New research from North Carolina State University finds that bees in urban areas stick to a flower-nectar diet, steering clear of processed sugars found in soda and other junk food.
“Urban habitats are growing, as is urban beekeeping, and we wanted to see if bee diets in cities are different from those in rural areas,” says Clint Penick, a postdoctoral researcher at NC State and lead author of a paper on the study. “For example, we wanted to know if there are even enough flowers in urban areas to support bee populations, or if bees are turning to human sugar sources, like old soda.”
To find out, the researchers collected worker honey bees (Apis mellifera) from 39 colonies across rural and urban areas within 30 miles of Raleigh, North Carolina. Twenty-four of the colonies were managed by beekeepers; the remaining 15 colonies were feral.
The researchers then analyzed the carbon isotopes in the bee samples to determine what proportion of their diet came from processed sugars — like table sugar and corn syrup — as opposed to flower nectar.
Animals, including bees, incorporate the carbon from food into their bodies. One type of carbon, carbon-13, is associated with grasses such as corn and sugar cane. Researchers can tell how much processed sugar bees consume by measuring each bee’s carbon-13 levels. The researchers took a similar approach in a previous study that evaluated the diet of ants in New York City.
Because beekeepers often supplement their bees’ diet with sugar water, researchers anticipated that domesticated bees would show that a significant proportion of their diet came from processed sugar — especially in urban areas, where the bees would have easy access to soda cans, garbage and other sources of processed sugar. The researchers also predicted that feral bees in rural areas would show virtually no processed sugar in their diet, but that feral bees in urban areas would show evidence of consuming processed sugars.
To their surprise, the researchers found that there was no evidence that urban bees consumed more processed sugar than their rural counterparts. However, domesticated bees did show evidence of consuming significantly more processed sugar than feral bees in both urban and rural environments, which is likely due to beekeepers supplementing their bees’ diet with sugar.
“Basically, bees are relying on flowers in cities and are not turning to human foods to supplement their diet,” Penick says. “This is good news for urban beekeepers. The honey in their hives is mostly coming from flower nectar and not old soda, which is what we originally guessed.”
However, it’s not clear if this would hold true for the biggest cities.
“Our findings are based on research in a mid-sized city,” Penick says. “Even the most urban areas of Raleigh have more than 50 percent open green space. By comparison, the average site in New York City has only 10 percent green space. So more work needs to be done to evaluate bee diets in our largest cities.”
If these findings hold, they suggest that urban flowers and green spaces play an important role in maintaining healthy pollinator populations in cities.
The paper, “The contribution of human foods to honey bee diets in a mid-sized metropolis,” is published online in the Journal of Urban Ecology. The paper was co-authored by NC State’s Catherine Crofton, Holden Appler, Steven Frank, Rob Dunn and David Tarpy. The work was supported by the NC State Beekeepers Association, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the CALS Dean’s Enrichment Grant, and the Southeast Climate Science Center, which is managed by the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center.
The original press release from NC State can be found here.
Photo: Honey bee extracts nectar from flower. Credit: John Severns
Published Date: March 24th, 2018
The U.S. Geological Survey has released a Program Announcement via Grants.gov to request applications to host Climate Science Centers (CSCs) in four regions. Three of these – Alaska, Northwest and Southeast – are re-competitions of the hosting arrangements currently in place in those regions. The fourth is a planned new CSC that would be created by splitting the Northeast CSC region, which presently encompasses all or part of 22 states. This new region would be comprised of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, and Kentucky (see a map of the proposed region here). This proposal was announced in the President’s FY2017 budget, and establishment of the CSC is contingent upon Congressional action on that proposal.
The program announcement invites proposals to host each CSC (including identification of consortium partners), and to determine if their proposed science, partnership, and program support activities and strategies are appropriate to serve in these roles.
To facilitate the financial assistance application process, a series of conference calls or webinars will be conducted by the NCCWSC to accommodate inquiries from Applicants about this program and the proposal review, evaluation, and selection process.
These 2-hour sessions will be scheduled as follows: May 17, 2016 at 2:00 P.M. EDT, Eastern Daylight Time May 18, 2016 at 1:00 P.M. EDT, Eastern Daylight Time Interested applicants should email Kristen Donahue, email@example.com, to obtain call-in/web address information.
Scientists across the country are actively working to conduct research and produce scientific information and knowledge about the ways in which climate change is affecting fish, wildlife, and ecosystems. Not only will this information help advance our scientific understanding as a society, but it can also be directly used by resource managers and decision-makers to help protect important natural resources and to help plan for the future.
Providing scientific information that resource managers can use to inform decisions, however, is not always as easy or straight-forward as it might seem. For example, before starting a research project, scientists and managers may need to meet to discuss the management questions and priorities that need to be addressed. Moreover, once a project is completed, the scientific findings and information must be communicated to managers in a way that is understandable and relevant. These two-way efforts to bring together scientists and managers to develop useful scientific information are often referred to as “knowledge coproduction” (i.e. rather than managers being simply the “end-users” of science, scientists and managers work together to coproduce the scientific knowledge).
Organizations such as the regional DOI Climate Science Centers and the USDA Climate Hubs are working to bring together scientists and managers and to strengthen efforts to coproduce knowledge. Last November, at a Climate Change Conference in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean Climate Hub conducted a series of recorded interviews on topics related to science coproduction and communications. The interviews include a 2-part discussion with Dr. Jerry McMahon, USGS Director of the Southeast Climate Science Center. The short interviews with Dr. McMahon are now available online (see links below). Check out the videos to learn more about the importance of effective science communication and the benefits of having scientists work together with managers and other “science users”.
Image: Scientists and managers gather together on a southeast beach, Credit: Mitch Eaton, USGS
Published Date: March 24th, 2018
From forest to grassland, desert to ocean, many wildlife species are already “feeling the heat” from climate change. Scientists, supported by the eight regional Department of the Interior Climate Science Centers (CSCs) (which are managed by the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center), are actively striving to learn more about what climate change effects on wildlife will look like, whether or not species will be able to adapt and survive, and what natural resource managers can do to help. Here are eight animals that provide a glimpse into how climate change is impacting wildlife across the country.
As temperatures increase there will likely be more big fire years in Alaska, and this is expected to considerably change caribou habitat. For example, wildfire can destroy slow growing lichens in black spruce forests – a highly nutritious and important winter food source for caribou. Loss of winter habitat for caribou caused by fires in spruce forests could also ultimately affect subsistence hunters who rely on caribou for nutritional, cultural, and economic reasons. Learn more about our research >>
2. Loggerhead Sea Turtle
Atlantic sea turtles such as the threatened loggerhead are especially vulnerable to coastal climate change impacts. Loggerhead sea turtles spend most of their lives in the ocean, but every couple years, females come ashore about four or five times per nesting season to lay eggs. These turtles rely on a large area of the southeastern U.S. coastline and have been found to travel as far as 250 miles from one nest to the next! Coastal climate change impacts like rising sea levels, increasing storm frequency, and changing temperature and humidity threaten to eliminate or impair the beaches that loggerheads use for nesting. Learn more about our research >>
3. Snowshoe Hare
Snowshoe hares have evolved the ability to change fur color during different seasons (white in the presence of snow and brown in warmer seasons) in order to camouflage with their surroundings and hide from predators, like lynx and bobcats. Climate change, however, is causing snow in many areas to melt earlier than the hares have grown accustomed to, leaving stark white hares exposed in non-white, snow-less landscapes. Hares are critical players in forest ecosystems, because they are an important prey source for many carnivore species. This increased exposure and vulnerability could cause such high mortality rates that hare populations could rapidly decline, ultimately affecting the entire forest ecosystem. Learn more about our research >>
4. Atlantic Salmon
Atlantic salmon spend most of their adult lives in the sea, but return to the cool freshwater streams of Maine to breed and lay eggs. Northeastern Atlantic salmon are already endangered, and climate change may further threaten their survival. In particular, warming water temperatures and changing patterns of streamflow are problematic for Atlantic salmon. Such changes may reduce the amount of habitat suitable for nesting, decrease the number of eggs that survive, and disrupt the growth and development of young.Learn more about our research >>
5. Hawaiian ‘I‘iwi
The Hawaiian ‘I‘iwi is a native forest bird species found only in the Hawaiian Islands. Like many Hawaiian forest birds, it is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. One of the major reasons for the recent decline in Hawaiian forest birds is their extreme sensitivity to avian malaria, which is spread by a species of introduced mosquito. For decades, these birds have been able to find refuge from the disease in upper mountain forests, where mosquitoes couldn’t survive the cooler temperatures. However, warmer temperatures associated with climate change are now allowing mosquitoes to move up the mountains, possibly making avian malaria inescapable. Learn more about our research >>
6. Wyoming Mule Deer
Herds of mule deer in Wyoming migrate each spring from low elevation winter habitat ranges to higher elevation mountain summer ranges. During migration, mule deer “surf the green wave”, following the greenest vegetation as it gradually emerges throughout the spring from low to high elevation areas. This vegetation also provides high quality food that allows deer to gain enough fat in the summer. However, drought (worsened by climate change) can change the timing and pattern of new vegetation growth and make it more difficult for migrating deer to follow the plants. Learn more about our research >>
7. Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout
The Rio Grande cutthroat trout is a native stream-dwelling trout species found only in the clear waterways of New Mexico and southern Colorado. (Fun fact: The cutthroat trout is the official state fish of New Mexico!) Over the years, Rio Grande cutthroat trout have lost about 85-90% of their historic habitat, mostly due to human development and competition with non-native species, like rainbow trout. The habitat that remains consists of small, separated areas. Reduced summer streamflow and drought, triggered by climate change, pose major threats to the survival of Rio Grande cutthroat trout, because they will make it even more difficult for the fish to travel between areas of suitable habitat. Learn more about our research >>
8. Greater Sage-Grouse
Changing temperature and precipitation patterns have favored non-native cheatgrass, allowing it to spread across much of the southwestern U.S. As cheatgrass cover has increased across the region, so has the extent and frequency of fire – by as much as 200%! In turn, fire is eliminating sagebrush and native grasses in which many native animals, including greater sage-grouse, breed and feed. As sagebrush habitat disappears over time, so may the greater sage-grouse, which depends on this habitat and lives nowhere else in the world. Learn more about our research >>
Mangrove forests and salt marshes perform a variety of beneficial functions: they protect coastlines from storms and erosion, improve water quality, and offer habitat for fish and wildlife. As winter temperatures become warmer and there are fewer freeze events in the southeastern U.S., mangrove forests are expected to expand their range and replace salt marshes.
Scientists are beginning to unpack what this transition means for coastal wetland ecosystems. In a newly released publication in the Journal of Ecology, scientists from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the U.S. Geological Survey point out that changes from mangrove expansion will likely occur not only above ground, but also below. Mangrove forests tend to have more vegetation above ground than salt marshes, as well as (for some) more peat development in the soil. Such differences are relevant in the context of climate change because both above-ground vegetation and below-ground peat act as carbon sinks.
However, one key finding of the researchers is that there’s no one-size-fits-all model for what will happen when mangroves encroach. Instead, the types and extent of changes (especially below ground) are highly dependent on the existing characteristics of the site – for example, its salinity and annual rainfall. In particular, dry, high salinity locations may experience the biggest soil changes (more peat) in response to mangrove arrival. These results are important for helping natural resource managers predict and plan for how coastal wetland ecosystems will respond to climate change in the southeastern U.S.
These findings are part of a larger study investigating the ecological changes associated with mangrove expansion. The study is supported by the Department of Interior Southeast Climate Science Center, which is managed by the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center. The center is one of eight that provides scientific information to help natural resource managers and communities respond effectively to climate change.
Photo: Mangrove forest in St. Mark's National Wildlife Refuge, Wakulla County, Florida. Credit: Alan Cressler
Published Date: March 24th, 2018
There are many models, tools, experts, and maps available that provide decision support for local decision makers to address the potential impacts of rising sea-levels. However, different models are not always developed for the same purposes and it can be difficult to determine which model and resources are the best for a specific given need.
The Northern Gulf of Mexico Sentinel Site Cooperative and the Southeast Climate Science Center (SE CSC) have released a new resource to help resource managers make decisions about models - Keeping Pace: A short guide to navigating sea-level rise models! This quick four-pager covers the importance of sea-level rise model selection, helpful concepts, model categories, and an example of how to utilize these models to address coastal issues.
When many people think of drought, they consider its impacts on human food and water supplies. But the effects of drought can actually go much deeper and are often more insidious. Long periods without rainfall can alter the delicate balance of natural ecosystems and harm many fish and wildlife species. The term “ecological drought” encompasses and emphasizes these environmental consequences. The Science for Nature and People (SNAP) Ecological Drought Working Group defines ecological drought as “a prolonged and widespread deficit in naturally available water supplies — including changes in natural and managed hydrology — that create multiple stresses across ecosystems.”
In 2015, the Climate Science Centers (CSCs), National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center (NCCWSC), and university partners undertook the challenge of understanding the regional effects of drought on wildlife and ecosystems, identifing potential threats to valued resources, and prioritizing research efforts that consider potential drought effects on ecological systems.
To support this initiative, NCCWSC is partnering with the University of Maryland’s Integration and Application Network (IAN) to hold a series of 8 workshops, one with each of the 8 CSC regions. These workshops are aimed at collating existing knowledge of the ecological impacts of and resistance and adaptation to drought across the U.S. The regional workshops will culminate in a national synthesis project where representatives from each CSC will collectively write and publish several papers describing the state of our knowledge on ecological drought.
Keep an eye out over the coming months for a new series of posts on our website. These will describe the outcomes of each of the 8 workshops, give an overview of ecological drought impacts across the country, and provide information on our ongoing drought-related research projects in the 8 CSC regions!
New research from NCCWSC-funded scientists at North Carolina State University and the University of Montana shows that the evolutionary clock is ticking for snowshoe hares, which may not be able to keep up with the seasonal shifts caused by climate change.
Snowshoe hares rely on camouflage for protection, changing their coats from brown in summer to white in winter. This only protects them, however, when snow cover comes and goes each year on the same schedule.
Based on an article published this week in Ecology Letters, changes in snow timing and duration due to climate change are deadly for snowshoe hares. White hares stand out like "light bulbs” against snowless backdrops, presenting an easy target for predators. The researchers collected data from radiocollared snowshoe hares in Montana and found that mismatched hares suffer a 7 percent drop in their weekly survival.
“This paper shows that the mismatch costs are severe enough to cause hare populations to steeply decline in the future unless they can adapt to the change,” says lead author Marketa Zimova.
While individual hares cannot modify their molt timing or behavior, different hares molt at different times, enabling natural selection to favor those with molt schedules better suited to new snow patterns. Evolutionary change is slow, however, so the researchers recommend management actions that promote adaptation.
This research was funded in part by the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center. Lead author Marketa Zimova also received support from the Southeast Climate Science Center. Learn more about the team’s work here.
Photo: White snowshoe hare on a snowless background. Credit: L. Scott Mills Research Photo
(Video will be posted online one to two weeks after the presentation date.)
Loblolly pine is the most productive and valuable commercial forest species in the southeast U.S. and comprises 80% of the planted forestland in the southeast. Southeastern forests contain 1/3 of the contiguous U.S. forest carbon and form the backbone of an industry that supplies 16% of global industrial wood.
In addition to the sessions and presentations below, don't miss the AGU Honors Ceremony and Banquet on Wednesday, December 16 where two Southwest Climate Science Center Principal Investigators, Glen M. MacDonald and Jonathan T. Overpeck, will be recognized for their recent selection as 2015 AGU Fellows!
Communication as a Driver of Landscape Change (Poster Session: GC11D) Convener & Chair: Kristin Timm, Science Communications Lead, Scenarios Network for Alaska and Arctic Planning (SNAP) and the Alaska Climate Science Center* Monday, December 14, 2015: 8:00am - 12:20pm
NOTE: This list includes sessions and presentations where a CSC-affiliate is a primary convener or presenter. CSC staff, researchers and affiliates are involved, as co-authors and partners, on a number of other presentations at AGU. For a full list of programs and presentations at the meeting, please visit the AGU website: http://fallmeeting.agu.org/2015/.