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Constantine Alexander
Where Nature runs Wild!
I love not Man the less, but Nature more.
Recent Activity
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Zooplankton underpin the health and productivity of global marine ecosystems. Here we present evidence that suggests seismic surveys cause significant mortality to zooplankton populations. Seismic surveys are used extensively to explore for petroleum resources using intense, low-frequency, acoustic impulse signals. Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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Avian egg shape is generally explained as an adaptation to life history, yet we currently lack a global synthesis of how egg-shape differences arise and evolve. Here, we apply morphometric, mechanistic, and macroevolutionary analyses to the egg shapes of 1400 bird species. We characterize egg-shape diversity in terms of two biologically relevant variables, asymmetry and ellipticity, allowing us to quantify the observed morphologies in a two-dimensional morphospace. We then propose a simple mechanical model that explains the observed egg-shape diversity based on geometric and material properties of the egg membrane. Finally, using phylogenetic models, we show that egg shape correlates with flight ability on broad taxonomic scales, suggesting that adaptations for flight may have been critical drivers of egg-shape variation in birds. Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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A new Swansea University study has suggested that warming temperatures could drive sea turtles to extinction. This research suggests that that warmer temperatures associated with climate change may lead to higher numbers of female sea turtles and increased nest failure. Photo by Kostas Papafitsoros. The study by Dr Jacques-Olivier Laloë... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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Sex biases are widespread in nature and represent a fundamental component of sexual selection and population biology—but at which point in life history do these biases emerge? We report a detailed individual-based demographic analysis of an intensively studied wild bird population to evaluate origins of sex biases and their consequences on mating strategies and population dynamics. We document a strongly male-biased adult sex ratio, which is consistent with behavioral observations of female-biased polygamy. Notably, sex-biased juvenile rather than adult survival contributed most to the adult sex ratio. Sex biases also strongly influenced population viability, which was significantly overestimated when sex ratio and mating system were ignored. This study, therefore, has implications for both sexual selection theory and biodiversity conservation. Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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Familiarity with other females, geography may be crucial for reproduction. Photo of Alaska Steller sea lions by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Female Steller sea lions tend to breed at or near the rookery where they were born, according to a study published June 7, 2017 in the open-access... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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New born calf of a Friesian red and white cow. Back in 1993 there were only 17 real Friesian red and white cows left. Today, thanks to enthusiasts and a breeding program, there are about 300. Credit: Uberprutser (CC 3.0) Reducing meat consumption and using more efficient farming methods globally... Continue reading
Posted Jun 17, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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An ice sheet surface twice the size of California melted in one summer in what could become a regular occurrence. Cascade of meltwater, partly frozen while flowing, at the shelf ice edge of Larsen A, western Weddell Sea, off the coast of West Antarctica. Credit: Alfred Wegener Institute/Wolf Arntz. The... Continue reading
Posted Jun 17, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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Polysulfide shuttling has been the primary cause of failure in lithium-sulfur (Li-S) battery cycling. Here, we demonstrate an nucleophilic substitution reaction between polysulfides and binder functional groups can unexpectedly immobilizes the polysulfides. The substitution reaction is verified by UV–visible spectra and X-ray photoelectron spectra. The immobilization of polysulfide is in situ monitored by synchrotron based sulfur K-edge X-ray absorption spectra. The resulting electrodes exhibit initial capacity up to 20.4 mAh/cm2, corresponding to 1199.1 mAh/g based on a micron-sulfur mass loading of 17.0 mg/cm2. The micron size sulfur transformed into nano layer coating on the cathode binder during cycling. Directly usage of nano-size sulfur promotes higher capacity of 33.7 mAh/cm2, which is the highest areal capacity reported in Li-S battery. This enhance performance is due to the reduced shuttle effect by covalently binding of the polysulfide with the polymer binder. Continue reading
Posted Jun 15, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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More than a hundred hydropower dams have already been built in the Amazon basin and numerous proposals for further dam constructions are under consideration. The accumulated negative environmental effects of existing dams and proposed dams, if constructed, will trigger massive hydrophysical and biotic disturbances that will affect the Amazon basin’s floodplains, estuary and sediment plume. We introduce a Dam Environmental Vulnerability Index to quantify the current and potential impacts of dams in the basin. The scale of foreseeable environmental degradation indicates the need for collective action among nations and states to avoid cumulative, far-reaching impacts. We suggest institutional innovations to assess and avoid the likely impoverishment of Amazon rivers. Continue reading
Posted Jun 15, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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The first public sharing of government data marks a victory for transparency in an opaque industry where research and sustainable management have suffered from a lack of information on where fishing happens and how fishers interact with ocean resources. Fishing boat in Sumatra, Indonesia. Credit: James Gagen (CC 2.0). This... Continue reading
Posted Jun 9, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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Study finds capable governments more important than weather. The full interactive map can be found here. While climate change is expected to lead to more violence related to food scarcity, new research suggests that the strength of a country's government plays a vital role in preventing uprisings. "A capable government... Continue reading
Posted Jun 9, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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An aeolid nudibranch moves along coral in Vatu-i-Ra Seascape. Photo by Cat Holloway. The Government of Fiji has made a commitment to gazette two large Marine Managed Areas (MMAs) within Fiji's Vatu-i-Ra Seascape -- a highly diverse and productive area vital to both people and wildlife alike. During his address... Continue reading
Posted Jun 8, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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Two snowy plover (Charadrius nivosus) in a beach in California (EE UU). Photo by Mike Baird. Most bird chicks need parental care to survive. In biparental species the chicks have greater chances of success if both parents participate in this task, especially under hostile situations. An international team of scientists... Continue reading
Posted Jun 6, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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Strong decreases in greenhouse gas emissions are required to meet the reduction trajectory resolved within the 2015 Paris Agreement. However, even these decreases will not avert serious stress and damage to life on Earth, and additional steps are needed to boost the resilience of ecosystems, safeguard their wildlife, and protect their capacity to supply vital goods and services. We discuss how well-managed marine reserves may help marine ecosystems and people adapt to five prominent impacts of climate change: acidification, sea-level rise, intensification of storms, shifts in species distribution, and decreased productivity and oxygen availability, as well as their cumulative effects. We explore the role of managed ecosystems in mitigating climate change by promoting carbon sequestration and storage and by buffering against uncertainty in management, environmental fluctuations, directional change, and extreme events. We highlight both strengths and limitations and conclude that marine reserves are a viable low-tech, cost-effective adaptation strategy that would yield multiple cobenefits from local to global scales, improving the outlook for the environment and people into the future. Continue reading
Posted Jun 6, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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Colombia is in a privileged position to take advantage of international climate agreements to finance sustainable development initiatives. The country is a signatory of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol, and the Paris Agreements. As a non-Annex I party to the UNFCCC, Colombia produces low emissions in relation to global numbers (0.46% of total global emissions for 2010) and exhibits biogeographical conditions that are ideal for mitigation of climate change through greenhouse gas sequestration and emission reductions. Simultaneously, recent extreme climatic events have harshly compromised the country’s economy, making Colombia’s vulnerability to climate change evident. Continue reading
Posted Jun 4, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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Seafood is the world's most internationally traded food commodity. Approximately three out of every seven people globally rely on seafood as a primary source of animal protein (1). Revelations about slavery and labor rights abuses in fisheries have sparked outrage and shifted the conversation (2, 3), placing social issues at the forefront of a sector that has spent decades working to improve environmental sustainability. In response, businesses are seeking to reduce unethical practices and reputational risks in their supply chains. Governments are formulating policy responses, and nonprofit and philanthropic organizations are deploying resources and expertise to address critical social issues. Yet the scientific community has not kept pace with concerns for social issues in the sector. As the United Nations Ocean Conference convenes in New York (5 to 9 June), we propose a framework for social responsibility and identify key steps the scientific community must take to inform policy and practice for this global challenge. Continue reading
Posted Jun 3, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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Tenerife, Canary Islands. By Science for Environment Policy. The Canary Islands have the potential to become carbon neutral by 2050, a new study indicates. This could be achieved by shifting to a 100% renewable energy supply, improving energy efficiency and building new grid connections between islands. Energy solutions for small... Continue reading
Posted Jun 3, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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A fisherman in his boat. Photo by Josh Cinner. The future of the world's coral reefs hangs in the balance, but it is not too late to save them, according to a major study published today in the prestigious journal, Nature. Scientists say that the reefs we know today are... Continue reading
Posted Jun 1, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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Contrary to widespread assumptions, next-generation high (annual to multi-annual) and ultra-high (sub-annual) resolution analysis of an Alpine glacier reveals that true historical minimum natural levels of lead in the atmosphere occurred only once in the last ca. 2000 years. During the Black Death pandemic, demographic and economic collapse interrupted metal production and atmospheric lead dropped to undetectable levels. This finding challenges current government and industry understanding of pre-industrial lead pollution and its potential implications for human health of children and adults worldwide. Available technology and geographic location have limited previous ice core investigations. We provide new high- (discrete, inductively coupled mass spectrometry, ICP-MS) and ultra-high resolution (laser ablation inductively coupled mass spectrometry, LA-ICP-MS) records of atmospheric lead deposition extracted from the high Alpine glacier Colle Gnifetti, in the Swiss-Italian Alps. We show that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, low levels at or approaching natural background occurred only in a single four-year period in the ca. 2000 years documented in the new ice core, during the Black Death (ca. 1349-1353 C.E.), the most devastating pandemic in Eurasian history. Ultra-high chronological resolution allows for the first time detailed and decisive comparison of the new glaciochemical data with historical records. Historical evidence shows that mining activity ceased upwind of the core site from ca. 1349 to 1353, while concurrently on the glacier lead (Pb) concentrations—dated by layer counting confirmed by radiocarbon dating—dropped to levels below detection, an order of magnitude beneath figures deemed low in earlier studies. Previous assumptions about pre-industrial “ Continue reading
Posted Jun 1, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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With climate change and social inequity addressed, restoring the ocean will help alleviate poverty, provide livelihoods, and improve the health of millions around the world. Credit: Lindsay Lafreniere. A healthy ocean will benefit global sustainable development in a number of ways, finds a new report published today by the Nippon... Continue reading
Posted Jun 1, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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More extreme climatic events (ECEs) are among the most prominent consequences of climate change. Despite a long-standing recognition of the importance of ECEs by paleo-ecologists and macro-evolutionary biologists, ECEs have only recently received a strong interest in the wider ecological and evolutionary community. However, as with many rapidly expanding fields, it lacks structure and cohesiveness, which strongly limits scientific progress. Furthermore, due to the descriptive and anecdotal nature of many ECE studies it is still unclear what the most relevant questions and long-term consequences are of ECEs. To improve synthesis, we first discuss ways to define ECEs that facilitate comparison among studies. We then argue that biologists should adhere to more rigorous attribution and mechanistic methods to assess ECE impacts. Subsequently, we discuss conceptual and methodological links with climatology and disturbance-, tipping point- and paleo-ecology. These research fields have close linkages with ECE research, but differ in the identity and/or the relative severity of environmental factors. By summarizing the contributions to this theme issue we draw parallels between behavioural, ecological and evolutionary ECE studies, and suggest that an overarching challenge is that most empirical and theoretical evidence points towards responses being highly idiosyncratic, and thus predictability being low. Finally, we suggest a roadmap based on the proposition that an increased focus on the mechanisms behind the biological response function will be crucial for increased understanding and predictability of the impacts of ECE. Continue reading
Posted May 31, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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The U.S. Northeast Continental Shelf marine ecosystem has warmed much faster than the global ocean and it is expected that this enhanced warming will continue through this century. Complex bathymetry and ocean circulation in this region have contributed to biases in global climate model simulations of the Shelf waters. Increasing the resolution of these models results in reductions in the bias of future climate change projections and indicates greater warming than suggested by coarse resolution climate projections. Here, we used a high-resolution global climate model and historical observations of species distributions from a trawl survey to examine changes in the future distribution of suitable thermal habitat for various demersal and pelagic species on the Shelf. Along the southern portion of the shelf (Mid-Atlantic Bight and Georges Bank), a projected 4.1 °C (surface) to 5.0 °C (bottom) warming of ocean temperature from current conditions results in a northward shift of the thermal habitat for the majority of species. While some southern species like butterfish and black sea bass are projected to have moderate losses in suitable thermal habitat, there are potentially significant increases for many species including summer flounder, striped bass, and Atlantic croaker. In the north, in the Gulf of Maine, a projected 3.7 °C (surface) to 3.9 °C (bottom) warming from current conditions results in substantial reductions in suitable thermal habitat such that species currently inhabiting this region may not remain in these waters under continued warming. We project a loss in suitable thermal habitat for key northern species including Acadian redfish, American plaice, Atlantic cod, haddock, and thorney skate, but potential gains for some species including spiny dogfish and American lobster. We illustrate how changes in suitable thermal habitat of important commercially fished species may impact local fishing communities and potentially impact major fishing ports along the U.S. Northeast Shelf. Given the complications of multiple drivers including species interactions and fishing pressure, it is difficult to predict exactly how species will shift. However, observations of species distribution shifts in the historical record under ocean warming suggest that temperature will play a primary role in influencing how species fare. Our results provide critical information on the potential for suitable thermal habitat on the U.S. Northeast Shelf for demersal species in the region, and may contribute to the development of ecosystem-based fisheries management strategies in response to climate change. Continue reading
Posted May 27, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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This is a sketch map of the possible physical process between Arctic warming and Eurasian cold events. Credit: Dr. Yao Yao. In recent years, Arctic warming and extreme events have attracted widespread attention of the world. Recently, Dr. YAO Yao and Prof. LUO Dehai from the Institute of Atmospheric Physics... Continue reading
Posted May 22, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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To promote the sequestration of blue carbon, resource managers rely on best-management practices that have historically included protecting and restoring vegetated coastal habitats (seagrasses, tidal marshes, and mangroves), but are now beginning to incorporate catchment-level approaches. Drawing upon knowledge from a broad range of environmental variables that influence blue carbon sequestration, including warming, carbon dioxide levels, water depth, nutrients, runoff, bioturbation, physical disturbances, and tidal exchange, we discuss three potential management strategies that hold promise for optimizing coastal blue carbon sequestration: (1) reducing anthropogenic nutrient inputs, (2) reinstating top-down control of bioturbator populations, and (3) restoring hydrology. By means of case studies, we explore how these three strategies can minimize blue carbon losses and maximize gains. A key research priority is to more accurately quantify the impacts of these strategies on atmospheric greenhouse-gas emissions in different settings at landscape scales. Continue reading
Posted May 19, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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Among the hundreds of species of damselfish, only a few protect and care for their young; a newly discovered species raises the number from three to four. Altrichthys alelia (Alelia's damselfish) is a new species of damselfish discovered in the Philippines. Unlike most coral reef fish, in this species the... Continue reading
Posted May 19, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal