Life between extinctions: cracking open the Cretaceous period

Earth during the Cretaceous period Credit: Ron Blakey One hundred million years ago, Earth experienced its first great peak in biodiversity. Flowers emerged and with them pollinators, dinosaurs towered over newly evolved mammals and marsupials, the steaming jungles were teeming with newly arrived ants and termites, and the oceans were filled with gigantic, air-breathing reptiles. This was life during the Cretaceous period, Earth...

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Mites and poor diet contribute to honeybee decline in Europe

Two timely reports have surfaced this week regarding the decline of honeybee populations in Europe, and France has taken action in an attempt to curb the falling numbers.  A recent study linked honeybee health and plant biodiversity In a study published in the Journal of Apicultural Research, scientists have found that managed honeybee populations across Europe have dropped an average of 20 percent over the last 20 years, with England...

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Reduced predator populations lead to algal blooms

Algal blooms are a phenomenon in which algal populations in a marine area proliferate rapidly, creating a water-column shield that blocks sunlight and oxygen. These blooms are usually attributed to rises in nitrogen levels from human agriculture and industrial runoff, which fertilize the algae. But a study in the current issue of Ecological Applications shows that overfishing of top fish predators can also lead to algal blooms....

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A better diversity index?

A paper out online in the August issue of Ecology Letters presents a new index for estimating biodiversity. John Harte of UC Berkeley and his colleagues have developed a method that they say yields more precise measures of biodiversity than classic indices, such as Simpson’s and Shannon’s diversity indices. In an argument similar (but reversed) to that for quantum physics, Harte explains that fractal geometry helps to...

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