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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

Wetlands more vulnerable to invasives as climate changes

Posted: 09 Dec 2014 10:37 AM PST

Changing water temperatures, rainfall patterns and seasonal river flows linked to global warming may give invasive wetland plants a slight but significant competitive edge over less adaptable native species, according to a groundbreaking three-year field study conducted at 24 riparian wetland sites in the US Southeast.

Conservation targeting tigers pushes leopards to change

Posted: 09 Dec 2014 10:36 AM PST

A leopard may not be able to change its spots, but new research from Nepal indicates that leopards do change their activity patterns in response to tigers and humans -- but in different ways. The study is the first of its kind to look at how leopards respond to the presence of both tigers and humans simultaneously. Its findings suggest that leopards in and around Nepal's Chitwan National Park avoid tigers by seeking out different locations to live and hunt. Since tigers -- the socially dominant feline -- prefer areas less disturbed by people, leopards are displaced closer to humans.

The legend of the Kamikaze typhoons

Posted: 09 Dec 2014 10:36 AM PST

In the late 13th century, Kublai Khan, ruler of the Mongol Empire, launched one of the world's largest armada of its time in an attempt to conquer Japan. Early narratives describe the decimation and dispersal of these fleets by the 'Kamikaze' of CE 1274 and CE 1281 -- a pair of intense typhoons divinely sent to protect Japan from invasion.

Genome sequencing traces MRSA spread in high transmission setting

Posted: 09 Dec 2014 10:36 AM PST

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is a common cause of hospital-acquired infections, with the largest burden of infections occurring in under-resourced hospitals. While genome sequencing has previously been applied in well-resourced clinical settings to track the spread of MRSA, transmission dynamics in settings with limited infection control is unknown. In a new study, researchers used genome sequencing to understand the spread of MRSA in a resource-limited hospital with high transmission rates.

Abandoned wells can be 'super-emitters' of greenhouse gas

Posted: 09 Dec 2014 09:04 AM PST

Researchers have uncovered a previously unknown, and possibly substantial, source of the greenhouse gas methane to the Earth's atmosphere. After testing a sample of abandoned oil and natural gas wells in northwestern Pennsylvania, the researchers found that many of the old wells leaked substantial quantities of methane. Because there are many abandoned wells nationwide, the researchers believe the overall contribution of leaking wells could be significant.

Being lower in pecking order improves female tit birds' memory: Rare case in nature in which female has better cognitive ability

Posted: 09 Dec 2014 09:00 AM PST

Scientists have found a rare case in nature in which the female of a species has the better cognitive ability. When it comes to remembering where a tasty titbit was left, female great tit birds are miles ahead of their male counterparts. This ability might have evolved because the females come second when there's food to be shared.

Controlling obesity with potato extract

Posted: 09 Dec 2014 08:58 AM PST

A simple potato extract may limit weight gain from a diet that is high in fat and refined carbohydrates, according to scientists. The results of their recent study with mice were so surprising that the investigators repeated the experiment just to be sure.

New technique could harvest more of the sun's energy

Posted: 09 Dec 2014 07:18 AM PST

As solar panels become less expensive and capable of generating more power, solar energy is becoming a more commercially viable alternative source of electricity. However, the photovoltaic cells now used to turn sunlight into electricity can only absorb and use a small fraction of that light, and that means a significant amount of solar energy goes untapped. A new technology represents a first step toward harnessing that lost energy.

How pace of climate change will challenge ectotherms

Posted: 09 Dec 2014 07:18 AM PST

40 years of data has been analyzed to outline climate change challenge for ectotherms (animals who rely on external sources of heat to control body temperature). The research showed that many groups of ectotherms, which make up more than 90 percent of all animals, are able to change their physiological function to cope with an altered environment, but the rapid pace and fluctuations of human-induced climate change present serious challenges.

Temperature anomalies are warming faster than Earth's average, study finds

Posted: 09 Dec 2014 07:13 AM PST

It's widely known that the Earth's average temperature has been rising. But new research finds that spatial patterns of extreme temperature anomalies -- readings well above or below the mean -- are warming even faster than the overall average. It may seem counterintuitive that global warming would be accompanied by colder winter weather at some locales. But scientists say the observation aligns with theories about climate change, which hold that amplified warming in the Arctic region produces changes in the jet stream, which can result in extended periods of cold weather at some locations in the mid-northern latitudes.

Toxic fruits hold the key to reproductive success, for fruit flies

Posted: 09 Dec 2014 07:12 AM PST

Scientists have now discovered why the fruit fly Drosophila sechellia is adapted to the toxic fruits of the morinda tree. Drosophila sechellia females carry a mutation in a gene that inhibits egg production. The flies have very low levels of L-DOPA, a precursor of the hormone dopamine, which controls fertility; interestingly, large amounts of L-DOPA are contained in morinda fruits.

Warmer Pacific Ocean could release millions of tons of seafloor methane

Posted: 09 Dec 2014 07:12 AM PST

Water off Washington's coast is warming a third of a mile down, where seafloor methane shifts from a frozen solid to a gas. Calculations suggest ocean warming is already releasing significant methane offshore of Alaska to Northern California.

Turning biological cells to stone improves cancer, stem cell research

Posted: 09 Dec 2014 06:19 AM PST

Near-perfect replications of human and animal cells enables improved study of certain cancers and stem cells, as well as the creation of complex durable objects without machinery, scientists report. A new technique to transmute living cells into more permanent materials that defy decay and can endure high-powered probes is widening research opportunities for biologists who are developing cancer treatments, tracking stem cell evolution or even trying to understand how spiders vary the quality of the silk they spin.

Storing hydrogen underground could boost transportation, energy security

Posted: 09 Dec 2014 06:18 AM PST

Large-scale storage of low-pressure, gaseous hydrogen in salt caverns and other underground sites for transportation fuel and grid-scale energy applications offers several advantages over above-ground storage, says a recent study.

New resource on health threats posed by endocrine-disrupting chemicals

Posted: 09 Dec 2014 06:18 AM PST

As governments, industry and public interest groups from across the globe prepare to meet next week to discuss endocrine-disrupting chemicals and other international chemical safety issues, scientists have released a new guide documenting the threat endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) pose to human health.

Heart disease patients advised to avoid being outside in rush hour traffic

Posted: 09 Dec 2014 05:19 AM PST

Heart disease patients have been advised to avoid being outside during rush hour traffic. The position paper on air pollution and cardiovascular disease also recommends decreasing the use of fossil fuels. "More than 3 million deaths worldwide are caused by air pollution each year. Air pollution ranks ninth among the modifiable disease risk factors, ahead of low physical activity, high sodium diet, high cholesterol and drug use," a corresponding author noted.

What quails can teach us about the gait of dinosaurs

Posted: 09 Dec 2014 05:17 AM PST

Motion scientists and zoologists have completed the first detailed analysis of the bipedal gait of quails. The scientists analyzed the effect the birds posture has on the movement of their legs and on their stability when they walk.

Nanotechnology against malaria parasites

Posted: 09 Dec 2014 05:16 AM PST

Malaria parasites invade human red blood cells, they then disrupt them and infect others. Researchers have now developed so-called nanomimics of host cell membranes that trick the parasites. This could lead to novel treatment and vaccination strategies in the fight against malaria and other infectious diseases.

Using robots to get more food from raw materials

Posted: 09 Dec 2014 05:16 AM PST

Can an industrial robot succeed both at removing the breast fillet from a chicken, and at the same time get more out of the raw materials? Researchers have now built a fully-functional robot in the lab to automate the process of extracting breast fillets from chickens. This is a task normally performed by skilled human hands.

Ancient balloon-shaped animal fossil sheds light on Earth's ancient seas

Posted: 09 Dec 2014 05:16 AM PST

A rare 520-million-year-old fossil shaped like a 'squashed bird's nest' that will help to shed new light on life within Earth's ancient seas has been discovered in China by an international research team. The fossil is of a probable 'chancelloriid', a group of bizarre, balloon-shaped animals with an outer skeleton of defensive spines.

Injectable 3-D vaccines could fight cancer, infectious diseases

Posted: 08 Dec 2014 02:07 PM PST

A non-surgical injection of programmable biomaterial that spontaneously assembles in vivo into a 3-D structure could fight and even help prevent cancer and also infectious disease such as HIV, scientists have demonstrated. Tiny biodegradable rod-like structures made from silica, known as mesoporous silica rods (MSRs), can be loaded with biological and chemical drug components and then delivered by needle just underneath the skin, they explain.

New model helps boost fishery profits, sustainability

Posted: 08 Dec 2014 11:57 AM PST

By identifying the most efficient and sustainable fishing practices and behaviors, a new empirical model developed by economists could help fishermen land larger paychecks while reducing the risk of fishery depletion. In some cases, the model shows that profits could increase by nearly 50 percent.

A pill for obesity? Stem cell scientists convert white fat to brown fat

Posted: 08 Dec 2014 11:55 AM PST

Researchers have taken what they are describing as 'the first step toward a pill that can replace the treadmill' for the control of obesity -- though it, of course, would not provide all the additional benefits of exercise. The researchers have already identified two compounds that can accomplish that in human cells.

New 'science of climate diversity'

Posted: 08 Dec 2014 11:49 AM PST

There is cloud hanging over climate science, but one expert on communication and environmental issues says he knows how to help clear the air. He argues that only by creating a "science of climate diversity" can climate science and the larger climate change movement overcome a crippling lack of ethnic and racial diversity.

Hurricane sandy increased incidents of heart attacks, stroke in hardest hit New Jersey counties

Posted: 08 Dec 2014 11:49 AM PST

Evidence has been found that Hurricane Sandy, commonly referred to as a superstorm, had a significant effect on cardiovascular events, including myocardial infarction (heart attack) and stroke, in the high-impact areas of New Jersey two weeks following the 2012 storm.

Epilepsy and a purified form of cannabis: New reports of epidiolex(r) efficacy and safety

Posted: 08 Dec 2014 11:41 AM PST

Three new studies explore the efficacy and safety in the development of a purified and formulated form of cannabis called Epidiolex.

Patient use of cannabis in epilepsy

Posted: 08 Dec 2014 11:41 AM PST

Three studies offer new insights into diverse patient experiences with CBD. Despite all the media and legislative attention, there is little scientific evidence about its effectiveness.

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