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Category: Ecology

Ecologists struggle to get a grip on the term, ‘keystone species’

Ecologists struggle to get a grip on the term, ‘keystone species’

Lesley Evans Ogden writes: Anne Salomon’s first week as a graduate student in 2001 was not what she had anticipated. While other new students headed to introductory lectures, Salomon was whisked away by van and then motorboat to Tatoosh Island, which sits just offshore of the northwestern tip of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Among the tide pools of this isolated island, Salomon peered at the web of life on the rocks: ochre sea stars, barnacles, mussels, snails and assorted algae that…

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Increase in infectious diseases strongly associated with loss of biodiversity

Increase in infectious diseases strongly associated with loss of biodiversity

Anthropocene reports: When the COVID-19 pandemic struck the world in 2020, it drew attention to the ways environmental damage can set the stage for disease outbreaks. Scientists pointed to the potential roles of urbanization, habitat loss, and trade in live animals for helping to fuel a disease that many scientists think leapt from wild animals to people. While all those factors might have influenced this particular pandemic, they aren’t the main ways that environmental destruction threatens to amplify infectious disease….

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Save our seabed – the bottom of the ocean needs to become a top priority, and the UN agrees

Save our seabed – the bottom of the ocean needs to become a top priority, and the UN agrees

Seagrass meadows are a hugely important store of blue carbon – and so is the rest of the ocean sea floor. Philip Schubert/Shutterstock By William Austin, University of St Andrews “The science we need for the ocean we want” – this is the tagline for the UN Ocean Decade (2021-2030), which has just held its first conference in Barcelona, Spain. Marine scientists from around the world, including me, gathered alongside global leaders to chart the progress of this ten-year mission…

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Hundreds of new species discovered on Africa’s isolated sky islands

Hundreds of new species discovered on Africa’s isolated sky islands

GrrlScientist writes: Located in southeastern portion of Africa in the nations of Malawi and Mozambique, there lies a chain of mountains, or granitic inselbergs, that tower above the surrounding landscape. They were formed millions of years ago when the Earth’s crust pushed upward and torrential rainfall cut through and washed away the soil, leaving patches of forest perched atop granite mountain peaks, separated from lower elevations. These inselbergs comprise an “inland archipelago” or “sky islands”, if you prefer, that are…

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Bees can’t find food in dirty air

Bees can’t find food in dirty air

Lina Zeldovich writes: When foraging for flowers, bees search for the familiar scents that blooms puff out into the air to attract them. Scientists call these little fragrant air pockets “odor plumes.” Once bees detect an odor plume, they start following it, flying from side to side to navigate to wherever the odor is strongest—scientists call this “casting”—until they land on a flower. “If you think of a flower, it’s basically acting as a message beacon,” says Ben Langford, an…

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The strange and turbulent global world of ant geopolitics

The strange and turbulent global world of ant geopolitics

John Whitfield writes: It is a familiar story: a small group of animals living in a wooded grassland begin, against all odds, to populate Earth. At first, they occupy a specific ecological place in the landscape, kept in check by other species. Then something changes. The animals find a way to travel to new places. They learn to cope with unpredictability. They adapt to new kinds of food and shelter. They are clever. And they are aggressive. In the new…

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Ill-judged tree planting in Africa threatens ecosystems, scientists warn

Ill-judged tree planting in Africa threatens ecosystems, scientists warn

The Guardian reports: Misguided tree-planting projects are threatening crucial ecosystems across Africa, scientists have warned. Research has revealed that an area the size of France is threatened by forest restoration initiatives that are taking place in inappropriate landscapes. One project in particular, the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative, aims to plant trees across 100m hectares (247m acres) of land by 2030. Scientists have warned that the scheme plans to plant trees in non-forest ecosystems such as savannahs and grasslands, potentially…

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The world is losing migratory species at alarming rates

The world is losing migratory species at alarming rates

Inside Climate News reports: Humans are driving migratory animals—sea turtles, chimpanzees, lions and penguins, among dozens of other species—towards extinction, according to the most comprehensive assessment of migratory species ever carried out. The State of the World’s Migratory Species, a first of its kind report compiled by conservation scientists under the auspices of the U.N. Environment Programme’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre, found population decline, a precursor to extinction, in nearly half of the roughly 1,200 species listed under the Convention…

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Invasive ants disrupt lions’ hunting behavior in Kenya

Invasive ants disrupt lions’ hunting behavior in Kenya

GrrlScientist writes: In a remarkable, but accidental, real-life experiment demonstrating the ecological connections between all life regardless of how great or small, a study recently came out that documents how a tiny ant is affecting the mighty lion on the savannahs of Kenya. This ant is invasive and it’s far from home. It probably arrived from the island of Mauritius, located in the Indian Ocean, early during the last century, and began establishing itself in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in…

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Humans are increasingly passing pathogens to animal populations

Humans are increasingly passing pathogens to animal populations

Nature reports: There was something wrong with the chimpanzees. For weeks, a community of 205 animals in Uganda’s Kibale National Park had been coughing, sneezing and looking generally miserable. But no one could say for sure what ailed them, even as the animals began to die. Necropsies can help to identify a cause of death, but normally, the bodies of chimps that succumb to disease are found long after decomposition has set in, if at all. So when Tony Goldberg,…

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Climate change threatens global forest carbon sequestration, study finds

Climate change threatens global forest carbon sequestration, study finds

University of Florida: Climate change is reshaping forests differently across the United States, according to a new analysis of U.S. Forest Service data. With rising temperatures, escalating droughts, wildfires, and disease outbreaks taking a toll on trees, researchers warn that forests across the American West are bearing the brunt of the consequences. The study, led by UF Biology researchers J. AARON HOGAN and JEREMY W. LICHSTEIN was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study reveals…

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Microplastics in drinking water affect behavior and immunity in mice, study reveals

Microplastics in drinking water affect behavior and immunity in mice, study reveals

PsyPost reports: A study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences has uncovered startling effects of microplastics on mice, revealing significant behavioral changes and immune responses in both young and old subjects. This research expands our understanding of how these environmental pollutants might be affecting mammals — potentially including humans. Microplastics, tiny plastic particles less than 5 millimeters in diameter, have been a growing concern for environmentalists and health professionals alike. Found in everything from water bodies to human…

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Gut microbes may play role in social anxiety disorder, say researchers

Gut microbes may play role in social anxiety disorder, say researchers

The Guardian reports: While some people might relish the prospect of a new year party, for others socialising can trigger feelings of fear, anxiety and distress. Now researchers say microbes in the gut may play a role in causing social anxiety disorder, opening up fresh possibilities for therapies. Scientists have previously found the gut microbiome – the collection of bacteria and other organisms that live in the gastrointestinal system – differs for people who have social anxiety disorder (SAD) compared…

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People hunting, not the climate, found to have caused the decline of the giant mammals

People hunting, not the climate, found to have caused the decline of the giant mammals

Phys.org reports: For years, scientists have debated whether humans or the climate have caused the population of large mammals to decline dramatically over the past several thousand years. A new study from Aarhus University confirms that climate cannot be the explanation. About 100,000 years ago, the first modern humans migrated out of Africa in large numbers. They were eminent at adapting to new habitats, and they settled in virtually every kind of landscape—from deserts to jungles to the icy taiga…

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Climate change is already forcing lizards, insects and other species to evolve – and most can’t keep up

Climate change is already forcing lizards, insects and other species to evolve – and most can’t keep up

Temperature sensitivity makes western fence lizards vulnerable to climate change. Greg Shine/BLM, CC BY By Michael P. Moore, University of Colorado Denver and James T. Stroud, Georgia Institute of Technology Climate change is threatening the survival of plants and animals around the globe as temperatures rise and habitats change. Some species have been able to meet the challenge with rapid evolutionary adaptation and other changes in behavior or physiology. Dark-colored dragonflies are getting paler in order to reduce the amount…

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Kew report: Five key extinction risks facing the world’s plants and fungi

Kew report: Five key extinction risks facing the world’s plants and fungi

Carbon Brief reports: Scientists’ understanding of how climate change and habitat loss could drive plant and fungi extinctions is being hamstrung by knowledge gaps in how many species currently exist, a new report warns. More than 90% of fungi have yet to be found and formally described by scientists, according to a new report from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. The “State of the World’s Plants and Fungi” report, which is based on both peer-reviewed and preliminary studies, also says…

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