Taxonomy term

ecology

Nineteenth-century cows muddied Southern California continental shelf

When offshore ecosystems deteriorate, scientists often look at changing ocean conditions, urban runoff or fishing as potential explanations. Cows usually don’t come to mind. But new research investigating the seafloor off the coast of Los Angeles suggests that 19th-century cattle, despite their terrestrial lifestyle, left a lasting impact on the underwater habitat there.

26 Jul 2017

The current extinction of life will leave a scant fossil record

Life on Earth has endured five major mass extinctions, known as the “Big Five.” We know about these past events thanks to fossils: During mass extinctions, many species evident in the rock record disappeared from Earth relatively quickly. Today, human alteration of the environment is driving what scientists call the sixth great extinction, but according to new research, the current extinction differs from the Big Five in a key way: Much of the life facing extermination today will likely not be preserved as fossils. This means that, to future paleontologists looking at the rock record from today, the sixth extinction might not appear to have been such a major event.

05 Sep 2016

Earthworms build big mounds to escape floodwaters

When researchers looking for archaeological remains in satellite imagery came across unidentified mounds — some as tall as humans — in the seasonally flooded wetlands of northern South America, they found a landscape shaped not by ancient civilizations but, rather, by modern earthworms.

26 Aug 2016

Comment: Remarkable geology sets new Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument apart

In the Coast Ranges west of Sacramento, Calif., lies a wilderness of steep-sided canyons, mountainous terrain, rich biological diversity, and cultural and historical significance. But it’s the geology of this region that makes it worthy of designation as a national monument.

12 Nov 2015

Benchmarks: September 26, 1991: Crew sealed inside Biosphere 2

It takes about an hour to drive from Tucson, Ariz., to the Biosphere 2 research facility, perched atop a plateau in the Santa Catalina Mountains. Through its glittering glass walls, you can still see the shadowy silhouette of the Brazilian rainforest that grows inside. Indeed, the facility once enclosed numerous small-scale experimental ecosystems — from a swath of swaying savanna to a 700,000-gallon ocean complete with its own coral reef. And, beginning on Sept. 26, 1991, Biosphere 2 enclosed a crew of four men and four women who would call the bubble home for two years.
 
26 Sep 2015

Bark beetles not to blame for big fires?

Since the mid-1990s, outbreaks of voracious bark beetles have devastated more than 71,000 square kilometers of forests in the Rocky Mountain West. Contrary to popular belief, however, the huge swaths of standing dead trees left behind don’t necessarily pose an increased fire hazard, according to a new study. The finding calls into question the efficacy of recently enacted policies entailing the thinning of beetle-killed forests.
 
08 Aug 2015

Beached iceberg alters Antarctic marine communities

Studying the effects of expanding sea ice around Antarctica has been challenging, however, as it is difficult to predict exactly where sea ice will expand and whether it will stick around long enough to make a difference on marine life. But a rare event involving an iceberg bigger than the island of Manhattan created just the environment that Graeme Clark, an ecologist at the University of New South Wales in Australia, and his colleagues needed to study how the sudden advent of long-term sea-ice cover affects marine communities.

21 Jul 2015

Banana-preserving bacterium shows promise against bat-killing fungus

Since White Nose Syndrome began decimating bat colonies in New England in 2006, most of the news hasn’t been good, and to date, as many as 6 million bats in 26 states have died as a result of infection. But a new trial pitting a particular soil bacterium against White Nose is providing a glimmer of hope in the fight to slow its devastating march across the country.

18 Jun 2015

California's big trees dying of thirst

From the days of John Muir’s treks through the valleys and peaks of the Sierra Nevada, California’s majestic forests have attracted nature lovers from around the world. Since Muir’s death in 1914, though, dramatic changes have taken hold. Across the state’s forests, small trees are more common while large trees have declined in number, and oaks seem to be taking over where pines once ruled. A new study cites drought due to warming as a major driving force behind these changes.

29 May 2015

Can dam releases restore river ecosystems?

Scientists and dam managers are studying how the very dams that disrupt river ecosystems can be used to restore them using controlled releases of water.

18 Mar 2015

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