Temperature predicts lifespan in ectotherms

Pearl mussels can vary greatly in lifespan over latitudinal and temperature gradients. Bergmann’s rule within physiological ecology postulates that animals get larger at higher latitudes and altitudes.  Similarly, the temperature-size rule predicts that although animals grow more slowly at cold temperatures, they reach a larger adult size (but see Angiletta and Dunham 2003).  A study published today in the Proceedings of the...

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Plants, our saviors from a deep freeze

As plants become starved for CO2, rock weathering diminishes. Credit: study coauthor David Beerling Earth is currently in an ice age. (People, especially climate change naysayers, sometimes forget that.) The growth of the Antarctic ice sheet began about 25 million years ago, and by about 3 million years ago we had a full-blown ice age.  What has remained a mystery to climate scientists and geologists alike is that the geological...

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The domino sea level effect

Some existing projections of global warming predict that by the year 2100, global sea levels will have risen by one meter due to polar ice cap melting and water expansion caused by rising temperatures. In a paper this week in Nature Geoscience, however, researchers determined that given our current levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, our seas should actually be 25 meters higher than they are. Twenty-five meters?! Even one meter of...

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Should we “frame” climate change?

If we want to convince people to take action against global warming, maybe we need to take advice from advertising. A report by the nonprofit EcoAmerica, as reported by The New York Times in early May, suggests that terms like “greenhouse gas” and “carbon dioxide” turn people off.  Instead, they say, climate activists should change their rhetoric, emphasizing a “move away from dirty fuels of the...

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Shading Earth won’t stop ocean acidification

Geoengineering is the idea that humans can slow, stop or reverse the effects of climate change by altering the composition of Earth’s atmosphere and biosphere.  While controversial, these methods, including reducing sun exposure by injecting aerosols into the atmosphere or using giant mirrors to reflect the sun’s rays, were identified as a high-priority area for research by the G8-5 nations. Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie...

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NOAA adminstrator Lubchenco on Living on Earth

Jane Lubchenco, the administrator of NOAA (who, by the by, is a former president of ESA), gave a great interview on this week’s Living on Earth series.  If you don’t listen to Living on Earth, it’s an excellent weekly radio show by Public Radio International that focuses on environmental issues. Lubchenco told the Living on Earth folks that she wants to start a National Climate Service, which would be akin to the...

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EPA biofuels rule: calculating the payback

The EPA released a report yesterday that proposes to change the rules of the biofuels game.  The report, titled “Regulation of Fuels and Fuel Additives: Changes to Renewable Fuel Standard Program,” examines the lifecycle of corn-for-ethanol practices and sets the “payback” period of carbon emissions for corn-for-ethanol fuel as 33 years. The payback period means that at first, corn-for-ethanol practices will be...

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Climate change, heat stress, and animal evolution

Climate change has the potential to not only increase average temperatures around the world, but also to increase the likelihood and severity of now-rare temperature events, like heat waves.  The fate of many animal populations, therefore, can hinge on their ability to tolerate (relative) extreme heat. In the April issue of Functional Ecology, scientists explore the possible responses of animal populations to a changing climate. Mike...

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