Ecosystems

Insect populations in sharp decline
July 7, 2016 11:11 AM - christian schwägerl, Yale Environment360

Every spring since 1989, entomologists have set up tents in the meadows and woodlands of the Orbroicher Bruch nature reserve and 87 other areas in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The tents act as insect traps and enable the scientists to calculate how many bugs live in an area over a full summer period. Recently, researchers presented the results of their work to parliamentarians from the German Bundestag, and the findings were alarming: The average biomass of insects caught between May and October has steadily decreased from 1.6 kilograms (3.5 pounds) per trap in 1989 to just 300 grams (10.6 ounces) in 2014. 

"The decline is dramatic and depressing and it affects all kinds of insects, including butterflies, wild bees, and hoverflies," says Martin Sorg, an entomologist from the Krefeld Entomological Association involved in running the monitoring project. 
 

'The Blob' overshadows El Nino
July 7, 2016 10:40 AM - NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region via ScienceDaily

New research based on ocean models and near real-time data from autonomous gliders indicates that the "The Blob" and El Niño together strongly depressed productivity off the West Coast, with The Blob driving most of the impact.

The research published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters by scientists from NOAA Fisheries, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and University of California, Santa Cruz is among the first to assess the marine effects of the 2015-2016 El Niño off the West Coast of the United States.

"Last year there was a lot of speculation about the consequences of 'The Blob' and El Niño battling it out of the U.S. West Coast," said lead author Michael Jacox, of UC Santa Cruz and NOAA Fisheries' Southwest Fisheries Science Center. "We found that off California El Niño turned out to be much weaker than expected, The Blob continued to be a dominant force, and the two of them together had strongly negative impacts on marine productivity."

The Antarctic Ozone Hole May Be Closing
July 7, 2016 07:21 AM - s.e. smith

There’s good news from Antarctica, where researchers with tools like ozonesondes — pictured above — have been following the infamous ozone hole as it waxes and wanes over the seasons. The ozone hole has shrunk by 1.5 million square miles – around 4 million square kilometers — and this “healing” trend appears to be continuing.

A major ecological catastrophe has been averted, and we can cite human intervention as the reason. When the globe swept into action with 1987′s Montreal Protocol, which banned a number of substances known to contribute to ozone depletion, it apparently worked.

When scientists first began to observe a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica, it was a cause for grave concern. Though ozone levels actually fluctuate throughout the year, they perform an important function by blocking the sun’s harmful UV radiation.

As Oceans Become More Acidic, Mussels Could Lose Ability to Hang On
July 6, 2016 03:34 PM - Yale Environment360

Rising carbon dioxide emissions have caused the world’s oceans to become 30 percent more acidic since the Industrial Revolution, affecting everything from marine life’s ability to build shells to the pH level of fishes’ blood. Now, scientists have discovered that more acidic water also prevents mussels from attaching to rocks and other surfaces, which could have ramifications on the global food chain, the economy, and ecosystem health.

Bees' ability to forage decreases as air pollution increases
July 6, 2016 02:03 PM - Penn State via EurekAlert!

Air pollutants interact with and break down plant-emitted scent molecules, which insect pollinators use to locate needed food, according to a team of researchers led by Penn State. The pollution-modified plant odors can confuse bees and, as a result, bees' foraging time increases and pollination efficiency decreases. This happens because the chemical interactions decrease both the scent molecules' life spans and the distances they travel.

While foraging for food, insects detect floral scent molecules in the air. Wind currents can carry these molecules up to thousands of feet from their original source to where bees have their hives.

"Many insects have nests that are up to 3,000 feet away from their food source, which means that scents need to travel long distances before insects can detect them," said Jose D. Fuentes, professor of meteorology and atmospheric science, Penn State. "Each insect has a detection threshold for certain kinds of scents and they find food by moving from areas of low concentrations of scents to areas of high concentrations."

Carbon emissions from Indonesia forest fires hit new high
July 6, 2016 10:40 AM - Dyna Rochmyaningsih via Scidev.net

Forest fires in Indonesia last year released 11.3 million tonnes of carbon per day, researchers have found. This figure exceeds the daily rate of 8.9 million tonnes of carbon emissions from the whole of the European Union, the study says.

The 2015 fires were the worst since 1997, when a strong El Niño also fanned widespread fires, says the study, published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Fire is widely used in South-East Asia to clear vegetation and maintain land for the growing of crops, the paper explains. Last year, fires were exacerbated by extended drought associated with El Niño, releasing 857 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from September to October 2015, the authors say. This represents 97 per cent of the country’s annual carbon emissions.

Penguin colonies at risk from erupting volcano
July 6, 2016 07:06 AM - British Antarctic Survey

A volcano erupting on a small island in the Sub Antarctic is depositing ash over one of the world’s largest penguin colonies.

Zavodovski Island is a small island in the South Sandwich archipelago and its volcano Mt Curry has been erupting since March 2016. The island is home to over one million chinstrap penguins – the largest colony for this species in the world.

Characteristics improving bean resistance to drought identified
July 5, 2016 05:06 PM - Universitat Autonoma De Barcelona via EurekAlert!

The common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) is the most important food legume in the tropics. It is an inexpensive source of proteins and minerals for almost 400 million people, mainly from Africa and Latin America. It is generally cultivated by small farmers and subject to conditions limiting their productivity. Drought affects 60% of bean crops around the world and can cause from 10% in productivity losses to a total of 100% in some cases.

Researchers from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and the Bean Programme at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Colombia have identified drought-resistant genotypes and the morpho-physiological characteristics related to this resistance. The experiments were conducted in Palmira, Colombia, from June to September in 2012 and 2013, and the results were recently published in Frontiers in Plant Science.

California droughts caused mainly by changes in wind, not moisture
July 5, 2016 12:59 PM - University of Texas at Austin via ScienceDaily

Droughts in California are mainly controlled by wind, not by the amount of evaporated moisture in the air, new research has found. The research increases the understanding of how the water cycle is related to extreme events and could eventually help in predicting droughts and floods.

The findings were published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, on June 30. The research increases the understanding of how the water cycle is related to extreme events and could eventually help in predicting droughts and floods, said lead author Jiangfeng Wei, a research scientist at The University of Texas at Austin's Jackson School of Geosciences.

"Ocean evaporation provides moisture for California precipitation but is not the reason for droughts there, although the ocean evaporation is slightly lower during droughts," Wei said.

66 Million Dead Trees in California Increases Wildfire Risk
July 4, 2016 03:48 PM - Tex Dworkin, Care2

Those orange tree patches pictured aren’t harbingers of winter. They are dying or dead trees in California, most likely the result of pine beetle forest damage.

It’s hot now in much of the golden state, and as temperatures continue to rise, something else is happening: Trees are dying in unprecedented numbers.

A recent U.S. Forest Service aerial detection survey revealed a record 66 million dead trees in southern Sierra Nevada. What we’re left with is a breeding ground for wildfires in a state where wildfires are already rampant—particularly this time of year.

40 million trees died statewide from 2010 to October 2015, but an additional 26 million trees died in California since October 2015.

First | Previous | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | Next | Last