Follow your nose: the importance of odor for stress relief in urban green spaces

As the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are experiencing increased stress and anxiety. Although social distancing is in practice, most recommendations say it’s still okay to take a walk outside (just keep your distance from others!). In fact, spending time in nature can help reduce stress. Researchers examined how sights, smells, and sounds affect stress recovery in urban natural areas.

Read more

T.G.I…M.? Why Wildlife Wants Your Vacation to End Sooner

When the workweek ends and the weekend arrives, many people leave their office life to visit the great outdoors. From birdwatching to biking, spending time in nature may be a positive experience for you, but your presence may make the animals living in the natural spaces you visit on the weekend wish it was Monday already.

Read more

Double trouble: how floods after bushfire affect the health of our rivers

Between Christmas 2019 and the  2020 New Year, forested mountain ranges across drought-stricken areas in Eastern Australia came alight, with fires ravaging 11 million hectares of bush (Eucalyptus woodlands and rainforests) – a size comparable to England’s land area. These megafires threw the states of New South Wales and Victoria into a state of emergency. The bushfire crisis took a sudden turn when heavy rainfall flooded the scorched land in the span of just two weeks. Unfortunately, while rainfall might appear to be a blessing in light of the megafires, the resulting floods were ultimately not sweet relief for rivers. 

Read more

What Smokey the Bear didn’t know about invasive species

Fires are increasing across the United States and researchers are looking to weed out the one of the culprits — invasive grasses. Using information from fires and non-native grass invasion across the country, researchers from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst set out to determine if invasive grasses increase the number of fires across the United States. Of the twelve grass species analyzed, 66% increased fire frequency, adding another layer to the complexity of managing wildfires. As individuals we can help halt this “grass-fire cycle” by reducing the spread of invasive grasses and human-caused sparks.

Read more

Macadamia Farmers Going Nuts Over Birds and Bats

Removing natural vegetation around farms may keep crop predators such as monkeys off farms, but it also can keep away beneficial species of birds and bats that eat common insect pests. Do the services provided by birds and bats outweigh the disservices from monkeys? Researchers ventured into macadamia orchards to try and crack open the answer.

Read more

Where have all the flowers gone? Climate change is driving the loss of forbs and diversity in Californian grasslands

Science predicts that climate change will disrupt many natural processes and cycles and there is ever increasing media coverage regarding expectations for Earth’s future under these pressures. Yet there is little popular discussion about how plant communities will be impacted by these changes despite the fact that they represent the first level of the food web, support entire ecosystems of species, and contain one of the only organisms that can capture free energy to produce life. Understanding the ways that these communities are changing and will change in the future is crucially important to seeing the full picture of how climate change will re-shape life as we know it.

Read more