Top Stories

Salt Marshes are great Carbon Sinks

Allowing farmland that's been reclaimed from the sea to flood and turn back into salt marsh could make it absorb lots of carbon from the atmosphere, a new study suggests, though the transformation will take many years to complete. Scientists looked at one of the oldest such places in the UK, Tollesbury in Essex. Originally a salt marsh, the site was claimed for farming in the late 18th century, but eventually relinquished in 1995 when the bank separating it from the sea was deliberately breached. Since then it's been reverting to its natural state, though this is very slow process. 'People want quick results, but these things take time,' says lead author Annette Burden, a wetland biogeochemist based at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology in Bangor. 'You can't expect a piece of land that's been farmed for a century to turn overnight into something like a saltmarsh that has been there for thousands of years. But the evidence is that this will eventually happen, and this study suggests that the land starts absorbing carbon very quickly after its flood defences are breached.' >> Read the Full Article

Swarms

There is something quite alien when imagining a swarm type intelligence. A bunch of little creatures who act as if directed by one being. Swarming is the spontaneous organized motion of a large number of individuals. It is observed at all scales, from bacterial colonies, slime molds and groups of insects to shoals of fish, flocks of birds and animal herds. Now physicists Maksym Romenskyy and Vladimir Lobaskin from university College Dublin, Ireland, have uncovered new collective properties of swarm dynamics in a study just published in EPJ B. Ultimately, this could be used to control swarms of animals, robots, or human crowds by applying signals capable of emulating the underlying interaction of individuals within the swarm, which could lead to predicted motion patterns elucidated through modelling. >> Read the Full Article

Warm February

For those in the northern hemisphere, we are still shivering from our winter. Well it is getting warmer. According to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), the combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for February 2013 tied with 2003 as the ninth warmest on record, at 0.57°C (1.03°F) above the 20th century average of 12.1°C (53.9°F). The global land surface temperature was 1.00°C (1.80°F) above the 20th century average of 3.2°C (37.8°F), tying with 2010 as the 11th warmest February on record. For the ocean, the February global sea surface temperature was 0.42°C (0.76°F) above the 20th century average of 15.9°C (60.6°F), making it the eighth warmest February on record. So despite some snow it is warmer than it used to be. >> Read the Full Article

Disease threatens aquaculture in developing world

Disease may challenge the ability of fish farming to feed the growing human population even as wild fish stocks decline and climate change hampers food production from other sources, a study shows. Aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector in the world, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, with 90 per cent of production coming from the developing world, where it makes a significant contribution to many nations' economies. >> Read the Full Article

World Water Day in the Middle East

With the region getting drier 'at an alarming rate', what is there to celebrate this World Water Day? In the lead up to World Water Day which will take place next Friday, I have gathered some interesting water-based facts on the issue. The Middle East and North Africa region is famously one of the driest regions in the world and things don't look like they are getting better. So what is there to actually celebrate? Read on for the bad news and also some rather great news. Firstly, the bad news. According to the latest statistics gathered by IRIN, the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) is getting drier at an alarming rate. And whilst trading and importing food brings in 'virtual water', it also makes the region extremely vulnerable to trade disruptions caused by dwindling supplies, higher prices or lack of money to pay for the imports. As a report on the issue of climate change and the Arab Spring points out, a winter drought in China contributed to global wheat shortages and skyrocketing bread prices in Egypt, which is the world's largest wheat importer. >> Read the Full Article

Martian Stream Bed

Scientists have identified sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon - some of the key chemical ingredients for life - in the powder Curiosity drilled out of a sedimentary rock near an ancient stream bed in Gale Crater on the Red Planet last month. Sedimentary rock means running water once upon a time. Water often means life and the rock had the right chemistry to do this. Clues to this habitable environment come from data returned by the rover's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) and Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instruments. The data indicate the Yellowknife Bay area the rover is exploring was the end of an ancient river system or an intermittently wet lake bed that could have provided chemical energy and other favorable conditions for microbes. The rock is made up of a fine-grained mudstone containing clay minerals, sulfate minerals and other chemicals. This ancient wet environment, unlike some others on Mars, was not harshly oxidizing, acidic or extremely salty. >> Read the Full Article

German Home for the Bison to Roam

What would you do if you owned 30,000 acres in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany? While this area is one of the country's most densely populated states, this vast acreage is covered with Norwegian spruce and beech trees and owned by Prince Richard of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg. So what has this royal decided to do with his land? Fulfill his dream of reintroducing bison known as wisents, of course. >> Read the Full Article

Tribe rejects payment from electricity company behind destructive Amazon Dam

Leaders of more than two dozen Kayapó indigenous communities have rejected a $9 million offer from Brazilian state energy company Eletrobras to fund development projects in their region due to the the firm's involvement in the construction of the Belo Monte dam, reports Amazon Watch, an activist group fighting the hydroelectric project. >> Read the Full Article

Endangered Sharks

Well-known species of sharks such as the great white shark, tiger shark, blue shark, mako shark, and the hammerhead shark are apex predators—organisms at the top of their underwater food chain. Well man is actually at the very top. Many sharks are endangered as are many other creatures. CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. CITES has just accepted Committee recommendations to list five species of highly traded sharks under the CITES Appendices, along with those for the listing of both manta rays and one species of sawfish. Japan, backed by Gambia and India, unsuccessfully challenged the Committee decision to list the oceanic whitetip shark, while Grenada and China failed in an attempt to reopen debate on listing three hammerhead species. Colombia, Senegal, Mexico and others took the floor to defend Committee decisions to list sharks. >> Read the Full Article

7 Myths of Meditation

Deepak Chopra attempts to debunk some of the more common myths surrounding the practice of meditation. In the past 40 years, meditation has entered the mainstream of modern Western culture, and been prescribed by physicians and practiced by everyone from business executives, artists, and scientists to students, teachers, military personnel, and - on a promising note - politicians. >> Read the Full Article