NCEAS News and Announcements

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January 9, 2013

Wildflowers, Coyote Ridge, Santa Clara County, CA California exhibits one of the richest floras on the planet, with more than 5,500 native plant species, approximately 40% of which are endemic. This study, published in Evolution, shows that California’s current biodiversity primarily results from low extinction rates, as opposed to elevated specialization or immigration rates, as previously believed.

January 4, 2013

Graph, Beak Height

The Ecological Society of America, Cornell Lab of Ornithology and NCEAS are pleased to announce the release of a new version of Science Pipes. Science Pipes is a free service that lets you connect to real ecological data, use simple tools to create visualizations and web feeds, and embed results on your own site or blog.

January 2, 2013

Salp bloom off the coast of New Zealand

Recent media reports have created a perception that jellyfish blooms may be increasing in the world's oceans, but a new international study suggests that there is no robust evidence for proof of a global increase in jellyfish over the past two centuries. Blooms, or proliferations, of jellyfish can show a substantial, visible impact on coastal populations –– clogged nets for fishermen, stinging waters for tourists, and choked cooling intake pipes for power plants. The key finding of this study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, shows that global jellyfish populations undergo concurrent oscillations with successive decadal periods of rise and fall, including a rising phase in the 1990's and early 2000's that has contributed to the current perception of a global increase in jellyfish abundance.


December 18, 2012

Great Lakes cumulative stress map

This study merged high-resolution spatial analyses of environmental stressors with mapping of ecosystem services for all five Great Lakes. Current restoration efforts have targeted high-stress sites almost exclusively, but generally without knowledge of the full range of stressors affecting these locations or differences among sites in service provisioning. An environmental stress map was developed by a binational team of researchers from academia and environmental organizations, known as the Great Lakes Environmental Assessment and Mapping (GLEAM) project. Results demonstrate that joint spatial analysis of stressors and ecosystem services can provide a critical foundation for maximizing social and ecological benefits from restoration investments.

December 7, 2012

Science for Everyone!How healthy are our oceans?
with Dr. Ben Halpern, Director, Center for Marine Assessment and Planning
Thursday, December 13, 5:30-6:30 PM (Pacific Daylight Time)
Basement auditorium, 735 State Street, Santa Barbara
This event is free and open to all.
The talk will also be broadcast live on the internet.

December 5, 2012

 Between sagebrush, a continuous cover of cheatgrass fuels an intense fire in the Great Basin.A study published in Global Change Biology finds an invasive grass species may be one reason fires are bigger and more frequent in certain regions of the western United States. Results demonstrate that cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) invasion has substantially altered the regional fire regime. Although this result has been suspected by managers for decades, this study is the first to document recent cheatgrass-driven fire regimes at a regional scale.

November 28, 2012

Drop of Water on Bishop Pine needle

Assessing the ecological importance of clouds has substantial implications for our basic understanding of ecosystems and for predicting how they will respond to a changing climate. This study was conducted in a coastal Bishop pine forest ecosystem that experiences regular cycles of stratus cloud cover and inundation in summer. The study concludes that clouds are important to the ecological functioning of these coastal forests, providing summer shading and cooling that relieve pine and microbial drought stress as well as regular moisture inputs that elevate plant and microbial metabolism.



November 19, 2012


Synthesizing frontiers in modeling drought- and insect-induced tree mortality with climate change
Principal Investigator(s): William Anderegg, Jeffrey Hicke, and Rosie Fisher

Establishing an open-source animal-tracking analysis platform for archival geolocators
Principal Investigator(s): Eli Bridge, David Winkler, Eldar Rakhimberdiev, and Nathaniel Seavy

Global impacts of climate change on kelp forest ecosystems
Principal Investigator(s): Jarrett Byrnes, Sean Connell, and Mark Novak

Land use change and infectious diseases
Principal Investigator(s): Andrew Dobson, Nita Bharti, and Matt Bonds

Developing comprehensive management models for marine mammals
Principal Investigator(s): Leah Gerber

Dance with neighbors: What have we learned about species coexistence in tree communities from the global stem-mapped forest plots?
Principal Investigator(s): Fangliang He, Rick Condit, Stephen Hubbell, and Thorsten Wiegand

When is a mutualist a cheater? A synthesis of conceptual and data-based perspectives on the causes and consequences of variation in mutualist quality
Principal Investigator(s): Emily Jones and Maren Friesen

Warming food webs
Principal Investigator(s): Mary O'Connor and Hamish Greig

Synthesizing top-down and bottom-up approaches to ecological energetics
Principal Investigator(s): Jane Shevtsov

A standard assessment framework for ecosystem services
Principal Investigator(s): Dean Urban, Lydia Olander, and Pat Comer

Fungal pathogens and disease-induced extinction: Are fungal diseases different?
Principal Investigator(s): Jamie Voyles, Cheryl Briggs, and Marm Kilpatrick

November 2, 2012

Culex Quinquefasciatus Mosquito On Human Finger Photo Credit: Jim Gathany

Malaria transmission models to date assume constant or linear responses of mosquito and parasite life-history traits to temperature, predicting optimal transmission at 31 °C. These models are at odds with field observations of transmission dating back nearly a century. This study ‘s model, which includes empirically derived nonlinear thermal responses, predicts optimal malaria transmission at 25 °C (6 °C lower than previous models). Moreover, the model predicts that transmission decreases dramatically at temperatures > 28 °C, altering predictions about how climate change will affect malaria. Using these more accurate nonlinear thermal-response models will aid in understanding the effects of current and future temperature regimes on disease transmission.
October 30, 2012

Kelp forest

The NCEAS team of Kappel and co-PIs Ben Halpern and Kimberly Selkoe — with partners at Stanford’s Center for Ocean Solutions, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) — have been awarded $3.1 million from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation for the soon-to-launch study, “Ecosystem Thresholds and Indicators for Marine Spatial Planning.” This four-year project will explore ecological and socio-economic thresholds or “tipping points” in marine ecosystems, and develop tools that help managers use this information to make better decisions about how people interact with and use those ecosystems.
September 25, 2012

 Coral Reef at Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge

A new article in PLoS ONE uses social network theory to study global interactions in coral reefs using social networks. Reefs are built up over thousands of years by hard corals with the help of their symbiotic partner, Symbiodinium, a single-celled algae that lives within the coral tissue – a symbiont. The study found that most corals have very few Symbiodinium partners, but that a handful of corals have many symbionts. This was important because it’s generally believed that most corals have few symbiont options to choose from. The study also found that transmission mode was important in these communities: young corals get their Symbiodinium from their parents or from the environment, but not both. Symbiodinium types were usually passed on through only one of these strategies, nearly dividing the networks in half. This research is important to understanding basic interaction patterns between corals and Symbiodinium. With a greater understanding of this important mutualistic interaction, we’ll be better equipped to protect coral reef communities – and the species they support.

August 31, 2012

KeplerThe REAP and Kepler Projects are pleased to announce the beta release of the open source Kepler Sensor Platform.

The Kepler Sensor Platform enables:

August 28, 2012

Science for Everyone!Lake Baikal, the Sacred Sea of Siberia
with Dr. Stephanie Hampton, Deputy Director, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS)
Thursday, September 13, 5:30-6:30 PM (Pacific Daylight Time)
NCEAS lounge, 3rd floor, 735 State Street, Santa Barbara
This event is free, open to all, and will feature light refreshments.

August 15, 2012

Ocean Health IndexFrom the many millions who count on ocean fisheries for their livelihoods to the uncounted lives saved by intact coral reefs during the 2004 Asian tsunami, people all over the world depend upon healthy oceans. But how healthy are our oceans? A new measurement tool, the Ocean Health Index, answers that question for every coastal country in the world. The Index goes far beyond just the "pristineness" of the world's oceans to measure the overall benefits people are receiving from the oceans.

August 7, 2012


Seafood is essential for human welfare the world over, as a source of nutrition and as a source of employment. The production of seafood also plays an outsized role in the health of coastal and marine ecosystems, with the two traditional seafood categories (fished or farmed) having very different impacts on the environment. Increasingly though, these two types of seafood production are blurring together. As a consequence, in a study published in the journal Marine Policy, marine researchers call for the use of a third "hybrid" category of seafood production. As seafood production methods shift, the use of this hybrid category should assist policymakers that are attempting to balance human welfare with environmental protection. This study stemmed from a NCEAS working group focussed on globally sustainable seafood and marine ecosystem restoration.

July 25, 2012

DataONEIn response to the growing need for a way to easily access and analyze massive amounts of heterogeneous data in the fields of earth and environmental sciences, UC Santa Barbara’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, a core partner in a joint effort to streamline such research, presents DataONE, the Data Observation Network for Earth.

May 23, 2012

flowerFar more wild plant species may be responding to global warming than previous large-scale estimates have suggested. It follows a detailed NCEAS working group study, released in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study shows that many plant species, which appear to not be affected by warmer spring temperatures, are in fact responding as much to warmer winters.

Divergent responses to spring and winter warming drive community level flowering trends
Benjamin I. Cook, Elizabeth M. Wolkovich, and Camille Parmesan
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, May 21, 2012 (online)

UCSB press release

Following is a sample of the media coverage of this study:
Phys Org: More plant species responding to global warming than previously thought
SciTechDaily: Increased number of plant species responding to global warming

More information about this project's research , participants and publications

May 9, 2012

Algae Utilizing and synthesizing data from nearly 200 published articles, NCEAS researchers examined the effects of various environmental stressors on plant growth and decomposition, two crucial processes in any ecosystem. They measured the rate of species loss in different ecosystems, and found that where there was greater plant species loss, there was an increased negative impact on plant growth and an alteration in decomposition. The effects of biodiversity loss on biomass were similar to the effects from other environmental stressors, including global warming, pollution, and acid rain.

A global synthesis reveals biodiversity loss as a major driver of ecosystem change
David U. Hooper, E. Carol Adair, Bradley J. Cardinale, Jarrett E. K. Byrnes, Bruce A. Hungate, Kristin L. Matulich, Andrew Gonzalez, J. Emmett Duffy, Lars Gamfeldt and Mary I. O’Connor
Nature, 11118, May 2, 2012 (online)

UCSB press release

Following is a sample of the media coverage of this study:
National Science Foundation: Ecosystem effects of biodiversity loss rival climate change and pollution
Scientific American: How biodiversity keeps earth alive
CORDIS News: (Europe) Biodiversity loss a major threat to plant growth, researchers warn
Earth Times: Biodiversity loss from species extinctions may rival pollution and climate change impacts
Futurity: Extinction's toll could rival climate change
The News Tribune: WWU biologist: Loss of plant biodiversity could affect ecosystems as much as global climate change, pollution
The Seattle Times: WWU biologist: Plant diversity key to ecosystem
Statesman Journal: Ecology: WWU biologist says plant diversity key to ecosystem
UPI: Study: Biodiversity loss hits environment

More information about this project's research, participants and publications

May 2, 2012

Researchers collecting data from a new climate change experiment near Boston.

An NCEAS working group found that experiments may dramatically underestimate how plants will respond to climate change in the future. Their findings, published in Nature, indicate that shifts in the timing of flowering and leafing in plants due to global warming appear to be much greater than estimated by warming experiments. As a result, species could change far more quickly than such studies suggest, possibly affecting water supplies, pollination of crops and ecosystems.

April 20, 2012

Oil containment boom surrounds New Harbor IslandUpon the second anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, a national panel of researchers offers a new model for understanding what happened in this disaster, how to think of such events in the future, and why existing tools were inadequate to fully predict what lay before them. The findings of the NCEAS' "Ecotoxicology of the gulf oil spill: A holistic framework for assessing impacts" working group are published in the May issue of BioScience.


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