Ecology and Biodiversity

The Madingley model and questions of abstraction and scale

Madingley is a global computational model. To a broad approximation, the Madingley model represents all (most) forms of life. It achieves this by using what’s called a functional-type representation. Species are aggregated in to broad categories that describe a select number of their properties, rather than everything about them. For some, this conceptual leap is too much. Why take a step towards representing all life, but miss the explicit inclusion of species? The answer lies in making the best of human knowledge, and balancing computational expense.

Mexico needs to rethink environmental protection budget cuts, prioritize ecologically-sustainable human development

By Andrés M. Cisneros-Montemayor

Mexico recently released its budget for 2017, and among the top five largest cuts were environmental protection (down by 37%), culture (-30%), and education (-11%). Political rhetoric aside, these cuts reflect a continuing view of these issues as minor, long-term, or otherwise less important or pressing. The problem is, these views also directly contradict a growing recognition in international policy of the importance of the environment, culture and education, in and of themselves, but also as part of an interdependent suite of human development goals.

A case study for conservation: Wilderness protection in Estonia

In his newly published chapter “Wilderness protection in Estonia“, Richard Caddell, Nereus Fellow at Utrecht University, uses Estonia as a case study for European wilderness management. Estonia, Caddell writes, “has proved to be a nature conservation actor of understated significance”. Since the 13th century, Estonia has created protected wildlife areas, with little human intrusion, and has some of the most stringent legal controls over these areas in the EU.

Rethinking the Role of Salps in the Ocean

Salps, a type of gelatinous zooplankton, are often confused with jellyfish and while jellyfish research has increased drastically, salps have been ignored. The authors write that there “has been no comprehensive study on the biology or ecological impact of salps in almost 20 years”. This paper looks at four misconceptions about salps, including that salps are jellyfish, salps are rare, salps are trophic dead ends, and salps have a minor role in biogeochemical cycles.

The impending extinction of the vaquita is not just a fishing problem — it’s a social and ecological one too

In our current eco-friendly world, where climate change makes front-page news and the killing of a lion launches thousands of Facebook posts, how can a porpoise be nearing extinction and most of the world not even know of its existence?

The vaquita is going extinct at an alarming rate, from an estimated 600 individuals in 1996 to 60 in 2016, states a report presented to Mexico’s Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources earlier this month. It’s the world’s smallest marine mammal, with a maximum length of only 1.5 meters (4.9 feet). And with its dark eye patches and mouth that seems to curl up into a smile even after death, the vaquita is not missing out on the cute factor.

Seasonal phytoplankton blooms in the North Atlantic linked to the overwintering strategies of copepods

“Seasonal phytoplankton blooms in the North Atlantic linked to the overwintering strategies of copepods,” co-authored by Nereus Fellow Rebecca Asch (Princeton University), was recently published in Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene. The paper looks at when and how long phytoplankton blooms occur in the North Atlantic. The authors found a correlation between spring bloom start days and the duration of the bloom, with early blooms lasting longer.

A computer model is used to show projections of how fish species may move towards the poles and into deeper waters in a high CO2 emissions scenario. Source: Jones and Cheung 2015.

Where do we go from here? Building confidence in climate change impact projection models

Climate change is expected to have major impacts on the ocean, the species that live there, and the people who rely it for their food and livelihood. Since the beginning of the 20th century, CO2 emissions from human activities have altered physical and chemical properties of the ocean. The ocean has become warmer and, in some areas, less oxygenated, which has caused changes in the productivity and distribution of marine species.

Jellyfish for dinner: Is fishing a viable solution to the increase in jellyfish blooms?

While jellyfish, with their soft, gelatinous bodies, may seem like innocuous creatures, when they occur in large blooms they can often cause detrimental effects. Jellyfish blooms have been observed to clog power plants, cause mass mortality to fish in aquaculture farms, burst fishing nets and even sink a 10 tonne fishing vessel. It is predicted that jellyfish will benefit from climate change and other anthropogenic changes, such as overfishing, eutrophication and coastal development.