Richmond Times-Dispatch, November 30, 2019 (BY DEVI LOCKWOOD, The New York Times)
(submitted by Charlene Uhl, Class X)
Physiologically, the hibernation period is the strangest, and the most compelling, to researchers. When a bear hibernates, its metabolic rate and heart rate drop significantly. It does not defecate or urinate. The amount of nitrogen in its blood rises sharply, without damaging the kidneys or liver. The animal becomes resistant to insulin but doesn't suffer from fluctuations in its blood sugar levels. To read the full article, click here.
By SANDY HAUSMAN, Radio IQ WVTF, NOV 29, 2019
(submitted by Barry Buschow)
Hundreds of people spends each spring and summer checking on baby birds in their neighborhood. They’re part of a national effort to bring back bluebirds after their population dropped 90%. You might expect those volunteers to retire in the fall, but one bird lover from Virginia is busier than ever.
200 years ago, eastern bluebirds were common in Virginia. Settlers would find their nests in the holes of trees, but the situation changed as farmers took down forests and non-native species arrived in America – cavity nesters that compete with bluebirds.
“One of them was house sparrows, and another is the starling, and those two species of birds are now the two most populous of all bird species in North America, ” says Clark Walter, a man who played professional basketball in Europe in his youth. He stands 6-foot-six but has great compassion for smaller creatures. “Bluebirds are tiny little things, and they just weren’t winning the war against the starlings and the house sparrows,” he explains.
Now retired from the Cleveland Zoological Society, Walter knew it was possible to help bird populations recover.
“I’ve had some exposure with Andean condors into Venezuela or Trumpeter swans in the state of Ohio, but I didn’t know much about my own backyard,” Walter admits.
So he became a master naturalist and built a trail through his Albemarle County neighborhood, putting up specially designed boxes for bluebirds. He turned his garage into a cozy workshop with a wood stove and more than a dozen antiques, including a cabinet with 125 tiny drawers that supplied a 19th century pharmacy.
“They held different medicines, things like arsenic and turpentine and other sorts of things that we probably wouldn’t want to take today,” he muses Now they’re filled with screws and nails he uses to build cedar bluebird boxes he sells for the cost of the materials. In his first year, he made 65 of them. “The following year I was building a couple of hundred," Walter recalls. "The next year 400, and the next year 600, and a couple of years ago 700.”
Each comes with a pole and a baffle that protects the birds, their eggs and babies from predators. “We love housecats, and we have one of them, but they take a heavy toll on the bird population, in the billions. Also, snakes, raccoons and bears.” Actually, there’s no stopping the bears. Walters says they’ve destroyed five bluebird houses in the last three years in his neighborhood alone. Still, the birds are prolific, often raising two broods in a season and sometimes three or four.
“You clear out the old nest and that prompts the parents to build a new one," he explains. "It takes them a day or two, and then they lay another set of eggs and raise them until fledging.” The bluebird population has grown more than two percent a year since the sixties, but Clark Walter plans to keep building boxes. He’ll finish this year’s batch at the end of November. Then it’s on to his next project -- a seasonal business called Captain Breck's Rum Cakes. Like the birds, he’s a productive guy. Next month, in the kitchen he shares with his sweetheart Connie Friend, he’ll
bake, pack and ship a thousand cakes made with twenty cases of rum.
Click Here for Audio of this Interview.
by Jeff Stehm
In early November, I had the special pleasure of spending a few hours in the British Natural History Museum. Similar to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, a few hours does not do it justice, but I had a plane to catch. Below is a slide show of photos I took as I ran through the museum and a video at the end. Hope you enjoy them.
Seeing a ton of acorns on the ground? It must be a ‘mast’ year for oaks.
By Emily Moran, Washington Post 11.26.19
(submitted by Charlene Uhl, Class X)
If you have oak trees in your neighborhood, perhaps you’ve noticed that some years the ground is carpeted with their acorns, and some years there are hardly any. Biologists call this pattern, in which all the oak trees for miles around make either lots of acorns or almost none, “masting.”
In New England, naturalists have declared this fall a mast year for oaks: All the trees are making tons of acorns all at the same time. Many other types of trees, from familiar North American species such as pines and hickories to the massive dipterocarps of Southeast Asian rainforests, show similar synchronization in seed production. But why and how do trees do it?
Every seed contains a packet of energy-rich starch to feed the baby tree that lies dormant inside. This makes them a tasty prize for all sorts of animals, from beetles to squirrels to wild boar.
If trees coordinate their seed production, these seed-eating animals are likely to get full long before they eat all the seeds produced in a mast year, leaving the rest to sprout.
For trees like oaks that depend on having their seeds carried away from the parent tree and buried by animals like squirrels, a mast year has an extra benefit. When there are lots of nuts, squirrels bury more of them instead of eating them immediately, spreading oaks across the landscape.
Getting in sync
It’s still something of a mystery how trees synchronize their seed production to get these benefits, but several elements seem to be important. First, producing a big crop of seeds takes a lot of energy. Trees make their food through photosynthesis: using energy from the sun to turn carbon dioxide into sugars and starch. There’s only so many resources to go around, though. Once trees make a big batch of seeds, they may need to switch back to making new leaves and wood for a while, or take a year or two to replenish stored starches, before another mast.
But how do individual trees decide when that mast year should be? Weather appears to be important, especially spring weather. If there’s a cold snap that freezes the flowers of the tree — and yes, oaks do have flowers, they’re just extremely small — then the tree cannot produce many seeds the following fall.
A drought in the summer could also kill developing seeds. Trees will often shut the pores in their leaves to save water, which also reduces their ability to take in carbon dioxide for photosynthesis.
Because all the trees within a local area are experiencing essentially the same weather, these environmental cues can help coordinate their seed production, acting like a reset button they’ve all pushed at the same time.
A third intriguing possibility that researchers are still investigating is that trees are “talking” to one another via chemical signals. Scientists know that when a plant is damaged by insects, it often releases chemicals into the air that signal to its other branches and to neighboring plants that they should turn on their defenses. Similar signals could potentially help trees coordinate seed production.
Investigation of tree-to-tree communication is still in its infancy, however. For instance, ecologists recently found that chemicals released from the roots of the leafy vegetable mizuna can affect the flowering time of neighboring plants. While this sort of communication is unlikely to account for the rough synchronization of seed production over dozens or even hundreds of miles, it could be important for syncing up a local area.
Masting and the food web
Whatever the causes, masting has consequences that flow up and down the food chain. For instance, rodent populations often boom in response to high seed production. This in turn results in more food for rodent-eating predators such as hawks and foxes; lower nesting success for songbirds, if rodents eat their eggs; and potentially higher risk of transmission of diseases such as hantavirus to people. If the low seed year that follows causes the rodent population to collapse, the effects are reversed.
The seeds of masting trees have also historically been important for feeding human populations, either directly or as food for livestock. Acorns were a staple in the diet of Native Americans in California, with families carefully tending particular oaks and storing the nuts for winter. In Spain, the most prized form of ham still comes from pigs that roam through the oak forests, eating up to 20 pounds of acorns each day.
So the next time you take an autumn walk, check out the ground under your local oak tree — you might just see the evidence of this amazing process.
Emily Moran is assistant professor of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of California at Merced. This report was originally published on theconversation.com.
Washington Post 11.26.19
by Jeff Stehm
I just watched a webinar on a fantastic new macroinvertebrate identification and citizen science training site – Macroinvertebrates.org! This site, developed under a National Science Foundation grant, took 3-years to bring to life through the efforts of a multi-disciplinary team of scientists and educators. Over 150 macroinvertebrate species of the eastern United States are listed on the site. Identification is facilitated by the over 800,000 high-resolution and expandable images taken of each species as well as the expert content and annotations developed, including key identification features and pollution sensitivity.
The website development involved a set of partner organizations that helped define identification problems and needs, tested the website design and functionality, and participated in research on how citizen scientists learn observational identification tasks. The website has about 5,000 visits a month and surveys indicate that over 90 percent of trainees and trainers come away with greater confidence and accuracy in their identification capabilities and teaching methods.
The website is packed with information, various stunning and expandable views of each organism, printable resources, including a training manual and identification sheets, an informative blog, and other resources. So, check it out! Fantastic and a must see! www.macroinvertebrates.org. Click here for website quick start guide.
For the more ambitious, check out the Taxonomic Certification Program
of the Society for Freshwater Science at https://stroudcenter.org/sfstcp/
By Jeff Stehm
As November arrives it is time to pull out our binoculars and cameras and go gawk at the gobblers, otherwise known as Meleagria gallopavo silvestris or the eastern wild turkey. With some luck, a little study, and observation (and a judicious reading of this blog) you’ll be able to wow your Thanksgiving Day guests!
Range, Habitat and Food
Wild turkeys currently exist in 49 states (yes, Hawaii; no Alaska), southern Canada and Mexico. They have historically ranged throughout North America. However, by the early 20th century, hunting and habitat destruction had reduced the population to about 30,000. Conservation efforts in the 1950s and 1960s brought the current population back to about 6-7 million, although in some states (Mississippi and Arkansas) their numbers are declining because of habitat loss. In Virginia, wild turkeys number about 180,000 to 200,000 with the higher concentrations found in the Tidewater, South Mountain, and South Piedmont regions.
Source: Wikipedia Source: VA DGIF
The home range of individual birds in the spring can be as much as 3 – 4 square miles, shrinking to as little as 50 acres in the winter. In terms of habitat, wild turkeys prefer hardwood and mixed conifer-hardwood forest with areas of pasture, fields, orchards, and seasonal marshes. Of course our beloved Blue Hills fit this bill. Planting nut and berry trees is a good way to encourage turkey populations as well as practices such as prescribed burning, forest thinning, and grazing. One of the reasons for their extensive range in North America is the wild turkey’s opportunistic foraging. Wild turkeys are omnivores. While they prefer acorns, nuts and other hard seeds, they also eat berries, roots, insects, and the occasional amphibian, small reptile and small snake. This ability to feed on a range of food sources allows wild turkeys to survive in different areas of the country.
Characteristics and Life History
Turkey communities consist of toms (adult males), jakes (juvenile males), hens (females) and poults (young chicks). Toms weigh from 17-21 pounds and 40 inches tall, and hens weigh 8-11 pounds and 30 inches tall.
A Jake in Pennsylvania, Source: US FWS (Photo: Bill Buchanan/USFWS)
An interesting anatomical feature of the toms is the snood – an adornment that dangles from between the eyes. The snood can change color and length based on the tom’s excitement. Turkeys walk a lot and are not known for their flight ability, but they can fly up to 55 mph in short bursts and can run at 18 mph. At night, turkeys will fly into trees to spend the night as protection from predators.
Turkeys have acute eyesight and hearing, but poor taste and smell. Turkeys’ eyes are located on the sides of their head, giving them monocular vision. They compensate by turning their heads to better judge distance. This is combined with excellent hearing allowing turkeys to locate the source of a sound with uncanny ability. Field studies suggest turkeys hear at lower frequencies and can hear more distant sounds than humans. Turkeys’ key defense against predators, therefore, is their sight and hearing. In sum, don’t move when a turkey is looking and don’t think about moving when they’re not.
At times, turkeys can also be aggressive in self-defense against predators, if cornered, or if defending territory.
Mating and Nesting. Mating season is March to June and nesting occurs from mid-April to mid-June. Nesting sites are on the ground, typically in native bunchgrasses, forbs, or shrubs between 20-26 inches tall. Nests are a shallow depression or bowl scratched out from the dirt. Hens lay between 9-13 eggs over a two-week period. Incubation takes about 28 days. Poults take about two weeks before they are able to fly up into trees for protection, and hence are vulnerable to predation during this early period.
Survival Rates and Predators. Studies indicate that only 10 to 50 percent of nests successfully hatch and then only about 25-50 percent of poults will make it beyond 4 weeks. Most of this loss is due to predators such as foxes, skunks, raccoons, possums, crows, hawks, and some snakes.
Fun Facts about Wild Turkeys
Hope you enjoyed this brief romp through gobbler land!
VA Department of Games and Inland Fisheries https://www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/turkey/
Wild Turkey – Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_turkey
Wild Turkey Life History, Cornell Ornithology Lab www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Wild_Turkey/lifehistory
Eastern Wild Turkey https://wildlife.tamu.edu/wildlifemanagement/eastern-wild-turkey
National Wild Turkey Federation www.nwtf.org
Wild Turkeys https://thevlm.org/portfolio_page/wild-turkeys/
How to Draw a Turkey http://paolosaporiti.com/how-to-draw-a-turkey-step-by-step/
by Bonnie Beers
During my career as a special educator, I worked with groups of students for whom time was at a premium. As we moved through lessons and activities, I often found myself asking what I call the ‘So What?’ questions. So What? Is this lesson worth their time? Why does this skill matter? Does it expand their educational, vocational, or personal pathways? What steps need to happen to make a skill more than an addition to a bag of tricks?
Reading through the blog entries about recent studies that document alarming bird population declines over the past 30 years, I find myself thinking that this research answers the ‘So What’ questions regarding Citizen Science. Many times, Citizen Science may feel like a fun field trip--a day in the woods listening and looking; observing birds, butterflies, or other wildlife; noticing and documenting plants; pulling invasives; counting invertebrates in a stream. The Cornell study, Link to Science Magazine article, demonstrates that the data we collect combines with data across the country and world to provide information that cannot be generated in any other way. The NEXTAR radar provided important facts about the decline in overall avian biomass over the past 30 years. Citizen Science data over time, however, documented specific species losses, and gains. The study demonstrates that policies protecting species and ecosystems have made a difference in targeted populations of birds. The patterns lead to understanding the effects of some factors we cannot control, but also of some that we can influence.
As ORMN members, we have some opportunities coming up:
Cornell Feederwatch: begins November 9
Sign up to sit at home with the beverage of your choice and document the birds that you see at your feeder. The requirement is to spend 2 consecutive days watching for whatever amount of time you can or desire, not necessarily contiguous. You can watch 2 days weekly or less often, whatever fits your time. Report your data on paper or online to Cornell.
Sign up at : https://feederwatch.org/
Christmas Bird Watch: December 14.
Join a team of ORMN members to spend a day looking and listening for birds at your assigned site. Good company (both birds and people!).
Contact Victoria Fortuna if you are interested in joining a team. (Audubon Project)
Audubon is launching a new Citizen Science project in 2020 to understand effects of climate changes by surveying populations of specific bird species: bluebird, nuthatch, painted bunting, goldfinch, and towhee. When you sign up, you identify an observation site and follow procedures to survey your selected species on one day between January 15- February 15, and one day between May 15 and June 15.
For more information: https://www.audubon.org/features/esri-climate-watch
Topic suggested by Barry Buschow
Alabama Cooperative Extension System describes Japanese stilt grass (Microstegium vimineum) as an aggressive invader of forestlands throughout the eastern United States. Boy is that an understatement! If my small plot of woodlands is any example, stilt grass is a never-ending juggernaut. But as the map below shows, I’m not alone in the Eastern United States in having stilt grass.
The plant was accidentally introduced into the Tennessee around 1919 as a result of being used as a packing material in shipments of porcelain from China.
Stilt grass is considered one of the most damaging invasive plant species in the United States. It is well adapted to low-light levels. Infestations spread rapidly with flowering and seed production in late summer. The seed can remain viable in the soil for up to five years.
Infestations also impact the diversity of native species, reduce wildlife habitat, and disrupt important ecosystem functions. In particular, stilt grass can reduce growth and flowering of native species, suppress native plant communities, alter and suppress insect communities, slow plant succession and alter nutrient cycling. However, it does serve as a host plant for some native satyr butterflies, such as the Carolina Satyr Hermeuptychia sosybius and the endangered Mitchell's Satyr Neonympha mitchellii (Wikipedia).
Correct identification is necessary before beginning any management activities. Fortunately, Japanese stilt grass has a unique combination of characteristics that make field identification possible. A field guide published by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System provides simple descriptions and clear pictures of these characteristics along with details on how to distinguish several common look-a-like species.
Since Japanese stilt grass is an annual grass, the primary goal is to prevent it from producing seeds. Management techniques include hand pulling, mowing, spraying, burning, goats, and biological control. The New York Botanical Garden's website provides some simple tips on controlling stilt grass. However, choosing the right combination of control methods, applied at the right time, is important so as not to further damage the environment or ecosystem.
For instance, the widespread use of herbicides has greatly contributed to wiping out native milkweed plants contibuting to the 80 percent decrease in monarch butterflies in the past 20 years. Everything has trade-offs.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is getting the word out on simple steps we can all take to help save birds. This follows on the Lab's reporting on the significant loss of birds that was highlighted in one of our earlier blog posts. On the Lab's website are Seven Simple Actions to Help Birds. Check it out.
Some the actions listed are approved ORMN projects. For instance Feeder Watch and eBird. And if you need to brush up on your bird identification skills, the Lab's Bird Academy is offering Feeder Watch bird identification online courses (as well as host of other online courses to meet your continuing bird education needs) . Check out their other bird information resources as well.
The FeederWatch season runs from November 9 – April 3. Happy feeder watching!
By Elizabeth Pennisi, Science Magazine, Oct. 24, 2019 , 2:00 PM
Earthworms are the unsung heroes of the planet’s ecosystems: Unnoticed below our feet, they grind up soil and dead matter, recycling essential nutrients and moving air and water deeper into the ground. Without them, soil health would suffer and plant productivity would falter. Now, for the first time, researchers have mapped where these humble invertebrates live, identifying wormy hot spots around the globe. The project, which pooled earthworm data from more than 140 scientists and 6900 sites, has cataloged hundreds of species and revealed trends about where each plies the soils—and under what conditions they thrive.
“The results … provide a comprehensive global perspective on one of the most important animal groups,” says Stefan Scheu, an ecologist at the University of Göttingen in Germany, who was not involved with the work. Scientists can now start to come up with conservation plans for worms and other organisms that integrate life above and below ground, he adds.
During the 1800s, intrepid explorers collected and cataloged many of the world’s plants and animals, providing range maps for different species that launched further study. But that wasn’t true for subterranean life. “We’ve been lacking basic information [for a long time] about what earthworms live where,” says Noah Fierer, a soil ecologist at the University of Colorado in Boulder.
So, soil ecologist Helen Phillips from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research in Leipzig and her colleagues contacted all the earthworm researchers they could track down to ask for data about the animals living in their study sites. Ultimately, 141 scientists provided numbers and species names from more than 6900 sites across 57 countries. “There was about three times as much data as I was expecting,” Phillips says.
Compiling and analyzing those data, many of them in different formats, must have been a challenge, says Katalin Szlavecz, a soil ecologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. For example, earthworms have been studied long enough in Europe that most of the species are known. (The United Kingdom has 33 kinds.) But in the tropics, “Every time they dig a hole, they find a new species of earthworm,” Phillips says. And that uneven amount of study had to be taken into account to use the data effectively.
She and her team evaluated the data to make sure they were as comparable as possible from site to site, and then used computer modeling to generate their global map. They were surprised when their analysis showed that temperature and rainfall seem to have a greater influence on where earthworms do best than soil type, they report today in Science.
“It’s surprising that soil properties weren’t the most important driver,” says Tami Ransom, a community ecologist at Salisbury University in Maryland. Szlavecz, too, was astonished how little soil type mattered. The effects of temperature and rainfall suggest climate change will have a far greater influence on below-ground life than expected, they say. Consequently, life above ground might also be affected in ways not previously anticipated.
The distribution of different earthworm species was also surprising. When it comes to life above ground, the tropics have the greatest biodiversity. But underground, these constantly warm regions are far less diverse, at least at a local scale: The rich soils of Europe, the northeastern United States, the southern tip of South America, and the southern regions of New Zealand and Australia seem to have more earthworm species in a given area. Those temperate zones also host more earthworms overall, according to the model, with up to 150 per square meter versus just five per square meter in the tropics.
It’s vital to know what earthworms exist where, says Kevin Butt, an ecologist at the University of Central Lancashire in the United Kingdom who was not involved with the work. That’s especially true, he adds, “as we are in an era when large global upheavals are at play.”
Posted in: Plants & Animals doi:10.1126/science.aaz9771
By Eva Frederick, Science Magazine Oct. 10, 2019 , 12:15 PM
State birds can be a source of tremendous local pride—but as the climate warms, at least eight state birds may no longer call their native state home, The New York Times reports. In a new study, National Audubon Society scientists mapped the ranges of 604 North American bird species and used climate models to predict how the their habitats would change. Many species, the team concluded, would likely end up moving north to find their ideal habitats. For example, if temperatures rise 3°C above preindustrial levels—a plausible outcome, according to scientists—the common loon, Minnesota’s state bird, might bypass the state entirely and fly farther north to breed and hunt for food. Unfortunately, moving north might not be enough for many species—out of all types of bird studied, two-thirds face increasing risk of extinction as temperatures rise.
Article from NPR Website
October 16, 2019 12:08 PM ET
Forest biologist Patricia Maloney is raising 10,000 sugar pine seedlings descended from trees that survived California's historic drought.
When California's historic five-year drought finally relented a few years ago the tally of dead trees in the Sierra Nevada was higher than almost anyone expected: 129 million. Most are still standing, the dry patches dotting the mountainsides.
But some trees did survive the test of heat and drought. Now, scientists are racing to collect them, and other species around the globe, in the hope that these "climate survivors" have a natural advantage that will allow them to better cope with a warming world.
On the north shore of Lake Tahoe, Patricia Maloney, a UC Davis forest and conservation biologist, hunts for these survivors. Most people focus on the dead trees, their brown pine needles obvious against the glittering blue of the lake. But Maloney tends not to notice them. "I look for the good," she says. "Like in people, you look for the good, not the bad. I do the same in forest systems."
Maloney studies sugar pines, a tree John Muir once called the "king" of conifers. "They have these huge, beautiful cones," she says. "They're stunning trees." The sugar pines on these slopes endured some of the worst water stress in the region. Winter snowpack melts fastest on south-facing slopes, leaving the trees with little soil moisture over the summer. That opens the door for the trees' tiny nemesis, which would deal the fatal blow.
Here you have some really good mountain pine beetle galleries," Maloney says, as she peels the bark off a dead sugar pine to show winding channels eaten into the wood. "Like little beetle highways." Pine beetle outbreaks are a normal occurrence in the Sierra. As the beetles try to bore into the bark, pine trees can usually fight them off by spewing a sticky, gummy resin, entrapping the insects. But trees need water to make resin.
During the drought, "the tank ran dry, and they weren't able to mobilize any sort of resin," Maloney says.
Evolution is a tool that we can bring to bear in helping us get through this future.
But next to this dead tree, Maloney points to one towering above, the same exact species, that has healthy green pine needles. Somehow, it was able to fight the beetles off and survive the drought. As she's found more and more of these survivors, Maloney has studied them, trying to figure out their secret. "What we found is that the ones that were green, like this one, were more water-use efficient than their dead counterparts," she says. In other words, the survivors had an innate ability to do more with less. Individual members of any species can vary dramatically, something tied to genetic differences. That diversity comes in handy when environmental conditions change.
The drought, heat and beetle outbreaks in recent years put extreme pressure on sugar pines, creating a natural experiment that weeded out all but the toughest. "I think what we're seeing is contemporary natural selection," Maloney says. Now, she's trying to ensure their descendants survive.
Inside a greenhouse at her Tahoe City field station, Maloney shows off a sea of young green trees in their own containers. These 10,000 sugar pine seedlings grew from seeds Maloney and her team collected from 100 of the surviving sugar pines. Over the next year, these young trees will be replanted around Lake Tahoe, both on national forest and private land. The hope is the trees, due to their genetics, will be better able to handle a warming climate, more extreme droughts and more frequent beetle outbreaks. "These survivors matter," Maloney says. She plans to study the genetics of these trees as they grow, research that could help in other climate-threatened forests.
And Maloney's not alone in searching for species that can handle the warming climate. "Evolution is a tool that we can bring to bear in helping us get through this future," says Steve Palumbi, a biology professor at Stanford University, who has been looking for coral that can handle heat. Coral reefs are bleaching and dying as oceans warm, so Palumbi is growing surviving corals in the hope they can build new reefs full of "super corals." Reefs aren't just tourist attractions, he says. They're also biodiversity hotspots that protect coastlines from flooding by absorbing wave energy. "If it gives us another decade, if it gives us another two generations, that'll be good, we'll take it," he says. "I see these next 80 years as the time where we have to save as much as possible."
But beyond that, it gets trickier, given the rate the climate is changing. "The question in the future is: When the environment changes and it changes really fast, can these populations keep up?" he asks. "How fast can they adapt? How much help will they give us in keeping those ecosystems going?" Ultimately, Palumbi says, the best solution for these species is for humans to curb emissions of heat-trapping gases. In the meantime, scientists are trying to buy them a little more time.
© 2019 npr
See also: The Tree Canopy Biota video
by Jeff Stehm
Halloween is approaching and it’s time to consider that ubiquitous symbol of the haunted house – the spider’s web. We often see spiders as scary or a nuisance, and their webs as something that must be brushed away, but in fact spiders and the webs they weave are one of the complex wonders of nature.
Dating back almost 400 million years ago, spiders are among the most diverse of terrestrial predators. At least 48,200 spider species, and 120 spider families have been recorded by taxonomists. While we typically associate spiders with webs, not all spiders spin webs (see Wolf Spiders) or use the silk they produce for webs (see Jumping Spiders). Species that produce silk, but not webs, may use silk in several ways: as wrappers for sperm and for fertilized eggs; as a "safety rope"; for nest-building; and as "parachutes" by the young of some species.
But webs are what we notice, so let’s learn a bit about web materials, web structure, web functions, and the evolution of webs.
Attached is a paper titled "Biodiversity Loss - The Decline of the North American Avifauna" authored by scientists from Cornell Ornithology Lab, SCBI, and others on the loss of North American birds. It not only documents the extraordinary loss of birds in North America, but also shows important citizen science has been in conducting such research.
Paper Summary: Species extinctions have defined the global biodiversity crisis, but extinction begins with loss in abundance of individuals that can result in compositional and functional changes of ecosystems. Using multiple and independent monitoring networks, the article reports population losses across much of the North American avifauna over 48 years, including once-common species and from most biomes. Integration of range-wide population trajectories and size estimates indicates a net loss approaching 3 billion birds, or 29% of 1970 abundance. A continent-wide weather radar network also reveals a similarly steep decline in biomass passage of migrating birds over a recent 10-year period. This loss of bird abundance signals an urgent need to address threats to avert future avifaunal collapse and associated loss of ecosystem integrity, function, and services.
Link to Science Magazine article
What Can ORMN Members Do?
Cornell Ornithology Lab is encouraging citizen scientists in the month of October to use the eBird application to record bird observations. In particular, October 19th has been designated as the Global Big Day where citizen scientists are asked to use eBird over 24 hours to note the birds observed at their favorite park/county/state/province country/continent (https://ebird.org/octoberbigday). The record to beat is last year’s total of 6,331 species on a single October day.
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