Wildlife

Corals much older than previously thought
November 30, 2016 04:21 PM - Sara LaJeunesse via Penn State

Coral genotypes can survive for thousands of years, possibly making them the longest-lived animals in the world, according to researchers at Penn State, the National Marine Fisheries Service and Dial Cordy & Associates.

The team recently determined the ages of elkhorn corals  — Acropora palmata — in Florida and the Caribbean and estimated the oldest genotypes to be over 5,000 years old. The results are useful for understanding how corals will respond to current and future environmental change.

Climate models may be overestimating the cooling effect of wildfire aerosols
November 29, 2016 04:32 PM - Mark Dwortzan via Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Whether intentionally set to consume agricultural waste or naturally ignited in forests or peatlands, open-burning fires impact the global climate system in two ways which, to some extent, cancel each other out. On one hand, they generate a significant fraction of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, which drive up the average global surface temperature. On the other hand, they produce atmospheric aerosols, organic carbon, black carbon, and sulfate-bearing particulates that can lower that temperature either directly, by reflecting sunlight skyward, or indirectly, by increasing the reflectivity of clouds. Because wildfire aerosols play a key role in determining the future of the planet’s temperature and precipitation patterns, it’s crucial that today’s climate models — upon which energy and climate policymaking depend — accurately represent their impact on the climate system.

With Climate Change, Not All Wildlife Population Shifts Are Predictable
November 29, 2016 09:06 AM - Janet Lathrop via University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Wildlife ecologists who study the effects of climate change assume, with support from several studies, that warming temperatures caused by climate change are forcing animals to move either northward or upslope on mountainsides to stay within their natural climate conditions.

But a new study of lowland and higher-mountain bird species by wildlife ecologists Bill DeLuca and David King at the University of Massachusetts Amherst now reports an unexpected and “unprecedented” inconsistency in such shifts. The majority of the mountain bird community responded against expectation and shifted downslope despite warming trends in the mountains. They say the result “highlights the need for caution when applying conventional expectations to species’ responses to climate change.”

Can Road Salt Change Sex Ratios in Frog Populations?
November 29, 2016 07:34 AM - Kevin Denny, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies

Naturally occurring chemicals found in road salts commonly used to de-ice paved surfaces can alter the sex ratios in nearby frog populations, a phenomenon that could reduce the size and viability of species populations, according to a new study by scientists at Yale and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI).

102 Million Trees Have Died in California's Drought
November 25, 2016 02:42 PM - EcoWatch via , Care2

California’s six years of drought has left 102 million dead trees across 7.7 million acres of forest in its wake, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) announced following an aerial survey. If that is not horrendous enough, 62 million trees died in the year 2016 alone—an increase of more than 100 percent compared to 2015.

“The scale of die-off in California is unprecedented in our modern history,” Randy Moore, a forester for the U.S. Forest Service, told the Los Angeles Times, adding that trees are dying “at a rate much quicker than we thought.”

Study Shows Climate Affecting Avian Breeding Habits
November 25, 2016 12:05 PM - Kathleen Tuck via Boise State University

Milder winters have led to earlier growing seasons and noticeable effects on the breeding habits of some predatory birds, according to research by Boise State biologists Shawn Smith and Julie Heath, in collaboration with Karen Steenhof, and The Peregrine Fund’s Christopher McClure. Their work was recently published in the Journal of Animal Ecology under the title “Earlier nesting by generalist predatory bird is associated with human responses to climate change.”

Ammonia-rich bird poop cools the atmosphere
November 21, 2016 07:12 AM - Colorado State University

It turns out bird poop helps cool the Arctic.

That’s according to new research from Colorado State University atmospheric scientists, who are working to better understand key components of Arctic climate systems.

Canadian and European boreal forests differ but neither is immune to climate change, says U of T researcher
November 16, 2016 09:09 AM - University of Toronto

Rudy Boonstra has been doing field research in Canada’s north for more than 40 years.

Working mostly out of the Arctic Institute’s Kluane Lake Research Station in Yukon, the U of T Scarborough biology professor has become intimately familiar with Canada’s vast and unique boreal forest ecosystem.

But it was during a trip to Finland in the mid-1990s to help a colleague with field research that he began to think long and hard about why the boreal forest there differed so dramatically from its Canadian cousin. This difference was crystallized by follow-up trips to Norway.

Why do seabirds eat plastic?
November 15, 2016 07:27 AM - s.e. smith, Care2

Heartbreaking stories of seabirds eating plastic — and the accompanying horrible images— are everywhere, but now scientists are an important question: Why do seabirds eat plastic in the first place? And why are some more likely to have bellies full of plastic than others?

The answer, it turns out, lies in a compound called dimethyl sulfide, or DMS, which emits a “chemical scream” that some birds associate with food. When seabirds find chunks of plastic bobbing in the water, they gobble them up, not realizing that they’ve just consumed something very dangerous.

Study reveals 82% of the core ecological processes that underpin ecosystems and provide services to people are now affected by climate change
November 14, 2016 10:20 AM -

Most studies of global climate change attempt to predict what might happen to the Earth as temperatures rise in future.  A new study representing an international collaboration by ecologists and conservation biologists shows that global changes in climate have already impacted every aspect of life on Earth, from genes to entire ecosystems. It was published in the prestigious journal Science on November 10, 2016. 

The research team, led by the University of Florida and with participation from the University of Hong Kong, showed that of a total of 94 ecological processes evaluated globally, 82% of them showed evidence of impact from climate change.  Land, freshwater and marine ecosystems and species have all been all affected, and consequential impacts on people could range from increased pests and disease outbreaks, to unpredictable changes in fisheries and decreasing agriculture yields. 

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