Many farmers throughout Latin America and around the world rely on pesticides to control pest invasions; in the case of Andean potato crops, this method is not only costly but has been shown to cause adverse health effects as well. Due to the risks involved in pesticide usage, and the ever-increasing demand for high-yield crops, new methods of controlling pest invasions are being explored by researchers regularly. And as counterintuitive as these new findings sound, ecological scientists have discovered that, in the case of Colombian potato farms in the Andes, the pests themselves could actually increase productivity.
Currently, upper respiratory tract disease (URTD) and habitat loss are contributors to a decline in gopher and desert tortoise populations. And since these reptiles are keystone species—that is, the habitats they create are home to more than 300 other species—their population decline significantly affects the ecosystem. According to a recent study in Ecology, sexually-mature male tortoises were at the greatest risk of carrying and spreading URTD due in large part to their social behavior.
When it comes to habitat destruction, startling events like oil spills and deforestation are certain to grab the headlines. Yet as a new study in the journal Animal Conservation shows, sometimes habitat destruction can be so subtle that it passes under the eyes of all but the most astute scientists. David Pike and fellow researchers from the University of Sydney look at the case of reptiles in outcrops and find that people moving rocks less than 30 centimeters out of place can ruin the habitat for species like the endangered broad-headed snake that shelter in narrow crevices.
Early morning flyovers produce a 3D map of New York City’s environment, scientists analyze lizard competition in the Bahamas, Slate reviews the ecological cost of large scale illegal drug production and golden lion tamarins paint for an auction to fund National Zoo research. Here is the latest news in ecology for the first week in May.
As the oil leak continues, many of us feel helpless to mitigate the ecological impact of the spill. But this is just the beginning of the cleanup efforts and there is plenty that can be done right now. Here is the breakdown of what is currently being launched regarding response efforts for the Gulf oil spill, and what we can do to contribute.
Last month, Obama surprised conservationists when he added plans to expand off-shore drilling to his energy policy in an effort to sway votes in Congress. Then—just as both sides rose to debate the issue—the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded. This morning several democratic senators joined a Capitol Hill press conference.
An oil slick originating from a rig about 130 miles southeast of New Orleans, which is dumping oil into the Gulf of Mexico at a rate of approximately 25,000 barrels per day, is drifting toward the Alabama, Florida and Louisiana coasts, and scientists are still assessing the ecological impact that will result. In the Q&A below, three members of the Ecological Society of America’s Rapid Response Team discuss the current and possible future damage of this spill and the effects it could have on the Gulf region.