Dead and Gone? – The loss of decaying wood communities in urban forests

Forests are beautiful. From flourishing plants to tranquil wildlife to decaying logs, all parts are beautiful, vital, and connected. Dead logs are responsible for maintaining a healthy forest thanks to teams of fungi and wood-dependent insects inside. These organisms break down plant material to add nutrients back to the ecosystem. Forests are essential for human health and well-being, but human disturbance could threaten these ecosystems. To keep our forests healthy and beautiful, we depend on these decomposers, but can they rely on us?

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Penguins and Conservation: How penguins can help us conserve an entire ecosystem

Marine protected areas (MPAs) can be a good way to protect species threatened by human activities and climate change. Antarctica has two MPAs right now, but there are plans for several more in the future. To help decide where these MPAs would be most effective, a group of researchers studied different penguin species. The presence and health of a penguin population shows that the ecosystem has good habitat and food sources, which indicates a healthy ecosystem. Protecting healthy ecosystems within the future MPAs will offer protection for all of the species that live within it.

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The “Heartbreaking” Effect of Algal Blooms – Heart disease and the Southern Sea Otter

Our favorite hand-holding marine mammals, sea otters, are threatened by environmental toxins. Chemicals produced by algae blooms move up the food chain and cause a multitude of diseases in top predators. A new study documented how algae blooms cause heart disease in sea otters, what this means for our own seafood consumption, and proposes solutions to our pollution.

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Tackling Tradeoffs: Tree Functional Groups and Ecosystem Services in Tree Planting

Deciding which trees to replant in cities stressed by climate change and pests can be daunting, but considering the traits of trees and the “functional groups” they belong to can help. In Québec City, computer simulations showed that a “stratified” approach to replanting that aims to evenly represent species of different functional groups did not increase ecosystem services as much as a “conifer-focused” strategy, suggesting a tradeoff between representation of functional groups and ecosystem services provided. Even so, the stratified strategy increased ecosystem services more than “business as usual” and produced the canopy least vulnerable to pests and disease.

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Puzzling Mice – City mice are better problem solvers

What’s your strategy for completing a jigsaw puzzle? Puzzles and games require problem solving and strategy. Animals also need to problem-solve to overcome challenges in their environment, but it’s not all fun and games for them. Human disturbance and constant change in cities can make for really challenging conditions for city animals, such as mice. City and county striped field mice will have to prove their problem-solving wit by sliding, lifting, carrying, and digging their way through eight obstacles.

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The red eared invaders spread across Bulgaria

Red-eared sliders are freshwater turtles that are recognized as one of the world’s most invasive species. Millions of turtles were introduced globally via the pet market in the 1990s. Because of that, many turtles have established populations outside of their native ranges in the United States. Check out this ebite to learn more about the turtles first arrival and continuing spread in Bulgaria.

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Cats and Dogs: Canine Distemper Virus and the Endangered Amur Tiger

Canine Distemper Virus, commonly found in domesticated dogs, in increasingly common in Amur tigers, which are the least numerous of the major tiger subspecies. Recent research challenges long-held ideas about CDV transmission, and present new strategies to counteract CDVs deadly effects on endangered Amur tigers.

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Dead plants breathe new life into botanical research

I’ll never forget the first time that I stepped into a herbarium. Picture a room full of towering metal cabinets. Inside, there are thousands of pressed plants carefully glued onto special paper upon which thoughtfully recorded field notes describe the plant’s habitat, location, life stage, and more. At a moment’s notice I can still recall the unique smell of preserved plants, reminiscent of the comforting scent that lofts when ruffling the pages of an old book. In those days, as a budding botanist, I never questioned the immense value of these collections. Then, when I learned that one herbarium in seven has closed in the last twenty-five years (Deng 2015), I realized that we simply aren’t talking enough about all the unique ways that old plants can fuel modern science.

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