Category Archives: Opinions
The transition of a coral reef to an algal reef as a result of bleaching and overfishing is one of the most readily identifiable examples of a local ecosystem collapse (Image Credit: Stop Adani, CC BY 2.0, Image Cropped)
It’s a bleak headline, and one which was plastered all over my Twitter and Facebook feeds at the start of this week. I’m used to grim news about the environment. It’s part of my job. So there’s nothing particularly surprising about this title.
What it does represent though, is another use of a somewhat sensational term that is ill-defined by scientists and poorly understood by the public. We’ve written about such terms in the past, biodiversity and functional extinction being two examples. Here, I’m referring to ‘ecosystem collapse‘. I get the draw to such a term: people need to be alarmed about climate change and the ongoing loss of biodiversity our planet faces. Ecosystem collapse sounds really alarming.
So I thought I’d swim around in the literature a bit and see if I could figure out what we mean when we talk about ecosystem collapse.Read more
A katydid, proudly displaying the front legs in which it houses its ears (Image Credit: Charlie Woodrow, CC BY 2.0)
Insects are famously one of the most diverse groups of organisms, with over one million species discovered, adapted to nearly every niche on the planet. This diversity has allowed for the evolution of an incredible mix of shapes and sizes, behaviours, and other features. Perhaps the most frequently re-occurring of these traits are their ears, with current estimates stating they have evolved up to 20 times independently, on almost every imaginable part of the body. So just what makes it so easy for insects to evolve ears? And why should we study them?Read more
I just want to start this article off by saying that I had TWO amazing pieces scheduled for today, and I’ve put them both off for next week (my apologies to Yi-Kai Tea and Charlie Woodrow). I’ve done so because the start of this week saw a paper come to Ecology Twitter’s attention that is just plain wild (excuse the pun).Read more
If you were asked what the largest and most common habitat on Earth is, you may intuitively think of forests, grasslands or deserts. When you think of the least explored regions, pictures of some far-off rainforest may come to mind.
Introducing: the deep sea, covering over 70% of our planet, and arguably the most unexplored environment on Earth, which is simultaneously highly vulnerable and currently threatened by human activities.Read more
As an undergraduate student, more than twenty years ago, discussions of species often referenced ‘lumpers’ and ‘splitters’. Some biologists were more likely to ‘lump’ all variation within a single species while others attributed variation to distinct subspecies, and ‘split’ organisms as such. Back then, we talked about biomes such as forests and grasslands but the term ‘microbiome’ barely existed. Now, even the concept of an organism is questioned as some scientists argue that the individual cannot be separated from the microbiome it hosts. Thanks to advances in molecular biology, every organism is now an ecosystem.Read more
Polyps of Schuchertinia allmanii. (Image Credit: Luis Martell, CC BY 4.0, Image cropped)
Earth is a fountain of incredible abundances and varieties of life-forms, with many of them still undiscovered. Biodiversity is a key pillar for our life as we know it, and we are not only a small fraction of it, but also use and harness this richness for the benefit of our own species’ advancement. Many human advances are based on other organisms’ attributes and talents, which is why we use certain species as “model organisms” when pioneering scientific breakthroughs. One example of such a specific form of life has helped us make some serious inroads into forms of regeneration and even immortality over the last few billion years ago, and leading us to great discoveries in science.Read more
Bachelor students studying ecology collect data on a field course with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. (Image credit: Caitlin Mandeville, CC BY 2.0)
The first time I remember really thinking that I could be an ecologist was during a three-day trip to a field station in northern Wisconsin as part of my college limnology course. Sure, I already loved my ecology classes and learning about nature. But actually being a scientist? Real scientists, I thought, were people like my professors and graduate teaching assistants, who peppered their lectures with captivating tales of their own research.Read more