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The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
  • 2017-10-04 10:05:59
  • Article ID: 682244

In Iceland Stream, Possible Glimpse Of Warming Future

  • Credit: The University of Alabama

    A research group, that includes Dr. Jon Benstead (above), is attempting to determine some of the potential impacts a warming world will have on freshwater environments.

  • Credit: The University of Alabama

    In some spots, UA researchers can capitalize on a natural 20 degree temperature variation between two streams flowing less than three meters apart.

  • Credit: The University of Alabama

    Dr. Dan Nelson, then a UA doctoral student, peers through a campus microscope to examine sample species from the stream.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — When a normally cold stream in Iceland was warmed, the make-up of life inside changed as larger organisms thrived while smaller ones struggled, according to two papers published by researchers from The University of Alabama.

The findings carry implications for life in a warming climate as the experiment shows mobile organisms should fare better than those adapted to cooler temperatures unable to disperse.

“As we warm up the planet, the consequences for a community’s natural ecosystem will depend on dispersal,” said Dr. Jon Benstead, a freshwater ecologist and UA professor of biological sciences. “Communities will change and receive new species that can disperse that not only do well under those warm conditions, but can get there.

“If you don’t do well in warmer temperatures, and you can’t disperse, you’re toast.”

Benstead’s former doctoral student, Dr. Daniel Nelson, is the lead author on two papers published in the journals Ecology and Global Change Biology. Nelson is now a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Oklahoma.

Nelson said the ability of a species to disperse and optimally perform in warmer temperatures is often overlooked in theoretical studies.

“They are important biological traits when it comes to be able to predict how organisms will reassemble and survive in a warm future,” Nelson said.

Co-authors at UA include Benstead and Dr. Alex Huryn, an ecologist who directs UA’s Center for Freshwater Studies and professor of biological sciences. Dr. Philip Johnson, UA professor emeritus of civil engineering, is also a co-author.

Other co-authors on the papers included researchers from Montana State and Ohio State universities as well as University of Iceland and the Institute of Freshwater Fisheries in Reykjavık, Iceland.

As part of a larger project in Iceland, the research team used the mix of the island’s cold climate and geothermal energy to heat part of a normally cold stream. A heat exchanger custom-built by Johnson let the team carefully control water temperatures for experiments.

The team dammed a cold stream to create a pool for a pipe to take on water. Using gravity, the water ran down into a pool created by damming an adjacent, warmer stream. The cool water zigzagged through pipes immersed in a warmer stream. This heated it to the desired temperatures before it flowed down an exit pipe back into the cool stream to heat it.

The result was the cool stream warmed about 6.8 degrees Fahrenheit.

The team set out to see what would happen to life once the stream warmed, specifically the invertebrate species since no known vertebrates such as fish lived in the stream. A scientific concept called metabolic theory predicted that, as the stream warmed, fewer organisms would survive, but those who did would grow at a faster rate.

In fact, the surviving organisms should grow at such a rate as to balance out the loss of life. That would mean secondary production, or the turnover in sum biomass of all non-plant life living in a fixed area over a certain time, should stay the same.

The team confirmed the predictions of metabolic theory, but not in the way expected. Biomass production did stay level, and the number of individual organisms decreased. What changed was the distribution of the size of the organisms, according to the findings.

“We got fewer relatively small organisms that grow quickly, and more large-bodied individuals that grow slower,” Benstead said. “That’s what gave rise to this lack of change in total production.”

In fact, two species that did not live in the stream before the temperature changes colonized the warmed stream, Nelson said.

The reason why confirms the usefulness of conducting the experiment in nature, as opposed to a lab, Benstead said.

The experiment took place on the slopes of the dormant volcano Hengill. Its geothermal activity underneath warms many of the streams flowing along its surface, but not all. The result is that smaller species with fast growth rates adapted to the cold of the north Atlantic Ocean thrive in the cooler streams while more warm-adapted, larger and fast-growing species live in the hotter streams next door.

The larger, warm-adapted species such as snails and black flies found a way over to the warmed stream while the smaller species such as midges began declining.

“When we warmed up a naturally cold stream, there’s plenty of dispersal especially of animals with aerial adults,” Benstead said.

In a controlled experiment in a lab, this result would not have happened, he said.

“We would have been dealing with entirely closed populations and communities that couldn’t receive anything from the outside,” Benstead said of a lab experiment. “We may have seen certain species struggle or do well, but we never would have gotten this amazing result that’s driven by dispersal.”

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Ames Laboratory, UConn Discover Superconductor with Bounce

The U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory has discovered extreme "bounce," or super-elastic shape-memory properties in a material that could be applied for use as an actuator in the harshest of conditions, such as outer space, and might be the first in a whole new class of shape memory materials.

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The first glimpse of data from the full array of a deeply chilled particle detector operating beneath a mountain in Italy sets the most precise limits yet on where scientists might find a theorized process to help explain why there is more matter than antimatter in the universe.

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See-through solar materials that can be applied to windows represent a massive source of untapped energy and could harvest as much power as bigger, bulkier rooftop solar units, scientists report today in Nature Energy.

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Despite widespread concern about potential human health impacts from hydraulic fracturing, the lifetime toxic chemical releases associated with coal-generated electricity are 10 to 100 times greater than those from electricity generated with natural gas obtained via fracking, according to a new University of Michigan study.

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The Blob That Ate the Tokamak: Physicists Gain Understanding of How Bubbles at the Edge of Plasmas Can Drain Heat and Reduce Fusion Reaction Efficiency

Scientists at PPPL have completed new simulations that could provide insight into how blobs at the plasma edge behave. The simulations, produced by a code called XGC1 developed by a national team based at PPPL, performed kinetic simulations of two different regions of the plasma edge simultaneously.


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Four Argonne Researchers Appointed Fellows of Scientific Societies

A select group of scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory has been honored as fellows of the American Physical Society and the Electrochemical Society. Physicists Kawtar Hafidi and Michael Carpenter have been appointed as American Physical Society fellows and Materials Scientist Khalil Amine and Chemist Chris Johnson have been elected as Electrochemical Society fellows.

Berkeley Lab and Hydro-Quebec Announce Partnership for Transportation Electrification and Energy Storage

Hydro-Quebec and the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have agreed to explore collaborations toward the research and development of manufacturing and scale-up technology to advance transportation electrification and energy storage.

Two ORNL-Led Research Teams Receive $10.5 Million to Advance Quantum Computing for Scientific Applications

DOE's Office of Science has awarded two research teams, each headed by a member of ORNL's Quantum Information Science Group, more than $10 million over 5 years to both assess the feasibility of quantum architectures in addressing big science problems and to develop algorithms capable of harnessing the massive power predicted of quantum computing systems. The two projects are intended to work in concert to ensure synergy across DOE's quantum computing research spectrum and maximize mutual benefits.

Department of Energy Awards Flow Into Argonne

DOE Secretary Rick Perry awarded Argonne with nearly $4.7 million in projects as part of the DOE's Office of Technology Transition's Technology Commercialization Fund (TCF) in September.

NIH Awards $6.5 Million to Berkeley Lab for Augmenting Structural Biology Research Experience

The NIH has awarded $6.5 million to Berkeley Lab to integrate existing synchrotron structural biology resources to better serve researchers. The grant will establish a center based at the Lab's Advanced Light Source (ALS) called ALS-ENABLE that will guide users through the most appropriate routes for answering their specific biological questions.

LIGO Announces Detection of Gravitational Waves From Colliding Neutron Stars

The U.S.-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory and the Virgo detector in Italy announced on Oct. 16 that all three of their detectors had picked up the ripples, or gravitational waves, from two neutron stars that collided 130 million years ago. Among other discoveries, the detection allowed scientists to use gravitational waves to directly calculate the rate at which the universe is expanding.

WVU Energy Conference to Address State's Economic Opportunities

West Virginia University will look at the state's emerging energy economy through industry experts, public policy organizations, environmental groups and academic institutions at the sixth annual National Energy Conference Oct. 20.

Exploring the Exotic World of Quarks and Gluons at the Dawn of the Exascale

As nuclear physicists delve ever deeper into the heart of matter, they require the tools to reveal the next layer of nature's secrets. Nowhere is that more true than in computational nuclear physics. A new research effort led by theorists at DOE's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab) is now preparing for the next big leap forward in their studies thanks to funding under the 2017 SciDAC Awards for Computational Nuclear Physics.

Matthew Latimer Receives 2017 Lytle Award

A staff member at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Acceleratory Laboratory, Matthew Latimer is in charge of seven spectroscopy beamlines at SSRL. He was recently selected for the 2017 Farrel W. Lytle Award, established by the SSRL Users' Organization Executive Committee. The award promotes accomplishments in synchrotron science and supports collaboration among visiting scientists and staff who conduct research at SSRL.

Jefferson Lab Completes 12 GeV Upgrade

Nuclear physicists are now poised to embark on a new journey of discovery into the fundamental building blocks of the nucleus of the atom. The completion of the 12 GeV Upgrade Project of the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF) at the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab) heralds this new era to image nuclei at their deepest level.


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Hybrid Material Glows Like Jellyfish

Scientists combine biology, nanotechnology into composites that light up upon chemical stimulation.

Tiny Tornados at the Dawn of the Universe

Swirling soup of matter's fundamental building blocks spins ten billion trillion times faster than the most powerful tornado, setting new record for "vorticity."

On-Demand 3-D Printing of Tiny Magic Wands

Direct writing of pure-metal structures may advance novel light sources, sensors and information storage technologies.

Heavy Quarks Probe the Early Universe

New studies of behaviors of particles containing heavy quarks shed light into what the early universe looked like in its first microseconds.

Discovering the Genetic Timekeepers in Bioenergy Crops

A new class of plant-specific genes required for flowering control in temperate grasses is found.

New Technology Illuminates Microbial Dark Matter

Demonstrating the microfluidic-based, mini-metagenomics approach on samples from hot springs shows how scientists can delve into microbes that can't be cultivated in a laboratory.

Tiny Green Algae Reveal Large Genomic Variation

First complete picture of genetic variations in a natural algal population could help explain how environmental changes affect global carbon cycles.

A Complex Little Alga that Lives by the Sea

The genetic material of Porphyra umbilicalis reveals the mechanisms by which it thrives in the stressful intertidal zone at the edge of the ocean.

Precise Radioactivity Measurements: A Controversy Settled

Simultaneous measurements of x-rays and gamma rays emitted in radioactive nuclear decays show that the vacancy left by an electron's departure, not the atomic structure, influences whether gamma rays are released.

OLYMPUS Experiment Sheds Light on Inner Workings of Protons

Seven-year study explains how packets of light are exchanged when protons meet electrons.


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