Tag Archives: ecosystems

Who cares about the blobfish?

Hugh Possingham and his team are making conservation more efficient. They’re helping to save less fashionable threatened species by getting more bang for the bucks donated to cute and cuddly species.

The team of ecologists and mathematicians in the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Environmental Decisions (CEED) worked with the New Zealand government to assess how to better spend money that is donated to conservation. They’ve shown that by protecting habitats shared by several different species, the money donated to charismatic ones can be stretched further to save other species as well.

Could this koala help save less cute species? 9credit: Liana Joseph
Could this koala help save less cute species? (credit: Liana Joseph)

“The way we currently attempt to save species is inefficient, choosing species that are popular or charismatic, like koalas and tigers, over those that are less well known or even ugly, like the blobfish,” says Hugh, ARC Laureate Fellow and Director of CEED.

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Virtual management of the world’s oceans

New computer models are challenging the conventional wisdom in marine science.

Virtual management of the world’s oceans
Beth Fulton’s fisheries models are used all over the world. Credit: Istockphoto
These models have revealed for example that: large populations of jellyfish and squid indicate a marine ecosystem in trouble; not all fish populations increase when fishing is reduced—some species actually decline; and, sharks and tuna can use jellyfish as junk food to see them through lean periods.

The models were developed by the 2007 Science Minister’s Life Scientist of the Year, Dr Beth Fulton, a senior research scientist at CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research in Hobart.
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Fresh Science 2010

Each year we identify early-career scientists with a discovery and bring them to Melbourne for a communication boot camp. Here are some of their stories.

More at www.freshscience.org.au

Print your own lasers, lights and TV screens

Print your own lasers, lights and TV screens
Jacek Jasieniak sprinkling quantum dots. Credit: Jacek Jasieniak

Imagine printing your own room lighting, lasers, or solar cells from inks you buy at the local newsagent. Jacek Jasieniak and colleagues at CSIRO, the University of Melbourne and the University of Padua in Italy, have developed liquid inks based on quantum dots that can be used to print such devices and in the first demonstration of their technology have produced tiny lasers. Quantum dots are made of semiconductor material grown as nanometre-sized crystals, around a millionth of a millimetre in diameter. The laser colour they produce can be selectively tuned by varying their size.

Cling wrap captures CO2
Colin Scholes operates a test rig for his carbon capture membrane. Credit: CO2 CRC

Cling wrap captures CO2

High tech cling wraps that ‘sieve out’ carbon dioxide from waste gases can help save the world, says Melbourne University chemical engineer, Colin Scholes who developed the technology. The membranes can be fitted to existing chimneys where they capture CO2 for removal and storage. Not only are the new membranes efficient, they are also relatively cheap to produce. They are already being tested on brown coal power stations in Victoria’s La Trobe Valley, Colin says. “We are hoping these membranes will cut emissions from power stations by up to 90 per cent.”

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Ocean acidification threatens marine ecosystems

Ocean acidification, caused by increasing amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide dissolving in the ocean, poses a serious threat to marine ecosystems.

Increasing acidity affects the ability of some planktonic organisms to form shells, and is expected to change the species composition of plankton, with flow-on effects to higher levels of the food web.

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Antarctica under threat

Climate change will impose a complex web of threats and interactions on the plants and animals living in the ice-free areas of Antarctica.

Increased temperatures may promote growth and reproduction, but may also contribute to drought and associated effects. These scenarios are explored in a new book, Trends in Antarctic Terrestrial and Limnetic Ecosystems: Antarctica as a Global Indicator, co-edited by Australian Antarctic Division biologist, Dr. Dana Bergstrom.

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Life beneath the sheets: 9000 years in the dark

Researchers at Geoscience Australia have unravelled the development of a unique seafloor community thriving in complete darkness below the giant ice sheets Looking into the borehole. Credit: Geoscience Australiaof Antarctica.The community beneath the Amery Ice Shelf in Antarctica is 100 kilometres from open water and hidden from view by ice half a kilometre thick. This ecosystem has developed very slowly over the past 9,000 years, since the end of the last glaciation.

Today it is home to animals such as sponges and bryozoans fed by plankton carried in on the current. Dr Alix Post studied shell fossils within core samples where she unexpectedly found evidence of these isolated ecosystems.

Managing tropical fires for greenhouse gas abatement

Tiwi Ranger Leon Puruntatameri lighting experimental fires as part of the Tiwi Carbon Study. Credit: CSIRO Darwin
Tiwi Ranger Leon Puruntatameri lighting experimental fires as part of the Tiwi Carbon Study. Credit: CSIRO Darwin

The economic potential of carbon is the focus of a new fire project on the Tiwi Islands, 80 kilometres north of Darwin in the Northern Territory and home to 2,000 Aboriginal Australians. Nearly half of the Tiwi Islands are burnt every year, resulting in significant greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing the extent of fire may provide substantial financial benefits under the emerging carbon economy.

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Surviving in the city

ARCUE is working to understand how plants and animals adapt to urban life. Credit: Janusz Molinski/Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne
ARCUE is working to understand how plants and animals adapt to urban life. Credit: Janusz Molinski/Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne

Why do some plant and animal species thrive in the city while others disappear?

Most ecological studies are done in natural environments not in towns and cities so we lack information on urban ecology.

A team from Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens is changing that.

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Are forests really the carbon sink we need?

Ivett_300x180Evidence is building to suggest that our forests may not be the climate change ‘get out jail free’ card we all want.

Australian Rivers Institute’s Assoc. Prof. Peter Pollard has researched rainforest lakes and rivers to test a provocative theory. The respiration of bacteria living and ‘breathing’ in these freshwater ecosystems is a major pathway for the return of rainforest carbon back to the atmosphere as the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

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