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Decline in U.S. bird biodiversity related to neonicotinoids, study shows

URBANA, Ill. ­– Bird biodiversity is rapidly declining in the U.S. The overall bird population decreased by 29% since 1970, while grassland birds declined by an alarming 53%.

Valuable for so much more than flight and song, birds hold a key place in ecosystems worldwide. When bird numbers and varieties dwindle, pest populations increase and much-needed pollination decreases. Those examples alone negatively impact food production and human health.

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Reducing wildlife trafficking and forest loss could prevent future pandemics

URBANA, Ill. – Governments might be able to prevent future pandemics by investing as little as $22 billion a year in programs to curb wildlife trafficking and stem the destruction of tropical forests, a new analysis by an international team of scientists and economists shows.

Compared to the $2.6 trillion already lost to COVID-19, and the more than 600,000 deaths the virus has caused so far, that annual investment represents an exceptional value, the experts argue.

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Group genomics drive aggression in honey bees

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Researchers often study the genomes of individual organisms to try to tease out the relationship between genes and behavior. A new study of Africanized honey bees reveals, however, that the genetic inheritance of individual bees has little influence on their propensity for aggression. Instead, the genomic traits of the hive as a whole are strongly associated with how fiercely its soldiers attack.

Read more from the Illinois News Bureau.

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Bobwhites listen to each other when picking habitat

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Northern bobwhites are attracted to a habitat based on whether other bobwhites are present there, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign report. This phenomenon, called conspecific attraction, could aid conservation efforts.

Read more from the Illinois News Bureau.

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ACES graduate sparks interest in nature however she can

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK—While Kate Owen prefers teaching face to face, reaching young students online from Yellowstone National Park during the COVID-19 pandemic still produces the rewarding moments that drive her passion and career.

Besides, who wouldn’t want to learn the history of human/bison interaction or the importance of water quality at the Grand Canyon from Owen? You can see the sparkle in the education technician’s eyes just as clearly on Zoom.

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Hummingbirds show up when tropical trees fall down

URBANA, Ill. – When the tree fell that October in 2015, the tropical giant didn’t go down alone. Hundreds of neighboring trees went with it, opening a massive 2.5-acre gap in the Panamanian rainforest.

Treefalls happen all the time, but this one just happened to occur in the exact spot where a decades-long ecological study was in progress, giving University of Illinois researchers a rare look into tropical forest dynamics.

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Aerial insect trap network describes life in the skies

URBANA, Ill. – Like most invasive species, when the soybean aphid arrived in the Midwest in 2000, it brought none of its natural enemies along for the ride. So, naturally, finding itself in the soybean capital of the world, the tiny insect went bonkers. Taking advantage of a nifty ability to reproduce without mating, populations exploded and the soybean aphid quickly became the number one insect pest affecting the crop.

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University of Illinois urban greening expert to speak at World Economic Forum

URBANA, Ill. – Ming Kuo of the University of Illinois will speak to global business leaders and heads of state next week at the 50th World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Kuo is the first faculty member from the university to present at the influential annual meeting, which draws thousands each year and aims to improve the state of the world.

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Institute: Nitrogen reduction will take a revolution

A revolution in Midwestern agriculture has to happen to minimize the Gulf of Mexico’s hypoxic zone, according to the University of Illinois Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE).

It is a little-known fact that corn — a Midwestern staple crop — has a bearing on the Gulf of Mexico’s health. The link is nitrogen, a common agricultural fertilizer component. According to a team of Illinois researchers, each annual harvest removes just 60-70% of nitrogen from fields.

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Targeting deeply held values crucial for inspiring pro-environmental behavior

URBANA, Ill. – Given the alarming pace of climate change, it is increasingly important to understand what factors motivate people to take action – or not – on environmental issues. A recent study in Sustainability Science shows that deeply held values, which align closely with political leanings, can predict whether someone takes action to protect the environment. And it suggests people on opposite ends of the political spectrum can be spurred to take action, as long as messaging taps into those values.

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