November 20, 2019

    Four left plants are the usual plants. The four on the right are genetically modified to overcome the photosynthesis glitch - Credit: Claire Benjamin/RIPE Project
    Photosynthetic glitch fixed – Whop a 40% increase in crop growth - short science news and articles

    Plants use sunlight and convert it to energy by photosynthesis. But most crops have a glitch and this dramatically suppresses their energy production.

    Plants have an enzyme called Rubisco, which sometimes confuses oxygen with CO2, which is responsible for this glitch. This happens more when the temperature increases. Global warming thus complicates matters further.

    Scientists have now fixed this glitch and it seems that that we can feed an additional 200 million people worldwide.

    Read the full story: Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    Scientific publication: Science


    The footprint of an iguanodontian discovered at the site. Credit: University of Cambridge
    Abundance of dinosaur footprints discovered in England - daily science news

    A rich collection of dinosaur footprints was recently discovered in East Sussex, UK. Containing more than 85 well-preserved footprints, the site is the most diverse and detailed from the Cretaceous period in the UK.

    The prints date between 145 and 100 million years ago. Their size varies between 2 and 60 cm and they belong to several species of dinosaurs.

    The footprints can help scientists learn more about the structure of dinosaur communities that lived there. Since fossils are rare, the footprints can provide useful information to fill in the gaps in what we know.

    Read the full story: University of Cambridge
    Scientific publication: Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology


    Humans are heating up the earth and reversing a long-term cooling trend
    We are reversing a long-term cooling trend - short science news and articles
    Researchers have found out that humans are reversing a long-term cooling trend which can be traced back to 50 million years. Alarmingly, this has happened in just two centuries.

    Without the reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions, the earth climate by 2150 could be similar to the warm and the most ice-free Eocene era which happened 50 million years ago.

    While all the current species on the Earth today have had an ancestor which survived the Eocene, it remains to be seen whether humans can adapt to these rapid changes since this accelerated change in climate has never been seen before by any life on this planet.

    Read the full story: University of Wisconsin-Madison
    Scientific publication: PNAS


    Scientists found that corals of the Great Barrier Reef responded differently to high sea water temperatures in 2016 and 2017
    Hope for the coral reefs - climate change short science news

    Scientists found that corals of the Great Barrier Reef responded differently to the high sea water temperatures in 2017 as compared with 2016.

    The rate of bleaching in 2017 appeared to be much less than in 2016, the latter causing the death of millions of corals. It appears that the more resistant species have survived the first bleaching event, and might have been better prepared for the second.

    Thus, the mix of coral species populating the Great Barrier Reef is changing, but not completely dying, as a consequence of global warming.

    Read the full story: Arc Centre of Excellence – Coral Reef Studies
    Scientific publication: Nature Climate Change


    Largest reserve of oil and natural gas discovered
    Potentially the largest oil and gas reserve found - short science news and articles

    The US Department of the Interior recently announced that they estimate a reserve of 46.3 billion barrels of oil, 281 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 20 billion barrels of natural gas liquids as per the estimates provided by the US Geological Survey (USGS). This could mean that America might dominate the energy sector world over for years to come.

    The reserves are located in the Wolfcamp Shale and the Bone Spring Formation in the Delaware Basin of Texas and the Permian Basin of New Mexico.

    The discovery is due to improved technologies such as hydraulic fracturing and directional drilling even as people have reservations regarding the long term effects of these methods.

    Read the full story: US Geological Survey


    Diagram depicting the percentage of animals that went extinct at the end of the Permian era some 252 million years ago, according to fossil records (blue dots) and a computer model (black line). Image: Justin Penn and Curtis Deutsch/University of Washington
    Biggest mass extinction caused by global warming: oceans did not contain enough oxygen - climate short science news

    During the largest extinction on Earth some 252 million years ago, oceans warmed up, thus increasing the metabolism of marine animals. The warmer ocean water did not hold enough oxygen to accommodate the increased need of the animals, so that 96% of all marine species were wiped out.

    These conclusions were reached on the basis of modeling of ocean conditions and animal metabolism, combined with analyses of published lab data and fossil records. The model and fossil records agreed that most animal species died out at the poles, where warming of ocean water was more important than in the tropics.

    If greenhouse gas emissions remain at the same level as they are today, by 2100 warming in the upper ocean will have approached 20 percent of warming that caused mass extinction, increasing to 35 – 50 percent by the year 2300. This study thus highlights the possibility of mass extinction under the current, anthropogenic, climate change.

    Read the full story: University of Washington
    Scientific publication: Science


    Map of atmospheric ammonia fluxes, showing 241 hot spots, surrounded by black circles, and 178 wider emission zones, framed by white rectangles. Image: Martin Van Damme and Lieven Clarisse / ULB
    Sources of polluting ammonia emission identified from space - Earth short science news

    Scientists have prepared the first world map of atmospheric ammonia by analyzing satellite measurements between 2008-2016. The map shows 241 point sources of ammonia emissions due to human activities like intensive animal farming and industry.

    The study furthers reveals that previous estimations about atmospheric ammonia concentrations were far too low.

    Improved management of ammonia pollution is thus required to prevent the degradation of the quality of the air we breathe.

    Read the full story: Centre National de Recherche Scientifique
    Scientific publication: Nature


    Soil is precious: it stores enormous amounts of carbon and is essential for food production
    Increasing soil carbon to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement and for food production - climate change short science news

    As the amount of carbon in soil is double the amount of carbon in trees and plants, the degradation of one third of the world’s soils is of concern, as it limits food production and adds almost 500 gigatons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. A group of leading scientists have therefore formulated eight steps to reduce climate change and to increase food production. These steps should lead to a decrease of carbon loss, and an increase of carbon uptake, by involving local communities and global policies, and making use of the latest technologies and monitoring systems.

    Read the full story: Nature
    Scientific publication: Nature


    This stone tool has been made by hominins about 2 million years ago in Algeria. Image: Sahnouni et al, CENIEH
    Origin of mankind includes the North of Africa - earth short science news

    In contrast to what has been generally believed until now, the cradle of humankind was not only in East Africa, but also in North Africa.

    Scientists have found stone tools in Algeria that are near contemporary with those found in Ethiopia, dating back to 2.4 – 1.9 million years ago.

    However, no hominin remains of the same age have ever been found in both North and East Africa, so that it is still a mystery who the people were that made the tools.

    Read the full story: Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH)
    Scientific publication: Science


    Our cave-painting ancestors were, in fact, advanced astronomers
    Cave paintings suggest ancient humans had advanced astronomy knowledge - daily science news headlines

    Paleolithic cave paintings from different places around the world lead researchers to an interesting conclusion: our ancestors had advanced knowledge of astronomy.

    Many drawings are not simply representations of animals, but instead, they represent star constellations in the night sky, according to the scientists that performed the study. The drawings were even used to record astronomical events such as comets and measured the movement of time based on how the stars’ position changed.

    The drawings reveal that even the concept of “precession of the equinoxes” was understood at the time. This suggests that humans used astronomy in their lives around 40,000 years ago, much earlier than previously believed.

    Read the full story: The University of Edinburgh
    Scientific publication: Arxiv


    A fossil tooth of a hippopotamus (left) and a white rhinoceros (right), two of the few surviving megaherbivores, from the Late Pleistocene of western Kenya. Image: J. Tyler Faith
    Environmental change drove ancient mammals to extinction, not humans - prehistory short science news

    Contradicting the generally accepted view that early humans are to blame for mass extinction of big mammals in Africa, new research has revealed that environmental change is likely the culprit. Scientists came to this conclusion following analysis of fossils and a variety of carbon dioxide records spanning a time range of seven million years. It appeared that many of the big mammals started to disappear at least one million year before humans would be able to have hunt them. Instead, their disappearance coincided with a drop of environmental carbon dioxide and related expansion of grassland and diminished forested areas. While most big animals fed on woody vegetation, they seem to have disappeared alongside their food source.

    Read the full story: University of Utah (through Eurekalert)
    Scientific publication: Science


    Analyzing auroras allow scientists to learn more about the physics of their sources in space
    Auroras help uncover the physics of energy-releasing events in space - short science news

    Auroras are beautiful light shows caused by electrically charged particles falling in Earth’s atmosphere, interacting with the magnetic field and colliding with gases. Scientifically, they are the visual interpretation of energetic releases that happened millions of kilometers away from Earth.

    The researchers remotely observed rapidly evolving auroras to understand where in space the energy releases are occurring. This has not been done before and is more efficient than scanning vast regions of space to identify the source.

    This approach can identify aurora-triggering events in very small regions of space and has important implications. It allows a better understanding of the physics behind why, when and how energy is released at the source.

    Read the full story: University College London
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    The northwestern ice-sheet margin in Inglefield Land, where the impact crater was discovered beneath the semi-circular ice margin. Image: Natural History Museum of Denmark
    Large meteorite crater on Greenland discovered - Earth short science news

    Buried beneath Greenland’s ice sheet, in the northwest, is a huge meteorite crater, scientists found. The size of the meteorite must have been around 1 km in diameter, creating a crater with a diameter of 31 km. This size places the crater in the top 25 of craters ever found on Earth. The crater is surprisingly well conserved, considering that the glacier that is covering it has huge erosive power. Therefore, scientists think that the meteorite impacted relatively recently, but the exact date is still to be determined.

    Read the full story: National History Museum of Denmark
    Scientific publication: Science Advances


    Rising seawater levels might promote the formation of new coral islands. Image: Holly East
    New coral reef islands may form when seawater levels rise - climate change short science news

    Rising sea levels might build, rather than destroy coral islands, a new study suggests. Researchers found evidence that Maldives, made up of many coral islands, was formed when sea levels were actually much higher than they are today. They believe that large waves caused by distant storms off the coast of South Africa led to the formation of the islands some three to four thousand years ago. These waves broke coral rubble off the reef, and transported it onto reef platforms and served as the basis of the formation of new coral islands. Similar events might be happening in the near future, so that global warming and rising sea levels could promote the formation of new coral reefs and islands. However, for this to happen it is necessary that corals are healthy, and do not suffer from higher seawater temperatures and acidification.

    Read the full story: Northumbria University
    Scientific publication: Geophysical Research Letters


    Amazon rainforest has some areas that are still untouched by humans, and need protection
    Last remaining wilderness needs urgent protection - Earth short science news

    Researchers have published a survey of how much wilderness is left over on Earth, i.e. that has not been developed for human activities. They report that the world’s wilderness is disappearing fast. For example, between 1993 and 2009, an area of terrestrial wilderness larger than the size of India has been lost to human settlement, farming and mining. One hundred years ago, only 15% of the Earth’s surface was used for agriculture; now this is 77%. Researchers insist that global policy to preserve the last of the Earth’s wilderness has to be adopted urgently, which further needs to be translated into local measures.

    Read the full story: University of Queensland
    Scientific publication: Nature


    More rain in the Amazon jungle could mean bad news for the climate
    Rainforest get more rain, according to new study - daily science news

    A new study based on both satellite images and observations in the field suggests that wet seasons are getting longer in the Amazon rainforest. Rainfall increased significantly from 1979 to 2015, according to the research.

    The scientists say that at least half of this increase could be determined by the warming of the waters in the tropical Atlantic Ocean. Long-term changes in precipitation in this area could have an important impact on the entire Earth.

    “These processes affect the energy exchange and the carbon cycle, and beyond that, the precipitation changes could lead to habitat loss and may even result in species extinction.” – said the researchers.

    Read the full story: Physics World
    Scientific publication: Environmental Research Letters


    Plants insulated by snow thaw permafrost, thus increasing fresh water flow into lakes, rivers, and oceans
    Greening of the Arctic thaws permafrost - climate change science news

    Greening of the Arctic is not only the result of global warming, it has also become a local accelerator. When insulating snow covers the shrubs, it promotes the warming of the ground, thus thawing the permafrost. This will lead to increases in discharges of fresh water into rivers, lakes and oceans. These observations, strengthened with computer simulations, show that snow and vegetation interact to influence permafrost hydrology.

    Read the full story: Los Alamos National Laboratory
    Scientific publication: Environmental Research Letters


    Managing forest to optimize carbon sequestration will not lead to a decrease of global warming
    Forests are minor contributors to the mitigation of climate change - climate change science news

    Managing Europe’s forests to maximize carbon sequestration will have only a negligible effect on the global climate, a new study shows. Using computer modeling, it appeared that, for instance, changing evergreen forests to deciduous forests would result in a cooling of 0.3 degrees centigrade in Scandinavia and the Alps. This effect is too small to have a global impact. Rather, forests themselves will have to adapt to climate change to sustain the production of wood and conserve the forest’s ecosystem.

    Read the full story: Aarhus University
    Scientific publication: Nature


    Acidification of oceans impacts on marine ecosystems. Image: Liang Xue/ University of Delaware
    The chemistry of the oceans is changing - Earth science news

    The ongoing acidification of oceans has been attributed to vast capacity of the oceans to store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but new research has shown that this cannot be the only culprit. In the Southern Ocean around Antarctica, the western winds that strengthen during summer, bring more acidic surface water from higher latitudes, and from subsurface polar water that naturally stores much carbon dioxide. The resulting increased acidification of the Southern Ocean surface water is therefore greater than can be caused by increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. The data help to understand how ocean acidification is controlled, which is important for predicting the impact that the changing chemistry will have on marine ecosystems in the future.

    Read the full story: University of Delaware
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Parts of New Jersey and New York with 8 feet of sea-level rise. Image: NOAA Sea Level Rise Viewer
    Global sea level rise projected to be 50 feet by 2030 - climate science news

    Sea water level will rise by about 8 inches (20 cm) by 2100, and probably by 50 feet (1.5 m) by 2300, a new study reports. These estimations are based on methods that have reconstructed the past, and are then projected into the future. They represent a worst-case scenario, meaning a situation in which emissions of greenhouse gases remain high. These projected levels represent a real danger for coastal infrastructure, economies, and ecosystems around the world, including the 11 percent of the world’s 7.6 billion people living in coastal areas below 33 feet (1 m) above sea level.

    Read the full story: Rutgers University
    Scientific publication: Annual Review of Environment and Resources


    The more variety in tree species, the more carbon a forest will store. Image: UZH
    Species-rich forests take up twice as much carbon as monocultures - Earth science news

    Subtropical forests with a rich variety of tree species store more than twice as much carbon as monocultures, new research shows. This has been concluded after evaluation of data from forests that had been planted especially for this study in China, and included over 150,000 trees. Species-rich forests stored 32 tons, while monocultures stored only 12 tons of carbon per hectare. These data follow the ones that had already been documented for grasslands in the US and Europe, and indicate that reforestation should involve the planting of many different tree species for better productivity and protection from climate changes.

    Read the full story: University of Zurich
    Scientific publication: Science


    Burning fires release aerosols in the atmosphere that reflect sunlight and cool the Earth
    Preindustrial fires cooled the Earth - global warming science news

    By analyzing fire proxy records such as ice cores, charcoal depositions in lake and marine sediments, and scarring in tree rings, researchers have found that fires were much more common before the industrial revolution than they are now. As fire burns, tiny particles known as aerosols are released in the atmosphere, and reflect sunlight back into space. Therefore, fires cool down climate, and counterbalance the total effect that human industrial activity has on global warming and climate change. Thus, preindustrial fire has to be factored in to better estimate the magnitude of global warming by manmade forms of combustion.

    Read the full story: Cornell University
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    3D printed robot jellyfish soon to patrol the oceans. Credit: Frame et al, Bioinspiration & Biomimetics
    Unexpected protectors of the oceans: the robot jellyfish - science news headlines

    Scientists came up with an original solution for monitoring the fragile ecosystems of the world’s oceans: a robotic jellyfish.

    A soft robot like this can easily explore and monitor difficult environments like a coral reef. To increase its performance, the robot was shaped after the shape of the moon jellyfish (Aurelia aurita) during the larvae stage of its life cycle.

    The new device could open a new era of oceanography and may soon play an important role in environmental actions and ecology.

    Read the full story: Florida Atlantic University
    Scientific publication: Bioinspiration & Biomimetics


    Dikes prevent inland migration of coastal wetlands
    Coastal wetlands need inland space to survive rising sea water - ecosystem short science news

    A global study has shown that for coastal wetlands to survive, more room to move inland (accommodation space) is necessary. In Europe and China, most of inland migration of marshes is strongly impaired by dikes, whereas in the US dikes are less common and marshes can move. Scientists argue that accommodation space should be expanded by using “natural and nature-based features”, meaning the replacement of dikes and the creation of nature reserves buffers in upland areas surrounding coastal wetlands. Protection of wetlands is important, as they are form one of the best defenses against hurricane’s and storm’s waves, and high sea water levels.

    Read the full story: Virginia Institute of Marine Science
    Scientific publication: Nature


    This is a fossil of Dickinsonia, the oldest known animal to live on Earth 558 million years ago. Image: The Australian National University (ANU)
    Oldest animal identified - paleontology short science news

    Is it a lichen, a giant single-celled amoebe, or an animal? Now, paleontologists have found the answer of what a bizarre fossil of 558 million years old really is: the earliest known animal to live on the Earth, named Dickinsonia. In an extremely well preserved fossil of Dickinsonia, scientists found cholesterol molecules, a hallmark of animal life. Thus, Dickinsonia, that could grow up to 1.4 meters in length, was a primitive animal that lived before what is known as the Cambrian explosion, when animal life became abundant and diverse 500 million years ago.

    Read the full story: Australian National University
    Scientific publication: Science


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