ScienceDaily: Top Environment News :

Jay Owen Earth Systems Science, Nature/Biomimicry

‘Whodunnit’ of Irish potato famine solved

Posted: 20 May 2013 10:12 PM PDT

An international team of scientists reveals that a unique strain of potato blight they call HERB-1 triggered the Irish potato famine of the mid-19th century.

New NOAA report examines national oil pollution threat from shipwrecks

Posted: 20 May 2013 04:31 PM PDT

NOAA presented to the U.S. Coast Guard a new report that finds that 36 sunken vessels scattered across the U.S. seafloor could pose an oil pollution threat to the nation’s coastal marine resources. Of those, 17 were recommended for further assessment and potential removal of both fuel oil and oil cargo.

The mammoth’s lament: How cosmic impact sparked devastating climate change

Posted: 20 May 2013 03:55 PM PDT

Researchers have found evidence of a major cosmic event near the end of the Ice Age. The ensuing climate change forced many species to adapt or die.

Parasitic wasps use calcium pump to block fruit fly immunity

Posted: 20 May 2013 01:37 PM PDT

Parasitic wasps switch off the immune systems of fruit flies by draining calcium from the flies’ blood cells, a finding that offers new insight into how pathogens break through a host’s defenses. Researchers say their findings have uncovered an important component of cellular immunity, one that parasites have learned to take advantage of.

Do salamanders’ immune systems hold the key to regeneration?

Posted: 20 May 2013 01:37 PM PDT

Salamanders’ immune systems are key to their remarkable ability to regrow limbs, and could also underpin their ability to regenerate spinal cords, brain tissue and even parts of their hearts, scientists have found. In new research, scientists have found that when immune cells known as macrophages were systemically removed, salamanders lost their ability to regenerate a limb and instead formed scar tissue.

Ant study could help future robot teams work underground

Posted: 20 May 2013 01:32 PM PDT

Future teams of subterranean search and rescue robots may owe their success to the lowly fire ant, a much-despised insect whose painful bites and extensive networks of underground tunnels are all-too-familiar to people living in the southern United States.

Amazon River exhales virtually all carbon taken up by rainforest

Posted: 20 May 2013 12:43 PM PDT

Woody plant matter is almost completely digested by bacteria living in the Amazon River. This tough stuff plays a major part in fueling the river’s breath. The finding has implications for global carbon models, and for the ecology of the Amazon and the world’s other rivers. Until recently, people believed much of the rainforest’s carbon floated down the Amazon River and ended up deep in the ocean.

Fastest measurements ever made of ion channel proteins

Posted: 20 May 2013 12:42 PM PDT

Engineers have used miniaturized electronics to measure the activity of individual ion-channel proteins with temporal resolution as fine as one microsecond, producing the fastest recordings of single ion channels ever performed. They designed a custom integrated circuit to perform these measurements, in which an artificial cell membrane and ion channel are attached directly to the surface of the amplifier chip.

Not just blowing in the wind: Compressing air for renewable energy storage

Posted: 20 May 2013 11:28 AM PDT

A comprehensive study into the potential for compressed air energy storage in the Pacific Northwest has identified two locations in Washington state that could store enough Northwest wind energy combined to power about 85,000 homes each month.

Slow earthquakes: It’s all in the rock mechanics

Posted: 20 May 2013 08:40 AM PDT

Earthquakes that last minutes rather than seconds are a relatively recent discovery, according to an international team of seismologists. Researchers have been aware of these slow earthquakes, only for the past five to 10 years because of new tools and new observations, but these tools may explain the triggering of some normal earthquakes and could help in earthquake prediction.

Fossil brain teaser: New study reveals patterns of dinosaur brain development

Posted: 20 May 2013 08:40 AM PDT

A new study sheds light on how the brain and inner ear developed in dinosaurs. Using high-resolution CT scanning and 3D computer imaging, it was possible to reconstruct and visualise the brain and inner ear of Dysalotosaurus lettowvorbecki — a small, plant-eating dinosaur, which lived 150 million years ago, in what is now Tanzania.

Earth’s iron core is surprisingly weak

Posted: 20 May 2013 06:54 AM PDT

Researchers have used a diamond anvil cell to squeeze iron at pressures as high as 3 million times that felt at sea level to recreate conditions at the center of Earth. The findings could refine theories of how the planet and its core evolved.

Archaeological genetics: It’s not all as old as it at first seems

Posted: 20 May 2013 06:51 AM PDT

Genomic analyses suggest that patterns of genetic diversity which indicate population movement may not be as ancient as previously believed, but may be attributable to recent events.

Lovelorn frogs bag closest crooner

Posted: 20 May 2013 06:51 AM PDT

What lures a lady frog to her lover? Good looks, the sound of his voice, the size of his pad or none of the above? After weighing up their options, female strawberry poison frogs (Oophaga pumilio) bag the closest crooner they can. This seemingly short-sighted strategy turns out to be the optimal mate choice strategy for these colorful frogs.

Why we need to put the fish back into fisheries

Posted: 19 May 2013 04:48 PM PDT

Overfishing has reduced fish populations and biodiversity across much of the world’s oceans. In response, fisheries are increasingly reliant on a handful of highly valuable shellfish. However, new research shows this approach to be extremely risky. 

Engineered microbes grow in the dark

Posted: 19 May 2013 04:11 PM PDT

Scientists have engineered a strain of photosynthetic cyanobacteria to grow without the need for light.

Bacteria use hydrogen, carbon dioxide to produce electricity

Posted: 19 May 2013 04:11 PM PDT

Researchers have engineered a strain of electricity-producing bacteria that can grow using hydrogen gas as its sole electron donor and carbon dioxide as its sole source of carbon.

Roots of future tropical rainfall: Sea level influenced tropical climate during the last ice age

Posted: 19 May 2013 04:04 PM PDT

How will rainfall patterns across the tropical Indian and Pacific regions change in a future warming world? Climate models generally suggest that the tropics as a whole will get wetter, but the models don’t always agree on where rainfall patterns will shift in particular regions within the tropics.

Heat-related deaths in Manhattan projected to rise: Killing season may push into spring and fall

Posted: 19 May 2013 04:04 PM PDT

Researchers say deaths in Manhattan linked to warming climate may rise some 20 percent by the 2020s, and, in some worst-case scenarios, 90 percent or more by the 2080s. Higher winter temperatures may partially offset heat-related deaths by cutting cold-related mortality — but even so, annual net temperature-related deaths might go up a third.

Computational tool translates complex data into simplified two-dimensional images

Posted: 19 May 2013 11:56 AM PDT

Researchers have developed a computational method that enables scientists to visualize and interpret “high-dimensional” data produced by single-cell measurement technologies such as mass cytometry. The method has particular relevance to cancer research and therapeutics.

Origins of life: In early Earth, iron helped RNA catalyze electron transfer

Posted: 19 May 2013 11:56 AM PDT

A new study shows how complex biochemical transformations may have been possible under conditions that existed when life began on the early Earth. The study shows that RNA is capable of catalyzing electron transfer under conditions similar to those of the early Earth.