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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Intertidal Examination: Competition Between an Invasive and Endemic Species

Coastal New England isn’t independent from the world of invasive species. The Asian shore crab has encroached on many crustaceans habitats in the last few decades and recently this includes the American lobster. Work done by Baillie and colleagues suggest that specific life stages of the lobster may be negatively impacted by the invasion of the crab. Not only will understanding the interactions between these two species aid in preservation of one of North America’s most important fisheries, it may also provide critical insight into the fascinating relationship between endemic and invasive species.

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Conserve the Lobster

Caught between a rock and a hard place. The American lobster has become the largest fishery in the United States. American lobster populations are increasing in the Gulf of Maine. However, pressures of climate change and harvest have virtually eliminated the fishery from Southern New England. Work done by Le Bris et al uncover the differences between the two locations and determine that active conservation efforts in the Gulf of Maine have permitted the crustacean to remain even with increased water temperatures and fishing.

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Spawn of the Dead

Migratory animals such as the Pacific salmon are critical to the transport of nutrients and energy across large distances and between different ecosystems. However, along with important nutrients also come contaminants and pollutants. To understand the impacts of salmon, Brandon Gerig and colleagues investigate contaminant levels of riparian fish populations in streams where salmon runs do and do not occur in the Great Lakes region.

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River Streams Benefit from Fallen Trees

Rivers have suffered the most from human urbanization. Damming, river straightening and removal of large woody debris have disrupted many natural processes essential for healthy habitats of fish, insects and algae. Many land managers have returned fallen trees back into rivers in hopes to improve habitat quality. It wasn’t until this research by Thompson and colleagues that there was clear evidence that this management strategy was successful.

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Soybean Soybetter

By 2050, the demand for staple food crops, such as potatoes and wheat, is expected to nearly double from what it is today. We could farm all the land in the world, but scientists and others believe this could be detrimental for a multitude of reasons. How can we increase our crop yields without expanding our already limited fields? The answer may lie in cutting out leaves. Taking this approach, Srinivasan and colleagues increased soybean production by up to 8%, that’s approximately 6.5 metric tons per year.

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