Waves mightier than sun, otter or urchin: storm disturbance shapes California kelp forests

This post contributed by Liza Lester, ESA communications officer. As winter storms pick up along the California coast, a harvest of giant kelp comes ashore with the tides, torn from seafloor anchorages by the rough action of waves. Waves are the most powerful force shaping the kelp forest, superseding the influence of temperature, nutrients, and hungry animals, say University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) researchers in the...

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A new addition to the terrestrial nitrogen cycle

This post contributed by Lindsay Deel, a Ph.D. student in geography at West Virginia University and Intern with ESA’s journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment Memorizing diagrams of the nitrogen cycle – complete with all the little arrows flowing between atmospheric sources to uptake by vegetation – is a rite of passage for most undergraduate ecology students.  Now, following a new study published in the journal Nature, the...

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Field Talk: Termites enrich the soil in East Africa

Alison Brody holds a piece of termite mound Vertebrate fertilizer is not the only source of nutrients in the soils of East African savannahs, at least according to a study recently published in the journal Ecology. Alison Brody from the University of Vermont and colleagues found that termites actually had more of an effect on the fruiting success of Acacia trees in Kenya than did dung and urine deposition from ungulate herbivores,...

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Nutrient enrichment linked to diseases in humans and wildlife

Scientists have provided a rather grim prognosis for global health: the recent increase in nutrient enrichment due to human activities, such as nitrogen pollution through fossil fuel combustion, is likely contributing to several varieties of infectious diseases in humans and wildlife. Lead author Pieter Johnson from the University of Colorado and colleagues referenced several studies showing the links—both direct and indirect—between...

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To fertilize or acidify? Nitrogen plays both sides in soils

The human industrial and agricultural sectors contribute to air pollution by releasing nitrogen oxides (sometimes denoted NOx) into the atmosphere. And just like ocean acidification occurs when carbon dioxide dissolves into the ocean, soil acidification can occur when nitrogen oxides dissolve into soils. But we also know that nitrogen is a major component of fertilizers, which add nutrients to soils.  So how do these two...

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