mass extinction events Environment 

Anthropocene mass extinction: are we there yet?

By Jacqueline Mattos (@mattosjacq) In the last few decades, scientific observations have highlighted that we are now facing a mass extinction, caused in major part by human activity: habitat fragmentation, invasive species, spread of pathogens and diseases, climate changes leading to global warming, and, of course, direct killing of endangered species. However, this is still a debated topic among scientists. Some say that we are not in a mass extinction event, and that if we were, conservation biology and all the efforts we have been putting into conserving animal species…

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Photo 5726794, (c) Sean Blaney, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). This observation on iNaturalist is of a species tracked by the Northeast Alpine Flower Watch project. Biodiversity Citizen Science Citizen Science Connected Blog Ecology 

Explore Biodiversity with iNaturalist

Do you want to know more about the world around you? You can get outside and explore biodiversity and the natural environment with iNaturalist!  iNaturalist allows anyone, anywhere to contribute to a global record of biodiversity by uploading pictures of plants and animals with their smartphone or computer. In a new podcast episode (listen below!), co-host Justin Schell talks with Dr. Carrie Seltzer, the Stakeholder Engagement Strategist for iNaturalist, and with representatives and a volunteer from the Appalachian Mountain club. Tip: add your iNaturalist username to your SciStarter dashboard, and…

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mass extinction events Environment Oceanography Paleontology 

The Forgotten Mass Extinction

By Jacqueline Mattos (@mattosjacq) Yes, we are in a mass extinction event Recent research has spotted a new major mass extinction, termed the “end-Guadalupian (259.8 Ma),” according to a scientific paper in the journal Historical Biology. Previously, scientists knew of only five mass extinctions in the history of Earth: the end-Ordovician (443.8 Ma), the Late Devonian (372.2 Ma), the end-Permian (251.9 Ma), the end-Triassic (201.4 Ma), and the end-Cretaceous (66 Ma). Our current biodiversity crisis has been called the sixth mass extinction, but with these new findings it will probably…

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Ecology Geology 

Exploring the Science of Mountain Biodiversity

By Jacqueline Mattos (@mattosjacq) Mountain systems are hotspots of biodiversity, which means that they host many different species of many taxonomic groups in condensed spatial scales. Much has been studied about mountains and their diversity, but the biological and geological processes that maintain their great number of species remain elusive. In a recent review in Nature Geoscience, Alexandre Antonelli and colleagues have accounted for many different aspects of mountains and their diversity, trying to fill in the many gaps in this field of study by quantifying the relative importance of…

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Botany Ecology Environment 

An Evolutionary Approach to Conserving Plant Habitats

By Mackenzie Myers (@thetiniestnail) To conserve plant habitats, a traditional approach to biodiversity—species richness, or saving as many species as possible—might not be the most effective route. Instead, vulnerable landscapes might be better served by a quality-over-quantity mindset, a recent paper from a team of UC Berkeley scientists suggests. Think of going into a grocery store. On a budget and with limited cooking time, shoppers probably don’t buy the first dozen random ingredients they see on the shelf. Rather, they find it more practical to shop deliberately, perhaps by looking…

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Biology Environment Science Policy 

Does Habitat Fragmentation Affect Biodiversity?

By Jacqueline Mattos (@mattosjacq) Most scientists used to believe that habitat fragmentation was a real threat to biodiversity, but some controversial ideas have made this a potential topic for further discussion. Iconic experiments in the Brazilian Amazon, for example, have shown the edge effects on the ability of small patches to retain species. Edge effects relate to the possible outcomes of having too much border on chopped forests, which creates a boundary between two habitats. Where there is deforestation, patches are the remaining pieces of natural vegetation among other human-affected…

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Fire Management in California's Chaparal: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District conducted a controlled burn of central marine chaparral at Fort Ord, Calif., Oct. 15, to expose unexploded ordnance at the formerly utilized defense site. The burn, carefully coordinated with local agencies, lasted less than two hours and was timed so that prevailing winds would help blow the smoke away from population centers. The controlled burns are part of a comprehensive ordnance removal program at Fort Ord, which closed in 1994 under recommendation from the Base Realignment and Closure Commission. (U.S. Army photo/Released) Animals Biology Environment 

Fire Management in California’s Chaparral Harms Birds

By Neha Jain @lifesciexplore California suffered its largest and most destructive wildfires in 2017. Victims included hundreds of wild animals. When the blazing fires were finally extinguished, the surviving animals—including birds—were forced to find new homes. Now, for the first time, researchers investigating the effect of fire management practices on birds in California’s chaparral have found that one practice known as mastication, which consists of mechanically crushing vegetation to remove fuel, threatens bird communities. “The best available science tells us that managing chaparral imperils wildlife and increases fire risk,” says…

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Screening Biodiversity Animals Biology Environment Videos 

Shelf Life Video: Screening Biodiversity

Scientists at The American Museum of Natural History explain why managing biodiversity is a key component in managing endangered species. This video is another in the Shelf Life series from the American Museum of Natural History. Even though one and a half million species of organisms have already been named and described, they represent just a tiny portion of the biodiversity of our planet. Having a distinct genetic identity is important because more variation tends to be better in the face of the changing world. And when populations get small and isolated…

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Butterflies: A worn butterfly enjoys refreshment in a garden. tentative identification: Meadow Brown; German Ochsenauge; Latin Maniola jurtina Animals Environment 

Unexpected Biodiversity in Iberian Butterflies

By Steven Spence Winged Flowers A fallen blossom returning to the bough, I thought – But no, a butterfly. (Arakida Moritake, Traditional Japanese Poetry: An Anthology) [落花枝にかへると見れば胡蝶哉 守武 落花枝にかへると見れば胡ちょかな 守武] Good News On Biodiversity This week we have encouraging data to share with you about butterflies in Europe. Biodiversity is a major concern in Europe and elsewhere. However, a recently released study of butterflies in Spain and Portugal suggests biodiversity may have been significantly underestimated. The study conducted by the Institut de Biologia Evolutiva (IBE) shows that 28% of butterfly…

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Ladybird on lavender Animals Biology Environment 

Ladybirds and Other Natural Pesticides

By Steven Spence Sheep and Wolves in your Garden Sheep and wolves in your garden? It’s more likely than you may think. Aphids (leaf lice) are pests, which are tended by shepherd ants, and ladybirds are voracious wolves that will quickly thin the herds. Do Pests = Pesticide Use? Just because pests are on the loose in the garden, it doesn’t mean you need to resort to chemical warfare with commercial pesticides, the use of which should be avoided on any plants you might eat. We know that the use…

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