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Dartmouth Study Finds Increased Water Availability from Climate Change May Release More Nutrients into Soil in the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica

As climate change continues to impact the Antarctic, glacier melt and permafrost thaw are likely to make more liquid water available to soil and aquatic ecosystems in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, potentially providing a more nutrient-rich environment for life, according to a Dartmouth study recently published in Antarctic Science. (A pdf of the study is available upon request).

With an average annual air temperature of -2.2 F and an average precipitation of 3-50 mm per year, the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica are dominated by dry soils underlain by permafrost. The Dry Valleys ecosystem is severely limited by liquid water and nutrients, resulting in limited organic matter. One such limited nutrient is phosphorus, an element that is essential to all living organisms. Understanding the spatial distribution of phosphorus in the soil is crucial to identifying where life could become more abundant in the future. 

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Vicious circle of drought and forest loss in the Amazon

Logging that happens today and potential future rainfall reductions in the Amazon could push the region into a vicious dieback circle. If dry seasons intensify with human-caused climate change, the risk for self-amplified forest loss would increase even more, an international team of scientists finds. If however there is a great variety of tree species in a forest patch, according to the study this can significantly strengthen the chance of survival. To detect such non-linear behavior, the researchers apply a novel complex network analysis of water fluxes.

“The Amazon rainforest is one of the tipping elements in the Earth system,” says lead-author Delphine Clara Zemp who conducted the study at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany. “We already know that on the one hand, reduced rainfall increases the risk of forest dieback, and on the other hand, forest loss can intensify regional droughts. So more droughts can lead to less forest leading to more droughts and so on. Yet the consequences of this feedback between the plants on the ground and the atmosphere above them so far was not clear. Our study provides new insight into this issue, highlighting the risk of self-amplifying forest loss which comes on top of the forest loss directly caused by the rainfall reduction.” This study results from the  German-Brazilian Research Training Group on Dynamical Phenomena in Complex Networks at (IRTG1740) hosted by Humboldt Universität zu Berlin. 

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Agencies team up to accelerate Earth system prediction

Accurately predicting the weather - at short and long time scales - is among the most complex and important challenges faced by science. Protecting the nation’s security and economic well-being will increasingly rely on improved skill in forecasting weather, weather-driven events like floods and droughts, and long-term shifts in weather, ocean and sea-ice patterns.

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Organic is only one ingredient in recipe for sustainable food future

Many people choose organic thinking it’s better for humans and the planet, but a new UBC study published today in Science Advances finds that might not always be the case.

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Mayo Clinic discovers high-intensity aerobic training can reverse aging processes in adults

Everyone knows that exercise is good for you, but what type of training helps most, especially when you’re older - say over 65? A Mayo Clinic study says it’s high-intensity aerobic exercise, which can reverse some cellular aspects of aging. The findings appear in Cell Metabolism.

Mayo researchers compared high-intensity interval training, resistance training and combined training. All training types improved lean body mass and insulin sensitivity, but only high-intensity and combined training improved aerobic capacity and mitochondrial function for skeletal muscle. Decline in mitochondrial content and function are common in older adults.

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NASA Sees Wind Shear Affecting Tropical Cyclone 11S

Tropical Cyclone 11S appeared elongated in NASA satellite imagery as a result of the storm being battered by wind shear.

When NASA's Terra satellite flew over Tropical Cyclone 11S on March 10 at 0515 UTC (12:15 a.m. EST) the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer or MODIS instrument took a visible light picture of the storm. The image revealed that the storm has been stretched out by moderate vertical wind shear.

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Volcano Breath: Measuring Sulfur Dioxide from Space

There is no mint that can take the edge off sulfurous emissions from volcanoes, but researchers can use remote sensing to better understand volcanic breathing.

Volcanoes erupt, they spew ash, their scarred flanks sometimes run with both lava and landslides. But only occasionally. A less dramatic but important process is continuous gas emissions from volcanoes; in other words, as they exhale. A number of volcanoes around the world continuously exhale water vapor laced with heavy metals, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide, among many other gases. Of these, sulfur dioxide is the easiest to detect from space.

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Fukushima catastrophe unfolds ... key facts and figures for an unhappy sixth anniversary

The 2011 Fukushima catastrophe is an ongoing disaster whose end only gets more remote as time passes. The government is desperate to get evacuees back into their homes for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but the problems on the ground, and in the breached reactor vessels, are only getting more serious and costly, as unbelievable volumes of radiation contaminate land, air and ocean.

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Measurements by school pupils paved way for key research findings

With their measurements and samples, nearly 3,500 schoolchildren have assisted a research study on lakes and global warming, now published in an academic journal. The results show that water temperatures generally remain low despite the air becoming warmer. This helps to curb the outflow of greenhouse gases.

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Carbon-based Approaches for Saving Rainforests Should Include Biodiversity Studies

Conservationists working to safeguard tropical forests often assume that old growth forests containing great stores of carbon also hold high biodiversity, but a new study finds that the relationship may not be as strong as once thought, according to a group of researchers with contributions from WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) and other organizations.

 Tropical forests are exceptionally rich in both carbon and biodiversity, but the study recently published in the journal Scientific Reports indicates that, within the tropics, tree diversity and forest carbon do not necessarily correlate, and that there is no detectable relationship between the two factors across a region, a scale relevant for conservation planning and the establishment of protected areas. For instance, in Central Africa, some areas that are dominated by one or a few tree species are high in carbon density, whereas some forests with many more tree species have a lower carbon density. 

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