Archive by category | Biodiversity and Ecology

When money grows on trees

When money grows on trees

In this year’s series of UN climate talks – the latest of which took place last week in Bonn – one of the issues negotiators are sinking their teeth into is a source of greenhouse gases that has previously been sidestepped. Chopping and burning trees causes an estimated one-fifth of global emissions, and slowing down deforestation could be the cheapest and quickest way to keep a substantial load of gas out of the atmosphere. With this in mind, the Bali meeting in 2007 called for a decision on forests to be made by the time the 2009 talks wrap up in Copenhagen this December.  Read more

How to heat a forest… or at least, a part of one

How to heat a forest… or at least, a part of one

Sure, accidentally heating the planet has been pretty easy. But try intentionally heating a plot of forest, and you get a whole other story. In this week’s Nature, we take a brief look at a series of new experiments to test how warmer temperatures will change the composition of forests in different regions of the United States. Will forests begin to sprout above the tree line in the Colorado Rocky Mountains? Will oaks sweep northwards, deeper into the boreal forests of the northern United States and Canada? Unfortunately, reliably and evenly heating a stand of grown trees to a set  … Read more

Visualizing the assisted migration argument

Visualizing the assisted migration argument

Formerly a taboo topic among conservationists, ‘assisted migration’ or ‘managed relocation’ – literally moving sensitive species to new habitats in order to save them – has recently started to come in for serious consideration. A paper out in PNAS this week offers a quick and innovative way to evaluate candidate species with new visual tools.  Read more

Tropical forests: From sink to source?

Tropical forests: From sink to source?

The Earth’s large forests take up substantially more atmospheric carbon dioxide through photosynthesis than they release back to the atmosphere through respiration. Thus acting as a carbon ‘sink’, they (and the oceans) are our closest natural allies in the fight against climate change.  Read more

Wanted: Citizen climate scientists (shared Nobel Prize not guaranteed)

Wanted: Citizen climate scientists (shared Nobel Prize not guaranteed)

Uncle Sam wants your observations of flowering and fruiting American plants. A new national ‘citizen science’ program is starting up in the US that asks volunteers to send in data on the seasonal cycles, or phenology, of local plants – information that researchers can use to track shifts caused by climate change and other factors. Animal-lovers can start contributing data next year. Running the effort is the USA-National Phenology Network, a consortium of universities, nonprofits, and government agencies – notably the US Geological Survey, who cover the new program on their latest podcast. Says the press release: Among other uses,  … Read more

Picture post: ‘thermal microhabitats’

Picture post: 'thermal microhabitats'

Cross-posted from The Great Beyond At a talk yesterday in Washington, plant ecologist Christian Körner showed just how variable temperatures can be in the mountains, even between patches of land that are close together. This could offer possible escape routes for animals impacted by global warming, as potentially they wouldn’t have to move as far as people think to reach a cooler place to live, he says. Korner’s lab explains the image as follows: Using a high resolution thermal imaging camera, this picture illustrates the large variation of temperatures in an alpine landscape at 2500m elevation in the Swiss Alps.  Read more

Ocean acidification disorients fish, riles up scientists

Ocean acidification disorients fish, riles up scientists

I may need to start a file for ‘ocean impacts we hadn’t thought of’. First there was the projection that the seas will get noisier as a result of ocean acidification, which whale conservation groups were running with at a UN conference in December. Now researchers report in PNAS that ocean acidification may make fish larvae lose the sense of smell they use to find a home.  Read more