Ecosystems

"Tuning" the silk: How spiders use vibrations to learn about their prey, mates, and web
June 18, 2014 01:36 PM - Allison Winter, ENN

The fine craftsmanship of a spider's web helps these eight-legged arachnids catch their prey. But these silk-threaded designs can tell a spider a lot more than what they will be having for dinner. The spider that sits in the middle of its web monitors the silk threads for vibrations. And according to a new discovery by researchers at the Universities of Oxford, Strathclyde, and Sheffield the frequencies of these vibrations carry specific information about the prey, mates, and even the structural integrity of the web.

President Obama addresses seafood fraud and illegal fishing
June 17, 2014 09:44 PM - Jen Boynton, Triple Pundit

This morning, President Barack Obama announced an initiative to tackle seafood fraud and illegal fishing in the United States. His announcement coincides with the Global "Our Ocean" conference convened by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. In President Obama's announcement, he referenced the negative financial repercussions of overfishing as one of the key reasons for the initiative.

Antarctic Icebergs battering shorelines
June 17, 2014 07:48 AM - Cell Press via ScienceDaily

The Antarctic shore is a place of huge contrasts, as quiet, dark, and frozen winters give way to bright, clear waters, thick with algae and peppered with drifting icebergs in summer. But as the planet has warmed in the last two decades, massive losses of sea ice in winter have left icebergs free to roam for most of the year. As a result, say researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on June 16, boulders on the shallow seabed -- once encrusted with a rich assemblage of species in intense competition for limited space -- now mostly support a single species. The climate-linked increase in iceberg activity has left all other species so rare as to be almost irrelevant. "The Antarctic Peninsula can be considered an early warning system -- like a canary in a coal mine," says David Barnes of the British Antarctic Survey. "Physical changes there are amongst the most extreme and the biology considered quite sensitive, so it was always likely to be a good place to observe impacts of climate change -- but impacts elsewhere are likely to be not too far behind. A lot of the planet depends on the near-shore environment, not least for food; what happens there to make it less stable is important."

How ocean acidification is affecting marine life
June 16, 2014 05:39 AM - University of Bristol

A new study by researchers at the University of Bristol and Plymouth Marine Laboratory has shed light on how different species of marine organisms are reacting to ocean acidification. Since the Industrial Revolution, nearly 30 per cent of all the carbon dioxide produced by manmade emissions has been absorbed by the ocean, causing a drop in pH of ocean surface waters: ocean acidification.

Penguin populations may have benefited from historic climate warming
June 13, 2014 09:10 AM - Editor, ENN

While penguins have adapted to extremely cold weather, harsh winters are still difficult for populations especially when it comes to breeding and finding food. So with warming climates on the horizon, are penguin populations going to be better off? Not necessarily. However, a new study does reveal that penguin populations over the last 30,000 years have benefitted in some ways from climate warming and retreating ice. An international team, led by scientists from the University of Southampton and Oxford University, has used a genetic technique to estimate when current genetic diversity arose in penguins and to recreate past population sizes.

Saving bees with spider venom?
June 11, 2014 08:32 AM - Steve Williams, Care2

With Europe and the United States slow to ban the pesticides that science says is probably drastically harming our bee populations, could one of the world's most venomous spiders hold one solution to saving our pollinators?

How herring populations are affected by commercial fisheries
June 10, 2014 09:21 AM - Nicholas Barrett, MONGABAY.COM

Scientists analyzed almost half a million fish bones to shed light on the population history of Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii) in the North Pacific Ocean. Their paper, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) reveals a decline of unprecedented scale. It suggests that while the abundance of Pacific herring does fluctuate naturally, their numbers have fallen precipitously since commercial fishing started targeting the species in the 19th century.

In cutting deforestation, Brazil leads world in reducing emissions
June 9, 2014 08:53 AM - Rhett A. Butler, MONGABAY.COM

Brazil's success in reducing deforestation in the world's largest rainforest has been much heralded, but progress may stall unless farmers, ranchers and other land users in the region are provided incentives to further improve the environmental sustainability of their operations, argues a study published this week in the journal Science.

Good news for rivers in Britain
June 8, 2014 11:11 AM - Cardiff University via ScienceDaily

Scientists from Cardiff University have found that Britain's urban rivers are the cleanest they've been in over two decades. The 21-year study of over 2,300 rivers measured the presence of clean-river invertebrates - a yardstick for river health - which during the days of heavy industry and poor sewage treatment had declined considerably, but now appear to be making a comeback. Although climate change has warmed British rivers by around 1-2 degrees over recent decades, the findings suggest that improved pollution control has managed to offset its damaging effects on river ecosystems. This indicates that society can prevent some undesirable climate change effects on the environment by improving habitat quality.

Archaeological expedition reveals first fossil-record evidence of forest fire ecology
June 6, 2014 10:25 AM - Allison Winter, ENN

Fossils can reveal an incredible amount of information. From what kind of organisms lived when and where to how they may have evolved over time. And now a new discovery of plant fossils with abundant fossilized charcoal reveals something new about prehistoric forest fires. Forest fires affect ecosystems differently and despite the fact that organisms and plant life have had to adapt to cope with these natural phenomena, new research shows that forests have been recovering from fires in the same manner as they did 66 million years ago.

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