114 news posts related to Ecology

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Tiny fishes fuel life on coral reefs

Most bottom-dwelling fish try to avoid predation through hiding or camouflage. This colorful bluebelly blenny fish scans its surroundings with its head sticking out of its hole.

Coral reefs typically evoke clear, turquoise waters and a staggering number of colorful fishes. But what supports such an abundance of life? In a paper published May 23 in Science, a team of international researchers from Simon Fraser University, University of Washington and other institutions reveals that the iconic abundance of fishes on reefs is fueled by an unlikely source: tiny, bottom-dwelling reef fishes. 

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How the ears of wild Sockeye Salmon provide clues to how key salmon habitat shifts year-to-year

The new study led by the University of Washington shows that analyzing the ear stone — called an otolith — of wild Sockeye Salmon in Alaska reveals how key salmon habitat shifts year-to-year. Published in Science on May 23, the study suggests that different parts of the watershed are hot spots for salmon production and growth. These favorable locations change year-to-year depending on climate conditions and their impacts on local landscapes, which affects the value of the habitats. 

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Only one-third of the world’s longest rivers remain free-flowing, new analysis finds

Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River in Washington.WSDOT

Just over one-third of the world’s 246 longest rivers remain free-flowing, according to a new study published May 8 in Nature. Dams and reservoirs are drastically reducing the diverse benefits that healthy rivers provide to people and nature across the globe. A team of 34 international researchers from McGill University, World Wildlife Fund, the University of Washington and other institutions assessed the connectivity status of 12 million kilometers of rivers worldwide, providing the first-ever global assessment of the location and extent of the planet’s remaining free-flowing rivers. 

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Arsenic-breathing life discovered in the tropical Pacific Ocean

Jaclyn Saunders (far right) fixes the line on a McLane instrument that pumps large volumes of seawater in order to extract the DNA. The instrument on the left measures properties such as temperature, salinity and depth and collects smaller samples of seawater.

Arsenic is a deadly poison for most living things, but new research shows that microorganisms are breathing arsenic in a large area of the Pacific Ocean. A University of Washington team has discovered that an ancient survival strategy is still being used in low-oxygen parts of the marine environment. “Thinking of arsenic as not just a bad guy, but also as beneficial, has reshaped the way that I view the element,” said first author Jaclyn Saunders, who did the research for her doctoral thesis at the UW School of Oceanography and is now a postdoctoral fellow at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

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Chemical records in teeth confirm elusive Alaska lake seals are one of a kind

Five seals rest on the frozen surface of Iliamna Lake in Alaska.

Hundreds of harbor seals live in Iliamna Lake, the largest body of freshwater in Alaska and one of the most productive systems for sockeye salmon in the Bristol Bay region. These lake seals are a robust yet highly unusual and cryptic posse. Although how the seals first colonized the lake remains a mystery, it is thought that sometime in the distant past, a handful of harbor seals likely migrated from the ocean more than 50 miles (80 kilometers) upriver to the lake, where they eventually grew to a consistent group of about 400. 

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