Nature and Conservation News

Pytoplankton gets some of its nutrients from the dust that settles on the ocean surface. Unfortunately, some of this dust, owing to human caused pollution, is toxic to phytoplankton.

Adina Paytan, a marine scientist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and her colleagues have found that air samples from different areas of the world are toxic to the most common phytoplankton species, Synechococcus.

Paytan incubated seawater phytoplankton in flasks filled with different samples of aerosol-rich air. “We wanted to find out how aerosol deposition impacts the phytoplankton community,” Paytan explains. “Our hypothesis was that adding the aerosol will add nutrients to the incubation flasks and the phytoplankton will grow happily.”


Invasion of the invasive earthworms

Cindy Hale, an ecologist at the University of Minnesota, answers e-mails from a lot of distraught citizens of the Great Lakes region. The residents, it seems, have introduced certain earthworms into their gardens, she says, “and now they’ve got that ‘nothing grows here syndrome.’”

Long considered a gardener’s friend, earthworms can loosen and aerate the soil. But the story is different in the Great Lakes region. The last Ice Age wiped out native earthworms 10,000 years ago, and ever since the Northeast forest has evolved without the crawlers, Hale says. But now earthworms are back, a product of fishers who toss their worms into the forest, of off-road vehicles and lumber trucks that carry them in the treads of their tires, and of people who bring in mulch–and any worms that might be in it–from other areas.


Governor Sarah Palin and those Darn Beluga Whales. at Blogfish.

Rising sea levels subject of run-up to international climate talks at SciAm.