determine the diversity and abundance of aquatic life-forms in the lake over the last 8,450 years.

Researchers Discover Tropical Kelp Forests
September 29, 2007 04:33 PM - Paul Schaefer, ENN

Santa Barbara, California - Santa Barbara, California - Researchers have discovered large undersea forests of endangered kelp in areas previously thought to be bare of the plant, in the tropics.  Using a computer model, researchers believe they've located nearly 10,000 square miles of areas that could harbor the plant.  "The ecosystems that form in these cold, deep pockets beneath warm tropical waters look more like their cousins in California than the tropical reefs just 200 feet above," said co-author Brian Kinlan, a researcher with UC Santa Barbara's Marine Science Institute. "It is very similar to what we see when we climb a high mountain. For example, high alpine country in California looks more like Alaska."

Little-known Indian tribe spotted in Peru's Amazon
September 29, 2007 03:45 PM - Terry Wade and Marco Aquino

LIMA (Reuters) - Ecologists have photographed a little-known nomadic tribe deep in Peru's Amazon, a sighting that could intensify debate about the presence of isolated Indians as oil firms line up to explore the jungle.

Carrying arrows and living in palm-leaf huts on the banks of the Las Piedras river, the tribe was glimpsed last week by researchers flying over the Alto Purus national park near the Brazilian border to look for illegal loggers.

"We saw them by chance. There were three huts and about 21 Indians -- children, women and young people," said Ricardo Hon, a forest scientist at the National Institute of Natural Resources.

3 Dead, Hurricane Lorenzo Plows Into Mexico
September 28, 2007 05:20 PM - Alejandro Juarez,

NAUTLA, Mexico (Reuters) - Hurricane Lorenzo crashed into Mexico's Gulf coast on Friday, killing three people in a mudslide and knocking out power to 85,000 homes.

In the coastal fishing town of Nautla, Lorenzo's 80 mph (130 kph) winds ripped off bits of roofs, blew down trees and scattered debris in the streets.

"It hit us hard and there is an incredible amount of rain," said Mayra Castro, 29, a waitress who spent the night mopping up water that leaked into her house through windows and under doors.

Exotic Parrots Return to Cook Islands
September 28, 2007 09:52 AM - AP

MPs Tour Pangani River Basin
September 28, 2007 09:03 AM - ICUN

Members of Parliament from three East African countries recently visited the Pangani River Water Basin in Tanzania to get an insight into the challenges facing the basin’s ecosystem as a case study in integrated water resources management. Over the years, the effects of human activity and climate change have affected the basin’s ecosystem and livelihoods of local populations. Lake Jipe, a cross border water resource shared by Kenya and Tanzania, is faced with enormous problems which include reduced runoff, increasing siltation, decreasing water levels and quality, and advancing wetland plants that threaten its existence.

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