Thursday, March 15, 2007

Oekologie #3

Here beginneth the third edition of the Oekologie blog carnival. Thank you everyone who took the time to send in posts. It was great to receive such a diverse bunch — we've got just about every group of organism and every part of the world represented, at scales ranging from the global to the backyard, and addressing just about every issue you can think of. So here we go…

Crime! Julie from The Human Flower Project has sent in a cool story on the banning of the Hungarian hovirag harvest. The hovirag is a snowdrop, sold in Hungary as a mark of coming spring, but now grievously over-picked (and with a street value somewhat greater than crack, apparently). The flower is also the source of the protein that, put into to GM potatoes, led to the controversy around the experiments by (Hungarian-born) Arpad Puzstai.

Deceit! GrrlScientist at Living the Scientific Life posts on a neat piece of mimicry — the moth that pretends to be a jumping spider.

Pestilence! Jennifer Forman Orth at the Invasive Species Weblog reports on beech bark disease, which involves an invasive insect infesting the tree, which leads to a fungal infection, which leads to trouble.

Meanwhile, showing that not you don't need to cross an international borders to be an invasive species, Paul Decelles at The Force that Through… points the finger at red cedar, a native of the eastern US now making trouble further west. And then defends his position.

Goats! Aydin at Snail's Tales discusses the impact of goats on the past and future vegetation of the Mediterranean. "If we want to return at least some of the land to its original, pre-grazing, pre-human state, the goats must go," he says.

The Mediterranean is interesting because it has diverse plant life, even though it has seen millennia of heavy human impact, suggesting that the plants have coevolved with people and their animals. (This has also equipped Mediterranean plants to do well in places like California and Australia.) But, of course, whether this flora was in place before people showed up — and if not, what was — is another matter.

That's enough exclamation marks.

Fish: Stephen Leahy at, um, Stephen Leahy points us to his story discussing the concept of peak fish — global catches have levelled off (not sure what's happened to global fishing effort, but it seems unlikely to have fallen), and may soon start falling.

Another option for providing seafood is fish farming. The US government has proposed to extend fish farming into federal waters, 3 to 200 miles offshore. But Lish at Science Ripsaw is worried it that this would deplete nutrients and increase pollution.

Oil: Tom Elko at Sky Blue Waters reports on the concerns around the environmental impact and property rights issues of the MinnCan pipeline. If built (which is looking likely) it would carry crude oil from Canadian oil sands (which are environmental and carbon-emissions bad news in themselves) to refineries in Minnesota.

Milk(weed): Miconia at A Neotropical Savanna meditates on Asclepia.

I know it's not a very scientific reaction, but…

Eeuuw: GrrlScientist reports on a blind, cave-dwelling Madagascan snake (that looks like a worm), rediscovered more than 100 years after the last known specimens were collected. They avoid the light, and sniff out their prey — the eggs and larvae of ants and termites.

Eeuuw II: The pygmy-hog-sucking louse (as a part-time copyeditor and punctuation geek, I place those hyphens with some confidence). Sticking up for the bloodsuckers at Endangered Ugly Things, Garfman makes the excellent point that every large, cuddly and charismatic species in danger of extinction also has (probably several) parasites that depend on it for their own survival. Coendangered is the technical term, apparently.

Mangroves: On the Ecological Society of America's blog, Edward Barbier has posted an authoritative guide to the issues surrounding the loss and restoration of mangrove forests, particularly regarding their ability to buffer against storm and tsunami damage.

Barbier — who has done lots of research into the interactions between development, mangroves and ecosystem services (the mangroves usually come off worse) — argues that the debate around the benefits and costs of replanting, that have followed from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, is oversimplified.

Cheetahs: Over at Laelaps, Brian Switek highlights something that was new to me — Iranian cheetahs. Brian writes about the Wildlife Conservation Society's work to conserve this population.

(This also made me intrigued about another thing I know nothing about — what issues a US conservation organizations faces when it works in Iran — in terms of dealing with both the Iranian and US governments.)

Bats: Jennifer Pinkley at The Infinite Sphere discusses how the eastern pipistrelle's more catholic taste in habitat and roosts has made it "more adaptable to changing environmental pressures" than its close relative the gray myotis.

Microbes: Coturnix at A Blog Around the Clock alerts us to PLoS Biology's glut of papers on ocean microbial diversity (i.e. metagenomics). This is way-cool stuff right now (see also previous post on this blog).

Semantics: Matt at the Behavioral Ecology blog has sent in a post entitled 'Is rape adaptive?', which also discusses whether 'rape' is a good word to apply to forced copulations in (non-human) animals. The consensus appears to be not and, although I usually favour strong words and try to avoid jargon, I agree.

Celebrity: Mike at 10,000 birds muses on the ethics of twitching, and the motivations of twitchers. Naturalists, paparazzi, rubberneckers, or all of the above?

Memories: for me at least, with Jeremy Bruno, and the Voltage Gate's guide to tropical dry forest.

Jeremy mentions Guanacaste in Costa Rica, conservation success story (thanks to the idea of introducing large domestic herbivores to do the seed-dispersal job once done my extinct species), macroecological hotspot, and a place I visited while researching ITBOAH (I had to get a mention in somewhere). One of the remarkable things about Costa Rica is that this forest is about half-an-hour's drive from cloud forest containing a totally different set of species.

Global: John Feeny at Growth is Madness! muses on whether spreading the news that we're in the middle of the earth's sixth mass extinction since the Cambrian will help turn people on to conservation.

And Vbecer00 at Reconciliation Ecology also touches on the issue of how you get people to care in his/her post on, well, just about every issue in conservation — why do it, how to do it, and how to make it work.

Local: Join Dave Bonta at Via Negativa for a walk in the snow in Plummer's Hollow, and benefit from his sharp eyes. The man knows his neighbourhood, and his shrews.

Or, you could visit Wayne at Niches, and read his reports on the effects of heavy rains on the creeks on his property in Athens, Georgia.

And finally….

Personals: Johan Stenberg is in Sweden, feeling lonely. Cheer Johan up and join his journal club on insect-plant ecology, at (where else but the) Insect-Plant Ecology blog.

So there you have it. Oekologie — opening your minds, grossing you out, winding you up, bringing you together. Thanks again, and be sure to check out the next edition in a month's time on the Behavioral Ecology Blog.

3 comments:

mike said...

Nice roundup! My only objection is that you got the name of my blog wrong...it's 10,000 Birds.

John Whitfield said...

Sorry! I had a feeling I was going to spell someone's name/blog/species wrong. It's fixed now.

Madhu said...

How about gender? You may have a gender mixed up too, but as I'm not the author of the particular post on our class blog (Reconciliation Ecology, where I'm merely the teacher and blog owner), and the author does not make his/her gender clear, I probably shouldn't tell you either!

Thanks for featuring the student posting, however. I hope this encourages others in my class to participate similarly.