Tip sheet for the Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment May 2018 Issue


Environmental generational amnesia – how it happens and what it means for the future

Members of each generation tend to view the environmental conditions in which they were raised as "normal," which means that someone who has only ever experienced a highly degraded environment may accept those surroundings as a standard baseline. This psychological and sociological phenomenon has been dubbed "shifting baseline syndrome" (SBS) in fisheries science, but there is evidence of its occurrence in many circles, including wildlife conservation, water quality, and climate change. In ESA's journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment , Masashi Soga and Kevin Gaston explore empirical evidence for SBS in these realms and argue that SBS creates a number of positive feedback loops that only further accelerate its effects and perpetuate environmental degradation. The authors offer four key strategic recommendations for preventing – and ideally reversing – SBS.

Author Contact: Masashi Soga ([email protected])

* Soga M and Gaston KJ. 2018. Shifting baseline syndrome: causes, consequences, and implications. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 16: 222-30. https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/fee.1794

Nursing new coral reefs

Climate change and other stressors – both local and global – are causing mass coral bleaching events and bringing diseases to reefs worldwide. Most restoration efforts tend to focus on transplanting – or "outplanting" – new corals raised in nurseries to repair damaged reefs. In ESA's journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, UC Santa Barbara researcher Mark Ladd and his colleagues surveyed coral restoration practitioners to see what factors were most important to them when selecting locations for coral outplanting (it's generally not wise to plant coral in areas where coral-eating creatures are abundant, or where coral-choking algae populations thrive). Surprisingly, they found that these kinds of ecological processes were not frequently considered in coral restoration. The authors outline how practitioners can make reef restoration more effective by promoting herbivory in restored areas, reducing coral predation and disease, promoting the presence of algae-farming fishes, attracting nutrient-depositing fish, and limiting competition – all using knowledge about the ecological processes that take place on coral reefs.

Author Contact: Mark C Ladd ([email protected])

* Ladd MC, Miller MW, Hunt JH, et al. 2018. Harnessing ecological processes to facilitate coral restoration. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 16 : 239-47. https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/fee.1792

The fish whisperer: finding aquatic voices among the bubbles

Anyone who has ever put their head underwater in a lake or river and heard the muffled sounds of the water environment might be surprised to hear that freshwater bodies are full of distinguishable sounds that can be picked up by underwater microphones. Passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) has been used in marine systems for decades but has rarely been applied in freshwater. In ESA's journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment , "fish listener" Simon Linke of the Australian Rivers Institute, along with his colleagues, explores what PAM can teach us about fish, macroinvertebrates, and physicochemical processes in aquatic habitats, and what it will take to overcome some of the hurdles to operationalizing PAM techniques on a larger scale.

Author Contact: Simon Linke ([email protected])

* Linke S, Gifford T, Desjonquères C, et al. 2018. Freshwater ecoacoustics as a tool for continuous ecosystem monitoring. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 16: 231-38. https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/fee.1779

Large-scale forest thinning is the best way to store carbon in forests that might burn

In the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California, wildfires are becoming more frequent and more intense. Forests represent a massive – but temporary – stockpile of organic carbon, so when the forests burn, that stored carbon is released to the atmosphere, further compounding the problem of accumulating greenhouse gases. In ESA's journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, Shuang Liang, Matthew Hurteau, and Anthony Westerling explore the forest restoration treatments that would optimize carbon storage in fire-susceptible climate conditions. They found that while reducing fire risk via tree thinning means less carbon storage in the short term, a large-scale, accelerated thinning approach that reduces fire risk is more "carbon cost-effective" than trying to transition to a thinned-out forest more slowly.

Author Contact: Matthew Hurteau ([email protected])

* Liang S, Hurteau MD, and Westerling AL. 2018. Large-scale restoration increases carbon stability under projected climate and wildfire regimes. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 16 : 207-12. https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/fee.1791

How carbon moves in fragmented forests

Agriculture and urban expansion are increasingly fragmenting forests into smaller and smaller pieces. Forests store large amounts of carbon in the form of organic matter – carbon that might otherwise exist in a more transitory form, such as atmospheric CO2 – and smaller forests mean less carbon storage. But a fragmented forest whose trees cover the same surface area as an intact forest doesn't necessarily store the same amount of carbon or store it in the same way. In ESA's journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment , Boston University and Harvard University scientists show how the "edges" around a fragmented area of forest cause forest carbon to move differently throughout the ecosystem. The effects of wind, fire, and moisture on the edges of forests are different than the effects of these factors in the middle of an intact forest – the border between a forest edge and the surrounding environment creates a unique microenvironment where, for example, increased wind exposure might mean a higher likelihood of tree mortality (and a loss of stored carbon). Assuming that the carbon cycle in a fragmented forest will follow the same pattern of an intact forest can lead to problematic accounting errors, and the authors warn against these mistakes since future development will likely continue to fragment and expand into forested areas and might otherwise create unexpected forest carbon dynamics.

Author Contact: Ian Smith ([email protected])

* Smith IA, Hutyra LR, Reinmann AB, et al. 2018. Piecing together the fragments: elucidating edge effects on forest carbon dynamics. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 16 : 213-221. https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/fee.1793


The Ecological Society of America, founded in 1915, is the world's largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 9,000 member Society publishes five journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society's Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

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