Multiple interactions in its cultivation — ScienceDaily

It’s not possible to grow cacao without insects — that’s logical. After all, they ensure that the flowers are pollinated and that the valuable cacao fruits, a sought-after material for the food industry, develop. Studies in Indonesia had shown in the past that birds and bats also contribute to increasing crop yields. However, a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B shows now how large this contribution is.

The study is the result of new findings from scientists from the universities of Würzburg, Göttingen and Vienna and the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT. The biologists responsible for the study are Justine Vansynghel, researcher at the Department of Animal Ecology and Tropical Biology at the Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (JMU), and Carolina Ocampo-Ariza, researcher at the Agroecology Department at the University of Göttingen.

Sometimes pest, sometimes pest controller

“Animals such as birds, bats and insects, but also rodents, are important for cacao agroforestry,” Justine Vansynghel explains. On the one hand, they can increase yields, for example by pollinating the plants or acting as “biological pest control agents.” On the other hand, they can reduce yields, for example when squirrels steal the valuable seeds and prefer to eat them themselves.

It was known that various animal species affect cacao cultivation and crop yield. “Until now, however, it was not clear how the individual contributions of all these animals interact and how other factors, such as the proximity of the cultivated area to a forest or its level of shading, can influence these contributions,” Carolina Ocampo-Ariza says. As part of their study, which has now been published, the two researchers therefore quantified the animals’ combined contributions to crop yield and explored how distance to the forest and shading affect productivity.

The key findings of their study are:

  • The level
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The Type of Walk Dogs Love Most

Many pet parents don’t realize that when they take their canine BFF out for a walk, it’s likely their expectations are somewhat different than their dog’s.

While we humans typically view the primary purpose of these outings as opportunities for our pets to pee and/or poop and/or get some exercise (all of which are important, of course), our furry friends are looking for another, equally important experience: the chance to satisfy their desire to sniff the always-fascinating world outside their home.

It’s important to realize that your dog doesn’t immediately begin sniffing things as soon as she’s outdoors to be annoying — she does it because it’s an essential element of being canine. Whereas humans tend to focus first on what can be seen and/or heard, for dogs, it’s often what they smell that grabs their attention first and helps them process their immediate environment.

If you can imagine how it would feel to take walks outdoors with your eyes half-closed, then you can empathize with how it feels to your dog to be prevented from stopping to sniff things: it’s unnatural, slightly intimidating, and ultimately, boring. Dogs need lots of outdoor sniffing opportunities to help them learn about the world around them and stimulate their minds.

Unfortunately, our hectic daily schedules often don’t afford our dogs the chance to exercise their unparalleled scenting abilities. However, once we accept how essential the experience is to them, we can begin to make more of an effort to set time aside to allow them to “lead with their noses” in the great outdoors.

The Canine Nose: A Scientific Wonder

The human nose contains about 6 million olfactory receptors that allow us to recognize thousands of different smells.1 It sounds like a lot, until you realize that inside your dog’s nose there … Read more

Buddy the Cat’s Rescue Inspires the World

Many people would look at Buddy the cat’s traumatic attack, his remarkable rescue and recovery story and say he found his human angel and that his destiny was meant to be.

A rough start but a happy ending

The poor, black kitty’s ordeal started last March in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, when two dogs, nudged on by their juvenile walkers, were caught on camera brutally attacking and mauling Buddy, a stray neighborhood cat. Authorities brought the cat to the Pennsylvania SPCA in Philadelphia, and then he was taken to BluePearl Pet Hospital for emergency care.

Buddy was barely responsive when he arrived at the clinic. But Dr. Katie Venanzi, who examined him, noticed the thumping tail — a telltale sign of feline annoyance — and she knew she had a fighter who just might make it.

Dr. Venanzi fostered Buddy through his healing process, and he not only pulled through but found a happy ending. Dr. Venanzi and her family adopted Buddy, who became an international celebrity through social media and news outlets, and now is a pampered puss with his rescuer.

“He’s living the best life,” says Gillian Kocher, director of public relations for the Pennsylvania SPCA, which received more than $250,000 in donations as Buddy’s story went viral. “He is officially in his forever home. … Of course, (Dr. Venanzi) being a vet certainly helped.

“Think about how crazy that is for one cat to have inspired people around the globe to give that kind of money,” she says. “Our work goes on every day to rescue animals just like him.”

Inspiring an anti-animal-cruelty campaign

Indeed, Buddy has become an inspiring ambassador and hero for victims of animal cruelty, and he touched hearts around the world with his remarkable story of recovery. The shelter used his story to start its

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Tropical insects are extremely sensitive to changing

Insects that are adapted to perennially wet environments, like tropical rainforests, don’t tend to do well when their surroundings dry out. New research published this Wednesday indicates they may be equally averse to heavy rainfall.

The results of an extensive five-year study conducted in Peru revealed a 50% decline in arthropod biomass following short periods of both drought and increased precipitation. One of only a few studies of this scope conducted in the tropics, the findings suggest terrestrial arthropods, a group that includes insects and spiders, will be more susceptible to climate change than previously suspected.

“Most of the time when we think about climate change, we think about warming temperatures, but rainfall patterns will change as well, which is something insects seem to be especially sensitive to,” said Felicity Newell, a postdoctoral associate and former doctoral student with the Florida Museum of Natural History. “We’re seeing that rainfall extremes can have negative effects over very short timescales.”

The insect apocalypse takes on new dimensions

The discovery of a Goldilocks preference for just the right amount of water makes its debut against a worrying backdrop of population declines. Over the last two decades, thousands of studies have documented insect decline and extinction on every continent except Antarctica, a pattern some have dubbed the insect apocalypse.

These results paint a stark but incomplete picture. Most of these studies have been conducted in densely populated temperate regions, while the planet’s most biodiverse ecosystems — the tropics — have received considerably less scrutiny.

Half of all insect diversity resides in the tropics, and as a result, scientists know a great deal about only a small fraction of imperiled insect species. This imbalance places strict limits on understanding how insects will fare with the complex problem of climate change.

“One of the biggest challenges

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Rediscovered longnose harlequin toad classified as

International and local conservation organizations join local communities in calling for provincial court to honor human rights and rights of nature by ruling against mining in Intag Valley

Lea la versión en español de este artículo aquí.

On the same day that Ecuador’s provincial court is hearing a case to determine the future of the country’s incredibly biodiverse Intag Valley, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species has officially updated the status of the longnose harlequin toad (Atelopus longirostris)–found only in Intag Valley–from extinct to critically endangered. 

“The rediscovery of the longnose harlequin toad after nearly three decades was one of the most exciting and hopeful rediscoveries of a lost species in recent years,” said Lina Valencia, Andean countries coordinator for Re:wild and leading founder of the Atelopus Survival Initiative. “But the moment the toad was rediscovered, it was already threatened by ongoing efforts to mine its only home for copper. Today, Ecuador and the world faces losing the longnose harlequin toad and a number of rare species if mining at Intag is not stopped.

For the past 30 years, the Intag Valley region has been the target of numerous mining corporations hoping to develop a copper mine, including the most recent: a large-scale open-pit copper mining project by Codelco, the Chilean state-owned mining company and the world’s biggest copper producer, along with Empresa Nacional Minera del Ecuador (Enami), Ecuador’s state-owned mining company. 

Local communities, which are profoundly connected to the land and wildlife around them, have been fighting off mining in the area for nearly three decades. In 2008, Ecuador became the first country in the world to recognize the constitutional rights of nature and this case could help set precedence for those rights.

The hearing in the provincial court of Imbabura province on

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Superpowers Cats Are Thankful For

Cats have a gift for seeing favorable and unfavorable opportunities and applying the “what’s in it for me?” factor. If cats were asked what they were grateful for this Thanksgiving, they’d say their superpowers. Cats are grateful for each one. Here are six of them.


©Getty Images

How many times have we wondered, “How is that cat going to fit inside that tiny box?” Probably only once, because after we’ve seen this superpower in action, we shed all doubt.

Kitties have all the confidence in the world that they can maneuver their nimble bodies into containers of almost any size. Even if they don’t fit perfectly, they have no shame in letting fluff and various appendages dangle outside the boundaries. Nothing is too small or oddly shaped for a cat to pretzel his way into it. Who wouldn’t be thankful for that kind of flexibility and self-confidence?

X-ray vision

Felines use their superpower of X-ray vision to see through walls. It’s true! How else do they know we’re putting fresh sheets on the bed and will require their “help?” How could they pop out of dead sleep on one side of the house and see us through a closed bathroom door on the other side? There’s only one explanation: X-ray vision. Cats are eternally grateful.


Kitties are master manipulators, and they wield that superpower like mighty, self-obsessed, little warriors. Seriously, who’s better than cats at controlling our thoughts and emotions?

We think we’re going to read a book, but suddenly there’s a cat lying on top of the pages, stealing the spotlight. How did that happen? And so quickly?

Of course, we oblige with pets and cuddles because we’ve been manipulated to believe it’s what we wanted all along. Really, how arrogant are we to assume we operate

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