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Ecology Today

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Your Source for All Things Ecology
Updated: 28 min 32 sec ago

Earth Day: A Grassroots Moment that Sparked a Movement

Fri, 04/21/2017 - 06:54

By VOA News

This 2010 Earth Day video is just as relevant in 2017.
Happy Earth Day.

Categories: Ecological News

NASA Celebrates Earth Day with Public Events, Online Activities

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 22:56

By PRNewswire-USNewswire

This year, NASA will celebrate Earth Day, April 22, with a variety of live and online activities Thursday and Friday, April 20-21, to engage the public in the agency’s mission to better understand and protect our home planet.

Earth Day in the Nation’s Capital
Thursday, April 20, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Union Station main hall at 40 Massachusetts Ave. NE in Washington
NASA Hyperwall and Science Stories, hands-on activities and demonstrations. NASA scientists will give talks April 20 at the Hyperwall stage following the opening ceremony at 10:30 a.m. Meet former astronaut Scott Altman from 12 to 1 p.m.

Hayden Planetarium Special Event: Earth Day Celebration in New York
Friday, April 21, 7 p.m.
American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th Street, New York
The program will celebrate Earth Day with a visually stunning tour of our dynamic planet. Beginning with the Earth’s rise above the moon, first seen by the Apollo 8 astronauts and the original inspiration for Earth Day, the program will explore the many ways scientists use satellite instruments and computer models to monitor global change. NASA climate scientist Benjamin Cook, from the agency’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, will co-lead the program using OpenSpace, a new NASA-funded, real-time visualization platform.

“Adopt the Planet” Online Activity
Ongoing
NASA invites the public to learn about our global environment by “adopting” a small part of our home planet. Participants will receive a personalized adoption certificate for their unique, numbered piece of Earth (approximately 55 miles wide) to print and share on social media. The certificate features NASA Earth science data collected for that location.

https://climate.nasa.gov/adopt-the-planet

NASA uses the vantage point of space to increase our understanding of our home planet, improve lives and safeguard our future. The agency develops new ways to observe and study Earth’s interconnected natural systems with long-term data records, shares this unique knowledge, and works with institutions around the world to gain new insights into how our planet is changing.

For more information about NASA’s Earth science activities, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/earth

SOURCE NASA

CONTACT: Sean Potter, Headquarters, Washington, 202-358-1536, sean.potter@nasa.gov

RELATED LINKS
http://www.nasa.gov

Categories: Ecological News

Changes in Precipitation Patterns Influence Global Natural Selection

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 02:54

By Nation Science Foundation

Climate variation plays key role in evolution of plants and animals in the wild

Gray Wolf  –  Photo Gary Karmer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (CCO)

What matters more for the evolution of plants and animals, precipitation or temperature? Scientists have found a surprising answer: rain and snow may play a more important role than how hot or cold it is.

Rainfall and snowfall patterns are changing with climate variation, which likely plays a key role in shaping natural selection, according to results published today by an international team of researchers.

Twenty scientists from the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia contributed to the study. Their results were published in the journal Science.

The team assembled a database of 168 published studies that measured natural selection over certain time periods for plant and animal populations worldwide. The results from the data set the scientists examined showed that between 20 and 40 percent of variation in selection within studies could be attributed to variability in local precipitation.

“Previous evidence from other studies indicated that climate variation might be really important in how plants and animals evolve,” said lead author and University of Arkansas biologist Adam Siepielski, whose work is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF). “We wanted to know if we could explain variation in selection across diverse plant and animal populations through a few simple climate variables. It turns out that, yes, we can.”

That’s significant, he says, “especially considering the global scale of the study. These results suggest that variation in selection is actually partly predictable based on climate features like precipitation.”

Adds Doug Levey, program director in NSF’s Division of Environmental Biology, “These results show that changes in precipitation can have surprising evolutionary effects on plants and animals worldwide.”

In a time of change for rainfall, snowstorms and other forms of precipitation, plants and animals are changing, too, Siepielski said. As an example, Siepielski cited birds that live in the Galápagos Islands, called medium ground finches. The birds’ beak sizes and shapes have changed over several generations.

“Differences in precipitation over years have affected the sizes of seeds available for the birds to eat,” Siepielski said. “Birds that had bills well-matched to eat particular seed sizes were the ones that tended to survive.”

The team found that changes in temperature had much less effect than precipitation. Siepielski called that surprising. “Temperature didn’t have much explanatory power,” he said. “It might act on a different scale that we couldn’t pick up in the data set.”

“By showing that selection was influenced by climate variation,” the researchers stated in their paper, “our results indicate that climate variability may cause widespread alterations in selection regimes, potentially shifting evolution on a global scale.”

Translation: what comes down as rain or snow may radically alter how some species will evolve.

NSF

Categories: Ecological News

March for Science Will Take Place on Earth Day

Fri, 02/03/2017 - 00:57

By PRNewswire-USNewswire

The March for Science will take place worldwide on Earth Day April 22, 2017 and includes a teach-in and rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The politicization of science, which has given policymakers permission to reject overwhelming evidence, is a critical and urgent matter. It is time for people who support scientific research and evidence-based policies to take a public stand and be counted.

Using the teach-in concept from the very first Earth Day in 1970, the Washington rally and teach-ins, and the world-wide events will fight against efforts to silence science by creating and supporting knowledge sharing, community engagement, citizen science and stewardship.

The D.C. rally and teach-in along with sister actions across the world will kick off a week of action throughout local communities to support science across all disciplines. An announcement of the week’s agenda will occur at a later date.

The initial list of partner groups will be released this week.

For questions: Denice Zeck, (202) 355-8875, afmediaservice@gmail.com; Dan Abrams, Earth Day Network, (202) 518-0044, abrams@earthday.org; Ted Bordelon, March for Science, ted@314action.org, (267) 469-7048

SOURCE Earth Day Network; March for Science

Categories: Ecological News

Common Crop Chemical Leaves Bees Susceptible to Deadly Viruses

Wed, 01/25/2017 - 02:43

By Sara Lajeunesse
Penn State News

A chemical that is thought to be safe and is, therefore, widely used on crops — such as almonds, wine grapes and tree fruits — to boost the performance of pesticides, makes honey bee larvae significantly more susceptible to a deadly virus, according to researchers at Penn State and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Female carder bee. Photo wikipedia CC BY-SA 2.5

“In the lab, we found that the commonly used organosilicone adjuvant, Sylgard 309, negatively impacts the health of honey bee larvae by increasing their susceptibility to a common bee pathogen, the Black Queen Cell Virus,” said Julia Fine, graduate student in entomology, Penn State. “These results mirror the symptoms observed in hives following almond pollination, when bees are exposed to organosilicone adjuvant residues in pollen, and viral pathogen prevalence is known to increase. In recent years, beekeepers have reported missing, dead and dying brood in their hives following almond pollination, and exposure to agrochemicals, like adjuvants, applied during bloom, has been suggested as a cause.”

According to Chris Mullin, professor of entomology, Penn State, adjuvants in general greatly improve the efficacy of pesticides by enhancing their toxicities.

“Organosilicone adjuvants are the most potent adjuvants available to growers,” he said. “Based on the California Department of Pesticide Regulation data for agrochemical applications to almonds, there has been increasing use of organosilicone adjuvants during crop blooming periods, when two-thirds of the U.S. honey bee colonies are present.”

Fine noted that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies organosilicone adjuvants as biologically inert, meaning they do not cause a reaction in living things.

“As a result,” she said, “there are no federally regulated restrictions on their use.”

To conduct their study, the researchers reared honey bee larvae under controlled conditions in the laboratory. During the initial stages of larval development, they exposed the larvae to a low chronic dose of Sylgard 309 in their diets. They also exposed some of the larvae to viral pathogens in their diets on the first day of the experiment.

“We found that bees exposed to the organosilicone adjuvant had higher levels of Black Queen Cell Virus,” said Fine. “Not only that, when they were exposed to the virus and the organosilicone adjuvant simultaneously, the effect on their mortality was synergistic rather than additive, meaning that the mortality was higher from the simultaneous application of adjuvant and virus than from exposure to either the organosilicone adjuvant or the viral pathogen alone, even if those two mortalities were added together,” said Fine. “This suggests that the adjuvant is enhancing the damaging effects of the virus.”

The researchers also found that a particular gene involved in immunity — called 18-wheeler — had reduced expression in bees treated with the adjuvant and the virus, compared to bees in the control groups.

“Taken together, these findings suggest that exposure to organosilicone adjuvants negatively influences immunity in honey bee larvae, resulting in enhanced pathogenicity and mortality,” said Fine.

The results appear in today’s (Jan. 16) issue of Scientific Reports.

Mullin noted that the team’s results suggest that recent honey bee declines in the United States may, in part, be due to the increased use of organosilicone adjuvants.

“Billions of pounds of formulation and tank adjuvants, including organosilicone adjuvants, are released into U.S. environments each year, making them an important component of the chemical landscape to which bees are exposed,” he said. “We now know that at least Sylgard 309, when combined at a field-relevant concentration with Black Queen Cell Virus, causes synergistic mortality in honey bee larvae.”

Other authors on the paper include Diana Cox-Foster, USDA-ARS-PWA Pollinating Insect Research Unit.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture supported this research.

Categories: Ecological News

For the First Time in 40 Years EPA to Put in Place a Process to Evaluate Chemicals that May Pose Risk

Sat, 01/14/2017 - 00:14

By EPA

New chemical law requires the agency to look at chemicals that were grandfathered in under old law

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is moving swiftly to propose how it will prioritize and evaluate chemicals, given that the final processes must be in place within the first year of the new law’s enactment, or before June 22, 2017.

“After 40 years we can finally address chemicals currently in the marketplace,” said Jim Jones, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “Today’s action will set into motion a process to quickly evaluate chemicals and meet deadlines required under, and essential to, implementing the new law.”

When the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was enacted in 1976, it grandfathered in thousands of unevaluated chemicals that were in commerce at the time. The old law failed to provide EPA with the tools to evaluate chemicals and to require companies to generate and provide data on chemicals they produced.

EPA is proposing three rules to help administer the new process. They are:

Inventory rule. There are currently over 85,000 chemicals on EPA’s Inventory, many of these are no longer actively produced. The rule will require manufacturers, including importers, to notify EPA and the public on the number of chemicals still being produced.

Prioritization rule. This will establish how EPA will prioritize chemicals for evaluation.  EPA will use a risk-based screening process and criteria to identify whether a particular chemical is either high or low priority.  A chemical designated as high-priority must undergo evaluation. Chemicals designated as low-priority are not required to undergo evaluation.

Risk Evaluation rule. This will establish how EPA will evaluate the risk of existing chemicals.  The agency will identify steps for the risk evaluation process, including publishing the scope of the assessment. Chemical hazards and exposures will be assessed along with characterizing and determining risks.  This rule also outlines how the agency intends to seek public comment on chemical evaluations.

These three rules incorporate comments received from a series of public meetings held in August 2016.

If EPA identifies unreasonable risk in the evaluation, it is required to eliminate that risk through regulations.  Under TSCA the agency must have at least 20 ongoing risk evaluations by the end of 2019.

Comments on the proposed rules must be received 60 days after date of publication in the Federal Register. At that time, go to the dockets at: https://www.regulations.gov/ and search for: HQ-OPPT-2016-0426 for the inventory rule; HQ-OPPT-2016-0636 for the prioritization rule; and HQ-OPPT-2016-0654 for the risk evaluation rule.

Learn more about today’s proposals: https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/frank-r-lautenberg-chemical-safety-21st-century-act-5

Learn more about the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/frank-r-lautenberg-chemical-safety-21st-century-act.

Categories: Ecological News