Ecosystems

New Report Ties "Hottest Year on Record" to Human Toll of Disasters
February 17, 2016 07:05 AM - Leon Kaye, Triple Pundit

Natural disasters made 2015 a miserable year for many people around the world. According to the United Nations’ Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, the statistics were brutal. At least 98.6 million people were affected by natural disasters ranging from droughts to floods, and the economic damage could have been as high as $66.5 billion. Using the data available from the Belgian non-profit Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), the UN reports that almost 23,000 people died from the 346 natural disasters reported across the world.

Land surfaces are storing more water slowing sea level rise
February 12, 2016 08:07 AM - University of California, Irvine via ScienceDaily.

New measurements from a NASA satellite have allowed researchers to identify and quantify, for the first time, how climate-driven increases of liquid water storage on land have affected the rate of sea level rise.

A new study by scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, and the University of California, Irvine, shows that while ice sheets and glaciers continue to melt, changes in weather and climate over the past decade have caused Earth's continents to soak up and store an extra 3.2 trillion tons of water in soils, lakes and underground aquifers, temporarily slowing the rate of sea level rise by about 20 percent.

The water gains over land were spread globally, but taken together they equal the volume of Lake Huron, the world's seventh largest lake. The study is published in the Feb. 12 issue of the journal Science.

Carbon dioxide stored underground can find multiple ways to escape
February 12, 2016 06:57 AM - Liam Jackson, Penn State University

When carbon dioxide is stored underground in a process known as geological sequestration, it can find multiple escape pathways due to chemical reactions between carbon dioxide, water, rocks and cement from abandoned wells, according to Penn State researchers.

Climate change will delay transatlantic flights
February 10, 2016 07:21 AM - Pete Castle, Reading University.

Planes flying between Europe and North America will be spending more time in the air due to the effects of climate change, a new study has shown.

By accelerating the jet stream – a high-altitude wind blowing from west to east across the Atlantic – climate change will speed up eastbound flights but slow down westbound flights, the study found.  The findings could have implications for airlines, passengers, and airports.

Over 50 Percent of the World Breathes in Toxic Air
February 9, 2016 07:13 AM - Kevin Mathews, Care2

Everyone needs clean air to survive, yet somehow it is not an internationally recognized human right. That probably has something to do with the fact that over half of the world’s population live in areas where they breathe in toxic air. Altogether, that means there are more than 3.5 billion people inhaling dangerous air into their lungs on a daily basis.

Disease may wipe out the world's bananas
February 8, 2016 07:11 AM - Angelina Sanderson Bellamy, Cardiff University, The Ecologist

Bananas are at the sharp end of industrial agriculture's chemical war on pests and pathogens, writes Angelina Sanderson Bellamy. But even 60 pesticide sprays a year isn't enough to keep the diseases at bay. It's time to seek new solutions with little or no use of chemicals, working with nature, growing diverse crops on the same land - and breaking the dominance of the banana multinationals.

Man-made underwater sound may have wider ecosystem effects than previously thought
February 5, 2016 07:21 AM -

Underwater sound linked to human activity could alter the behaviour of seabed creatures that play a vital role in marine ecosystems, according to new research from the University of Southampton.

The study, reported in the journal Scientific Reports published by Nature, found that exposure to sounds that resemble shipping traffic and offshore construction activities results in behavioural responses in certain invertebrate species that live in the marine sediment.

Kalligrammatid lacewings looked like butterflies, but lived millions of years before butterflies
February 4, 2016 01:00 PM - JOHN BARRAT Smithsonian News

New fossils found in Northeastern China have revealed a remarkable evolutionary coincidence: an extinct group of insects known as Kalligrammatid lacewings (Order Neuroptera) share an uncanny resemblance to modern day butterflies (Order Lepidoptera). Even though they vanished some 50 million years before butterflies appeared on earth, they possess the same wing shape and pigment hues, wing spots and eyespots, body scales, long proboscides, and similar feeding styles as butterflies.

A photo of the modern owl butterfly (“Caligo Memnon”) shown beside a fossilized Kalligrammatid lacewing (“Oregramma illecebrosa”) shows some of the convergent features independently evolved by the two distantly-related insects, including wing eyespots and wing scales. (Butterfly photo by James Di Loreto/fossil photo by Conrad Labandeira and Jorge Santiago-Blay)

In an incredible example of convergent evolution, both butterflies and kalligrammatids evol

Loss of wild flowers matches pollinator decline
February 4, 2016 07:15 AM - University of Leeds

The first Britain-wide assessment of the value of wild flowers as food for pollinators shows that decreasing resources mirror the decline of pollinating insects.

Phases of the moon affect amount of rainfall
February 1, 2016 07:20 AM - Hannah Hickey, University of Washington

When the moon is high in the sky, it creates bulges in the planet’s atmosphere that creates imperceptible changes in the amount of rain that falls below. New University of Washington research to be published in Geophysical Research Letters shows that the lunar forces affect the amount of rain – though very slightly.

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