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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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Museum collections offer scientists ocean health baselines long before human records. The Hawaiian petrel flies great distances over the north Pacific Ocean to feed, and all the while nitrogen from its diet is slowly integrated into its bone collagen. The birds come to land only to raise their young in... Continue reading
Posted 12 hours ago at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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A 2 °C increase in global temperature above pre-industrial levels is considered a reasonable target for avoiding the most devastating impacts of anthropogenic climate change. In June 2015, sea surface temperature (SST) of the South China Sea (SCS) increased by 2 °C in response to the developing Pacific El Niño. On its own, this moderate, short-lived warming was unlikely to cause widespread damage to coral reefs in the region, and the coral reef “Bleaching Alert” alarm was not raised. However, on Dongsha Atoll, in the northern SCS, unusually weak winds created low-flow conditions that amplified the 2 °C basin-scale anomaly. Water temperatures on the reef flat, normally indistinguishable from open-ocean SST, exceeded 6 °C above normal summertime levels. Mass coral bleaching quickly ensued, killing 40% of the resident coral community in an event unprecedented in at least the past 40 years. Our findings highlight the risks of 2 °C ocean warming to coral reef ecosystems when global and local processes align to drive intense heating, with devastating consequences. Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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A view from the study site, UNESCO World Heritage-listed Lord Howe Island, Australia. Credit: Tane Sinclair-Taylor The discovery of a new species of hard coral, found on Lord Howe Island, suggests that the fauna of this isolated location in the Tasman Sea off south eastern Australia is even more distinct... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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Marine protected areas (MPAs) are increasingly being used globally to conserve marine resources. However, whether many MPAs are being effectively and equitably managed, and how MPA management influences substantive outcomes remain unknown. We developed a global database of management and fish population data (433 and 218 MPAs, respectively) to assess: MPA management processes; the effects of MPAs on fish populations; and relationships between management processes and ecological effects. Here we report that many MPAs failed to meet thresholds for effective and equitable management processes, with widespread shortfalls in staff and financial resources. Although 71% of MPAs positively influenced fish populations, these conservation impacts were highly variable. Staff and budget capacity were the strongest predictors of conservation impact: MPAs with adequate staff capacity had ecological effects 2.9 times greater than MPAs with inadequate capacity. Thus, continued global expansion of MPAs without adequate investment in human and financial capacity is likely to lead to sub-optimal conservation outcomes. Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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Factors that affect the removal of organic carbon by heterotrophic bacterioplankton can impact the rate and magnitude of organic carbon loss in the ocean through the conversion of a portion of consumed organic carbon to CO2. Through enhanced rates of consumption, surface bacterioplankton communities can also reduce the amount of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) available for export from the surface ocean. The present study investigated the direct effects of elevated pCO2 on bacterioplankton removal of several forms of DOC ranging from glucose to complex phytoplankton exudate and lysate, and naturally occurring DOC. Elevated pCO2 (1000–1500 ppm) enhanced both the rate and magnitude of organic carbon removal by bacterioplankton communities compared to low (pre-industrial and ambient) pCO2 (250 –~400 ppm). The increased removal was largely due to enhanced respiration, rather than enhanced production of bacterioplankton biomass. The results suggest that elevated pCO2 can increase DOC consumption and decrease bacterioplankton growth efficiency, ultimately decreasing the amount of DOC available for vertical export and increasing the production of CO2 in the surface ocean. Continue reading
Posted Mar 20, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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The San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica) is a federally endangered small carnivore whose distribution is limited to the San Joaquin Valley in central California. Population decline is due to profound habitat loss, and conservation of all remaining populations is critical. A robust urban population occurs in the city of Bakersfield. In spring of 2013, putative cases of mange were reported in this population. Mites from affected animals were confirmed to be Sarcoptes scabiei morphologically and by DNA sequencing. By the end of 2014, 15 cases of kit foxes with mange had been confirmed. As with other species, sarcoptic mange in kit foxes is characterized by intense pruritus and dermatitis, caused by mites burrowing into the epidermal layers, as well as alopecia, hyperkeratosis, and encrustations, secondary bacterial infections, and finally extreme morbidity and death. Of the 15 cases, six foxes were found dead, six were captured but died during attempted rehabilitation, and three were successfully treated. We have no evidence that untreated kit foxes can recover from mange. Sarcoptic mange constitutes a significant threat to the Bakersfield kit fox population and could pose an even greater threat to this imperiled species if it spreads to populations in nearby natural lands. Continue reading
Posted Mar 17, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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Marine phytoplankton inhabit a dynamic environment where turbulence, together with nutrient and light availability, shapes species fitness, succession and selection1, 2. Many species of phytoplankton are motile and undertake diel vertical migrations to gain access to nutrient-rich deeper layers at night and well-lit surface waters during the day3, 4. Disruption of this migratory strategy by turbulence is considered to be an important cause of the succession between motile and non-motile species when conditions turn turbulent1, 5, 6. However, this classical view neglects the possibility that motile species may actively respond to turbulent cues to avoid layers of strong turbulence7. Here we report that phytoplankton, including raphidophytes and dinoflagellates, can actively diversify their migratory strategy in response to hydrodynamic cues characteristic of overturning by Kolmogorov-scale eddies. Continue reading
Posted Mar 16, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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The polar cod (Boreogadus saida) is considered an ecological key species, because it reaches high stock biomasses and constitutes an important carbon source for seabirds and marine mammals in high-Arctic ecosystems. Young polar cod (1-2 years) are often associated with the underside of sea ice. To evaluate the impact of changing Arctic sea ice habitats on polar cod, we examined the diet composition and quantified the contribution of ice algae-produced carbon (αIce) to the carbon budget of polar cod. Continue reading
Posted Mar 16, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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Study analyzes 5,000 surf breaks globally; finds growth reversed where breaks were destroyed; shows Western Australia is a hotspot for growth near breaks. University of Sydney research reveals high quality surf breaks boost economic growth in nearby areas - and by how much. Researchers analysed satellite images of night-time lights... Continue reading
Posted Mar 14, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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Do temperature anomalies affect political polarization over global warming? Americans’ attitudes about global warming are affected by whether they reside in states experiencing unseasonably warm (or cold) temperatures versus those experiencing milder temperatures. Specifically, in terms of causal attribution, political polarization over global warming is more pronounced in states experiencing temperature anomalies. Using pooled data collected during 2013–2014, this study utilizes logistic regression to explore how temperature anomalies exacerbate the political polarization among Americans over perceptions of whether global warming impacts are immediately evident as well as the attribution of global warming to human activity. Results indicate that very cold or warm temperature anomalies from a 5-year baseline predict perceptions of global warming impacts and exacerbate existing political polarization over the causal attribution of global warming. These effects are particularly noticeable among Democrats. This analysis provides a contribution to understanding how temperature anomalies from the recent past shape the sociophysical context of global warming attitudes. Continue reading
Posted Mar 14, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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A new study finds that humans can interact with sharks without long-term behavioral impacts for the ocean's top predators. Reef sharks on Palmyra atoll inspect the baited remote underwater video system. Credit: Darcy Bradley. Swimming with metaphorical sharks is one thing, but actually getting into the water with the razor-toothed... Continue reading
Posted Mar 14, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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Earth’s energy imbalance (EEI) drives the ongoing global warming and can best be assessed across the historical record (that is, since 1960) from ocean heat content (OHC) changes. An accurate assessment of OHC is a challenge, mainly because of insufficient and irregular data coverage. We provide updated OHC estimates with the goal of minimizing associated sampling error. We performed a subsample test, in which subsets of data during the data-rich Argo era are colocated with locations of earlier ocean observations, to quantify this error. Our results provide a new OHC estimate with an unbiased mean sampling error and with variability on decadal and multidecadal time scales (signal) that can be reliably distinguished from sampling error (noise) with signal-to-noise ratios higher than 3. The inferred integrated EEI is greater than that reported in previous assessments and is consistent with a reconstruction of the radiative imbalance at the top of atmosphere starting in 1985. We found that changes in OHC are relatively small before about 1980; since then, OHC has increased fairly steadily and, since 1990, has increasingly involved deeper layers of the ocean. In addition, OHC changes in six major oceans are reliable on decadal time scales. All ocean basins examined have experienced significant warming since 1998, with the greatest warming in the southern oceans, the tropical/subtropical Pacific Ocean, and the tropical/subtropical Atlantic Ocean. This new look at OHC and EEI changes over time provides greater confidence than previously possible, and the data sets produced are a valuable resource for further study. Continue reading
Posted Mar 14, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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Stress is a factor not only in the best human families; it also appears among animals. To see how bird family members interact with each other in stressful situations, researchers from Vetmeduni Vienna and the University of Gdansk, Poland, studied parent-offspring interactions in a long-lived seabird, the little auk (Alle alle). The scientists gave parent and offspring birds a hormone pellet to increase their “stress levels”, with the result that stressed offspring not only intensified their begging but also received more food than “relaxed” chicks. Nevertheless, increased begging was not the determining factor of the parent-offspring interaction. When parent birds were stressed, they automatically reduced offspring feeding and spent more time searching for food for themselves. The parent-offspring interaction among little auks therefore clearly depended on the state of the adult bird, even though little auks usually raise only a single chick. The results have been published in the Journal of Ornithology. Continue reading
Posted Mar 12, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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The duration of parental care in animals varies widely, from none to lifelong. Such variation is typically thought to represent a trade-off between growth and safety. Seabirds show wide variation in the age at which offspring leave the nest, making them ideal to test the idea that a trade-off between high energy gain at sea and high safety at the nest drives variation in departure age (Ydenberg’s model). To directly test the model assumptions, we attached time-depth recorders to murre parents (fathers [which do all parental care at sea] and mothers; of each). Except for the initial mortality experienced by chicks departing from the colony, the mortality rate at sea was similar to the mortality rate at the colony. However, energy gained by the chick per day was ∼2.1 times as high at sea compared with at the colony because the father spent more time foraging, since he no longer needed to spend time commuting to and from the colony. Compared with the mother, the father spent ∼2.6 times as much time diving per day and dived in lower-quality foraging patches. We provide a simple model for optimal departure date based on only (1) the difference in growth rate at sea relative to the colony and (2) the assumption that transition mortality from one life-history stage to the other is size dependent. Apparently, large variation in the duration of parental care can arise simply as a result of variation in energy gain without any trade-off with safety. Continue reading
Posted Mar 11, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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The standard US diet contributes to greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE) from both the food system, and from the health system through its contribution to non-communicable diseases. To estimate the potential for diet change to reduce GHGE and improve public health, we analyzed the effect of adopting healthier model diets in the USA on the risk of disease, health care costs, and GHGE. We found that adoption of healthier diets reduced the relative risk of coronary heart disease, colorectal cancer, and type 2 diabetes by 20–45%, US health care costs by US$B 77–93 per year, and direct GHGE by 222–826 kg CO2e capita−1 year−1 (69–84 kg from the health care system, 153–742 kg from the food system). Emission reductions were equivalent to 6–23% of the US Climate Action Plan’s target of a 17% reduction in 2005 GHGE by 2020, and 24–134% of California’s target of 1990 GHGE levels by 2020. However, there is potential for investment of health care savings to result in rebound up to and greater than 100%, which would increase net GHGE. Given the urgency of improving public health and of mitigating GHGE over the short term, the potential contribution of diet change, and the options for reducing rebound, deserve more research in support of policy. Continue reading
Posted Mar 9, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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Sharks are in big trouble around the world, with some populations crashing by more than 90%. Some species, such as the hammerhead shark, are facing a very real threat of extinction. Despite a worldwide ban on the transportation of shark fins by major shipping carriers, a three-month investigation by Sea... Continue reading
Posted Mar 7, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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Morgan Freeman joins Oceana on Capitol Hill to urge action on shark conservation. Lemon Shark. Photo by Albert Kok (CC 3.0) Days before Discovery Channel's Shark Week, award-winning actor and longtime Oceana advocate Morgan Freeman joined Oceana and Members of Congress to announce the introduction of a new bill to... Continue reading
Posted Mar 7, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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It is an open question whether turbulent mixing across density surfaces is sufficiently large to play a dominant role in closing the deep branch of the ocean meridional overturning circulation. The diapycnal and isopycnal mixing experiment in the Southern Ocean found the turbulent diffusivity inferred from the vertical spreading of a tracer to be an order of magnitude larger than that inferred from the microstructure profiles at the mean tracer depth of 1,500 m in the Drake Passage. Using a high-resolution ocean model, it is shown that the fast vertical spreading of tracer occurs when it comes in contact with mixing hotspots over rough topography. The sparsity of such hotspots is made up for by enhanced tracer residence time in their vicinity due to diffusion toward weak bottom flows. The increased tracer residence time may explain the large vertical fluxes of heat and salt required to close the abyssal circulation. Continue reading
Posted Mar 7, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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Most Michigan residents would prefer policymakers prioritize the environment over economic growth, finds a new survey by Michigan State University researchers. According to the poll, 59 percent favor protecting the environment, even when there could be economic risks of doing so, such as job loss. Dan Bergan, associate professor in... Continue reading
Posted Mar 4, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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In September 2015, the Volkswagen Group (VW) admitted the use of 'defeat devices' designed to lower emissions measured during VW vehicle testing for regulatory purposes. Globally, 11 million cars sold between 2008 and 2015 are affected, including about 2.6 million in Germany. On-road emissions tests have yielded mean on-road NOx emissions for these cars of 0.85 g km−1, over four times the applicable European limit of 0.18 g km−1. This study estimates the human health impacts and costs associated with excess emissions from VW cars driven in Germany. A distribution of on-road emissions factors is derived from existing measurements and combined with sales data and a vehicle fleet model to estimate total excess NOx emissions. These emissions are distributed on a 25 by 28 km grid covering Europe, using the German Federal Environmental Protection Agency's (UBA) estimate of the spatial distribution of NOx emissions from passenger cars in Germany. We use the GEOS-Chem chemistry-transport model to predict the corresponding increase in population exposure to fine particulate matter and ozone in the European Union, Switzerland, and Norway, and a set of concentration-response functions to estimate mortality outcomes in terms of early deaths and of life-years lost. Integrated over the sales period (2008–2015), we estimate median mortality impacts from VW excess emissions in Germany to be 1200 premature deaths in Europe, corresponding to 13 000 life-years lost and 1.9 billion EUR in costs associated with life-years lost. Approximately 60% of mortality costs occur outside Germany. For the current fleet, we estimate that if on-road emissions for all affected VW vehicles in Germany are reduced to the applicable European emission standard by the end of 2017, this would avert 29 000 life-years lost and 4.1 billion 2015 EUR in health costs (median estimates) relative to a counterfactual case with no recall. Continue reading
Posted Mar 3, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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Climate change poses serious threats to the protection and preservation of cultural heritage and resources. Despite a high level of scholarly interest in climate change's impacts on natural and socioeconomic systems, a comprehensive understanding of the impacts of climate change on cultural heritage and resources across various continents and disciplines in noticeably absent from the literature. To address this gap, we conducted a systematic literature review methodology to identify and characterize the state of knowledge and how the cultural heritage and resources at risk from climate change are being explored globally. Results from 124 reviewed publications show that scholarly interest in the topic is increasing, employs a wide range of research methods, and represents diverse natural and social science disciplines. Despite such increasing and diverse interest in climate change and cultural heritage and resources, the geographic scope of research is limited (predominantly European focused). Additionally, we identified the need for future studies that not only focus on efficient, sustainable adaptation planning options but also documents if, and how, the implementation of cultural heritage and resources adaption or preservation is taking place. This systematic literature review can help direct scholarly research in climate change and cultural heritage and resources areas. Ultimately, we hope these new directions can influence policy-making for preservation and adaptation of cultural heritage and cultural resources globally. Continue reading
Posted Mar 1, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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The urban heat island is a particular challenge for tropical cities, which receive year-round high inputs of solar radiation. Plants can help mitigate elevated urban temperatures by providing shade and increasing evaporative cooling, although the resulting increase in humidity may negatively affect thermal comfort. Street trees offer particular potential for cooling urban microclimates, as well as providing other ecosystem services, because they can be integrated within dense urban street networks. However, we have little quantitative information about the role of street trees in providing regulating ecosystem services in tropical cities. In this study, we analysed hemispherical photographs extracted from Google Street View to quantify the proportion of green canopy coverage at 50 m intervals across more than 80% of Singapore’s road network. Canopy coverage data were then used to estimate the proportion of annual radiation that would be blocked from reaching ground level by the canopy. Across all locations, a median of 13% of the annual diffuse and direct solar radiation was shaded, and over 70% of this shading effect was due to the tree canopy. There was significant variation between different urban landuse types, with trees providing more shade in parks and low-density low-rise areas than in industrial and higher-density residential areas. Mapping the provision of street tree ecosystem services could help to prioritise areas for new planting by identifying streets or street sections with low shading. The approach developed in this article could be readily applied to quantify the proportion of canopy coverage and proportion of solar radiation shaded across other tropical cities. The method may also be applicable in temperate cities if Google Street View photographs were collected during the growing season. Continue reading
Posted Mar 1, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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The uptake of anthropogenic CO2 by the ocean decreases seawater pH and carbonate mineral aragonite saturation state (Ωarag), a process known as Ocean Acidification (OA). This can be detrimental to marine organisms and ecosystems1, 2. The Arctic Ocean is particularly sensitive to climate change3 and aragonite is expected to become undersaturated (Ωarag < 1) there sooner than in other oceans4. However, the extent and expansion rate of OA in this region are still unknown. Here we show that, between the 1990s and 2010, low Ωarag waters have expanded northwards at least 5°, to 85° N, and deepened 100 m, to 250 m depth. Data from trans-western Arctic Ocean cruises show that Ωarag < 1 water has increased in the upper 250 m from 5% to 31% of the total area north of 70° N. Tracer data and model simulations suggest that increased Pacific Winter Water transport, driven by an anomalous circulation pattern and sea-ice retreat, is primarily responsible for the expansion, although local carbon recycling and anthropogenic CO2 uptake have also contributed. These results indicate more rapid acidification is occurring in the Arctic Ocean than the Pacific and Atlantic oceans5, 6, 7, 8, with the western Arctic Ocean the first open-ocean region with large-scale expansion of ‘acidified’ water directly observed in the upper water column. Continue reading
Posted Feb 28, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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Experiences of nature provide many mental-health benefits, particularly for people living in urban areas. The natural characteristics of city residents’ neighborhoods are likely to be crucial determinants of the daily nature dose that they receive; however, which characteristics are important remains unclear. One possibility is that the greatest benefits are provided by characteristics that are most visible during the day and so most likely to be experienced by people. We demonstrate that of five neighborhood nature characteristics tested, vegetation cover and afternoon bird abundances were positively associated with a lower prevalence of depression, anxiety, and stress. Furthermore, dose–response modeling shows a threshold response at which the population prevalence of mental-health issues is significantly lower beyond minimum limits of neighborhood vegetation cover (depression more than 20% cover, anxiety more than 30% cover, stress more than 20% cover). Our findings demonstrate quantifiable associations of mental health with the characteristics of nearby nature that people actually experience. Continue reading
Posted Feb 26, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal
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A thorough understanding of movement patterns of a species is critical for designing effective conservation and management initiatives. However, generating such information for large marine vertebrates is challenging, as they typically move over long distances, live in concealing environments, are logistically difficult to capture and, as upper-trophic predators, are naturally low in abundance. Large-bodied, broadly distributed tropical shark typically restricted to coastal and shelf habitats, the great hammerhead shark Sphyrna mokarran epitomizes such challenges. Highly valued for its fins (in target and incidental fisheries), it suffers high bycatch mortality coupled with fecundity conservative life history, and as a result, is vulnerable to over-exploitation and population depletion. Although there are very little species-specific data available, the absence of recent catch records give cause to suspect substantial declines across its range. Continue reading
Posted Feb 25, 2017 at Constantine Alexander's Journal