Taxonomy term

ecosystem

Spawning salmon engineer landscapes

All animals depend on their ecosystems for habitat. And, in turn, many animals impact their ecosystems by engineering the landscape to suit their needs. Beavers provide an iconic example of ecosystem engineering when they build dams, which influence streams and wetlands. The engineering efforts of salmon, meanwhile, can even shape the bedrock of the watersheds in which they live, according to a recent study that modeled the evolution of those watersheds over several million years.

23 Feb 2018

Beavers preserve wetlands in water-stressed areas

Once considered detrimental to ecosystems and nuisances where, for example, dams flooded farmland, beavers have been rhetorically touted in recent years as a potential boon for wetland health and water conservation. Anecdotal accounts and qualitative findings have suggested beavers improve water quality and availability in drought-stressed ecosystems, but just how much influence they have was not known. In new research, scientists have examined two creeks in Nevada to directly measure how effective beaver dams are at slowing water flows and storing water through the dry summer months.

30 Jan 2018

Comment: The Congressional ecosystem: A paleontologist's perspective

AGI’s William L. Fisher Congressional Geoscience Fellow gains a better understanding of the mechanics behind federal policymaking by taking a paleoecological view.
09 Nov 2017

Liverworts, not moss, dominated Earth's early terrestrial ecosystems

Moss, the springy green plant that blankets forest floors, has been heralded as the generator of large amounts of oxygen to Earth’s atmosphere during the Paleozoic. In a new study, however, researchers suggest that it could have been the overlooked relative of moss — liverworts — that dominated early terrestrial ecosystems and thus had more to do with reducing high carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere at the time and cooling climate globally.

 
08 Feb 2017

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

Crumbly amber holds dinosaur secrets

In the movie “Jurassic Park,” dinosaurs were resurrected from DNA in blood harvested from Mesozoic mosquitoes preserved in amber. The plot was pure science fiction, but a new study has found another use for the biological material trapped in fossilized tree resin. By studying microscopic inclusions of plant material, pollen and feathers preserved in bits of amber recovered alongside dinosaur fossils, paleontologist Ryan McKellar of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Canada is recreating a more complete picture of the Mesozoic landscape.

 
12 Feb 2015

Polar dino tracks show full ecosystem

Researchers recently uncovered a new dinosaur tracksite in Alaska’s Denali National Park. The well-preserved Late Cretaceous footprints were left by duck-billed dinosaurs called hadrosaurs. Most of the tracks are incredibly detailed, and some even show some skin impressions; they represent animals of various ages. Given the wealth of data, the tracks provide insight into the herd dynamics and paleobiology of the greenhouse-world Arctic.

28 Nov 2014

Removing predators increases carbon emissions

Habitat loss, overfishing and invasive species can damage ecosystems, but the loss of predators in particular may have worse consequences than previously thought. In a new study, scientists show that the absence of freshwater predators sharply influences an ecosystem’s carbon dioxide emissions.

12 Jun 2013

Releasing a flood of controversy on the Colorado River

Since the completion of the Glen Canyon Dam in 1963, the once warm and muddy Colorado River has run clear and cold, with a drastically altered ecosystem. A new plan to release regular, intentional floods — to resupply sediment and restore species habitat — aims to reverse the damage done to the Grand Canyon’s natural systems over the last 50 years.

03 Mar 2013

Mississippi Delta drowning

The Mississippi River Delta is arguably the most geologically (and politically) dynamic delta in the United States. Subsidence, sedimentation, sea-level change and human manipulation constantly alter the landscape at the end of North America’s longest river. But now, researchers say, the beloved delta may be irrevocably shrinking.

24 Nov 2009