Island Living Shapes Physiology and Lifestyle of Eastern Bluebirds

Island plants and animals often differ from their mainland relatives. Why? In general, isolated islands lack top predators and large herbivores, which can influence food chains and traits of island organisms. In addition, differences in human interactions and threats posed by pathogens and parasites can also contribute to variances in traits. In a case study involving eastern bluebirds, (Sialia sialis) researchers show just how island life shapes the physiology and life history of a species.

Winter Olympic Games May Face Threats of Climate Change

With the Winter Olympics set to be held in Sochi, Russia starting February 7th, new reports are questioning whether the games will survive climate change in the future. A new study conducted by the University of Waterloo says that most of the cities that have already hosted the Winter Olympics may be too warm to host the events again. According to the study, only six of the previous Winter Olympics host cities will be cold enough to reliably host the games by the end of this century if global warming projections prove to be accurate.

Beaver, Dam it!

As climate change brings more rain, there will be more catastrophic flooding; flooding of crops, homes and businesses, particularly in urban areas where there is simply no place for the water to go. One British writer has identified the beaver as the would-be hero to restore hydrological normalcy. Louise Ramsey writes about the beaver in Britain where reintroductions of the rodent have shown the vital role they once had in reducing flooding and how they could take up that mantle once more.

Pollination by Insects Produces Bigger Apples

Pollination can occur in several different ways, but usually plants rely on animals or wind to help pollinate them and help distribute their pollen and seeds. However, a new study shows that apple trees produce bigger, rounder, and more desirable fruit when pollinated by insects in particular. Researchers studied Cox and Gala apples, two popular varieties in Britain, and valued the annual contribution of insects to these fruits at just under £37 million (60 million USD).

Newly Discovered Modifier Protein Could Stimulate Plant Growth Under Environmental Stress

Whether or not you have a green thumb, if a plant is not completely happy with the right about of water, sunlight, or even the right make-up of soil, plants will slow their growth or even stop growing altogether in order to save energy. But according to new research led by scientists at Durham University, plants contain a natural mechanism that could stimulate their growth even under stress, which could potentially lead to better crop yields.

New Research Uses Popular Literature to Study Climate Change

Walden Pond isn't just the site of Henry David Thoreau's two-year stint in which he documented a more simple, natural life, it is now the subject of a climate change study that shows how leaf-out times of trees and shrubs have changed since the 1850s. As a result of Thoreau's observations, researchers at Boston University have revealed that the leaf-out times of trees and shrubs at Walden Pond are an average of 18 days earlier than observed by Thoreau in the mid 1800s.

West African Lion Faces Extinction

To many, the mighty lion is the face of African wildlife and one of the most recognized predators across the world. But despite sitting on top of the food chain, the lion is a vulnerable species and a new report concludes that the African lion is facing extinction across the entire West African region. The new study reveals that the West African lion is down to a population estimated at 250, and these individuals are restricted to four isolated populations.

“Super-Earths” May Be More Earth-y After All

Super-Earths are massive terrestrial planets that are fairly common in the Milky Way. While the name implies that these extrasolar planets would be similar to Earth, the name only refers to the mass and does not imply anything about the surface conditions or habitability. However, Northwestern University astrophysicist, Nicolas B. Cowan and Dorian Abbot, a University of Chicago geophysicist, report the odds of these planets having an Earth-like climate are much greater than previously thought. The researchers new model challenges the conventional wisdom, which says super-Earths would be a waterworld, with its surface completely covered in water. They conclude that most tectonically active super-Earths, regardless of mass, store most of their water in the mantle and will have both oceans and exposed continents, enabling a stable climate such as Earth's.

New compounds raise concern about health impacts of urban air and dietary exposure

The combustion and exhaust in cars and trucks along with the reactions that occur while cooking on grills both can contribute to air pollution and can produce carcinogens. However, Researchers at Oregon State University have discovered that the chemical reactions that occur from these processes produce novel compounds that were not previously known to exist and are hundreds of times more mutagenic than carcinogens.

Catching Weevils with Different Colored Traps

The weevil is a type of beetle that is known for damaging crops. Whether they damage stored grain or dried food products, or attack cotton crops, the many types of weevils can cause problems for farmers and consumers alike. In an effort to develop more eco-friendly control methods for the weevil, researches have discovered that different colored traps attract more sweet potato weevils than other colors.