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Global Warming and the Rare Haleakala Silverswords

One of the most spectacular sights in the Hawaiian Islands is the Haleakalā Volcano. This amazing volcano rises more than 10,000 feet from near sea level at its base. The ecosystems change dramatically as you drive up the twisting road that takes you to the summit. Near the top, you start to see the Silverswords. They are not numerous, but stand out sharply from the dark red rocky soil they grow on. In the early 20th century, the Silverswords suffered, but they have made a strong recovery from early 20th-century threats. The Silverswords have now entered a period of substantial climate-related decline. New research published this week warns that global warming may have severe consequences for the silversword in its native habitat. Known for its striking rosette, the silversword grows for 20-90 years before the single reproductive event at the end of its life, at which time it produces a large (up to six feet tall) inflorescence with as many as 600 flower heads. The plant was in jeopardy in the early 1900s due to animals eating the plants and visitors gathering them. With successful management, including legal protection and the physical exclusion of hoofed animals, the species made a strong recovery, but since the mid-1990s it has entered a period of substantial decline. A strong association of annual population growth rates with patterns of precipitation suggests the plants are undergoing increasingly frequent and lethal water stress. Local climate data confirm trends towards warmer and drier conditions on the mountain, which the researchers warn will create a bleak outlook for the threatened silverswords if climate trends continue. >> Read the Full Article

Bee Politics

Bees are flying insects closely related to wasps and ants, and are known for their role in pollination and for producing honey and beeswax. There are nearly 20,000 known species of bees though many are undescribed and the actual number is probably higher. They are found on every continent except Antarctica, in every habitat on the planet that contains insect-pollinated flowering plants. Honey bees are more effective at pollinating almonds when other species of bees are present, says an international research team in ground-breaking research just published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society. The research, which took place in California's almond orchards in Yolo, Colusa and Stanislaus counties, could prove invaluable in increasing the pollination effectiveness of honey bees, as demand for their pollination service grows. When blue orchard bees and wild bees are foraging in almonds with honey bees, the behavior of honey bees changes, resulting in more effective crop pollination, said lead author Claire Brittain. Wild bees include non-managed bees such as bumble bees, carpenter bees and sweat bees. >> Read the Full Article

Organic Farming Expands, Contributes to Sustainable Food Security

Despite a slight decline between 2009 and 2010, since 1999 the global land area farmed organically has expanded more than threefold to 37 million hectares, according to new research conducted by the Worldwatch Institute for its Vital Signs Online service. Regions with the largest certified organic agricultural land in 2010 were Oceania, including Australia, New Zealand, and Pacific Island nations (12.1 million hectares); Europe (10 million hectares); and Latin America (8.4 million hectares), write report authors Catherine Ward and Laura Reynolds. >> Read the Full Article

Arctic Sea Ice Decline and Ice Export Between Greenland and Svalbard

The Arctic sea ice is shrinking, both in extent and thickness. In addition to the humanmade contribution to the sea ice loss, there are also natural factors contributing to this loss. In a new study from the Bjerknes Centre we focus on one of these factors: the ice export through the large gateway between Greenland and Svalbard -- the Fram Strait. >> Read the Full Article

The Rise of Mammals in a Warming Land

If it gets warmer what animals may benefit? The climate changes depicted by climatologists up to the year 2080 will benefit most mammals that live in northern Europe’s Arctic and sub-Arctic land areas today if they are able to reach their new climatic ranges. This is the conclusion drawn by ecologists at Umeå University in a recently published article in the journal Plos ONE. >> Read the Full Article

Women, Eat More Strawberries & Blueberries

Eating three or more servings of blueberries and strawberries per week may help women reduce their risk of a heart attack by as much as one-third, researchers reported in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. Blueberries and strawberries contain high levels of naturally occurring compounds called dietary flavonoids, also found in grapes and wine, blackberries, eggplant, and other fruits and vegetables. A specific sub-class of flavonoids, called anthocyanins, may help dilate arteries, counter the buildup of plaque and provide other cardiovascular benefits, according to the study. >> Read the Full Article

Terapod Backbone

Research published today in the journal Nature documents, for the first time, the intricate three-dimensional structure of the backbone in the earliest four-legged animals (tetrapods). The international team of scientists, led by Dr Stephanie Pierce from the University’s Zoology Department and the Royal Veterinary College and her Cambridge colleague Professor Jennifer Clack, bombarded 360 million year old early tetrapod fossils with high energy synchrotron radiation. The resulting high resolution X-ray images allowed the researchers to reconstruct the backbones of the extinct animals in exceptional detail. >> Read the Full Article

Tree height and leaf size dependent on internal physics

The tallest trees in the world can grow up around 100 meters (think of a tree climbing the length of an entire football field!) but if a tree has all the necessary sunlight, water, and space what actually stops a tree from growing even taller? According to researchers at Harvard University and the University of California, Davis, the answers lie in the physics of a tree's internal plumbing. >> Read the Full Article

What Humans Can Learn from Tadpoles: Regeneration of Lost Tissue

Tadpoles, the initial form taken by young amphibians such as frogs and salamanders, have an extraordinary quality which sets them apart from mammals. They are able to regenerate their tails should they be eaten by a predator. If a tadpole loses its tail, it will grow a new one within a week! Imagine if a human can do that with an amputated limb. For several years, scientists have been studying the tadpole's regenerative tail, trying to understand the process, eventually leading to treatments and therapies that might help humans to heal their wounds. >> Read the Full Article

Should deep-sea mining go ahead in Papua New Guinea?

Financial disagreement has halted a controversial deep-sea mining project but deeper issues lie with the environment. The fate of a currently halted deep-sea mining project in the Pacific is being watched closely by a number of parties. Operations were scheduled to begin in 2014, with a target of producing about 80,000 tonnes of copper and more than four tonnes of gold a year. >> Read the Full Article