Ice in Arctic seas shrank this summer to the sixth lowest level in 36 years of monitoring.
The National Snow and Ice Data Center reported this week that the ice reached its seasonal minimum on Sept. 17 of 1.94 million square miles. That’s down a bit from 2013, but not near as low as the record-setting 2012. It is still 19 percent below average.
Bent and tossed by the wind, a field of soybean plants presents a challenge for an Asian lady bug on the hunt for aphids. But what if the air — and the soybeans — were still?
Rising temperatures and shifting precipitation patterns may get the lion’s share of our climate change attention, but predators may want to give some thought to wind, according to a Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison zoologist’s study, which is among the first to demonstrate the way “global stilling” may alter predator-prey relationships.
Creating unmown areas in an urban park can significantly increase flowers and pollinating insects while also leading to a greater enjoyment of the space by people, according to a Univ. of Sussex study.
Researchers at the university’s Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects (LASI) monitored areas of one of Brighton & Hove City Council’s managed parks to see what would happen if the grass was left uncut for different periods of time.
They found that, during the course of one year, the blocks of unmown land at Saltdean Oval saw a three-fold increase in the density of flowers, while the numbers of flower-visiting insects such as bees, butterflies and moths was up to five times higher in the least-mown areas compared with the areas mown regularly as normal, every two weeks.
From the most parched areas of Saudi Arabia to water-scarce areas of the western U.S., the idea of harvesting fog for water is catching on. Now, a novel approach to this process could help meet affected communities’ needs for the life-essential resource. Scientists describe their new, highly efficient fog collector, inspired by a shorebird’s beak, in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.
Cheng Luo and his doctoral student, Xin Heng, explain that deserts and semi-arid areas cover about half of the Earth’s land masses. In some of these places, trucks bring in potable water for the people who live there. To find a more sustainable way to get water, these communities, which can’t draw water from underground or surface supplies, have turned to the air — and to nature for inspiration.
The meteorite impact that spelled doom for the dinosaurs 66 million years ago decimated the evergreens among the flowering plants to a much greater extent than their deciduous peers, according to a study led by Univ. of Arizona researchers. The results are published in the journal PLOS Biology.
Applying biomechanical formulas to a treasure trove of thousands of fossilized leaves of angiosperms — flowering plants excluding conifers — the team was able to reconstruct the ecology of a diverse plant community thriving during a 2.2 million-year period spanning the cataclysmic impact event, believed to have wiped out more than half of plant species living at the time.
The researchers found evidence that, after the event, fast-growing, deciduous angiosperms had replaced their slow-growing, evergreen peers to a large extent. Living examples of evergreen angiosperms, such as holly and ivy, tend to prefer shade, don’t grow very fast and sport dark-colored leaves.
Mars Meteorite Yields Evidence of Possibility for Life
A tiny fragment of Martian meteorite 1.3 billion years old is helping to make the case for the possibility of life on Mars, say scientists. The finding of a cell-like structure — which investigators now know once held water — came about as a result of collaboration between scientists in the UK and Greece. Their findings are published in the latest edition of the journal Astrobiology.
While investigating the Martian meteorite, known as Nakhla, Elias Chatzitheodoridis of the National Technical Univ. of Athens found an unusual feature embedded deep within the rock. In a bid to understand what it might be, he teamed up with long-time friend and collaborator Prof. Ian Lyon at the Univ. of Manchester.
A new online resource, developed by researchers at the Univ. of Cambridge in collaboration with other organizations based in Cambridge, helps those in both the public and private sector see how changes to an ecosystem can affect its value, in order to make more informed decisions about how the natural environment should be developed.
The Toolkit for Ecosystem Service Site-based Assessment (TESSA) was launched online this week to coincide with the 7th Annual Ecosystem Services Partnership Conference in Costa Rica, and allows users to make a direct comparison of the value that an ecosystem can provide to a community in different states, by providing access to state of the art information about their financial value.
Earth’s protective ozone layer is beginning to recover, largely because of the phase-out since the 1980s of certain chemicals used in refrigerants and aerosol cans, a U.N. scientific panel reported in a rare piece of good news about the health of the planet.
Scientists said the development demonstrates that when the world comes together, it can counteract a brewing ecological crisis. For the first time in 35 years, scientists were able to confirm a statistically significant and sustained increase in stratospheric ozone, which shields the planet from solar radiation that causes skin cancer, crop damage and other problems.
When a segment of a major fault line goes quiet, it can mean one of two things. The “seismic gap” may simply be inactive — the result of two tectonic plates placidly gliding past each other — or the segment may be a source of potential earthquakes, quietly building tension over decades until an inevitable seismic release.
Researchers from MIT and Turkey have found evidence for both types of behavior on different segments of the North Anatolian Fault — one of the most energetic earthquake zones in the world. The fault, similar in scale to California’s San Andreas Fault, stretches for about 745 miles across northern Turkey and into the Aegean Sea.
Tiny single-cell organisms discovered living underground could help with the problem of nuclear waste disposal, say researchers involved in a study at The Univ. of Manchester.
Although bacteria with waste-eating properties have been discovered in relatively pristine soils before, this is the first time that microbes that can survive in the very harsh conditions expected in radioactive waste disposal sites have been found.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced $328 million in funding to protect and restore farmlands, grasslands and wetlands across the country.
The initiative, using money provided in the new five-year farm bill, will buy conservation easements from farmers to protect the environment, help wildlife populations and promote outdoor recreation, the USDA said in its announcement. The agency selected 380 projects nationwide covering 32,000 acres of prime farmland, 45,000 acres of grasslands and 52,000 acres of wetlands.
In the typical textbook picture, volcanoes, such as those that are forming the Hawaiian islands, erupt when magma gushes out as narrow jets from deep inside Earth. But that picture is wrong, according to a new study from researchers at Caltech and the Univ. of Miami.
New seismology data are confirming that such narrow jets don’t actually exist, says Don Anderson, the Eleanor and John R. McMillian Professor of Geophysics, Emeritus, at Caltech. In fact, he adds, basic physics doesn’t support the presence of these jets, called mantle plumes, and the new results corroborate those fundamental ideas.
One of the most visible signs of climate change in recent years was not even visible at all until a few decades ago. The sea ice cap that covers the Arctic Ocean has been changing dramatically, especially in the last 15 years. Its ice is thinner and more vulnerable – and at its summer minimum now covers more than 1 million fewer square miles than in the late 1970s. That’s enough missing ice to cover Alaska, California and Texas.
A key part of the story of how the world was able to witness and document this change centers on meticulous work over decades by a small group of scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Late nights in mainframe rooms, double- and triple-checking computer printouts, processing and re-processing data – until the first-ever accurate atlases of the world’s sea ice were published.
Genetic Signatures May Help Predictive Climate Models
One aspect of the climate change models researchers have been developing looks at how plant ranges might shift, and how factors such as temperature, water availability and light levels might come into play. Forests creeping steadily north and becoming established in the thawing Arctic is just one of the predicted effects of rising global temperatures.
A recent study published in Nature Genetics offers a more in-depth, population-based approach to identifying such mechanisms for adaptation, and describes a method that could be harnessed for developing more accurate predictive climate change models. For the U.S. Department of Energy, which is developing biomass crops for biofuels production, this knowledge could determine which genotypes – genetic makeup of an organism – of biomass crop may thrive better than others in certain environments.
WikimediaUsing a new modeling approach, the researchers at the Univ. of York estimated the levels of 12 pharmaceutical compounds in rivers across the UK. They found that while most of the compounds were likely to cause only a low risk to aquatic life, ibuprofen might be having an adverse effect in nearly 50 percent of the stretches of river studied.
In what is believed to be the first study to establish the level of risk posed by ibuprofen at the country scale, the researchers examined 3,112 stretches of river that together receive inputs from 21 million people.