Category Archives: Ecosystems

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Healthy Native Soils Less Favorable To Invasive Plants

We found that background levels of soil N and an intact native soil microbial community are essential to the performance of two native prairie plant species, a grass and a forb, while an invasive forb is most successful under conditions of elevated soil nitrogen and when the native soil microbial community has been disrupted. While other studies have considered either the role of the soil microbial community or the effect of changes in soil fertility on the performance of native and exotic plants, our study is one of the few to evaluate the performance of natives and exotics in relation to both factors and under competitive conditions. This integrated approach allows us to more realistically assess the importance of biotic and abiotic soil factors and their interactions to plant performance and the success of exotic invaders. (Click on title for full story.)

0213001849

That Dingo Saved My Landscape

The plots on the dingo side of the fence showed no real differences in vegetation. But on the other side of the fence, the kangaroo-exclusion areas had about 12% more vegetation cover, implying that high numbers of the herbivores reduce the plant cover in a landscape. Fenced-off plots on the kangaroo side of the fence also had more soil carbon, phosphorus and nitrogen, suggesting that intense grazing outside the plots was changing the soil chemistry of the area. (Click on title for full story.)

0213001849

Urban Vacant Lots Provide More Ecosystem Services Than Nice Yards

Vacant lots contained three times more trees and twice the leaf biomass found in other settings. They were also more diverse. Most of that richness came from non-native species—but while much has been said about the negative impacts of exotic trees, the researchers noted, “there has been less focus on ecological benefits they might provide.” (Click on title for full story.)

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Climate Change Pushes Tough Decisions For Commercial Forestry Plantings

The interest for alternatives to be used in forest conversion has grown immensely with the change in climate. Naturally the desire for higher yields in growth, accompanied by a good suitability to a warmer and dryer climate, also play an important role. A search for alternate species in order to transform the forest to better face climate change has been underway for a long time. It is now imperative to examine the alternatives based on clear principles, in an emotionless manner and without stereotypes. (Click on title for full story.)

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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.)

0213001849

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.)

0213001849

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.)