Global warming and pollution are among the modern-day threats commonly blamed for decline of coral reefs, but new research shows the downfall of those resplendent and diverse signatures of tropical oceans actually may have begun centuries ago.
According to a paper set to appear Friday (8/15) in the journal Science, the downward spiral started when people first began killing off reef-frequenting large fish, turtles, seals and other top predators or herbivores – a process that started thousands of years ago in some parts of the world and just a century or so ago in others.
"What really struck us was the universality of the decline trajectories," said Karen Bjorndal, one of 12 authors on the paper and zoology professor and director of the Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research at the University of Florida. "It didnt matter if we were looking at the Red Sea, Australia or the Caribbean. As soon as human exploitation began, whether in the 1600s in Bermuda or tens of thousands of years ago in the Red Sea, the same scenarios were put into play."
The project is an outgrowth of research published in 2001 that tied overfishing to worldwide declines of coastal ecosystems. That paper argued that overfishing disturbs the ecological balance of marine environments, with the killing of green sea turtles, for example, ultimately contributing to the die-off of sea grasses. The authors of the current paper, who were among the scientists involved in that research, zeroed in on coral reefs, long seen as seriously threatened by modern pollution, global warming and diseases that cause the coral organism to die and "bleach," its mosaic of colors turning a uniform skeletal white. The goal: reconstruct the ecological history of the reefs from before the first people appeared to fish them some 40,000 years ago to the present era.
Aaron Hoover | EurekAlert!
Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen
A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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