On The Radio- Chimpanzees feel anxiety too


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(flickr/Aaron Logan)

Kasey Dresser| July 14, 2019

This weeks segment looks at how social stress manifests in chimpanzees. 

Transcript: 

Chimpanzees react to social stress, just like humans.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Behavioral dominance is the hierarchical relationship between members of a community established through force, aggression or even submission. In many animal species, dominant individuals have health and fitness benefits, more than their peers. However, a new study from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology uses chimpanzees to study some costs of behavioral dominance. 

In a community of chimpanzees, there are periods where the social dominance hierarchy shifts and there is competition among the males. Surprisingly, a majority of chimpanzees become less aggressive during that time due to stress. The senior author for the study, Roman Wittig, explained that chimpanzees are territorial but employ conflict management to diminish the risk of injuries. 

This reaction is not only behavioral. The authors collected urine samples and discovered high cortisol levels, indicating high stress, during such periods. The study showed that aggression alone is not a good indicator of competition between chimps.

For more information, visit iowa-environmental-focus-dot-org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Sara E. Mason.

 

 

 

 

On The Radio- Increasing Mass Extinctions


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The Iberian Lynx: a cat species from Spain. There are only a few hundred left in the world. (flickr/Mario Nonaka)

Kasey Dresser| June 24, 2019

This weeks segment looks at how human beings are causing mass extinction of over one million species

Transcript: 

Earths landscapes are changing and about one million species are in danger.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

With the human population passing seven billion, homo sapiens are pushing animals out of the picture in need for more space.

The sharp decline in species is likely to occur by 2050, and it will affect biodiversity. Humans are not the only problem that animals have to face, but global warming as well, a natural result of human treatment towards the environment. 

Nature provides trillions in non-monetized saving that benefits human beings every year. If wildlife and tropical rain forests cease to exist, our medicine would change drastically. Over 23 percent of the planets land area is being harmed because humans are producing more food than ever, causing land degradation. 

Our previous miniscule efforts of creating wild life refuges and efforts to protect individual species will no longer be sufficient.  Scientists have stated that nations need to step up in their efforts to protect natural habitats.  

For more information, visit Iowa environmental focus dot org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Sara E. Mason.

 

 

The delicate balance between carbon and Earthworms


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Worms help keep our soil fertile, but they play a much bigger part in our environment | Photo by Christina Pirker on Pexels.com

Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu | May 21th, 2019

Earthworms are essential to the health of our soil, fertilizing gardens and fields. But their relationship with the earth is complicated–and the link between earthworms and carbon is being continuously investigated by scientists.

North America used to have earthworms. Its native species was wiped out thousands of years ago during an ice age. European settlers brought their own variety to their new home, and the continent has been populated ever since.

Earthworms are simple organisms, but they greatly affect the health of our soil. Some feed on topsoil, while others burrow down, coming up to eat dead leaves on the surface. All varieties help fertilize the ground–but sometimes, if the location isn’t right, earthworm activity does more harm than good.

This is especially true for earthworm activity in North American boreal forests, a network of coniferous (evergreen) trees that normally don’t house these small creatures. As the worms dig down through the soil, they release carbon that’s been packed into the forest floor. Boreal forest floors are essentially carbon sponges, and the spread of earthworms to these previously worm-less regions threatens to release all of that stored carbon, further accelerating our current climate change.

Exactly how these earthworms have spread from their more natural habitat to the evergreen forests of North America is a bit of a mystery, with multiple factors–warmer weather, invasive plants, agricultural practices–at play.

Even as these tiny organisms increase in all the wrong places on our side of the pond, in the UK, topsoil feeders are beginning to disappear, threatening the island’s agriculture. Worms, carbon, and our global food supply are all part of a delicate ecosystem that may slowly be unraveling if we don’t step up to figure out why.

American Bumblebee at Risk of Extinction


Bumblebees declining number are worrying scientist (Flickr)

Sthefany Nóbriga| May 16, 2019

 A new research study from the University of Vermont and York University found that the lack of plant diversity, climate change, and agricultural expansion could harm the American bumblebee, bringing them to extinction. 

Scientists found that Bombus pensylvanicus, commonly known as the American bumblebee, is rapidly declining in the northern part of the continent.

Moreover, this is due to accelerating threats from agricultural expansion, such as widely used insecticides, and the danger of harsh winters throughout the northern region. 

According to the study the number of areas where bumblebees can be found decreased by 70% from historical rates. In Canada, the bumblebee population has dropped approximately 89%

American bumblebees are a keystone species and are vital for the function of ecosystems where they reside, and if they go extinct, the plant reproduction and plant yield could plummet significantly, according to CNN.

Bumblebees use their jaws to rattle flowers until pollen is released, and this process is vital for food crops such as tomatoes, blueberries, strawberries, peppers, and potatoes, and so much more.  

However, already one bumblebee species is on the list of endangered species for unnatural extinction. Also, considered for stated listing are four additional species native to California. 

It’s Invasive Species Awareness Month!


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Familiarize yourself with invasive Garlic Mustard, pictured here,  so you can pull it when you see it (flickr). 

Julia Poska| May 10, 2019

Invasive species often travel across continents via human transportation vessels and the cargo they carry. These species often have no natural predators in their new homes, so their populations explode. The native species that the invaders in turn prey upon are not adapted to defend themselves against these new predators, giving the invasive species an advantage over the native predators that now must share their prey.  The result is a devastating chain reaction that can ripple through entire ecosystems.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds declared May Invasive Species Awareness Month to encourage the public and private sectors to join forces and amp up the fight against ecosystem invaders. Invasive species in Iowa harm agriculture and seriously degrade state parks, which are a source of tourism revenue.

One of Iowa’s most problematic invasive pests is the Emerald Ash Borer, a beetle from east Asia that has killed millions of ash trees across the country in the last 17 years. Another common offender is Garlic Mustard, a tasty herb which is spreading rapidly through Iowan woodlands and crowding out native plant species. A full guide to problematic invasive plant species found in Iowa’s woodlands can be found here.

Gardeners will be familiar with many invasive bugs and weeds, like the Japanese Beetle, the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug and bull thistles. These pests and others can pose real threats to Iowa farmers, and many are tracked by the Iowa State Ag Extension Office.

How can you help?

  • Do not buy or sell firewood from outside your county. Firewood can contain and spread invasive insects like the Emerald Ash Borer.
  • Scrub shoes and clean clothes before and after trips outdoors to avoid spreading seeds, especially when visiting public lands.
  • Remove invasive plants where you recognize them. Some groups and parks host volunteer days to pull invasive species.

Flooding bring disease filled mosquitoes to Western Iowa


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Mosquitoes that can bring disease.  (pexels).

Ayotoluwafunmi Ogunwusi | May 9th, 2019

Western Iowa has been suffering from flooding since march and some unwanted guests have flown in. Mosquitoes are very common insects the fly around during the summer period and according to new research from Iowa State University, western Iowa has the largest presence of mosquitoes carrying the west Nile virus.

The West Nile Virus can be transmitted by the Culex tarsalis, a type of mosquito. These mosquitoes usually gather and breed in pools of water and the flooding may have helped them gather is large amounts.

Iowa state professor and entomologist Ryan Smith believes that the virus is concerning as it is the leading cause of mosquito-born diseases in the United States.

The virus could affect one in five people bitten by the mosquito, and could lead people to develop fevers or potentially fatal diseases. The number of human cases in Iowa fluctuate every year, and scientists are still trying to find out the factors that influence yearly transmission rates.

There are many ways to prevent the disease, such as, by spraying insect repellent or wearing long sleeve shirts. This is the time of the year when the mosquitoes rise in number, early summer to early fall. The importance of our health and safety is number one.

 

 

Monarch Butterflies Migrating to Iowa


Monarch Butterflies Migrate to Iowa Every Year (Flickr).

Sthefany Nóbriga| May 8, 2019

 Researchers from Iowa State University predict that this spring Iowans will see the largest population of monarch butterflies in over a decade. 

The monarch butterflies migrate every winter to Canopy Forest in central Mexico. During the winter of 2013 to 2014, the monarch population plummeted, covering less than 2.5 acres of the forest, the lowest point of the population in the past two decades. This is partly because of the loss of summer breeding habitat and pesticide use. 

However, this past winter scientist noted Mexico’s most significant overwintering monarch population since 2007. Almost 200 million adult monarch butterflies were recorded, and now they are migrating up north.

According to the researchers from Iowa State University, the reason for the increase in the monarch population is due to mild winters in Mexico, and southern parts of the United States in comparison to other years. 

Scientists are hopeful and want to maintain the monarch population and preserve their numbers. But it is reported that there is a shortage of potential breeding habitats in Iowa to maintain a steady population. 

In order to maintain this population, there must be approximately 480,000 to 830,000 acres of habitat over the next 10 to 20 years according to Iowa Public Radio. 

If the weather stays favorable, Iowans will be seeing a large monarch population starting at the end of May or even early June.