New study suggests culling animals who ‘don’t belong’ can be a flawed nature conservation practice

New research published today in the journal Science has concluded that eradicating animals on the basis that they are not native in order to protect plant species, can be a flawed practice costing millions of dollars, and resulting in the slaughter of millions of healthy wild animals.

Tropical ecosystems more reliant on emerging aquatic insects, study finds, potentially putting them at greater risk

A team of researchers from Queen Mary University of London and the University of Campinas in Brazil has found that tropical forest ecosystems are more reliant on aquatic insects than temperate forest ecosystems and are therefore more vulnerable to disruptions to the links between land and water.

Marine Seagrass Meadows Show Resilience to ‘Bounce Back’ After Die-Offs

A study in Florida Bay, one of the largest global contiguous seagrass systems, examined if a phytotoxin that accumulates as seagrass ecosystems become more enriched in nutrients prevents a marine seagrass, turtlegrass, from recruiting into open bare sediment following die-off events. While they do “bounce back,” long-term monitoring indicates the timeframe for recovery after major die-off events is at least a decade. Turtlegrass can successfully recruit into open bare sediment following die-off events due to biomass partitioning.

Why are networks stable?

A single species invades an ecosystem causing its collapse. A cyberattack on the power system causes a major breakdown. These type of events are always on our mind, yet they rarely result in such significant consequences. So how is it that these systems are so stable and resilient that they can withstand such external disruptions? Indeed, these systems lack a central design or blueprint, and still, they exhibit exceptionally reliable functionality.

Scientists Land $3 Million NSF Grant to Empower Local Coral Reef Monitoring Efforts

Although communities care deeply about the fate of coral reefs, they often lack the scientific tools to document changes in the local reefs on which they rely. A new project will help to empower community members already interested in coral reef health with the tools needed to document changes in these systems. Importantly, findings from the research will inform management of ecosystems.

Climate change leads to invasive insect expansion on West Coast

Climate change has led to warming temperatures in the Pacific Northwest, leading some insect species to expand their range into more northerly oak savannas, according to new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.

New Tool Will Assess Water Discharge Impacts from Florida’s Everglades

An innovative tool will holistically examine and diagnose key processes with numerical simulations and experiments and predict changes in responses to water management, ecological restoration and climate change. It is designed to provide a suite of environmental and ecological information on the state of the greater Florida Bay ecosystem as well as potential future changes. Importantly, this model could potentially predict underwater aquatic vegetation coverage, harmful algal blooms, and fisheries resources under climate change and/or Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program management scenarios.

These stunning 3D models of coral reefs are a crucial research tool

Martínez Quintana has created stunning 3D digital models that visualize the surface of coral reefs in painstaking detail. The artful re-creations aren’t just beautiful: They’re also filled with data on the distribution of young corals, known as recruits, that scientists are analyzing.

Millipede species, rarely documented in West Virginia, detected by WVU researchers as part of National Geographic project

Angie Macias, a doctoral student at West Virginia University, and Matt Kasson, an associate professor, are part of a National Geographic-funded project to study the fungal diversity associated with fungus-feeding millipedes.

California’s carbon mitigation efforts may be thwarted by climate change itself

Irvine, Calif., July 22, 2021 – To meet an ambitious goal of carbon neutrality by 2045, California’s policymakers are relying in part on forests and shrublands to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, but researchers at the University of California, Irvine warn that future climate change may limit the ecosystem’s ability to perform this service.

Climate change is driving plant die-offs in Southern California, UCI study finds

Irvine, Calif., June 21, 2021 – A shift is happening in Southern California, and this time it has nothing to do with earthquakes. According to a new study by scientists at the University of California, Irvine, climate change is altering the number of plants populating the region’s deserts and mountains. Using data from the Landsat satellite mission and focusing on an area of nearly 5,000 square miles surrounding Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the research team found that between 1984 and 2017, vegetation cover in desert ecosystems decreased overall by about 35 percent, with mountains seeing a 13 percent vegetation decline.

Biodiversity ‘Hotspots’ Imperiled along California’s Streams

A study of woodland ecosystems that provide habitat for rare and endangered species along streams and rivers throughout California reveals that some of these ecologically important areas are inadvertently benefitting from water that humans are diverting for their own needs. Though it seems a short-term boon to these ecosystems, the artificial supply creates an unintended dependence on its bounty, threatens the long-term survival of natural communities and spotlights the need for changes in the way water is managed across the state.

Seabirds face dire threats from climate change, human activity — especially in Northern Hemisphere

Many seabirds in the Northern Hemisphere are struggling to breed — and in the Southern Hemisphere, they may not be far behind. These are the conclusions of a study, published May 28 in Science, analyzing more than 50 years of breeding records for 67 seabird species worldwide.

Rutgers Expert Available to Discuss Viral ‘Pandemics’ in Oceans

New Brunswick, N.J. (April 6, 2021) – Rutgers University–New Brunswick microbial oceanographer Kay D. Bidle is available for interviews on the persistent and profound impact of viral infections on algae in the oceans. These infections influence the Earth’s carbon cycle, which helps…

Overfishing of Atlantic Cod Likely Did Not Cause Genetic Changes

Overfishing likely did not cause the Atlantic cod, an iconic species, to evolve genetically and mature earlier, according to a study led by Rutgers University and the University of Oslo – the first of its kind – with major implications for ocean conservation.

Elevated CO2 emissions increase plant carbon uptake but decrease soil carbon storage

Elevated carbon dioxide emissions from human activities increase the uptake of carbon by plants but may decrease storage in soil. An international team led by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists synthesized 108 elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) experiments in various ecosystems to find out how much carbon is absorbed by plants and soil.

“Ghost Forests” Expanding Along Northeast U.S. Coast

Why are “ghost forests” filled with dead trees expanding along the mid-Atlantic and southern New England coast? Higher groundwater levels linked to sea-level rise and increased flooding from storm surges and very high tides are likely the most important factors, according to a Rutgers study on the impacts of climate change that suggests how to enhance land-use planning.

Microplastic Sizes in Hudson-Raritan Estuary and Coastal Ocean Revealed

Rutgers scientists for the first time have pinpointed the sizes of microplastics from a highly urbanized estuarine and coastal system with numerous sources of fresh water, including the Hudson River and Raritan River. Their study of tiny pieces of plastic in the Hudson-Raritan Estuary in New Jersey and New York indicates that stormwater could be an important source of the plastic pollution that plagues oceans, bays, rivers and other waters and threatens aquatic and other life.

Bacteria and Algae Get Rides in Clouds

Human health and ecosystems could be affected by microbes including cyanobacteria and algae that hitch rides in clouds and enter soil, lakes, oceans and other environments when it rains, according to a Rutgers co-authored study.

Rutgers Bat Researcher Can Discuss Iconic Halloween Animals

New Brunswick, N.J. (Oct. 20, 2020) – Evan Drake, a bat researcher and doctoral student at Rutgers University–New Brunswick, is available for interviews on iconic Halloween animals and misunderstood wildlife, as well as bats and COVID-19. Halloween is known for…

Trees and lawns beat the heat

To mitigate heat in light of climate change, city planners are replacing artificial surfaces with vegetation cover. In water-limited regions, they have to balance the benefit of cooler temperatures with conserving water. A University of Utah study found that mixed landscapes are the best way to mitigate the heat island effect in semi-arid regions.

Most Nations Failing to Protect Nature in COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery Plans

The COVID-19 pandemic provides an opportunity to reset the global economy and reverse decades of ecosystem and species losses, but most countries are failing to invest in nature-related economic reforms or investments, according to a Rutgers-led paper.

Tiny worlds reveal fundamental drivers of abundance, diversity

Ecology is traditionally a data-poor discipline, but tiny microbial worlds offer the quantity of data needed to solve universal questions about abundance and diversity. New research in Nature Communications reveals the fundamental relationship between the environment and the species present in a microbial community and can be used as a starting point for investigating bigger systems.

How to Get a Handle on Carbon Dioxide Uptake by Plants

How much carbon dioxide, a pivotal greenhouse gas behind global warming, is absorbed by plants on land? It’s a deceptively complicated question, so a Rutgers-led group of scientists recommends combining two cutting-edge tools to help answer the crucial climate change-related question.

Ocean Algae Get “Coup de Grace” from Viruses

Scientists have long believed that ocean viruses always quickly kill algae, but Rutgers-led research shows they live in harmony with algae and viruses provide a “coup de grace” only when blooms of algae are already stressed and dying. The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, will likely change how scientists view viral infections of algae, also known as phytoplankton – especially the impact of viruses on ecosystem processes like algal bloom formation (and decline) and the cycling of carbon and other chemicals on Earth.