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Nature: Microbiome: Soil science comes to life (2013)

Nature: Microbiome: Soil science comes to life (2013) | The Amateur Ecologist | Scoop.it

Farmers have long tried to improve the chemical and physical condition of their soils, seeking to make more nutrients available to their plants, to retain more moisture in the soil, and to ease the growth of plant roots. But they have typically ignored the role of the teeming diversity of fungi and bacteria in the soil.

 

Now, however, soil biologists are beginning to understand the significance of the interactions at work in the microbiome surrounding plants' root systems. Recent research has shown, for example, that major food crops can be made dramatically more stress tolerant by transplanting into them various microbiota, such as fungi or bacteria, that colonize other species. There is a clear parallel with medical science, where the myriad microorganisms on our skin and in our gut are now recognized as crucial mediators of a whole range of bodily responses — an understanding that has profoundly changed the way we think about human health.

 

In agriculture, the drive to eliminate pathogens has encouraged a bazooka approach to the soil microbiome with the widespread use of biocides and fungicides. But the role of the microbiome is too varied and complex for this to be sustainable. “We are standing on a treasure of beneficial microbes, each of them contributing a little bit to plant yield,” says Alexandre Jousset, a microbiologist at the University of Göttingen, Germany. “Understanding how these diverse communities help plants to resist adverse situations will open new doors to developing sustainable practices, calling up microbial services that are sleeping in virtually any soil.”


Via Kamoun Lab @ TSL
Peter Buckland's insight:

Excellent article on the importance of bacteria and fungi to a 'healthy' soil.

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Geoponics Corp's curator insight, September 25, 2013 9:48 PM

Yes-- diversity in the soil is key! 

Tania Gammage's curator insight, September 26, 2013 9:08 PM

excellent article for science curriculum plants/ecological systems...love the use of "bazooka approach"

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Interesting ecological snippets from around the UK and occasionally further afield.
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Lawns

Lawns | The Amateur Ecologist | Scoop.it

I am not a lover of lawns.  Rather would I see daisies in their thousands, ground ivy, hawkweed, and even the hated plantain with tall stems, and dandelions with splendid flowers and fairy down, than the too-well-tended lawn. ~W.H. Hudson, The Book of a Naturalist, 1919

 

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The Drugs (Neonicotinoids) Don’t Work 4

The Drugs (Neonicotinoids) Don’t Work 4 | The Amateur Ecologist | Scoop.it

"Why do farmers buy pesticides when the scientific evidence strongly suggests that some are not cost effective?  In previous blogs ..... I suggest that sales success can stem from fear, the need for an insurance policy and, very importantly, the system of commission based selling in the pesticides market."

Peter Buckland's insight:

Do farmers suffer from ’insinuation anxiety'?

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Citizen Science Blog - Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Citizen Science Blog - Cornell Lab of Ornithology | The Amateur Ecologist | Scoop.it
A blog inspired by the contributions and passions of citizen scientists
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New blog from the Cornell Lab.

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Pollinator-Friendly Lawns

Pollinator-Friendly Lawns | The Amateur Ecologist | Scoop.it
We can learn to appreciate the natural beauty of a field rich in a variety of low-growing plants including broad-leaved “weeds.” In fact, let us remove the negative connotations of this word by calling them “grass companions” instead.
Peter Buckland's insight:

More on replacing that manicured lawn. Bring it on!

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Britain’s First Bug Reserve – is OPEN

Britain’s First Bug Reserve – is OPEN | The Amateur Ecologist | Scoop.it
Something fantastic has happened, something that has taken a decade to achieve – Canvey Wick has been transformed from a brownfield site condemned be developed into a protected and highly valued nature reserve – opened this week by wildlife presenter and author Steve Backshall. 
Peter Buckland's insight:

Another great success story of the conversion of a condemned brownfield site into a wildlife sanctuary.

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Natural History is Dying, and We Are All the Losers

Natural History is Dying, and We Are All the Losers | The Amateur Ecologist | Scoop.it

"A better approach, ............ is introducing kids to an older form of technology: microscopes. Even a simple stereo or dissecting microscope offers access to a fascinating universe of mites, springtails, and nematodes easily viewable in a bit of compost or soil, they say, and is a far more engaging experience than mindlessly flipping through photos in an exhibit or randomly pushing buttons."

Peter Buckland's insight:

A great article.

'Natural History' began to disappear from the UK school curriculum with the onset of the 'new' Biology and the emergence of the National Curriculum in the 80s. The attempt by so-called educationalists to make biology more 'scientific' by removing the study of individual and groups of organisms and the emphasis on investigation and fair tests at the expense of the practical skills of observation and recording did little to foster a lifelong interest in plants and animals. Within the article there are some excellent ideas for the reintroduction / re-emphasis of Natural History.

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Hedgehogs' inky paw prints point to sparse distribution

Hedgehogs' inky paw prints point to sparse distribution | The Amateur Ecologist | Scoop.it

"Hedgehogs are more thinly spread in the UK than previously believed, a study using ink pads to record their paw prints has revealed."

Peter Buckland's insight:

These are interesting results and it is good to see that further research is being carried out. The technique is easy for amateurs and kits can be purchased or made  from easily obtainable materials.

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Sugar versus Auxin: which is dominant?

Sugar versus Auxin: which is dominant? | The Amateur Ecologist | Scoop.it
A team show that bud outgrowth following apical bud removal takes place >24 hours before changes in auxin content in the adjacent stem.
Peter Buckland's insight:

New evidence suggests it is sugar supply which is the main trigger for the growth of lateral buds rather than the assumed changes in auxin supply.

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Swashed away

Swashed away | The Amateur Ecologist | Scoop.it

How do tiny beach inhabitants turn risk into opportunity?

Peter Buckland's insight:

Interesting piece on the behaviour of talitrids.

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More Garden Friends: Parasitic Flies

More Garden Friends: Parasitic Flies | The Amateur Ecologist | Scoop.it
Tachinid flies are important natural biological controls. They parasitize insects, some of which are serious agaricultural pests.
Peter Buckland's insight:

"Many tachinids look superficially like house flies and in my opinion some, especially the fat hairy ones, are downright ugly. You may want to get rid of them thinking that they are pests. Instead, you should treasure them as the garden friends that they are." - Beatriz Moisset

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A garden built for dragonflies

A garden built for dragonflies | The Amateur Ecologist | Scoop.it
In a quiet suburb of Victoria, entomologist Rob Cannings has built a beautiful garden as a playground and breeding place for dragonflies. He has installed an intricate network of three ponds, connected by gently flowing streams and designed specifically to attract all sorts of colourful dragonflies and damselflies, such as the Pacific Forktail, Blue-eyed Darner…
Peter Buckland's insight:

What an amazing project!

 

“I find them extraordinarily beautiful. And unlike a lot of insects that are hard to see because they are hidden in vegetation or under rocks, dragonflies are big and colourful and have interesting behaviour.”

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Scientist warns of soil biodiversity loss

Scientist warns of soil biodiversity loss | The Amateur Ecologist | Scoop.it
The scientist responsible for making next year the United Nations International Year of Soils says far too little is known about the microscopic life forms which are critical to healthy soil.
Peter Buckland's insight:

Far too little is known about soil biodiversity and the processe which may affect it.

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Meadow protection plan 'backfires'

Meadow protection plan 'backfires' | The Amateur Ecologist | Scoop.it

Some 98% of English meadows have been lost to intensive farming, but the rate of loss nearly doubled after the EU said it wanted to protect grasslands.

The report says many farmers responded by digging up their meadows before tighter rules could be introduced."

Peter Buckland's insight:

"These precious and important habitats were once ubiquitous – vital for pollinators and rare species; they’re now are rare and vulnerable – and the mechanisms to protect them are failing.”

 
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Farms, factories and fertiliser: the effects of air pollution on peatlands

Farms, factories and fertiliser: the effects of air pollution on peatlands | The Amateur Ecologist | Scoop.it
I guess we all tend to think that the landscapes we grow up with are ‘normal’ and it didn’t occur to me then that there was anything unusual about a landscape of bare black peat, deep erosion gullies and heather.
Peter Buckland's insight:

Excellent article outlining the impact of industry and farming on the quality of peat lands with particular reference to the Peak District National Park."

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The Scientist: Opinion: The Planet Needs More Plant Scientists (2014)

The Scientist: Opinion: The Planet Needs More Plant Scientists (2014) | The Amateur Ecologist | Scoop.it

Academia is not producing sufficient PhDs in the plant sciences to solve the crop production challenges facing a rapidly growing population.


Via Kamoun Lab @ TSL
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Yet more evidence of the decline in plant sciences

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Floodplain meadows are the new amenity

Floodplain meadows are the new amenity | The Amateur Ecologist | Scoop.it

"The water persisted for some months but of course dried up when warm weather came. After a hot summer, the ground flora was looking very different to the near-monoculture present only a year ago."

Peter Buckland's insight:

Some ecological consequences of the severe flooding last winter in the UK.

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A Touching Story: Ancient Conversation Between Plants, Fungi and Bacteria

A Touching Story: Ancient Conversation Between Plants, Fungi and Bacteria | The Amateur Ecologist | Scoop.it
The mechanical force that a single fungal cell or bacterial colony exerts on a plant cell may seem vanishingly small, but it plays a heavy role in setting up some of the most fundamental symbiotic relationships in biology
Peter Buckland's insight:

Fascinating article about the origins and development of the relationship between plants, fungi and bacteria.

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Don't overlook what’s underfoot – save the bugs and germs

Don't overlook what’s underfoot – save the bugs and germs | The Amateur Ecologist | Scoop.it
One of the biggest problems for conservation today is that it ignores 95% of all known species on Earth. Could a company ignore that proportion of its clients or a government so many of its voters? So why does this problem exist in conservation?
Peter Buckland's insight:

The importance of the ammonia oxidisers amongst other things!

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BSBI News & Views: England Red List for Vascular Plants: the launch

BSBI News & Views: England Red List for Vascular Plants: the launch | The Amateur Ecologist | Scoop.it

"The first England Red List for Vascular Plants was launched yesterday at Kew Gardens and is now available to download free of charge via the BSBI website here. "

Peter Buckland's insight:

"Top findings of the England Red List show that a fifth of England’s wildflower species are under threat, with the majority of these threatened species suffering a decline of 30% or more."

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Wildflower meadow: establishment

Wildflower meadow: establishment | The Amateur Ecologist | Scoop.it
Wildflower meadows are an alternative to lawns and borders, and can provide a display for many months. Choose from annual meadows that provide a one-off show or perennial meadows that persist from year to year.
Peter Buckland's insight:

Great practical advice on the establishment of a wildflower meadow.

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Useless Creatures (and Why They Matter)

Useless Creatures (and Why They Matter) | The Amateur Ecologist | Scoop.it
Wildlife is and should be useless in the same way art, music, poetry and even sports are useless. They are useless in the sense that they do nothing more than raise our spirits, make us laugh or cry, frighten, disturb and delight us. They connect us not just to what’s weird, different, other, but to a world where we humans do not matter nearly as much as we like to think.
Peter Buckland's insight:

Great article by Richard Conniff - well worth a read

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Citizen scientists find city-dwelling bumblebees enjoy a cooling breeze with their summer sun

Citizen scientists find city-dwelling bumblebees enjoy a cooling breeze with their summer sun | The Amateur Ecologist | Scoop.it
Initial results of a citizen science experiment carried out this year have shown more bumblebees being observed in urban localities compared to suburban and rural settings. The findings challenge the expectation that suburban locations are best because of the diversity of garden flowers
Peter Buckland's insight:

A great citizen science project encouraging the involvement and engagement of children - initial analysis of results.

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A good century for slugs…

A good century for slugs… | The Amateur Ecologist | Scoop.it

“Invasion of the giant cannibal Scandinavian slugs: Cambridge gardens under siege from unstoppable monster molluscs” - so says this week’s Cambridge News. The truth is slightly less horrific, but still pretty dramatic.

Peter Buckland's insight:

Great piece about slugs. From 30 species in 1983 to 43 in 2014.

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How do we save UK plant sciences?

How do we save UK plant sciences? | The Amateur Ecologist | Scoop.it

The UK Plant Sciences Federation is looking for suggestions from you! The concerns are not restricted to the UK (lack of student interest and teacher preparedness, lack of funding and job opportunities etc), so wherever you are please share your insights and solutions.


Via Mary Williams
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Bad news for British biodiversity and a comment on ecosystem services

Bad news for British biodiversity and a comment on ecosystem services | The Amateur Ecologist | Scoop.it

"...... to implement the ecosystem services concept within society we don’t need to know the finer details and dynamics of the species/communities/ecosystems involved (as interesting as they are). What we require is as much natural and semi-natural habitat within a landscape as is possible, appropriately managed (or left alone), and with as few anthropogenic stressors on it as possible (e.g. pesticides and other pollutants).  And we’ve known that for many years ....."

Peter Buckland's insight:

An interesting read from Jeff Ollerton's blog

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