Shhh… Don’t wake the Kraken

1335759279_kraken by Ramses MelendezWhat turns an inconspicuous plant into an economically and ecologically damaging alien invader? Or to paraphrase this blog title – why does the Kraken awake? The answer is not simple. Several hypotheses exist, including lack of natural predators in the introduced range (the enemy release or habituation hypotheses).

However alien invaders often take time to become problematic. This lag phase, when plants may be called sleeper weeds, indicates that invaders may be adapting to their new environments. But recent research finds that multiple introductions of invaders during this phase can create a new breed of super weed.

The Kraken Wakes – a huge legendary sea monster,
remade as an alien invader by John Wyndham

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Engaging hearts and minds to reverse the biodiversity crisis

mass-extinction_1077_600x450Lets us be in no doubt – we are in the midst of the greatest biodiversity crisis the world has ever seen. The rate of extinction today is greater than at any other time in the history of life on earth.  The last 2 thousand years has also been recognized as a new geological period – the Anthropocene (see earlier post here) – the period when humans are having an overarching influence on the trajectory of the environment and biodiversity.

The reasons for this decline aren’t rocket science and are largely due to habitat fragmentation, invasive species and climate change. If species are to stop going extinct they will need large enough areas to maintain healthy populations.

But why aren’t we doing more to protect species from extinction?

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Posted in Extinction, Managing Biodiversity, Social Value, Threats and extinction, Uncategorized, Valuing biodiversity | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Give the land a break, and have some confidence in resilience

5826442-1x1-700x700The ability of the bush to bounce back after extensive grazing cannot be guaranteed. A farmer from Sanderson in the foothills of the South Australian Mt Lofty Ranges, Brenton Newman, had more faith than that and destocked his land to give it chance to recover. However the devastating Eden Valley bushfire burnt through 95% of the property last year, potentially derailing the early stages of recovery. Almost one year on, the land, which is still destocked, is showing amazing signs of recovery and recolonisation by native species.

Click here to view a good news story by Simon Royal for the ABC 7:30 report

Click here to view original story (and here) just after the devastating fire had ripped through the property

Posted in Changing Biodiversity, Managing Biodiversity | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Local is not always best


The use of local seed is widely advocated for habitat restoration and is based on the premise that locally sourced seed will be the best adapted for the local conditions at restoration sites.

However, a ‘local is best’ seed sourcing practise (where seed for planting establishment is only sourced from native habitat within a few km of the restoration site) misses two important points, which may be seriously impacting on restoration outcomes, particularly resilience in the face of future environmental and climate change.

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Silent running

We’ve been doing some silent running for a while, but we are about to ramp up again.

silent running

We’ll start with uploading some articles that have been published over the last year or so and then feed into new material produced from across the group

Happy reading

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Good news for one whale (and her friend)

Humpback whale breaching. Image by Whit Welles Wwelles14, licensed under GNU FDL

Humpback whale breaching. Image by Whit Welles Wwelles14, licensed under GNU FDL

There aren’t too many good stories around these days, so it’s nice to find one when it happens.

Crew members of a whale-watching vessel spotted a regular visitor to the local waters around Long Island in trouble: the humpback, nicknamed Foggy, had rope wrapped around her head and tail, dragging a mass of old lobster traps beneath her.

But Foggy wasn’t alone Continue reading

Posted in Conservation and restoration, Managing Biodiversity | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Animated evolution – Stated Clearly by Jon Perry

Bird beaks evolved for different purposes. Image by L. Shyamal, licensed under Creative Commons 2.5

Bird beaks evolved for different purposes. Image by L. Shyamal, licensed under Creative Commons 2.5

Sunday was the anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species (first published on 24th November 1859 – you can find his collected works here), so it’s a perfect time to talk about evolution.

Evolution can be a difficult concept to grasp. So I was delighted to find the Stated Clearly series of short, simple animations by Jon Perry that aims to explain random mutation, natural selection, DNA, and many other aspects of evolution.

Simple explanations like this are incredibly valuable for biology teachers, as well as for others who have an interest in the field but have never studied biology. And making a series of short animations about individual aspects of evolution works far better than one long, tedious, serious film because you can pick the bits you’re interested in.

Perry and his team have produced 3 animations already, and aim to create a total of 21: for this they’ll need your help, so please consider making a contribution to help them produce more animations, and you can pat yourself on the back for helping to make evolution more widely understood. And in these days, when there seems to be so much backlash against science, that’s a very good thing.

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Octopus selfies

The octopus that stole Victor's camera. Screen grab from the video.

The octopus that stole Victor’s camera, joyriding on his speargun. Screen grab from the video.

It’s not often that you get to say “an octopus ate my homework stole my camera”, but diver Victor Huang got to say just that. While diving off the coast of Wellington, New Zealand, an octopus stole his camera and swam off with it.

Victor gave chase, managed to catch up with it, and ended up taking the octopus on a joyride while it was wrapped around his speargun (which he’d waved as a distraction to get his camera back). Here’s the video of the event.

New Zealand – it’s not just about the hobbits. :-)

Posted in Managing Biodiversity, Valuing biodiversity | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Hello nightmares – why scorpions glow in the dark

Scorpion under UV light. Photographer: Alan Henderson. Source: Museum Victoria

Scorpion under UV light. Photographer: Alan Henderson. Source: Museum Victoria

I’m pretty sure that almost no-one loves scorpions – they’re not far behind spiders in the ‘primal nightmare’ stakes, given the whole scuttling thing and the poisonous sting. But they are fascinating for at least one reason: they glow under UV light.

You might wonder why this happens – after all, you’d think a glowing scorpion would be easy prey to any aerial predator on the hunt for something crunchy. But it seems that they use this facility to hide from predators. Continue reading

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Mimicry and warning in the insect world

Image: © Nevit Dilmen found at Wikimedia commons

Atlas moth. Image: © Nevit Dilmen, found at Wikimedia commons

Taking a break from the wonderful world of octopods, but still within the “amazing creatures” realm, I’d like to introduce you to some interesting mimicry and other colouration in the insect world.

Many insects can’t credibly threaten most predators, so they rely on protective colouration to escape detection or, failing that, to pretend to be something else that might pose a threat to the predator. A very common form of protection is camouflage, Continue reading

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