Top Stories

How Growing Sea Plants Can Help Slow Ocean Acidification
July 12, 2016 01:57 PM - Nicola Jones via Yale Environment360

Researchers are finding that kelp, eelgrass, and other vegetation can effectively absorb CO2 and reduce acidity in the ocean. Growing these plants in local waters, scientists say, could help mitigate the damaging impacts of acidification on marine life.

Oregon’s picturesque Netarts Bay has long been known for its oysters. But Netarts, like the whole west coast of North America, is getting more acidic. And the oysters don’t like it. 

Since the Industrial Revolution, carbon dioxide in the air has seeped into ocean waters and boosted acidity by 30 percent. Globally, the oceans’ pH has dropped from 8.2 to 8.1, and could drop another 0.4 units by the end of the century. The problem is worse off the west coast of North America, where acidic bottom-waters are brought up to the surface by onshore winds. Corrosive waters like those suck up the building blocks for shells, and can literally eat away at the skeletons of corals. 

Ice algae: The engine of life in the central Arctic Ocean
July 12, 2016 10:35 AM - Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research via EurekAlert!

Algae that live in and under the sea ice play a much greater role for the Arctic food web than previously assumed. In a new study, biologists of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) showed that not only animals that live directly under the ice thrive on carbon produced by so-called ice algae. Even species that mostly live at greater depth depend to a large extent on carbon from these algae. This also means that the decline of the Arctic sea ice may have far-reaching consequences for the entire food web of the Arctic Ocean. Their results have been published online now in the journal Limnology & Oceanography.

The summer sea ice in the Arctic is diminishing at a rapid pace and with it the habitat of ice algae. The consequences of this decline for the Arctic ecosystem are difficult to predict. Scientists of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research showed the significance of ice algae for the Arctic food web in this context. "A number of studies have already speculated that ice algae are an important energy source for the polar ecosystems. We have now been able to show that not only animals associated with ice meet the majority of their carbon needs from ice algae, but that, surprisingly, so do species that mostly live at greater depths," says lead author Doreen Kohlbach.

Climate change is apparently shifting clouds towards the poles
July 12, 2016 09:00 AM - NELL GREENFIELDBOYCE, NPR

The way clouds cover the Earth may be changing because of global warming, according to a study published Monday that used satellite data to track cloud patterns across about two decades, starting in the 1980s.

Clouds in the mid-latitudes shifted toward the poles during that period, as the subtropical dry zones expanded and the highest cloud-tops got higher.

These changes are predicted by most climate models of global warming, even though those models disagree on a lot of other things related to clouds, says Joel Norris, a climate scientist at the University of California, San Diego.

 

Regulating particulate pollution
July 12, 2016 07:16 AM - Nancy W. Stauffer, MIT Energy Initiative

An MIT analysis of how best to reduce fine particulate matter in the atmosphere has brought some surprising results. Due to past regulations, levels of key emissions that form those harmful particles are now lower than they were a decade ago, causing some experts to suggest that cutting them further might have little effect. Not true, concludes the MIT study. Using an atmospheric model, the researchers found that new policies to restrict the same emissions would be even more effective now than they were in the past. Further analysis elucidated the chemical processes — some unexpected — that explain their findings. Their results demonstrate the importance of tailoring air pollution policies to specific situations and of addressing a variety of emissions in a coordinated way.

NASA camera catches moon 'photobombing' Earth
July 11, 2016 04:27 PM - Nasa/Goddard Space Flight Center via EurekAlert!

For only the second time in a year, a NASA camera aboard the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite captured a view of the moon as it moved in front of the sunlit side of Earth.

"For the second time in the life of DSCOVR, the moon moved between the spacecraft and Earth," said Adam Szabo, DSCOVR project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "The project recorded this event on July 5 with the same cadence and spatial resolution as the first 'lunar photobomb' of last year."

The images were captured by NASA's Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC), a four-megapixel CCD camera and telescope on the DSCOVR satellite orbiting 1 million miles from Earth. From its position between the sun and Earth, DSCOVR conducts its primary mission of real-time solar wind monitoring for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Monkeys in Brazil have used stone tools for hundreds of years at least
July 11, 2016 01:10 PM - University of Oxford

New archaeological evidence suggests that Brazilian capuchins have been using stone tools to crack open cashew nuts for at least 700 years, and the new research paper asks whether human behaviour was influenced through watching the monkeys. 


Researchers say, to date, they have found the earliest archaeological examples of monkey tool use outside of Africa. In their paper, published in Current Biology, they suggest it raises questions about the origins and spread of tool use in New World monkeys and, controversially perhaps, prompts us to look at whether early human behaviour was influenced by their observations of monkeys using stones as tools. The research was led by Dr Michael Haslam of the University of Oxford, who in previous papers presents archaeological evidence showing that wild macaques in coastal Thailand used stone tools for decades at least to open shellfish and nuts.

Fruit and veg give you the feel-good factor
July 11, 2016 10:17 AM - University of Warwick via EurekAlert!

University of Warwick research indicates that eating more fruit and vegetables can substantially increase people's later happiness levels.

Published in the prestigious American Journal of Public Health, the study is one of the first major scientific attempts to explore psychological well-being beyond the traditional finding that fruit and vegetables can reduce risk of cancer and heart attacks.

Happiness benefits were detected for each extra daily portion of fruit and vegetables up to 8 portions per day.

Horrible algae bloom in Florida blamed on the government
July 10, 2016 09:12 AM - Greg Allen/NPR

About a hundred miles north of Miami on the Atlantic Coast, the town of Stuart is a picturesque waterfront community — with homes, restaurants and parks overlooking the St. Lucie Estuary. But in many areas now, when you approach the water, the first thing you notice is the smell.

"There's no way to describe it," says John Skinner, a boat salesman in Stuart.

But he still tries. "I would say hundreds of dead animals that have been baking in the sun for weeks."

 

Climate change may shrink Adélie penguin range by end of century
July 8, 2016 05:04 PM - Nasa / Goddard Space Flight Center via EurekAlert!

Climate has influenced the distribution patterns of Adélie penguins across Antarctica for millions of years. The geologic record tells us that as glaciers expanded and covered Adélie breeding habitats with ice, penguins in the region abandoned their colonies. When the glaciers melted during warming periods, the Adélie penguins were able to return to their rocky breeding grounds.

Now, a NASA-funded study by University of Delaware scientists and colleagues at other institutions reports that this warming may no longer be beneficial for Adélie penguins. In a paper published June 29 in the journal Scientific Reports, the researchers project that approximately 30 percent of current Adélie colonies may be in decline by 2060, and approximately 60 percent of the present population might be dwindling by 2099. They also found the penguins at more southerly sites in Antarctica may be less affected by climate change.

How plants sense electric fields
July 8, 2016 12:06 PM - University of W├╝rzburg via EurekAlert!

The cells of plants, animals and humans all use electrical signals to communicate with each other. Nerve cells use them to activated muscles. But leaves, too, send electrical signals to other parts of the plant, for example, when they were injured and are threatened by hungry insects.

"We have been asking ourselves for many years what molecular components plants use to exchange information among each other and how they sense the changes in electric voltage," says Professor Rainer Hedrich, Head of the Chair for Molecular Plant Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Würzburg.

Results published in Plant Biology

This question has been intriguing Hedrich since the mid 1980s when he was still a postdoc in the laboratory of Erwin Neher at the Max Planck Institute in Göttingen. "Back then, we used the patch clamp technique to make the first-time discovery of an ion channel in plants which is activated by calcium ions and an electric field." In 2005, other scientists then found the gene underlying this ion channel (name: TCP1). And now it has been Hedrich's team again that has identified that part of the channel which functions as a sensor for electric voltage and activates the channel.

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