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'Beast From the East' Drives Sea Life Die-Off
March certainly came in like a lion in the UK and Ireland, as "the Beast from the East" brought freezing temperatures, up to 20 inches of snowfall and travel disruptions to the British Isles.
But what was disruptive for the region's human inhabitants was deadly for its marine life. Hundreds of thousands of lobsters, starfish, crabs and other creatures washed up dead or dying on beaches on the UK's eastern coast, Buzzfeed News reported Monday.
The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust worked with local fisherman to separate live lobsters from the dead, with the aim of returning them to the ocean when the weather warms.
It's worth saving them so that they can be put back into the sea and continue to breed," Lyman told The Guardian.
Rodney Forster, a marine biologist at the University of Hull, told Buzzfeed he'd counted 24 types of fish so far.
Forster explained the cold is likely to blame. Ocean temperatures dropped from 5 to 2 degrees Celsius in less than a week. "For a lot of creatures, that really pushes them to their lower limits, especially the warm-water species ... we've seen washed up," he told Buzzfeed.
Waves caused by the storm, as well as high tides, also contributed.
Colleen Suckling, a lecturer in marine biology at Bangor University, wrote in The Conversation that this isn't the first time cold temperatures have caused sea-life die-offs, since they tend to make the animals lethargic.
Previous starfish die-offs occured on the coasts of Maryland in 1960, the Isle of Man in 1999, and Ireland in 2009.
"Starfish may be at particular risk of strandings after storms because of a behaviour known as "'starballing,'" Suckling wrote. Starballing is when the creatures will tuck in their arms to create a spherical shape, allowing currents to move them swiftly across the ocean floor. But during storms, the waves move them too far and strand them on beaches.
But while these events have happened before, the concern is that they might become more frequent due to climate change. As Futurism pointed out, global warming could lead to increases in the factors that led to the die-off: a polar vortex event bringing cold weather from the arctic and an intense storm.
For now, there's still plenty of work to do cleaning up from last week's disaster.
As Lyman tweeted on March 6, "That's it, there's nothing left alive to rescue. So now we clean up the #plasticpollution."
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Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.
Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.
Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.
SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0
"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.
It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.
Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.
In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.
The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).
"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.
The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.
"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.
Ivory Coast's rainforests have been decimated by cocoa production and what is left is put in peril by a new law that will remove legal protections for thousands of square miles of forests, according to The Guardian.
By Karin Kirk
Greenland had quite the summer. It rose from peaceful obscurity to global headliner as ice melted so swiftly and massively that many were left grasping for adjectives. Then, Greenland's profile was further boosted, albeit not to its delight, when President Trump expressed interest in buying it, only to be summarily dismissed by the Danish prime minister.
During that time I happened to be in East Greenland, both as an observer of the stark effects of climate change and as a witness to local dialogue about presidential real estate aspirations, polar bear migrations and Greenland's sudden emergence as a trending topic.
Heavy metals that may damage a developing brain are present in 95 percent of baby foods on the market. Cirou Frederic / PhotoAlto Agency RF Collections / Getty Images
Heavy metals that may damage a developing brain are present in 95 percent of baby foods on the market, according to new research from the advocacy organization Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF), which bills itself as an alliance of scientists, nonprofit organizations and donors trying to reduce exposures to neurotoxic chemicals during the first three years of development.
By Kerstin Palme
Creepy-crawlies are among the oldest life forms on this planet. Before dinosaurs ever walked the earth, insects were certainly already there. Some estimates date their origins to 400 million years ago. They're also extremely successful. Of the 7 to 8 million species documented on Earth, around three quarters are likely bugs.
But several insect species could disappear for good in the next few decades and that would have serious consequences for humans.
Volvo introduced its first-ever all-electric vehicle this week, kicking off an ambitious plan to slash emissions and phase out solely gas-powered vehicles starting this year.
The report, released Wednesday, found that almost every European who lives in a city is exposed to unhealthy air, Reuters reported.