Seaweed as far as the eye can see

In the center of the Atlantic Ocean lies the Sargasso Sea. The brown seaweed, Sargassum, gives the Sea its name; However, in the past decade this belt of Sargassum has been exploding. During certain seasons, the Sargassum belt has expanded from West Africa to the Americas. Beached seaweed has led to numerous problems and concerns for much of the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. Research led by Dr. Mengqiu Wang from the University of South Florida used previous data to determine what makes these seaweeds take over the ocean in order to better predict when these blooms may occur.

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Dung Beetles and Soil Bacteria Promote Food Safety.

Having a diverse farm benefits everyone Not only will the soils be richer and the number of different crops grow higher but also diversity may also potentially be safer. By limiting the use of pesticides and maintaining various landscapes throughout a farmland, organic farming increases the number of insects, namely beetles, and bacteria that help break down potential pathogens before they infiltrate the growing crops. Jones and colleagues examined 70 vegetable fields throughout California and conducted several laboratory experiments to find that organic farms had richer, more diverse communities of beetles and soil bacteria that help breakdown foodborne pathogens.

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Oyster Reefs Defend Our Coasts

Oyster reefs, a dense conglomerate of oysters on a budding surface in coastal bays, are making a comeback! These habitats provide a structure to protect our shorelines, and a nice environment for marine animals and vegetation to gather and filter pollutants. Research suggests that under certain circumstances, oyster reefs do help reduce wave energy that could otherwise harm or damage coastal marshes.

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Growing Conditions Improve with a Pinch

Salt marshes are full of crustacean inhabitants. In particular, fiddler crabs and purple marsh crabs of New England modify these coastal ecosystems by burrowing beneath the waterlogged soils, chewing up plants, and increasing nutrient exchange rates. But it is uncertain to what extent each species contributes to the modification of a salt marsh. Research by Alexandria Moore found the presence of crabs had a significant effect on multiple aspects of salt marsh health and that the herbivore, purple marsh crab, modifies salt marsh ecosystems beyond eating plants.

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Sinking Rails

Coastlines and estuaries are often densely populated with a wide diversity of birds. Many species have adapted to the salty coast and thrive in its waves, beaches and marshes. However, sea-level rise is changing the coast. Researchers, representatives from both universities and governmental agencies of southern California collaborated to predict what habitat for the Ridgway’s rail may look like in the next ten, twenty, thirty years all the way until the year 2110 with several predicted rates of sea-level rise. As sea levels increase, more habitat may become available; but too much flooding could destroy habitat as well.

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Burning Desire to Forage

During the fall of 2018, California had some of the worst and deadliest fires to date, with devastating costs to human communities. Communities of plants and animals are also greatly impacted by fires. But how does wildlife respond to wildfires? Burns alter the environment and open up new habitats allowing smaller shrubs to recolonize in areas that were dominated by tall trees. A recent study in Oregon suggests that elk utilize a wide array of habitats and that burned forests are critical areas for food for many herbivores.

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It’s More Than Just a Song for Songbirds

Songbirds have intricate courting rituals. Often females are attracted to males that have the most brilliant feather coloration and the sweetest songs. But what’s a bird to do if they aren’t the most colorful of the bunch? New research by Lindsay Henderson and colleagues at the University of California Davis suggests that house finches engage in different levels of courting depending the appearance of other finches in the area.

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Building Barriers to Stop Sea Level Rise, What’s at Stake?

Anticipated growth of coastal communities is expected in the ensuing future. As these communities expand so will the issue of coastal protection. Currently 14% of the continental US has armored shorelines to protect infrastructure and people from storm surges and consequent flooding. However, the biological impact of these barriers is under scrutiny. Research conducted by Gehman and colleagues at the University of Georgia investigated how armored coastlines impact both biotic and abiotic features of coastal-upland boundaries along coastal Georgia compared unarmored and forested locations.

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182 Years in the Making: Invertebrate Communities of Narragansett Bay

Benthic invertebrates support various ecosystem functions and services such as shellfish production and biogeochemical cycling. Historical data spanning 182 years permitted Hale and colleagues to determine the trends and current conditions of invertebrate communities in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island. From the 104 studies, the authors detected over 1,000 different taxa that have been observed within the esturary and suggest human influence has greatly impacted the overall biodiversity of the invertebrate community.

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