Enn Original News
USGS launches Butterfly and Moth Website
March 13, 2011 08:07 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN
The United States Geologic Survey, and partners including Montana State University Big Sky Institute, National Biological Information Infrastructure, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, has launched a new website to help us understand, identify, and appreciate the rich diversity of butterflies and moths of North America. The heart of the web site is the Butterflies and Moths of North America database Why should we care about butterflies and moths? Thanks to butterflies, bees, birds, and other animal pollinators, the world's flowering plants are able to reproduce and bear fruit. That very basic capability is at the root of many of the foods we eat. And, not least, pollination adds to the beauty we see around us. Yet today, there is evidence of alarming pollinator population declines worldwide. Fortunately, science investigators of this crucial issue can use data collected and organized in the BAMONA database to monitor the health of our butterfly and moth population.
New from BBC Earth: Migrating with Mom
March 12, 2011 11:11 AM - Editor, BBC Earth
Any great journey starts out with a little trepidation, think back to your first day of school, walking out into the big wide world (or playground) and then looking back to see your guardian eagerly watching and willing you to keep going. These first steps are always the hardest, and as one of the the largest mammals on the earth there's no exception. Scientifically classified as one of the "big-winged" (Megaptera) species, the Humpback Whale make their annual move north from the warm Hawaiian Island waters from March onwards. Seeking fresh food and cooler temperatures, these magnificent giants will travel through currents so challenging that only perseverance will see them through. And as a newborn, the first ocean crossing will be something to remember. After approximately four months of not eating and living off her own blubber, it's not just the cow's instinct which is telling her that it’s time to move on. With calf in tow, she sets off. From the low-latitude breeding grounds, they will travel at 3-9 mph (5-15kph) or as fast as the calf can swim. Sometimes this can take up to three months, but at 1,000miles per month, at this stage they can’t afford to waste a moment of their time.
March 11, 2011 01:45 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
The mysterious collapse of honey-bee colonies is becoming a global phenomenon. Declines in managed bee colonies, seen increasingly in Europe and the US in the past decade, are also now being observed in China and Japan and there are the first signs of African collapses from Egypt, according to the report from the United Nations. Beekeepers in Western countries have been reporting slow declines of stocks for many years, apparently due to impaired protein production, changes in agricultural practice, or unpredictable weather. In early 2007, abnormally high die-offs (30-70% of hives) of European honey bee colonies occurred in the U.S. and Québec; such a decline seems unprecedented in recent history. This has been dubbed Colony collapse disorder (CCD); it is unclear whether this is simply an accelerated phase of the general decline due to more adverse conditions in 2006, or a novel phenomenon. More than a dozen factors, ranging from declines in flowering plants and the use of memory-damaging insecticides to the world-wide spread of pests and air pollution, may be behind the emerging decline of bee colonies across many parts of the globe.
A Really Old Bird with Chicks
March 10, 2011 03:59 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
How old can a bird live in the wild? And how long can they breed successfully. Records are sparse of course. A Laysan albatross named Wisdom, is at least 60 years old and was spotted in February 2011 raising a chick at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific Islands. The bird has sported and worn out 5 bird bands since she was first banded by U.S. Geological Survey scientist Chandler Robbins in 1956 as she incubated an egg. Robbins estimated Wisdom to be at least 5 years old then since this is the earliest age at which these birds breed, though they more typically breed at 8 or 9 after an involved courtship lasting several years. This means, of course, that Wisdom is more likely to be in her early sixties. While no bander goes out to study the maximum lifespan of a species as the only reason for their banding, every bander can contribute to this information. The information on life span is collected every time a banded bird is reported. The maximum longevity record cannot be longer than the time span that researchers have been studying that species, and the lifespan of the bands used on birds was shorter than the lifespan of the birds for some species. Most banders that are working on species with long lifespans are using a harder metal band that will last as long as the bird lives.
NASA Study Shows Melting Ice Caps are Largest Contributor to Higher Seas
March 10, 2011 09:22 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
The news just seems to be getting worse and worse coming out of the Arctic and Antarctic. The melting of ice is not appearing to let up, and is in fact, getting faster. A new NASA-funded satellite study shows that the two biggest ice sheets on Earth — Greenland and Antarctica — are losing mass at an accelerating rate. This is the longest study ever conducted to analyze changing ice conditions at the poles, spanning nearly 20 years. Researchers concluded that the melting of ice caps has overtaken the melting of mountain glaciers to be the most dominant source of global sea level rise, much sooner than previous forecast models predicted.
The Speed of a Moth
March 9, 2011 04:41 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
Which is faster? A small moth or a songbird? The answer does surprise. A study published in March 2011 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B by researchers at Rothamsted Research, and the universities of Lund (Sweden), Greenwich and York, reports the surprising finding that night-flying moths are able to match their songbird counterparts for travel speed and direction during their annual migrations but they use quite different strategies to do so - information that adds to our understanding of the lifestyle of such insects, which are important for maintaining biodiversity and food security. This new international study of moth migration over the UK, and songbird migration over Sweden, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Swedish Research Council, shows that songbirds (mainly Willow Warblers) and moths (Silver Y moths) have very similar migration speeds — between 30 kilometers and 65 kilometers per hour — and both travel approximately northwards in the spring and southwards in the autumn.
Icelandic Geothermal Energy
March 8, 2011 03:38 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
Iceland’s largest energy company is considering construction of the world’s longest underwater electric cable so the nation can sell its vast geothermal and volcanic energy to the European market. By the end of the year, state-owned energy company, Landsvirkjun, will complete a study of building a sub-sea cable that could deliver as much as five terawatt-hours (5 billion kilowatt-hours) annually to Europe, enough electricity to power 1.25 million homes. Geothermal energy is thermal energy generated and stored in the Earth. Thermal energy is energy that determines the temperature of matter. Earth's geothermal energy originates from the original formation of the planet, from radioactive decay of minerals, from volcanic activity, and from solar energy absorbed at the surface. The geothermal gradient, which is the difference in temperature between the core of the planet and its surface, drives a continuous conduction of thermal energy in the form of heat from the core to the surface.
The Importance of a Healthy Diet during Pregnancy
March 8, 2011 01:16 PM - David A Gabel, ENN
Heavy alcohol or drug use during pregnancy is already known to potentially cause birth defects. Almost important as this is what a mother eats. The diet of a pregnant mother can have long lasting health implications for her child. A new study from researchers at the University of Cambridge has shown how an unhealthy diet creates a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer to the child later in life.
March 7, 2011 05:10 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
The discovery of numerous large ice structures within Antarctica’s Dome A region, the site of the buried ghost mountains, reveals new understanding about ice sheet growth and movement that is essential for predicting how the ice sheet may change as the Earth’s climate warms. The Gamburtsev Mountain Range is a subglacial mountain range located in Eastern Antarctica. The range was discovered by the 3rd Soviet Antarctic Expedition in 1958 and is named for Soviet geophysicist Grigoriy A. Gamburtsev. It is approximately (750 miles long, and the mountains are believed to be about 8,900 feet high, although they are completely covered by over 600 meters (2,000 ft) of ice and snow. The Gamburtsev Mountain Range is currently believed to be about the same size as the European Alps.
Algal Blooms in the Arctic
March 4, 2011 09:23 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
An algal bloom is an explosion of growth and population of algae, which typically consist of one or a small number of phytoplankton, the foundation of the food chain. These blooms occur all over the world, even in the icy waters of the Arctic Ocean. They normally occur for a reason such as an overabundance of nutrients in the water from natural or man-made sources, or naturally with rising spring temperatures. In the Arctic, higher temperatures and melting ice have caused a shift in the region's natural bloom cycle. They are progressively coming earlier, and the shift has great importance to the entire food chain and global carbon cycle.