30 Species Discovered … in L.A.? Cities Buzz With Life

Urban biodiversity isn’t just limited to buzzing insects. Last year, a study found that 54 cities are home to 20 percent of the world’s bird species. In the city of Lyon, scientists found nearly a third of all the bee species native to France. It turns out that cities are a good place for some animals to live- and how humans decide to manage their cities can make those habitats better or worse for the local fauna… Anyone who has ever walked through a flock of pigeons knows birds do pretty well in cities, too. That isn’t to say that birds prefer cities- urban areas only retain about 8 percent of the bird species that otherwise would have lived in the area, according to a study led by Myla Aronson of Rutgers University… But cities are still filled with a rich variety of birds. Aronson and her team looked at 54 cities around the world and found that 20 percent of known bird species can be found flying in urban centers…"From city to city, across the world, maintaining natural habitat within a city is important for biodiversity," Aronson told NBC News.

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Nuclear War Could Ignite ‘Global Food Crisis’

I recently absorbed some alarming information on nuclear weapons and the catastrophic global impact of even a small-scale nuclear war… For starters, a very interesting article in The New Yorker focused on three Plowshares peace activists, including an 82-year-old nun, who easily broke into the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Y-12 is the nation’s sole industrial complex where weapons-grade uranium is fabricated and stored, according to the article by Eric Schlosser… Lastly, I looked at a recent study by Lili Xia and Alan Robock of Rutgers University and several others on the potential impact of a regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan… I talked with Robock, a Wall resident, meteorologist and distinguished professor in Rutgers University’s Department of Environmental Sciences, this morning. He said the researchers calculated that a nuclear war between India and Pakistan, involving 50 nuclear weapons apiece, would generate 6.5 million tons of black soot.

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In Search of the World’s Biggest Fish

For more than a decade, researcher Zeb Hogan has spent much of his time traveling around the world on a singular mission: to find and learn more about the world’s largest freshwater fish. Through his photographs and a show he hosts on Nat Geo Wild called "Monster Fish," he’s helped many people discover and appreciate these beasts… The highlights of his research on the conservation status and accurate size of various fish are being presented beginning March 25 at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C., an exhibition Hogan describes as a "one-stop-shop for everything megafish."… Olaf Jensen, fish ecologist at Rutgers University, says that the exhibit is "great stuff, Zeb has done a fantastic job of bringing the conservation challenges regarding big fish to a public audience." Jensen has collaborated with Hogan to study the world’s largest trout, known as a the taimen, in Mongolia. They have found that these species require large stretches of river to survive, and that there is a growing number of people catching and releasing the animal… These fishermen must buy permits from the government, money which goes to conservation efforts. While overfishing can harm animals, and has in the past in many areas, well-regulated catch-and-release fishing can be beneficial, since it can help prevent development and damming of river areas, Jensen adds.

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Arctic Sea Ice is at its Lowest

The spring and summer melt season is officially on for Arctic sea ice, and it’s not off to a good start. The 2015 melt season will start with a record low maximum ice extent… According to scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, sea ice extent was 425,000 square miles below the 1981-2010 average. That’s the equivalent of 1.6 times the size of Texas (the largest state in the Lower 48) or 411 Rhode Islands (the smallest state). No matter how you measure it, it represents a huge missing chunk of ice… This year’s record low maximum for winter sea ice in the Arctic doesn’t guarantee another record low minimum when summer rolls around in August. But it is cause for concern and provides a clear sign of how the planet is changing as the Earth warms… "The fact that we’re starting the melt season with low- maybe record low- winter extent cannot be good," Jennifer Francis, a Rutgers University Arctic researcher, said in an email right before the records came in.

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Puzzles Posed by a Chilly Northern Winter

The northeastern United States copped a chilly hiding for the second year in a row this winter, as massive storms dumped record-breaking snowfalls in January, February and March… There are four major jet streams on Earth- one polar and one subtropical in each hemisphere- and a host of smaller streams scattered around. They circle the planet 11 kilometres above and have a huge effect on the weather below. Because they set the boundary between cold and hot air, changes in their path can mean the difference between a mild winter and a deep freeze.. A number of natural factors can affect a jet stream’s speed and course, such as mountain ranges and changes in sea-surface temperature patterns. But Jennifer Francis, a climate scientist at Rutgers University in New Jersey, believes global warming is the main culprit causing recent changes. In 2012, Francis- with Steven Vavrus, a climate modeller from the University of Wisconsin – proposed Arctic warming contributes to the polar jet stream swinging further north and south.

Read the entire article at www.cosmosmagazine.com »