Salt lake ecosystems in decline: Flies are the proof 

Every environment encloses a unique, refined ecosystem that encapsulates a cyclical, natural progression. Salt lakes are no exception: unfortunately they’ve suffered increasing duress due to climate-induced droughts, which have veritably changed their ecological stature for the worse. In a study of brine flies, a mainstay food source for migratory water birds that often visit these lakes to birth their young, David Herbst, a researcher at the UC Santa Barbara’s Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory, reveals that the salinity of these lakes that was previously kept in check via certain minerals has risen to unprecedented levels, lowering the reproductive capabilities of these flies. 

Herbst has been studying how this sudden demographic change spells trouble for the wider salt lake. “As expected, reduced amounts of the algae that fly larvae feed on also limits their growth, yet this, too, is likely to occur as salinities rise,” he said. 

Alongside losses of plant and animal life, the salt lakes are enduring a period of growing dryness as these droughts persist forward. The paper goes on to describe ongoing conservation efforts to protect these salt lakes, including a more detailed study of how exactly brine flies are correlated with climate change’s effect on lakebound ecosystems. This cause has received federal attention, as a recent $25 million grant given to the U.S. Geological Survey will allow the resources, time and opportunities necessary to understand the greater implications of brine fly reproductive slowness and drought’s effect on salt lakes as a whole.

Detecting a gas giant

Thayne Currie, a member of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, and his team have managed to acquire images of gas giant exoplanets within our solar system. These images provided immense insight into the nature of their atmospheres and planetary architecture. Compounding these findings is the detection of a possible new gas giant near the star HIP 99770. Numerous discoveries were made about this gas giant’s makeup, including its temperature, surface gravity, cloudiness and chemical composition. But, Currie’s team was unable to discern the planet’s astrometry due to the limitations of current technology.

So, many specifics regarding this unnamed gas giant’s atmosphere and planetary architecture remain unknown. This paper also describes HIP 99770’s similarities and differences with planets in our own solar system, including an estimation of the planet’s orbital properties and mass. Without doubt, such inquiries will expand our view of the cosmic neighborhood we occupy, and perhaps someday, we may hope to learn even more about HIP 99770 and gas giants akin to it.