Birds evolve bigger beaks thanks to backyard feeders

Echoing Charles Darwin’s study of Galapagos finches, biologists in Great Britain have found that the size of birds’ beaks is adapted to help them eat certain types of food. But unlike Darwin’s finches, the British food sources influencing bird evolution aren’t natural features of the environment. They’re backyard bird feeders.

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Accounting for Greenhouse Gases: Methane in India

How do we know how much heat-trapping greenhouse gas there is in the atmosphere? What about where these greenhouse gases are coming from? Scientists work hard to answer these questions on global, national, and regional levels. Recently, a group of scientists from India, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States collaborated to evaluate India’s emissions of the greenhouse gas methane. This blog post explains how greenhouse gas accounting is similar to tracking your bank account. The post then discusses in more detail how the India study was conducted, and why its findings are important.

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How much does pollution increase as cities grow?

People worldwide are increasingly living in cities. Urban life has many benefits including economic growth, but large concentrations of people and their activities can lead to increased pollution. A recent study evaluated the trade-offs between pollution and urbanization to see if the economic benefits outweigh the negative health impacts.

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Protecting Our Beaches From an Unlikely Foe.

Coastal areas are prone to pollution from fecal bacteria, which are known to be associated with viruses and disease. When it rains, roads and sidewalks wash pet and wildlife waste into storm drains, which end up in our waterways. This can endanger human health, and cause economic losses to shellfishing businesses and tourism. A study conducted before and after installation of stormwater filtration infrastructure showed tremendous success in reducing fecal bacteria loads in Wrightsville Beach, NC, and stands as an example for other coastal areas looking to address their fecal pollution issues.

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Ocean Acidification is in the Spotlight. How Can We Address Its Impacts?

The ocean has become 30% more acidic since the Industrial Revolution. This continuing change in ocean pH, or ocean acidification, will likely impact the economies of coastal communities. The science community must work together with industry, policymakers, other science disciplines, and coastal communities to find practical and applicable solutions to address the environmental impacts of ocean acidification. This integrated approach is known as transdisciplinary science and seeks to understand the interactions among ocean acidification, the ecosystem, and society.

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Where Have All the Insects Gone?

Insect populations have been plummeting for some time due to habitat destruction, climate change, and other pressures caused by growing human population, but now scientists in Germany are finding that declines in flying insects may be even more extreme than previously thought. Where have all the flying insects flown off to?

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From bad to worse: nitrogen deposition amplifies negative impacts of drought in California’s biodiversity hotspots

The release of excess nitrogen into nature, for example through fossil fuel combustion, still gets relatively little attention in the public debate about biodiversity threats, especially compared to climate change and habitat destruction. But human-driven nitrogen increases in natural ecosystems demand our attention, as they can worsen the negative effects of climate change in biodiversity hotspots, and threaten some already endangered species.

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