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FLORA AND FAUNA
Some species more vulnerable to climate change than they appear
by Brooks Hays
Washington (UPI) Nov 22, 2017


'Black goat' to thrive again in Israel
Jerusalem (AFP) Nov 22, 2017 - A breed of goat limited for decades by law in Israel is expected to prosper once again in the Jewish state.

The black goat, also called the Syrian goat, has since 1950 been barred from forests and woodlands under a law that says they cause environmental damage.

On Wednesday, parliament in a preliminary reading passed a bill to repeal that legislation, on the grounds that grazing would thin out undergrowth that can fuel forest fires, said Jamal Zahalka, the Arab Israeli MP behind the push.

The government supports the bill, which should reverse the decline in the number of black goats in the country.

In the forest region of Carmel in northern Israel, the number of the goats, whose scientific name is Capra Hircus Mambrica, has fallen from 15,000 45 years ago to around 2,000 today, according to Zahalka.

He said repealing the law would "repair an historic injustice" especially for Arab Israeli farmers, who like to breed this species well adapted to the Mediterranean climate.

"An anti-goat police fought against the Arab peasants who no longer had the right to breed these animals," Zahalka said.

Arab Israelis are the descendants of Palestinians who remained on their land after the creation of the Jewish state in 1948.

Recent studies have shown that these goats can help reduce the risk of fire by eating flammable bushes and shrubs.

Zahalka said he had the backing of the coalition government, including the far-right Jewish Home party.

While not agreeing with Zahalka's criticism of Israeli policy, Jewish Home ministers Uri Ariel and Ayelet Shaked helped convince the government to back the bill.

"Goats are an important factor in preventing fires," Ariel was quoted as saying in the Israeli media. "We want to encourage grazing in the appropriate areas and times."

Research suggests some species are more vulnerable to climate change they appear.

In analyzing the ecosystems within tidal pools and shallow waters along the West Coast, researchers realized beds of mussels and seaweed provide protection against climate change for a variety of small marine species.

According to the latest research -- published this week in the journal Ecology Letters -- seaweed and mussel beds essentially offer air conditioning to the communities of species they shelter. As a result, many species as far south as Southern California and as far north as Puget Sound have experienced equally minimal amounts of heat stress.

Cursory evaluations might suggest these species are resilient to climate change or able to adapt to dramatic temperature variation, but in reality, they're beneficiaries of a protective buffer -- without which they might suffer more significant physiological damage.

"We might take for granted some of the resilience of our ecosystems because we don't realize how much they depend on these habitats," Laura Jurgens, a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Davis, said in a news release.

Should these species lose these protective services, these ecosystems could be disrupted and severely damaged.

"You can tolerate a lot of what goes on outside if you have air conditioning," Jurgens said. "But if you're looking at a future with more intense heat waves, and you don't have air conditioning anymore, you wonder, 'Where can I go?' For these species, they could make a big move north, but it won't help -- they still need these habitats to keep the heat in a tolerable range."

The findings explain why not all marine species migrate as temperatures rise. Many won't move until the species which offer them protection move.

"If you're an octopus living in a mussel bed, the most important thing to keep your body temperature survivable is that mussel bed around you, not whether you live in Southern California, where it's warmer, or Washington," Jurgens said.

Understanding exactly how species guard against climate change can help conservationists better protect vulnerable ecosystems. The findings suggest conservationists should consider targeting the protection of habitats that shelter high concentrations of biodiversity.

FLORA AND FAUNA
New NASA Insights into the Secret Lives of Plants
Pasadena CA (JPL) Nov 27, 2017
Life. It's the one thing that, so far, makes Earth unique among the thousands of other planets we've discovered. Since the fall of 1997, NASA satellites have continuously and globally observed all plant life at the surface of the land and ocean. During the week of Nov. 13-17, NASA is sharing stories and videos about how this view of life from space is furthering knowledge of our home planet and ... read more

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