Last call for African forest elephants

African forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) are in trouble; this may not be news to you. They are threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation as well as poaching for the ivory trade. Rather than beat this information over everyone’s heads, scientists are trying to get us to understand why we will miss the elephants when they are gone.

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182 Years in the Making: Invertebrate Communities of Narragansett Bay

Benthic invertebrates support various ecosystem functions and services such as shellfish production and biogeochemical cycling. Historical data spanning 182 years permitted Hale and colleagues to determine the trends and current conditions of invertebrate communities in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island. From the 104 studies, the authors detected over 1,000 different taxa that have been observed within the esturary and suggest human influence has greatly impacted the overall biodiversity of the invertebrate community.

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Endangered Species Act: Headed for Extinction?

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is a law designed to protect and recover endangered species of plants, animals, and ecosystems, and in turn, preserve our nation’s ecological history and functionality. However, there has been a recent push to overhaul the ESA in favor of economic opportunities. This would relieve the burden carried by landowners and industries who have been hampered by ESA restrictions, but would strip protections on species already listed on the ESA and make it more difficult to add species to the list. Left unprotected, those endangered species would be left to go extinct, and the ecological functions they serve within their ecosystem could collapse or irreversibly shift their biomes. With human activity responsible for current accelerated extinction rates, this is the time for urgent action on conservation, not a time to overhaul the law designed to protect our nation’s species and ecosystems.

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The hidden value of coral reefs

Coral reefs act as natural breakwaters reducing wave energy along coasts and, thus, can mitigate flooding. Reef structures currently avert more than $4 billion of flood damage annually. The viability of coral reefs is threatened by rising ocean temperatures, changing seawater chemistry, and physical anthropogenic disturbances. The expected damages to coastal infrastructure from flooding would at least double if reef height is reduced by only one meter. The reduction in flood protection services underscores the importance of investments in reef management, protection, and restoration.

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Intertidal Examination: Competition Between an Invasive and Endemic Species

Coastal New England isn’t independent from the world of invasive species. The Asian shore crab has encroached on many crustaceans habitats in the last few decades and recently this includes the American lobster. Work done by Baillie and colleagues suggest that specific life stages of the lobster may be negatively impacted by the invasion of the crab. Not only will understanding the interactions between these two species aid in preservation of one of North America’s most important fisheries, it may also provide critical insight into the fascinating relationship between endemic and invasive species.

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Conserve the Lobster

Caught between a rock and a hard place. The American lobster has become the largest fishery in the United States. American lobster populations are increasing in the Gulf of Maine. However, pressures of climate change and harvest have virtually eliminated the fishery from Southern New England. Work done by Le Bris et al uncover the differences between the two locations and determine that active conservation efforts in the Gulf of Maine have permitted the crustacean to remain even with increased water temperatures and fishing.

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What happened to the Great Barrier Reef in 2016?

In 2016, a severe coral reef bleaching event killed ~30% of the corals in the Great Barrier Reef. Abnormally warm global ocean temperatures are becoming more common and intense which will increase the frequency of bleaching events. Forward-looking projections indicate potential coral reef benefits associated with moving toward lower greenhouse gas emission futures. How do we get there?

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Spawn of the Dead

Migratory animals such as the Pacific salmon are critical to the transport of nutrients and energy across large distances and between different ecosystems. However, along with important nutrients also come contaminants and pollutants. To understand the impacts of salmon, Brandon Gerig and colleagues investigate contaminant levels of riparian fish populations in streams where salmon runs do and do not occur in the Great Lakes region.

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