Global warming may present a threat to animal and plant life even in biodiversity hot spots once thought less likely to suffer from climate change, according to a new study from Rice University.
Research by Amy Dunham, a Rice assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, detailed for the first time a direct correlation between the frequency of El Niño and a threat to life in Madagascar, a tropical island that acts as a refuge for many unique species that exist nowhere else in the world. In this case, the lemur plays the role of the canary in the coal mine.
The study in the journal Global Change Biology is currently available online and will be included in an upcoming print issue.
Dunham said most studies of global warming focus on temperate zones. "We all know about the polar bears and their melting sea ice," she said. "But tropical regions are often thought of as refuges during past climate events, so they haven't been given as much attention until recently.
"We're starting to realize that not only are these hot spots of biodiversity facing habitat degradation and other anthropogenic effects, but they're also being affected by the same changes we feel in the temperate zones."
Dunham's interest in lemurs, which began as an undergraduate student at Connecticut College, resulted in a groundbreaking study last year that provided new insight into a long-standing mystery: Why male and female lemurs are the same size.
This time, she set out to learn how El Niño patterns impact rainfall in southeastern Madagascar and how El Niño and cyclones affect the reproductive patterns of the Milne-Edwards' Sifaka lemur.
The lemur's mating habits are well-defined, which makes the animal a good candidate for such a study. Female lemurs are sexually responsive to males for only one day a year in the austral summer months of December or January and give birth six months later.
Dunham's co-authors -- Elizabeth Erhart and Patricia Wright -- have done behavioral studies of lemurs in Ranomafana, a national park in the southeastern rainforest of Madagascar, for 20 years. Erhart is an associate professor and assistant chair of the Department of Anthropology at Texas State University-San Marcos, and Wright is a professor of anthropology at Stony Brook University and director of the Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments.
"There aren't many species that have such long-term demographic data that enable us to look at these kinds of questions," Dunham said. "So this was a unique opportunity."
The warming of global sea temperatures may "enhance" El Niño cycles, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Dunham found that in Ranomafana, contrary to expectations, El Niño makes wet seasons wetter. "When it rains heavily, lemurs are not active. They sit there and wait for the rain to stop, huddling for warmth," Dunham said. Anecdotal evidence suggested heavy rains knock fruit off the trees when lactating lemurs need it most, and may even kill trees outright.
Dunham learned from the data that cyclones making landfall have a direct negative effect on the fecundity – or potential reproductive capacity – of lemurs. The team also discovered that fecundity "was negatively affected when El Niño occurred in the period before conception, perhaps altering ovulation, or during the second six months of life, possibly reducing infant survival during weaning," they wrote.
"Madagascar's biodiversity is an ecological treasure," Dunham said. "But its flora and fauna already face extinction from rapid deforestation and exploitation of natural resources. The additional negative effects of climate change make conservation concerns even more urgent."
The research was funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Douroucouli Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the National Geographic Society, the National Science Foundation, the Earthwatch Institute, Conservation International, the Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation, Stony Brook University and Rice University.
Read the abstract at: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/123301926/abstract
A photo is available at: http://media.rice.edu/images/media/newsrels/lemur.jpg
David Ruth | EurekAlert!
Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide
Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.
Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine
21.10.2016 | Information Technology
21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences