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Research and Field Notes — Page 41

Finding the hottest of the hotspots

Biodiversity hotspots are geographic areas that have both high endemism and high risk for species extinctions. Since the inception of the term two decades ago, these areas have been the focus for conservation projects attempting to save their disproportionally high numbers of endangered species. With science funding on the decline and a shortage researchers available, however, the support and manpower…

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Carbon doesn’t ‘sink’

Oceans are a reliable carbon sink in scientists’ climate change models because they absorb so much of the atmosphere’s excess carbon dioxide. But this good news for climate change is bad news for ocean life:  dissolved carbon is making the oceans more acidic, which threatens the balance of the marine food chain. That dissolved carbon (and a slew of other…

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Reflections on light pollution

In a paper published online this month in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, ESA member Bruce Robertson and his colleagues in biology and biophysics explore the concept of polarized light pollution. They synthesize work that shows how light reflected off of human-made surfaces can confuse animals and alter their behavior, leading to injury or even death. The American Museum…

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How fence lizards got their shimmy

Eastern Fence Lizards are rampant across the American southeast but, in recent years, they’ve begun to coexist with invasive red fire ants from South America. Because the lizards and the ants have similar requirements (terrestrial areas with abundant sunlight), they often find themselves occupying the same space. And the ants don’t like it. Tracy Langkilde of Penn State University studies…

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Climate change doubles tree deaths

Tree deaths have more than doubled in the western U.S. in the past 20-30 years, and the culprit is climate change, according to a paper published Friday in Science. Warming has all kinds of consequences for species ranges.  Changes in temperature can narrow a species’ range or move it latitudinally through changes in average yearly temperatures and alterations of the…

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Cleaner, better biofuels?

The promise of biofuels – fuel made from plant material – has taken a nosedive as scientists predict its generation could cause far more greenhouse gas emissions than it would make up for in preventing the use of fossil fuels.  But a Michigan State chemist has asserted in a paper in Environmental Science & Technology online that if sustainable management…

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Embracing invasive species: A murder-mystery tale

Here’s a story of species introduction, invasion and trophic cascades to boggle the mind of even the most seasoned community ecologist. Macquarie Island is a 60-mile square piece of paradise in the southwest Pacific Ocean, south of Australia and New Zealand where one can find four species of seals and five of penguins. In the early 19th century, feral cats…

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The ecology within

The concept of biological control is no new idea in ecology – people have been transporting living things to control other living things since the late 18th century. The most famous examples seem to be the big failures, where biocontrols become invasive themselves – such as mongooses introduced to Hawaii to control rats but that instead decimated populations of native…

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When scientific fiction replaces good science

Good science writers – as with all reporters – should verify the validity of their stories before publishing, making sure to cite the peer-reviewed research detailing a new discovery. But as in the case of the purported cane toad-eating frog, an exciting enough fact with weak empirical support can sometimes take off like….well, an invasive species. In 2005 and 2006,…

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The battle of alternative fuels

With all the potential sources of alternative energy now being bandied about, how’s a green-minded citizen to really know which technologies to throw their support into? Energy sources from wind and solar to biofuels to “clean” fossil fuel technologies receive major attention in the news. Yet these views are often  propelled by the interests of industry stakeholders, and we also…

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