Ecosystems

The Sage Grouse is NOT getting Endangered Species Act protection
April 22, 2015 07:23 AM - Center for Biological Diversity

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today abandoned its plan to give Endangered Species Act protection to Mono Basin sage grouse, a small and isolated population of prairie birds in Nevada and California that remain under threat from grazing, habitat loss and mining development. The agency’s decision ignores scientific recommendations for reversing the birds’ steep decline and relies on unproven conservation agreements with state and local communities.

The Mono Basin greater sage grouse population, located in eastern California and western Nevada and also known as the “bi-state” population, is fragmented and geographically isolated from all other greater sage grouse populations. 

Fishing impacts on the Great Barrier Reef
April 21, 2015 03:03 PM - ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

New research shows that fishing is having a significant impact on the make-up of fish populations of the Great Barrier Reef. It’s long been known that environmental impacts such as climate change and pollution are amongst the drivers of change on the Great Barrier Reef. Now researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE) at James Cook University have found that removing predator fish such as coral trout and snapper, through fishing, causes significant changes to the make-up of the reef’s fish populations.

Limited nutrients may keep plants from growing as fast as scientists thought
April 21, 2015 09:00 AM - Tim Wogan, Science/AAAS

Plants are one of the last bulwarks against climate change. They feed on carbon dioxide, growing faster and absorbing more of the greenhouse gas as humans produce it. But a new study finds that limited nutrients may keep plants from growing as fast as scientists thought, leading to more global warming than some climate models had predicted by 2100.

Decreasing biodiversity affects productivity of remaining plants
April 20, 2015 03:32 PM - University of Alaska Fairbanks

When plant biodiversity declines, the remaining plants face diminishing productivity, say scientists in study published April 20 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "The loss of biodiversity is threatening ecosystem productivity and services worldwide, spurring efforts to quantify its effects on the functioning of natural ecosystems," said lead author Jingjing Liang, a forest ecologist from West Virginia University.

Five Years and Counting: Gulf Wildlife in the Aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon Disaster
April 17, 2015 09:37 AM - National Wildlife Federation

Five years after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, sending oil into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days, wildlife are still struggling. The Gulf, with its deep waters, sandy beaches, lush wetlands and coral reefs, is a vast system that supports more than 15,000 species of wildlife – fish, birds, marine mammals and many, many others.

A new report from the National Wildlife Federation looks at how 20 types of wildlife that depend on a healthy Gulf are faring in the wake of the BP oil spill. The full extent of the spill’s impacts may take years or even decades to unfold, but Five Years & Counting: Gulf Wildlife in the Aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon Disaster examines what the science tells us so far.

Species loss linked to unstable production of grassland ecosystem
April 17, 2015 08:28 AM - University of Oxford

Losing plant species is directly linked to long-term declines in the stable productivity of grasslands, a new study has shown. The study demonstrates for the first time that for every decrease in plant biodiversity there is a proportional decrease in the stable production of plant biomass through time of grassland ecosystems. Over the long-term, factors such as rising levels of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, more frequent grazing, or drought, only affect ecosystem stability in as much as they affect biodiversity.

Think Different: Apple and conservation
April 17, 2015 07:14 AM - Andrew Burger, Triple Pundit

Marking a precedent-setting conservation partnership, Apple and the Conservation Fund will purchase two large areas of working forest, the organizations announced on Thursday. The move is expected to conserve “more than 36,000 acres of working forestland in Maine and North Carolina, ensuring these forests stay forests and any timber on the land is harvested sustainably,” the partners said in a joint announcement.

This initial purchase of U.S. working forestland marks “the beginning of a worldwide effort, one that represents a new approach as it reassesses its impact on the world’s paper supply chain,” Lisa P. Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environmental initiatives, and Larry Selzer, president and CEO of the Conservation Fund, wrote in a Medium op-ed. Prior to joining Apple, Jackson led the U.S. EPA as President Barack Obama’s EPA Administrator from 2009 to 2013.

Study shows how climate affects biodiversity
April 16, 2015 03:18 PM - Uppsala University via AlphaGalileo

A key question in the climate debate is how the occurrence and distribution of species is affected by climate change. But without information about natural variation in species abundance it is hard to answer. In a major study, published today in the leading scientific journal Current Biology, researchers can now for the first time give us a detailed picture of natural variation.

Bird populations decline years after Fukushima's nuclear catastrophe
April 16, 2015 08:40 AM - Steven Powell, University of South Carolina

This is the time of year when birds come out and really spread their wings, but since a disastrous day just before spring’s arrival four years ago, Japan’s Fukushima province has not been friendly to the feathered. And as several recent papers from University of South Carolina biologist Tim Mousseau and colleagues show, the avian situation there is just getting worse.

Report finds rise in ER visits following heavy rainfall
April 14, 2015 09:02 AM - University of Illinois at Chicago

Consumers whose drinking water can be contaminated by the release of untreated wastewater after heavy rains face increased risk for gastrointestinal illness, according to a report in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. “Combined” sewer systems collect both sewage and stormwater runoff on the way to treatment facilities. When heavy rainfall fills these systems beyond their capacity, untreated wastewater can back up into homes. To reduce the risk of home flooding during heavy precipitation, municipalities often discharge some of the untreated flow into nearby bodies of water. The release of untreated waste is known as a combined sewer overflow.

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