Friday, 27 September 2013

British birds, pollinators and penguin poo - paperblog 7

In the latest edition of the CEH paperblog, we first highlight a recent PLoS ONE paper that involved researchers from Anglia Ruskin University and Dr Shelley Hinsley of CEH in a ten-year study of British birds, and how weather interacts with habitat to determine breeding success. The Cambridgeshire-focused study discovered that birds breeding in urban areas are better able to cope during unusually cold and wet weather, because they are less reliant on a single food source for feeding their chicks. The study compared 2012 - with its notable weather, including a cold and wet spring and lower than average temperatures - to the previous nine years.

Over the whole ten years of the study, birds living in the traditional woodland habitat had fared significantly better and produced larger and healthier broods than their city cousins. However, if extreme weather events become more commonplace due to the effects of climate change, then those birds living in urban environments may ultimately have the advantage. The PLoS ONE paper is open access.

Staying with PLoS ONE, and open access, a study led by Professor Hui Wang of CEH has used new technology to investigate viruses such as varroa destructor virus in honeybees and bumblebees. The results, from a small field trial, show how the use of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technology can help understand virus infections in key pollinating insects, with novel observations even from a small sample size. Such technology has potentially interesting applications in ecological and environmental science.

A new paper in the Journal of Applied Ecology also looks at pollinators and other invertebrates that provide important ecosystem services crucial to crop production. A team of researchers led by CEH mapped the distribution of species richness and functional diversity for ground beetles which are important in the delivery of natural pest control and for bees, important for pollination. Understanding national patterns can help to promote more effective crop management and contribute to longer-term food security.

Next, penguins are under the spotlight in a new paper in Atmospheric Environment. The emissions from remote seabird colonies often represent the main source of atmospheric nitrogen into surrounding ecosystems, and can provide useful case studies for scientists investigating nitrogen cycling and emission processes. However before this study no field-based estimates of ammonia emissions from penguin colonies had been published. Data was collected from seven locations around an Adelie penguin colony in the Antarctic and three different atmospheric dispersion models were used to derive the first field-based emission estimates of a penguin colony.  The researchers, including Sim Tang and Mark Sutton of CEH, estimate that 2% of the nitrogen excreted by the penguins is emitted as ammonia.

Finally, a featured article in the Journal of Environmental Quality led by Prof Andrew Sharpley (University of Arkansas) and involving Helen Jarvie, Bryan Spears and Linda May of CEH, used long-term monitoring data from a range of case studies (including CEH's Loch Leven and River Lambourn sites) to demonstrate the timelines and processes associated with recovery of water quality following phosphorus reduction measures. The team reported recovery times ranging from years to centuries across terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Read more in the open access paper and more background in a CEH news story.

Paulette Burns, Media Coordinator

Additional information

If you'd like a fuller picture of new papers from CEH, just follow the CEH Paper Alerts Twitter feed, which lists CEH peer-reviewed papers newly published online. Full details of Centre for Ecology & Hydrology science publications, including those published in peer-reviewed science journals, are eventually catalogued on the NERC Open Research Archive (NORA).

Those of you who follow the scientific literature will know some journal websites require registration and some are subscription-only. CEH, as part of NERC, is working with publishers and funders to make more of our output open access, and we have indicated above where this is the case.

We also publish lots of our other outputs including biological records atlases and project reports. More details can be found in the publications section of the CEH website.

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