Human response to climate
January 22, 2014 10:22 AM - B. Rose Huber, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University
Throughout history, humans have responded to climate. Take, for example, the Mayans, who, throughout the eighth and 10th centuries, were forced to move away from their major ceremonial centers after a series of multi-year droughts, bringing about agricultural expansion in Mesoamerica, and a clearing of forests. Much later, in the late 20th century, frequent droughts caused the people of Burkina Faso in West Africa to migrate from the dry north to the wetter south where they have transformed forests to croplands and cut the nation's area of natural vegetation in half.
How Labeling Helps us Choose Efficient Light Bulbs
January 22, 2014 08:37 AM - Allison Winter, ENN
When shopping for "green", "energy efficient", or "organic" products, consumers often have to decide if the price is worth it as these products are generally more expensive at the checkout line. Here starts the dilemma: how much would you pay for a healthier, nontoxic product or is an upfront cost worth energy efficient savings in the long run? When it comes to purchasing light bulbs, according to a new study conducted by Leeds University Business School and Carnegie Mellon University, consumers are more willing to buy energy efficient brands when the energy costs are clearly labeled.
Great Lakes evaporation hypothesis up in the air
January 21, 2014 03:24 PM - Robin Blackstone, ENN
The recent Arctic blast gripping the nation will likely contribute to a rise in Great Lakes water levels in 2014, new research from the University of Michigan and Michigan State University shows. Research conducted by the two schools through the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center (GLISA) shows the correlation between periods of high and low evaporation and its effect on ice cover. Years with high ice cover were usually followed by cooler summer water temperatures and lower evaporation rates, but these same high-ice winters were preceded by high evaporation rates during the autumn and early winter indicating a two-way connection between ice cover and evaporation. While ice cover reduces evaporation from what would otherwise be exposed lake surface water, it also reduces lake temperature generating ice cover.
Is plant virus linked to honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)?
January 21, 2014 08:27 AM - Jim Sliwa, American Society for Microbiology
A viral pathogen that typically infects plants has been found in honeybees and could help explain their decline. Researchers working in the U.S. and Beijing, China report their findings in mBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology. The routine screening of bees for frequent and rare viruses "resulted in the serendipitous detection of Tobacco Ringspot Virus, or TRSV, and prompted an investigation into whether this plant-infecting virus could also cause systemic infection in the bees," says Yan Ping Chen from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, an author on the study.
Should activities in public space be limited? The UK approach.
January 21, 2014 07:02 AM - Josie Appleton, The Ecologist
Laws handing sweeping new powers to police and private security to restrict access to Britain's public space will extinguish the diversity of civic life, writes Josie Appleton. Time for us to rediscover and defend our freedoms! Councils and the police will have an almost free hand to determine the use of all public spaces from civic squares to rural footpaths. The idea of public space, as it developed in the modern period, was space for the free use and enjoyment of the citizenry. The temper and character of public space should be determined not by any private or public authority, but by the ways in which people choose to use it. A bill currently passing through the UK Parliament will mean the death-knell of this principle.
Beaver, Dam it!
January 20, 2014 09:32 AM - Enn Staff, The Ecologist
As climate change brings more rain, there will be more catastrophic flooding; flooding of crops, homes and businesses, particularly in urban areas where there is simply no place for the water to go. One British writer has identified the beaver as the would-be hero to restore hydrological normalcy. Louise Ramsey writes about the beaver in Britain where reintroductions of the rodent have shown the vital role they once had in reducing flooding and how they could take up that mantle once more.
Dueling fruit flies
January 17, 2014 11:13 AM - By Robin Blackstone
Apparently male fruit flies fight. Who knew? According to biologist David Anderson from the fly laboratory of California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Drosophilae, commonly known as fruit flies, fight regularly. Males in particular put up a big fight in the presence of a female because males have special cells in their brains that promote fighting that are absent in the brains of female fruit flies.
Washington DC leaking all over
January 17, 2014 09:56 AM - Tim Lucas, Duke University
More than 5,893 leaks from aging natural gas pipelines have been found under the streets of Washington, D.C., by a research team from Duke University and Boston University. A dozen of the leaks could have posed explosion risks, the researchers said. Some manholes had methane concentrations as high as 500,000 parts per million of natural gas -- about 10 times greater than the threshold at which explosions can occur.
Chemicals of Emerging Concern (CECs) identified in sewage sludge
January 16, 2014 04:17 PM - Richard Harth, Arizona State University
Thousands of chemicals serving a variety of human needs flood into sewage treatment plants once their use life has ended. Many belong to a class of chemicals known as CECs (for chemicals of emerging concern), which may pose risks to both human and environmental health. Arjun Venkatesan and Rolf Halden of Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute have been tracking many of these chemicals outlining a new approach to the identification of potentially harmful, mass-produced chemicals, describing the accumulation in sludge of 123 distinct CECs.
The girth of a tree
January 15, 2014 04:54 PM - Robin Blackstone, ENN
Thank goodness human growth rates don't match that of trees. For if it did then we would tip the scales of well over a ton by the time we reach retirement! Consider this new research from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) recently published in the journal Nature. According to the new study, trees put on weight faster and faster as they grow older. Because most trees' growth accelerates as they age this suggests that large, old trees may play an unexpectedly dynamic role in removing carbon from the atmosphere.