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Showing posts with label Planet and Environment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Planet and Environment. Show all posts

Friday, 27 March 2020

As the ocean warms, marine species relocate toward the poles

Since pre-industrial times, the world's oceans have warmed by an average of one degree Celsius (1°C). Now researchers report in Current Biology on March 26th that those rising temperatures have led to widespread changes in the population sizes of marine species. The researchers found a general pattern of species having increasing numbers on their poleward sides and losses toward the equator.

"The main surprise is how pervasive the effects were," says senior author Martin Genner, an evolutionary ecologist at the University of Bristol. "We found the same trend across all groups of marine life we looked at, from plankton to marine invertebrates, and from fish to seabirds."

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The new study builds on earlier evidence for a prevailing effect of climate change on the distributions, abundance, and seasonality of marine species. Based on those findings, Genner's team reasoned that marine species should be doing well at the leading (poleward) edge of their ranges but poorly at their trailing (equatorward) side. They also realized that existing databases of global species distributions could be used to test this hypothesis.

Based on a thorough search of available data in the literature, the researchers now report on a global analysis of abundance trends for 304 widely distributed marine species over the last century. The results show that -- just as predicted -- abundance increases have been most prominent where sampling has taken place at the poleward side of species ranges, while abundance declines have been most prominent where sampling has taken place at the equatorward side of species ranges.

The findings show that large-scale changes in the abundance of species are well underway. They also suggest that marine species haven't managed to adapt to warmer conditions. The researchers therefore suggest that projected sea temperature increases of up to 1.5°C over pre-industrial levels by 2050 will continue to drive the latitudinal abundance shifts in marine species, including those of importance for coastal livelihoods.

"This matters because it means that climate change is not only leading to abundance changes, but intrinsically affecting the performance of species locally," Genner says. "We see species such as Emperor penguin becoming less abundant as water becomes too warm at their equatorward edge, and we see some fish such as European seabass thriving at their poleward edge where historically they were uncommon."

The findings show that climate change is affecting marine species in a highly consistent and non-trivial way. "While some marine life may benefit as the ocean warms, the findings point toward a future in which we will also see continued loss of marine life," Genner says.

The long-term data included in the study primarily represent the most well-studied regions of the world. The researchers say that more work is needed to understand how climate change has affected marine life in all regions of the world in greater detail.

"We aim to get a better understanding of precisely how marine climate change drives abundance shifts," Genner says. "Is this mainly related to the physiological limits of the species, or instead due to changes in the species with which they interact?"

The work was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council and the UK Government Office for Science.


Reuben A. Hastings, Louise A. Rutterford, Jennifer J. Freer, Rupert A. Collins, Stephen D. Simpson, Martin J. Genner.

Climate Change Drives Poleward Increases and Equatorward Declines in Marine Species. 

Current Biology, 2020;

DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2020.02.043

Friday, 20 March 2020

COVID-19: pandemic has reduced air pollution in several countries

As the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus continues to expand, the pandemic has begun to show positive trends worldwide. This is particularly the case of air pollution. According to the latest observation results from the ESA Copernicus satellite, the containment measures would have made it possible to reduce carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide pollution significantly. And according to researcher Mashall Burke, the number of lives indirectly saved by this reduction in pollution could far exceed the human losses due to the virus.

Back on March 8, Stanford University environmental resource economist Marshall Burke did some back-of-the-envelope calculations about the recent air pollution drop over parts of China and potential lives saved, posting it on a global food, environment and economic dynamics blog, G-FEED.

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The situation has continued to unfold since then, so those numbers won't stay current for long; but according to Burke, even conservatively, it's very likely that the lives saved locally from the reduction in pollution exceed COVID-19 deaths in China.

"Given the huge amount of evidence that breathing dirty air contributes heavily to premature mortality, a natural - if admittedly strange - question is whether the lives saved from this reduction in pollution caused by economic disruption from COVID-19 exceeds the death toll from the virus itself," Burke writes.

Pollution reduction in China: lives saved would exceed losses due to virus

The two months of pollution reduction, Burke calculates, has probably saved the lives of 4,000 children under 5 and 73,000 adults over 70 in China. That's significantly more than the current global death toll from the virus itself.

Although this might seem a little surprising, it's something we've known about for quite a long time. Earlier this month, research suggested that air pollution costs us three years, on average, off our global life expectancy.

Loss of average life expectancy according to different causes of death for the year 2015. Air pollution arrives at the top of the podium with approximately 3 years of life expectancy lost, before smoking. Credits: Jos Lelieveld et al. 2020

"It is remarkable that both the number of deaths and the loss in life expectancy from air pollution rival the effect of tobacco smoking and are much higher than other causes of death," physicist Jos Lelieveld from the Cyprus Institute in Nicosia stated at the time.

"Air pollution exceeds malaria as a global cause of premature death by a factor of 19; it exceeds violence by a factor of 16, HIV/AIDS by a factor of 9, alcohol by a factor of 45, and drug abuse by a factor of 60."

But Burke's analysis was just using data from China, and was completed before there was more information about how COVID-19 has affected the rest of the world.

With the second largest number of cases occurring in Italy, and the country putting in place strict quarantine measures, satellite data over northern Italy have now shown a large drop in air pollution - specifically nitrogen dioxide, a gas mainly emitted by cars, trucks, power plants and some industrial plants.

A net reduction in nitrogen dioxide pollution in Italy

"The decline in nitrogen dioxide emissions over the Po Valley in northern Italy is particularly evident," explains Claus Zehner, ESA's Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission manager.

"Although there could be slight variations in the data due to cloud cover and changing weather, we are very confident that the reduction in emissions that we can see, coincides with the lock-down in Italy causing less traffic and industrial activities."

For now, we don't have peer-reviewed studies measuring the true health impact reduced emissions will bring, but given what we know about the dangers of widespread air pollution, it's likely that there will be a direct benefit in the shape of fewer pollution-related deaths.

Even such a tiny silver lining can hardly make up for the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic. But these preliminary numbers demonstrate that this global health disaster is an opportunity to assess - which aspects of modern life are absolutely necessary, and what positive changes might be possible if we change our habits on a global scale.

This ESA video shows the reduction of nitrogen dioxide emissions in Italy:

Source Source 2

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Air pollution will reduce life expectancy by 3 years on average for every person in the world

Among the many public health problems of global scope, pollution, although greatly underestimated, nevertheless rises to the top of the podium of the causes of mortality. Fine particles and other harmful aerosols cause long-term pulmonary and cardiovascular disease, which causes millions of deaths worldwide; far beyond other factors like HIV or smoking. Recently, a team of researchers has shown that on average, around the world, air pollution reduces life expectancy per capita by around 3 years.

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Polluted air is a public health hazard that cannot be evaded. It is widely known that long-term exposure to air pollution enhances the risks of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and the University Medical Center Mainz now calculated in a new study that the global, public loss of life expectancy caused by air pollution is higher than many other risk factors such as smoking, infectious diseases or violence.

Pollution: it reduces life expectancy per capita by around 3 years on average worldwide

Air pollution caused 8.8 million premature deaths worldwide in 2015. This corresponds to an average reduction in life expectancy per capita of 2.9 years. In comparison, tobacco smoking reduces the life expectancy by an average of 2.2 years (7.2 million deaths), HIV / AIDS by 0.7 years (1 million deaths), parasitic and vector-borne diseases such as malaria -- by 0.6 years (600,000 deaths).

"Air pollution exceeds malaria as a cause of premature death by a factor of 19; it exceeds violence by a factor of 17 and HIV / AIDS by a factor of 9. Given the huge impact on public health and the global population, one could say that our results indicate an air pollution pandemic," said Jos Lelieveld, director at Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and first author of the study.

Loss of average life expectancy according to different causes of death for the year 2015. Air pollution reaches the top of the podium with approximately 3 years of life expectancy lost. Credits: Jos Lelieveld et al. 2020

This study is the first to examine the global impact of air pollution on human health compared to other risk factors worldwide. "Our comparison of different global risk factors shows that ambient air pollution is a leading cause of premature mortality and loss of life expectancy, in particular through cardiovascular diseases," says Thomas M眉nzel, director of the Cardiology Center at the University Medical Center in Mainz and co-author of the paper.

The links between pollution and "pulmonary and cardiovascular" diseases

The scientists examined the connection between exposure to pollutants and the occurrence of diseases. In order to calculate the worldwide exposure to pollutants, which primarily include fine particles and ozone, the researchers used an atmospheric chemical mode. They then combined the exposure data with the Global Exposure -- Mortality Model that derives from many epidemiological cohort studies.

Using these tools and data, scientists investigated the effects of different pollution sources, distinguishing between natural (wildfires, aeolian dust) and anthropogenic emissions, including fossil fuel use. Based on their results they could estimate the disease-specific excess mortality and loss of life expectancy in all countries world-wide.

Percentage loss of life expectancy due to air pollution by different types of diseases: CEV = cerebrovascular disease, COPD = chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, IHD = ischemic heart disease, LC = lung cancer, LRI: infection lower respiratory tract, NCD = other diseases. Credits: Jos Lelieveld et al. 2020

The study results show that the mortality caused by ambient air pollution is highest in East Asia (35 percent) and South Asia (32 percent), followed by Africa (11 percent), Europe (9 percent) and North- and South America (6 percent). Lowest mortality rates are found in Australia (1,5 percent) associated with the strictest air quality standards of all countries.

"We understand more and more that fine particles primarily favor vascular damage and thus diseases such as heart attack, stroke, cardiac arrhythmia and heart failure. It is of outmost importance that air pollution is adopted as a cardiovascular risk factor and that it is distinctly mentioned in the ESC/AHA guidelines of prevention, acute and coronary syndromes and heart failure," continued M眉nzel.

Reducing the use of fossil fuels to reduce pollution-related deaths

According to the findings of the study, almost two thirds of the deaths caused by air pollution, namely around 5.5 million a year are avoidable, and the majority of polluted air comes from the use of fossil fuels. The researchers estimate that the average life expectancy world-wide would increase by more than a year if the emissions from the use of fossil fuels were eliminated.

The team from the University Medical Center Mainz and Max Planck Institute for Chemistry published a similar paper last year focusing on the consequences of air pollution in Europe. According to the earlier study, nearly 800,000 Europeans die prematurely every year due to illnesses caused by air pollution. Polluted air shortens the lifespan of Europeans by more than two years.


Loss of life expectancy from air pollution compared to other risk factors: a worldwide perspective.

Thomas M眉nzel, Andy Haines, Mohammed Fnais, Ulrich P枚schl, Andrea Pozzer, Jos Lelieveld.

Cardiovascular Research, 2020;

DOI: 10.1093/cvr/cvaa025

Friday, 21 February 2020

Scientists Study on 'Flammable Ice' Offers Clues To Life On Other Planets

Mineral aggregates recovered from dissociated hydrate are relatively pure dolomite. (a) Light microscopy of single-grained dolomites showing dark inclusions (UTCW J25R, 53.9 mbsf, Mg/Ca = 0.91). (b) Single and paired “dumbbell” grains, showing layering in the internal dark portions (UTCW J22R, 28.7 mbsf, Mg:Ca = 0.92. (c) Shallow dumbbell grain (UTCW J21R, 12.2 mbsf, Mg:Ca = 0.74). Shallow grains (<20mbsf) show rough surfaces comprised of ~5 渭m dolomite rhombs and low Mg/Ca ratios. (d) Deeper grains consist of smooth intergrown dolomite plates ~15 渭m. The overall size of the deep grains ranges from 20 渭m to > 150 渭m and Mg:Ca ratios approaching 1 (UTCW J25R, 57 mbsf, Mg:Ca = 0.97). (e) Broken chain structure (UTCW J25R, 67.4 mbsf) shows smooth intergrowth of dolomite rhombs on the outer surface. (f) Close-up of previous grain showing concentric porous rings on the inside of the broken surface, possibly consisting of organic matter or residual fluid.

British and Japanese scientists, who were studying the so-called " flammable ice " in the Sea of ​​Japan, made a surprising discovery: There is life in the microscopic bubbles of frozen combustible material, researchers has found bacterial communities within microscopic spheroidal aggregates of dolomite, oil and water found in sheets of frozen methane and ice, known as ‘flammable ice,’ in Joetsu Basin, Japan Sea.

“We’re melting hydrate to study methane gas when we noticed an unusual powder consisting of microscopic spheroids with mysterious dark cores,” said Dr. Glen T. Snyder, a researcher at the Meiji University Global Front, Japan.

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“In combination with the other evidence collected by my colleagues, my results showed that even under near-freezing temperatures, at extremely high pressures, with only heavy oil and saltwater for food-sources, life was flourishing and leaving its mark,” said Dr. Stephen Bowden, a researcher at the University of Aberdeen.

“But what we never expected to find was microbes continuing to grow and produce these spheroids, all of the time while isolated in tiny cold dark pockets of saltwater and oil,” Dr. Snyder continued.

“It certainly gives a positive spin to cold dark places, and opens up a tantalising clue as to the existence of life on other planets.” said Bowden.

(a) Flammable ice, as collected from the seabed. (b) Detail of one of the test pieces. (c) Methane hydrate after heating and centrifuged for analysis, showing oil on top and granules containing micro-habitats on the bottom.

"Alien" Life on Earth

The tiny bubbles are scattered inside large hydrate plates, known as "flammable ice" - or methane hydrate - that are formed when ice retains methane in its molecular structure.

There has been great interest in the exploration of this material as a fuel, with Japan and China leading this research.

Glen Snyder and colleagues from several Japanese and UK universities were melting hydrates to study methane gas when they noticed an unusual powder made up of microscopic spheroids with very peculiar dark nuclei.

Analytical techniques allowed to verify that the dark nuclei consist of oil that was being degraded in the microenvironments formed inside the bubbles of the methane hydrate.

"It is known that methane [present] in methane hydrate forms as microbes degrade organic matter on the seabed. But what we never expected to discover was that microbes would continue to grow and produce these spheroids during all the time they were isolated in small dark and cold bags of salt water and oil. That certainly changes everything about dark and cold places, and reveals a tantalizing clue about the existence of life on other planets," said Snyder.

"It certainly changes the way I think about things. As long as they have ice and a little heat, all those cold, frozen planets at the edge of the entire planetary system could host tiny microhabitats with microbes building their own 'death stars. 'and creating its tiny atmospheres and ecosystems, as we found out here," said Professor Stephen Bowden, a member of the team.


Article: Evidence in the Japan Sea of ​​microdolomite mineralization within gas hydrate microbiomes

Authors: Glen T. Snyder, Ryo Matsumoto, Yohey Suzuki, Mariko Kouduka, Yoshihiro Kakizaki, Naizhong Zhang, Hitoshi Tomaru, Yuji Sano, Naoto Takahata, Kentaro Tanaka, Kentaro Tanaka Stephen A. Bowden, Takumi Imajo

Magazine: Nature Scientific Reports

Vol .: 10, Article number: 1876

DOI: 10.1038 / s41598-020-58723-y

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

One of the largest glaciers in Antarctica has lost a piece twice the size of Washington DC

As global temperatures rise due to global warming, the Antarctic ice is becoming brittle and undergoing accelerated melting in recent years. And recently, one of the largest glaciers in Antarctica, the Pine Island Glacier, was an example: a piece the size of Malta (or twice that of Washington DC) has come off in the sea. The other giant glacier nearby, that of Thwaites, could soon suffer the same fate.

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The Pine Island Glacier, one of the fastest melting glaciers in Antarctica, has just lost another huge chunk of ice in the sea, continuing a trend of rapid melting that has become an almost annual occurrence over the past decade. Scientists at Copernicus, the European Union's Earth observation program, have been closely monitoring the glacier since large cracks appeared near its edge in October 2019.

Yesterday, these cracks finally cut a piece of the glacier (a process called calving glacier), releasing giant pieces of fresh icebergs into the nearby Amundsen Sea. In total, the largest piece is approximately twice the size of Washington (DC) in surface area (over 350 square kilometers), which is equivalent to the area of ​​Malta.

Increasingly frequent calving events

The recent calving alone is not so surprising or particularly threatening to the global sea level; calving is a normal part of the life of ice formations with sections floating on the water. Because the ice at the edge of the glacier was already floating, this ice does not directly contribute to the rise in sea level when it inevitably melts.

However, over the past two decades, calving events have occurred much more frequently at the Pine Island Glacier and the nearby Thwaites Glacier (also known as the “Doomsday Glacier”) as the surrounding ocean warms. due to global warming.

While large calving events occurred at the Pine Island Glacier every four to six years, they have now become near-annual events, according to NASA.

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Evidence of accelerated melting of Antarctic glaciers

Over the past decade, huge chunks of the glacier have come off in 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2018 and now in 2020. As a result, the ice shelves of Pine Island and Thwaites are retreating inside. land faster than new ice can form.

Scientists fear that this persistent retreat is a sign that an accelerated melting cycle is underway: as relatively warm seawater flows over the newly exposed edges of an ice shelf, the melt accelerates, the ice shelf stretches and thins, and calving becomes more and more likely.

The large cracks running along the edge of the Pine Island Glacier are the result of the gradual rise in temperatures. These cracks weaken glaciers, resulting in more frequent glacier calving. Credits: ESA

According to NASA, the region around the two glaciers contains enough vulnerable ice to raise the ocean by 1.2 meters. The new Pine Island icebergs calved just days after scientists reported the hottest temperature on record in Antarctica. On Thursday, February 6, temperatures near a research base on the northern edge of the continent reached 18.3 ° C, reported the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The previous record was 17.5 ° C, established in March 2015.


Source 1

Source 2

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Carcinogenic chemicals constantly emanate from the seats of many vehicles

While much research on car pollution focuses on external air pollutants entering the interior of vehicles and thereby affecting passengers, a new study shows that chemicals emanating directly from the interior could also be of concern. At least, this is the conclusion of a new study by UC Riverside, published this month in the journal Environment International.

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The study reveals in particular that the longer the journey, the more you are exposed to a known carcinogenic chemical flame retardant, which has in particular been eliminated from certain furniture. Although there are other chemicals that are commonly used in the manufacture of automobiles, this flame retardant has just been added to the list of products to avoid or prohibited.

Some scientists have assumed that the chemical, called TDCIPP or "tris chlorinated", ceased to be used after it was placed on the Proposition 65 list in California in 2013. However, it is still widely used in the foam of car seats. The study shows that not only is your car a source of exposure to TDCIPP, but that less than a week of journeys leads to high exposure to it.

David Volz, associate professor of environmental toxicology at UCR (California), said the results were unexpected. "I was pretty skeptical at first because I didn't think we were going to find any significant concentration in this short period of time, let alone the importance of travel time," said Volz. "So we were surprised twice, which was really unusual."

Impact on fetal development, infertility and risk of cancer

For the past decade, Volz has studied how various chemicals affect the trajectory of early development. Using zebrafish and human cells as models, the Volz laboratory has been studying the toxicity of a new class of flame retardants called organophosphorus esters since 2011.

Little is known about the toxicity of these organophosphorus esters - of which TDCIPP is a part, but be aware that they replaced the old flame retardant chemicals, which persisted longer in the environment and took longer to metabolize.

Using the zebrafish as a model, Volz discovered that TDCIPP prevents an embryo from developing normally. Other studies have reported a strong association between TDCIPP and infertility in women undergoing fertility treatments.

Knowing that its use is still widespread in vehicles, Volz wondered whether the total exposure of a person was linked to the duration of the journey. Undergraduate students at UC Riverside have made excellent subjects for study, as the majority of them make long daily car trips.

The research team included collaborators from Duke University and was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as well as the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Participants included approximately 90 students, each of whom had journey times varying from less than 15 minutes to more than two hours round trip. All received silicone bracelets to wear continuously for five days. The molecular structure of silicone makes it ideal for capturing airborne contaminants.

A study participant wearing the silicone bracelet used to capture TDCIPP fumes. Credits: David Volz / UCR

Since TDCIPP is not chemically linked to foam, it is expelled over time and ends up in the dust (which is inhaled), according to Aalekyha Reddam, a graduate student from the Volz laboratory.

Strong correlation with travel time

Several organophosphorus esters were tested, but the TDCIPP was the only one to show a strong positive association with travel time. "Your exposure to TDCIPP increases the more time you spend in your vehicle," said Reddam.

Although Volz and his team did not take urine samples to verify that the chemical had migrated into the participants' bodies, the latter was a certainty for them. "We assume this is the case because of the difficulty in avoiding ingestion and inhalation of dust," said Volz. In addition, other studies have looked at the accumulation of TDCIPP in the urine, but not by travel time.

In the future, the research team would like to repeat the study with a larger group of people, whose ages would be more varied. They would also like to explore ways to protect motorists from this exposure, as well as from other toxic compounds.

Until more specific reduction methods can be identified, the team encourages frequent dusting of vehicle interiors and follow guidelines from the United States Environmental Protection Agency to reduce exposure to contaminants.

Until safer alternatives are identified, more research is needed to fully understand the effects of TDCIPP on commuters.

"If we were able to achieve meaningful results in just five days, what does this mean for long-term chronic exposure, for people who travel long distances throughout the year, for decades?" Asks Volz.


Environment International
Volume 136,

Longer commutes are associated with increased human exposure to tris(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate

Aalekhya Reddam David C.Vol

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Human activities are responsible for the gradual disappearance of fireflies

When night falls and they dot the landscape with their bioluminescence, the fireflies and glow worms offer a truly magnificent spectacle. However, this magic of nature is on hold. The development of urbanization, deforestation, the use of pesticides and light pollution are all factors contributing to the progressive decline of fireflies all over the world. And recently, the alarm signal concerning their extinction was raised by the Group of Specialists of Fireflies of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

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Fireflies are in serious trouble, with many species threatened with extinction due to habitat loss and exposure to pesticides, according to the first major review of their global status. Their natural luminosity is also stifled by artificial light pollution, report researchers in the journal BioScience .

More than 2,000 species of fireflies - which are actually beetles - light up wetlands, marshes, grasslands, forests and city parks around the world. A few, such as Photinus pyralis in the United States, appear to be thriving. "These insects can survive just about anywhere," says Sara Lewis, a biologist at Tufts University in Massachusetts.

But other varieties - glow worms from southern England, synchronous fireflies from Malaysia, and the blue ghost of the Appalachians, both of which attract tourists - are dying out due to human activity. "Some species are particularly affected by the loss of habitat because they need specific conditions to complete their life cycle."

Urbanization: a major factor in the disappearance of fireflies

The Malaysian firefly ( Pteroptyx tener ), for example, lives during its larval phase in the riparian mangroves, many of which have been uprooted to make way for oil palm plantations and fish farms.

The glow-worm ( Lampyris noctiluca ) has another problem: females are unable to fly, which means that they simply cannot move to a new location when their habitat is destroyed by a suburb, crop or road the country.

Deforestation, the construction of new housing and light pollution, in the context of exponential urbanization, are the main factors behind the disappearance of fireflies. Credits: Sara M Lewis et al. 2020

Other species of fireflies, which only eat during their larval phase, have "specialized diets", which means that they survive on one or two types of snails, earthworms or other body prey soft. When orchards in Mediterranean Spain are abandoned or give way to urbanization, like snails consumed by Lampyris iberica , firefly larvae have nothing to eat.

Meanwhile, adult Pteroptyx in Malaysia congregate for nocturnal courtship displays in specific trees along the mangrove rivers. Many of these trees have been felled.

Out of 10 possible extinction factors, experts have identified habitat loss as the main threat worldwide - except in East Asia and South America. In these two regions, artificial light was considered to be the greatest threat to luminescent beetles in the world.

Light pollution, insecticides and tourism: they worsen the overall situation of fireflies

"In addition to disrupting natural biorhythms, light pollution has a negative impact on firefly mating rituals" explains Avalon Owens, biologist. Many species of fireflies depend on their ability to light up to find and attract partners. To make matters worse, this window of opportunity is very narrow: while the larval firefly phase lasts for months or years, adults generally only live a few days.

Around the world, fireflies and glow worms are threatened by habitat loss, insecticides, light pollution and water pollution. Credits: Sara M Lewis et al. 2020

Sparkling beetles are so focused on reproduction that they don't even eat. The investigation found that fireflies are also being wiped out by commonly used insecticides, the third major threat. "Organophosphates and neonicotinoids are designed to kill pests, but they also have non-targeted effects on beneficial insects."

Fireflies light up by triggering a chemical reaction - involving oxygen, calcium and an enzyme called luciferase - inside special organs in their abdomen, a process called bioluminescence. Tourism focused on fireflies (long popular in Japan, Malaysia and Taiwan) is also wreaking havoc, with fragile ecosystems damaged by too much pedestrian traffic.


A Global Perspective on Firefly Extinction Threats

Sara M Lewis, Choong Hay Wong, Avalon C S Owens, Candace Fallon, Sarina Jepsen, Anchana Thancharoen, Chiahsiung Wu, Raphael De Cock, Martin Nov谩k, Tania L贸pez-Palafox

BioScience, biz157,

Published: 03 February 2020

Sunday, 2 February 2020

New method turns any carbon waste into graphene

Every day, several million tons of carbonaceous waste are thrown away to be stored in landfills and to be burned, or simply stored awaiting treatment. Despite the improvement of recycling techniques, a large part of this waste is definitively destroyed, an often polluting and costly process. But recently, a team of engineers has developed a new method, very inexpensive and very little polluting, allowing to quickly transform any carbonaceous waste - from banana peels to tires through wood - into graphene. This material, whose qualities are no longer to be demonstrated, can then be used in numerous applications.

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The “graphene flash” technique, described in the journal Nature , is fast and inexpensive and consists of heating the waste to 2727 ° C. This breaks the carbon bonds inside the target materials, which are then reconstructed as graphene in a few milliseconds. Not only does this provide a means to use waste that would otherwise be thrown away, but it is an efficient and inexpensive way to produce graphene, which can then be used in different environmentally friendly ways.

"We have already proven that any solid carbon-based material, including mixed plastic waste and rubber tires, can be transformed into graphene," said chemist James Tour of Rice University. Existing graphene production processes produce either low quality graphene or high quality graphene in low volumes. Here, the scientists were able to develop a technique that makes it possible to obtain a decent quantity of good quality, in a shorter time and at a lower cost.

Graphene flash: the key role of temperature

At the center of the operation is a method known as Joule heating, where a rapid discharge of electricity is used to generate intense heat. It is a process that has already been used by engineers to create metallic nanoparticles.

(A, B, C): Structure and operation of the Joule effect heating device. (E): Different graphene structures synthesized from various sources. Credits: Duy X. Luong et al. 2020

The technique described could help convert materials such as food waste, plastic waste, petroleum coke, coal, scrap wood and biochar into precious graphene. It should also be relatively easy to scale up. Temperature is the key - it accelerates the evolution of carbon to its ground state of graphite, but also stops this evolution at exactly the right time to harvest high-quality graphene.

A fast, inexpensive and environmentally friendly recycling technique

If graphene can be generated cheaply, it means it can be used for more applications - to help in the production of cars or clothing, for example, or in cement to bond concrete (a responsible process about 8% of human-made CO2 each year).

Image of the Joule effect heater used for the synthesis of flash graphene. Credits: Rice University

“By reinforcing the concrete with graphene, we could use less concrete for construction, and it would be cheaper to manufacture and transport. Essentially, we are trapping greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane that food waste would have emitted into landfills. We convert these carbons to graphene and add this graphene to the concrete, thereby reducing the amount of carbon dioxide generated in the manufacture of concrete. It's a win-win environmental scenario using graphene.”

No solvent or chemical additive is required for the process, and elements other than carbon are released as gases. In addition, the process produces very little excess heat and the containment device is cool to the touch within a few seconds. Graphene has already proven itself in a multitude of applications, covering electronics, manufacturing and cleaning of pollutants. Scientists can now make it cheaply, while reusing materials that would otherwise be wasted.


Article: Gram-scale bottom-up flash graphene synthesis

Duy X. Luong, Ksenia V. Bets, Wala Ali Algozeeb, Michael G. Stanford, Carter Kittrell, Weiyin Chen, Rodrigo V. Salvatierra, Muqing Ren, Emily A. McHugh, Paul A. Advincula, Zhe Wang, Mahesh Bhatt, Hua Guo, Vladimir Mancevski, Rouzbeh Shahsavari, Boris I. Yakobson & James M. Tour

Nature volume 577, pages647–651(2020)

Friday, 31 January 2020

The ocean has become so acidic that it literally dissolves the crab shells ...

A new study reveals an alarming fact: the acidity of the Pacific Ocean has become so great that it dissolves the shells of crab larvae. This phenomenon is happening much earlier than researchers feared, demonstrating once again the critical state of our oceans and its potential consequences on the entire chain of life.

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This study was conducted by an international team of researchers and funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA studies in particular the acidification of the oceans and the impact of pH changes on the coasts.

The acidity of the water only increases

You should know that the world's oceans absorb about 30% of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. This means that as the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have increased, so too have the levels of CO2 in seawater, which in turn leads to an increase in the acidity of the water.

Now, researchers have found that ocean acidification along the west coast of the United States is increasing faster than that seen in the rest of the globe . This is particularly evident in coastal regions (up to 200 meters deep), which have a lower buffer capacity while at the same time providing substantial habitats for ecologically and economically important species. It is for this reason that the researchers focused on this area during their study, studying a species emblematic of the region: the sleeping crab.

And, according to the results, the acidity of the water has become so high that it goes so far as to dissolve the shells of newly hatched sleeper crabs.

Crabs will weaken… faster than expected

Researchers have found that the lower pH levels in their habitat affect the larvae by dissolving parts of their shells and damaging their sensory organs (which they typically use to navigate their environment).

This particular fact is already very worrying. However, scientists have been more alerted to the prematurity of this phenomenon. Indeed, the acidity of the water should not affect the crabs so quickly.  "We have discovered dissolution effects on crab larvae that are not expected to occur until much later in the century," said Richard Feely, study co-author and lead NOAA scientist.

This can only generate many problems for crabs: an inability to defend themselves against predators, poor buoyancy and loss of orientation due to the loss of their sensory organs, and difficulty moving around. Indeed, the consequences of the dissolution of the crab larvae are absolutely dramatic for their development towards adulthood.

“If these larval crabs need to divert energy to repair their exoskeletons, and are smaller, as a result, the percentage that makes it to adulthood will be at best variable, and likely go down in the long-term,” added Bednarsek to NOAA. “[...] if the crabs are affected already, we really need to make sure we start to pay much more attention to various components of the food chain before it is too late.”

This infographic shows the location of the crab larvae sampling, examples of ocean acidification impacts, and photos of a larval crab (left) and an adult crab (right). Credits: Nina Bednarsek / SSCWRP.

Ocean acidification is a danger to all

This discovery not only has an impact on crabs and the Pacific ecosystem: it could also affect the economies of cities in the Pacific Northwest, which fish and sell crustaceans (in these areas, the sleeper crab is an essential part of commercial fishing).

Unfortunately, that is not all. Becoming aware of these lesions of crabs is just one of the many symptoms demonstrating the critical state of our oceans. Ocean acidification is now threatening the entire food chain (as all species are interconnected and vital). "If the crabs are already affected, we really need to make sure that we pay much more attention to the different components of the food chain before it's too late," said Bednarsek.

In addition, as the ocean becomes more acidic because it absorbs more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, this lowers the pH of the water. Then, the fact that the pH is lower, according to NOAA, modifies the ribs by releasing an excess of nutrients which can give rise to overgrowth of algae and thus participate in the increase in temperature and salinity of the water. Consequently, crustaceans and corals have a harder time forming a solid shell because they depend on carbonate ions, which are less abundant in more acidic waters. In the front line of sight, there are therefore not only crabs, but also oysters, clams and plankton, which all need the same carbonate ions to strengthen.

Ultimately, therefore, the entire ocean cycle is considerably weakened. NOAA stresses that it is absolutely vital to reduce our overall carbon footprint to decrease the carbon dioxide absorbed by the sea and try to at least slow the increase in ocean acidification.


Exoskeleton dissolution with mechanoreceptor damage in larval Dungeness crab related to severity of present-day ocean acidification vertical gradients

Bednar拧ek et al - Science of The Total Environment,

doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.136610.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Our current food system can only feed 3.4 billion people sustainably

Rice harvest in Williams, California. | Ken James / Getty Images

According to a recent analysis of global agriculture, as it stands, our food system can only feed 3.4 billion people before reaching sustainable global production limits. However, according to the analysis, reorganizing agricultural crops and making certain changes in diets would allow us to meet the food needs of 10 billion people on a sustainable basis.

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" We must not go further in the production of food at the expense of the environment, " says Dieter Gerten, of the Climate Impact Research Institute in Potsdam, Germany, and author of the study.

In 2009, researchers identified nine potential “planetary limits”: thresholds that we should not exceed if we want to keep the systems necessary for life on Earth viable.

Gerten's team examined four rules / limits that are relevant to agriculture: limiting the use of nitrogen (causes dead zones in lakes and oceans), limiting the withdrawal of fresh water from rivers and l exploitation of forests, and maintain biodiversity.

Very harmful food production in certain areas

The team's conclusion is that half of food production today exceeds these limits. However, this analysis is also the first to provide an overview of where, geographically, these are transgressed. By changing what is grown in specific places, the team says it would be possible to feed 10 billion people within the four limits.

Potential for sustainable recalibration of the food system. Increases in caloric intake are possible in the green areas; reductions due to overly detrimental food production are shown in red. Credits: Gerten et al. 2020

This would involve reseeding farms in areas where more than 5% of species are threatened, reforesting agricultural land where more than 85% of tropical forests have been felled, reducing water withdrawals for irrigation and d 'other purposes, as well as the reduction of nitrogen fertilization when the levels in surface waters are too high. The holdings could be enlarged in areas where these limits are not exceeded.

This could, for example, mean restricting the use of fertilizers in parts of eastern China and central Europe, and expanding it in parts of sub-Saharan Africa and the western United States.

Drastic measures in anticipation of 2050…

Such changes would allow the sustainable production of enough food for 7.8 billion people, roughly equivalent to the current global population. Reducing food waste and stopping excessive consumption of meat could then bring this figure to 10.2 billion, slightly more than the world population forecast for 2050.

However, the team warns that these solutions assume that the planet will not warm by more than 1.5 ° C. Subsequent studies will therefore look at the effects of global warming beyond this stage. But on the other hand, the team assumes in the study that the world depends only on existing technologies, and not on new approaches such as genome editing, the use of solar panels to grow food or new agricultural technologies, which could be a game-changer.


Feeding ten billion people is possible within four terrestrial planetary boundaries

Dieter Gerten, Vera Heck, Jonas J盲germeyr, Benjamin Leon Bodirsky, Ingo Fetzer, Mika Jalava, Matti Kummu, Wolfgang Lucht, Johan Rockstr枚m, Sibyll Schaphoff & Hans Joachim Schellnhuber

Nature Sustainability (2020)


Sunday, 8 December 2019

Plants emit sounds when stressed

At first considered more or less inert by science, plants have in fact turned out to be very dynamic entities that can detect and interact with their environment as animals do. After showing that plants can communicate with each other using a universal chemical language, and even travel short distances, researchers have recently discovered that they are also capable of producing sounds in response to different types of stress.

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Although it has been revealed in recent years that plants are able to see, hear and smell, they are still considered silent. But, for the first time, they were recorded producing sounds when stressed, which researchers say could open a new field for precision farming, where farmers would listen to crops lacking water or nutrients.

Itzhak Khait and colleagues at Israel's Tel Aviv University discovered that tomato and tobacco plants emit sounds when they are stressed by lack of water or when their stems are cut off at frequencies that humans can not hear. Microphones placed 10 centimeters from the plants received sounds in the ultrasonic range of 20 to 100 kilohertz, which insects and some mammals would be able to hear and detect within 5 meters.

Researchers even suggest that butterflies may not lay their eggs on a plant that seems stressed by lack of water. Plants could even hear that others lack water, and react accordingly. Previously, devices were installed on plants to record the vibrations caused by the formation and explosion of air bubbles - a process known as cavitation - inside xylem tubes used for transporting 'water.

Sounds produced in response to different types of stress

But this new study is the first to record plant sounds emitted from a distance. On average, drought-stressed tomato plants emitted 35 sounds per hour, while tobacco plants produced 11. When plant stems were cut, tomato plants averaged 25 sounds per hour. and those of tobacco 15. Unstressed plants produced less than one noise per hour, on average.

a) Experimental protocol used by the researchers. b), c) and d): Amplitudes and number of sounds emitted by tobacco plants and tomatoes lacking water or cut. Credits: I. Khait et al. 2019

It is even possible to distinguish the sounds to know what is the source of the stress. Researchers conducted a deep-learning algorithm to distinguish between plant sounds and wind, rain, and other noise from the greenhouse, correctly identifying in most cases whether the stress was due to drought or at a break, depending on the intensity and frequency of the sound. Tobacco stressed by lack of water seems to produce louder sounds than cut tobacco, for example.

Depending on the frequency and intensity of the sounds emitted, it is possible to identify the plant species and the stress they experience. Credits: I. Khait et al. 2019

Although Khait and his colleagues are only interested in tomato and tobacco plants, they think that other plants can also make sounds when stressed. In a preliminary study, they also recorded ultrasonic sounds from a cactus ( Mammillaria spinosissima ) and amoxicillam ( Lamium amplexicaule ). Cavitation is a possible explanation of how plants generate sounds.

Better understanding plant stress: towards micro-controlled agriculture?

Enabling farmers to listen to water stressed plants could "open a new path in the field of precision agriculture," the researchers suggest. They add that such capacity will become increasingly important as climate change exposes more areas to drought.

The authors warn that the results can not yet be extended to other stresses, such as salt or temperature, as they do not lead to sounds. In addition, no experiment was conducted to show whether a butterfly or any other animal could hear and respond to the sounds emitted by the plants. This idea remains hypothetical, for the moment.

If plants emit sounds when stressed, cavitation is the most likely mechanism, says Edward Farmer of the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. But he is skeptical about the results and would like to see more controls, such as the sounds of a soil that dries without plants.

Note: This is Still an experimental research which yet needs to be published in valid journal, this article is taken from review Journal


Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Scientists have found a place on Earth where there is no life

Hyperacid, hypersalated and hot ponds in the geothermal field of Dallol (Ethiopia). Despite the presence of liquid water, this multi-extreme system does not allow the development of life, according to a new study. Credits: Puri L贸pez-Garc铆a

"WHY A PLANET WITH  LIQUID WATER IS NOT ENOUGH, Forms of life have been found everywhere: in Antarctica, at the bottom of the deepest mines and even in the alkaline waters of the so-called Dead Sea, micro-organisms of all kinds proliferate. But to Dallol, in the depression of Dancalia, in Ethiopia, nothing seems to survive, says research published in Nature Ecology & Evolution"

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A volcanic crater full of salt that gives off smoky toxic gases, where the water boils in intense hydrothermal activity and the daily temperatures in winter can exceed 45 ° C. A hostile and multi-extreme environment: very hot, very salty and very acidic at the same time. We have not just crossed the gates of hell: we are at  Dallol , in the  Danakil depression , in Ethiopia. It is in this place that a team of Franco-Spanish scientists, led by biologists  Jodie Belilla and  Purificaci贸n L贸pez-Garc铆a of the French Cnrs, has discovered how it is impossible for forms of life to remain.

A few months ago,  another study - also conducted in Dallol and published in  Scientific Reports - which highlighted an opposite result: the  finding of nanobacteria . That territory, so apparently inhospitable, was described as a valid example for understanding the environmental limits of life, both on Earth and in other parts of the Solar System. And the geothermal area of ​​Dallol was proposed as a terrestrial analogue of a primitive Mars (as it was three billion years ago). The conclusions of L贸pez-Garc铆a and colleagues, now published in  Nature Ecology & Evolution, are of a different opinion . "After analyzing many more samples than the previous jobs - with appropriate controls to avoid contaminating them and with a well calibrated methodology - we verified that in these salty, hot and hyperacid pools the microbial life is absent. As it is absent in the adjacent salt lakes, rich in magnesium », emphasizes L贸pez-Garc铆a.

Yes, there is a great variety of  halophilic archaea (primitive microorganisms that live in highly saline environments) in the desert and in the canyons around the hydrothermal site," adds the biologist, "but not in the hyperacid and hypersaline pools, nor in the so-called black and yellow lakes of Dallol, where magnesium abounds. And this despite the fact that the microbial dispersion, in this area, is intense, due to the wind and human visitors ".

There are two obstacles to life that prevent micro-organisms from developing inside the ponds: the abundance of magnesium salts  caotropic - capable of breaking hydrogen bonds and causing protein denaturation - and the simultaneous presence of conditions such as l hypersalinity, hyperacidity and high temperature.

To confirm this, the team of scientists has used various research methods such as: massive sequencing of  genetic markers to detect and classify microorganisms, chemical analysis of  brines and  scanning electron microscopy combined with  X-ray spectroscopy , used to analyze silicon-rich mineral precipitates. «In other studies, in addition to the possible contamination of samples with  archaea from adjacent lands, these mineral particles may have been interpreted as fossilized cells, but in reality they form spontaneously in brines even if there is no life, "observes L贸pez-Garc铆a, pointing out that caution is needed in relying on the apparently cellular appearance - or "biological" - of a structure, because it could be non-living systems.

Microbial cells (left) can be easily confused with silica-rich mineral precipitates (right). Credits: Karim Benzerara, Puri L贸pez-Garc铆a et al

"We would never expect to find life in similar environments on other planets, at least not life that is not based on a biochemistry similar to that on earth," says L贸pez-Garc铆a, insisting on the need to have more clues and analyze all possible alternatives before reaching a conclusion. "Our study shows that there are places on the earth's surface, such as the pools of Dallol, which are sterile even if they contain water in the liquid state," concludes the researcher, remarking as a criterion such as the presence of liquid water, often used to suggest the habitability of a planet, does not necessarily imply the presence of life.


Article: Hyperdiverse archaea near life limits at the geothermal polyextreme Dallol area

Authors: Jodie Belilla, David Moreira, Ludwig Jardillier, Guillaume Reboul, Karim Benzerara, Jose M. Lopez-Garcia, Paola Bertolino, Ana I. L贸pez-Archilla, Purification L贸pez-Garc铆a

Magazine: Nature Ecology & Evolution
Vol .: 3, pages 1552-1561

DOI: 10.1038 / s41559-019-1005-0

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Scientists declare "climate emergency" and set indicators for an effective global plan of action

A global coalition of scientists, including 11,000 signatories, believes that "indeterminate human suffering" is inevitable without drastic, deep and lasting changes in human activities that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Other factors related to climate change are also targeted.

" Despite 40 years of major global negotiations, we continued to act as if nothing had happened and we did not manage to cope with this crisis, " said William J. Ripple, co-director of coalition - alongside Christopher Wolf - and distinguished professor of ecology at the OSU College of Forestry. " Climate change has arrived and is accelerating faster than expected by many scientists  ."

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In an article published yesterday in the journal BioScience , the authors, as well as more than 11,000 scientific scientists from 153 countries, declare a climate emergency. They include graphs of adverse trends and vital signs to measure progress. They finally propose a set of effective mitigation measures.

Scientists point to six areas in which humanity should take immediate action to slow the effects of global warming:

Energy . Implement massive conservation practices; replace fossil fuels with low-carbon renewable energies; leave the remaining stocks of fossil fuels in the soil; eliminate fossil fuel business subsidies; and impose carbon royalties high enough to limit the use of fossil fuels.

Short-lived pollutants . Rapidly reduce emissions of methane, soot, hydrofluorocarbons and other short-lived climate pollutants; This could reduce the short-term warming trend by more than 50% in the coming decades.

Nature . Restore and protect ecosystems such as forests, grasslands, peat bogs, wetlands and mangroves, and enable more of these ecosystems to reach their ecological potential for the sequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide. one of the main greenhouse gases.

Food . Consume more plants and less animal products. The regime change would significantly reduce emissions of methane and other greenhouse gases and release agricultural land for the production of human food rather than feed. Reducing food waste is also crucial. Indeed, scientists say that at least a third of all food produced ends up in garbage.

Economy . Convert the current economy into a carbon-free economy to address human dependence on the biosphere and away from gross domestic product growth and the pursuit of wealth. Curb the exploitation of ecosystems to maintain the long-term sustainability of the biosphere.

Population . Stabilize a global human population growing by more than 200,000 people per day, using approaches that ensure social and economic justice.

" Mitigating and adapting to climate change while respecting human diversity implies major transformations in the ways in which our global society operates and interacts with natural ecosystems, " the document says.

" We are encouraged by the recent worry. Government agencies make declarations of climatic urgency. Schoolchildren are hitting. The court cases for ecocide continue in the courts. Citizen movements are demanding change, and many countries, states and provinces, cities and businesses are responding. As a global coalition of scientists, we are ready to help policymakers in a just transition towards a sustainable and equitable future, "reads.

The vital sign graphs in the document illustrate several key indicators and drivers of climate change over the last 40 years, since scientists from 50 countries gathered at the first World Climate Conference in Geneva in 1979.

Evolution of human activities in the world from 1979 to today. These indicators are linked at least in part to climate change. In graph (f), the annual loss of forest cover can be due to any reason (forest fire, harvest in tree plantations, conversion of forests to agricultural land, etc.). For graph (h), hydroelectricity and nuclear energy (missing) are shown in a separate graph. The rates shown in the tables are percentages of variation over the entire range of time series. Annual data are indicated in gray dots. The black lines are local regressions smoothed of trends. Credits: William J. Ripple, Christopher Wolf, Thomas M. Newsome, Phoebe Barnard, William R. Moomaw

In recent decades, many other global assemblies have agreed that urgent action is essential, but greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase rapidly. Other worrying signs of human activities include the steady increase in meat production per capita, the loss of global forest cover and the number of air passengers.

There are also encouraging signs, including a drop in the birth rate worldwide and a decrease in forest loss in the Brazilian Amazon, as well as an increase in wind and solar energy, but even these measures are tinged with worry. For example, the decline in the birth rate has slowed over the last 20 years and the rate of extinction of the Amazonian forest seems to be starting to increase again.

" Global surface temperature, ocean heat content, extreme weather and cost, sea level, ocean acidity, and US burned area are on the rise,  " Ripple said. " Overall, the ice is rapidly disappearing, as evidenced by the decrease in the minimal summer Arctic ice pack, the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica and the thickness of the glaciers. All these rapid changes underline the urgent need for action, "concludes Ripple


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