Category: Natural resources

Climate change is causing problems for puffins

Read the full story from NPR.

Maine’s population of rare Atlantic puffins took a hit this year, as the number of chicks to survive a tough summer plummeted.

The state’s coastal bays and the Gulf of Maine is among the fastest-warming large water bodies on the planet, making the puffins’ fate a test-case for how climate change could disrupt marine ecosystems worldwide.

The English language dominates global conservation science – which leaves 1 in 3 research papers virtually ignored


by Tatsuya Amano (The University of Queensland)

English is considered the language of international science. But our new research reveals how important scientific knowledge in other languages is going untapped. This oversight squanders opportunities to help improve the plight of the one million species facing extinction.

We reviewed almost 420,000 peer-reviewed papers on biodiversity conservation, published in 16 languages other than English. Many non-English-language papers provided evidence on the effectiveness of conservation measures, but they are often not disseminated to the wider scientific community.

History shows many valuable scientific breakthroughs were originally published in a language other than English. The structure of a Nobel Prize–winning antimalarial drug was first published in 1977 in simplified Chinese, as were many of the earliest papers on COVID-19.

Evidence-based conservation is crucial for tackling the Earth’s biodiversity crisis. Our research shows more effort is needed to transcend language barriers in science, maximising scientific contributions to conservation and helping save life on this planet.

woman with clipboard inspects plants
Research findings in non-English papers can provide valuable insights. Shutterstock

Conservation game-changer

Most scientists speak English as a first or second language. And many academic reward programs are skewed towards getting published in international English-language journals.

But important evidence in biodiversity conservation is routinely generated by field conservationists and scientists who are less fluent in English. They often prefer publishing work in their first language – which for many, is not English.

More than one-third of scientific documents on biodiversity conservation are published in languages other than English. However, such knowledge is rarely used at the international level.

Take, for example, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Analysis of the IPBES biodiversity assessment reports has found 96% of references cited are written in English.

Clearly, tackling any global challenge, including the biodiversity crisis, hinges on tapping into the best available knowledge, whichever language it’s produced in. Our translatE project aims to overcome the language barriers to improve this information flow.

As part of the project, we screened 419,679 peer-reviewed papers published in 16 non-English languages between 1888 and 2020 across a wide range of fields. These spanned biodiversity, ecology, conservation biology, forestry and agricultural science, to name a few.

We found 1,234 papers across the 16 non-English languages that provided evidence on the effectiveness of biodiversity conservation interventions. To put this in perspective, the Conservation Evidence database, which documents global research into the effectiveness of conservation actions, holds 4,412 English-language papers.

The rate of publication of relevant studies is increasing over years in six non-English languages: French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian and simplified Chinese.

Among the non-English-language studies we found were a Spanish study on alleviating conflicts between livestock farmers and endangered Andean mountain cats in northern Patagonia, and a Japanese study on the relocation of endangered Blakiston’s fish owls.

Such findings might have valuable insights for human-nature conflicts and threatened bird management in other parts of the world.

owl in icy water
A Japanese study on Blakiston’s fish owls was among the relevant non-English papers the authors identified. Shutterstock

Most English-language evidence on what works in conservation relates to Europe and North America. In some highly biodiverse regions where conservation is needed most, such as Latin America, evidence is desperately lacking.

Research in languages other than English is especially common in regions where English-language studies are scarce, such as Latin America, Russia and East Asia (see figure below).

Many non-English studies also involve species for which studies in English are few or non-existent. Incorporating non-English studies would expand scientific knowledge into 12-25% more geographic areas and 5-32% more species.

The location of 1,203 non-English-language studies testing the effectiveness of conservation interventions, compared to English-language studies. Amano et al. (2021) Tapping into non-English-language science for the conservation of global biodiversity. PLOS Biology.

Tapping global knowledge

Making the best use of non-English-language science can be a quick, cost-effective way to fill gaps in English-language science.

Our research recommends more effort to synthesise non-English-language studies, and making this knowledge available in English so it can be disseminated to a global audience.

And research projects should seek to involve native speakers of different languages. For our research, we worked with 62 collaborators who, collectively, are native speakers of 17 languages.

To have the best chance of halting Earth’s extinction crisis, we must harness the skills, experience and knowledge of people from around the world.

We also urge wider disciplines to reassess the untapped potential of non-English science to address other global challenges.

Tatsuya Amano, Australian Research Council Future Fellow, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Team discovers invasive-native crayfish hybrids in Missouri

Read the full story from the University of Illinois.

In a study of crayfish in the Current River in southeastern Missouri, researchers discovered – almost by chance – that the virile crayfish, Faxonius virilis, was interbreeding with a native crayfish, potentially altering the native’s genetics, life history and ecology. Reported in the journal Aquatic Invasions, the study highlights the difficulty of detecting some of the consequences of biological invasions, the researchers say.

Rusty patched bumble bee stalls construction over Bell Bowl Prairie

Read the full story from Northern Public Radio.

The discovery of a foraging rusty patched bumble bee stalled construction on an expansion project at the Chicago Rockford International Airport — but only for a while. Environmental advocates want the delay to be permanent. They say the project would destroy one of the last remnants of the state’s original prairie.

See also the Chicago Tribune’s story dated Oct 22: Endangered bumblebee is blocking Rockford airport expansion that will destroy rare prairie — but only for another week.

What does a tree see?

Read the full story at JStor Daily.

A hundred-year-old red oak in a Massachusetts forest told a writer and a team of scientists secrets about change over time.

The Biodiversity Advantage: Thriving with nature – biodiversity for sustainable livelihoods and food systems

Download the document.

IFAD’s second Biodiversity Advantage report showcases five IFAD projects which highlight the integral importance of biodiversity in agriculture.

These projects show how promoting biodiversity improves human and ecosystem health, and the roles of small-scale agricultural producers in preserving and restoring biodiversity and schemes that reward them for their stewardship of healthy natural environments.

Can we move our forests in time to save them?

Read the full story in Mother Jones.

Trees have always migrated to survive. But now they need our help to avoid climate catastrophe.

Staging a threatening encounter at a blackbird nest

Read the full story from the University of Illinois.

Shelby Lawson studies the vocalizations, behavior and neurobiology of birds. She is a graduate student of evolution, ecology and behavior, working in the laboratory of professor Mark Hauber.

Five years after largest marine heatwave on record hit northern California coast, many warm–water species have stuck around

Southerly species like the giant owl limpet, seen here, started appearing on northern California shores. Jerry Kirkhart/Flickr, CC BY

by Erica Nielsen and Sam Walkes (University of California, Davis)

Land–based heatwaves have a less obvious though equally important sibling: marine heatwaves. In 2013, the largest marine heatwave on record began when an unusually warm mass of water formed in the Gulf of Alaska. By the next summer, the warm water spread south, raising average water temperatures along the United States west coast by 3.6 to 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (2-4 Celsius). In 2015, a strong El Niño event strengthened the marine heatwave further.

And so “the Blob,” as oceanographers have dubbed this huge body of warm water, was born.

A map of the Pacific Ocean with huge swaths of red colors from the coast of North America to Russia.
This satellite image from fall 2014 shows the beginnings of the Blob, where red colors represent unusually warm water temperatures. NOAA via Wikimedia Commons

Interestingly, a number of species moved northward to places along the west coast of the U.S. where the water had previously been too cold for them.

We are a marine evolutionary biologist and a marine ecologist, and are currently studying these recent arrivals to the northern California coast. Through our work, we hope to understand what has allowed species to not only move with the Blob, but persist after the water cooled.

Hundreds of dead small red crabs on a beach with two people and two dogs walking in the background.
Pelagic red crabs, normally found in warm waters off Mexico, began washing up on beaches in California in 2015. MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

With warm water came new species

The Blob changed weather as well as ocean currents, led to the deaths of thousands of marine mammals and birds, and caused harmful algal blooms. Animals also moved during the years of warm water with the Blob. Species that usually live in more southern, warmer waters expanded their ranges into northern California and Oregon.

Pelagic red crabs, usually found off the Baja California peninsula, washed up by the hundreds on beaches north of San Francisco. Keen naturalists were surprised to find that populations of bright green sunburst anenomes, giant owl limpets and pink volcano barnacles had in some places increased by the hundreds. Ecologists even discovered a new population of angular unicorn snails over 150 miles north of their original range edge.

The Blob was not destined to last forever. It eventually faded away and water temperatures returned to normal.

A map of California with four colored lines.
Many species have established new populations far north of their historical limits, as demonstrated in this graphic where the lighter colored bars show the previous range limits and the darker colors show the new range extensions. Erica Nielsen, Sam Walkes, CC BY-ND

Cooling temps

Many species that arrived with the Blob didn’t stay within the colder northern waters once the heatwave passed. For example, open water species like the common dolphin followed the warm waters north, then migrated back southward once waters cooled. But many coastal species are sessile – meaning they are stuck to rocks for all their adult lives. But these species are not attached to rocks when they are young. During the early larval stages, they ride ocean currents and can travel dozens of miles to find new coastlines to live on.

The Blob’s warm waters and shifting currents allowed the larvae of many species to move far past their northern boundaries while remaining in their environmental comfort zone. However, when the marine heatwave ended, the real survival test began.

Our team has been tracking these northern coastal populations to see which species have persisted post-Blob. Each year our team returns to the cold, wave-pounded northern California shores to monitor existing populations and look for new recruits – young individuals that survived their larval stage and successfully settled on rocks.

Every year we are excited to find new barnacle, snail and slug recruits. Of the 37 coastal species our team has been tracking, at least five have maintained small but stable northern populations after the warm waters of the Blob disappeared.

A small shelled creature stuck to a rock surrounded by barnacles.
The giant owl limpet, seen here nestled in a tide pool, is one of the species that has managed to establish itself in the northern waters. Sam Walkes, CC BY-ND

Who goes from northern tourist to local?

In addition to monitoring populations, our team is also gathering ecological and evolutionary information about these species. The giant owl limpet is one of the species that has persisted, and we want to identify what traits helped them survive after the Blob ended.

In general, traits that help a species settle in a new environment include the ability to grow and reproduce faster, choose suitable habitats, defend territories or have more offspring. To test some of these ideas, our team is conducting ecological experiments along the California coast, and we are annually recording growth for more than 2,500 individual limpets. We are also experimentally pitting juvenile owl limpets against larger adults and other competing limpet species. We hope that this work will reveal whether the new limpets on the block can grow rapidly while competing with others.

But the ecology is only half of the range expansion story. In tandem with the ecological experiments, our lab is sequencing owl limpet genomes to identify genes that potentially code for traits like faster growth or competitive prowess. It’s possible to figure out on a genetic level what is allowing certain species to survive.

A cluster of small snails on a rock.
Unicorn snails, seen here in a tide pool, migrated north during the warm years of the Blob. Some populations have managed to establish themselves permanently. Sam Walkes, CC BY-ND

Conserving shifting species in a changing ocean

Considering the effects of ongoing climate change, it is good news that species can move to track their preferred climate. It’s important to note that while species that move due to climate change are not invasive, these shifts can change existing ecosystems. For example, the Hilton’s nudibranch, a predatory sea slug, expanded northward during the Blob, which led to a decline in local nudibranchs.

Research shows that marine heatwaves are becoming more common thanks to climate change. By understanding the ecological and evolutionary attributes that allowed some species to endure and even thrive during and after the Blob, we may be able to predict what will allow species to expand further during future marine heatwaves.

The Blob 2.0 is coming; what changes will it bring?

Erica Nielsen, Postdoctoral Researcher in Marine Biology, University of California, Davis and Sam Walkes, PhD Student in Ecology, University of California, Davis

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

eBird data can help track bee health

Read the full story from Cornell University.

A two-year, $500,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation will allow a team of data scientists and ecologists to use eBird data to explore a new way to track pollinator health and biodiversity.

The project allows the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability to devise a new method of tracking the health of the all-important arthropod populations that are a part of pollinating one out of every three bites of food people eat – and it all starts with birds.

%d bloggers like this: