Showing posts from August, 2013

When animal and plant populations move up and out

Plants are not always as static as they seem. While most individual plants stay relatively still compared to most animals (no, not all), plant populations can shift laterally over time in an analogous way to animal populations. The main difference is the rooted nature of plants means that they move slowly, across generations. The cause of this is usually environmental: the species is shifting as the climate changes or as competition or another form of pressure encroaches it.

Richard Brusca and colleagues have published the results of a plant survey in Arizona which shows that species distributions have changed in the last 50 years. Since a survey carried out by Robert Whittaker in 1963, the vegetation on an area of the Catalina Mountains has crept its way higher up the mountain. Given the difference requirements and tolerance range of different plant species, the entire vegetation does not shift simultaneously or equally; this means that community composition has changed as some plant…

Is the Amazon still hurting over old extinctions?

Mineral nutrients are essential components of any ecosystem. Their absolute presence and relative representation in an environment help shape habitats and the communities that can be supported on them. These nutrients can be one of the most important limiting factors to an ecosystem's productivity.

The Amazon rainforest is one of the biologically richest environments on Earth. However, its soil is relatively poor, and much of the vegetation it supports lives on other plants (e.g. see previous posts Who's who up a tree and Kingdom in the canopy). One important limited nutrient in the Amazon Basin as a whole is phosphorous. Phosphorous (hereafter represented by its chemical symbol, P) is important for all living cells, with an active roll in energy transport and obtention in the form of ATP; as a core component of our DNA in the form of inorganic phosphate; and composing the living cell walls as phospholipids. Plants have the ability to take inorganic P from the soil and incorpo…

World Lion Day

On April 27th I wrote a post (and baked a cake) for International Tapir Day – it seemed relevant to celebrate the buggers that were skilfully evading my camera traps. Nearly every day is a "World <insert animal here> Day". So, I'm not going to ramble about each of them, but it turns out that apparently today is the first World Lion Day, a campaign raising awareness for the king of the savannah.

Twelve and a half months in Ecuador

· 00:20 GMT-5, 2nd July 2012 - Arrived in Ecuador's capital, Quito, when the airport was still smack bang in the middle of the city. · 18:55 GMT-5, 22nd July 2013 - Watched the sparkling night lights that sprawl over Quito's mountainous fa├žade shrink beneath the plane that took me from the equator.

In an attempt to summarise the uncompressable and spare you my rambling, I've selected five photos from each of the months I spent in Ecuador on industrial placement. They're not necessarily the best photos nor personal favourites, but they all mean or represent something.