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Thursday, January 8, 2015

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

Why some geckos lose their ability to stick to surfaces

Posted: 07 Jan 2015 05:49 PM PST

Biologists have found that evolution can downgrade or entirely remove adaptations a species has previously acquired, giving the species new survival advantages. The researchers focused their attention on geckos, specifically the adhesive system that allows geckos to cling to surfaces. They found that gecko species in which the adhesive system was either lost or simplified saw elevated rates of evolution related to morphology and locomotion.

An avocado a day may help keep bad cholesterol at bay

Posted: 07 Jan 2015 05:48 PM PST

Individuals on a moderate-fat diet who ate an avocado every day had lower bad cholesterol than those on a similar diet without an avocado a day or on a lower-fat diet, researchers report.

How the 'beast quake' is helping scientists track real earthquakes

Posted: 07 Jan 2015 05:44 PM PST

Seismologists will again be monitoring the ground-shaking cheers of Seahawks fans, this year with a bigger team, better technology and faster response times. Scientists with the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network will install instruments to provide real-time monitoring of the stadium's movement during the 2015 NFL playoffs.

Deep Space Climate Observatory to provide 'EPIC' views of Earth

Posted: 07 Jan 2015 01:23 PM PST

NASA has contributed two Earth science instruments for NOAA's space weather observing satellite called the Deep Space Climate Observatory or DSCOVR, set to launch in Jan., 2015. One of the instruments called EPIC or Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera will image the Earth in one picture, something that hasn't been done before from a satellite. EPIC will also provide valuable atmospheric data.

Wave energy integration costs should compare favorably to other energy sources

Posted: 07 Jan 2015 11:08 AM PST

A new analysis suggests that large-scale wave energy systems developed in the Pacific Northwest should be comparatively steady, dependable and able to be integrated into the overall energy grid at lower costs than some other forms of alternative energy, including wind power.

Are human behaviors affecting bird communities in residential areas?

Posted: 07 Jan 2015 11:07 AM PST

A new study shows that habitat alteration may be less important than other factors-- such as human behavior-- in driving the effects of "exurban" development on bird communities. These unexpected results are fueling more questions that may ultimately lead to informed landowners lessening their impacts on local wildlife.

Beer, bread yeast-eating bacteria aid human health

Posted: 07 Jan 2015 10:14 AM PST

Bacteria that have evolved to eat their way through yeast in the human gut could inform the development of new treatments for people suffering from bowel diseases, experts report.

Which fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground to avoid dangerous climate change?

Posted: 07 Jan 2015 10:14 AM PST

A third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves and over 80% of current coal reserves globally should remain in the ground and not be used before 2050 if global warming is to stay below the 2°C target agreed by policy makers, according to new research.

Study of ancient dogs in the Americas yields insights into human, dog migration

Posted: 07 Jan 2015 09:39 AM PST

A new study suggests that dogs may have first successfully migrated to the Americas only about 10,000 years ago, thousands of years after the first human migrants crossed a land bridge from Siberia to North America.

Cheap asphalt provides 'green' carbon capture

Posted: 07 Jan 2015 09:31 AM PST

Scientists have turned asphalt into an effective, environmentally friendly carbon-capture material for use at natural gas wellheads.

Coral reefs threatened by a deadly combination of changing ocean conditions

Posted: 07 Jan 2015 09:31 AM PST

The lowering of the ocean's pH is making it harder for corals to grow their skeletons and easier for bioeroding organisms to tear them down. Erosion rates increase tenfold in areas where corals are also exposed to high levels of nutrients, according to a new study. As sea level rises, these reefs may have a harder time growing toward the ocean surface, where they get sunlight they need to survive.

Oil sand mining is not polluting Athabasca Delta, new sampling method reveals

Posted: 07 Jan 2015 09:31 AM PST

A new study into the pre-industrial baseline levels of heavy metals in sediment carried by the Athabasca River shows that emissions from the Alberta oil sands and other human activities have not yet increased the concentrations traveling to the Athabasca Delta around 200 kilometers from the oil sands.

What's in the grime tarnishing the Taj Mahal?

Posted: 07 Jan 2015 09:29 AM PST

Every several years, workers apply a clay mask to India's iconic but yellowing Taj Mahal to remove layers of grime and reveal the white marble underneath. Now scientists are getting to the bottom of what kinds of pollutants are discoloring one of the world's celebrated wonders. Their findings could help inform efforts to protect the mausoleum and other surfaces from pollution.

Levitation recreates nature's dumbbells

Posted: 07 Jan 2015 09:25 AM PST

Using magnetic levitation to imitate weightlessness, physicists have manufactured solid wax models of splash form tektites. "These wax models provide the first direct experimental validation for numerical models of the equilibrium shapes of spinning droplets. This research is of importance to fundamental physics and also to study of tektite formation," an author said.

Sudden jump in a storm's lightning might warn a supercell is forming

Posted: 07 Jan 2015 09:24 AM PST

A sudden jump in the number of lightning strikes inside a garden-variety thunderstorm might soon give forecasters a new tool for predicting severe weather and issuing timely warnings, according to new research. The sudden increase in lightning is one sign a normal storm is rapidly evolving into a supercell, with a large rotating updraft -- or mesocyclone -- at its heart.

Microfluidics to accelerate cell membrane research

Posted: 07 Jan 2015 07:14 AM PST

Life processes depend fundamentally on phenomena occurring on the membranes separating cells from their environment. Until now poorly understood, the mechanisms responsible for transport through the cell membrane will be able to be studied faster and more cheaply - thanks to a microfluidic system recently developed. The system enables the serial formation of cell membranes and measurement of the processes taking place on them.

Forget the selfish gene: Evolution of life is driven by the selfish ribosome, research suggests

Posted: 07 Jan 2015 07:14 AM PST

Since the discovery of how DNA encodes genetic information, most research on the evolution of life has focused on genes. According to the 'selfish gene' theory, cells and organisms exist simply as packages to protect and transmit genes. New research challenges this idea, proposing instead that if anything is 'selfish' it must be the ribosome. That upends everything we think we know about the evolution of life and, in fact, the function of ribosomes themselves.

Cool deep-water protects coral reefs against heat stress

Posted: 07 Jan 2015 07:11 AM PST

Cool currents from the deep ocean could save tropical corals from lethal heat stress. Researchers observed internal waves preserving corals in the Andaman Sea.

Onions overwintered in low tunnels successfully grown by scientists

Posted: 07 Jan 2015 07:11 AM PST

In response to high demand for year-round local produce, researchers report they have successfully grown bulbing onions planted in fall for a spring harvest with the aid of inexpensive low tunnels.

Mandatory meat labels economically not worth the fight

Posted: 07 Jan 2015 07:09 AM PST

A little label is causing a big stir among the U.S., Canada and Mexico, but research finds the majority of consumers don't even know it exists. In October 2014, the World Trade Organization ruled in favor of Canada and Mexico, finding that the mandated country-of-origin labels in the U.S. are not trade compliant and hurt business in nearby countries. The U.S. is appealing the decision.

Selective functionalization synthesizes chemotherapeutic natural products

Posted: 07 Jan 2015 06:12 AM PST

Scientists have synthesized marine alkaloids with anti-cancer and therapeutic properties through a sequential C-H functionalization strategy.

Responsive material could be the 'golden ticket' of sensing

Posted: 07 Jan 2015 05:22 AM PST

A new responsive material 'glued' together with short strands of DNA, and capable of translating thermal and chemical signals into visible physical changes, could underpin a new class of biosensors or drug delivery systems.

Hormonal similarity makes happy couples, at least in birds

Posted: 07 Jan 2015 05:12 AM PST

Some people say that we become more like our partner as time goes on. Surprisingly, the same seems to be true in the animal world -- studies on compatibility between mates show that individual animals are more successful when they behave in a similar fashion to their mate. New research shows that mating pairs of the bird species known as great tits become more similar in their hormones over time.

Better dam planning strategies

Posted: 06 Jan 2015 01:19 PM PST

When dams are built they have an impact not only on the flow of water in the river, but also on the people who live downstream and on the surrounding ecosystems. By placing data from close to 6,500 existing large dams on a highly precise map of the world's rivers, an international team of researchers has created a new method to estimate the global impacts of dams on river flow and fragmentation.

Tight packing in shell leaves viruses vulnerable

Posted: 06 Jan 2015 05:12 AM PST

A new study has analyzed how genome mutations of RNA viruses tend to be lethal for these infectious agents. It takes very little to make the RNA too messy and bulky to fit into the capsid -- the shell that contains the viral genome -- and by doing so disrupt the reproductive process. LoĆĄdorfer Bochr('382')ichr('269')

Nitrogen in reclaimed water can benefit turfgrass

Posted: 05 Jan 2015 12:10 PM PST

Experiments were performed in greenhouses to determine if nitrogen in reclaimed water contributes significantly to turfgrass plant nutrition. The study also measured use efficiency and the effects of irrigation with reclaimed water on nitrogen leaching. The results showed that nitrogen from recycled water can be beneficial for turfgrass growth and health, in some concentrations.

Fertilizer placement affects nutrient leaching patterns

Posted: 05 Jan 2015 12:10 PM PST

Scientists determined the effect of a controlled-release fertilizer placement method on changes in leachate nutrient concentration throughout an irrigation event, and evaluated the changes throughout a production season. Experiments involved topdressed, incorporated, and dibbled controlled-release fertilizer placement methods. Analyses suggested that the dibble method may be an advantageous CRF placement method that conserves fertilizer resources and mitigates non-point source nutrient contributions by reducing undesired nutrient leaching during irrigation.

Cation exchange capacity analyzed for nursery pine bark substrates

Posted: 05 Jan 2015 12:10 PM PST

Researchers determined the variability of cation exchange capacity in different batches of pine bark and studied the influence of particle size, substrate pH, and peat amendment on CEC. Part of the variation in CEC among batches was attributed to differences in particle size. Data showed that substrate pH within a range of 4.02-6.37 did not affect CEC, and that pine bark substrate CEC does not necessarily increase when amended with sphagnum peat.

Causes of apple skin spot revealed by study

Posted: 05 Jan 2015 12:10 PM PST

A study determined the effects of surface wetness on severity of skin spot in 'Elstar' apples grown under rain shelters, and identified relationships between rainfall and severity of skin spot over a number of seasons. Analyses show that increasing fruit surface wetness from overhead sprinkling increased both the severity of skin spot and the severity of cuticular microcracking. Skin spot occurs as a result of microcracking, and is a result of late-season surface wetness.

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