News

People Have Shaped Nature for Thousands of Years

The idea of “natural” or “wild” lands is a myth. Scientists released a study showing that about three quarters of terrestrial nature has been shaped over 12,000 years by the land use of Indigenous and traditional peoples. Those land use practices included burning, hunting, species propagation, domestication and cultivation.

The cause of the current biodiversity crisis is a result of intensifying and new uses of the biodiverse landscapes shaped and sustained by traditional societies. “[This study] shows that high biodiversity is compatible with, and in some cases a result of, people living in these landscapes,” says Yadvinder Malhi at the University of Oxford. “Working with local and traditional communities, and learning from them, is essential if we are to try to protect biodiversity.”
 

Coral Microbiome

Just like us, coral reefs have microbiomes that keep them healthy. Researchers, like our Featured Scientist, Colin Howe, study the microbiomes of coral reefs. They aim to identify microbes on specific reefs where they can discover how corals’ microbes help them become more resilient in the face of human-caused climate change and pollution.

Sea Star Wasting Disease

Sea Star Wasting Disease (SSWD) has decimated sea star populations around the world. Since the epidemic of dead, dissolving sea stars was discovered around 2013, scientists have been trying to figure out the cause of the disease.

WHOA! That Squid Really is GIANT!?

There is a squid so HUGE it has made sucker scars on sperm whales found washed ashore. We’ve long imagined an epic battle between the two animals, as depicted in the diorama above. In 2013, the first glimpse of the mysterious creature— the largest invertebrate on earth— was caught on video in Japan. Scientists, including our Featured Scientist Edie Widder, filmed the first in U.S. waters in 2019.

Check out the giant squid in U.S. waters here.

Bleaching along entire length of barrier reef for the FIRST TIME!

The Great Barrier Reef in Australia has lost  half of its coral in the last 25 years. Along its entire length (1,429 miles over an area of approximately 133,000 square miles) coral bleaching has destroyed the reef. When the ocean water near a reef gets too warm, the corals’ symbiotic algae begin producing toxins, and the corals expel them, turning white – this is coral bleaching. Bleached reefs can recover if the water cools.

 

My Octopus Teacher

You’ve got to see My Octopus Teacher! We never imagined someone could spend a year following a wild female octopus through that kelp forest almost every day –free diving!

Film maker, Craig Foster, says, “A lot of people say that an octopus is like an alien, but the strange thing is that as you get closer to them, you realize that we are very similar in a lot of ways.” Craig Foster founded a conservation organization, Sea Change Project,  to “share his love of nature with others.”

 

Listen to an interview with Craig Foster on Fresh Air

Watch the trailer

Darwin’s Paradox

“Darwin's Paradox” asks how productive and diverse ecosystems like coral reefs thrive in the ocean equivalent of a desert with few nutrients.

The answer is sponges. Sponges are key components of coral reefs worldwide. They provide nutrients to reef organisms in what scientists call the “sponge loop.” In 2013 scientists discovered that sponges living on coral reefs are part of a highly efficient recycling loop for dissolved organic matter (DOM) shed by algae and corals.  

“The largest source of energy and nutrients produced on the reef consist of things you cannot see,” said Jasper M. de Goeij, a marine biologist at the University of Amsterdam. “And no one else but sponges can make use of that source.”

As sponges pump huge amounts of water through their bodies, they absorb DOM, converting it into cellular waste that becomes food for reef consumers. Coral reef ecosystems could not thrive without sponges.