Using mangrove genes to protect where the land meets the sea

When two of Earth’s forces meet, we often get monumental products. Where the land meets the sea, the mighty mangrove forest protects the coastline and all its inhabitants. Deforestation has led to rapid declines of mangroves, threatening the diversity of life that they support. Analyzing the genetic variation in a forest is a promising tool for protective measures and restoration. Saving mangrove forests might be in the genes.

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Radioactive exclusion zone or restoration at work? Insights from the re-wilding of Chernobyl

In 1986 a nuclear disaster rocked Belarus and forced thousands of people to abandon their homes for fear of radiation exposure. Now, removed from the impacts of human settlements, wildlife are returning to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ). In a new study, researchers studied the raptors in the CEZ to test re-wilding and ask the question: can removing humans from a landscape help restore the natural environments? And like all things in ecology, the answer is more complicated than it seems but offers a glimmer of hope for re-wilding endeavors in this Decade on Ecological Restoration.

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Can Human Infrastructure Improve Biodiversity?

Electrical towers are dotted across landscapes around the world, bringing power to people in cities and the country. But can these towers be used to help wildlife? In a new study, researchers in Sevilla, Spain modified the base of these towers to attract wildlife. They found that not only do these man-made structures attract wildlife, but they can also act as wildlife corridors — providing safe passage for critters as they move across human-modified landscapes.

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What does the Decade of Ecosystem Restoration mean for you?

The Decade of Ecological Restoration is nearly here! The process of helping ecosystems regain function and biodiversity is a new and complex field. It requires collaboration across academic disciplines and requires connecting the needs of humans and ecosystems. So, what can restoration ecologists learn from sociologists to bridge the gap between humans and nature and help make the coming decade a success?

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From Cropland to Cities: Aerial Transport of Fungi

How connected are our farms to our cities? If you are a flying fungus, they may be very connected! In a new study, researchers from De Paul University found fungi from the soil on the rooftops of Chicago and wondered why. It turns out, small fungal spores can travel from agricultural fields through the air into the cities and form friendships with the city-dwelling plants. Understanding how these spores move from agriculture to cities could help researchers develop new insight of the urban ecosystem.

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Leaving a Legacy: Plants leave “memories” in the soil that can affect future generations

It’s easy to drive by grasslands, forests, and deserts without thinking too deeply about how and why they have developed to be unique from one another. Still, most of us have an intuition of how community drivers work, such as recognizing that sandy soils and very hot climates encourage the growth of cacti instead of oaks. As an ecologist that has done a lot of work with restoration projects, I am particularly interested in thinking about all of the environmental “ingredients” that go into the recipe for each unique plant community. The day that I found out that plants can leave “memories” in soil which change communities long term, I immediately began thinking about how we could harness this knowledge for good and whether or not humans play a role in the development of these legacies.

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