Biodiversity conservationists get a little help with new online freshwater atlas
February 12, 2014 01:00 PM - Richa Malhotra, SciDevNet
An online repository of maps has been launched to make information on freshwater biodiversity available on a common platform for use by scientists, policymakers, conservationists and NGOs. The Global Freshwater Biodiversity Atlas will help developing countries identify biodiversity-rich areas for conservation. It was launched last month (29 January), as part of an EU-funded project called BioFresh, with the aim of putting together published maps and sharing them under a creative commons license.
Marine Protected Areas deemed largely ineffective
February 12, 2014 09:25 AM - Loren Bell, MONGABAY.COM
Protecting large, isolated areas of no-take zones for over 10 years with strong enforcement is the key to effective Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), according to a letter published this week in Nature. However, 59% of all MPAs meet less than three of the five criteria, making them protected in name only.
Climate migration in the face of climate change
February 11, 2014 09:41 AM - Julie Cohen, University of California, Santa Barbara
As climate change unfolds over the next century, plants and animals will need to adapt or shift locations to follow their ideal climate. A new study provides an innovative global map of where species are likely to succeed or fail in keeping up with a changing climate. The findings appear in the science journal Nature.
Calculating your water footprint
February 10, 2014 11:01 AM - Robin Blackstone, ENN
Water scarcity affects 2.7 billion people worldwide for at least a month each year and in the same way that each of us has a carbon footprint, Professor Arjen Hoekstra of the University of Twente in the Netherlands posits that every person also has a "water footprint". Our water footprint is calculated by counting the amount of fresh water that we each use daily and the amount of water required to produce the goods and services that we consume. Due in large part to our monthly water bill, we recognize our daily fresh water use more than we do the amount of water that it takes to produce other foods and products that we consume. We more commonly think about water consumption in terms daily showers dishwasher and sprinkler usage or dripping spigots.
Should the Wolf continue to be protected?
February 9, 2014 08:03 AM - VIRGINIA MORELL, SCIENCE
The ongoing battle over a proposal to lift U.S. government protections for the gray wolf (Canis lupus) across the lower 48 states isn't likely to end quickly. An independent, peer-review panel yesterday gave a thumbs-down to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS's) plan to de-list the wolf. Although not required to reach a consensus, the four researchers on the panel were unanimous in their opinion that the proposal "does not currently represent the 'best available science'" "It's stunning to see a pronouncement like this--that the proposal is not scientifically sound," says Michael Nelson, an ecologist at Oregon State University in Corvallis, who was not one of the reviewers. Many commentators regard it as a major set-back for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which stumbled last year in a previous attempt to get the science behind its proposal reviewed.
February 8, 2014 07:33 AM - ANGUS CHEN, ScienceNOW
Still searing from the formation of the solar system, the core of Earth is a nuclear reactor generating heat from the breakdown of radioactive elements like uranium, thorium, and potassium. Scientists have been harnessing that heat for decades by drilling deep wells to power turbines. But now researchers have been able to tap into even greater energy by drilling into volcanoes and exploiting the heat of molten rock. If current geothermal wells are replaced with the new technology, it could provide 30% more power than current renewable energy sources. The idea of tapping the energy of magma came from a pair of accidents. In 1985, workers drilling for a geothermal well in Iceland ran into a sudden and uncontrollable blast of high-pressure steam. Scientists think the steam originated from a reservoir of water that’s under such pressure that as it begins to boil, the water cannot expand enough to become vapor and remains in a liquidlike state. Water in such a "supercritical state" contains enormous amounts of energy. Water reaches this state once it reaches 222 bars of pressure and 374°C or above, and flashes into steam when the pressure drops as the water rises to the surface.
A Mexican "bee-rometer"
February 7, 2014 05:17 PM - Beth King, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Mexico is the fourth largest honey producer and fifth largest honey exporter in the world. A Smithsonian researcher and colleagues helped rural farmers in Mexico to quantify the genetically modified organism (GMO) soybean pollen in honey samples rejected for sale in Germany. Their results will appear Feb. 7 in the online journal, Scientific Reports.
The first big bite!
February 7, 2014 11:43 AM - Gareth Trickey, University of Toronto
The first top predators to walk on land were not afraid to bite off more than they could chew, a University of Toronto, Mississauga study has found. Graduate student and lead author Kirstin Brink and U of T Biology Professor Robert Reisz suggest that Dimetrodon, a carnivore that walked on land between 298 million and 272 million years ago, was the first terrestrial vertebrate to develop serrated ziphodont teeth. According to the study published in Nature Communications, ziphodont teeth, with their serrated edges, produced a more-efficient bite and would have allowed Dimetrodon to eat prey much larger than itself. While most meat-eating dinosaurs possessed ziphodont teeth, fossil evidence suggests serrated teeth first evolved in Dimetrodon some 40 million years earlier than theropod dinosaurs.
Submarine melting gives rise to sea levels by chewing away the Greenland Ice Sheet
February 6, 2014 11:22 AM - Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Over the past two decades, ice loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet increased four-fold contributing to one-quarter of global sea level rise. However, the chain of events and physical processes that contributed to it has remained elusive. One likely trigger for the speed up and retreat of glaciers that contributed to this ice loss is ocean warming.
Achoo! Native Echinacea angustifolia plant is blown away
February 5, 2014 08:17 AM - Robin Blackstone, ENN
Echinacea, a genus of flower in the daisy family is sold in many over-the-counter cold and flu remedies and sold in pharmacies and health and nutrition stores. Echinacea has nine wild species in eastern and central North America that grow in moist to dry prairies and in open wooded areas. The genus includes the purple coneflower, pale purple coneflower and narrow-leaved purple coneflower. All have large magenta petals that unfurl from early to late summer.