Skip to main content

Ecosystems Under Threat

As the built environment continues to encroach on the natural, delicate ecosystems come under ever-urgent threats. Researchers at the University of Michigan are taking a focused, multifaceted lens to a global problem — assessing human-exacerbated “dead zones” in the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Erie, noting the resilience of invasive species enabled by human activity, and analyzing the impacts of our changing climate on the health and behavior of different species and ecosystems. Experts at the School for the Environment and Sustainability (SEAS), the LSA Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and the Graham Sustainability Institute are shedding a light on how humans have disrupted ecosystems, and how they can better protect and restore them in the future.

News and Impact

Wildfires, communities and climate change
melting glacier
New IPCC climate report: U-M experts available to comment
bluebird with insect
Why it matters that climate change is shrinking birds
Western Lake Erie and an algae bloom as seen from a Landsat-8 satellite in September 2017. Image credit: NASA/USGS
Smaller summer harmful algal bloom predicted for western Lake Erie
microplastics concentration map
Ocean microplastics: First global view shows seasonal changes and sources
The Mississippi River near Vicksburg, looking Northeast at the Interstate 20 bridge, the confluence of the Yazoo River is in the foreground. The photo was taken by a drone flown by Jim Alvis and Mike Manning of the U.S. Geological Survey in the summer of 2016. Image credit: USGS
Average-sized ‘dead zone’ forecast for Gulf of Mexico
The GPS collar on this tiger in Nepal’s Parsa National Park will help scientists understand how the tiger behaves near and away from roads. Neil Carter, CC BY-ND
GPS tracking could help tigers and traffic coexist in Asia
A European honeybee (Apis mellifera) flying to a squash flower
Biodiversity protects bee communities from disease, U-M study concludes
One of the many ways Mark Lindquist, the primary investigator on the 2019 research project The Rustbelt Herbarium, spends his time is thinking about how to better design research so that it will benefit its intended end-users.
The Benefits of Spontaneous Vegetation
Marketa Zimova, an evolutionary ecologist at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Global Change Biology and a post-doc at the School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS), is the lead author of the new study, "Lack of phenological shift leads to increased camouflage mismatch in mountain hares," published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Dec. 16, 2020).
Increased camouflage mismatch in mountain hares
Shrimp-like crustaceans called amphipods collected from the Mariana Trench in the northwest Pacific Ocean. Image credit: Paul Yancey
Fish carcasses deliver toxic mercury pollution to the deepest ocean trenches
Experts from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources report that the 2020 dead zone is the second smallest observed in the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay since monitoring began in 1985.
Chesapeake Bay dead zone smaller than in recent years
New research shows that some high-latitude North American forests, like the Alaskan forest shown here, are beginning to show increased browning, suggesting that they may not continue to absorb more carbon as temperatures continue to rise. Image credit: Brendan Rogers of Woodwell Climate Research Center
North American cold-climate forests are already absorbing less carbon, study shows
Pictured is the red, iron-stained Saviukviayak River on the North Slope, Alaska. Image credit: Rose Cory
Carbon emission from permafrost soils underestimated by 14%
Gulf of Mexico "dead zone"
Large ‘dead zone’ expected for Gulf of Mexico
Ann Arbor Natural Area in mid summer
What's in a word: preservation, restoration, conservation
Field Museum ornithologist and collections manager emeritus David Willard, who measured all of the more than 70,000 migratory birds analyzed in the study. Image credit: Field Museum, John Weinstein.
Migratory birds shrinking as climate warms, new analysis of four-decade record shows
University of Michigan wildlife ecologist Nyeema Harris and her crew attach a digital camera to a tree for a study of human pressures on wildlife within the largest protected area in West Africa. Image credit: University of Michigan Applied Wildlife Ecology Lab.
West African camera survey details human pressures on mammals in protected areas
A bumblebee on an evening primrose. Image credit: Paul Glaum
U-M study suggests impact of urbanization on wild bees underestimated
An assortment of specimens from the Smithsonian’s National Parasite Collection at the National Museum of Natural History. The National Parasite Collection holds more than 20 million parasite specimens in connection with information about their geographic distribution and host animals. Image credit: Paul Fetters for the Smithsonian Institution
Due to climate change, one-third of animal parasites may be extinct by 2070