Category Archives: Ecosystems

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Fire Reveals New Plant Species

“The extraordinary thing is, the vegetation that was burnt in 2015 hadn’t been burnt for something like 70 or 80 years,” Professor Hopper said. He was astonished the new species had gone undetected for hundreds of years. (Click on title for full story.)

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You Don’t Look A Day Under 100: Managing Forests To Act Old Has Benefits

The “old growth” engineering technique succeeded in creating diverse habitats. But the kicker, Keeton says, is that it has also allowed the forest to store a significant amount of carbon, much more than several other conventional tree selection harvesting techniques. That’s key to fighting climate change. Now, forests that are left alone — with no trees harvested — store the most carbon. But Keeton’s study is finding that it is possible to manage the forest to maximize carbon capture, and still keep it a working forest. (Click on title for full story.)

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Did Humans Make The Sahara A Desert?

The story that emerged suggests that as communities of people spread, they changed the landscape to accommodate crops and livestock, causing an exchange in plant species that covered the ground for specimens that exposed the soil. As sunlight bounced from the brighter soil, it warmed the air, building a feedback loop that shifted the atmospheric conditions enough to reduce the frequent monsoon rains and benefit scrub vegetation over grasslands until rainfall virtually vanished, leaving only a scattering of hardy desert plants. (Click on title for full story.)

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How Dust From The Gobi Desert Keeps Giant Sequoias In California Thriving

The scientists found that dust from the Gobi Desert and the Central Valley of California contributed more phosphorus for plants in the Sierra Nevadas than bedrock weathering, which is the breaking down of rock buried beneath the soil. Phosophorus is one of the basic elements that plants need to survive, and the Sierra Nevadas are considered a phosphorus-limited ecosystem. (Click on title for full story.)

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More Than A Carbon Sink: Forests Necessary For Moderating Temperatures

While forests often absorb more solar radiation than grasslands or croplands, they also put more moisture into the air and promote more mixing of the air near the surface than those shorter types of vegetation. “What we are finding is that these mechanisms are often more important, even in some of the higher-latitude regions, where surface light reflection has been given more weight,” (Click on title for full story.)

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Guam Provides A Glimpse Of A Future Without Seed Dispersing Animals

“You couldn’t conduct an experiment to demonstrate how birds affect dispersal and tree regeneration because you can’t experimentally keep birds out of large areas. But the situation on Guam provides a unique accidental experiment. It’s the only place in the world that has lost all frugivores. The difference between Guam and nearby islands is stark, which makes it an extreme example, but these sorts of changes are likely happening to some degree all over the world. (Click on title for full story.)

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Even Amazonia Was Shaped By Ancient Human Agriculturists

The Amazon has long been held up as an example of untamed wilderness. But people have lived in the world’s largest rainforest for thousands of years, hunting, gathering and farming1. For years, researchers have debated how much of an influence human activities have had on the Amazon. And now, a study describes the extent to which ancient peoples changed the distribution of trees in the forest around them. (Click on title for full story.)

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Urban Forests Can’t Restore Themselves Without Human Help

Native tree recruitment…required localized burning and herbivore exclusion,” the authors note. Burning eliminated competing plants and keeping rodents and deer away from the seedlings allowed them to grow. “The damage done by white-tailed deer is well-documented,” Whereas wildland forests have been studied extensively, less is known about an urban system. “If a forest isn’t replacing itself, it’s a garden, Just standing back and letting trees grow is not going to work.” (Click on title for full story.)

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Seagrass Meadows Protect Corals And Marine Animals From Our Filth

Our results indicated that seagrass meadows significantly reduce bacterial loads and can benefit both humans and other organisms in the environment. Represented on every continental shelf but Antarctica, seagrasses are valued for nutrient cycling, sediment stabilization, reduc ing the effects of carbon dioxide elevation, and providing nursery habitat for fisheries.Our observation of reduced levels of coral disease on reefs adjacent to seagrass meadows offers independent support of the benefits that seagrass meadows provide to controlling pathogenic bacteria in marine environments. (Click on title for full story.)

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Devastated Rain Forests Aren’t Just Going To Restore Themselves

The results of the research have implications for the restoration of rainforests: “It is highly unlikely that the tree species we studied is able to recolonise cleared patches in a fragmented habitat by natural seed dispersal alone,” says Kettle. He adds that the same applies to other endangered species of tropical tree with large fruit and seeds dispersed by birds, as evidence from other fragmented tropical forests around the world shows that seeds of this kind are dispersed only locally. “For rainforest restoration projects to be successful, you have to give special attention to these trees,” says Kettle. “If you want to encourage them to spread, the only option is to collect their seeds, set up tree nurseries and then actively plant out the saplings at a later stage.” (Click on title for full story.)