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The Endangered Tuna
July 8, 2011 12:56 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
For the first time, all scombrid species (tunas, bonitos, mackerels and Spanish mackerels) and billfishes (swordfish and marlins) have been assessed for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Of the 61 known species, 7 are thought to be at serious risk of extinction and are classified in a threatened category. Critically Endangered is the highest risk category assigned by the IUCN Red List for wild species. Critically Endangered means that a species' numbers have decreased, or will decrease, by 80% within three generations. Tuna is a salt water fish from the family Scombridae, mostly in the genus Thunnus. Tuna are fast swimmers, and some species are capable of speeds of 43 mph. Unlike most fish, which have white flesh, the muscle tissue of tuna ranges from pink to dark red. The red coloration derives from myoglobin, an oxygen-binding molecule, which tuna express in quantities far higher than most other fish. Some larger tuna species, such as bluefin tuna, display some warm-blooded adaptations, and can raise their body temperatures above water temperatures by means of muscular activity. This enables them to survive in cooler waters and to inhabit a wider range of ocean environments than other types of fish.
July 8, 2011 08:09 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
The United States listed the leatherback turtle as an endangered species on June 2, 1970. The leatherback sea turtle is the largest of all living sea turtles and the fourth largest modern reptile behind three crocodilians. It can easily be differentiated from other modern sea turtles by its lack of a bony shell. Instead, its carapace is covered by skin and oily flesh. A settlement filed today in federal court between conservation groups and the National Marine Fisheries Service requires the government to make a final rule protecting critical habitat for the endangered leatherback sea turtle by Nov. 15, 2011. As proposed, the rule will protect sea turtles in part of the area off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington. If made final, it would represent the first sea turtle critical habitat ever designated in ocean waters off the continental shelf. On Jan. 5, 2010, the Fisheries Service proposed to designate about 70,600 square miles (45 million acres) of ocean waters as critical habitat for leatherbacks, which have suffered steep declines in recent decades. The proposal responded to a 2007 legal petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Oceana and Turtle Island Restoration Network to protect key migratory and foraging habitat for these ancient turtles along the West Coast. On April 19, 2011, the conservation groups sued the government for its delay in finalizing the turtle’s critical habitat.
Rain in Australia
July 7, 2011 04:43 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
Decreasing autumn and winter rainfall over southern Australia has been attributed to a 50-year decrease in the average intensity of storms in the region — a trend which is forecast to continue for another 50 years. In an address to the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics conference in Melbourne, CSIRO climate scientist, Dr Jorgen Frederiksen, said these changes are due to reductions in the strength of the mid-latitude jet stream and changes in atmospheric temperatures. The jet stream comprises fast moving westerly winds in the upper atmosphere. A long, severe drought, the worst on record is being experienced in many parts of Australia. As of November 2006, the late-winter to mid-spring rainfalls had failed. The average rainfall in the state of South Australia was the lowest since 1900. Across Victoria and the Murray-Darling Basin the season was the second driest since 1900. New South Wales' rainfall was boosted by above normal falls along the north coast of the state, however the state average rainfall for the season is the third driest since 1900. The situation has been worsened by temperatures being the highest on record since the 1950s.
How Hot Was It Long Ago
July 7, 2011 07:48 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
The question seems simple enough: What happens to the Earth’s temperature when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels increase? It has happened in the past. The answer is elusive. However, clues are hidden in the fossil record. A new study by researchers from Syracuse and Yale universities provides a much clearer picture of the Earth’s temperature approximately 50 million years ago when CO2 concentrations were higher than today. The results may shed light on what to expect in the future if CO2 levels keep rising. The study which for the first time compared multiple geochemical and temperature proxies to determine mean annual and seasonal temperatures, is published online in the journal Geology, the premier publication of the Geological Society of America, and will be published in print on August 1.
July 6, 2011 07:54 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
The sun and the solar system's rocky inner planets, including the Earth, may have formed differently than previously thought, according to UCLA scientists and colleagues analyzing samples returned by NASA's Genesis mission. The data from Genesis, which collected material from the solar wind blowing from the sun, reveal differences between the sun and planets with regard to oxygen and nitrogen, two of the most abundant elements in our solar system, the researchers report in two studies in the June 24 issue of the journal Science. And although the differences are slight, the research could help determine how our solar system evolved.
July 5, 2011 07:49 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
Kelp has a high rate of growth and its decay is quite efficient in yielding methane, as well as sugars that can be converted to ethanol. It has been proposed that large open-ocean kelp farms could serve as a source of renewable energy. Unlike some biofuels such as corn ethanol, kelp energy avoids "food vs fuel" issues and does not require irrigation. Seaweed may prove a viable future biofuel especially if harvested in summer. However the suitability of its chemical composition varies on a seasonal basis. Harvesting the kelp in July when carbohydrate levels are at their highest would ensure optimal sugar release for biofuel production.
4th of July Parades, Fireworks, and Waste
July 4, 2011 09:48 AM - TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff
It's not the Fourth of July without a parade and fireworks — plus lots of trash and some not-so-healthy toxins and pollutants. Rhode Island prides itself on hosting the oldest parade in the nation. The Bristol tradition draws some 100,000 spectators, who leave behind about 64 tons of trash, according to the Department of Public Works. Progress has been made in recent years to control waste by requiring vendors to haul out their own garbage. Stapling paper yard-waste bags to trees and telephone poles along the parade route also has encouraged spectators to help with the clean up of bottles, cups, balloons and other debris. "We flood the parade route with those bags and it's a huge help," said Jim Sylvester of Bristol's DPW. None of the waste, however, is sorted for recyclables. It's not well known, or at least not well publicized, that fireworks — from sparklers to professional displays — leave behind a fair amount of waste, while releasing noxious gases and heavy metals.
Red Wine and Exercise
July 1, 2011 11:09 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
Wine has its proponents as well its opponents. Long-term spaceflight induces hypokinesia and hypodynamia, which results in a number of significant physiological alterations, such as muscle atrophy, force reduction, insulin resistance, substrate use shift from fats to carbohydrates, and bone loss. Resveratrol, a natural polyphenol, could be used as a nutritional countermeasure to prevent muscle metabolic and bone adaptions according to a new study. A chemical in red wine called resveratrol has been shown to have both cardioprotective and chemoprotective effects in animal studies. Low doses of resveratrol in the diet of middle-aged mice has a widespread influence on the genetic levers of aging and may confer special protection on the heart. Specifically, low doses of resveratrol mimic the effects of what is known as caloric restriction - diets with 20—30 percent fewer calories than a typical diet. Resveratrol is produced naturally by grape skins in response to fungal infection, including exposure to yeast during fermentation. As white wine has minimal contact with grape skins during this process, it generally contains lower levels of the chemical. Other beneficial compounds in wine include other polyphenols, antioxidants, and flavonoids.
Motion Affer Effect
June 30, 2011 02:10 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
The motion after-effect is a visual illusion experienced after viewing a moving visual stimulus for a time (seconds to minutes) with stationary eyes, and then fixating a stationary stimulus. The stationary stimulus appears to move in the opposite direction to the original (physically moving) stimulus. The motion aftereffect is believed to be the result of motion adaptation. For example, if one looks at a waterfall for about a minute and then looks at the stationary rocks at the side of the waterfall, these rocks appear to be moving upwards slightly. The illusory upwards movement is the motion aftereffect. This particular motion aftereffect is also known as the waterfall illusion. Why does it happen, though? Is it because we are consciously aware that the background is moving in one direction, causing our brains to shift their frame of reference so that we can ignore this motion? Or is it an automatic, subconscious response? Davis Glasser, a doctoral student in the University of Rochester's Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences thinks he has found the answer. The results of a study done by Glasser, along with his advisor, Professor Duje Tadin, and colleagues James Tsui and Christopher Pack of the Montreal Neurological Institute, is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In their paper, the scientists show that humans experience the Motion Aftereffect even if the motion that they see in the background is so brief that they can't even tell whether it is heading to the right or the left.
Diabetes: A Global Epidemic?
June 29, 2011 10:01 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
According to a major international study which analyzed global data on diabetes since 1980, the prevalence of diabetes has gone up or at best remained unchanged in every part of the world for the last 30 years. The number of people with the disease has more than doubled during that period to 347 million adults. The increase can be attributed to population growth, aging, and to an overall higher prevalence.