It’s Complicated: Plant-pollinator relationships differ from urban to rural areas

Flowers and the butterflies they attract are beautiful additions to any yard, but your garden is serving a greater purpose. Pollinators – including butterflies, moths, bees, and wasps – depend on plants for survival and are essential for plant reproduction. Plant-pollinator relationships are especially important for agriculture and our food supply. Cities pose many challenges for both plants and their pollinators which could strain their relationship. Find out how cities put pressure on plant-pollinator relationships and what you can do to help!

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The Soil, Sand, and Sea: The Journey of Microplastics

As we approach the start of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development in 2021, it is time we face our unseen but ubiquitous problem: microplastics. What do we know about them, where can we find them, and what does the science say on its impacts on our hydrosphere and biosphere?

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Emerging Environmental Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic: Good and Bad

As the COVID-19 pandemic scourges the planet, research and other efforts have focused on the human toll of the virus. Recent research has begun shedding light on the effects of COVID-19 on the environment. At first glance, these effects seem beneficial. However, many negative consequences also loom, particularly in the long-term.

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The invasive Kentucky bluegrass

The grass species known as Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) – contrary to its name – is not native to Kentucky nor is it blue (spoiler: it’s green). It is originally from Europe and northern Asia and is the most popular lawn grass in the Unites States. Unfortunately, it has also become a huge invasive problem in natural grassland environments.

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Sending ripples through environments: a new type of keystone species

Keystone species have ripple effects on the other organisms in their environments, but do any species have similar effects on the environment itself? The idea of a biogeomorphic keystone species captures this idea and, like that of keystone species, requires piecing together a complex web of interactions to understand the big picture. Two researchers in Kentucky present how two tree species have strong effects on their local stream environments, qualifying them as potential biogeomorphic keystone species.

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From Cropland to Cities: Aerial Transport of Fungi

How connected are our farms to our cities? If you are a flying fungus, they may be very connected! In a new study, researchers from De Paul University found fungi from the soil on the rooftops of Chicago and wondered why. It turns out, small fungal spores can travel from agricultural fields through the air into the cities and form friendships with the city-dwelling plants. Understanding how these spores move from agriculture to cities could help researchers develop new insight of the urban ecosystem.

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Leaving a Legacy: Plants leave “memories” in the soil that can affect future generations

It’s easy to drive by grasslands, forests, and deserts without thinking too deeply about how and why they have developed to be unique from one another. Still, most of us have an intuition of how community drivers work, such as recognizing that sandy soils and very hot climates encourage the growth of cacti instead of oaks. As an ecologist that has done a lot of work with restoration projects, I am particularly interested in thinking about all of the environmental “ingredients” that go into the recipe for each unique plant community. The day that I found out that plants can leave “memories” in soil which change communities long term, I immediately began thinking about how we could harness this knowledge for good and whether or not humans play a role in the development of these legacies.

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Rich bird, poor bird: urban street trees support native birds across a socioeconomic gradient

If you’ve jumped on the bird-watching bandwagon to pass time during the pandemic or tuned in to #BlackBirdersWeek, you might have a new-found awareness of the birds outside your window or in your local park. What you may not have noticed is that urban birding experiences can differ greatly among neighborhoods.

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A way forward: an ecological hypothesis to understand and predict disease spillover events

It is critical that we understand all of the pieces of spillover events so that they can be predicted and ideally prevented. Scientists at Auburn University recently considered the two main hypotheses for spillover, and asked how do pathogens with the potential to spillover from wildlife to humans arise in damaged or altered landscapes?

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