Ecological Networks are more Sensitive to Plant than to Animal Extinction under Climate Change

by Leta Ames

There is a growing need for climate change models that can accurately represent not only the effects on individual species, but also the interactions and compounding effects within ecosystems. These interactions between species form different “mutualistic networks”. Schleuning et al. (2016) modeled the impact of individual species’ responses to climate change in plant-animal mutualistic networks. Specifically, climatic tolerance of 295 plant species, in eight pollinator networks and five seed-disperser networks in unique areas of central Europe were used to understand the relationship between sensitivity to climate change, climatic niche breadth, and biotic specializations. Continue reading

Climate Change: Wildlife Then and Now

by Jen Petrova

As a lover of wildlife and birds, Franzen begins his article by questioning the effects of climate change on birds. Many reputable sources deem that bird biodiversity and populations will be endangered by climate change, however Franzen argues that birds are capable of adapting. In fact, argues that North American birds may become even more diverse due to climate change. Needless to say, Franzen is not convinced of the immediate threat to birds that global warming presents. In this article, he explores climate change in relation to democracy, Peru, and Costa Rica. Continue reading

Combining the Effects of Climate Change and Agriculture on Mammal Populations

by Coco Coyle

In concert with the effects of climate change, some agricultural practices are having an unanticipated combined effect on ecosystems and biodiversity. Brodie (2016) showed that agricultural expansion coupled with climate change will have a more intense effect on the mammals in the extremely biodiverse region of Southeast Asia than either cause alone. Rising temperatures allow farmers to expand the growing region for cold-sensitive crops like the non-native oil-palm trees. While rising temperatures themselves do not disrupt the region’s mammalian species, the destruction of native forests in place of new agricultural areas would reduce mammal ranges by 47-67% by 2070. This is 3-4 times the reduction predicted considering direct effects from conversion of natural forest to plantations alone. In this study Brodie calls for a greater investigation of the combined effects of climate change and agriculture on biodiversity. Continue reading

Century-old Naturally Reclaimed Mining Site Preserves Regional Biodiversity

by Zoe Dilles

Native plants are flourishing unexpected at old abandoned gold mines in Southern New Zealand in spite of the fact that no landscape remediation was done. While natural reclamation through mine abandonment has historically been the default management strategy for mining sites around the world, the strict environmental policy of today typically mandates extensive site engineering after operations cease. Turning mine sites into usable land for agriculture, forestry, or recreation often entails time-consuming and costly rehabilitation measures such as topsoil replacement and replanting. Water management directs these approaches in arid climates because mine water evaporation as a product of unique geologic settings produces often undesirably saline soils. However, the salty soil of historic gold mine sites in the South Otago region provide rare naturally occurring saline habitats that are elsewhere jeopardized by expanded farming and new agricultural processes. Continue reading

The Role of Scavengers in Ecosystems

by Alexander Birk

Vultures act as great scavengers for many different ecosystems. Scavengers are well known for preying on the dead carcasses in their habitat. Vultures, as described by Campbell, are the epitome of natural scavengers. Scavenging is a very difficult way of life and many animals cannot do it successfully. The vulture is the perfect fit for a very specific niche as a scavenger in their ecosystem. Even though the various vulture species are successful scavengers, the exposure to anthropogenic affects may prove to be detrimental to the species’ survival. Campbell (2014)

Vultures prove to be valuable assets to their ecosystems. Consuming dead carcasses is primarily helpful because it decreases the amount of disease. A vulture’s strong digestive system can handle rotting carcasses. If left alone, these carcasses may cause a widespread epidemic among a species. Vultures do not hunt, or eat live prey, therefor they dominate the scavenger niche in their ecosystem.

According to Campbell vulture populations have experienced significant anthropogenic affects. Prior to humans, many large herds of animals led to plentiful food supply for scavenging species. Today those plentiful herds have been replaced with things like road kill, medicated livestock, and overall less food for vultures. The common veterinary drug diclofenac, often used for keeping healthy livestock, has been found to be extremely deadly to vultures. In addition the chemical substances found on road kill have proven to be harmful to vultures as well.

Campbell refers to vultures as permanent scavengers and their presence in an ecosystem does not allow for other temporary scavenging species to thrive because the other scavenging species are not as fit for the niche as vultures. If vultures are not present, the ecosystem lacks the full benefits that the scavengers offer. With various species of vultures heading towards endangerment, the value of their presence is becoming more apparent. While humans may not see the species as valuable, they hold an irreplaceable role in their ecosystems.

Many vulture species around the world have become endangered. Mostly due to anthropogenic affects, either dying off from human-introduced chemicals or starving from humans removing their food source. Vultures are crucially important in many ecosystems, but most people think of them as dirty pests. Without vultures the biodiversity of many ecosystems may be in danger.

Michael O Campbell. 2014. A fascinating example of convergent evolution: endangered vultures. Biodiversity & Endangered Species. doi: 10.4172/2332-2543.1000132

http://esciencecentral.org/journals/a-fascinating-example-for-convergent-evolution-endangered-vultures-2332-2543-1-132.pdf

The Intersection of Biodiversity and Socioeconomic Interests

 

by Weronika Konwent

Due to lack of specific species data, it is often difficult to predict where marine conservation will be most effective in maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem functionality. Olds et al (2014) test whether surrogates that fulfill the criteria of being keystone, umbrella, and flagship species can accurately predict which areas are optimal for conservation. They also tested whether seascape connectivity has an effect on fish abundance. It was concluded that the integration of these two conditions in marine spatial planning can positively impact the maintenance of fish communities and the functioning of ecosystems, and that these improvements can be beneficial to people in terms of sustenance and income. Continue reading

Pristine Called into Question

by Jackson Cooney

There has been recent controversy over the state of many pristine rain forests. Those that have previously been called “virgin” due to the absence of human interaction are now being reviewed. It seems that humans have inhabited forests such the Amazon Basin, the lowland Congo basin, and the Indo-Malay region of Southeast Asia for many years. Evidence of human presence in these virgin forests includes pottery fragments, charcoal soil lairs, and iron tools. Because of this, there is little doubt of the presence of human civilizations in these lands. The question becomes: how has their presence affected the forests ability to prevail. These natives have used slash and burn techniques to create agriculture space, which has been largely thought of as the most harmful deforestation methods in recent times. It seems that the presence of humans on these lands about 2,500 years ago has actually enhanced the soil fertility due to this burning method. Human intervention and management of the land may have also caused an increase in tree diversity. Continue reading