Ecosystems

Killer Amoeba Blamed for Six Deaths
October 1, 2007 03:50 PM - Chris Kahn, AP, Lisa Vorderbruggen, Contra Costa Times / MCT

PHOENIX (Sept. 29) — It sounds like science fiction but it's true: A killer amoeba living in lakes enters the body through the nose and attacks the brain where it feeds until you die.
 
Even though encounters with the microscopic bug are extraordinarily rare, it's killed six boys and young men this year. The spike in cases has health officials concerned, and they are predicting more cases in the future.

"This is definitely something we need to track," said Michael Beach, a specialist in recreational waterborne illnesses for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"This is a heat-loving amoeba. As water temperatures go up, it does better," Beach said. "In future decades, as temperatures rise, we'd expect to see more cases."

Volcano Erupts Off Yemen, Soldiers Killed
October 1, 2007 02:43 PM - Mohammed Ghobari, Reuters

SANAA (Reuters) - A volcano erupted on a Yemeni Red Sea island late on Sunday, killing at least seven soldiers and spewing lava and ash hundreds of meters into the air.

A government official said seven bodies had been recovered, along with one survivor, all soldiers stationed on Jabal al-Tair island, some 80 miles off Yemen's mainland.

A Defence Ministry official on the island, which has been home to a military base since Yemen's 1996 conflict with Eritrea, said its western part had "collapsed" into the sea.

Sushi Craze Threatens Mediterranean's Giant Tuna
October 1, 2007 09:27 AM - Reuters

BARBATE, Spain - Fishermen like Diego Crespo have trapped the giant tuna swarming into the warm Mediterranean for over 3,000 years, but he says this year may be one of his last.  Japanese demand for its fatty flesh to make sushi has sparked a fishing frenzy for the Atlantic bluefin tuna -- a torpedo-shaped brute weighing up to half a tonne that can accelerate faster than a Porsche 911. Now a system of corralling the fish into "tuna ranches" has combined with a growing tuna fishing fleet to bring stocks dangerously close to collapse, warn scientists from ICCAT -- the body established by bluefin fishing countries to monitor the stock.

Green Campaign Dents Palm Oil Demand
October 1, 2007 09:20 AM - Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR - A campaign by environment groups against palm oil is costing the product market share in Europe, a top Malaysian palm oil industry official said on Monday.  Palm oil, used as food and in products ranging from cosmetics to biofuel, has come under fire from environmentalists in Europe and America who say the rapid expansion in palm cultivation is responsible for vanishing tropical forests and wildlife.

Deforestation Needs to be in Next Climate Pact
October 1, 2007 09:08 AM - Reuters

JAKARTA -Cutting emissions from deforestation will be key to curbing climate change and should be agreed upon in December's climate talks in Bali, a leading Indonesian forestry researcher said on Monday.  The conference on the resort island is expected to initiate talks on clinching a new deal by 2009 to fight global warming.   Under the Kyoto Protocol, developed nations can pay poor countries to cut emissions from activities such as the manufacture of refrigerants and fertilizers as well as capturing greenhouse gases from farm waste and rubbish dumps.

Tropical Storm Juliette forms in Mexican Pacific
September 30, 2007 05:27 PM - Reuters

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Tropical Storm Juliette formed in the Pacific Ocean off Mexico and was forecast to whirl along off the Baja California peninsula over the next few days, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said on Sunday.

Juliette was carrying maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (72 kph) and was more than 350 miles southwest of the peninsula.

The center described Juliette as a "weaker storm" that could lose force as it hit cooler waters.

Greek forests severely damaged by summer fires
September 30, 2007 09:36 AM - WWF

A report by WWF gives an overview of the damages and environmental impacts caused by the devastating wildfires that raged throughout southern Greece this past summer.

According to WWF-Greece, the wildfires scorched a total of 177,265 hectares in the Peloponese Peninsula south of Athens — 55% (97,518ha) of which consisted of forests and areas of natural vegetation, 41% (78,104ha) of  agricultural land and 1% of infrastructure (settlements, roads, etc.).

Magnitude 7.4 quake hits near New Zealand
September 30, 2007 09:21 AM - Reuters

A strong earthquake with a magnitude of 7.4 hit some 500 km (300 miles) southwest of New Zealand on Sunday, but there were no reports of damage and authorities discounted the risk of a major tsunami.

The quake occurred at around 6:24 p.m. local time, and was felt throughout the south of New Zealand's South Island, said Warwick Smith of state agency GNS Science.

Wasp Study Suggests Altruism Evolved From Maternal Behavior
September 29, 2007 07:29 PM - Diana Yates, University of Illinois

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Researchers at the University of Illinois have used an innovative approach to reveal the molecular basis of altruistic behavior in wasps. The research team focused on the expression of behavior-related genes in Polistes metricus paper wasps, a species for which little genetic data was available when the study was begun. Their findings appear today online in Science Express.

Like honey bee workers, wasp workers give up their reproductive capabilities and focus entirely on nurturing their larval siblings, a practice that seems to defy the Darwinian prediction that a successful organism strives, above all else, to reproduce itself. Such behaviors are indicative of a eusocial society, in which some individuals lose, or sacrifice, their reproductive functions and instead work to benefit the larger group.

Increasing Atmospheric Moisture Tied To Human Activities
September 29, 2007 05:43 PM - Lawrence Livermore Laboratory

LIVERMORE, Calif. –Observations and climate model results confirm that human-induced warming of the planet is having a pronounced effect on the atmosphere’s total moisture content.

Those are the findings of a new study appearing in the Sept. 17 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“When you heat the planet, you increase the ability of the atmosphere to hold moisture,” said Benjamin Santer, lead author from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Program for Climate Modeling and Intercomparison. “The atmosphere’s water vapor content has increased by about 0.41 kilograms per square meter (kg/m²) per decade since 1988, and natural variability in climate just can’t explain this moisture change. The most plausible explanation is that it’s due to the human-caused increase in greenhouse gases.”

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