Ecosystems

National Academy of Sciences Weighs In On Genetically-Engineered Foods
June 1, 2016 01:58 PM - Jan Lee, Triple Pundit

The National Academy of Sciences has some conclusions to share about genetically-engineered foods — 420 pages worth. And no matter which side of the fence you stand on when it comes to this divisive topic, you probably aren’t going to like what the nonprofit has to say.

The report, Genetically Engineered Organisms: Experiences and Prospects, was released last week online amid a flurry of news articles that attempted to breathlessly summarize the findings in a few short sentences. Some expressed disappointment in the authors’ inconclusive findings; many others attempted to pin a final yea-or-nay viewpoint on the Academy’s nine-chapter investigation.

Honeybees pick up 'astonishing' number of pesticides via non-crop plants
June 1, 2016 11:25 AM - PURDUE UNIVERSITY via EurekAlert!

A Purdue University study shows that honeybees collect the vast majority of their pollen from plants other than crops, even in areas dominated by corn and soybeans, and that pollen is consistently contaminated with a host of agricultural and urban pesticides throughout the growing season.

Honeybees pick up 'astonishing' number of pesticides via non-crop plants
June 1, 2016 11:25 AM - PURDUE UNIVERSITY via EurekAlert!

A Purdue University study shows that honeybees collect the vast majority of their pollen from plants other than crops, even in areas dominated by corn and soybeans, and that pollen is consistently contaminated with a host of agricultural and urban pesticides throughout the growing season.

How did the giraffe get its long neck?
May 27, 2016 06:09 AM - Penn State University

For the first time, the genomes of the giraffe and its closest living relative, the reclusive okapi of the African rainforest, have been sequenced — revealing the first clues about the genetic changes that led to the evolution of the giraffe’s exceptionally long neck and its record-holding ranking as the world’s tallest land species. The research will be published in the scientific journal Nature Communications on May 17, 2016.

“The giraffe’s stature, dominated by its long neck and legs and an overall height that can reach 19 feet (~ 6 m), is an extraordinary feat of evolution that has inspired awe and wonder for at least 8,000 years — as far back as the famous rock carvings at Dabous in the Republic of Niger,” said Douglas Cavener of Penn State, who led the research team with Morris Agaba of the Nelson Mandela African Institute for Science and Technology in Tanzania.

How did the giraffe get its long neck? Clues now are revealed by new genome sequencing. 

Spring comes sooner to urban heat islands, with potential consequences for wildlife
May 25, 2016 08:21 PM - Jenny Seifert, University of Wisconsin-Madison

With spring now fully sprung, a new study by University of Wisconsin–Madison researchers shows that buds burst earlier in dense urban areas than in their suburban and rural surroundings. This may be music to urban gardeners’ ears, but that tune could be alarming to some native and migratory birds and bugs.

Wildfires no longer spreading like wildfires
May 25, 2016 07:15 AM - Swansea University

A new analysis of global data related to wildfire, published by the Royal Society, reveals major misconceptions about wildfire and its social and economic impacts.

Squid populations on the rise
May 24, 2016 07:09 AM - University of Adelaide

Unlike the declining populations of many fish species, the number of cephalopods (octopus, cuttlefish and squid) has increased in the world's oceans over the past 60 years, a University of Adelaide study has found.

The international team, led by researchers from the University's Environment Institute, compiled a global database of cephalopod catch rates to investigate long-term trends in abundance, published in Cell Press journal Current Biology.

GMOs May Be Safe to Eat, But Some Are Still Bad for the Planet
May 20, 2016 06:12 AM - Julie Rodriguez, Care2

For years, one of the major arguments that has been made against genetically engineered crops is the fear that, by tampering with a plant’s DNA, it could potentially cause health issues for consumers. It’s an understandable worry, however, the scientific consensus now seems to be undeniable: Whatever faults GMO crops may have, they are safe for human consumption.

Increased vegetation in the Arctic region may counteract global warming
May 19, 2016 07:19 AM - Lund University via AlphaGalileo

Climate change creates more shrub vegetation in barren, arctic ecosystems. A study at Lund University in Sweden shows that organisms, such as bacteria and fungi, are triggered to break down particularly nutritious dead parts of shrubbery. Meanwhile, the total amount of decomposition is reducing. This could have an inhibiting effect on global warming.

How do trees sleep?
May 18, 2016 07:17 AM - Vienna University of Technology via EurekAlert!

Most living organisms adapt their behavior to the rhythm of day and night. Plants are no exception: flowers open in the morning, some tree leaves close during the night. Researchers have been studying the day and night cycle in plants for a long time: Linnaeus observed that flowers in a dark cellar continued to open and close, and Darwin recorded the overnight movement of plant leaves and stalks and called it "sleep". But even to this day, such studies have only been done with small plants grown in pots, and nobody knew whether trees sleep as well. Now, a team of researchers from Austria, Finland and Hungary measured the sleep movement of fully grown trees using a time series of laser scanning point clouds consisting of millions of points each.

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