Ecosystem Services

Beavers take a chunk out of nitrogen in Northeast rivers

Beavers, once valued for their fur, may soon have more appreciation in the Northeastern United States. There they are helping prevent harmful levels of nitrogen from reaching the area's vulnerable estuaries. By creating ponds that slow down the movement of water, they aid in removing nitrogen from the water.

The trouble with sustainability


Since its inception, sustainability has been human-centric. It came into vogue in 1987, with the publication of a UN report called Our Common Future, which defined sustainable development as: "Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

Leave leaves alone


In natural ecosystems, there is little waste. Nutrients taken up by plants are returned to the soil when plants die and decompose. Ecologists call this nutrient loop a biogeochemical cycle.

Nature: a natural stress-buster


If you've ever taken a walk outside to "clear your head," it turns out you were onto something. Scientists, doctors, and the average person have long known that time spent in nature can have de-stressing, mood-boosting effects. They just haven't been exactly sure why.

Street trees are good for us


Want to feel younger? Live on a street with more trees. That's the finding of University of Chicago researchers who studied the impact of street trees on the real and perceived health of residents of Toronto, Canada.

Valuing wetlands


The value of wetlands extends beyond evenings in early spring, when a chorus of peepers makes the woods come alive with the sound of their music. Or when you stumble upon a male wood duck in a secluded forest pond— and marvel at its colorful beauty.

Ecological engineering on the ski slope


Every winter, ski resorts groom trails using heavy machines that do a great job flattening the snow, but also compact the soil underneath. In the offseason, the compacted soil makes it hard for vegetation to regrow, so a lot of money is invested in re-vegetation.

Cleaning up with mussels


Zebra mussels are one of the most pernicious invasive species in the United States having infested the Great Lakes in the 1980s and then having spread to 29 states by hitching rides on boats on inland waterways.

The value of woodland pools


Woodland pools are small, seasonal wetlands. In the Northeast, they are typically covered with ice and snow in the winter. In the heat of summer they dry up. And in the spring and late fall they contain standing water. Now is a great time for exploring the diversity of life in woodland pools.

prado wetland

Designer wetlands


Drinking water supplies around the world often contain trace amounts of pharmaceuticals, agricultural and industrial chemicals, and other synthetic compounds that can harm reproduction in fish and may be linked to adverse health effects in humans. 

Clive Jones on Ecosystems, Economy and Society


Cary's Clive Jones speaks at an International Conference exploring how large-scale restoration can stimulate sustainable development.

Mist Connections: A Tale of Fog and Forests

Lecture Video

A world-renowned expert, Kathleen Weathers talks about how fog interacts with air, land and water, and investigates its importance to ecosystems.

Cary's Weathers lectures on fog

Biogeochemist Kathleen Weathers studies the chemicals and living organisms in fog or mist. Illuminating the chemical relationships among water, land, forests and the ocean increases our understanding of the ecological importance of fog and air pollution.

Biodiversity offsets: risks, opportunities and the contribution of ecological engineering

A terrestrial ecologist at Cary, Clive Jones' work focuses on the concept of organisms that help to engineer the ecosystem. In this interview, he talks about the relationship between ecological engineering and ecological compensation. 

Removing nitrates keeps Hudson River healthier

For those of you who have taken the train trip to New York City, I hope you have noticed the large and varied wetlands on the east side of the tracks.

The human health costs of losing natural systems

A new paper from members of the HEAL (Health & Ecosystems: Analysis of Linkages) consortium delineates a new branch of environmental health that focuses on the public health risks of human-caused changes to Earth’s natural systems.

The many benefits of urban trees


Trees increase property values in neighborhoods where they are planted. Through the evaporation of soil water, trees cool the urban environment, reducing the need for air conditioning.

Policymakers briefed on water resources

Cary scientists David Strayer and Emma Rosi-Marshall delivered expert testimony at a May 5, 2013 congressional briefing that highlighted problems with aquatic invasive species and “natural infrastructure” solutions. The briefing took place on Capitol Hill as the U.S. Senate debated the Water Resources Development Act.

In praise of big old trees


Nothing is more beautiful than a tall, stately tree. But sometimes they get in the way of progress. Well-meaning people think that planting a couple of smaller trees will make up for the loss of the elder statesman. Not so.

Trees are good for human health


Many of us have experienced a restorative walk in the woods. But does associating with trees really make us any healthier? 

Report: Ecosystems more stressed than ever

A new report warns that climate change is causing shifts in species composition faster than expected. Co-author and Cary scientist Peter Groffman comments, "cold temperatures are a critical regulator of species outbreaks and also of species distributions".

Leaves are feast for stream life

Today, I want to talk about that old Thanksgiving favorite — wet, rotting leaves.

ecological engineering

Ecological engineering - Grand challenges ahead

Business, especially the pesticide industry, will face challenges in developing sustainable practices that will reduce insecticide use. Yet their active participation is necessary to bring about change.

The ecology of disease

When we do things in an ecosystem that erode biodiversity — we chop forests into bits or replace habitat with agricultural fields — we tend to get rid of species that serve a protective role. 

Floodplains are valuable habitats for birds and wildlife. (Photo credit: Bigstock)

Floodplains provide habitat, aid water distribution

Here are a few suggestions about how best to manage floodplains.


Trees invaluable to community

Dave Strayer and Gary Lovett sounded a warning about the looming local extinction of ash trees. This almost certain event is because of the spread of the emerald ash borer.

Volcanoes may help to cool the Earth

A volcano erupts in Iceland, and cinders and sulfur dioxide are spewed into the atmosphere. 

Cows can help with upkeep of ski trails

Some French colleagues of mine recently discovered if you take cows up to the alpine pastures along the ski trails during or just after rain, they, not surprisingly, leave hoof prints.

Endangered Species Act changes must be reversed

In the face of our rising human population, a lack of protected areas for native species and for pristine ecosystems would result in the loss of many North American plants and animals. 

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