Matching Items (14)

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A Review of the Sargassum Seaweed Issue Plaguing the Gulf of Mexico

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Beginning in 2011, the Gulf of Mexico and all of the surrounding coastlines saw a rapid influx of pelagic Sargassum seaweed. The issue continues to worsen, and as larger amounts

Beginning in 2011, the Gulf of Mexico and all of the surrounding coastlines saw a rapid influx of pelagic Sargassum seaweed. The issue continues to worsen, and as larger amounts of Sargassum continue to wash ashore the affected regions are becoming threatened on multiple fronts. These previously unseen quantities of Sargassum seaweed are creating a host of serious environmental, economic, and health concerns. Affected areas are desperately searching for solutions to help remove the seaweed while wondering if these Sargassum covered beaches will become the new norm. While currently these concerns are centralized in coastal regions of the Gulf of Mexico, there is no evidence that the issue will not proliferate leading to wide-scale global problems. This paper investigates the various concerns created by the inundation of the Sargassum seaweed, researches the unique characteristics of the thriving species of Sargassum in hopes of identifying a solution, and explores the potential market value these solutions may have in an attempt to mitigate the large-scale impact of the Sargassum invasion.

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Date Created
  • 2019-05

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Classication for Conservation: A Random Forest Model to Predict Threatened Marine Species

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As threats to Earth's biodiversity continue to evolve, an effective methodology to predict such threats is crucial to ensure the survival of living species. Organizations like the International Union for

As threats to Earth's biodiversity continue to evolve, an effective methodology to predict such threats is crucial to ensure the survival of living species. Organizations like the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) monitor the Earth's environmental networks to preserve the sanctity of terrestrial and marine life. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species informs the conservation activities of governments as a world standard of species' risks of extinction. However, the IUCN's current methodology is, in some ways, inefficient given the immense volume of Earth's species and the laboriousness of its species' risk classification process. IUCN assessors can take years to classify a species' extinction risk, even as that species continues to decline. Therefore, to supplement the IUCN's classification process and thus bolster conservationist efforts for threatened species, a Random Forest model was constructed, trained on a group of fish species previously classified by the IUCN Red List. This Random Forest model both validates the IUCN Red List's classification method and offers a highly efficient, supplemental classification method for species' extinction risk. In addition, this Random Forest model is applicable to species with deficient data, which the IUCN Red List is otherwise unable to classify, thus engendering conservationist efforts for previously obscure species. Although this Random Forest model is built specifically for the trained fish species (Sparidae), the methodology can and should be extended to additional species.

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Date Created
  • 2018-05

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Flame retardant contamination in seafood and its significance for conservation

Description

Consumption of seafood poses a substantial threat to global biodiversity. Chemical contamination found in both wild-caught and farmed seafood also presents significant health risks to consumers. Flame retardants, used in

Consumption of seafood poses a substantial threat to global biodiversity. Chemical contamination found in both wild-caught and farmed seafood also presents significant health risks to consumers. Flame retardants, used in upholstery, plastics, clothing, and other products to reduce fire danger, are of particular concern as they are commonly found in the marine environment and permeate the tissues of fish that are sold for consumption via multiple pathways. By summarizing various metrics of sustainability and the mercury content in consumed species of fish and shellfish, researchers have found that high levels of chemical contamination was linked with lesser fishery sustainability. I conducted a literature review of flame retardant content in seafood to further compare contamination and sustainability in addition to the initial analysis with mercury. My review suggests that the widespread issue of fishery collapse could be alleviated by demonstrating to stakeholders that many unsustainable fish stocks are mutually disadvantageous for both human consumers and the environment. Future research should address the need for the collection of data that better represent actual global contaminant concentrations in seafood.

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Date Created
  • 2014-05

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Urban Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: A Comparative Study

Description

This project examines a complex issue in urban ecology: the impact of biodiversity on ecosystem services, and considers how this varies across cities. Data were gathered on multiple economic and

This project examines a complex issue in urban ecology: the impact of biodiversity on ecosystem services, and considers how this varies across cities. Data were gathered on multiple economic and ecological parameters for a selection of seven cities around the world and analyzed via multiple linear regression in order to assess any relationships that may be at play. Significance values were then calculated to further define the relationships between the data. Analysis found that both biophysical and socioeconomic factors affected ecosystem services, although not all hypotheses regarding these relationships were met. Conclusions indicate that this model was fairly effective in describing physical drivers of ecosystem services, but were not as clear regarding social drivers. Further study regarding social parameters' effect on ecosystem services is recommended.

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Date Created
  • 2014-05

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Coffee Agroecosystems: A Conservation Agreement-Based Approach to Protecting Biodiversity in San Martín, Peru

Description

In the Alto Mayo Protection Forest (AMPF) of San Martín, Peru, unsustainable farming practices in coffee agroecosystems are the main drivers of deforestation and habitat loss. Previous studies indicate that

In the Alto Mayo Protection Forest (AMPF) of San Martín, Peru, unsustainable farming practices in coffee agroecosystems are the main drivers of deforestation and habitat loss. Previous studies indicate that across Latin American coffee farms, using shade-grown coffee result in higher biodiversity on the farms with a larger abundance of floral and faunal species. In AMPF, conservation agreements have been implemented between cultivators and Conservation International to ameliorate the environmental damages incurred by poor farming practices, as well as to increase cultivator livelihoods. To measure the effectiveness of these agreements, we compared camera trap data to drone-captured shade cover data to find the correlation between higher shade cover and biodiversity among subscriber plots. While our results showed no interrelationship between shade cover and species abundance or richness, this study was a small subset of the larger study, representing only 15% of the total subscriber plots and 24% of the overall sectors. Therefore, we predict that the results of the larger study will be more conclusive and will better indicate the predicted positive relationship between biodiversity and agroecology in AMPF.

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Date Created
  • 2019-05

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Socio-ecological drivers and consequences of land fragmentation under conditions of rapid urbanization

Description

Land transformation under conditions of rapid urbanization has significantly altered the structure and functioning of Earth's systems. Land fragmentation, a characteristic of land transformation, is recognized as a primary driving

Land transformation under conditions of rapid urbanization has significantly altered the structure and functioning of Earth's systems. Land fragmentation, a characteristic of land transformation, is recognized as a primary driving force in the loss of biological diversity worldwide. However, little is known about its implications in complex urban settings where interaction with social dynamics is intense. This research asks: How do patterns of land cover and land fragmentation vary over time and space, and what are the socio-ecological drivers and consequences of land transformation in a rapidly growing city? Using Metropolitan Phoenix as a case study, the research links pattern and process relationships between land cover, land fragmentation, and socio-ecological systems in the region. It examines population growth, water provision and institutions as major drivers of land transformation, and the changes in bird biodiversity that result from land transformation. How to manage socio-ecological systems is one of the biggest challenges of moving towards sustainability. This research project provides a deeper understanding of how land transformation affects socio-ecological dynamics in an urban setting. It uses a series of indices to evaluate land cover and fragmentation patterns over the past twenty years, including land patch numbers, contagion, shapes, and diversities. It then generates empirical evidence on the linkages between land cover patterns and ecosystem properties by exploring the drivers and impacts of land cover change. An interdisciplinary approach that integrates social, ecological, and spatial analysis is applied in this research. Findings of the research provide a documented dataset that can help researchers study the relationship between human activities and biotic processes in an urban setting, and contribute to sustainable urban development.

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Date Created
  • 2013

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Biodiversity, dispersal, and risk: species spread in ecological and social-ecological systems

Description

The closer integration of the world economy has yielded many positive benefits including the worldwide diffusion of innovative technologies and efficiency gains following the widening of international markets. However,

The closer integration of the world economy has yielded many positive benefits including the worldwide diffusion of innovative technologies and efficiency gains following the widening of international markets. However, closer integration also has negative consequences. Specifically, I focus on the ecology and economics of the spread of species and pathogens. I approach the problem using theoretical and applied models in ecology and economics. First, I use a multi-species theoretical network model to evaluate the ability of dispersal to maintain system-level biodiversity and productivity. I then extend this analysis to consider the effects of dispersal in a coupled social-ecological system where people derive benefits from species. Finally, I estimate an empirical model of the foot and mouth disease risks of trade. By combining outbreak and trade data I estimate the disease risks associated with the international trade in live animals while controlling for the biosecurity measures in place in importing countries and the presence of wild reservoirs. I find that the risks associated with the spread and dispersal of species may be positive or negative, but that this relationship depends on the ecological and economic components of the system and the interactions between them.

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Date Created
  • 2016

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Understanding environmental change and biodiversity in a dryland ecosystem through quantification of climate variability and land modification: the case of the Dhofar cloud forest, Oman

Description

The Dhofar Cloud Forest is one of the most diverse ecosystems on the Arabian Peninsula. As part of the South Arabian Cloud Forest that extends from southern Oman to Yemen,

The Dhofar Cloud Forest is one of the most diverse ecosystems on the Arabian Peninsula. As part of the South Arabian Cloud Forest that extends from southern Oman to Yemen, the cloud forest is an important center of endemism and provides valuable ecosystem services to those living in the region. There have been various claims made about the health of the cloud forest and its surrounding region, the most prominent of which are: 1) variability of the Indian Summer Monsoon threatens long-term vegetation health, and 2) human encroachment is causing deforestation and land degradation. This dissertation uses three independent studies to test these claims and bring new insight about the biodiversity of the cloud forest.

Evidence is presented that shows that the vegetation dynamics of the cloud forest are resilient to most of the variability in the monsoon. Much of the biodiversity in the cloud forest is dominated by a few species with high abundance and a moderate number of species at low abundance. The characteristic tree species include Anogeissus dhofarica and Commiphora spp. These species tend to dominate the forested regions of the study area. Grasslands are dominated by species associated with overgrazing (Calotropis procera and Solanum incanum). Analysis from a land cover study conducted between 1988 and 2013 shows that deforestation has occurred to approximately 8% of the study area and decreased vegetation fractions are found throughout the region. Areas around the city of Salalah, located close to the cloud forest, show widespread degradation in the 21st century based on an NDVI time series analysis. It is concluded that humans are the primary driver of environmental change. Much of this change is tied to national policies and development priorities implemented after the Dhofar War in the 1970’s.

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Date Created
  • 2015

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Flame retardant chemical contamination of seafood, ecologically sustainable fisheries, and significance for biodiversity conservation

Description

Consumption of seafood poses a substantial threat to global biodiversity. Chemical contamination found in both wild-caught and farmed seafood also presents significant health risks to consumers. Flame retardants, used in

Consumption of seafood poses a substantial threat to global biodiversity. Chemical contamination found in both wild-caught and farmed seafood also presents significant health risks to consumers. Flame retardants, used in textiles, upholstery, plastics, and other products to reduce risk of fire-related injury, are of particular concern as they are commonly found in the marine environment and permeate the tissues of fish that are sold for consumption via multiple pathways. The widespread issue of fishery collapse could be alleviated by demonstrating to stakeholders that many unsustainable fish stocks are also unhealthy and mutually disadvantageous for both human consumers and the environment. To thoroughly investigate the confounding factors and contradictory signals enmeshed in the relationship between ecologically sustainable fisheries and flame retardant contamination, I examined the biological characteristics of regional fish stocks which drive both contamination and perceived sustainability. I found that the biological and spatial aspects of commonly consumed aquatic and marine species best predict contamination when compared with various indices of sustainability. My results confirm that knowledge of flame retardant toxicity will become increasingly more important to consumers because a high percentage of global populations rely on coastal seafood for subsistence, and although dispersal of chemical contamination is still a poorly understood phenomenon, fish harvested closer to land are likely to contain higher concentrations of potentially harmful chemicals. Because some of the same biological traits which facilitate the uptake of chemicals also contribute to how a species responds to fishing pressures, concern for private health increases public consideration for the conservation of species at risk.

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Date Created
  • 2015

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The role of environmental education for biodiversity conservation: a case study in the protected areas of Nepal

Description

Balancing conservation goals and needs of local residents is always challenging. While some believe protected areas are a safe paradise for wildlife, others suggest that it is shortsighted to ignore

Balancing conservation goals and needs of local residents is always challenging. While some believe protected areas are a safe paradise for wildlife, others suggest that it is shortsighted to ignore the social and economic challenges faced by people who live adjacent to protected areas when addressing conservation objectives. This dissertation explores the link between biodiversity conservation and environmental education programs (EEPs) administered to residents of buffer zones adjacent to three protected areas in the Terai Arc Landscape, Nepal. Using surveys and interviews, this study examined 1) the influence of EEPs on attitudes of local people toward biodiversity conservation; 2) the influence of EEPs on conservation behavior; 3) the responses toward biodiversity conservation of local people residing in buffer zones who have received different levels of EEPs; and 4) the effect of EEPs on wildlife populations within adjacent protected areas. Local people who had participated in EEPs and attended school were more likely to express a positive attitude toward conservation goals than participants who had not participated in EEPs or had the opportunity to attend school. Participation in EEPs and level of education favored expressed behavior toward conservation goals, such as making contributions for conservation or supporting anti-poaching patrols. However, EEP participants and non-participants were equally likely to engage in activities that were at odds with positive conservation behavior, such as collecting fuel wood or killing wildlife to protect their farm or feed their families. A direct comparison of EEPs given by schools versus non-government organizations showed that EEPs were largely ineffective in promoting positive conservation attitudes and behaviors. Despite heavy poaching of charismatic species such as the greater one-horned rhinoceros or tiger over past decades, Nepal recently celebrated ‘zero poaching years’ in 2011 and 2013, largely due to increased anti-poaching enforcement. The relationship between EEPs and the decline in poaching is unclear, although local officials all claimed that EEPs played an important role. These results indicate that current administration of EEPs in Terai buffer zone communities is inadequate, while also providing evidence that properly administrated EEPs may become a valuable investment for these protected areas to achieve long-term success.

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Date Created
  • 2015