Category: Biodiversity

Winter Weight Gain and Why There Are More Plants and Animals in the Tropics

Have you packed on a few extra pounds this winter? Blogger Craig Leisher says that’s only natural–and the reason why may also help explain why the diversity of life in the tropics is so rich.

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How Will the Polar Vortex Affect Wildlife?

The “polar vortex” that is bringing frigid temperatures to much of the United States is miserable for people. But how do wild animals cope with these extreme conditions?

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Saved by Chance: The Incredibly Strange Story of the Pere David’s Deer

The Pere David’s deer may be the only species saved because someone broke a wildlife law. It now is a creature of British deer parks and Texas wildlife ranches, facing a secure future far from its native habitat. What lessons can we learn from this near-collision with extinction?

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Quick Study: Counterinsurgency, Anyone? How Conservation Can Better Prepare for ‘Wicked’ Problems

Conservation still uses a straightforward, engineering mindset that’s inadequate for tackling today’s complex problems, argues a new paper from Conservancy scientist Eddie Game. So what can we learn from counter-insurgency, business, psychology and other fields?

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Citizen Science: Survey Katydids in Your Neighborhood

That night music you hear coming from the trees? At least in part, that’s coming from katydids. Despite their ubiquity, very little is known about these charismatic critters. But you can help. Grab your smart phone and head into your neighborhood for a katydid census! Blogger Jon Fisher gets you started.

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The Cooler: Towards a Deeper Conversation on Invasive Species

You know the story: invasive species are bad, bad, bad. But what if that old story is a bit more…complicated? “Ecological hit men” Jeffrey A. Lockwood and Alexandre V. Latchininsky confront an invasive grasshopper on a remote island. And the more they look, the less clear the picture.

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Dead Wood & Migrating Salmon: Restoring a Southeast Alaska Stream

A neat and tidy stream may look bucolic, even scenic. But for salmon it’s a dead end. On Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska, land managers once removed dead wood from streams to “clean” them. That action was based on assumption, not science. Salmon need dead wood. They need diversity. Now a restoration effort is putting the logs back into the stream, creating “fish condos” for salmon.

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Conservation Future: Announcing the 2013 NatureNet Fellows

Nine young scientists — with specialties ranging from energy infrastructure to urban ecology, Kenyan pastoral techniques to nanotechnology — inaugurate a program designed to help kick-start conservation toward addressing the challenges facing people and nature in the 21st century.

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The Horseshoe Crab: World’s Most Successful Animal

Move over, cockroaches. Blogger Craig Leisher argues that it’s the horseshoe crab that’s the ultimate survivor. But can this ancient species survive a new list of human-induced threats?

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The Cooler: Celebrity Species and the Science Deficit Model

Do conservation NGOs use tigers, lions and pandas to market and fundraise at the expense of other threatened species? David Salt and Hugh Possingham say yes. Here’s why their solution isn’t the answer.

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‘Let’s Get Back to Ecology’: A New Interview with Peter Kareiva

Nature Conservancy Chief Scientist Peter Kareiva recently gave an interview to Biodiverse Perspectives, a blog written by more than 100 graduate students in biodiversity science around the world. It’s an excellent Q&A, with one of the best distillations yet of Kareiva’s thinking on conservation’s focus on biodiversity versus the benefits of a broader focus on ecology.

Read the full interview here. But here’s a quote to whet your appetite:

“I have what some think is a heretical view of biodiversity.  Look – I do want to prevent extinctions.  But I think what should be a reasonable concern for biodiversity has turned into a numerological and narrow counting of species, and has led to an over-emphasis on research aimed at rationalizing why biodiversity should matter to the general public.  Ecology matters to the general public because ecology is about water, pests and pestilence, recreation, food, resilience and so forth. Perturbations to ecosystems in the form of massive pollution, land conversion, harvest, species loss can all distort ecology.  But focusing so narrowly on producing graphs that on the horizontal axis display number of species and on the vertical axis report some dependent ecological function (that is distantly related to human well-being) strikes me as not worth so much research.  Let’s get back to ecology – understanding how systems work, what controls dynamics, the role of particular species as opposed to the number of species, to what extent do ecosystems compensate for species losses, what factors contribute to resilience, whether there really are thresholds – all those are terrific research questions.  Counting species, and trying to produce what is, as far as I can tell, usually very weak evidence for the relationship between biodiversity per se and ecological function is off-track.

“Early on in my job at TNC I presented to business leaders some of the empirical data plots from classic biodiversity and ecological function studies. These are studies we all interpret as strong evidence for the importance of biodiversity. I can tell you unequivocally when they saw the actual data they were totally unimpressed and unconvinced. It caused me to look more objectively at the data.”

As always, let us know what you think in the comments.

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