Sending ripples through environments: a new type of keystone species

Keystone species have ripple effects on the other organisms in their environments, but do any species have similar effects on the environment itself? The idea of a biogeomorphic keystone species captures this idea and, like that of keystone species, requires piecing together a complex web of interactions to understand the big picture. Two researchers in Kentucky present how two tree species have strong effects on their local stream environments, qualifying them as potential biogeomorphic keystone species.

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Unequal Access to Urban Tree Benefits in the Bronx

Urban trees provide many ecosystem services to residents, but tree cover can be unequally distributed, resulting in fewer benefits for disadvantaged neighborhoods. This is true in the Bronx, where a recent study demonstrates that the distribution of services provided by trees is related to median income as well as population density. Analyzing the inequity of ecosystem services in our cities is the first step towards developing solutions to improve access to ecosystem services and make the distribution of these resources more just.

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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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Spring flowers are arriving earlier

In recent decades, trees and plants have begun to flower earlier in the spring. Many studies have shown that this advancement in timing is due to climate change, particularly increases in air temperature. However, these studies have generally been conducted in small areas. A recent study conducted across Europe reports that the timing of spring flowering and other events in 16 tree species has been advancing. More importantly, the timing of flowering trees in warmer and cooler regions of Europe is becoming more similar, which has wide spread ecological consequences.

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Summer and fall heat may delay the timing of autumn foliage

We’re entering the most beautiful time of year—autumn—when temperate and boreal forests change from vibrant green to dozens of hues of yellow, orange, and red. Have you ever wondered what affects the timing of autumn leaf change? A recent study suggests that warmer than average summer and fall temperatures may delay the timing of leaf change in European beech trees, and while temperature may be the driving factor, how temperature differences may interact with other conditions (like drought) in the future is still unclear.

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The Dynamic Duo: Pine trees partner with fungal communities to survive climate change

With climate change comes increased drought, which can have serious consequences on many species. This study examined whether one tree species, the Pinyon pine, can rely on a relationship with fungal communities in its roots to survive drought conditions. Does the relationship last? Read on to find out.

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