TT Newsletter Series 2

Welcome to another weekly update about all things conservation related. Find out this week about carnivorous peat bog plants, some promising news about coral reefs and how you can both watch and help conserve wildlife across the globe.

We would also like to thank everyone who applied for committee positions this week, we now have a full committee!

~ The OUNCS Committee

Article Spotlight: Lab Coral Evolving Temperature Resistance

Climate change, in the last couple of decades in particular, has induced a significant decrease in global coral populations as a result of coral bleaching; a process in which increased sea temperatures lead to the loss of the algal endosymbionts of coral and thus increased coral mortality. Currently, rates of climate change are exceeding the rate at which corals and their symbionts can adapt to these temperature changes, but a study recently published in Science Advances suggests that the introduction of heat-evolved strains of the algal endosymbionts to corals can increase the tolerance of the corals to bleaching, and could potentially be used to protect and maintain reef environments. In this study, ten strains of a common microalgal endosymbiont of some corals were cultured in the lab at elevated temperatures of 31˚C for four years. While the optimum temperature for photosynthesis of these algal strains remained the same, exposure to increased temperatures did lead to adaptations increasing the efficiency of photosynthesis at higher temperatures, unlike in wild-type strains which were grown for the same amount of time at temperatures of 27˚C. Three of the ten heat-evolved strains, when introduced back into corals, resulted in significantly increased tolerance of the corals to bleaching. This study seems promising for the conservation of coral reefs and the marine life that relies on them. However, investigation into both the success of this treatment in a range of other coral species and also the success of the treatment in the long-term is required to further establish the significance of these methods as a whole.

You can find the article here.

Article Spotlights are brought to you by Ayla Webb

Nature From Your Sofa: Live Webcams

Although lockdown is now starting to ease a little, many of us are still stuck at home and the RSPB and the Wildlife Trust reserves remain closed. However, there are ways of enjoying the sounds and sights of your local nature reserves and favourite wild places from the comfort of your own sofa. The National Wildlife Trusts as well as many local wildlife trusts have webcams on their website which may be for you if you’re missing your regular nature reserve trips. They allow us to experience some of the UK’s best wild places and most intriguing species from badgers in Cumbria to puffins in the English channel to the majestic nesting ospreys of Rutland Water (and their chicks), who have returned to the East Midlands after spending the winter in West Africa. Webcams can also be really important in aiding conservation efforts as well as educating the general public about biodiversity and the ‘secret lives’ of many species.

You can find the webcams here.
 Looking a bit further a-field, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology also have some live bird cams which are great if you’re looking to learn a bit more about bird behaviour, ecology, and the exciting life of birds. The webcams that you can choose include feeding hummingbirds in Texas and albatross parents and their chicks in New Zealand.

You can find them here.

Brought to you by Taras Bains

Book Recommendation: Coral by Steve Jones

Steve Jones is a renowned science writer and Professor of Genetics at UCL. This book is far from his principal domain of expertise and is instead a passion project, delivered with the scientific rigour of his more genetics-focused books and with the vibrancy of a lifelong interest that finally gets to be shared.

As Ayla’s article highlighted, coral reefs are still at the forefront of scientific research and public interest, even more so than when Coral was first published. Coral remains relevant today as it focuses less on the future of the Earth’s reefs and instead details how they have impacted our cultural history. Read Coral if you wish to understand our complex relationship with this deteriorating ecosystem.

Book recommendations are brought to you by Hannah King

Habitat Conservation: Carnivorous Peatland Plants

It is easy to miss Drosera in the mess of a peat bog. Indeed, one of the challenges for small vascular plants like them is not being buried by the Sphagnum moss around them. The young plants of the Sundew need to grow enough in the summer to be able to place their overwintering bud just beneath the surface of the top of the Sphagnum, so they can grow with the Sphagnum in the Spring and be lifted up by it rather than buried. If they manage this, the plant can thrive in the nutrient-poor acidic soil in part because they are carnivorous. They posses glands on their specialised leaves which secrete a sticky fluid that catches passing insects. The fluid then clogs the spiracles of the ensnared insect, causing them to asphyxiate, before being Drosera digests them.It is not just their carnivory which makes them fascinating. They are also pharmaceutically important, being the source of napthoquinones which are used in drugs to treat respiratory tract diseases. And their evolutionary origin and relationship to other carnivorous plants intrigued Darwin, leading him to remark in an 1860 letter “I care more about Drosera than the origin of all the other plants in the world.”As a result of the destruction and degradation of their peat bog habitat, several Drosera species across Europe are threatened and endangered. The Great Sundew, Drosera anglica, survives is endangered, being found in only 20 locations in England. It went extinct in Cheshire over 100 years ago, but thanks to the efforts of Joshua Styles and the North-West Rare Plant Initiative it has been carefully propagated and reintroduced to the area. To hear more about the reintroduction of the Great Sundew, check out this video from Joshua and join the 24hr online RE-PEAT festival, where Joshua as well as many others will be speaking and running events.

Habitat conservation news and views are brought to you by Jamie Walker

Get Involved: Penguin Watch

Contribute to penguin conservation from the comfort of your own home by taking part in this citizen science project. All you have to do is count the penguins that you see, together with their chicks, eggs, and any other species, and you’ll be helping with research that aims to understand the threats facing Antarctic ecosystems.

Click here to count some penguins.

Citizen science projects are brought to you by Philip Fernandes

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