African elephants and the environment

Photo credit: Nature World News

African elephants are significantly reducing Kruger National Park’s tree density. (Photo : Flickr: alecdphotography)

Elephants Are Knocking Down Too Many Trees In Kruger National Park, Researchers Say

By Samantha Mathewson

African elephants are knocking down trees left and right in Kruger National Park, the largest protected area in South Africa, and a new study revealed that tree-fall rates in the park are all about elephant density there, which is growing. These large animals are the leading cause behind the area’s changing ecology and shifting landscapes, because elephants routinely eat plants, tree bark, and other parts of trees.

“National parks and nature preserves will serve as biodiversity arks as we move into the future,” Greg Asner, of Carnegie’s Institution for Science, said in a news release. “But to manage them properly, conservationists will need to maintain the functionality of the ecosystem as a whole, which will require an understanding of system-wide responses to changing animal populations.”

Read the full article: Nature World News 

 

 

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The evolution of regular forest fires

Photo credit: Nature World News

Wildfires did not emerge until 80 million years after plants first evolved. Researchers say there was simply not enough oxygen in the Earth’s ancient atmosphere to support burning at this time. (Photo : Flickr: NPS Climate Change Response)

Ancient Wildfires: Researchers Examine Evolution Of Forest Fires

Even though plants first emerged on Earth 400 million years ago, it was not until approximately 80 million years later that wildfires began ripping through forests and grasslands like they do today in California, a new study revealed.
So, if there was plenty of foliage, what prevented raging wildfires during this time? Researchers from University of Royal Holloway London discovered that there simply was not enough oxygen in the atmosphere, according to a news release. It turns out that widespread forest fires were not present until around 360 million years ago, in the latest Devonian Period, when oxygen levels rose to above 17 percent. Today, the atmospheric oxygen is approximately 21 percent, the release noted.
Read the full article: Nature World News

Trees and climate change

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Every autumn between five and eight kilograms of dry, dead leaves fall into Welsh streams for insects to feed on. Then fish, bats and birds are provided with ample, nutritious food in return. (Photo : Flickr: Kimberly Vardeman)

Planting Trees May Boost Riverbed Animals’ Ability To Fight Climate Change, Researchers Say

By Samantha Mathewson

Planting trees along Britain’s 242,334 miles of upland rivers and streams could help save natural environments from future climate change damage, researchers reveal in a new study. This mitigation could also save cool-water species that call these riverbeds home.

Researchers from Cardiff University provide new insight regarding how trees boost the resilience of river ecosystems. Essentially, deciduous trees provide shade and protect river species from damagingly high temperatures. Also, every autumn between five and eight kilograms of dry, dead leaves fall into Welsh streams for insects to feed on. Then, the insects act as a vital food source for fish, river birds and bats. Keeping insect populations high is important for helping river ecosystems combat the effects of future climate change, researchers explained in a news release.

Read the full article: Nature World News

Increased Rainfall Reduces Tree Growth in the Savanna

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Princeton University researchers found that the ability of grasses to more efficiently absorb and process water gives them an advantage over trees such as the acacia, one of which is pictured here. (Photo : Kev Moses)

Climate Change and Tree Growth: Increased Rainfall Can Actually Reduce Tree Growth In the African Savanna, Researchers Say

By Samantha Mathewson

Given heavier rainfalls regularly sweeping through the African savanna, you’d expect to see observe thriving tree populations. But these areas are actually home to significantly fewer trees. Why? Researchers from Princeton University recently set out to answer this question and found that it all has to do with putting down roots.

Trees equipped with tougher, deeper roots are better able to survive droughts but that leaves them ill equipped to drink in water during sudden and frequent intense rainfalls. That’s not the case with nearby grasses which can absorb water quickly and take advantage of their slower sipping arboreal neighbors, according to a news release.

“A simple way to view this is to think of rainfall as annual income,” Xiangtao Xu, first author of the study and a graduate student at Princeton University, said in the release. “Trees and grasses are competing over the amount of money the savanna gets every year and it matters how they use their funds.”

Read the full article: Nature World News

Nutritional science will have to make some changes to its curriculum

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Changes in nutritional science are being made to meet the increasing global food demand. (Photo : Flickr: Dean Hochman)

Nutrition and Science: How to Feed the World

By Samantha Mathewson

In order to meet the food demands of growing populations, nutritional science will have to make some changes to its curriculum. That is, according to a recent evaluation  from scientists at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech University.

“The grand challenges in 21st century nutrition research extend beyond individual health, encompassing all the massively interacting systems that help to sustain a global population,” Josep Bassaganya-Riera, a professor and director at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute’s Nutritional Immunology and Molecular Medicine Laboratory, said in a news release. “This article provides concrete recommendations for assessing these issues at the macro-level such as the application of informatics, data analytics, and modeling approaches.”

Read the full article: Nature World News