South American Marsupials Discovered to Reach New Heights

For the first time, scientists catch on camera a tiny marsupial climbing higher than previously thought in the forest canopy

 

A monito del monte peers down from a tree. This marsupial has a prehensile tail that aids in climbing and eats mostly insects, fruit, and seeds. Females can carry up to five of their young in a well-developed pouch. Photo courtesy of Andres Charrier.

October 18, 2018
For Immediate Release

Contact: Zoe Gentes, 202-833-8773 ext. 211, zgentes@esa.org

 

In the Andean forests along the border of Chile and Argentina, there have long been speculations that the mouse-sized marsupial monito del monte (Dromiciops gliroides) climbs to lofty heights in the trees. Yet, due to the lack of knowledge about the region’s biodiversity in the forest canopies, no previous records exist documenting such arboreal habits for this creature.

Some tree-climbing researchers are changing that.

Javier Godoy-Güinao and colleagues set motion-sensing camera traps in the tree canopy to capture photographic evidence confirming the high-climbing theories surrounding this miniature mammal. The findings are published today in a new study in the Ecological Society of America’s journal Ecosphere.

The monito del monte (Spanish for “little monkey of the bush,” although not a monkey at all) is a small, inarguably cute marsupial that is found solely in the temperate rainforests of Argentina and Chile. It eats mostly insects with some fruit and seeds and nuts, and it also hibernates, which is unusual for marsupials. Females can carry up to five young in a pouch, and a prehensile tail makes it adept at climbing. It is listed as “Near Threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Researchers thought this marsupial may live in the canopy because of its mobility in the vegetation above the forest floor, called the understory. “However,” Godoy-Güinao writes, “all previous studies on D. gliroides have been conducted from the ground, with no documentation of this species’ ability to climb trees, or how high they may reach.” Following the clues from reported sightings, he and his colleagues found the mystery intriguing and decided it worth finding out first hand just how high they climb.

Along with Ivan Díaz, professor in charge of the Laboratory of Canopy Ecology and Biodiversity (CanopyLab) of the Universidad Austral de Chile, and Juan Luis Celis-Diez, professor at P. Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, Godoy-Güinao began studies in 2017 in Bosque Pehuén Park. The park is a protected area owned by the Mar Adentro Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to promoting conservation of and education on biodiversity, and to cultural development in the region.

Researchers climbed high (12-21 m) into the treetops to install the camera traps and patiently waited to capture images of this elusive marsupial. After months of waiting and collecting data, the tiny creatures appeared within the highest camera trap’s view, and it snapped hundreds of photos.

A group of monitos in a nest. Photo courtesy of Andres Charrier.

Armed with proof that it is a frequent climber to the highest point of the tallest trees, Godoy-Güinao argues that the role of the monito del monte in the canopy is much more relevant to the biodiversity of the ecosystem than originally thought.

One of its large role lies in seed germination and dispersal. In the treetops of Chilean forests, previous studies by the CanopyLab showed a great variety of air plants such as orchids, bromeliads, lichens, mosses, and ferns that grow within the trees. The monito del monte is a seed disperser of most of these plants; it eats wild fruits and swallows the seeds whole, which then pass through its digestive track and are ready to germinate upon excretion. Given the frequency with which the species visits these high places, it could be the main sower of the plants that make up this vertical garden. Additionally, it is an avid consumer of the insects that attack the foliage of these trees.

Godoy-Güinao hopes that continued study will shed light on the importance of the monito del monte in the treetops, as well learn more about the species. For now, he says, “this evidence suggests that [it] is perhaps the main or only mammal of the region that ventures into the heights of trees, and it can have a very influential role in the biodiversity of the southern South American temperate rainforests.”


Journal Article:

Javier Godoy-Güinao, et al. (2018) “Confirmation of arboreal habits in Dromiciops gliroides: a key role in Chilean Temperate Rainforests.” Ecosphere. DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.2424.

 

Authors:

Javier Godoy-Güinao, Laboratory of Canopy Ecology and Biodiversity (CanopyLab), Universidad Austral de Chile, Chile

Iván Díaz, Laboratory of Canopy Ecology and Biodiversity (CanopyLab), Universidad Austral de Chile, Chile

Juan Luis Celis-Diez, Pontifica Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, Chile

 

Author contact:

Javier Godoy-Güinao     jagodoyg@gmail.com

 

###

The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 9,000 member Society publishes five journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in the science of ecology. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

Alaskan Carbon Assessment Has Implications For National Climate Policy

A special article collection in Ecological Applications looks into how the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases stored in forests, permafrost, lakes, and rivers interact

 

Meandering Beaver Creek (a tributary of the Yukon River) in the autumn in central interior Alaska, with extensive coverage of birch (yellow) and spruce (dark green)
trees and various deciduous shrub species (crimson), underlain by permafrost. Photo courtesy of Mark Dornblaser, USGS.

October 5, 2018

For Immediate Release
Contact: Zoe Gentes, 202-833-8773 ext. 211, zgentes@esa.org

 

Alaska’s land mass is equal to the size of one-fifth of the continental United States, yet stores about half of the country’s terrestrial – both upland and wetland –  carbon stores and fluxes. The carbon is not only stored in vegetation and soil, but also in vital freshwater ecosystems even though lakes and ponds, rivers, streams, and springs only cover a small amount of landmass in Alaska.

Alarmingly, recent studies show that Alaska is warming more than twice as fast as the rest of the country. The fate of the large state’s plentiful carbon, and how carbon management policy is structured there, has implications on national, and even international, scales.

A collection of articles in the Ecological Society of America’s journal Ecological Applications provides a synthesis of the Alaska terrestrial and aquatic carbon cycle. “Taken as a whole, the set of papers in the invited feature provide a comprehensive view of a critical region, and one that could be a model for other regions within the U.S. and globally,” USGS researcher David McGuire writes in the feature’s introduction.

The warming climate in northern ecosystems such as Alaska’s can release carbon dioxide (CO2) and other gases into the atmosphere through many pathways, including but not limited to the thawing of methane-laden permafrost and increased carbon emissions from more frequent wildfires.

Left: Crumbling blocks of permafrost along the Beaufort Coast, Alaska (Photo courtesy of USGS). Right: Methane bubbles trapped in thermokarst lake ice. When ice-rich permafrost thaws, former tundra and forest turns into a thermokarst lake as the ground subsides. The carbon stored in the formerly frozen ground is consumed by the microbial community, which release methane gas. When lake ice forms in the winter, methane gas bubbles are trapped in the ice (Photo courtesy of Miriam Jones, USGS).

However, other aspects of the carbon cycle could counter the increased carbon release. Warmer, longer growing seasons and more available nutrients may result in more green growth to take up more atmospheric CO2, providing a sink. The types of forests that grow at high latitudes could shift from more flammable conifer forest to less flammable deciduous forest, meaning fewer wildfires.

Together, the papers provide new syntheses of Alaskan carbon stores and fluxes, fire dynamics, vegetation change, forest management, permafrost soil thaw, and many other facets of historical (1950-2009) and projected (2010-2100) carbon balance in these sensitive ecosystems.

USGS scientists conducting research on a boat on the Yukon River, between Eagle and Circle, Alaska. Photo courtesy of Mark Dornblaser, USGS.

These papers stem from efforts by the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Forest Service, and university scientists to assess past and future carbon fluxes as mandated by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The original report, a first-of-its-kind assessment published in 2016, revealed the vulnerability of carbon stored in high latitude ecosystems and how soil carbon losses in Alaska are amplified by wildfires with the warming Arctic climate.

McGuire explains ways in which future assessments can be even more comprehensive, such as modeling the future methane emissions from lakes and including the effects that fire disturbances have on insects and abrupt thawing. In addition, he recommends that future assessments extend to 2300 given that many effects of permafrost thaw and elevated atmospheric CO2 have not yet fully manifested, and those assessments should include societal impacts of climate change in Alaska. 

As demonstrated by the 2016 report, and further emphasized by these new publications, it is absolutely vital to pursue a field-based understanding of the carbon cycle of the Earth in various settings in order to better understand both the natural and the human-influenced mechanisms of climate change.


Journal Articles:

A. David McGuire, et al. (2018) Introduction for invited feature “Alaska Carbon Cycle.” Ecological Applications. DOI: 10.1002/eap.1808

A. David McGuire, et al. (2018) Assessing historical and projected carbon balance of Alaska: A synthesis of results and policy/management implications. Ecological Applications. DOI: 10.1002/eap.1768

Hélène Genet, et al. (2017) The role of driving factors in historical and projected carbon dynamics of upland ecosystems in Alaska. Ecological Applications. DOI: 10.1002/eap.1641

Zhou Lyu, et al. (2018) The role of environmental driving factors in historical and projected carbon dynamics of wetland ecosystems in Alaska. Ecological Applications. DOI: 10.1002/eap.1755

Neal J. Pastick,  et al. (2017) Historical and projected trends in landscape drivers affecting carbon dynamics in Alaska. Ecological Applications. DOI: 10.1002/eap.1538

Sarah M. Stackpoole, et al. (2017) Inland waters and their role in the carbon cycle of Alaska. Ecological Applications. DOI: 10.1002/eap.1552

 

Author Contact:

A. David McGuire             admcguire@alaska.edu

 

###

The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 9,000 member Society publishes five journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in the science of ecology. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

Cobra Cannibalism More Prevalent Than Previously Thought

October 2, 2018
For Immediate Release

Contact: Zoe Gentes, 202-833-8773 ext. 211, zgentes@esa.org

A cape cobra male consumes a smaller male of the same species in southern Africa, a display of cannibalism thought to be rare among the species. Photo courtesy of Bryan Maritz.

Last spring, researchers in South Africa’s Kalahari Desert found a large male cape cobra devouring another smaller male of the same species. Surprised by the thought-to-be-rare event, they decided to investigate how common and widespread cannibalism was in cobras.

Apart from a few species, scientific understanding of snake diets is lacking. Snakes are elusive creatures that feed relatively infrequently, making feeding observations difficult to come by. Bryan Maritz, a researcher at the University of the Western Cape and lead author of the new study in the Ecological Society of America’s journal Ecology, explains, “This work highlights a renewed effort to meaningfully quantify several aspects of snake natural history, especially in poorly studied regions such as Africa.”

While cape cobras are known to eat other snake species – up to a third of their diet – recorded instances of cape cobras eating individuals of the same species, known as conspecifics, has been extremely rare. Scientists have treated such reported observations as aberrant behavior.

So, what caused this cape cobra to attack and eat the smaller male of its kind? How often does this happen? Do all cobras take part in cannibalism?

Maritz and fellow researchers in the southern African region were studying resource competition between two African snake species when they saw the rare cobra cannibalistic display that inspired them to conduct the new study. Snakes provide a unique opportunity to examine both cannibalism and when animals hunt and eat snakes (ophiophagy) because of their shape – prey fits easily into the predator’s mouth and body for consumption and digestion.

Left: study co-author Robin Maritz inspects a sociable weaver nest for cobras. Right: a cape cobra peers down from a sociable weaver nest. Photos courtesy of Bryan Maritz.

“Cobras” consist of about 30 species, six of which were included in the study. Results suggest that not only do wild cobras frequently eat other snakes – snakes accounted for 13–43 percent of all species they consumed– but also that cannibalism may be somewhat common as well, given that five of the six species displayed the behavior.

Interestingly, cape cobras ate conspecifics in surprising abundance – the only species they consumed more frequently was puff adders. Additionally, the researchers only found males engaged in cannibalism events, as prey or predator, hinting that this might impact intrasexual competition. This raises the question of whether cannibalism evolved from a male-male combative behavior, considering that male-male combat in cobras typically includes biting.

Understanding how snakes interact with not only other species, but also with individuals of their own, can provide a basis for learning about more complex behavior in different scenarios. If their ecosystem warms drastically and food becomes scarcer, will snakes engage more often in cannibalism? If cannibalism drives snakes to select for larger sizes, what effect will that have on the other kinds of prey they eat? Maritz hopes that “improved understanding of snake ecology and feeding in general will help to highlight the ecological functional roles that snakes are performing in African ecosystems.”

 


Journal Article:

Bryan Maritz, Maritz, R.A., Alexander, G.J., et al. (2018) The underappreciated extent of cannibalism and ophiophagy in African cobras. Ecology. DOI: 10.1002/ecy.2522

 

Author contact:

Bryan Maritz     bryanmaritz@gmail.com

 

Authors:

Bryan Maritz, Department of Biodiversity and Conservation Biology, University of the Western Cape

Robin A. Maritz, Department of Biodiversity and Conservation Biology, University of the Western Cape

Graham J. Alexander, School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand

 

###

The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 9,000 member Society publishes five journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in the science of ecology. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

Laura Huenneke selected to lead as President of the Ecological Society of America for 2018-2019 term

Friday, 10 August 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Alison Mize, 202-833-8773 ext. 205; cell, 703-625-3628, Alison@esa.org

 

Laura Huenneke, an ecologist and conservation scientist who has also served in university and nonprofit leadership positions, became President of the Ecological Society of America (ESA) during the Society’s annual meeting in New Orleans, LA. Elected by the members of ESA for a one-year term, Huenneke presides over the world’s largest professional society of ecologists. Its membership is composed of 9,000 researchers, educators, natural resource managers, and students, reflecting the diverse interests and activities of the Society. As President, Huenneke now chairs ESA’s governing board that establishes the Society’s vision, goals, and objectives.

Laura Huenneke is a Professor Emeritus and researcher in the School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability, Northern Arizona University.

“We live in an increasingly complicated and interconnected world that requires sound ecological science to improve management of the human and natural environment. ESA’s members provide that scientific understanding of the world around us, and we need their expertise more than ever to understand how changes in nature are affecting all of us,” said Huenneke.

ESA publishes a membership bulletin and five journals of leading-edge ecological research, which often lead to discoveries to address societal challenges. Every year, ecologists gather in August to present research results at the Society’s annual meeting. In addition to research, the Society is committed to diversity and inclusiveness among its membership and to fostering ecologists’ career development in academia, government, and the private sector. Increasingly, ecologists are needed to apply their knowledge outside of the lab to inform sound ecological decisions made by local, state, and federally elected officials, nongovernmental organizations, and the business sector. For the past six months, Huenneke has been chairing a task force of ESA members charged with exploring ways of expanding and better supporting membership in the Society.

“Huenneke’s prestigious career achievements encompass a rare combination of scientific expertise and organizational experience. Under her leadership, ESA is poised to continue and expand its influence in the ecological field and other sectors,” said Catherine O’Riordan, ESA executive director.

Dr. Huenneke currently is Professor Emeritus on the faculty at Northern Arizona University’s’ (NAU) School of Earth and Sustainability. At NAU she also served as dean, vice president for research, and vice president for academic affairs (provost). As its founding dean, she led the formation and successful early years of a new interdisciplinary College of Engineering & Natural Sciences. For 10 years she served as lead investigator for the NIH-funded Partnership for Native American Cancer Prevention, a program of research and training aimed at reducing the cancer burden for Arizona tribal communities while increasing the number of Native Americans in health-related professions. She also guided the development of several interdisciplinary research programs and centers while sustaining the university’s commitment to collaborations such as the Biennial Conference for Research and Management on the Colorado Plateau.

Laura Huenneke’s research interests include plant population and community ecology, conservation science, and long-term ecological patterns in arid and semi-arid ecosystems.

Prior to her positions with NAU, Huenneke spent 16 years at New Mexico State University (NMSU) in Las Cruces, where she became Regents’ Professor and department chair in Biology. While at NMSU she directed research focused on both rare and invasive plants, and on plant community dynamics in semi-arid ecosystems. She served as a principal investigator and as Project Director for the National Science Foundation-funded Jornada Basin Long-Term Ecological Research site.

“Even in the largest cities, people are fully embedded in – and affected by – the ecosystems around them. Ecologists work to understand the impacts we are having on natural and managed systems, and they are helping craft solutions that will allow both people and nature to thrive,” said Huenneke.

After a distinguished career in academia, Huenneke recently joined the board of directors of SWCA, Inc., a large environmental consulting firm; she is a member of the Hopi Education Endowment Fund board, the board of trustees for the Museum of Northern Arizona, and the Board of Flagstaff STEM City. ESA members have elected her three times to its governing board, and she is also a certified Senior Ecologist recognized by the Society’s Board of Professional Certification.

“ESA has long been my professional home, and being elected as President is a tremendous honor. I’m looking forward to working with the Governing Board, the members, and the staff to advance ecology and to make the Society an even more welcoming and supportive organization,” said Huenneke.

After receiving an undergraduate degree from the Univerity of Missouri, Huenneke earned her Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University. She has numerous professional honors and recognition, has published more than 50 peer-reviewed publications, and has served on the editorial boards and as a reviewer for numerous scientific journals.

###

The Ecological Society of America, founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 9,000 member Society publishes five journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana receives environmental offsets from the Ecological Society of America

103rd Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America: 
Extreme events, ecosystem resilience and human well-being
5–10 August 2018

August 7, 2018
For Immediate Release

Contact: Zoe Gentes, 202-833-8773 ext. 211, zgentes@esa.org
New Orleans on-site press room: 504-670-6402

 

The Ecological Society of America (ESA) will donate over $17,500 to the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL) to offset the environmental costs of the Society’s 103rd Annual Meeting, held this year in New Orleans, LA. More than 3,500 attendees convene from across the globe this week to impart, discuss, and share the latest in essential ecological research and discovery.

Student volunteers participate in a CRCL fall tree planting. Since 2000, CRCL’s Habitat Restoration Program has planted more than four million native plants throughout the Louisiana coast. Credit: CRCL

With so many in attendance, the environmental footprint left behind is not small, nor is it overlooked by ESA members. The energy required to transport, house, and host these environmentally-minded participants exacts a toll on the very ecosystems that conference participants have come together to discuss.

CRCL Restorations Programs Director Dr. Deb Abibou and volunteers plant CRCL’s 30,000th tree. The tree marked end of CRCL’s third “10,000 Trees for Louisiana” campaign. Credit: CRCL

Caz Taylor, a spatial ecologist at Tulane University and the meeting’s Local Host, stated that the wetland loss in the Gulf Coast region is of huge concern. She emphasized that the destruction of wetlands, which constitutes 40-45 percent of coastal wetlands in the lower continental United States, is “already having enormous environmental and economic consequences, and I think it is one of the most serious environmental issues facing the US.”

By the year 2040, it is estimated that one-third of coastal wetlands will be destroyed by urban development. CRCL uses a multifaceted restoration, outreach, and advocacy approach to achieve its mission of driving bold, science-based action to rebuild coastal Louisiana.

“Here in Louisiana we are losing wetlands at an incredible rate—one football field every 100 minutes and New Orleans is inching closer to the Gulf of Mexico every day,” said CRCL Executive Director Kimberly Davis Reyher. “We are thankful for ESA’s commitment to give back to Louisiana’s coast during their annual meeting. Few groups think about offsetting their environmental impact.”

CRCL is a boots-on-the-ground restoration organization that has engaged more than 13,000 volunteers through its Habitat Restoration Program. Volunteers have planted more than 3.5 million native trees and plants throughout coastal Louisiana. CRCL also administers the state’s only Oyster Shell Recycling Program which collects oyster shells from participating New Orleans restaurants and uses them to build living shoreline oyster reefs. These reefs encourage oyster settlement, provide fish and wildlife habitat and most importantly act as a breakwall to stabilize the Louisiana coastline. CRCL is also engaging the local fishing industry in its restoration work. Louisiana produces 30 percent of the fish consumed in the US.

CRCL Volunteers bagging Oyster Shells in Buras, Louisiana. The bagged shell is used to build living shorelines to rebuild oyster habitat and protect the coast from erosion and store surge. Credit: CRCL

As the oldest statewide coastal restoration organization in Louisiana, CRCL also advocates for coastal policy at the local, state and national levels and works to promote Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan, which is the state’s blueprint for restoring its coast. This 50-year plan calls for the construction of over a hundred projects including hydrologic restoration, marsh creation, and sediment diversions.

Community and science-based restoration efforts are at the core of the work accomplished by the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana. These are values mirrored by the Ecological Society of America and its members. This funding will allow the CRCL to further its commitment to coastal restoration.

###

2018 Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana
Extreme events, ecosystem resilience and human well-being
5–10 August 2018

Ecologists from 50 U.S. states, U.S. territories, and countries around the world will converge on New Orleans, Louisiana this August for the 103rd Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America. Up to 4,000 attendees are expected to gather for thousands of scientific presentations on breaking research and new ecological concepts at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on August 5 – 10, 2018.

ESA invites press and institutional public information officers to attend for free. To apply, please contact ESA Public Information Manager Zoe Gentes directly at zgentes@esa.org. Walk-in registration will be available during the meeting.

###

The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 9,000 member Society publishes five journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in the science of ecology. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

Trees travelling west: how climate is changing our forests

103rd Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America: 
Extreme events, ecosystem resilience and human well-being
5–10 August 2018

August 1, 2018
For Immediate Release

Contact: Zoe Gentes, 202-833-8773 ext. 211, zgentes@esa.org
New Orleans on-site press room: 504-670-6402

 

Many studies on the impacts of global temperature rise have suggested that the range of trees will migrate poleward and upward. However, research that will be presented at the 2018 ESA Annual Meeting in August suggests that more tree species have shifted westward than poleward.

The effects of climate change on trees can be complicated – different combinations of changes in temperature and precipitation can result in different impacts, and different species can have different responses. As such, resource managers lack a comprehensive understanding of large-scale climate change impacts on forest ecosystems.

Songlin Fei, Associate Professor at the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources at Purdue University, sought to provide some understanding to this problem. Using field data across the eastern US, he analyzed 86 tree species and groups to investigate the magnitude and direction of their responses to climate change over the last three decades and to provide an understanding of any changes.

Many tree species are expanding their range westward due to climate change, a shift caused by changes in precipitation and observed among species sharing similar traits. Photo courtesy of Songlin Fei.

He found that 73 percent of tree species have experienced a westward shift while 62 percent have experienced a poleward shift. It appears that the shifts are largely associated with changes in moisture availability. The shifts are also associated with species that have similar traits (drought tolerance, wood density, and seed weight) and evolutionary histories, such as deciduous vs. evergreen species. The results suggest that changes in moisture availability have stronger near-term impacts on forest dynamics than do changes in temperature.

Fei’s talk is part of a session that will discuss research on other large-scale climate change impacts on important forests in the eastern US, such as upland oak forests which provide a wealth of ecological and economic services including wildlife habitat, timber, and water resources. These forests have adapted to persist in fire-prone areas; human-induced fire control may change this by allowing tree species that are fire-intolerant and shade-tolerant (mesophytes) to outcompete the oaks in the absence of fire. Without fires, these mesophytes may foster their own proliferation through a variety of poorly-understood mechanisms, while increasing vulnerability of the upland oak forests.

This session includes the following selections:


OOS 28-1Divergence of species response to climate change

  • Thursday, August 9, 2018: 8:00 AM
  • 344, New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center
  • Songlin Fei, Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University
  • Presentation abstract
  • Contact: sfei@purdue.edu

###

2018 Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana
Extreme events, ecosystem resilience and human well-being
5–10 August 2018

Ecologists from 50 U.S. states, U.S. territories, and countries around the world will converge on New Orleans, Louisiana this August for the 103rd Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America. Up to 4,000 attendees are expected to gather for thousands of scientific presentations on breaking research and new ecological concepts at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on August 5 – 10, 2018.

The Opening Plenary features Robert Twilley, executive director of the Louisiana Sea Grant College Program and distinguished professor in the Department of Oceanography and Coastal Science at Louisiana State University, who will speak about, “Ecosystem design approaches in a highly engineered landscape of the Mississippi River Delta.” The event is free and open to the general public and will be live-streamed – watch it here on Sunday, August 5 at 5:00 PM CDT.

ESA invites press and institutional public information officers to attend for free. To apply, please contact ESA Public Information Manager Zoe Gentes directly at zgentes@esa.org. Walk-in registration will be available during the meeting.

###

The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 9,000 member Society publishes five journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in the science of ecology. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

Coldwater streams may provide refuge against changing climate

103rd Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America: 
Extreme events, ecosystem resilience and human well-being
5–10 August 2018

July 24, 2018
For Immediate Release

 

Contact: Zoe Gentes, 202-833-8773 ext. 211, zgentes@esa.org

New Orleans on-site press room: 504-670-6402

 

Coldwater stream habitats are vulnerable to effects of climate change, particularly to changes in precipitation and air temperatures that alter their hydrology. Some of these streams are expected to diminish in size, permanently transition to warmer habitats, or possibly go dry. However, streams in deep canyons, poleward-facing slopes, thick canopy cover, groundwater-fed areas, and with fewer anthropogenic impacts are more likely to resist these changing conditions. Such areas may act as coldwater refugia — areas buffered from climate change that enable persistence of the ecosystem and its resources – and may provide long-term habitat to ecologically and economically important species.

These coldwater researchers study streams to evaluate them for traits that buffer against the effects of climate change, acting as climate refugia for important species and resources. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Quiñones.

The efficacy of conservation strategies to protect coldwater streams and the species that rely on them will depend upon understanding the potential persistence of these habitats. Such understanding may help with management practices including prioritization of dam removal, instream flow protection, vegetation management, and trout stocking. The first step is to identify locations that are relatively buffered from physical processes such as warming temperatures, hydrologic changes, or extreme disturbances like fire, drought, pests, and pathogens.

A study by Rebecca M. Quiñones, a fisheries biologist for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, and partners builds on existing models of watershed characteristics to map Massachusetts streams under different climate scenarios and time scales. Quiñones used the presence of coldwater species – for example, Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), Longnose Sucker (Catostomus catostomus) and Slimy Sculpin (Cottus cognatus) — to identify stream reaches most likely to be climate refugia. The goal of the study is to determine the probability of species occupancy before and after potential management actions and the influence of urban development, water demand, and other stressors on stream characteristics. She will present her findings at the 2018 ESA Annual Meeting in August.

Quiñones’s presentation is part of a session about the role of climate change refugia in adapting our management of ecosystems as a response to changing environmental conditions. This session consists of 10 presentations, including the selections below:


OOS 35-10 – Mapping coldwater refugia as a first step towards spatially-explicit aquatic conservation in Massachusetts

  • Thursday, August 9, 2018: 4:40 PM
  • 343, New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center
  • Rebecca M. Quiñones, Department of Fish and Game, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
  • Presentation abstract
  • Contact: rebecca.quinones@state.ma.us

###

2018 Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana
Extreme events, ecosystem resilience and human well-being
5–10 August 2018

Ecologists from 50 U.S. states, U.S. territories, and countries around the world will converge on New Orleans, Louisiana this August for the 103rd Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America. Up to 4,000 attendees are expected to gather for thousands of scientific presentations on breaking research and new ecological concepts at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on August 5 – 10, 2018.

The Opening Plenary features Robert Twilley, executive director of the Louisiana Sea Grant College Program and distinguished professor in the Department of Oceanography and Coastal Science at Louisiana State University, who will speak about, “Ecosystem design approaches in a highly engineered landscape of the Mississippi River Delta.” The event is free and open to the general public and will be live-streamed – watch it here on Sunday, August 5 at 5:00 PM Central Time.

ESA invites press and institutional public information officers to attend for free. To apply, please contact ESA Public Information Manager Zoe Gentes directly at zgentes@esa.org. Walk-in registration will be available during the meeting.

###

The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 9,000 member Society publishes five journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in the science of ecology. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

2018 ESA Regional Policy Award Recognizes Representative Walter J. Leger III for His Coastal Restoration Work

103rd Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America: 
Extreme events, ecosystem resilience and human well-being
5–10 August 2018

Tuesday, July 17, 2018
For Immediate Release

Contact: Alison Mize, 202-833-8773 ext. 205 or mobile, 703-625-3628  alison@esa.org 

Sunday, Aug. 5, 2018, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) will present its 11th annual Regional Policy Award to Representative Walter J. Leger III, speaker pro tempore of the Louisiana House of Representatives, during the Society’s Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana. The ESA award recognizes an elected or appointed local policymaker who has an outstanding record of informing policy decisions with ecological science.

Representative Walter J. Leger III, speaker pro tempore of the Louisiana House of Representatives.

“The Society applauds Rep. Leger’s commitment to science-based restoration of the Gulf Coast,” said ESA President Rich Pouyat. “Louisiana is losing about 75-square kilometers of coastal wetlands and habitat a year. Rep. Leger has demonstrated a consistent interest in coastal issues and raising awareness among policy makers through briefings from ecologists and others about the underlying science of coastal restoration through an unofficial ‘coastal caucus’ in Louisiana’s House of Representatives.”

Leger was first elected as a state legislator in 2007 and represents the Louisiana’s 91st District, which includes parts of New Orleans. Among other priorities, he has championed coastal restoration and preservation. He has worked actively to ensure proper use of funds intended for coastal protection and restoration, including funds stemming from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Leger is an avid supporter of Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan that focuses on building and maintaining land and reducing flood risk through large-scale projects such as marsh creation and sediment diversions; structural protection and nonstructural risk reduction; and proactive resilience investments for flood prevention and protection.

“I am honored to receive this award from the Ecological Society of America,” said Rep. Leger. “Having partners like ESA to inform the policymaking process regarding coastal preservation and restoration is vital to the future of Louisiana. Our geography defines us, and we need to continue working towards evidence and science-based solutions to ensure that the story our coastline tells is one of perseverance and longevity.”

ESA President Pouyat will present the 2018 ESA Regional Policy Award at the beginning of the meeting’s Opening Plenary Sunday, Aug. 5 at 5:00 PM in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center La Nouvelle Orleans Ballroom.

 

###

2018 Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana
Extreme events, ecosystem resilience and human well-being
5–10 August 2018

Ecologists from 50 U.S. states, U.S. territories, and countries around the world will converge on New Orleans, Louisiana this August for the 103rd Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America. Up to 4,000 attendees are expected to gather for thousands of scientific presentations on breaking research and new ecological concepts at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on August 5 – 10, 2018.

The Opening Plenary features Robert Twilley, executive director of the Louisiana Sea Grant College Program and distinguished professor in the Department of Oceanography and Coastal Science at Louisiana State University, who will speak about, “Ecosystem design approaches in a highly engineered landscape of the Mississippi River Delta.” The event is free and open to the general public and will be live-streamed – watch it here on Sunday, August 5 at 5:00 PM.

ESA invites press and institutional public information officers to attend for free. To apply, please contact ESA Public Information Manager Zoe Gentes directly at zgentes@esa.org. Walk-in registration will be available during the meeting.

###

The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 9,000 member Society publishes five journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in the science of ecology. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

Mangroves to mudflats and not back again

103rd Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America: 
Extreme events, ecosystem resilience and human well-being
5–10 August 2018

July 13, 2018
For Immediate Release

Contact: Zoe Gentes, 202-833-8773 ext. 211, zgentes@esa.org

Over one-third of Earth’s population lives with 100 km of a coastline and depend on the services that coastal ecosystems provide. With the intensity and impact of hurricanes expected to increase in the future, there is a need to understand how coastal ecosystems will be impacted by and recover from hurricanes, and how these changes will influence human well-being.

Coastal ecosystems such as mangrove forests are highly susceptible to effects from hurricanes. Hurricanes can provide valuable sediments and nutrients that promote plant growth and increase the stability of some coastal ecosystems. However, storm surge, saltwater intrusion, wind, and extreme rainfall can knock down forests, lead to erosion, and transform plant communities. This can lead to an abrupt and irreversible ecosystem transformation.

In a southwestern section of Everglades National Park, hurricanes may have contributed to the conversion of mangrove forests to lower-elevation mudflats. The mangrove forests offer some protection from storm surge and can provide habitat stability. Long-term transformation to mudflats would have serious effects on the ability of coastal wetlands to persist against hurricanes and rising sea levels.

Left: mangrove forests and mudflats at the study site. Right: the intricate root systems of mangroves help stabilize living shorelines against erosion and extreme weather events. Photos courtesy of Michael J. Osland, USGS.

United States Geological Survey (USGS) scientists have measured surface elevation changes in these mangroves and adjacent mudflats for nearly 20 years, including changes brought on by Hurricane Wilma in 2005 and Hurricane Irma in 2017. Michael J. Osland, a USGS research ecologist, will speak on this research at the 2018 ESA Annual Meeting in August.

They found that over the last two decades, rates of elevation change in the mangrove forests and the un-vegetated mudflats have been very different. While the soil elevation in the mangroves has been relatively stable, the mudflats have been losing elevation. The data highlight the ability of mangrove trees to reduce elevation loss and minimize erosion while promoting wetland stability through root production. Their findings also indicate that the effects of mangrove conversion to mudflats are long-lasting, with negative impacts on the resilience of these ecosystems against extreme events.

The talk is part of a session about hurricane effects on coastal ecosystems in the southeast US. This session consists of 10 presentations, including the selections below:


OOS 26-6 — A hurricane-induced ecological regime shift: mangrove conversion to mudflat in Everglades National Park

  • Thursday, August 9, 2018: 9:50 AM
  • 343, New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center
  • Michael J. Osland, U.S. Geological Survey Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
  • Presentation abstract

###

2018 Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana
Extreme events, ecosystem resilience and human well-being
5–10 August 2018

Ecologists from 50 U.S. states, U.S. territories, and countries around the world will converge on New Orleans, Louisiana this August for the 103rd Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America. Up to 4,000 attendees are expected to gather for thousands of scientific presentations on breaking research and new ecological concepts at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on August 5 – 10, 2018.

ESA invites press and institutional public information officers to attend for free. To apply, please contact ESA Public Information Manager Zoe Gentes directly at zgentes@esa.org. Walk-in registration will be available during the meeting.

The opening plenary talk by Robert Twilley will be live-streamed – watch it here on Sunday, August 5 at 5 PM.

###

The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 9,000 member Society publishes five journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in the science of ecology. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

Rising seas put salinity stress on Hawaiian coastal plants

103rd Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America: 
Extreme events, ecosystem resilience and human well-being
5–10 August 2018

July 5, 2018
For Immediate Release

Contact: Zoe Gentes, 202-833-8773 ext. 211, zgentes@esa.org

With the increased likelihood of extreme weather events and sea-level rise associated with climate change, flooding poses a major risk to coastal regions. Seawater flooding is not only a threat to many already-threatened ecosystems, but also can cause socio-economic costs to the many millions of people that live on the coastal fringes around the world.

This threat has traditionally been countered by the construction of ‘hard defenses’ such as concrete walls. This solution often proves to be expensive, inflexible, and of limited value to local biodiversity. Modern coastal management practices now recognize the need to integrate man-made engineering solutions with natural ecosystems, or ’soft-defenses.’ Consequently, across the world, many coastal (sand dunes, salt marshes, mangroves) habitats are now recognized for their important contribution to flood defense.

Only recently have ecologists begun to examine how these ecosystems will respond to and recover from prolonged seawater immersion. In light of their crucial role in soft infrastructure, it is imperative that scientists strive to understand how coastal plants and vegetation respond to the saltwater flood risk associated with rising sea levels and storm surges.

Tiffany D. Lum – a Masters student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI – will present her research on salinity tolerance in a coastal plant species and how it affects plant reproduction resilience. Because plant population persistence depends on successful seedling recruitment, seedling survival to maturity, and reproduction, it is important to know how increased salinity will influence each of these processes.

Jacquemontia sandwicensis (Convolvulaceae) – a widespread and abundant native coastal plant species in Hawaii. Photo courtesy of wikicommons.

Lum and her advisor Kasey E. Barton sought to quantify salinity tolerance in a widespread and abundant native coastal plant species: Jacquemontia sandwicensis (Convolvulaceae). They wanted to identify mechanisms underlying the overall tolerance across the plant’s lifecycle and through each developmental stage.

The plants were exposed to three weeks of salinity watering treatments at the seed, seedling, juvenile, and mature ontogenetic stages. Tolerance was quantified as the performance and fitness under salinity treatment; for example, higher photosynthetic rates and higher total mass in comparison to control groups. They found that the plants do exhibit some trait plasticity to avoid salinity stress in the short term, useful at early life stages. However, a delayed onset of flowering and fewer produced seeds suggest that salinity exposure at different life stages may threaten the resilience of this species in light of future sea level rise and storm surges.

The talk is part of a session about optimizing management of coastal ecosystems in the face of climate-driven threats. This session consists of 10 presentations, including the selections below:


OOS 21-3 – Ontogenetic shifts in salinity stress response in Hawaiian coastal species

  • Wednesday, August 8, 2018: 2:10 PM
  • 343, New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center
  • Tiffany D. Lum and Kasey E. Barton, University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • Presentation abstract

###

2018 Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana
Extreme events, ecosystem resilience and human well-being
5–10 August 2018

Ecologists from 50 U.S. states, U.S. territories, and countries around the world will converge on New Orleans, Louisiana this August for the 103nd Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America. Up to 4,000 attendees are expected to gather for thousands of scientific presentations on breaking research and new ecological concepts at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on August 5 – 10, 2018.

ESA invites press and institutional public information officers to attend for free. To apply, please contact ESA Public Information Manager Zoe Gentes directly at zgentes@esa.org. Walk-in registration will be available during the meeting.

###

The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 9,000 member Society publishes five journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in the science of ecology. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.