The Many Benefits of Wetlands Conservation

photo: wetlands with mountainous background. Benefits of Wetlands Conservation

Photo © KEN ARCHER

By J. Dale James, Ph.D., and Ellen R. Herbert, Ph.D.

Wetlands are among the most valuable ecosystems on Earth, rivaling tropical rainforests in their biological productivity. Historically, wetland systems sustained civilizations by providing people with food and freshwater and protecting communities from flooding and storm surges.

Prior to European settlement of the United States, the American wilderness included a remarkable abundance and diversity of wetlands, ranging

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This Remote Hawaiian Island Just Vanished

Satellite photo: East Island before Hurricane Walaka

Photo: Before, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Scientists are concerned about what will happen to the hundreds of endangered species that once called East Island home.

Hurricane Walaka, one of the most powerful Pacific storms ever recorded, has erased an ecologically important remote northwestern island from the Hawaiian archipelago.

Using satellite imagery, federal scientists confirmed Monday that East Island, a critical habitat for endangered Hawaiian monk seals and green sea … [more…]

Why river floodplains are key to preserving nature and biodiversity in western USA

Gravel bed rivers and their floodplains are vital to local ecosystems and their ability to adapt to climate change. sandybrownjensen/flickr, CC BY-SA

Although they may not commonly be viewed as hotspots for biodiversity, gravel-bed river floodplains are by far the most important feature for nature across the landscapes of western North America.

This is because gravel-bed rivers disproportionately create high diversity of habitats, concentrate nutrients for growth, and provide corridors … [more…]

Diverse forests are stronger against drought

photo: Aspens affected by drought. Credit: William Anderegg

Photo: Aspens affected by drought. Credit: William Anderegg

Resilient forests host trees with a diversity of water-use strategies

Diversity is strength, even among forests. In a paper published in Nature, researchers led by University of Utah biologist William Anderegg report that forests with trees that employ a high diversity of traits related to water use suffer less of an impact from drought. The results, which expand on previous work … [more…]

Eelgrass wasting disease has new enemies: Drones and artificial intelligence

photo: underwater eelgrass

When infected with eelgrass wasting disease, blades of eelgrass develop black and brown splotches (‘lesions’) that can spread and kill the blade. Credit: Olivia Graham/Cornell University

Every year, the world loses an estimated 7 percent of its seagrasses. While the reasons are manifold, one culprit has long confounded scientists: eelgrass wasting disease.

This September a team of biologists is zeroing in on the problem, in the first study of the … [more…]