Ecosystems

Taking stock of the world's lakes - New global database
December 15, 2016 09:12 AM - McGill University

The total shoreline of the world’s lakes is more than four times longer than the global ocean coastline. And if all the water in those lakes were spread over the Earth’s landmass, it would form a layer some four feet (1.3 metres) deep.
 
Those are just two of the big-picture findings to emerge from the most complete global database of lakes to date, compiled by geographers at McGill University. Their research, published in Nature Communications, promises to help scientists better understand the important role of lakes in the Earth’s complex environmental systems – from the hydrological cycle and weather patterns, to the transport, distribution or storage of pollutants and nutrients through the landscape.

Scientists devise new method to give 'most robust' estimate of Maasai Mara lion numbers
December 13, 2016 12:19 PM - Oxford University

Scientists based at Oxford University have created a new method for counting lions that they say is the most robust yet devised.

Using the Maasai Mara National Reserve and surrounding conservancies in Kenya as a case study, they estimate there to be 420 lions over the age of one in this key territory. At almost 17 lions per 100 square kilometres, that represents one of the highest densities anywhere in Africa.

Warming global temperatures may not affect carbon stored deep in northern peatlands, study says
December 13, 2016 11:21 AM -

Deep stores of carbon in northern peatlands may be safe from rising temperatures, according to a team of researchers from several U.S.-based institutions.

And that is good news for now, the researchers said.

Florida State University research scientist Rachel Wilson and University of Oregon graduate student Anya Hopple are the first authors on a new study published today in Nature Communications. The study details experiments suggesting that carbon stored in peat—a highly organic material found in marsh or damp regions—may not succumb to the Earth's warming as easily as scientists thought.

How noise pollution impacts marine ecology
December 13, 2016 07:14 AM - Laura Briggs, The Ecologist

Marine ecologists have shown how noise pollution is changing the behaviour of marine animals - and how its elimination will significantly help build their resilience. Laura Briggs reports.

Building up a library of sound from marine creatures including cod, whelks and sea slugs is important to helping build resilience in species affected by noise pollution, according to Exeter University's Associate Professor in Marine Biology and Global Change Dr Steve Simpson.

Human noise factors including busy shipping lanes, wind farms and water tourism can all impact on the calls of various species - including cod which relies on sound for finding a mate with their "song".

Wind turbines may have beneficial effects for crops
December 9, 2016 05:15 PM - Iowa State University

A multi-year study led by an Iowa State University scientist suggests the turbines commonly used in the state to capture wind energy may have a positive effect on crops.

Gene Takle, a Distinguished Professor of agronomy and geological and atmospheric sciences, said tall wind turbines disbursed throughout a field create air turbulence that may help plants by affecting variables such as temperature and carbon dioxide concentrations.

Trapdoor spiders disappearing from Australian landscape
December 9, 2016 09:32 AM - The University of Adelaide

Recent surveys by Australian scientists have identified an apparent significant decline in the numbers of trapdoor spiders across southern Australia. 

EPA's National Lakes Assessment Finds Nutrient Pollution is Widespread in Lakes
December 9, 2016 08:30 AM -

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released the results of a national assessment showing that nutrient pollution is widespread in the nation’s lakes, with 4 in 10 lakes suffering from too much nitrogen and phosphorus.

Against the Tide: A Fish Adapts Quickly to Lethal Levels of Pollution
December 9, 2016 07:24 AM - Kat Kerlin, UC Davis

Evolution is working hard to rescue some urban fish from a lethal, human-altered environment, according to a study led by the University of California, Davis, and published Dec. 9 in the journal Science. 

While environmental change is outpacing the rate of evolution for many other species, Atlantic killifish living in four polluted East Coast estuaries turn out to be remarkably resilient. These fish have adapted to levels of highly toxic industrial pollutants that would normally kill them.

How Tracking Product Sources May Help Save World's Forests
December 8, 2016 02:04 PM - Yale Environment 360

Global businesses are increasingly pledging to obtain key commodities only from sources that do not contribute to deforestation. Now, nonprofit groups are deploying data tools that help hold these companies to their promises by tracing the origins of everything from soy to timber to beef.

Climate Change Will Drive Stronger, Smaller Storms in U.S.
December 2, 2016 11:22 AM - Rob Mitchum via Computation Institute

The effects of climate change will likely cause smaller but stronger storms in the United States, according to a new framework for modeling storm behavior developed at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory. Though storm intensity is expected to increase over today’s levels, the predicted reduction in storm size may alleviate some fears of widespread severe flooding in the future.

The new approach, published today in Journal of Climate, uses new statistical methods to identify and track storm features in both observational weather data and new high-resolution climate modeling simulations. When applied to one simulation of the future effects of elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide, the framework helped clarify a common discrepancy in model forecasts of precipitation changes.

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