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Wooly Rhinos and World Temperatures

The woolly rhinoceros is an extinct species of rhinoceros that was common throughout Europe and northern Asia during the Pleistocene epoch and survived the last glacial period. A study, led by Professor Danielle Schreve from Royal Holloway, looked at an exceptionally well preserved skeleton discovered in Staffordshire in 2002. The team also studied the other remains found with it – including a partial skull of another rhino, nicknamed Howard – to gather evidence on what the environment would have been like at the time. These woolly rhinoceros skeletons has enabled scientists to calculate the average temperature of Britain 42, 000 years ago. >> Read the Full Article

Housing improvements linked to good health

Having enough suitable living space is a key determinant of health outcomes around the world, a review of studies on housing improvements for health has found. Initiatives targeting housing improvements at the most impoverished people and those in the poorest health were more effective than generic schemes targeting entire areas, the review found. >> Read the Full Article

When the Milky Way was not Tame

In the center of the Milky Way lurks a sleeping black hole. All is relatively tame. Some galaxies exhibit massive eruptions but not ours. Existing stars are peacefully circling. Although conditions are favorable, there doesn’t even seem to be much new star formation going on. But there is growing evidence that several million years ago the galactic center was the site of all manner of celestial fireworks. A pair of assistant professors – Kelly Holley-Bockelmann at Vanderbilt and Tamara Bogdanović at Georgia Institute of Technology – have come up with an explanation that fits these forensic clues. >> Read the Full Article

Warnings of global ecological tipping points may be overstated

There's little evidence that the Earth is nearing a global ecological tipping point, according to a new Trends in Ecology and Evolution paper that is bound to be controversial. The authors argue that despite numerous warnings that the Earth is headed toward an ecological tipping point due to environmental stressors, such as habitat loss or climate change, it's unlikely this will occur anytime soon—at least not on land. The paper comes with a number of caveats, including that a global tipping point could occur in marine ecosystems due to ocean acidification from burning fossil fuels. In addition, regional tipping points, such as the Arctic ice melt or the Amazon rainforest drying out, are still of great concern. >> Read the Full Article

International Year of Water Cooperation

As organizations around the world search for ways to ensure that impoverished communities have dependable access to drinking water, a new concern has surfaced: Just who will own the rights to managing that water access in the years to come? In 2010, in what seemed at the time to be an awesome example of prescience, the United Nations labeled 2013 the International Year of Water Cooperation (IYWC). Of course, the branding wasn't intended to recognize accomplishments the world has made in sharing its water resources, but to spur countries and communities around the globe to acknowledge that the potential for a global water crisis is real and that according to the UN, challenges such as "water diplomacy, transboundary water management, financing cooperation, national/international legal frameworks" need to be addressed. >> Read the Full Article

Hotter Temperatures Link Climate Change to Tree Mortality

It is evident that drought can create massive problems for ecosystems, especially for trees and plants but no research has been done to determine which drought characteristics actually cause trees to die-off. It has been difficult for scientists to understand how seasonal differences, severity, and duration of droughts have affected tree mortality and even more difficult to predict how climate change can affect different ecosystems. >> Read the Full Article

The Bangladesh Arsenic Problem

Arsenic contamination of the groundwater in Bangladesh is a serious problem. In the Ganges Delta, the affected wells are typically more than 20 meters and less than 100 meters deep. Groundwater closer to the surface typically has spent a shorter time in the ground, therefore likely absorbing a lower concentration of arsenic; water deeper than 100 meters is exposed to much older sediments which have already been depleted of arsenic. Human activities are not the primary cause of arsenic found in groundwater in Bangladesh. A team of researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Barnard College, Columbia University, University of Dhaka, Desert Research Institute and University of Tennessee found that the arsenic in groundwater in the region is part of a natural process that predates any recent human activity, such as intensive pumping. >> Read the Full Article

Low Blood Pressure and Low AD?

Could a common blood pressure drug slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s? The multi-centre clinical trial, hosted by North Bristol NHS Trust and led by a group of academics from the University of Bristol, University of Cambridge and Queen’s University Belfast, will find out if losartan, a well-tolerated drug for high blood pressure, can complement current treatments for AD. The researchers believe the drug could slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) by improving brain blood flow and altering chemical pathways that cause brain cell damage, brain shrinkage and memory problems in AD. >> Read the Full Article

Global Warming Will Open Arctic Shipping Routes

Who said the effects of global warming are all negative? According to new research conducted by UCLA, melting sea ice during the late summer will make Arctic shipping channels much more accessible. The economy of the world depends on shipping as nearly all of a country’s imports and exports are transported across the global by these large ships. Canals like the Suez and Panama have helped reduce the length of certain shipping routes, but nothing has been done in the Arctic region because of the unreliable weather and treacherous ice. >> Read the Full Article

National Climate Change Policy in Pakistan

Pakistan's newly launched national climate change policy (NCCP) aims at natural resource conservation at home, but it also sees regional and bilateral agreements as key to ensuring water, food and energy security. The policy will be implemented by its provincial governments. At its launch last month (26 February), Pakistan's minister for climate change Rana Mohammad Farooq Saeed Khan said efforts would be made to strengthen provincial environment departments to enable them to carry out relevant functions devolved to them. >> Read the Full Article