From the community: ESA annual meeting in the news

Last week at the Ecological Society of America’s (ESA) 95th Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh, scientists presented research on the foraging behavior of bushbabies, the effects of RoundUp herbicide on amphibians, the benefits of microbial communities inside the human body and the global issues surrounding invasive species, pollution, global warming, elevated nitrogen and hypoxia, among others. Here is just some of the research presented at ESA’s annual meeting.

Ocean acidification: On August 2, Danielle Dixson of James Cook University in Townsville, Australia and colleagues presented research on the potential impact of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide on coral reef fish behavior. Namely, a rise in ocean acidification caused by increased carbon dioxide could limit the ability of clownfish and damselfish to distinguish between predators and prey. The effect, said the researchers, would be due to a diminished sense of smell. Read more at “Ocean Acidification Makes Oceans Smell Funny.”

Mountaintop mining: The potential effects of mountaintop mining have been discussed for decades, but on August 3, Bill Schlesinger from the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and colleagues presented comprehensive findings on specific consequences. The effects, they said, include increased risk of flooding, stream contamination, reduction in fish and bird populations and long-term public health risks. In short, the practice leads to ecosystem-wide, irreversible damage, said the researchers. Read more at “Mountaintop removal has caused irreversible harm, researchers say.”

Nanoparticles: Silver nanoparticles are increasingly used in medical supplies and consumer products for their antimicrobial properties. According to Ben Colman from Duke University and colleagues who presented their research on August 4, these particles—which leach into the soil from sewage effluents—could play a role in the growth of plants. Read more at “Silver Beware: Antimicrobial Nanoparticles in Soil May Harm Plant Life.”

Climate policy: According to Natasha Gilbert on Nature’s blog The Great Beyond, on August 4 John Holdren, chief science adviser to President Obama, discussed the gap between society and climate change mitigation and attributed this disconnect to human behavior. “Societies are not taking the actions that the science indicates are needed and the technology indicates are possible,” Holdren said. “It’s important to understand why not.” Read more at “Why is society not acting on climate change? John Holdren asks ESA meeting.”

Wild GM crops: On August 6, Meredith Schafer and Cynthia Sagers from the University of Arkansas and colleagues reported that canola crops that have been genetically altered to be resistant to two types of herbicides were found along roadsides in North Dakota. While the spread of these GM plants is not surprising to some, the ease with which these plants spread— and the additional findings that these plants are breeding in the wild—signals a need to reassess the management of GM crops, said Sagers. Read more at “Canola, Pushed by Genetics, Moves Into Uncharted Territories” or listen at “Genetically Modified Canola ‘Escapes’ Farm Fields.”

Photo Credit: Nick Hobgood