Ecosystems

After Deepwater Horizon Spill: Which Animals Weathered the Disaster
March 14, 2017 10:38 AM - Rutgers University

A new study from a Coastal Waters Consortium team of researchers led by Rutgers University postdoctoral researcher, Michael McCann, has found which birds, fish, insects and other animals affected by the Deepwater Horizon explosion should be given top priority for conservation, protection and research.

Stanford scientists map seawater threat to California Central Coast aquifers
March 13, 2017 01:15 PM - Ker Than via Stanford University

Researchers from Stanford and the University of Calgary have transformed pulses of electrical current sent 1,000 feet underground into a picture of where seawater has infiltrated freshwater aquifers along the Monterey Bay coastline.

The findings, which will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Hydrology but are available online now, help explain factors controlling this phenomenon, called saltwater intrusion, and could help improve the groundwater models that local water managers use to make decisions about pumping groundwater to meet drinking or farming needs.

Dartmouth Study Finds Increased Water Availability from Climate Change May Release More Nutrients into Soil in the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica
March 13, 2017 11:34 AM - Dartmouth College

As climate change continues to impact the Antarctic, glacier melt and permafrost thaw are likely to make more liquid water available to soil and aquatic ecosystems in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, potentially providing a more nutrient-rich environment for life, according to a Dartmouth study recently published in Antarctic Science. (A pdf of the study is available upon request).

With an average annual air temperature of -2.2 F and an average precipitation of 3-50 mm per year, the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica are dominated by dry soils underlain by permafrost. The Dry Valleys ecosystem is severely limited by liquid water and nutrients, resulting in limited organic matter. One such limited nutrient is phosphorus, an element that is essential to all living organisms. Understanding the spatial distribution of phosphorus in the soil is crucial to identifying where life could become more abundant in the future. 

Vicious circle of drought and forest loss in the Amazon
March 13, 2017 09:42 AM - Delphine Clara Zemp

Logging that happens today and potential future rainfall reductions in the Amazon could push the region into a vicious dieback circle. If dry seasons intensify with human-caused climate change, the risk for self-amplified forest loss would increase even more, an international team of scientists finds. If however there is a great variety of tree species in a forest patch, according to the study this can significantly strengthen the chance of survival. To detect such non-linear behavior, the researchers apply a novel complex network analysis of water fluxes.

“The Amazon rainforest is one of the tipping elements in the Earth system,” says lead-author Delphine Clara Zemp who conducted the study at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany. “We already know that on the one hand, reduced rainfall increases the risk of forest dieback, and on the other hand, forest loss can intensify regional droughts. So more droughts can lead to less forest leading to more droughts and so on. Yet the consequences of this feedback between the plants on the ground and the atmosphere above them so far was not clear. Our study provides new insight into this issue, highlighting the risk of self-amplifying forest loss which comes on top of the forest loss directly caused by the rainfall reduction.” This study results from the  German-Brazilian Research Training Group on Dynamical Phenomena in Complex Networks at (IRTG1740) hosted by Humboldt Universität zu Berlin. 

Carbon-based Approaches for Saving Rainforests Should Include Biodiversity Studies
March 10, 2017 01:43 PM - Wildlife Conservation Society

Conservationists working to safeguard tropical forests often assume that old growth forests containing great stores of carbon also hold high biodiversity, but a new study finds that the relationship may not be as strong as once thought, according to a group of researchers with contributions from WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) and other organizations.

 Tropical forests are exceptionally rich in both carbon and biodiversity, but the study recently published in the journal Scientific Reports indicates that, within the tropics, tree diversity and forest carbon do not necessarily correlate, and that there is no detectable relationship between the two factors across a region, a scale relevant for conservation planning and the establishment of protected areas. For instance, in Central Africa, some areas that are dominated by one or a few tree species are high in carbon density, whereas some forests with many more tree species have a lower carbon density. 

Research shows ocean acidification is spreading rapidly in the Arctic
March 10, 2017 08:27 AM - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Ocean acidification is spreading rapidly in the western Arctic Ocean in both area and depth, potentially affecting shellfish, other marine species in the food web, and communities that depend on these resources, according to new research published in Nature Climate Change by NOAA, Chinese marine scientists and other partners.

New evidence that tropical ice caps existed in the Andes
March 9, 2017 08:31 AM - Simon Fraser University

Scientists have long suspected that ice caps formed repeatedly in the tropical Andes during the late Pliocene, but only evidence of a single glaciation was known until now.

Stanford biologists identify ancient stress response in corals
March 8, 2017 02:41 PM - Jackie Flynn via Stanford University

Stanford marine biologists have discovered that corals activate a specific group of ancient, defensive genes when exposed to stressful environmental conditions. These stress-induced genes could serve as a kind of warning sign for coral bleaching events.

In the study, researchers monitored three coral colonies in a lagoon on Ofu Island, American Samoa, for their response to stressors like high temperatures, oxygen, and ocean acidity. On the hottest days, the researchers saw a significant change in which genes the corals were activating within their cells. See video here.

Scientists Develop Sponge to Soak Up Oil Spills
March 8, 2017 01:26 PM - Yale Environment 360

Scientists at the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois have created a new sponge-like material that can repeatedly soak up oil spills. The material, which can absorb up to 90 times its own weight in oil, could make it faster and easier to clean up offshore oil spills, the scientists said.

Species appears to evolve quickly enough to endure city temperatures
March 8, 2017 09:04 AM - Case Western Reserve University

The speed at which a tiny ant evolves to cope to its warming city environment suggests that some species may evolve quickly enough to survive, or even thrive, in the warmer temperatures found within cities, according to a new study by researchers at Case Western Reserve University.

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