Artificial endosymbionts

Image: Buchnera aphidicola photo from Wikimedia Commons Weird things that pop up in my Google Scholar Alerts: This morning I was alerted to a patent application for “artificial endosymbionts” (and methods pertaining to them) which were incorporated into a bunch of different types of mammalian cells! These included human T-cells, neural cells, stem cells, and cancer cells, among others.  The artificial endosymbiont is a magnetotactic bacterium with a fluorescent reporter, and the bacteria are passed on…

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Localized agriculture (update)

Back in June I posted about Zumkehr and Campbell (2015) Front Ecol Environ. In their article they evaluate the potential for the U.S. to provide a local food supply. In the most recent issue of Font Ecol Environ, Zumkehr and Campbell receive a couple responses, which deserve attention. The first, by David Cleveland of UC-Santa Barbara, is the most well-rounded and interesting. Basically, he argues that our food system is very complex and that localization isn’t always…

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Test of the enemy release hypothesis (Schultheis et al. 2015)

Image: Figure 1 from Schultheis et al. (2015) Ecology. The enemy release hypothesis (ERH) seeks to explain why some exotic species become invasive.  Basically,  ERH proposes that a lack of co-evolved natural enemies in the introduced (adventive) range means that there will be less top-down pressure regulating the exotic species, which allows it to reach higher densities than it does in its native range. Of course, the intensity of top-down pressure is not the only…

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Backup your hard drive, humans!

Image: Force of gravity equation from waitbutwhy.com If you have any interest in space flight, interplanetary colonization, or the survival of the human species, read this amazingly fun, detailed, and informative (and also very long) blog post by Tim Urban. It’s definitely worth the read.      

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Pesticide use in Chinese agriculture

(Open full blog entry to properly display map widget below)   Take a look at the above interactive map (courtesy of the World Bank) which shows the percentage of land area in agriculture for different countries (2010-2014 data).  In 2012, 44.7% of the United States land area was agricultural. In China, 54.8% of the land was in agricultural use. Even small changes in how we farm are important because agriculture takes up such a massive chunk of terrestrial…

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Biological invasions → greenhouse gas emissions (Qiu 2015)

Image: Figure 4 from Qiu (2015) Global Ecol Biogeogr. Looking for a PhD project? Jiangxiao Qiu, a PhD student in Monica Turner’s lab at University of Wisconsin, Madison, just published your proposal. There are so many well outlined knowledge gaps and research questions in his new meta-analysis in Global Ecology and Biogeography, it makes me jealous. There’s quite a bit of literature out there now about how climate change may affect biological invasions. For example, Stachowitz…

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Support for intermediate landscape complexity hypothesis (Jonsson et al. 2015)

Image: Representation of the ‘intermediate landscape-complexity hypothesis’ from Tscharntke et al. (2012). With agricultural intensification pushing to provide more food, bioenergy, and other products for a growing human population, there is also a great need for concurrent intensification of ecological services like biological control of pest insects. There have been many strategies tried over the years to increase ecosystem services on farms, for example planting flower strips with the intent of providing extra resources for biological control…

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Homogenized gastropods. Gross.

No, I don’t mean a slurry of slugs and snails. I’m talking about spatial homogenization of biodiversity on a global scale. Capinha et al. (2015) just got a paper in Science (good for them!) reporting global distributions of native and non-native gastropods (Title: The dispersal of alien species redefines biogeography in the Anthropocene). The results are stark. The image above, Fig 2 from Capinha et al. (2015), shows how species composition changes with distance for…

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A totally local U.S. food supply? Really?

Update: see recent comments to Zumkehr and Campbell (2015) here.   I buy a lot of locally produced food, and there are lots of good reasons to do so. In part, I’m motivated by the idea of a transformed agricultural landscape – one with increased plant diversity and heterogeneity. I get wrapped up in the idea that this new landscape could result in massively improved ecological services. For example, increased landscape diversity is often associated with increased biological control…

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