Endangered apes, alien aphids and more of the latest environmental news
Alien aphid in Australia
After the devastating Black Summer bushfires that ravaged Kangaroo Island a new threat to the island’s ecology has emerged in the form of an aphid. Researchers have found black aphids feeding on a native daisy commonly known as “scented groundsel”. The aphids belong to the species Aphis lugentis, and this was the first record of the pest in Australia. Subsequent investigation has revealed matching aphid DNA in a collection from Sydney, suggesting that the aphid is spreading across Australia. It is thought that the aphid may have been introduced to Australia on ornamental plants from overseas. In the case of Kangaroo Island, the consequences for the local daisy and also ant populations could be significant. There is a potential snowball effect from invasive species, and this is a reminder that we need not only be vigilant but also value our native flora more highly.
Source: Austral Ecology
African apes in danger
A new study has quantified the effect of climate changes, land use and human population changes on African apes (gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos) by the year 2050. The research used “best” and “worst” case scenarios. Under a best-case scenario, slowly declining carbon emissions will be accompanied by mitigation measures. Under a worst-case scenario it will just be business as usual with emissions remaining unchecked. The analysis revealed that under the best-case version the apes will lose 85 per cent of their current range. In the worst-case eventuality, the apes lose 94 per cent of their range. The researchers conclude that there is urgent need to combat biodiversity loss as well as climate change if the great apes of Africa are to continue into the future. Global consumption of natural resources extracted from ape range areas is a major driver here. We are all responsible. We can all make a difference.
Source: Diversity and Distributions
The headache of restoring grassland
Salicylic acid from white willow bark has been used medicinally by humans for more than 4000 years. The modern synthetic version, acetylsalicylic acid, or aspirin, is one of the most widely used medications in the world for everything from blood thinning to headache relief. Now a new study has found that it might be the key to ecological restoration of grassland. The research was performed on Australian native perennial grasses and showed that applying very low concentrations of salicylic acid to grass seed can improve plant survival and therefore help achieve grassland restoration goals. The researchers say that coating with salicylic acid and other compounds should be tested on a range of plant species with a view to enhancing deployment of native seed into damaged or degraded landscapes, allowing for a more efficient seed-based restoration program.
Source: PLOS One
Clean air boosts crops
It has been accepted for some time that air pollution is toxic to plant life in high doses. However, the exact impact of pollution on agriculture has remained unknown. For this new study researchers used satellites to measure the impact of pollution on crop yields in nine American states. Specifically, they measured the effect of ozone (often from car exhaust), particulate matter (dust, dirt, soot, smoke), nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide (released through burning of fossil fuels at power plants etc). Analysis was extended back to 1990 and included data from hundreds of monitoring stations. They found a negative effect of each of the four pollutants on corn and soybean yields in the area. Total losses for corn were averaged to 5.8 per cent and for soybeans to 3.8 per cent. Encouragingly, as initiatives to clean the air and reduce pollution were put in place there was a 4 per cent increase in corn yield and a 3 per cent increase in soybean yield.
Source: Environmental Research Letters