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.

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The Cows and the Bees

In the age of the sixth extinction, we need to think carefully about how we use our land– especially when different land uses are at odds. As a way to advance conservation, researchers in Israel examined “land sharing” of rangelands: a way of using land to benefit agriculture and biodiversity alike.

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Microhabitat temperature makes a mega impact on urban coastal biodiversity

Anywhere people live, we build things! Along the coast, our construction projects are especially important for protecting us from strong wind and waves, and for providing opportunities for recreation in and along the water. This development is important, but how is it impacting the animals and algae that make their homes on the coast?

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What is scarier than zombies, ghosts, and witches? A modern mass extinction

When I was a little kid, the things that scared me were a little silly – the slime monster from Ghostwriter, caterpillars, or a sinkhole developing underneath my bed that would swallow me while I slept. While I’ve gotten over these mostly ridiculous fears, being an adult doesn’t mean I am now fearless. Instead, the things that I consider “scary” have shifted. Now, the things that scare me are all too real – things like climate change and mass extinction.

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Can you figure out what species this is? Computers can

Protecting wild animals requires far more data than scientists could collect alone, so researchers often enlist the help of amateur “citizen scientists” to help identify animals in photos. However, with more and more large scale projects that need help from citizen scientists, it is taking an increasingly long time to process all of the photos from any individual study. Marco Willi from the University of Minnesota and his colleagues thought there might be a way to speed things up: by getting computers to identify most of the easy animals, and leaving humans to figure out the extra hard ones. 

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Gardeners for Biodiversity: How Surveys can Help Quantify Diversity in Urban Areas

Backyard gardens can boast surprising levels of biodiversity. Quantifying the diversity of many small gardens spread out across an urban area, however, can be difficult for scientists. In this study, researchers proposed a survey in which garden-owners were asked to give basic information about their gardens. From the responses, a statistical model was designed to determine the actual number of species present.

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Dead trees and utility poles partially offset the impacts of deforestation on birds

Mature trees serve as important habitats for a variety of species including insects and birds. Birds use trees for many purposes including nesting, perching, and foraging. Conservationists are exploring strategies to maintain bird populations in areas where mature trees are being lost due to agricultural expansion, wood production, and increased urbanization. In a recent study, scientists in Australia measured how utility poles and erected dead trees impacted the number and abundance of bird species in urbanized regions. The results suggest that artificial structures can offset some, but not all, of the bird loss due to deforestation.

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Backyard Biodiversity: Urban Schoolyards Can Play an Important Role in Conservation

Biodiversity matters. Not just in the Amazon, but in your backyard, too. The recent report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) took the world by storm; the biodiversity crisis is here, and plants and animals across the globe are facing extinction, ultimately transforming ecosystems as we know it. Since the report, there has been a public outcry about what we can do to slow the impending biodiversity crisis, covered everywhere from scientific journals to media outlets worldwide.

While there are many pathways to address the crisis, a paper from a team of African researchers published in Urban Forestry and Urban Greening points to the importance of addressing a big problem on a small scale, suggesting urban schoolyards can positively impact local biodiversity for both native and exotic species.

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Finally! A Global Documentation of Plant Extinction in the Anthropocene

“Most people can name a mammal or bird that has become extinct in recent centuries, but few can name an extinct plant. This study is the first time we have an overview of what plants have already become extinct, where they have disappeared from and how quickly this is happening. We hear a lot about the number of species facing extinction, but these figures are for plants that we’ve already lost, so provide an unprecedented window into plant extinction in modern times.” (Ledford 2019)

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