Islands and Alleles: How genetics can help protect endangered species

When talking about diversity in the natural world, we often think of the bright colors and bold patterns of fish gliding among a reef, or the variety of flying, creeping, and crawling critters found in the layers of a rainforest canopy. However, diversity even within a single species is an important indicator of a population’s health and stability. This type of diversity can be invisible to us when contained in the form of genes that control which traits organisms possess. In this study, scientists helped us to see the invisible diversity of an endangered skink and learn how to more effectively conserve this diversity.

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Mother of dragons in the city

City habitats are often much warmer due to lower forest cover and an increased density of manmade surfaces which retain heat. Increased temperatures can greatly affect animals that develop as male or female depending on the incubation temperature of the eggs. Read on to find out how mothers of eastern water dragons deal with living in the warm cities of Australia.

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We need to talk about the elephant in the carbon budget

In order to create a carbon budget, we need to identify everything that is taking carbon in and out of the atmosphere. While we have a pretty good idea of the important processes, could we be missing another “big” piece of the puzzle? In this study, scientists try to figure out if elephants are having an impact on the carbon cycle where they live.

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Spring flowers are arriving earlier

In recent decades, trees and plants have begun to flower earlier in the spring. Many studies have shown that this advancement in timing is due to climate change, particularly increases in air temperature. However, these studies have generally been conducted in small areas. A recent study conducted across Europe reports that the timing of spring flowering and other events in 16 tree species has been advancing. More importantly, the timing of flowering trees in warmer and cooler regions of Europe is becoming more similar, which has wide spread ecological consequences.

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Will Sponges Bulldoze Coral Reefs Faster in an Acidic Ocean?

Coral reefs provide benefits for marine life and humans alike. In this delicate ecosystem, humans may be tipping the scales in an unhealthy direction due to ocean acidification. Sponges naturally erode corals to create homes for themselves, but an acidic ocean might mean sponges may not have to work as hard and could erode corals faster than they build. Scientists have confirmed that as ocean acidification increase, so will the rates of erosion by sponges – leaving many concerned with the fate of our ocean’s coral reefs and the services they provide.

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Are Eastern USA Temperate Forests Regenerating?

How can we assess the adaptive capacity of forest ecosystems to deal with human stressors? A key indicator is the extent to which forests are regenerating today, that is, producing seedlings and saplings that one day will take the place of mature trees as they age and die. In a recent study, Kathryn Miller and Brian McGill found relatively reassuring levels of regeneration in the northeast and Southeast USA, but low levels in the central mid-Atlantic portion, which could lead to declines in forest cover in this region.

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Trees, Tempests, and Time: What trees can tell us about weather in the past

For storms along the Gulf Coast, first-person recordings are only reliable for the past 150 years. But knowing more about when storms happened in the past helps us understand how the climate is changing and how to reduce storm risks for coastal communities. To do that, we have to use even more unusual records: tree rings.

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