Out of balance: how climate change is altering ocean food webs

Climate change has a number of impacts on the ocean. Did you know that the ocean absorbs at least one quarter of the carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere? As the ocean absorbs carbon, the chemistry of the water itself is changed in a process known as ocean acidification. Ocean acidification can make it harder for organisms with shells to grow and thrive, but can benefit photosynthetic algae that need carbon dioxide to grow. Climate change is also warming the oceans, which impacts the metabolism of all organisms. A recent study from Southern Australia reported that ocean acidification boosted algae, herbivores, and fish predators in a trophic food chain, but when ocean warming was introduced, these impacts were reversed. This research highlights how the complex stressors of climate change may result in food webs that are out of balance.

Read more

Winter coat color determines species survival in a changing climate

We’ve all seen pictures of a bright white arctic fox or snowshoe hare in a snowy landscape. But did you know, these same animals actually have brown coats during the summer? The ability of animals to change their seasonal coat color enables them to camouflage themselves against the landscape year round. A decrease in the duration of winter snow cover is one of the most widespread signals of climate change. Without snow, bright white arctic foxes and snowshoe hares will be obvious to predators and have decreased survival. A recent study reports that populations that have a mix of individuals with either brown or white winter coats may be better able to adapt and persist during this age of climate change.

Read more

Summer and fall heat may delay the timing of autumn foliage

We’re entering the most beautiful time of year—autumn—when temperate and boreal forests change from vibrant green to dozens of hues of yellow, orange, and red. Have you ever wondered what affects the timing of autumn leaf change? A recent study suggests that warmer than average summer and fall temperatures may delay the timing of leaf change in European beech trees, and while temperature may be the driving factor, how temperature differences may interact with other conditions (like drought) in the future is still unclear.

Read more

How air pollutants hurt wheat

Air pollutants like ozone can cause damage to plants. Wheat currently provides 20% of dietary protein and caloric intake for the world’s growing population. A recent analysis led by Gina Mills and scientists from across the globe reports that increased levels of ozone will decrease global production of wheat by 85 million tons. Furthermore, the negative effects of ozone may counteract the positive effects of irrigation in wheat fields.

Read more

It’s getting hotter in here: outlining strategies for protecting public health during heat waves

Heat waves, or prolonged periods of abnormally warm temperatures, have become increasingly common throughout the globe as a result of climate change. Since heat waves pose a risk to public health they have become a growing concern, particularly in urban environments. A recent analysis led by Gertrud Hatvani-Kovacs at the University of South Australia, outlines strategies for protecting public health during heat waves and mitigating the impacts of heat waves by instituting new policies. Among the suggestions of Hatvani-Kovacs and her colleagues are increasing the dissemination of information to the public regarding heat waves, providing guidelines for heat stress resistant building design, building public cool spaces, and introducing tariffs on water and electricity usage during peak demand.

Read more

Invader vs. Predator: Invasive species benefit from control of apex predators

Humans have laid claim to almost every habitable place on the globe, and in doing so, have brought with them many species causing introductions of foreign species to lands they would have otherwise never seen. “Invasive species” are an ecological hot topic these days. What is an invasive species? According to the NISIC (National Invasive Species Information Center) an invasive species is “non-native (or alien) to the ecosystem under consideration and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause harm.” Many conservation groups, governments and activists have spent much time and money in efforts to get rid of these species and in order to control the effects they might have on their “native” counterparts. However, another group of animals has longer been threatened by man, the predator. The loss of predator species has not only led to changes in the way the regions they belonged to operate, but has also allowed for foreign species to flourish.

Read more

Beefore It’s Too Late: A Study of Diminishing Bee Populations and Why We Must Act Now!

There has been a major decline in bee populations over the past 50 years, although demand for insect pollination has tripled. In their article, Dave Goulson and colleagues touch on problems such as habitat loss, intensification of agriculture, and increasing reliance on pesticides, which can mean pollinators are chronically exposed to harmful chemicals faster due to climate change. About 75% of our crop species benefit from insect pollinators, which provide a global service worth $ 215 billion in food production. If we enter the pollination crisis, crop yields may begin to fall which is concerning for the future generations.

Read more

What can we learn from the things in lakes?

We all know the saying right… An Ecosystem in Motion stays in motion unless acted upon by an outside force (aka humans), but what happens after that force hits? How does the ecosystem in question react? Does it crumble and die or does it dust itself off and try again?

Read more

Warding Against Wildfires: How Well Does it Work?

You would have to be living under a rock not to know about the wildfires that seem to almost constantly be devastating the forests in western states like Colorado and Arizona. It seems like every couple of years, there is another new huge fire ravaging this portion of the United States of America. But, why are these wildfires so common and what can we do to stop them?

Read more

Drought! What is it good for? Native plants

Climate change predictions show that extreme events, including extreme droughts, will be more common in the future. From 2012-2015, California experienced the most extreme drought in over 1,200 years. Scientists from the University of California examined seeds in the soil and plants growing in grassland communities at the beginning of the drought and two years into the drought. They found that the seeds of native plants increased in the soil during the drought, while seeds of non-native grass species that generally dominate the landscape decreased significantly. Their findings suggest that brief, periodic droughts may benefit native plants that produce drought-resistant seeds.

Read more