It is a premise in ecology that undisturbed ecosystems are relatively stable, and hence that sudden changes in ecosystem are likely to result from external, mostly human influences. Johan van de Koppel, Daphne van der Wal, Jan P. Bakker, and Peter M. J. Herman present a combined theoretical and empirical study indicating that natural processes within salt-marsh ecosystems can lead to ecosystem destruction. They model salt-marsh development based on the mutually enforcing interaction between plant growth and accumulation of sediment.
Observations from Dutch salt marshes confirm the model predictions that at first, plant-sediment feedback buffers the salt marsh from the strong physical gradient that characterizes the marine-terrestrial boundary, and improves plant growth along the gradient. However, as a consequence of this process, the edge of the salt marsh and the adjacent intertidal flat becomes increasingly steep and vulnerable to wave attack. Disturbance due to for instance a storm, may induce a cascade of vegetation collapse and severe erosion on the cliff edge, leading to salt-marsh destruction. Seawards of this cliff new pioneer vegetation can develop, leading to rejuvenation of the salt marsh.
The study shows that on short timescales, natural processes improve the functioning of salt-marsh ecosystems. On longer timescales, however, the same processes increase ecosystem vulnerability and may lead to collapse of salt-marsh vegetation.
Carrie Olivia Adams | EurekAlert!
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A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
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The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
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The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
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