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ESA tipsheet for March 4,5, 2019

February 28, 2019

Get a sneak peek into these new scientific papers, publishing on March 4,5, 2019 in the Ecological Society of America's journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.
  • Digging for ancient parasites in museum archives
  • Species origin is linked to extinction risk
  • Pollinator-friendly cities need to be human community-friendly, too
  • Is North America's "old growth" forest concept less important than we think?

Parasites hidden in museum specimens can teach us about diseases of the past and present

When ecologists respond to spreading infectious diseases, they need to establish a picture of the "normal" conditions they are trying to recover. According to a review published by researchers at the University of Washington and the Natural History Museum in London, the skeletons, fossils, and floating specimens found in museum and university collections provide a way for ecologists to track long-term shifts in parasitic infections. Many preserved specimens (such as frozen mammoth organs or fossilized dinosaur bones) also happen to contain preserved parasites. The authors explain how parasites can be examined using advanced imaging techniques and DNA analyses to reconstruct stories about diseases over time. 

Author Contact: Chelsea Wood ( the record straight: non-native species are more frequently implicated in extinctions than native species

A number of papers published in the last two decades have argued against the use of species origin as a guiding principle for natural resource management, citing a lack of evidence that non-native species are truly a major cause of biological extinction or other environmental damage. A new analysis of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species shows that species classified as "alien" have in fact contributed to more plant and animal extinctions than have native species.

Author Contact: Tim Blackburn ( urban communities a voice in pollinator conservation initiatives

Parks, gardens, and vacant lots are ideal candidates for pollinator conservation sites, but in cities, the presence of undeveloped green spaces with lots of unmown grass and vegetation is sometimes viewed as a sign of poverty or neglect. Because tall plants offer concealment from onlookers, "pocket prairie" plots can even be viewed by residents as dangerous and as potential areas of criminal activity. A review by researchers from Ohio State University describes how scientists can connect with local communities to learn how to design public green spaces that are viewed as attractive and safe while still conserving populations of bees and other pollinators.

Author Contact: Mary Gardiner ( with OLD growth, in with ecological contiNEWity

Forest managers in North America usually rely on tree age when deciding which old-growth forests have the most conservation value. However, a new article by researchers from the Canadian Museum of Nature and Memorial University of Newfoundland contends that "ancient woodlands" do not necessarily require old, stately trees to be considered ancient. Instead, the length of time the area has existed uninterrupted as a forest - regardless of the age of individual trees in the forest - is a better way to identify priority areas for conservation. The authors suggest that lichens, which tend to rely on old forests, could be a way for conservation biologists and forest managers to determine how long an area has been forested. Most biologists and managers do not have expertise in identifying lichen species, but improvements in image recognition software could make it more feasible for non-lichenologists to learn how to identify these cryptic species in the field.

Author Contact: Yolanda Wiersma (
The Ecological Society of America, founded in 1915, is the world's largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 9,000 member Society publishes five journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society's Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at

Contact: Zoe Gentes, 202-833-8773 ext. 211,

Ecological Society of America

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