SciBites: Week of January 6th

SciBites: Week of January 6th

Brazilian spotted cats are more commonly found near protected areas

Small wildcats play an important role in ecosystem dynamics, and although many of these species are threatened, there is little research on where they are most likely to live. Researchers from the Universidade Estadual de Campinas (Unicamp) in Brazil investigated the habitats of ocelots (Leopardus pardalis), margays (L. wiedii), and oncillas (L. guttulus) and explored how they coexisted with each other. Lead author Mariana B. Nagy-Reis summarizes their findings: “Proximity to areas with elevated protection (e.g., nature reserves) can be a more important driver of Neotropical spotted cats’ occurrence than interspecific interactions or environmental landscape characteristics.”


Increasing marine reserve coverage may benefit millions of people

About 200 countries worldwide have committed to protecting 10 percent of national marine areas by signing the Convention on Biological Diversity. New research published in PLOS Biology demonstrates that increasing this coverage to 20 to 30 percent of unregulated fishing grounds could benefit millions of people who depend on fisheries for their food and livelihoods. Study co-author Peter Mumby says, “Our theoretic analysis of thousands of fisheries scenarios highlights that net declines in catches after more than 10 or so years of recovery should be rare.”


Potential biofuel crops could sequester carbon in soil

From a climate-change perspective, replacing fossil fuel with biofuel only makes sense if the latter has a smaller greenhouse gas footprint. In a recently published study, researchers found that two potential biofuel crops in Hawaii – sugarcane and napiergrass – may sequester more carbon in soil than is released into the atmosphere. Co-author Susan Crow says, “A common misperception persists that biofuels are nonviable because of inefficiencies and net carbon losses that negate the potential for climate change mitigation. These results show that in the right system, coupled with the right crop and management, biofuels can be an important contributor to sustainable renewable energy portfolios.”


Image Credit: Tom Smylie, US Fish & Wildlife Service


Tessa is the Journal Media Manager at PLOS. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with degrees in Rhetoric and Music. She can be reached by email at and on Twitter at @tessagregs.

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