Humans have driven dramatic environmental changes – most of which have a negative impact on us and other species. Today, we can only understand ecological systems by integrating the impacts of human activities, driven by our social systems. These social-ecological systems are dynamic, consisting of feedback loops and several interacting sub-systems – such as forests and agricultural production. The resilience of these systems is dependent on diversity – be it ecological or social. Beyond a certain point, a sub-system may cross a tipping point that changes the state of the whole system, potentially irreversibly, ushering in a new social-ecological state, which is typically less favourable than the former state. In recent research, an international team of experts has developed an advanced analytical framework to examine the tipping points within the social-ecological multiverse of the Southwestern Amazon.
Plastic pollution is accelerating the destruction of our planet. Discarded plastic can be found in the remotest areas – from the highest mountain tops to the deepest ocean trenches. As many types of plastic take hundreds of years to break down, finding better solutions to the plastic crisis is vital. In recent research, Dr Jay Mellies from Reed College in Oregon examines the ability of microbes to break down mixed-plastic waste.
Both the frequency and intensity of droughts are forecast to increase in climate change predictions. It is well established that plant communities are sensitive to drought conditions, having implications for agriculture, forestry, and wild habitats. Despite the close association between soil fungi and plants, our understanding of how fungal communities respond to drought remains incomplete. To build this understanding, Dr Ari Jumpponen and his colleagues at Kansas State University used a combination of pure culture- and DNA-based techniques to study soil fungal communities exposed to chronic drought conditions.
Dr Gita Kolluru | Dylan Lanser | Dr Larisa Vredevoe – Reproductive Consequences for Tick-Infested Lizards
Each year, male Western fence lizards bob, charge, and battle rivals for a chance to win mates. For many of them, tick infestations threaten to hinder their best efforts by harming the lizards’ health. But just how harmful is tick parasitism for these unfortunate lizard hosts? In their recent research, Dylan Lanser, Dr Larisa Vredevoe, and Dr Gita Kolluru at California Polytechnic State University aimed to answer this question by staging contests between tick-free and tick-infested lizards.
The genetic secrets to extraordinary longevity, superhero-like healing and regeneration, and resistance to feeding disorders could be found hidden within the Earth. In underground caves in Dinaric Karst along the Adriatic Sea in the Western Balkans lives a cave salamander, the olm, whose remarkable adaptations mean its genome holds great promise for biomedical research. Dr Rok Kostanjšek and an international team of scientists at the Proteus Genome Research Consortium are tackling the challenge of sequencing the huge olm genome, to provide the basis for studying its unique genetic characteristics.
Dr Daniel Suiter – Dr Brian Forschler | Identifying and Preventing Arthropod Encounters in South-eastern USA Homes
Arthropods – a group of invertebrates that includes insects, spiders, centipedes and woodlice – are everywhere, and have inhabited this planet for millions of years. They are found in most habitats on Earth – including our gardens and homes. It is in these built environments that a small number are considered a nuisance when sharing our ‘sacred space’. An even smaller number damage buildings or belongings, eat our food – even feed on us – so we label them… pests! Successful management of pest populations requires an understanding of their specific lifestyles and their requirements for food, water, shelter, breeding sites, and favourable temperatures. A team of entomologists at the University of Georgia recently published a guidebook of more than 100 arthropods found in and around homes in the South-eastern USA.