Can grizzlies survive global warming?

New study shows many bears still rely on dwindling whitebark pine seeds

An adult grizzly bear in the brush. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Staff Report

The long-term survival of grizzles in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem may depend on whether they’re willing to switch from eating whitebark pine seeds to other types food.

Some of the bears have already started responding to reductions in whitebark trees by consuming more plants and berries, while others are still focused on finding stashes of the nutritious pine nuts, scientists said in a new study based on analyzing the chemical composition of what the grizzlies eat. Continue reading “Can grizzlies survive global warming?”

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How does global warming affect flows in the Rio Grande?

New study to help water planners in changing climate

A 2016 Landsat 8 image of the Lower Rio Grande canyons courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

Staff Report

There are more and more signs that global warming triggered a step-change in many natural systems in the 1980s. A new study, led by scientists with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, tracked a big change in flows in the Rio Grande watershed, a key source of water in New Mexico and Texas.

According to the study, the percentage of precipitation that becomes streamflow in the Upper Rio Grande watershed has fallen more steeply than at any point in at least 445 years.

In another recent study, European researchers showed how major lakes across Central Europe warmed dramatically starting about that same time, and the meltdown of Arctic ice has also accelerated rapidly since then. Continue reading “How does global warming affect flows in the Rio Grande?”

Antarctica is melting all over

No ice build-up in East Antarctica, new study says

Antarctica permafrost
Antarctica is melting all over. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Despite some suggestions that increased has bolstered the vast East Antarctic ice sheet, it appears the frozen continent is still shedding ice and has been a net contributor to sea level rise since at least 2003.

There’s been little doubt during the last decade that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has been losing mass, but the picture has been much less clear to the east, where there’s enough ice to raise global sea level by some 50 meters. One study led by NASA researchers in 2015 suggested that this part of Antarctica was gaining so much mass that it compensated for the losses in the west. Continue reading “Antarctica is melting all over”

Neonicotinoids impede bumblebee egg production

Another study shows pollinator pesticide impacts

A common bumblebee visits a garden in Vienna, Austria. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

It’s no secret that various pesticides are killing bees in many different ways, despite all the lies from chemical companies trying to make you think otherwise. In that battle for truth, and ultimately justice, more science helps, and researchers from the University of Guelph have show now systemic neonicotinoids reduce egg production in wild queen bumblebees.

“Queen bees will only lay eggs when the eggs are fully developed,” said Prof. Nigel Raine, holder of the Rebanks Family Chair in Pollinator Conservation. If queens need to use energy to clear pesticides from their system instead of investing in eggs, then fewer fully developed eggs will result, he said. “This will likely translate into slower egg-laying rates, which will then impede colony development and growth.” Continue reading “Neonicotinoids impede bumblebee egg production”

Sunday set: Got bugs?

Polli-nation!

Nature’s diversity is astounding at any level, but when you get down to a bug’s-eye view, it can really blow your mind. When I took the lily photo (with the upside-down bee or wasp) I didn’t  notice the second bug until I looked at the image on a larger screen at home. Curious, I started searching around a little bit and it didn’t take me long to learn that it’s a lily beetle, which is considered a pest in gardens, but is part of the natural environment in the Alps. In any case, plants and insects are completely interdependent, just as all living things are woven together in the global fabric of biodiversity. Respect nature, don’t abuse it.

To save monarchs, plant milkweed — lots of it!

New USGS study quantifies conservation needs

A monarch butterfly in Florida. @bberwyn photo.
A group of monarch butterflies covers an oyamel fir tree at an overwintering site in the Piedra Herrada Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in Mexico. (Steve Hilburger, USGS)

Staff Report

Saving monarch butterflies means planting a lot of their favorite food, say U.S. Geological Survey scientists, who outlined conservation measures in a new study.

After over-wintering in Mexico, monarchs rely on milkweed plants for food and breeding habitat. But milkweed has been wiped out across millions of acres. The new study measures the need in terms of stems of milkweed.

In the northern U.S. at least 860 million stems were lost during the last decade. After studying the density of Eastern migratory monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico from 1979-2002 and the amount of milkweed plants available to them in North America. The study found that 3.62 billion milkweed stems are needed to reestablish this monarch population, but only 1.34 billion stems remain in the U.S.

“Monarchs in eastern North America are a beloved insect, but they’re in jeopardy, partly due to the loss of milkweeds in cropland,” said Wayne Thogmartin, a USGS scientist and the lead author of the report. “Our study is important because it helps specify the conservation needs of this charismatic species.” Continue reading “To save monarchs, plant milkweed — lots of it!”

April ends up as second-warmest on record for Earth

Will El Niño re-emerge?

The Copernicus Climate Change Service says April 2017 was the second-warmest April on record.

Staff Report
European climate trackers say that April extended a stretch of exceptionally warm global weather going back to mid-2015. The warmth peaked in February 2016 at the height of Pacific Ocean El Niño, then gradually dropped off through June. But in July and August 2016 global temperatures surged upward once again and have stayed high since, according to the latest update from the Copernicus Climate Change Service.

February and March 2017 were the most anomalous months since April 2016. April 2017 was less extreme, but the average global temperature was still 0.51 degrees Celsius warmer than the average between 1981 and 2010 and the second-warmest April on record for the planet. Continue reading “April ends up as second-warmest on record for Earth”