Wildfires light up western Australia

Ethical Markets Earth Systems Science

Wildfires light up western Australia

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 02:45 PM PST

Careful observers of the new “Black Marble” images of Earth at night released this week by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have noticed bright areas in the western part of Australia that are largely uninhabited. Why is this area so lit up, many have asked? Away from the cities, much of the night light observed by the NASA-NOAA Suomi NPP satellite in these images comes from wildfires.

Massive crevasses and bendable ice affect stability of Antarctic ice shelf

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 02:45 PM PST

Massive crevasses and bendable ice affect stability of Antarctic ice shelf, a research team finds.

Long-distance solute transport in trees improved by intercellular pathways in living woody tissues

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 02:45 PM PST

As large organisms, trees face some remarkable challenges, particularly regarding long-distance transport and communication. In addition to moving water and nutrients from their roots to their leaves, they must also integrate cell-to-cell communication over large areas. Furthermore, to function as a single, cohesive organism, they must be able to effectively and efficiently send vital substances long distances along a network of cells, sieve-tubes, and vessels. But how effective is this cell-to-cell communication and how far can such solutes travel?

From clawed spiders to deep-sea sharks: 137 new species described by California Academy of Sciences in 2012

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 01:16 PM PST

In 2012, researchers at the California Academy of Sciences added 137 new relatives to our family tree, enriching our understanding of the complex web of life on Earth and strengthening our ability to make informed conservation decisions. The new species include 83 arthropods, 41 fishes, seven plants, four sea slugs, one reptile, and one amphibian. They were described by more than a dozen Academy scientists along with several dozen international collaborators.

Greenland ice sheet carries evidence of increased atmospheric acidity

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 10:27 AM PST

Studies have shown decreasing levels of the isotope nitrogen-15 in core samples from Greenland ice starting around the time of the Industrial Revolution. New research suggests the decline corresponds to increased acidity in the atmosphere.

Monkey business: What howler monkeys can tell us about the role of interbreeding in human evolution

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 07:16 AM PST

Did different species of early humans interbreed and produce offspring of mixed ancestry? Recent genetic studies suggest that Neanderthals may have bred with anatomically modern humans tens of thousands of years ago in the Middle East, contributing to the modern human gene pool. But the findings are not universally accepted, and the fossil record has not helped to clarify the role of interbreeding, which is also known as hybridization. Now a study of interbreeding between two species of modern-day howler monkeys in Mexico is shedding light on why it’s so difficult to confirm instances of hybridization among primates — including early humans — by relying on fossil remains.

NASA’s Van Allen Probes reveal new dynamics of Earth’s radiation belts

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 07:09 AM PST

Just 96 days since their launch, NASA’s twin Van Allen Probes have already provided new insights into the structure and behavior of the radiation belts that surround Earth, giving scientists a clearer understanding about the fundamental physical properties of these regions more than half a century after their discovery.

Ethiopians and Tibetans thrive in thin air using similar physiology, but different genes

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 06:46 AM PST

Scientists have pinpointed genetic changes that allow some Ethiopians to live more than a mile above sea level without getting altitude sickness. The genes differ from those reported previously for high-altitude Tibetans, even though both groups cope with low-oxygen in similar physiological ways. The results may help scientists understand why some people are more vulnerable to low oxygen caused by factors other than altitude — such as asthma or heart problems — and point to new treatments.

Haymeadows are good for the environment say researchers

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 06:43 AM PST

Traditional haymeadows are much better at supporting biodiversity and preventing water pollution than intensively farmed fields according to new research. This is because haymeadows lose five times less nitrogen from the soil, which is needed for plant growth. However, nitrogen becomes a pollutant if it leaches into rivers and contaminates the water supply.

Hatching order influences birds’ behavior

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 06:43 AM PST

The hatching order of birds influences how they behave in adult life according to new research. Biologists looked at how the birds’ behavior was affected by the way their parents cared for them as hatchlings. They found that the youngest members of zebra finch broods are more adventurous than their older siblings in adult life.

Antibiotic-eating bug unearthed in soil: Newly discovered bacterium degrades an antibiotic both to protect itself and get nutrition

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 06:07 AM PST

Canadian and French scientists have uncovered a soil microbe that degrades a common veterinary antibiotic both to protect itself and get nutrition, an ability the researchers suggest could be widespread.

Biologists unlocking the secrets of plant defenses, one piece at a time

Posted: 05 Dec 2012 05:02 PM PST

Botanists have unraveled an important step in the way the plant hormone jasmonate works. Jasmonate signaling has been a target of intense research because of its important role in maintaining the balance between plant growth and defense.

New technology decodes chemical messages sent by bed bugs

Posted: 05 Dec 2012 05:00 PM PST

Bed bugs exchange specific chemical signals corresponding to particular behaviors, and researchers have now combined two unusual technologies to sniff out these signals in a matter of seconds.