2014-03-24. Climate change catches snowshoe hares off guard. Excerpt: ...Several mammal species annually swap out their brown drab summer coat for a stylish camouflaged white coat in time for snow season. Over the past few decades, shorter periods of snowpack from warmer temperatures are exposing snowshoe hares to predators when their coats molt out of sync with snow cover. That could be a problem for hare populations, .... The timing of molt remained fixed in autumn even though the timing of snow pack differed between years. ...Even so, coat color was often mismatched and it seemed to make little difference to the hares. ...Patches of bare ground were preferred over snowy spots as resting sites, independent of coat color. The hares’ apparent disregard for conspicuousness is a bit of a mystery. ...A shift from a reliance on camouflage to other adaptive predator avoidance strategies, such as running faster, may also help hares keep pace with climate change.... http://conservationmagazine.org/2014/03/climate-change-catches-snowshoe-hares-guard/. Miles Becker, University of Washington, Conservation.
2012-12-31. As Pheasants Disappear, Hunters in Iowa Follow
| John Eligon, The New York Times. Relevant to GSS Ecosystem Change,
chapter 2. Excerpt: ELKHART, Iowa …The pheasant, once king of Iowa’s
nearly half-a-billion-dollar hunting industry, is vanishing from the
state. Surveys show that the population in 2012 was the second lowest on
record, 81 percent below the average over the past four decades. …It
stems from several years of excessively damp weather and animal
predators. But the factor inciting the most emotion is the loss of
wildlife habitat as landowners increasingly chop down their brushy
fields to plant crops to take advantage of rising commodity prices and
farmland values. Over the last two decades, Iowa has lost more than 1.6
million acres of habitat suitable for pheasants…. And these declines
have been occurring nationwide. The overall amount of land enrolled in
the Agriculture Department’s Conservation Reserve Program has dipped to
29.5 million acres from a peak of 36.7 million in 2007. Under the
program, the government pays owners … to plant parts of their land with
grass and other vegetation that create a wildlife habitat. ...But as the
price of corn and other crops has risen, so have land values, and the
rates paid by the government under the program have been unable to keep
up…. In Iowa, the issue essentially has pitted the interests of the
state’s recreational industry against its biggest economic driver,
farming…. Read the full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/01/us/as-pheasants-disappear-hunters-in-iowa-follow.html
2010 May 4. Concerns Up and Down the Food Chain. By Leslie Kaufman, NY Times. Excerpt:
BRETON ISLAND, La. — As the oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon
spreads across the Gulf of Mexico, environmentalists and government
officials have been working frantically to protect shoreline habitat
like this island in the Breton National Wildlife Refuge, eight miles
off the coast of Louisiana.
Breton Island, with its hundreds of nesting birds, has been protected
by orange booms, as have many other areas of delicate estuaries and
But biologists are increasingly alarmed for wildlife offshore, where
the damage from a spill can be invisible but still deadly. And they
caution that because of the fluidity between onshore and offshore
marine communities, the harm taking place deep at sea will come back to
haunt the shallows, whether or not they are directly hit by the slick.
The gulf’s deeper water harbors 10 species of threatened sharks, 6
species of endangered turtles, manatees, whales and innumerable fish.
It is also a temporary home for the eggs of dozens of species of fish
and shellfish, whose offspring spend their earliest days floating along
currents at the surface of the water — the very layer where most of the
There, the effects can be devastating, studies from previous spills
show, like whales so drugged and disoriented by noxious petroleum fumes
that they can drown, and tiny translucent organisms whose bodies are
literally burned from the inside out as the sun heats the fuel they
“Unfortunately, we’ve had a lot of experience in how oil affects marine
life, ecosystems, coastal communities, and fisheries,” said Christopher
Mann, with the marine program of the nonprofit Pew Environment Group.
“The iconic images of oiled seabirds are just the tip of the iceberg,
because oil spills affect life up and down the food chain.”...
2009 November 5. Surprising New Connection Made Between Predators and Ecosystems. By Jennifer Donovan, US News & World Report. Excerpt: Moose eat plants; wolves kill moose. What difference does this classic predator-prey interaction make to biodiversity?
A large and unexpected one, say wildlife biologists from Michigan
Technological University. Joseph Bump, Rolf Peterson and John Vucetich
report in the November 2009 issue of the journal Ecology that the
carcasses of moose killed by wolves at Isle Royale National Park enrich
the soil in “hot spots” of forest fertility around the kills, causing
rapid microbial and fungal growth that provide increased nutrients for
plants in the area.
“This study demonstrates an unforeseen link between the hunting
behavior of a top predator—the wolf—and biochemical hot spots on the
landscape,” said Bump, an assistant professor in Michigan Tech’s School
of Forest Resources and Environmental Science and first author of the
research paper. “It’s important because it illuminates another
contribution large predators make to the ecosystem they live in and
illustrates what can be protected or lost when predators are preserved
2008 May 27. Scientists warn of acidic seawater in Puget Sound.
Associated Press. Excerpt:
SEATTLE - Puget Sound faces an uncertain future due to the increasing
acidity of seawater, a panel of marine scientists said Tuesday. The
changes are coming more rapidly than expected, and could disrupt food
chains and threaten Washington's shellfish industry. The acidic
seawater is moving closer to shallow waters containing the bulk of
marine life, according to an article this month in the journal Science.
The increasingly corrosive water threatens the survival of many
organisms, from microscopic plants and animals at the base of the food
chain to shellfish, corals and the young of some marine species.
...The latest research indicates acidic water is appearing along the Pacific Coast decades earlier than expected.
... "As long as CO2 continues to increase in the atmosphere, the oceans
will continue to absorb that," Sabine said. "What we're seeing is only
going to get worse."
... "This acidity dissolves calcium carbonate, which is the thing that
shells are made out of. If diatoms, corals, clams and oysters succumb
to this it not only wipes out the shellfish industry but potentially
the entire marine food chain," said Bishop, a fifth-generation
2005 September. Housecleaning Made Cleaner (Union of Concerned Scientists Greentips) Tips
on choosing household cleansers that will help keep your home both
clean and "green." Avoid harmful ingredients (Petroleum,
Phosphates/EDTA, Phthalates, Antibacterial agents, Chlorine bleach).
Choose "greener" alternatives (Citrus- and plant-based oils, Sodium
carbonate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium citrate, and sodium silicate,
Enzymes, Non-chlorine bleach).
2005 September 2. Study Indicates Organic Foods Are Best for Children. By Marla Cone, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer. Excerpt:
U.S. government scientists from the Centers for Disease Control have
released a new study revealing that switching to organic foods provides
children with "dramatic and immediate" protection from toxic
pesticides. The scientists tested the urine of elementary school
children for 15 days. Children ate conventional foods for ten of the
days and ate organic foods for five days. During those five days,
researchers saw the toxins malathion and chlorpyrifos in the children's
urine completely disappear. These chemicals are two of the most
commonly found pesticides on non-organic foods. Pesticide levels
increased five-fold in the children's urine as soon as conventional
foods were reintroduced to their diet.] The health effects of exposure
to minute amounts of pesticides found in food are largely unknown,
especially for children. ...Pesticide manufacturers say that while low
levels of residue are detectable on many products, there is no evidence
that children are harmed by them. They say that pesticides, which are
the most highly tested and regulated chemicals in the United States,
are vital to providing an affordable and plentiful world food supply.
...Some research, however, suggests that the residue may harm the
developing nervous system. ...The study concludes, "An organic diet
provides a dramatic and immediate protective effect against exposure to
organophosphorus pesticides that are commonly used in agricultural
production." The study is "Organic Diets Significantly Lower Children's
Dietary Exposure to Organophosphorus Pesticides" by Chensheng Lu,
Kathryn Toepel, Rene Irish, Richard A. Fenske, Dana B. Barr, and
Roberto Bravo. Full Text of Study.
8 December 2003. NASA RELEASE:
Learning To Monitor Coral Reef Health From
The Sky. Coral
reef health may be accurately estimated from
sensors on airplanes and satellites in the
future, .... Sometimes called the "bellwether
of the seas," coral reefs can give first
indications of marine ecosystem health. "Scientists
can use coral health as a sensitive indicator
of the health of the marine environment," said
Liane Guild, a scientist at NASA Ames Research
Center, Moffett Field, Calif. ...One of the
first steps her team took to develop aerial
coral monitoring was to take undersea light-reflectance
readings of elkhorn coral with a handheld
spectroradiometer, or light meter. ... A spectroradiometer
measures the amount of ultraviolet, visible
and infrared light reflected from an object,
and is similar to sensors aboard remote-sensing
airplanes and satellites. ..."Ultimately,
we plan to fly 'hyperspectral' instruments,
containing many detectors that collect information
in the visible light range,"
Guild explained. These instruments
will provide the most useful information
about coral-reef community health
from above the sea, according to
Guild. The team's research emphasis
is on Acropora palmata, or elkhorn
coral, a major reef-building coral.
It is prevalent in the study area,
but is suffering from
"white band disease." Elkhorn
coral is on the verge of becoming
an endangered species because it
has severely declined in many areas
of the Caribbean, Guild noted. Images.
Articles from 2003–present
SEE ALSO...Losing Biodiversity
5: Soil, the Living Skin of
7: One Global Ocean
8: Champions of a Sustainable