Tagged: Ecology Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • richardmitnick 7:35 am on September 6, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Ambitious Plan to Protect 80% of The Amazon Could Save It For Future Generations", , , , , Ecology, ,   

    From Science Alert (US) : “Ambitious Plan to Protect 80% of The Amazon Could Save It For Future Generations” 


    From Science Alert (US)

    6 SEPTEMBER 2021
    MARLOWE HOOD, Agence France Pressé.com(FR)

    Sailing down the Amazon River in Peru. Credit: Kim Schandorff/Moment/Getty Images.

    Should 80 percent of the Amazon be declared a protected area by 2025?

    The world’s top conservation body is on Sunday poised to decide whether its 1,400 members can vote on this controversial proposal, put forward by indigenous groups.

    Submitted under an emergency provision to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the measure calls for a “global action plan” to halt rampant deforestation and the destructive extraction of precious minerals and oil.

    Over the last two decades, the Amazon has lost roughly 10,000 square kilometers every year, according to assessments based on satellite data.

    “That’s the emergency, not just for us but for humanity,” Jose Gregorio Diaz Mirabal, a leader of the Curripaco people in Venezuela, told AFP at the Congress venue in Marseille.

    For the first time in the IUCN’s 70-year history, indigenous groups are now voting members alongside government agencies and national or international NGOs.

    Diaz Mirabal submitted the Amazon proposal for the organization COICA, which represents more than two million indigenous people in nine Amazon nations.

    “We have been neglected, and now we have a voice and will exercise that voting right,” he said.

    Territory of humanity

    Recent research has warned that massive destruction of tropical forests combined with climate change are pushing the Amazon towards a disastrous “tipping point” which would see tropical forests give way to savannah like landscapes.

    This would not only drastically change the region’s climate, but have an impact on global climate systems as well, scientists say.

    Rates of tree loss drop sharply in the forests where native peoples live, especially if they hold some degree of title – legal or customary – over land, other research has shown.

    IUCN officials are reviewing the COICA measure, along with 20 others proposals submitted after the deadline last year, “to make sure they are both ‘new’ and ‘urgent’,” said Enrique Lahmann, a senior administrator.

    “Both criteria are required.”

    A decision will be announced late Sunday or Monday, his office said.

    While the vote, which would be held in the coming week, would not have legal weight, it demonstrates the strength of feeling among indigenous groups.

    In an emotional press conference, Diaz Mirabal – flanked by indigenous leaders from French Guiana and Ecuador – implored world leaders to take head of his message.

    “We are asking governments to help us protect our territory, which is also the territory of humanity,” he said. “Because if the Amazon rainforest disappears, people will die everywhere, it’s that simple.”

    “It is crucial to stop extracting the oil, the gold, the uranium,” he added. “This is wealth for Europe, the United States, Russia, and China, but is poverty for us.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 9:07 am on June 24, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "On the edge of discovery", , , Ecology, Endeavors at University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, , Women in STEM-Stacy Zhang   

    From Endeavors at University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill: Women in STEM-Stacy Zhang”On the edge of discovery” 

    From Endeavors at University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

    June 8th, 2021 [Just now in social media.]
    Brandon Bieltz

    Carolina alumna Stacy Zhang first got her feet wet in marine ecology as an undergrad. Now a postdoctoral researcher with the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences, she is on the frontlines of helping navigate challenges facing North Carolina’s coast.

    Stacy Zhang ’12 conducts research on the North Carolina coast near Morehead City. (Photo by Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

    As a marine ecologist, Stacy Zhang ’12 says she studies the obvious. But that’s not as simple as it may sound.

    When we see fish swimming past us at the beach, we simply see fish in the water and then return to our vacationing. Zhang, on the other hand, examines what that fish is doing, why they’re doing it there and what it means to all the pieces of the ecosystem around it.

    “You can see patterns in nature with your naked eye. You can observe behaviors, but you don’t necessarily know what’s causing it,” she says. “That is our goal. You’re just trying to explain the obvious. It’s more complicated than you would expect.”

    Studying the obvious also means that Zhang often finds herself at the edge of crisis science, researching and combating a pressing issue happening in real-time with consequences already being felt. As a postdoctoral researcher studying fish biodiversity and coastal habitat restoration at the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences, Zhang is currently on the frontlines of helping navigate challenges facing North Carolina’s coast and the impacts they have on those who depend on marine habitats.

    Zhang calls it an “exciting and mildly terrifying” opportunity, but it’s one she’s been working toward for more than a decade, dating back to when she was an undergraduate at Carolina.

    Getting her feet wet

    As a Carolina undergraduate majoring in biology, Zhang knew that she didn’t want to be a medical doctor. Since her time at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, she knew the environmental sciences were her future.

    “I came to Carolina knowing that I love environmental science,” she says. “I wanted to be able to get my feet wet or at least go traipsing around a forest.”

    That opportunity arose late in her junior year when she applied for the Institute for the Environment’s Morehead City Field Site program. The semester-long program provides Carolina students experience conducting independent research at the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences and learning from the institute’s faculty.

    Supported by her Carolina Covenant scholarship, Zhang spent the fall semester of her senior year in the field site program, working alongside experienced marine sciences researchers and conducting her own work on the formation of oyster reefs. The semester, she says, taught her the ropes of marine ecology and set the direction of her research career.

    “I love doing science because it feels like you’re on the edge of discovering something new, however small that is. Combining that with the ability to give something back is a huge motivating force for me,” she says. “I love it. I absolutely love it. Even if it means doing something tedious like changing aquarium water day in and day out.”

    Zhang spent two years after graduating from Carolina working in marine labs as a technician — including a year back at IMS — before returning to school to earn her doctorate in marine science and conservation from Duke University (US).

    Last year, she returned to IMS as a postdoctoral researcher in Joel Fodrie‘s lab, where she has continued to study the North Carolina coast and research fish biodiversity — a critical topic for North Carolinians and the state’s economy.

    Addressing North Carolina’s coastal challenges

    North Carolina’s wild commercial fishing industry is a nearly $300 million enterprise. Any change to a coastal habitat — from hurricane damage to warming waters — can change the entire dynamic of the ecosystem, impacting the bottom line for a fishery.

    Zhang is tracking those changes.

    The marine ecosystem, she says, isn’t much different than a forest. When human activity destroys a forest, the ecosystem is out of balance and animals are displaced. Understanding how marine ecosystems, such as seagrass beds and oyster reefs, are being damaged and the ramifications are crucial to keeping a balance.

    “So many of the commercial and recreationally important fishes that we rely on spend their youth in seagrass beds for protection before they grow to the size where they can migrate out of the inlet as adults, and we catch them offshore,” she says. “Even then, we catch a lot of adult flounder, red drum and tons of shrimp in estuarine waters, and all of those species rely in part on seagrass beds.”

    Zhang’s research has looked not only at how damage to seagrass beds caused by hurricanes temporarily affects the fish communities in the area but also at ways to restore the habitats by tapping into positive interactions between organisms like clams and oysters that allow seagrass beds to grow. Thriving seagrass beds create flourishing ecosystems of fish.

    “Just like no person is an island, no seagrass bed is an island,” she said. “In order to survive, you rely on the people around you to help you, and for a seagrass bed, you rely on the clams that live within you and the tiny shrimps that eat the algae on top of you.

    “It’s all interconnected. Baitfish then eat the small shrimps and algae. Larger fishes, like the ones we’re interested in catching for food, consume those baitfishes.”

    Zhang is also actively studying how fish diversity across the Atlantic Coast — from the Gulf of Mexico to Maine — is shifting because of warming waters. Zhang wants to see if fish that are typically found farther south are making their way into more northern waters, changing the diversity of fish in our estuaries.

    Understanding these challenges protects our coastline and helps researchers create a balance between preservation and commercial function. It’s that overlap between science and helping the community and local fishers, Zhang said, that she loves about her career and keeps her studying the obvious.

    “The oceans are such an important and vast environment, and our near-shore, coastal ecosystems are so valuable,” she says. “It’s really about wanting to protect these habitats but also recognizing that they’re working waters. We need that happy medium of making sure that we have these ecosystems for the future and that they’re able to still provide those benefits for society.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U NC bloc

    UNC campus

    The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a public research university in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The flagship of the University of North Carolina system, it is considered to be a Public Ivy, or a public institution which offers an academic experience similar to that of an Ivy League university. After being chartered in 1789, the university first began enrolling students in 1795, making it one of the oldest public universities in the United States. Among the claimants, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the only one to have held classes and graduated students as a public university in the eighteenth century.

    The first public institution of higher education in North Carolina, the school opened its doors to students on February 12, 1795. North Carolina became coeducational under the leadership of President Kemp Plummer Battle in 1877 and began the process of desegregation under Chancellor Robert Burton House when African-American graduate students were admitted in 1951. In 1952, North Carolina opened its own hospital, UNC Health Care, for research and treatment, and has since specialized in cancer care through UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center which is one of only 51 national NCI designated comprehensive centers.

    The university offers degrees in over 70 courses of study and is administratively divided into 13 separate professional schools and a primary unit, the College of Arts & Sciences. Five of the schools have been named: the UNC Kenan–Flagler Business School, the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media, the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, and the UNC Adams School of Dentistry. All undergraduates receive a liberal arts education and have the option to pursue a major within the professional schools of the university or within the College of Arts and Sciences from the time they obtain junior status. It is classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity”, and is a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU) (US). According to the National Science Foundation (US), UNC spent $1.14 billion on research and development in 2018, ranking it 12th in the nation.

    UNC’s faculty and alumni include 9 Nobel Prize laureates, 23 Pulitzer Prize winners, and 51 Rhodes Scholars. Additional notable alumni include a U.S. President, a U.S. Vice President, 38 Governors of U.S. States, 98 members of the United States Congress, and nine Cabinet members as well as CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, Olympians and professional athletes.

    The campus covers 729 acres (3 km^2) of Chapel Hill’s downtown area, encompassing the Morehead Planetarium and the many stores and shops located on Franklin Street. Students can participate in over 550 officially recognized student organizations. The student-run newspaper The Daily Tar Heel has won national awards for collegiate media, while the student radio station WXYC provided the world’s first internet radio broadcast. UNC Chapel Hill is one of the charter members of the Atlantic Coast Conference, which was founded on June 14, 1953. Competing athletically as the Tar Heels, UNC has achieved great success in sports, most notably in men’s basketball, women’s soccer, and women’s field hockey.

  • richardmitnick 11:42 am on June 3, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "World’s Lakes Losing Oxygen Rapidly as Planet Warms", , , , Ecology, , Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (US)   

    From Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (US) : “World’s Lakes Losing Oxygen Rapidly as Planet Warms” 

    From Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (US)

    June 2, 2021
    Mary L. Martialay

    Changes threaten biodiversity and drinking water quality.

    Credit: Gretchen Hansen, University of Minnesota (US)

    Oxygen levels in the world’s temperate freshwater lakes are declining rapidly — faster than in the oceans — a trend driven largely by climate change that threatens freshwater biodiversity and drinking water quality.

    Research published today in Nature found that oxygen levels in surveyed lakes across the temperate zone have declined 5.5% at the surface and 18.6% in deep waters since 1980. Meanwhile, in a large subset of mostly nutrient-polluted lakes, surface oxygen levels increased as water temperatures crossed a threshold favoring cyanobacteria, which can create toxins when they flourish in the form of harmful algal blooms.

    “All complex life depends on oxygen. It’s the support system for aquatic food webs. And when you start losing oxygen, you have the potential to lose species,” said Kevin Rose, author and professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “Lakes are losing oxygen 2.75-9.3 times faster than the oceans, a decline that will have impacts throughout the ecosystem.”

    Researchers analyzed a combined total of over 45,000 dissolved oxygen and temperature profiles collected since 1941 from nearly 400 lakes around the globe. Most long-term records were collected in the temperate zone, which spans 23 to 66 degrees north and south latitude. In addition to biodiversity, the concentration of dissolved oxygen in aquatic ecosystems influences greenhouse gas emissions, nutrient biogeochemistry, and ultimately, human health.

    Although lakes make up only about 3% of Earth’s land surface, they contain a disproportionate concentration of the planet’s biodiversity. Lead author Stephen F. Jane, who completed his Ph.D. with Rose, said the changes are concerning both for their potential impact on freshwater ecosystems and for what they suggest about environmental change in general.

    “Lakes are indicators or ‘sentinels’ of environmental change and potential threats to the environment because they respond to signals from the surrounding landscape and atmosphere. We found that these disproportionally more biodiverse systems are changing rapidly, indicating the extent to which ongoing atmospheric changes have already impacted ecosystems,” Jane said.

    World’s Lakes Losing Oxygen Rapidly as Planet Warms.

    Although widespread losses in dissolved oxygen across the studied lakes are linked to climate change, the path between warming climate and changing freshwater oxygen levels is driven by different mechanisms between surface and deep waters.

    Deoxygenation of surface waters was mostly driven by the most direct path: physics. As surface water temperatures increased by .38 degrees Centigrade per decade, surface water dissolved oxygen concentrations declined by .11 milligrams per liter per decade.

    “Oxygen saturation, or the amount of oxygen that water can hold, goes down as temperatures go up. That’s a known physical relationship and it explains most of the trend in surface oxygen that we see,” said Rose.

    However, some lakes experienced simultaneously increasing dissolved oxygen concentrations and warming temperatures. These lakes tended to be more polluted with nutrient-rich runoff from agricultural and developed watersheds and have high chlorophyll concentrations. Although the study did not include phytoplankton taxonomic measurements, warm temperatures and elevated nutrient content favor cyanobacteria blooms, whose photosynthesis is known to cause dissolved oxygen supersaturation in surface waters.

    “The fact that we’re seeing increasing dissolved oxygen in those types of lakes is potentially an indicator of widespread increases in algal blooms, some of which produce toxins and are harmful. Absent taxonomic data, however, we can’t say that definitively, but nothing else we’re aware of can explain this pattern,” Rose said.

    The loss of oxygen in deeper waters, where water temperatures have remained largely stable, follows a more complex path most likely tied to increasing surface water temperatures and a longer warm period each year. Warming surface waters combined with stable deep-water temperatures means that the difference in density between these layers, known as “stratification,” is increasing. The stronger this stratification, the less likely mixing is to occur between layers. The result is that oxygen in deep waters is less likely to get replenished during the warm stratified season, as oxygenation usually comes from processes that occur near the water surface.

    “The increase in stratification makes the mixing or renewal of oxygen from the atmosphere to deep waters more difficult and less frequent, and deep-water dissolved oxygen drops as a result,” said Rose. Water clarity losses were also associated with deep-water dissolved oxygen losses in some lakes. However, there was no overarching decline in clarity across lakes.

    Oxygen concentrations regulate many other characteristics of water quality. When oxygen levels decline, bacteria that thrive in environments without oxygen, such as those that produce the powerful greenhouse gas methane, begin to proliferate. This suggests the potential that lakes are releasing increased amounts of methane to the atmosphere as a result of oxygen loss. Additionally, sediments release more phosphorous under low oxygen conditions, adding nutrients to already stressed waters.

    “Ongoing research has shown that oxygen levels are declining rapidly in the world’s oceans. This study now proves that the problem is even more severe in fresh waters, threatening our drinking water supplies and the delicate balance that enables complex freshwater ecosystems to thrive,” said Curt Breneman, dean of the School of Science. “We hope this finding brings greater urgency to efforts to address the progressively detrimental effects of climate change.”

    “Widespread deoxygenation of temperate lakes” was published with support from the National Science Foundation. Rose and Jane were joined by dozens of collaborators in GLEON, the Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network, and based in universities, environmental consulting firms, and government agencies around the world.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (US) is America’s first technological research university.

    With 7,900 students and more than 100,000 living alumni, Rensselaer is addressing the global challenges facing the 21st century—to change lives, to advance society, and to change the world.

    RPI is organized into six main schools which contain 37 departments, with emphasis on science and technology It is recognized for its degree programs in engineering, computing, business and management, information technology, the sciences, design, and liberal arts. As of 2017, RPI’s faculty and alumni include six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame (US), six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, eight Fulbright Scholarship recipients, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics; in addition, 86 faculty or alumni are members of the National Academy of Engineering (US), 17 of the National Academy of Sciences (US), 25 of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (US), eight of the National Academy of Medicine (US), one of the National Academy of Public Administration (US), and nine of the National Academy of Inventors (US).

    From renewable energy to cybersecurity, from biotechnology to materials science, from big data to nanotechnology, the world needs problem solvers—exactly the kind of talent Rensselaer produces—to address the urgent issues of today and the emerging issues of tomorrow.

    Research and development

    Rensselaer is classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very High Research Activity”. Rensselaer has established six areas of research as institute priorities: biotechnology, energy and the environment, nanotechnology, computation and information technology, and media and the arts. Research is organized under the Office of the Vice President for Research. In 2018, Rensselaer operated 34 research centers and maintained annual sponsored research expenditures of $100.8 million.
    Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies

    One of the most recent of Rensselaer’s research centers is the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies, a 218,000 square-foot research facility and a national pacesetter for fundamental and applied research in biotechnology. The primary target of the research center is biologics, a research priority based on data-driven understanding of proteomics, protein regulation, and gene regulation. It involves using biocatalysis and synthetic biology tools to block or supplement the actions of specific cells or proteins in the immune system. Over the past decade, CBIS has produced over 2,000 peer-reviewed publications with over 30,000 citations and currently employs over 200 scientists and engineers. The center is also used primarily to train undergraduate and graduate students, with over 1,000 undergraduates and 200 doctoral students trained.

    The center also has numerous academic and industry partners including the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. These partnerships have resulted in numerous advances over the last decade through new commercial developments in diagnostics, therapeutics, medical devices, and regenerative medicine which are a direct result of research at the center. Examples of advancements include the creation of synthetic heparin, antimicrobial coatings, detoxification chemotherapy, on-demand bio-medicine, implantable sensors, and 3D cellular array chips.

    Rensselaer also hosts the Tetherless World Constellation (US), a multidisciplinary research institution focused on theories, methods, and applications of the World Wide Web. Research is carried out in three inter-connected themes: Future Web, Semantic Foundations and Xinformatics. At Rensselaer, a constellation is a multidisciplinary team composed of senior and junior faculty members, research scientists, and postdoctoral, graduate, and undergraduate students. Faculty alumni of TWC includes Heng Ji (Natural Language Processing). In 2016, the Constellation received a one million dollar grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (US) for continuing work on a novel data visualization platform that will harness and accelerate the analysis of vast amounts of data for the foundation’s Healthy Birth, Growth, and Development Knowledge Integration initiative.

    In conjunction with the constellation, Rensselaer operates the Center for Computational Innovations which is the result of a $100 million collaboration between Rensselaer, IBM, and New York State to further nanotechnology innovations. The center’s main focus is on reducing the cost associated with the development of nanoscale materials and devices, such as used in the semiconductor industry. The university also utilizes the center for interdisciplinary research in biotechnology, medicine, energy, and other fields. Rensselaer additionally operates a nuclear reactor and testing facility – the only university-run reactor in New York State – as well as the Gaerttner Linear Accelerator, which is currently being upgraded under a $9.44 million grant from the Department of Energy (US).

  • richardmitnick 9:37 pm on June 2, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Say hello to a vast underground ecosystem", An expansive microbial ecosystem living deep within Earth that is fueled by chemicals produced by volcanic eruptions and continental collisions., , , Ecology, Forcing scientists to change how they think about the deep carbon cycle over geologic time scales., , , Microbial communities eat the carbon; sulfur; and iron compounds generated by geological processes., Subduction zones are fascinating environments., The qualitative relationship between geology and biology may have significant quantitative implications., The team found microbes that live deep underground across the entirety of the subduction zone under Costa Rica act as gatekeepers., There is a diverse and thriving microbial ecosystem beneath our feet that impacts the Earth in many important ways.   

    From Michigan State University (US) : “Say hello to a vast underground ecosystem” 

    Michigan State Bloc

    From Michigan State University (US)

    May 26, 2021

    Matthew Schrenk
    Kim Ward

    MSU researchers help reveal how ‘forests’ of microbes living in geological hotspots play an underestimated role in Earth’s carbon cycle

    MSU researchers and their colleagues studied the microbial communities by sampling hot springs in Costa Rica — like the one shown here — that are connected to deep Earth environments. Credit: Tom Owens.

    MSU Associate Professor Matthew Schrenk samples a rock specimen for microbes.

    Michigan State University researchers have helped unveil an expansive microbial ecosystem living deep within Earth that is fueled by chemicals produced by volcanic eruptions and continental collisions.

    Spartans joined an interdisciplinary and international team of scientists to show that these microbial communities eat the carbon; sulfur; and iron compounds generated by geological processes beneath Costa Rica. The team published its results in the journal Nature Geosciences on April 22,2021.

    “There is a diverse and thriving microbial ecosystem beneath our feet that impacts the Earth in many important ways,” said Matthew Schrenk, an associate professor in MSU’s College of Natural Science. Schrenk works in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics.

    “A huge amount of the Earth’s biodiversity is beneath our feet, and they’re critical to the functioning of the planet. Most people don’t realize that,” he said.

    Heather Miller, a doctoral student in Schrenk’s research group, also contributed to the study.

    The research team — led by Karen Lloyd, an associate professor at the University of Tennessee (US), and Donato Giovannelli, a professor at the University of Naples Federico II [Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II] (IT) — found that this microbial ecosystem sequesters a huge amount of carbon dioxide. In fact, the team estimated that up to 170 metric tons of carbon could be gobbled up by the ecosystem every year.

    “This work shows that carbon may be siphoned off to feed a large ecosystem,” said Peter Barry, assistant scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (US) and co-author of the study. “This means that biology might affect carbon fluxes in and out of the Earth’s mantle, which forces scientists to change how they think about the deep carbon cycle over geologic time scales.”

    When there’s a collision between the Earth’s tectonic plates — specifically an oceanic plate and a continental plate — one plate gets pushed down, or subducted, into the mantle carrying with it materials that accumulated at the seafloor. The other plate becomes studded with volcanoes, which serves as conduits for gases escaping to the atmosphere. This is the main process by which chemical elements are moved between Earth’s surface and its interior, eventually recycling these materials over millions of years back to the surface.

    An illustration of a subduction zone. Credit: Robert Simmon, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (US)

    “Subduction zones are fascinating environments,” said Maarten de Moor, associate professor at the National University of Costa Rica [Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica] (CR) and co-author on the study. “They produce volcanic mountains and serve as portals for carbon moving between the interior and exterior of Earth.”

    In the new study, the team found microbes that live deep underground across the entirety of the subduction zone under Costa Rica act as gatekeepers, limiting the quantities of the chemicals, including important greenhouse gases, that make it into the atmosphere.

    “These microbes use chemicals from the subduction zone to form the base of an ecosystem that is large and filled with diverse primary and secondary producers,” said the University of Tennessee’s Lloyd, a co-corresponding author of the paper. “It’s like a vast forest, but underground.”

    A close-up photo of a hot spring reveals white microbial biofilms fueled by chemicals associated with volcanic activity. Credit: Donato Giovannelli.

    This suggests that the known qualitative relationship between geology and biology may have significant quantitative implications for our understanding of how the distribution of carbon and other elements on Earth have changed throughout its history, potentially impacting global climate.

    “We already know of many ways in which biology has influenced the habitability of our planet, leading to the rise in atmospheric oxygen, for example,” said Giovannelli of the University of Naples Federico II and co-corresponding author. “Now, our ongoing work is revealing another exciting way in which life and our planet coevolved.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Michigan State Campus

    Michigan State University (US) is a public research university located in East Lansing, Michigan, United States. Michigan State University (US) was founded in 1855 and became the nation’s first land-grant institution under the Morrill Act of 1862, serving as a model for future land-grant universities.

    The university was founded as the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan, one of the country’s first institutions of higher education to teach scientific agriculture. After the introduction of the Morrill Act, the college became coeducational and expanded its curriculum beyond agriculture. Today, Michigan State University (US) is one of the largest universities in the United States (in terms of enrollment) and has approximately 634,300 living alumni worldwide.

    U.S. News & World Report ranks its graduate programs the best in the U.S. in elementary teacher’s education, secondary teacher’s education, industrial and organizational psychology, rehabilitation counseling, African history (tied), supply chain logistics and nuclear physics in 2019. Michigan State University (US) pioneered the studies of packaging, hospitality business, supply chain management, and communication sciences. Michigan State University (US) is a member of the Association of American Universities and is classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity”. The university’s campus houses the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory, the W. J. Beal Botanical Garden, the Abrams Planetarium, the Wharton Center for Performing Arts, the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, and the country’s largest residence hall system.


    The university has a long history of academic research and innovation. In 1877, botany professor William J. Beal performed the first documented genetic crosses to produce hybrid corn, which led to increased yields. Michigan State University (US) dairy professor G. Malcolm Trout improved the process for the homogenization of milk in the 1930s, making it more commercially viable. In the 1960s, Michigan State University (US) scientists developed cisplatin, a leading cancer fighting drug, and followed that work with the derivative, carboplatin. Albert Fert, an Adjunct professor at MSU, was awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physics together with Peter Grünberg.

    Today Michigan State University (US) continues its research with facilities such as the U.S. Department of Energy-sponsored Michigan State University (US)- Department of Energy(US) Plant Research Laboratory and a particle accelerator called the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory. The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science named Michigan State University as the site for the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB). The $730 million facility will attract top researchers from around the world to conduct experiments in basic nuclear science, astrophysics, and applications of isotopes to other fields.

    In 2004, scientists at the Cyclotron produced and observed a new isotope of the element germanium, called Ge-60 In that same year, Michigan State University (US), in consortium with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (US) and the government of Brazil, broke ground on the 4.1-meter Southern Astrophysical Research Telescope (SOAR) in the Andes Mountains of Chile.

    The consortium telescope will allow the Physics & Astronomy department to study galaxy formation and origins. Since 1999, MSU has been part of a consortium called the Michigan Life Sciences Corridor, which aims to develop biotechnology research in the State of Michigan. Finally, the College of Communication Arts and Sciences’ Quello Center researches issues of information and communication management.

    The Michigan State University (US) Spartans compete in the NCAA Division I Big Ten Conference. Michigan State Spartans football won the Rose Bowl Game in 1954, 1956, 1988 and 2014, and the university claims a total of six national football championships. Spartans men’s basketball won the NCAA National Championship in 1979 and 2000 and has attained the Final Four eight times since the 1998–1999 season. Spartans ice hockey won NCAA national titles in 1966, 1986 and 2007. The women’s cross country team was named Big Ten champions in 2019.[12] In the fall of 2019, MSU student-athletes posted all-time highs for graduation success rates and federal graduation rates, according to NCAA statistics.

  • richardmitnick 1:17 pm on May 22, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Earthquake creates ecological opportunity", , at magnitude 8.2., , , Ecology, , Marine Biosicence, The positive opportunities that earthquakes can create for wildlife are often overlooked, The range expansion of the rimurapa (bull-kelp) plants seems to be associated with 1855 Wairarapa earthquake – New Zealand’s strongest recorded earthquake at magnitude 8.2., University of Otago [Te Whare Wānanga o Otāgo] (NZ)   

    From University of Otago [Te Whare Wānanga o Otāgo] (NZ) : “Earthquake creates ecological opportunity” 

    From University of Otago [Te Whare Wānanga o Otāgo] (NZ)

    20 May 2021

    Dr Felix Vaux
    Department of Zoology
    University of Otago
    Email felix.vaux@otago.ac.nz

    Ellie Rowley
    Communications Adviser
    External Engagement Division
    University of Otago
    Tel +64 3 479 8200
    Mob +64 21 278 8200
    Email ellie.rowley@otago.ac.nz

    Rimurapa growing at Manurewa Point in the Wairarapa. Photo: supplied.

    A University of Otago study has revealed how earthquake upheaval has affected New Zealand’s coastal species.

    Lead author Dr Felix Vaux, of the Department of Zoology, says earthquakes are typically considered devastating events for people and the environment, but the positive opportunities that they can create for wildlife are often overlooked.

    For the Marsden-funded study, published in Journal of Phycology, the researchers sequenced DNA from 288 rimurapa (bull-kelp) plants from 28 places across central New Zealand.

    “All specimens from the North Island were expected to be the species Durvillaea antarctica, but unexpectedly 10 samples from four sites were Durvillaea poha – about 150 km from the nearest population on the Kaikōura Peninsula,” Dr Vaux says.

    The range expansion of the seaweed seems to be associated with the often forgotten 1855 Wairarapa earthquake – New Zealand’s strongest recorded earthquake since European colonisation, at magnitude 8.2.

    “Uplift and landslides around Wellington cleared swathes of coastline of Durvillaea antarctica, and this seems to have allowed a previously South Island restricted species – Durvillaea poha – to colonise and establish itself in the North Island.

    “This exciting discovery highlights that frequent tectonic activity may be reshaping New Zealand’s biodiversity, including its marine environments, and it reminds us that recent events – such as the 2016 Kaikōura earthquake, may have long-lasting effects on the environment.”

    Dr Vaux believes an increase in the species diversity of bull-kelp in the North Island is likely to be positive for the intertidal community as Durvillaea provides a sheltered habitat for numerous animals – including crustaceans, molluscs such as pāua, spiders and fish.

    “Our discovery is exciting because it indicates that tectonic disturbance can not only change population structure within a species, but it can also create ecological opportunity and shift the distribution of organisms.

    “While many range shifts have been linked to climate change, tectonic disturbance should not be overlooked as a potential facilitator of range expansion. In our fast-changing world, it is becoming increasingly important to understand the forces that shape the distribution of species,” he says.

    See the full article here.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The University of Otago [Te Whare Wānanga o Otāgo] (NZ) is a collegiate university based in Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand. It scores highly for average research quality, and in 2006 was second in New Zealand only to the University of Auckland (NZ) in the number of A-rated academic researchers it employs. In the past it has topped the New Zealand Performance Based Research Fund evaluation.

    The university was created by a committee led by Thomas Burns, and officially established by an ordinance of the Otago Provincial Council in 1869. The university accepted its first students in July 1871, making it the oldest university in New Zealand and third-oldest in Oceania. Between 1874 and 1961 the University of Otago was a part of the federal University of New Zealand, and issued degrees in its name.

    Otago is known for its vibrant student life, particularly its flatting, which is often in old houses. Otago students have a long standing tradition of naming their flats. The nickname for Otago students “Scarfie” comes from the habit of wearing a scarf during the cold southern winters, but the term “Breathers”, a corruption of “brothers”, is now common. The university’s graduation song, Gaudeamus igitur, iuvenes dum sumus (“Let us rejoice, while we are young”), acknowledges students will continue to live up to the challenge, if not always in the way intended. The university’s student magazine, Critic, is New Zealand’s longest running student magazine.

    The architectural grandeur and accompanying gardens of Otago University led to it being ranked as one of the world’s most beautiful university campuses by the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph and American online news website The Huffington Post.

  • richardmitnick 11:57 am on April 28, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Ecology, EcoPOD- A new fabricated ecosystem platform unites research across biological scales for a new generation of ecology research., You can't just do plant biology; you can't just look at soil; and you can't just do atmospheric science – they’re all linked   

    From DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (US) : “Meet EcoPOD: Berkeley Lab’s High-Tech Growing Chamber” 

    From DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (US)

    April 28th, 2021
    Text by Aliyah Kovnar
    Photos by Marilyn Sargent and Thor Swift

    A new fabricated ecosystem platform unites research across biological scales for a new generation of ecology research.


    The air, soil, water, and microbes surrounding an individual plant represent one tiny fraction of an ecosystem. And yet, when you look closely, this little slice of organic and inorganic material is a universe unto itself, filled with thousands of chemicals and populated by billions of organisms conducting incalculable interactions every second.

    Within such microcosms are answers to long-standing and large-scale questions such as how organisms across the planet are responding to climate change, how nutrients cycle through the food chain, and how we humans can engineer productive and drought-resistant crops. So, scientists and engineers from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) teamed up to create a unique platform that can be used to study all aspects of these miniature environments with unprecedented precision and control.

    The technology, named EcoPOD, is essentially a high-tech growing chamber, about the size of a Mini Cooper perched on one end, that allows plants to be grown under highly controlled conditions. The inner chamber can house a little over 0.5 cubic yards of soil, has room for about five feet of atmosphere, and is equipped with sensors that measure both above and below-ground characteristics. Other devices precisely control the environment within the EcoPOD chamber – including water, humidity, temperature, light intensity and light wavelength – to allow simulations of past, present, and future climate scenarios, as well as manipulation of individual environmental parameters.

    “We developed the EcoPOD because there was a recognition that you can’t just do plant biology; you can’t just look at soil; and you can’t just do atmospheric science – they’re all linked,” said project participant Esther Singer, a research scientist in the Environmental Systems and Genomics Division (EGSB) of the Biosciences Area. “The platform allows you to evaluate the impact of many different factors that affect ecosystem processes simultaneously, and provides an opportunity for scientists with diverse expertise to combine their knowledge by working on the same experiment together.”


    The very first EcoPOD is now fully assembled and tested, with preliminary experiments under way following three years of research and design by a diverse team of Berkeley Lab staff, in collaboration with the instrument vendor company, called UGT.

    “It’s a truly multidisciplinary tool. Getting it to this stage required intense collaboration between our engineers, operations staff, and scientists. Now that it’s here, many researchers are excited to use the technology for novel experiments,” said Horst Simon, Deputy Lab Director for Research. Mary Maxon, Associate Laboratory Director for Biosciences, agreed, adding, “In a short time, the EcoPOD has become a cornerstone for research in our Area and will be the foundation for many collaborations, both inside the Lab and out.”

    An issue of scale

    According to Jenny Mortimer, an affiliate scientist in the EGSB Division and an early EcoPOD advocate, the idea for something like an EcoPOD existed in the scientific community long before anyone built one. The decision to actually try doing so arose naturally from the process of developing another one of Berkeley Lab’s cross-disciplinary, ecosystem investigation tools called EcoFAB. About the same size as the box a cell phone comes in, the EcoFAB is a transparent plastic container that can hold a seedling plant and a small dollop of soil.


    “Berkeley Lab scientists were creating this EcoFAB system, which is great for studying small-scale plant-microbe-soil interactions and is very reproducible, but it’s a very reductionist way of looking at things,” Mortimer, who is now at the University of Adelaide in Australia, explained. “And the Lab also has a bunch of people doing research in the field, looking at these complete, incredibly complex systems, but they’re nearly impossible to replicate. We needed something in between, and we felt like we had the expertise to pull it off.”

    Though still far from the complexity of a field experiment, the platform will enable studies of plants, microbes, and geochemical processes that more closely recreate the conditions found in nature – the biggest challenge of any indoor study – while retaining experimental control. For Mortimer, also serving as director of Plant Systems Biology at the Joint BioEnergy Institute, that means being able to explore how biofuel crop species respond to individual environmental stresses so scientists can engineer plants that are as productive and climate-resistant as possible. For example, in a field experiment, drought is always accompanied by temperature fluctuations, but in an EcoPOD, Mortimer could adjust water levels while keeping the temperature constant. Then, by performing genetic analyses on surviving plants, she and her colleagues can zero in on the genes responsible for drought tolerance.

    In addition to that, Singer, who is leading the first experiments inside the EcoPOD after prototype testing, is looking forward to getting a glimpse of activities that occur deep in soil. “Most soil studies happen in the top five centimeters, because that’s the easiest soil to access if you’re digging it out of the field, but in most ecosystems the actual soil column has distinct layers and extends much deeper,” she said. “I’m looking forward to observing biogeochemical processes happening at deeper soil horizons, because we don’t really have much data about this from either a plant root, soil microbiome, or soil chemistry perspective.”

    Singer’s inaugural study is one of several Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) projects that intersect with the EcoPOD program. Now in its third year, her Early Career LDRD is focused on studying drought effects on the root habitat of a common biofuel plant. Having recently completed a field-based phase, she is starting to conduct comparison studies in the EcoPOD.

    Another keen future user is Trent Northen, EGSB Division Deputy for Science, who also leads several programs developing and using EcoFABs, including the Microbial Community Analysis & Functional Evaluation in Soils (m-CAFEs) Scientific Focus Area and Trial Ecosystems for the Advancement of Microbiome Science. Northen plans to use the EcoPOD to scale-up his team’s EcoFAB studies on microbe interactions.

    “It’s estimated that less than 1% of the microbial diversity found in nature has a been studied in a lab, and for that 1%, we don’t know the functions of more than half of their genes,” he said. “One very reasonable hypothesis is that many these unknown functions have to do with interactions with their environment and other organisms, and so we need to move from studying microbes in isolation to studying them within more relevant ecosystems to discover these functions.” Northen plans to introduce organisms isolated from natural environments into the fabricated ecosystems, where they can study their activities in real world conditions and how they change when key genes are altered. “By doing this, we’ll not only be able to better understand our environment, but we’ll also be able to identify metabolites and microbes that can be used for sustainable practices and technologies, for example, microbes that help plants pull carbon out of the atmosphere and restore our soils that have been damaged through poor land management practices,” he said.

    A Suite of sensors

    Many of the experiments planned for the EcoPOD would be impossible without the vessel’s numerous physical and chemical sensors, which are capable of continuous, real-time monitoring of factors such as humidity and air composition. And, on top of the sensors already in place on the prototype, the EcoPOD team is looking forward to working with sensor technology experts to develop a range of new, sophisticated detection tools that can be embedded in soil.

    These high-tech additions will let scientists track real-time changes to miniature ecosystems growing within the vessel without destructive sampling. “Currently, there are very few sensors that can continuously operate in soil. Detecting chemicals and biological activity in an opaque medium is quite challenging,” said Singer. “But it’s of huge interest to many of our scientists because of the potential impact not only to ecology, but also fields like bioremediation. Imagine if you could detect a contaminant in the environment without having to dig around, which disrupts habitats and drives up labor costs.”

    From the microbes up

    After the first EcoPOD prototype has been beta tested and fully decked out with sensors and other experimental accoutrements, it will join Berkeley Lab’s other ecosystem research tools in the upcoming Biological & Environmental Program Integration Center (BioEPIC). Slated for construction starting in 2022, BioEPIC will provide a collaborative, shared research space for scientists who are studying ecosystem interactions across scales, from molecular interactions like the symbiosis between fungal cells and plant roots, to large processes such as how plants and soils sequester carbon.

    “The EcoPOD offers so many opportunities,” said Maxon. “In addition to scaling up to field studies, this technology allows us to scale down to molecules and genomes to understand ecosystem complexity and dynamics on a very fundamental level. When we understand these interactions, we will begin to truly grasp the interconnectedness of systems biology.”

    The EcoPOD project is funded in part by Berkeley Lab institutional funds, including the LDRD Program, and the Office of Science through the m-CAFEs Scientific Focus Area.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    LBNL campus

    LBNL Molecular Foundry

    Bringing Science Solutions to the World

    In the world of science, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) (US) is synonymous with “excellence.” Thirteen Nobel prizes are associated with Berkeley Lab. Seventy Lab scientists are members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), one of the highest honors for a scientist in the United States. Thirteen of our scientists have won the National Medal of Science, our nation’s highest award for lifetime achievement in fields of scientific research. Eighteen of our engineers have been elected to the National Academy of Engineering, and three of our scientists have been elected into the Institute of Medicine. In addition, Berkeley Lab has trained thousands of university science and engineering students who are advancing technological innovations across the nation and around the world.

    Berkeley Lab is a member of the national laboratory system supported by the U.S. Department of Energy through its Office of Science. It is managed by the University of California(UC) and is charged with conducting unclassified research across a wide range of scientific disciplines. Located on a 202-acre site in the hills above the UC Berkeley campus that offers spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay, Berkeley Lab employs approximately 3,232 scientists, engineers and support staff. The Lab’s total costs for FY 2014 were $785 million. A recent study estimates the Laboratory’s overall economic impact through direct, indirect and induced spending on the nine counties that make up the San Francisco Bay Area to be nearly $700 million annually. The Lab was also responsible for creating 5,600 jobs locally and 12,000 nationally. The overall economic impact on the national economy is estimated at $1.6 billion a year. Technologies developed at Berkeley Lab have generated billions of dollars in revenues, and thousands of jobs. Savings as a result of Berkeley Lab developments in lighting and windows, and other energy-efficient technologies, have also been in the billions of dollars.

    Berkeley Lab was founded in 1931 by Ernest Orlando Lawrence, a University of California, Berkeley(US) physicist who won the 1939 Nobel Prize in physics for his invention of the cyclotron, a circular particle accelerator that opened the door to high-energy physics. It was Lawrence’s belief that scientific research is best done through teams of individuals with different fields of expertise, working together. His teamwork concept is a Berkeley Lab legacy that continues today.



    The laboratory was founded on August 26, 1931, by Ernest Lawrence, as the Radiation Laboratory of the University of California, Berkeley, associated with the Physics Department. It centered physics research around his new instrument, the cyclotron, a type of particle accelerator for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1939.

    LBNL 88 inch cyclotron.

    LBNL 88 inch cyclotron.

    Throughout the 1930s, Lawrence pushed to create larger and larger machines for physics research, courting private philanthropists for funding. He was the first to develop a large team to build big projects to make discoveries in basic research. Eventually these machines grew too large to be held on the university grounds, and in 1940 the lab moved to its current site atop the hill above campus. Part of the team put together during this period includes two other young scientists who went on to establish large laboratories; J. Robert Oppenheimer founded DOE’s Los Alamos Laboratory(US), and Robert Wilson founded Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory(US).


    Leslie Groves visited Lawrence’s Radiation Laboratory in late 1942 as he was organizing the Manhattan Project, meeting J. Robert Oppenheimer for the first time. Oppenheimer was tasked with organizing the nuclear bomb development effort and founded today’s Los Alamos National Laboratory to help keep the work secret. At the RadLab, Lawrence and his colleagues developed the technique of electromagnetic enrichment of uranium using their experience with cyclotrons. The “calutrons” (named after the University) became the basic unit of the massive Y-12 facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Lawrence’s lab helped contribute to what have been judged to be the three most valuable technology developments of the war (the atomic bomb, proximity fuse, and radar). The cyclotron, whose construction was stalled during the war, was finished in November 1946. The Manhattan Project shut down two months later.


    After the war, the Radiation Laboratory became one of the first laboratories to be incorporated into the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) (now Department of Energy(US). The most highly classified work remained at Los Alamos, but the RadLab remained involved. Edward Teller suggested setting up a second lab similar to Los Alamos to compete with their designs. This led to the creation of an offshoot of the RadLab (now the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory(US)) in 1952. Some of the RadLab’s work was transferred to the new lab, but some classified research continued at Berkeley Lab until the 1970s, when it became a laboratory dedicated only to unclassified scientific research.

    Shortly after the death of Lawrence in August 1958, the UC Radiation Laboratory (both branches) was renamed the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory. The Berkeley location became the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in 1971, although many continued to call it the RadLab. Gradually, another shortened form came into common usage, LBNL. Its formal name was amended to Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in 1995, when “National” was added to the names of all DOE labs. “Ernest Orlando” was later dropped to shorten the name. Today, the lab is commonly referred to as “Berkeley Lab”.

    The Alvarez Physics Memos are a set of informal working papers of the large group of physicists, engineers, computer programmers, and technicians led by Luis W. Alvarez from the early 1950s until his death in 1988. Over 1700 memos are available on-line, hosted by the Laboratory.

    The lab remains owned by the Department of Energy(US), with management from the University of California(US). Companies such as Intel were funding the lab’s research into computing chips.

    Science mission

    From the 1950s through the present, Berkeley Lab has maintained its status as a major international center for physics research, and has also diversified its research program into almost every realm of scientific investigation. Its mission is to solve the most pressing and profound scientific problems facing humanity, conduct basic research for a secure energy future, understand living systems to improve the environment, health, and energy supply, understand matter and energy in the universe, build and safely operate leading scientific facilities for the nation, and train the next generation of scientists and engineers.

    The Laboratory’s 20 scientific divisions are organized within six areas of research: Computing Sciences; Physical Sciences; Earth and Environmental Sciences; Biosciences; Energy Sciences; and Energy Technologies. Berkeley Lab has six main science thrusts: advancing integrated fundamental energy science; integrative biological and environmental system science; advanced computing for science impact; discovering the fundamental properties of matter and energy; accelerators for the future; and developing energy technology innovations for a sustainable future. It was Lawrence’s belief that scientific research is best done through teams of individuals with different fields of expertise, working together. His teamwork concept is a Berkeley Lab tradition that continues today.

    Berkeley Lab operates five major National User Facilities for the DOE Office of Science(US):

    The Advanced Light Source (ALS) is a synchrotron light source with 41 beam lines providing ultraviolet, soft x-ray, and hard x-ray light to scientific experiments.


    LBNL/ALS .

    The ALS is one of the world’s brightest sources of soft x-rays, which are used to characterize the electronic structure of matter and to reveal microscopic structures with elemental and chemical specificity. About 2,500 scientist-users carry out research at ALS every year. Berkeley Lab is proposing an upgrade of ALS which would increase the coherent flux of soft x-rays by two-three orders of magnitude.

    The Joint Genome Institute (JGI) supports genomic research in support of the DOE missions in alternative energy, global carbon cycling, and environmental management. The JGI’s partner laboratories are Berkeley Lab, Lawrence Livermore National Lab (LLNL), DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory(US)(ORNL), DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory(US) (PNNL), and the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology(US). The JGI’s central role is the development of a diversity of large-scale experimental and computational capabilities to link sequence to biological insights relevant to energy and environmental research. Approximately 1,200 scientist-users take advantage of JGI’s capabilities for their research every year.

    The LBNL Molecular Foundry(US) [above] is a multidisciplinary nanoscience research facility. Its seven research facilities focus on Imaging and Manipulation of Nanostructures; Nanofabrication; Theory of Nanostructured Materials; Inorganic Nanostructures; Biological Nanostructures; Organic and Macromolecular Synthesis; and Electron Microscopy. Approximately 700 scientist-users make use of these facilities in their research every year.

    The DOE’s NERSC National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center(US) is the scientific computing facility that provides large-scale computing for the DOE’s unclassified research programs. Its current systems provide over 3 billion computational hours annually. NERSC supports 6,000 scientific users from universities, national laboratories, and industry.

    National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

    NERSC Cray Cori II supercomputer, named after Gerty Cori, the first American woman to win a Nobel Prize in science.

    NERSC Hopper Cray XE6 supercomputer, named after Grace Hopper, One of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer.

    NERSC Cray XC30 Edison supercomputer.

    NERSC GPFS for Life Sciences.

    The Genepool system is a cluster dedicated to the DOE Joint Genome Institute’s computing needs. Denovo is a smaller test system for Genepool that is primarily used by NERSC staff to test new system configurations and software.

    NERSC PDSF computer cluster in 2003.

    PDSF is a networked distributed computing cluster designed primarily to meet the detector simulation and data analysis requirements of physics, astrophysics and nuclear science collaborations.


    Cray Shasta Perlmutter SC18 AMD Epyc Nvidia pre-exascale supeercomputer

    NERSC is a DOE Office of Science User Facility.

    The DOE’s Energy Science Network(US) is a high-speed network infrastructure optimized for very large scientific data flows. ESNet provides connectivity for all major DOE sites and facilities, and the network transports roughly 35 petabytes of traffic each month.

    Berkeley Lab is the lead partner in the DOE’s Joint Bioenergy Institute(US) (JBEI), located in Emeryville, California. Other partners are the DOE’s Sandia National Laboratory(US), the University of California (UC) campuses of Berkeley and Davis, the Carnegie Institution for Science(US), and DOE’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory(US) (LLNL). JBEI’s primary scientific mission is to advance the development of the next generation of biofuels – liquid fuels derived from the solar energy stored in plant biomass. JBEI is one of three new U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Research Centers (BRCs).

    Berkeley Lab has a major role in two DOE Energy Innovation Hubs. The mission of the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) is to find a cost-effective method to produce fuels using only sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide. The lead institution for JCAP is the California Institute of Technology(US) and Berkeley Lab is the second institutional center. The mission of the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR) is to create next-generation battery technologies that will transform transportation and the electricity grid. DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory(US) leads JCESR and Berkeley Lab is a major partner.

    Operations and governance

    The University of California(US) operates Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory under a contract with the US Department of Energy. The site consists of 76 buildings (owned by the U.S. Department of Energy) located on 200 acres (0.81 km^2) owned by the university in the Berkeley Hills. Altogether, the Lab has some 4,000 UC employees, of whom about 800 are students or postdocs, and each year it hosts more than 3,000 participating guest scientists. There are approximately two dozen DOE employees stationed at the laboratory to provide federal oversight of Berkeley Lab’s work for the DOE. Although Berkeley Lab is governed by UC independently of the Berkeley campus, the two entities are closely interconnected: more than 200 Berkeley Lab researchers hold joint appointments as UC Berkeley faculty.
    The Lab’s budget for the fiscal year 2019 was US$1.1 billion dollars.

    Scientific achievements, inventions, and discoveries

    Notable scientific accomplishments at the Lab since World War II include the observation of the antiproton, the discovery of several transuranic elements, and the discovery of the accelerating universe.

    Since its inception, 13 researchers associated with Berkeley Lab (Ernest Lawrence, Glenn T. Seaborg, Edwin M. McMillan, Owen Chamberlain, Emilio G. Segrè, Donald A. Glaser, Melvin Calvin, Luis W. Alvarez, Yuan T. Lee, Steven Chu, George F. Smoot, Saul Perlmutter, and Jennifer Doudna) have been awarded either the Nobel Prize in Physics or the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

    In addition, twenty-three Berkeley Lab employees, as contributors to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore.

    Seventy Berkeley Lab scientists are members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences(US) (NAS), one of the highest honors for a scientist in the United States. Thirteen Berkeley Lab scientists have won the National Medal of Science, the nation’s highest award for lifetime achievement in fields of scientific research. Eighteen Berkeley Lab engineers have been elected to the National Academy of Engineering, and three Berkeley Lab scientists have been elected into the National Academy of Medicine. Nature Index rates the Lab sixth in the world among government research organizations; it is the only one of the top six that is a single laboratory, rather than a system of laboratories.

    Elements discovered by Berkeley Lab physicists include astatine; neptunium; plutonium; curium; americium; berkelium*; californium*; einsteinium; fermium; mendelevium; nobelium; lawrencium*; dubnium; and seaborgium*. Those elements listed with asterisks (*) are named after the University Professors Lawrence and Seaborg. Seaborg was the principal scientist involved in their discovery. The element technetium was discovered after Ernest Lawrence gave Emilio Segrè a molybdenum strip from the Berkeley Lab cyclotron. The fabricated evidence used to claim the creation of oganesson and livermorium by Victor Ninov, a researcher employed at Berkeley Lab, led to the retraction of two articles.

    Inventions and discoveries to come out of Berkeley Lab include: “smart” windows with embedded electrodes that enable window glass to respond to changes in sunlight; synthetic genes for antimalaria and anti-AIDS superdrugs based on breakthroughs in synthetic biology; electronic ballasts for more efficient lighting; Home Energy Saver; the web’s first do-it-yourself home energy audit tool; a pocket-sized DNA sampler called the PhyloChip; and the Berkeley Darfur Stove which uses one-quarter as much firewood as traditional cook stoves. One of Berkeley Lab’s most notable breakthroughs is the discovery of Dark Energy. During the 1980s and 1990s Berkeley Lab physicists and astronomers formed the Supernova Cosmology Project (SCP), using Type Ia supernovae as “standard candles” to measure the expansion rate of the universe. Their successful methods inspired competition, with the result that early in 1998 both the SCP and the Harvard Cosmology with Supernovae: The High-Z Supernova Search High-Z SN(US) announced the surprising discovery that expansion is accelerating; the cause was soon named Dark Energy.

    Arthur Rosenfeld, a senior scientist at Berkeley Lab, was the nation’s leading advocate for energy efficiency from 1975 until his death in 2017. He led efforts at the Lab that produced several technologies that radically improved efficiency: compact fluorescent lamps; low-energy refrigerators; and windows that trap heat. He established the Center for Building Science at the Lab, which developed into the Building Technology and Urban Systems Division. He developed the first energy-efficiency standards for buildings and appliances in California, which helped the state to sustain constant electricity use per capita, a phenomenon called the Rosenfeld effect. The Energy Efficiency and Environmental Impacts Division continues to set the research foundation for the national energy efficiency standards and works with China, India, and other countries to help develop their standards.

    Carl Haber and Vitaliy Fadeyev of Berkeley Lab developed the IRENE system for optical scanning of audio discs and cylinders.
    In December 2018, researchers at Intel Corp. and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory published a paper in Nature, which outlined a chip “made with quantum materials called magnetoelectric multiferroics instead of the conventional silicon,” to allow for increased processing and reduced energy consumption to support technology such as artificial intelligence.

    A U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratory Operated by the University of California.

    University of California Seal

  • richardmitnick 11:41 am on January 4, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Soil moisture exerts a negative feedback on surface water availability in drylands: study", , , , , Ecology, ,   

    From Columbia University via phys.org: “Soil moisture exerts a negative feedback on surface water availability in drylands: study” 

    Columbia U bloc

    From Columbia University



    A dryland ecosystem in Northern California shows decreasing soil moisture but little changes in surface water availability. Credit: Columbia Engineering.

    Scientists have thought that global warming will increase the availability of surface water—freshwater resources generated by precipitation minus evapotranspiration—in wet regions, and decrease water availability in dry regions. This expectation is based primarily on atmospheric thermodynamic processes. As air temperatures rise, more water evaporates into the air from the ocean and land. Because warmer air can hold more water vapor than dry air, a more humid atmosphere is expected to amplify the existing pattern of water availability, causing the “dry-get-drier, and wet-get-wetter” atmospheric responses to global warming.

    A Columbia Engineering team led by Pierre Gentine, Maurice Ewing and J. Lamar Worzel professor of earth and environmental engineering and affiliated with the Earth Institute, wondered why coupled climate model predictions do not project significant “dry-get-drier” responses over drylands, tropical and temperate areas with an aridity index of less than 0.65, even when researchers use the high emissions global warming scenario. Sha Zhou, a postdoctoral fellow at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the Earth Institute who studies land-atmosphere interactions and the global water cycle, thought that soil moisture-atmosphere feedbacks might play an important part in future predictions of water availability in drylands.

    The new study, published today by Nature Climate Change, is the first to show the importance of long-term soil moisture changes and associated soil moisture-atmosphere feedbacks in these predictions. The researchers identified a long-term soil moisture regulation of atmospheric circulation and moisture transport that largely ameliorates the potential decline of future water availability in drylands, beyond that expected in the absence of soil moisture feedbacks.

    “These feedbacks play a more significant role than realized in long-term surface water changes,” says Zhou. “As soil moisture variations negatively impact water availability, this negative feedback could also partially reduce warming-driven increases in the magnitudes and frequencies of extreme high and extreme low hydroclimatic events, such as droughts and floods. Without the negative feedback, we may experience more frequent and more extreme droughts and floods.”

    The team combined a unique, idealized multi-model land-atmosphere coupling experiment with a novel statistical approach they developed for the study. They then applied the algorithm on observations to examine the critical role of soil moisture-atmosphere feedbacks in future water availability changes over drylands, and to investigate the thermodynamic and dynamic mechanisms underpinning future water availability changes due to these feedbacks.

    They found, in response to global warming, strong declines in surface water availability (precipitation minus evaporation, P-E) in dry regions over oceans, but only slight P-E declines over drylands. Zhou suspected that this phenomenon is associated with land-atmosphere processes. “Over drylands, soil moisture is projected to decline substantially under climate change,” she explains. “Changes in soil moisture would further impact atmospheric processes and the water cycle.”

    Global warming is expected to reduce water availability and hence soil moisture in drylands. But this new study found that the drying of soil moisture actually negatively feeds back onto water availability—declining soil moisture reduces evapotranspiration and evaporative cooling, and enhances surface warming in drylands relative to wet regions and the ocean. The land-ocean warming contrast strengthens the air pressure differences between ocean and land, driving greater wind blowing and water vapor transport from the ocean to land.

    “Our work finds that soil moisture predictions and associated atmosphere feedbacks are highly variable and model dependent,” says Gentine. “This study underscores the urgent need to improve future soil moisture predictions and accurately represent soil moisture-atmosphere feedbacks in models, which are critical to providing reliable predictions of dryland water availability for better water resources management.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Columbia U Campus

    Columbia University was founded in 1754 as King’s College by royal charter of King George II of England. It is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York and the fifth oldest in the United States.

  • richardmitnick 8:56 am on December 23, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Tree rings show evidence of droughts and floods along the Potomac River", , , , Ecology,   

    From Ohio State University: “Tree rings show evidence of droughts and floods along the Potomac River” 

    From Ohio State University

    Dec 23, 2020

    Laura Arenschield
    Ohio State News

    350 years of data aligns with historical documents, study shows.

    Looking down the Potomac River at Fletcher’s Cove. Credit: Sara L. Cottle/Unsplash.com.

    Tree rings in the Potomac River watershed show evidence of severe droughts and floods over the last 350 years – and scientists can pinpoint the years of those events well enough that they align with writings from people that include Thomas Jefferson.

    The findings, published earlier this month in the journal Water Resources Research, could help water managers predict water shortages and floods in Washington, D.C.

    “We’ve got these Jefferson quotes and other qualitative records – we have somebody saying the drought was really bad,” said Jim Stagge, lead author of the paper and an assistant professor of civil, environmental and geodetic engineering at The Ohio State University. “But as an engineer, the next question is, how bad was it in terms of numbers? That’s what we wanted to find out. Because if we know how bad it was, we might be able to predict how bad it could be in the future.”

    The Potomac River is the primary water source for Washington, D.C., and its suburbs in Maryland and Virginia, a metro area of about 4.6 million people that is predicted to grow by approximately 23% over the next 20 years, increasing demands on the water system. Drought and flood records go back only about 100 years, limiting information on extreme weather that could directly affect the amount of water available to the nation’s capital. This study, designed to predict water flows and shortages in the Potomac over time, suggests that tree rings could be one key to managing that water supply in the future.

    “People talk about 100-year floods, but it’s a problematic concept, because if things are random, you could have three of those in four years,” said Max Torbenson, a postdoctoral researcher in Stagge’s laboratory and co-author of the study. “By using tree rings, we can build those records out to 300 or 400 years. The more data and the longer records we have, the better we can try to prepare for future extreme scenarios.”

    The number of tree rings can tell how old a tree is, but the thickness of those rings also says something about the amount of water available in a given year. Wider rings mean the tree received more water that year. Thinner rings mean water was scarce.

    Stagge previously worked with the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin, an organization devoted to protecting the Potomac watershed and improving quality of life for people who rely on the river and its tributaries. Stagge and Torbenson are now working with the ICPRB to incorporate these findings into their long-term planning.

    Tree rings are one way to extend flow records that water managers need: Data from those trees goes back around 350 years, more than three times the history offered by modern gauges.

    Stagge and Torbenson gathered data about the Potomac River from the U.S. Geological Survey, which measures streamflow at points across the United States. For the Potomac River, they focused on measurements at Point of Rocks, Maryland, the most important gauge used to make water decisions for Washington, D.C. Then, they pulled tree-ring data from the International Tree-Ring Data Bank.

    They evaluated records from more than 5,000 trees, and divided their data into annual seasons – winter, from December through February, and summer, from June through August.

    The tree rings showed several years of consecutive drought – marked by very thin rings that indicated low water flows – that were similar to the 1960s drought and that had not previously been part of the conversation around water management. The data showed a drought in the 1960s that had been well-documented, but it also showed a drought that lasted from 1819 into 1820, about which Jefferson wrote that the “fatal effect has been greatly aggravated in this state by an unexampled drought, which having prevailed from June last to this time, destroyed the bread of that year, and threatens that of the present.”

    The rings also showed very wide rings indicating high water flows in 1889. When the researchers consulted historical records, they saw that floods caused more than $1 million in damage to property on the C&O Canal between Cumberland, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. Those floods, too, had not previously been part of the strategies around water management.

    Stagge said the study shows that tree rings can and should be used to help regions manage their water supplies – not to replace existing records, but to augment them.

    “We can use trees to make sure that what we build today is much more robust and can stand up to some of these events,” he said. “They very well could reoccur; we just haven’t seen them in the span of a human lifetime.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The Ohio State University (OSU, commonly referred to as Ohio State) is a public research university in Columbus, Ohio. Founded in 1870 as a land-grant university and the ninth university in Ohio with the Morrill Act of 1862,[4] the university was originally known as the Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College. The college originally focused on various agricultural and mechanical disciplines but it developed into a comprehensive university under the direction of then-Governor (later, U.S. President) Rutherford B. Hayes, and in 1878 the Ohio General Assembly passed a law changing the name to “The Ohio State University”.[5] The main campus in Columbus, Ohio, has since grown into the third-largest university campus in the United States.[6] The university also operates regional campuses in Lima, Mansfield, Marion, Newark, and Wooster.

    The university has an extensive student life program, with over 1,000 student organizations; intercollegiate, club and recreational sports programs; student media organizations and publications, fraternities and sororities; and three student governments. Ohio State athletic teams compete in Division I of the NCAA and are known as the Ohio State Buckeyes. As of the 2016 Summer Olympics, athletes from Ohio State have won 104 Olympic medals (46 gold, 35 silver, and 23 bronze). The university is a member of the Big Ten Conference for the majority of sports.

  • richardmitnick 9:39 am on December 21, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "With campus as a test bed, "With campus as a test bed climate action starts and continues at MIT", , , climate action starts and continues at MIT", , , Ecology, , ,   

    From MIT: “With campus as a test bed, climate action starts and continues at MIT” 

    MIT News

    From MIT News

    December 18, 2020
    Nicole Morell | MIT Office of Sustainability

    MIT serves as a laboratory for a multifaceted approach to address the Institute’s own contributions to climate change.

    MIT has reduced campus emissions by 24 percent over the past five years.

    In 2015, MIT set a goal to reduce its annual greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 32 percent by the year 2030. Five years later, the Institute has reduced emissions by 24 percent, remaining on track to meet its goal over the next several years.

    These most recent reduction data mark a 6 percent decrease — nearly 11,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions (MTCO2e) — from fiscal year 2019 to fiscal year 2020. This year-over-year reduction was driven in part by gains in building-level energy efficiency investments, operational efficiency of the Central Utilities Plant (CUP), a reduction in carbon intensity of the electricity purchased from the New England power grid, a less-intense heating season, and a temporary de-densification of campus due to Covid-19 resulting in lower energy demand.

    Cumulative efforts to reduce emissions

    The net 24 percent reduction over five years accounts for a decrease of over 50,000 MTCO2e annually since the launch of the Plan for Action on Climate Change in 2015. The plan is guided by five pillars to address the global challenge of climate change through research, technology, education, and outreach, as well as calling on MIT to use its campus operations and community as a test bed for change.

    This campus-as-a-test bed methodology empowers MIT to leverage faculty, students, and staff to test and demonstrate strategies for mitigating its own emissions. Strategies have focused on minimizing emissions through reducing the overall energy use, reducing the use of fossil fuels in campus buildings and vehicles, increasing the use of renewable energy sources, and minimizing the release of fugitive gases from campus operation. Marked improvement and investment has been seen in these areas over the past five years — from the CUP renewal to energy standards for an increasingly LEED-certified campus. Along with these efforts, research and coursework supports new cohorts of sustainability thinkers and doers making an impact on campus while working alongside staff, and priming MIT for an eventual goal of carbon neutrality.

    This unique research-staff partnership has enabled MIT to make significant progress in reducing its emissions, explains Joe Higgins, vice president for campus services and stewardship: “We are fortunate to have so many dedicated and creative operational staff engaged in achieving our carbon reduction goal,” he says. “They continuously seek opportunities to collaborate with students, faculty and researchers who are tackling the climate challenges of our world.”

    Mitigating campus emissions

    MIT’s buildings account for the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions on campus, comprising 97 percent of all emissions tracked. To lessen the emissions of existing campus buildings, the Institute prioritized deep energy audits to identify those spaces that have high levels of energy consumption and the greatest potential for emissions reductions. These efforts, led by the Department of Facilities and supported by the Office of Campus Planning; Environment, Health, and Safety; and the the Office of Sustainability (MITOS), follow a process of study, design, and implementation of retrofits with features such as heat recovery, lighting upgrades, and enhanced building systems controls to reduce energy use and associated emissions — a process that is ongoing. “As buildings are regularly identified for these audits, energy enhancements and energy reductions are continually being realized across campus,” explains Carlo Fanone, director of facilities engineering. “These reductions are often not fully realized until one to two fiscal years after completing a project, so we remain on a cycle of launching new projects and seeing the impact completed projects have on reduced emissions.”

    To mitigate the emissions impact of new buildings, the Institute adopted guidelines in 2016 that required all newly constructed campus buildings to achieve a minimum of LEED Gold certification (version 4). To date, more than 18 buildings and spaces at MIT are LEED certified, with two LEED Platinum buildings — the highest possible rating offered by the U.S. Green Building Council, which certifies LEED projects. Additional reductions on campus have been achieved through eliminating the use of fuel oil in the existing power plant, as well as investments in its operational efficiency. With the significant capital renewal of the CUP coming online in 2021, its increased capacity and efficiency is expected to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 10 percent.

    As ongoing campus efforts in a dense urban environment contribute to incremental emissions reductions, Institute leaders recognize the need for rapid global mitigation efforts that deploy strategies both on and off campus. To advance this, MIT entered into a power purchase agreement, or PPA, in 2016 that enabled the construction of Summit Farms, a 650-acre, 60-megawatt solar farm in North Carolina. Since then, MIT has benefited annually from the Institute’s 25-year commitment to purchase electricity generated through the PPA and in 2020 alone purchased 87,320 megawatt-hours of solar power, which offset over 28,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from on-campus operations.

    Future forward

    In utilizing the campus to test innovative ideas for local climate action, operational staff, researchers, students, and faculty all play a role. Through teaching 11.S938 / 2.S999 (Solving for Carbon Neutrality at MIT) and 11.S196 / 11.S946 (Exploring Sustainability at Different Scales) Director of Sustainability Julie Newman and mechanical engineering Professor Tim Gutowski have guided classes of graduate and undergraduate students in developing solutions for real-world sustainability challenges that tie back to campus. “This coursework has allowed us to engage students in thinking about climate change solutions through the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals — addressing a truly global challenge — and then taking that thinking and problem-solving approach to challenges and opportunities in our own backyard at MIT,” explains Newman, who also serves as a lecturer with the Department of Urban Studies and Planning. “Students start to think about climate action and carbon neutrality at different scales, which is the model we follow in the Office of Sustainability.”

    Research solutions to campus challenges are also supported through the Campus Sustainability Incubator Fund — administered by MITOS — which has enabled more than a dozen MIT community members to use the campus itself for research in sustainable operations, management, and design. Past funded projects include on-site renewable energy storage systems, water capture and reuse at the CUP, and life-cycle impacts on building designs on campus. Currently, a team of researchers supported by the fund is focused on short- and long-term sustainable procurement, sourcing, and disposal strategies for personal protective equipment at MIT, with a focus on solutions scalable beyond campus.

    Data and future work

    As MIT looks to meet its reduction goal, data collection and analysis remain key to measuring and mitigating emissions. MIT continually works to collect the full picture of this impact and in 2019 began developing a preliminary analysis of the Institute’s Scope 3, or indirect, greenhouse gas emissions. This is done to inform MIT’s total greenhouse gas emissions activities — in addition to Scopes 1 and 2 — and explore where strategic opportunities may exist to reduce emissions beyond what MIT is currently tracking. Through this effort, MIT has been collecting available emissions data, including those of purchased goods and services, MIT-sponsored travel, commuting, and capital goods (furniture, fixtures, tools, etc.) using the World Resources Institute/ World Business Council for Sustainable Development GHG Protocol for Scope 3 framework.

    The effort to capture a complete emissions picture reflects the ongoing work of MIT to rapidly understand and address its own contributions to climate change. As MIT looks to 2030 and its continued climate action work, Vice President for Research Maria Zuber says the MIT community will remain an important part of the work and envisioning the future, which includes a new climate action plan. “MIT is ahead of the schedule we set for ourselves to reduce net carbon emissions,” says Zuber, who oversees MIT’s Plan for Action on Climate Change. “But the climate crisis demands that we make even faster progress. Our new climate plan will set a more ambitious goal that everyone in our community will have a role in meeting.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    MIT Seal

    The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the twenty-first century. We seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.

    USPS “Forever” postage stamps celebrating Innovation at MIT.

    MIT Campus

  • richardmitnick 10:11 am on December 18, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "How climate change is disrupting ecosystems", , Ecology, , , Novel organisms moving into a new habitat could disturb the ecological balance., The world is getting warmer and warmer – and many organisms native to lower latitudes or elevations are moving higher.   

    From ETH Zürich (CH): “How climate change is disrupting ecosystems” 

    From ETH Zürich (CH)

    Peter Rüegg

    When it gets warmer, organisms rise higher from the lowlands. Researchers from ETH and WSL investigated what could happen to plant communities on alpine grasslands if grasshoppers from lower elevations settled there.

    Roesel’s bush-​cricket is one of the many grasshoppers that might migrate to higher elevations once the climate in lower elevations has become unsuitable. Credit: Christian Roesti.

    The world is getting warmer and warmer – and many organisms native to lower latitudes or elevations are moving higher.

    However, novel organisms moving into a new habitat could disturb the ecological balance which has been established over a long period. Plants and herbivores are characterised by long-​term co-​evolution, shaping both their geographic distribution and the characteristics that they display in their occupied sites.

    At higher elevations, this is seen in insect herbivores being generally less abundant and plants in turn being less well defended against herbivores, as a result of lower energy and shorter growing seasons. In contrast, low-​elevation plant species defend themselves against more abundant and diverse herbivores, whether by means of spikes, thorns or hair, or by toxic substances. Climate change could disturb this ecological organisation.

    Grasshoppers translocated to high elevations

    In an experiment, researchers from ETH Zürich, the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) and the University of Neuchâtel investigated what could happen if herbivores – in this case various grasshoppers from middle elevations – settled in alpine meadows at higher elevations and encountered new plant communities there. The study has just been published in the journal Science.

    The researchers translocated various grasshopper species from medium altitudes (1,400 metres above sea level) to three alpine grassland sites at elevations of 1,800, 2,070 and 2,270 metres above sea level, where the ecologists placed the grasshoppers in cages. The local grasshoppers had previously been removed from the experimental areas. The experiment was carried out in the Anzeindaz region in the Vaud Alps.

    In their study, the researchers measured things like how the biomass, structure and composition of the alpine plant communities changed under the influence of the herbivorous insects. The researchers also investigated whether some plant species were more susceptible to herbivory, for instance plants with tougher leaves, or those containing more silica or other constituents such as phenols or tannins.

    Lowland grasshoppers influence alpine community

    The ecologists discovered that the grasshoppers’ feeding behaviour had a clear influence on the vegetation structure and composition of the alpine flora. Alpine communities display clear structure in the organisation of the canopy, with plants with tough leaves at the top, and more shade-​tolerant plants with softer leaves at the bottom. But this natural organisation was disturbed, because the translocated grasshoppers preferred to feed on taller and tough alpine plants, which exhibited functional characteristics such as leaf structure, nutrient content, chemical defence, or growth form similar to those of their previous, lower-​elevation food plants. As a result, the insects reduced the biomass of dominant tough alpine plants, which in turn favoured the growth of small-​stature plant species that herbivores avoid. The overall plant diversity thus increased in the short term.

    “Immigrant herbivores consume specific plants in their new location and this changes and reorganises the competitive interaction between those alpine plant species,” says the study’s first author, Patrice Descombes. Global warming, for example, could disrupt the ecological balance because mobile animals, including many herbivorous insects, can expand their habitat to higher elevations more rapidly than sedentary plants. Herbivorous insects from lower altitudes could therefore have an easy time in alpine habitats with resident plants that are insufficiently or not at all prepared to defend themselves against those new herbivores. This could change the current structure and functioning of alpine plant communities as a whole. Climate change would thus have an indirect impact on ecosystems, in addition to the direct consequences of rising temperatures.

    Important drivers of changed ecosystems

    For Loïc Pellisier, Professor of Landscape Ecology at ETH Zürich and WSL, this indirect effect of climate change on ecosystems is one of the most important things to emerge from the study: “Climate impact research has largely investigated the direct effects of temperature on ecosystems, but these novel interactions that arise between species moving into new habitats could generate important structural modifications. They are important drivers of changed ecosystems in an increasingly warm climate.”

    With their results, the researchers also want to improve models that have so far only inadequately integrated such processes. They also hope that this will improve the prognosis of how climate change will influence the functioning of ecosystems and the services they provide.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    ETH Zurich campus
    ETH Zürich (CH) is one of the leading international universities for technology and the natural sciences. It is well known for its excellent education, ground-breaking fundamental research and for implementing its results directly into practice.

    Founded in 1855, ETH Zürich (CH) today has more than 18,500 students from over 110 countries, including 4,000 doctoral students. To researchers, it offers an inspiring working environment, to students, a comprehensive education.

    Twenty-one Nobel Laureates have studied, taught or conducted research at ETH Zürich (CH), underlining the excellent reputation of the university.

Compose new post
Next post/Next comment
Previous post/Previous comment
Show/Hide comments
Go to top
Go to login
Show/Hide help
shift + esc
%d bloggers like this: