Edgewater, MD, United States

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

www.serc.si.edu
Edgewater, MD, United States

The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center is a United States 2,800-acre environmental research and educational facility operated by the Smithsonian Institution. It is located on the Rhode and West Rivers near Edgewater in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, near the western shore of Chesapeake Bay. The center's focus of study is the ecosystems of coastal zones, particularly in the Chesapeake Bay estuary and nearby wetlands. Wikipedia.

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News Article | May 7, 2017
Site: www.futurity.org

Efforts to control invasive species face a list of significant issues over the next two decades, say ecologists. “Environmental, biotechnological, and sociopolitical trends are transforming risks of invasion worldwide. We have identified some potential game-changers,” says McGill University professor Anthony Ricciardi, who led the study in Trends in Ecology and Evolution. Here are five of the major risks the group identified: Until now, the Arctic has been among the least accessible regions on the planet, escaping extensive and devastating alien species invasions like those that have struck temperate and tropical areas of the world. But the rapid loss of sea ice is opening the region to shipping, oil, and mineral extraction, fishing, tourism, and shoreline development—all of which facilitate introductions of alien species. The loss of sea ice is also creating a major new corridor for international shipping between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, which will affect invasion risks throughout the Northern Hemisphere. “The gold rush has begun for major expansion of human activities in the Arctic, with the potential to cause large-scale alien species transfers” says Greg Ruiz of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. Disease-causing bacteria, water molds, fungi ,and viruses are being given increasing opportunities to spread into regions where they never previously existed and where they may attack new hosts. They can also undergo rapid genetic changes that cause previously innocuous forms to become virulent. Invasive microbes have devastated populations of animal and plants that have had no evolutionary exposure and thus no immunity to them. Recent examples include: the chytrid fungus “Bsal” that is killing salamanders in Europe; the white-nose fungus that is destroying bat colonies in North America; and sea star wasting disease along the Pacific coast of North America, considered to be the cause of perhaps the worst wildlife die-off ever recorded. The proliferation of microbial pathogens is a growing threat to biodiversity, agriculture, forestry, and fisheries. Advances in genomic modification tools hold both promise and challenges for managing invasive species. Very recently, genetically modified versions of an invasive mosquito were released in the Florida Keys in a controversial attempt to interfere with the mosquito’s reproductive life cycle, thereby preventing it from transmitting the invasive Zika, Dengue, and Chikungunya viruses to humans. “The push to use genetically modified agents to control invasive species will continue to grow,” says University of Windsor professor Hugh MacIsaac, “and with it will come public opposition and the view that we are opening Pandora’s Box.” The team also identified changing agricultural practices as a potential source of invasion threats. Virtually unregulated new agricultural crops and practices open the door to potentially disastrous unintended consequences. An Asian cricket species reared for “cricket flour”—all the rage in the United States—has already established in the wild. Worse, as a disease ravages this species, farmers have imported other kinds of crickets that might well invade in nature. But possibly the biggest threat of all is the growing use by agribusiness of soil bacteria and fungi to increase crop production. “The cultivation and distribution of ‘growth enhancing’ microbes could cause some crop plants or plant species residing near agricultural fields to become invasive pests” says University of Tennessee professor Daniel Simberloff. An additional challenge is public perception of invasion science. Scientific evidence on invasive species impacts is under attack, with much of the opposition value-based rather than science-based. This form of science denialism involves a rejection of peer-reviewed evidence along with an attempt to re-frame, downplay, or even deny the role of invasive alien species in global environmental change. “Denialism in science is not new, but its growth in the context of invasive species is especially worrying for people trying to conserve native biodiversity” says professor Tim Blackburn of University College London. “Manufacturing doubt about the negative impacts of invasive species can delay mitigating action to the point where it is too late.”


News Article | May 3, 2017
Site: www.gizmag.com

In the delicate ecosystems of the world, invasive species are akin to cancer. They arrive where they're not wanted, spread aggressively, and they damage the very system in which they live. Kudzu, zebra mussels and Africanized honeybees are some of the more well-known invasive species, but a team of international scientists says those are just the beginning. In a recently released report they warn that a new wave of biological invaders is on its way. The report, which has been published in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution and is the result of a meeting of 17 global experts at Cambridge University, found 14 major issues related to the management and spread of invasive species in the next two decades. "We have identified some potential game-changers" said professor Anthony Ricciardi from McGill University, who led the study. The report makes mention of the spread of invasive species from both animal and plant kingdoms and talks about the way human activities will be affecting them. For example, modern farming techniques that encourage the use of soil bacteria and fungi might have consequences beyond improving crop yields. "The cultivation and distribution of 'growth enhancing' microbes could cause some crop plants or plant species residing near agricultural fields to become invasive pests" says professor Daniel Simberloff from the University of Tennessee. Our work in the lab is also impacting invasive species, especially when it comes to genetic modification. A report about the work from Cambridge University points to the release of mosquitos in the Florida Keys meant to interrupt the disease-carrying bug's reproductive lifecycle. "The push to use genetically modified agents to control invasive species will continue to grow," said professor Hugh MacIsaac from the University of Windsor, "and with it will come public opposition and the view that we are opening Pandora's Box." Also, in terms of human impact on invasive species, the authors of the study site our influence on the Arctic as a major factor. "The gold rush has begun for major expansion of human activities in the Arctic, with the potential for large-scale alien species transfers" says Dr. Greg Ruiz from Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, referring to the way in which melting sea ice has opened up this part of the world to increased human activity. The researchers say that the Arctic was once protected from rampant human exploration, but the melting ice has expanded our forays into the region for fishing, tourism, mining and the development of shorelines. And with increased human activity comes an increase in the likelihood invasive species will be introduced. Of course, some invasive species will do just fine on their own without human influence in the next two decades – particularly bacteria, water molds, fungi and viruses. In terms of their spread, the report points to the "Bsal" fungus wiping out salamanders in Europe; the fungus that causes the bat-destroying white-nose syndrome; and sea star wasting disease which the Cambridge report says is one of the worst wildlife die-offs ever observed. The report also makes mention of the fact that efforts meant to downplay the impact of invasive species have altered the public's perception of the threat they pose, and such a trend needs to be reversed if their influence is to be moderated. "Denialism in science is not new, but its growth in the context of invasive species is especially worrying for people trying to conserve unique native biodiversity" said professor Tim Blackburn of University College London. "Manufacturing doubt about the negative impacts of invasive species can delay mitigating action to the point where it is too late."


We are all becoming increasingly familiar with the impacts of invasive species. Knotweed from Japan can destroy building foundations, zebra mussels from eastern Europe can clog-up drinking water pipes, and an Asian fungus is causing ash tree die-back in our forests. Now an international team of scientists has identified how our rapidly changing world will bring new types of invaders, often from very unexpected places. Invasive non-native species are among the greatest drivers of biodiversity loss on the planet and cost the British economy £1.7bn each year. "Our study found that environmental change, new biotechnology and even political instability are all likely to result in new invasions that we should all be worried about" said Dr. David Aldridge of Cambridge University, who hosted the meeting of 17 scientists from across four continents. Globalization of the Arctic, emergence of invasive microbial pathogens, advances in genomic modification technology, and changing agricultural practices were judged to be among the 14 most significant issues potentially affecting how invasive species are studied and managed over the next two decades. "We have identified some potential game-changers" said Prof. Anthony Ricciardi from McGill University, who led the study. Until now, the Arctic has been among the least accessible regions on the planet, escaping extensive alien species invasions like those that have affected temperate and tropical areas of the world. However, the rapid loss of sea ice is opening the region to shipping, oil and mineral extraction, fishing, tourism, and shoreline development -- all of which facilitate introductions of alien species. The loss of sea ice is also creating a major new corridor for international shipping between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, which will affect invasion risks throughout the Northern Hemisphere. "The gold rush has begun for major expansion of human activities in the Arctic, with the potential for large-scale alien species transfers" says Dr. Greg Ruiz (Smithsonian Environmental Research Center). Disease-causing bacteria, water molds, fungi and viruses are being given increasing opportunities to spread into regions where they never previously existed and where they may attack new hosts. They can also undergo rapid genetic changes that cause previously innocuous forms to become virulent. Invasive microbes have devastated populations of animal and plants that have had no evolutionary exposure and thus no immunity to them. Recent examples include: the chytrid fungus "Bsal" that is killing salamanders in Europe; the white-nose fungus that is destroying bat colonies in North America; and sea star wasting disease along the Pacific coast of North America, considered to be among the worst wildlife die-offs ever recorded. The proliferation of microbial pathogens is a burgeoning threat to biodiversity, agriculture, forestry and fisheries. Advances in genomic modification tools hold both promise and challenges for managing invasive species. Very recently, genetically modified versions of an invasive mosquito were released in the Florida Keys in a controversial attempt to interfere with the mosquito's reproductive life cycle, thereby preventing it from vectoring the spread of invasive Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya viruses to humans. "The push to use genetically modified agents to control invasive species will continue to grow", says Prof. Hugh MacIsaac (University of Windsor), "and with it will come public opposition and the view that we are opening Pandora's Box". The team also identified changing agricultural practices as a potential source of invasion threats. Virtually unregulated new agricultural crops and practices open the door to potentially disastrous unintended consequences. An Asian cricket species reared for "cricket flour" -- all the rage in the USA - has already established in the wild. Worse, as a disease ravages this species, farmers have imported other kinds of crickets that might well invade in nature. But possibly the biggest threat of all is the growing use by agribusiness of soil bacteria and fungi to increase crop production. "The cultivation and distribution of 'growth enhancing' microbes could cause some crop plants or plant species residing near agricultural fields to become invasive pests" says Prof. Daniel Simberloff (University of Tennessee). An additional challenge is public perception of invasion science. Scientific evidence on invasive species impacts is under attack, with much of the opposition value-based rather than science-based. This form of science denialism involves a rejection of peer-reviewed evidence along with an attempt to re-frame, downplay or even deny the role of invasive alien species in global environmental change. "Denialism in science is not new, but its growth in the context of invasive species is especially worrying for people trying to conserve unique native biodiversity" says Prof. Tim Blackburn (University College London). "Manufacturing doubt about the negative impacts of invasive species can delay mitigating action to the point where it is too late." The horizon scan was conducted at Cambridge University's David Attenborough Building and is published in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution (TREE).


Invasive non-native species are among the greatest drivers of biodiversity loss on the planet and cost the British economy £1.7bn each year. "Our study found that environmental change, new biotechnology and even political instability are all likely to result in new invasions that we should all be worried about" said Dr. David Aldridge of Cambridge University, who hosted the meeting of 17 scientists from across four continents. Globalization of the Arctic, emergence of invasive microbial pathogens, advances in genomic modification technology, and changing agricultural practices were judged to be among the 14 most significant issues potentially affecting how invasive species are studied and managed over the next two decades. "We have identified some potential game-changers" said Prof. Anthony Ricciardi from McGill University, who led the study. Until now, the Arctic has been among the least accessible regions on the planet, escaping extensive alien species invasions like those that have affected temperate and tropical areas of the world. However, the rapid loss of sea ice is opening the region to shipping, oil and mineral extraction, fishing, tourism, and shoreline development—all of which facilitate introductions of alien species. The loss of sea ice is also creating a major new corridor for international shipping between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, which will affect invasion risks throughout the Northern Hemisphere. "The gold rush has begun for major expansion of human activities in the Arctic, with the potential for large-scale alien species transfers" says Dr. Greg Ruiz (Smithsonian Environmental Research Center). Disease-causing bacteria, water molds, fungi and viruses are being given increasing opportunities to spread into regions where they never previously existed and where they may attack new hosts. They can also undergo rapid genetic changes that cause previously innocuous forms to become virulent. Invasive microbes have devastated populations of animal and plants that have had no evolutionary exposure and thus no immunity to them. Recent examples include: the chytrid fungus "Bsal" that is killing salamanders in Europe; the white-nose fungus that is destroying bat colonies in North America; and sea star wasting disease along the Pacific coast of North America, considered to be among the worst wildlife die-offs ever recorded. The proliferation of microbial pathogens is a burgeoning threat to biodiversity, agriculture, forestry and fisheries. Advances in genomic modification tools hold both promise and challenges for managing invasive species. Very recently, genetically modified versions of an invasive mosquito were released in the Florida Keys in a controversial attempt to interfere with the mosquito's reproductive life cycle, thereby preventing it from vectoring the spread of invasive Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya viruses to humans. "The push to use genetically modified agents to control invasive species will continue to grow", says Prof. Hugh MacIsaac (University of Windsor), "and with it will come public opposition and the view that we are opening Pandora's Box". The team also identified changing agricultural practices as a potential source of invasion threats. Virtually unregulated new agricultural crops and practices open the door to potentially disastrous unintended consequences. An Asian cricket species reared for "cricket flour"—all the rage in the USA - has already established in the wild. Worse, as a disease ravages this species, farmers have imported other kinds of crickets that might well invade in nature. But possibly the biggest threat of all is the growing use by agribusiness of soil bacteria and fungi to increase crop production. "The cultivation and distribution of 'growth enhancing' microbes could cause some crop plants or plant species residing near agricultural fields to become invasive pests" says Prof. Daniel Simberloff (University of Tennessee). An additional challenge is public perception of invasion science. Scientific evidence on invasive species impacts is under attack, with much of the opposition value-based rather than science-based. This form of science denialism involves a rejection of peer-reviewed evidence along with an attempt to re-frame, downplay or even deny the role of invasive alien species in global environmental change. "Denialism in science is not new, but its growth in the context of invasive species is especially worrying for people trying to conserve unique native biodiversity" says Prof. Tim Blackburn (University College London). "Manufacturing doubt about the negative impacts of invasive species can delay mitigating action to the point where it is too late." More information: Anthony Ricciardi et al, Invasion Science: A Horizon Scan of Emerging Challenges and Opportunities, Trends in Ecology & Evolution (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2017.03.007


Oftedal O.T.,Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Animal | Year: 2012

Lactation represents an important element of the life history strategies of all mammals, whether monotreme, marsupial, or eutherian. Milk originated as a glandular skin secretion in synapsids (the lineage ancestral to mammals), perhaps as early as the Pennsylvanian period, that is, approximately 310 million years ago (mya). Early synapsids laid eggs with parchment-like shells intolerant of desiccation and apparently dependent on glandular skin secretions for moisture. Mammary glands probably evolved from apocrine-like glands that combined multiple modes of secretion and developed in association with hair follicles. Comparative analyses of the evolutionary origin of milk constituents support a scenario in which these secretions evolved into a nutrient-rich milk long before mammals arose. A variety of antimicrobial and secretory constituents were co-opted into novel roles related to nutrition of the young. Secretory calcium-binding phosphoproteins may originally have had a role in calcium delivery to eggs; however, by evolving into large, complex casein micelles, they took on an important role in transport of amino acids, calcium and phosphorus. Several proteins involved in immunity, including an ancestral butyrophilin and xanthine oxidoreductase, were incorporated into a novel membrane-bound lipid droplet (the milk fat globule) that became a primary mode of energy transfer. An ancestral c-lysozyme lost its lytic functions in favor of a role as α-lactalbumin, which modifies a galactosyltransferase to recognize glucose as an acceptor, leading to the synthesis of novel milk sugars, of which free oligosaccharides may have predated free lactose. An ancestral lipocalin and an ancestral whey acidic protein four-disulphide core protein apparently lost their original transport and antimicrobial functions when they became the whey proteins β-lactoglobulin and whey acidic protein, which with α-lactalbumin provide limiting sulfur amino acids to the young. By the late Triassic period (ca 210 mya), mammaliaforms (mammalian ancestors) were endothermic (requiring fluid to replace incubatory water losses of eggs), very small in size (making large eggs impossible), and had rapid growth and limited tooth replacement (indicating delayed onset of feeding and reliance on milk). Thus, milk had already supplanted egg yolk as the primary nutrient source, and by the Jurassic period (ca 170 mya) vitellogenin genes were being lost. All primary milk constituents evolved before the appearance of mammals, and some constituents may have origins that predate the split of the synapsids from sauropsids (the lineage leading to 'reptiles' and birds). Thus, the modern dairy industry is built upon a very old foundation, the cornerstones of which were laid even before dinosaurs ruled the earth in the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. © Copyright The Animal Consortium 2011.


Mccormick M.K.,Smithsonian Environmental Research Center | Jacquemyn H.,Catholic University of Leuven
New Phytologist | Year: 2014

Summary: The distribution and abundance of orchid populations depend on a suite of biological and ecological factors, including seed production and dispersal, availability of mycorrhizal fungi and appropriate environmental conditions, with the weighting of these factors depending on the spatial scale considered. Disentangling the factors determining successful orchid establishment represents a major challenge, involving seed germination experiments, molecular techniques and assessment of environmental conditions. Identification of fungi from large-scale surveys of mycorrhizal associations in a range of orchid species has shown that mycorrhizal fungi may be widespread and occur in varied habitats. Further, a meta-analysis of seed introduction experiments revealed similar seed germination in occupied and unoccupied habitat patches. Orchid rarity was also unrelated to mycorrhizal specificity. Nonetheless, seed germination within sites appears to depend on both biotic and abiotic conditions. In the few cases that have been examined, coexisting orchids have distinct mycorrhizal communities and show strong spatial segregation, suggesting that mycorrhizal fungi are important drivers of niche partitioning and contribute to orchid coexistence. A broader investigation of orchid mycorrhizal fungus distribution in the soil, coupled with fungus and recruitment mapping, is needed to translate fungal abundance to orchid population dynamics and may lead to better orchid conservation. © 2013 New Phytologist Trust.


An ongoing field study of the effects of elevated atmospheric CO2 on a brackish wetland on Chesapeake Bay, started in 1987, is unique as the longest continually running investigation of the effects of elevated CO2 on an ecosystem. Since the beginning of the study, atmospheric CO2 increased 18%, sea level rose 20 cm, and growing season temperature varied with approximately the same range as predicted for global warming in the 21st century. This review looks back at this study for clues about how the effects of rising sea level, temperature, and precipitation interact with high atmospheric CO2 to alter the physiology of C3 and C4 photosynthetic species, carbon assimilation, evapotranspiration, plant and ecosystem nitrogen, and distribution of plant communities in this brackish wetland. Rising sea level caused a shift to higher elevations in the Scirpus olneyi C3 populations on the wetland, displacing the Spartina patens C4 populations. Elevated CO2 stimulated carbon assimilation in the Scirpus C3 species measured by increased shoot and root density and biomass, net ecosystem production, dissolved organic and inorganic carbon, and methane production. But elevated CO2 also decreased biomass of the grass, S. patens C4. The elevated CO2 treatment reduced tissue nitrogen concentration in shoots, roots, and total canopy nitrogen, which was associated with reduced ecosystem respiration. Net ecosystem production was mediated by precipitation through soil salinity: high salinity reduced the CO2 effect on net ecosystem production, which was zero in years of severe drought. The elevated CO2 stimulation of shoot density in the Scirpus C3 species was sustained throughout the 28 years of the study. Results from this study suggest that rising CO2 can add substantial amounts of carbon to ecosystems through stimulation of carbon assimilation, increased root exudates to supply nitrogen fixation, reduced dark respiration, and improved water and nitrogen use efficiency. © 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


Gallegos C.L.,Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Marine Ecology Progress Series | Year: 2014

A 19 yr time series of annual primary production in the eutrophic Rhode River subestuary of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland (USA) was analyzed in relation to climatological and ecological factors. The objectives of this work were to understand factors controlling interannual variations in primary production in a eutrophic estuary and develop a model for tracking future variations in production, in the absence of direct measurements of photosynthetic carbon uptake. Annual production (PA) averaged 328 (range 152 to 612) g C m-2 yr-1. Interannual variability was statistically significant, but there was no significant linear trend or significant non-random variations over the available 19 yr. Climatological indices based on North Atlantic Oscillation or flow of the Susquehanna River, the principal N source to the upper Chesapeake Bay, were not significant predictors of PA. A classification of years based on magnitude of the spring dinoflagellate bloom and timing of nitrate depletion was a significant predictor of PA. Phytoplankton biomass, B, and the light saturated photosynthetic rate normalized to chlorophyll, PB max, were of similar magnitude in their influence on the variance in PA. The high degree of variability in PB max weakened efforts to model both daily and annual production from measurements of chlorophyll and light attenuation. Between 4 and 15 yr of measurements of chlorophyll and light attenuation would be needed to detect a change in trophic status of the sub-estuary, depending on the level of reduction achieved in PA. Average daily production would have to be reduced below 1052 mg C m-2. d-1 to achieve mesotrophic status. © Inter-Research 2014.


Gallegos C.L.,Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Marine Ecology Progress Series | Year: 2014

Daily rates of phytoplankton primary production were calculated from measurements of light saturation curves of photosynthesis for 20 yr at 6 stations on the Rhode River, Maryland (USA). Daily production, corrected for the geometry and spectrum of the underwater light field, averaged 1319 (range 1.4 to 15 800) mg C m-2 d-1. Log-transformation of the exact solution for depthintegrated daily production permitted linear analysis of seasonal and spatial patterns in production and the factors that determine it. The seasonal signal was the greatest source of variation, followed by spatial then interannual. The seasonal pattern was driven by coinciding summer maxima in both the chlorophyll a (chl a) biomass, B, and the light saturated photosynthetic rate normalized to chl a, PB max. The spatial pattern was characterized by a region in which production was relatively constant despite declining depth, a station at which production was reduced by truncation of the depth profile of production, and an area where mean production was lowest but variance was highest, due to local flow causing either localized blooms or washout of biomass and high turbidity at the station furthest up the estuary. Analysis of the components contributing to the variance in production indicated that variance in B and PB max added nearly equally to it. Covariance between B and the light attenuation coefficient reduced the variance in production. The analytical approach adopted here allowed these patterns to be discerned against a high degree of overall variability, and should be similarly useful in a wide range of systems. © Inter-Research 2014.


Patent
Smithsonian Environmental Research Center | Date: 2015-11-10

Systems and methods are provided for rapidly determining the partial pressure of CO_(2 )(pCO_(2)) in a body of water. The systems and methods are particularly useful for measuring p CO_(2 )in coastal waters and other bodies of water where pCO_(2 )can change rapidly and vary widely at sites that are in close proximity to each other. Additionally, pCO_(2 )measurements can be important for industrial CO_(2 )sequestration monitoring, monitoring pCO_(2 )in wastewater and drinking water treatment plants, as well as monitoring and controlling pH in municipal and private swimming pools.

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