Ecosystems

The Nitrogen Problem: Why Global Warming Is Making It Worse
August 8, 2017 03:30 PM - Yale Environment 360

It is a painful lesson of our time that the things we depend on to make our lives more comfortable can also kill us. Our addiction to fossils fuels is the obvious example, as we come to terms with the slow-motion catastrophe of climate change. But we are addicted to nitrogen, too, in the fertilizers that feed us, and it now appears that the combination of climate change and nitrogen pollution is multiplying the possibilities for wrecking the world around us.

Laser mapping project shows effects of physical changes in Antarctica's Dry Valleys
August 8, 2017 03:17 PM - National Science Foundation

Researchers funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) have publicly released high-resolution maps of Antarctica's McMurdo Dry Valleys, a globally unique polar desert.

The high-resolution maps cover 3,564 square kilometers of the McMurdo Dry Valleys and allow researchers to compare present-day conditions with lower-resolution LIDAR surveys conducted almost 13 years ago.

Scientists from Portland State University led the new research project, which mapped the area using more sophisticated LIDAR, a remote-sensing method that uses laser beam pulses to measure the distance from the detector to the Earth's surface.

Extreme melt season leads to decade-long ecosystem changes in Antarctica's Dry Valleys
August 8, 2017 03:12 PM - National Science Foundation

An abnormal season of intense glacial melt in 2002 triggered multiple distinct changes in the physical and biological characteristics of Antarctica's McMurdo Dry Valleys over the ensuing decade, new research funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) shows.

The findings suggest that abrupt, short-lived climate events can cause long-term alterations in polar regions that unfold over the span of several years and subsequently change the overall trajectory of an ecosystem.

The new research appears today in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.

Alaska's North Slope Snow-Free Season is Lengthening
August 4, 2017 03:26 PM - University of Colorado at Boulder

On the North Slope of Alaska, snow is melting earlier in the spring and the snow-in date is happening later in the fall, according to a new study by CIRES and NOAA researchers. Atmospheric dynamics and sea ice conditions are behind this lengthening of the snow-free season, the scientists found, and the consequences are far reaching—including birds laying eggs sooner and iced-over rivers flowing earlier.

“The timing of snowmelt and length of the snow-free season significantly impacts weather, the permafrost, and wildlife—in short, the Arctic terrestrial system as a whole,” said Christopher Cox, a scientist with CIRES at the University of Colorado Boulder and NOAA’s Physical Sciences Division in Boulder, Colorado. The study has been accepted for publication in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

Isotope fingerprints in feathers reveal songbirds' secret breeding grounds
August 4, 2017 03:19 PM - University of British Columbia

Using isotope fingerprints in feathers, researchers have pinpointed the northern breeding grounds of a small, colourful songbird.

Myrtle warblers breed across much of Canada and the eastern United States, but winter in two distinct groups—one along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, another along the US Pacific Coast. They are also one of the few breeds of eastern warbler that have been able to extend their range into the far northwest of the continent.

Lizard blizzard survivors tell story of natural selection
August 3, 2017 02:51 PM - University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

An unusually cold winter in the U.S. in 2014 took a toll on the green anole lizard, a tree-dwelling creature common to the southeastern United States. A new study offers a rare view of natural selection in this species, showing how the lizard survivors at the southernmost part of their range in Texas came to be more like their cold-adapted counterparts further north.

Animal coloration research: On the threshold of a new era
August 3, 2017 02:46 PM - University of Michigan

In the last 20 years, the field of animal coloration research has experienced explosive growth thanks to numerous technological advances, and it now stands on the threshold of a new era.

The Amazing Dinosaur Found (Accidentally) by Miners in Canada
August 3, 2017 12:05 PM - Michael Greshko, National Geographic

Known as a nodosaur, this 110 million-year-old, armored plant-eater is the best preserved fossil of its kind ever found.

Light pollution as a new threat to pollination
August 3, 2017 11:58 AM - University of Bern

Artificial light disrupts nocturnal pollination and leads to a reduced number of fruits produced by the plant.

Deadly Fungus Affecting Hibernating Bats Could Spread During Summer
August 3, 2017 08:26 AM - USGS

The cold-loving fungus (Pseudogymnoascus destructans, or Pd) that causes white-nose syndrome, a disease that has killed millions of North American bats during hibernation, could also spread in summer months. Bats and humans visiting contaminated caves and mines can inadvertently contribute to the spread of the fungus, according to a recently published study by the U.S. Geological Survey.

USGS scientists tested samples collected from bats, the environment and equipment at eight bat hibernation sites in Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia. They found that bats occupying such sites in summer can harbor the Pd fungus on their skin, and that Pd is more readily detectable in their guano, or feces.

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