Ecosystems

Seeing Fewer Butterflies? Blame Extreme Weather
November 3, 2016 07:42 PM - Kevin Mathews, Care2

Have you noticed fewer butterflies floating this year? Researchers in the UK think they know the culprit for the population decline: extreme weather conditions.

Study highlights a new threat to bees worldwide
November 2, 2016 11:39 AM - Earlham Institute

Particularly under threat are honey bees, which are as vital to our food systems as the crops they pollinate, and which are prone to a range of emergent diseases including Moku and Deformed wing virus (DWV).

The Moku virus was identified through a collaboration of institutes with complementary expertise.

Purnima Pachori of the Platforms & Pipelines Group at the Earlham Institute (EI) carried out the bioinformatics work of separating out host and viral genetic material, which allowed for the analysis and identification of the novel Moku virus led by Gideon Mordecai (based at the time at the Marine Biological Association (MBA), Plymouth).

Controlling plant regeneration systems may drive the future of agriculture
November 2, 2016 10:50 AM - Vlaams Instituut voor Biotechnologie

The ability to self-repair damaged tissue is one of the key features that define living organisms. Plants in particular are regeneration champions, a quality that has been used for centuries in horticultural techniques such as grafting. Belgian scientists from VIB and Ghent University have now discovered a key protein complex that controls plant tissue repair. Understanding this mechanism is of great agricultural importance: crops and edible plants might be cultivated more efficiently and made more resistant to parasitic plants. The results are published in the leading journal Nature Plants. 

 

Ghost Forests: How Rising Seas Are Killing Southern U.S. Woodlands
November 1, 2016 09:42 AM - Roger Drouin via Yale Environment 360

On a recent afternoon, University of Florida watershed ecologist David Kaplan and Ph.D. candidate Katie Glodzik hiked through the Withlacoochee Gulf Preserve, on the Big Bend coast of northwestern Florida. Not long ago, red cedar, live oaks, and cabbage palms grew in profusion on the raised “hammock island” forests set amid the preserve’s wetlands. But as the researchers walked through thigh-high marsh grass, the barren trunks of dead cedars were silhouetted against passing clouds. Dead snag cabbage palms stood like toothpicks snapped at the top. Other trees and shrubs, such as wax myrtle, had long been replaced by more salt-tolerant black needlerush marsh grass. 

Cloudy feedback on global warming
October 31, 2016 04:50 PM - Anne M Stark via Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers have identified a mechanism that causes low clouds -- and their influence on Earth's energy balance -- to respond differently to global warming, depending on their spatial pattern and location.

The results imply that studies relying solely on recent observed trends underestimated how much Earth will warm due to increased carbon dioxide. The research appears in the Oct. 31 edition of the journal, Nature Geosciences

West Coast record low snowpack in 2015 influenced by high temperatures
October 31, 2016 01:18 PM - Oregon State University

The western-most region of the continental United States set records for low snowpack levels in 2015 and scientists, through a new study, point the finger at high temperatures, not the low precipitation characteristic of past “snow drought” years.

The study suggests greenhouse gases were a major contributor to the high temperatures, which doesn’t bode well for the future, according to authors of a new study published today in the journal Geophysical Research Letters

Species speed up adaptation to beat effects of warmer oceans
October 31, 2016 09:19 AM - University of East Anglia

Such changes mean species threatened by climate change may find ways to adapt far quicker than through changes in DNA, which come with evolution.

Researchers studied the Winter Skate (Leucoraja ocellata), in waters that are around 7000 years old and significantly warmer than those where the rest of the species range is found. They observed many physical and functional adaptations which allow the species to cope with the significantly different set of environmental conditions observed in this shallow, warm habitat.

See How Arctic Sea Ice Is Losing Its Bulwark Against Warming Summers
October 28, 2016 03:33 PM -

Arctic sea ice, the vast sheath of frozen seawater floating on the Arctic Ocean and its neighboring seas, has been hit with a double whammy over the past decades: as its extent shrunk, the oldest and thickest ice has either thinned or melted away, leaving the sea ice cap more vulnerable to the warming ocean and atmosphere.

“What we’ve seen over the years is that the older ice is disappearing,” said Walt Meier, a sea ice researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “This older, thicker ice is like the bulwark of sea ice: a warm summer will melt all the young, thin ice away but it can’t completely get rid of the older ice. But this older ice is becoming weaker because there’s less of it and the remaining old ice is more broken up and thinner, so that bulwark is not as good as it used to be.”

New biochar model scrubs CO2 from the atmosphere
October 28, 2016 02:08 PM - Melissa Osgood via Cornell University

New Cornell University research suggests an economically viable model to scrub carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to thwart global warming.

The researchers propose using a “bioenergy-biochar system” that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in an environmental pinch, until other removal methods become economically feasible and in regions where other methods are impractical. Their work appeared in the Oct. 21 edition of Nature Communications.

Food and Energy Demand Drives 58 Percent Decline in Global Wildlife Populations
October 28, 2016 07:16 AM - Lorin Hancock, World Wildlife Fund

Global populations of vertebrates -- mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish -- have declined by 58 percent between 1970 and 2012, states a new report from World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Animals living in the world’s lakes, rivers, and freshwater systems have experienced the most dramatic population declines, at 81 percent. Because of human activity, the report states that without immediate intervention global wildlife populations could drop two-thirds by 2020.

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