ScienceDaily: Environment - October 13, 2023
Top environment research news
To study muscle diseases, scientists rely on the mouse as a model organism. Researchers have now developed a new method that is not only faster and more efficient than conventional ones but also greatly reduces the number of experimental animals needed for studying the function of genes in muscle fibers.
Lithium–sulfur batteries (LSBs) offer a higher energy storage potential. However, issues like formation of lithium polysulfides and lithium dendrites lead to capacity loss and raise safety concerns. Now, researchers have developed a graphene separator embedded with platinum-doped gold nanoclusters, which enhance lithium-ion transport and facilitate redox reactions. This breakthrough addresses the long-standing issues associated with LSBs, setting the stage for their commercialization.
The massive 2015 flooding of the Sagavanirktok River in northern Alaska had immediate impacts, including closure of the Dalton Highway for several days, but it also contributed to longer-term ground subsidence in the permafrost-rich region.
A new study examines the good and bad uses of biomass and the best pathways to meet California’s goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 85% of 1990 levels by 2045.
Tens of thousands of endangered sharks and rays are caught by small-scale fisheries off the Republic of the Congo each year, new research shows.
It is now apparent that the mass-produced artefacts of technology in our increasingly densely populated world – whether electronic devices, cars, batteries, phones, household appliances, or industrial robots – are increasingly at odds with the sustainable bounded ecosystems achieved by living organisms based on cells over millions of years. Cells provide organisms with soft and sustainable environmental interactions with complete recycling of material components, except in a few notable cases like the creation of oxygen in the atmosphere, and of the fossil fuel reserves of oil and coal (as a result of missing biocatalysts). However, the fantastic information content of biological cells (gigabits of information in DNA alone) and the complexities of protein biochemistry for metabolism seem to place a cellular approach well beyond the current capabilities of technology, and prevent the development of intrinsically sustainable technology.
The prevalence of malaria infections among migrants from sub-Saharan Africa is considerably high (8%), while Asian and Latin American migrants have a much lower prevalence, according to a new study.
Lack of rainfall is not the only measure of drought. New research shows that despite a series of storms, the impact of drought can persist in streams and rivers for up to 3.5 years.
Both elegant and fierce, killer whales are some of the oceans’ top predators, but even they can be exposed to environmental pollution. Now, in the largest study to date on North Atlantic killer whales, researchers report the levels of legacy and emerging pollutants in 162 individuals’ blubber. The animals’ diet, rather than location, greatly impacted contaminant levels and potential health risks — information that’s helpful to conservation efforts.
Because metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) — highly porous metal complexes — are so structurally and chemically diverse, they could be used for many applications, such as drug delivery and environmental clean-up. But researchers still need to get a better understanding of how they function, especially when embedded in polymers. Researchers have now developed and characterized nitric oxide (NO)-storing MOFs embedded in a thin film with novel antibacterial potential.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have become ubiquitous throughout the environment, and increasing evidence has demonstrated their deleterious effects. A group of smaller, fluorinated compounds are becoming replacements for these 'forever chemicals,' though research suggests the smaller versions could also be harmful. Now, a study reports that the levels of these substances in many indoor and human samples are similar to or higher than those of legacy PFAS.
Sometimes it is worthwhile to look at the details, to study aspects that seem to be uninteresting or were previously ignored, and see noteworthy phenomena come to light. Researchers showed that male honey bees (drones), long considered lazy, are (at times) the most active members of the colony.
Researchers have obtained new insights into how African-American and Hispanic-American people’s genes influence their ability to use Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids for good health. The findings are an important step toward “precision nutrition” – where a diet tailored to exactly what our bodies need can help us live longer, healthier lives.
Every year, around 1,200 and 1,400 artificial turf sports fields are installed in the European Union. These fields are made up of synthetic fibers, mainly plastics, that mimic the appearance of natural grass. Recently, scientists conducted a study that characterizes and quantifies the presence of artificial turf fibers in samples collected from surface waters of the Catalan coast and the Guadalquivir River. The findings indicate that artificial turfs can be an important source of pollution in the aquatic environment, accounting for up to 15% of the plastics larger than 5 mm in length that are found floating in the aquatic environment.
Plastic use in agriculture must be reduced in order to mitigate pollution and prevent toxic chemicals from leaching into the soil and adversely affecting human health, according to a new study.
A new study of the microbial ecosystem in sourdough finds that using different types of flour fosters distinct bacterial communities, and that these differences contribute to the variation of sourdough aromas and flavors.
Under normal conditions, the floating macroalgae Sargassum spp. provide habitat for hundreds of types of organisms. However, the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt (GASB) that emerged in 2011 has since then caused unprecedented inundations of this brown seaweed on Caribbean coastlines, with harmful effects on ecosystems while posing challenges to regional economies and tourism, and concerns for respiratory and other human health issues.
Wine quality is notorious for varying from year to year, but what makes for a 'good year?' Researchers show that weather plays an important role in determining wine quality. By analyzing 50 years’ worth of wine critic scores from the Bordeaux wine region in relation to that year’s weather, the researchers showed that higher quality wine is made in years with warmer temperatures, higher winter rainfall, and earlier, shorter growing seasons—conditions that climate change is predicted to make more frequent.
EVEscape predicts future viral mutations, new variants using evolutionary, biological information.
An extremely supportive atmosphere for new ideas laid the foundation for an 'Aha moment' about a toggle-switch in the fruit fly brain. Do humans have one, too?
A massive computational analysis of microbiome datasets has more than doubled the number of known protein families. This is the first time protein structures have been used to help characterize the vast array of microbial 'dark matter.'
Leonardo da Vinci is renowned to this day for innovations in fields across the arts and sciences. Now, new analyses show that his taste for experimentation extended even to the base layers underneath his paintings. Surprisingly, samples from both the 'Mona Lisa' and the 'Last Supper' suggest that he experimented with lead(II) oxide, causing a rare compound called plumbonacrite to form below his artworks.
Epiphytes, plants such as orchids and mosses that grow in trees, draw nutrients from the air and create refuge for all sorts of other life forms. They are the foundation of forest canopy ecosystems, but they are facing threats from human and natural disturbances.
Research finds that experiencing days in which the temperature exceeds previous highs for that time of year affects people’s perception of weather trends.
Relationship patterns among flightless stick insects suggest that birds disperse the eggs after eating gravid females. Lab experiments previously suggested the possibility, but a new genetic analysis of natural populations in Japan now supports the idea.
New research has found despite considerable conservation efforts, the illegal killing of critically endangered orangutans on Borneo may be an ongoing threat to the species.
People who carry three gene variants that have bene inherited from Neanderthals are more sensitive to some types of pain, according to a new study.
Scientists developed a microwave microstrip line planar resonator sensor tool to detect water adulteration in honey. The tool is compact, cost-effective, and easily fabricated. The microstrip line resonator sensor is fabricated on a dielectric substrate, which is an insulator that can efficiently support electrostatic fields, such as ceramic or glass. The team tested honey samples with varying water content and found that the sensor's resonance frequency consistently decreases with increased added water content.
Artificial intelligence (AI) comes with promises of helping coders code faster, drivers drive safer, and making daily tasks less time-consuming. But a recent study demonstrates that the tool, when adopted widely, could have a large energy footprint, which in the future may exceed the power demands of some countries.
Discharged in large quantities by textile, cosmetic, ink, paper and other manufacturers, dyes carry high-toxicity and can bring potential carcinogens to wastewater. It’s a major concern for wastewater treatment — but researchers may have found a solution, using a tiny nanofilament.
With global warming apparently here to stay, a team of paleoclimatologists are studying an ancient source to determine future rainfall and drought patterns: fossilized plants that lived on Earth millions of years ago.
Can plant-derived nutrients alter gut bacteria to affect brain function? Scientists investigated this question in a study of overweight adults. Their findings suggest that dietary fiber can exert influence on both the composition of gut bacteria and the reward signals in the brain and associated food decision-making.
Recent conservation efforts have proven effective at controlling wild pig populations in the Southeastern United States, according to new research. Within 24 months of the start of control efforts in the study area located around the Savannah River Site in Aiken, South Carolina, researchers found a reduction of about 70% in relative abundance of pigs and a corresponding decline in environmental rooting damage of about 99%.
Researchers have unpicked the mechanism behind a marine feeding strategy that could provide a valuable renewable source of biofuel.
New research offers an improved strategy for social media communications during wildfires and contradicting existing crisis communication theory.
Scientists have developed a new modular steel buttress dam system designed to resolve energy storage issues hindering the integration of renewable resources into the energy mix. The new modular steel buttress dam system facilitates the rapid construction of paired reservoir systems for grid-scale energy storage and generation using closed-loop pumped storage hydropower, cutting dam construction costs by one-third and reducing construction schedules by half.
The hunt for the world’s most ancient mammals descended into academic warfare in the seventies, researchers have discovered.
An international team of researchers has published the first harmonized exposure protocol for ecotoxicity testing of microplastics and nanoplastics.
Due to the changing climate, the underwater world is getting ever noisier.
New analysis of the remains of victims of the 1918 influenza pandemic, which killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide, contradicts the widespread belief the flu disproportionately impacted healthy young adults.
Scientists using natural tracers off Queensland’s coast have discovered the source of previously unquantified nitrogen and phosphorus having a profound environmental impact on the Great Barrier Reef. Groundwater discharge accounted for approximately one-third of new nitrogen and two-thirds of phosphorus inputs, indicating that nearly twice the amount of nitrogen enters the Reef from groundwater compared to river waters.
An international team of scientists have discovered a huge spike in radiocarbon levels 14,300 years ago by analyzing ancient tree-rings found in the French Alps. The radiocarbon spike was caused by a massive solar storm, the biggest ever identified. A similar solar storm today would be catastrophic for modern technological society – potentially wiping out telecommunications and satellite systems, causing massive electricity grid blackouts, and costing us billions. The academics are warning of the importance of understanding such storms to protect our global communications and energy infrastructure for the future.
Researchers have found that tropical forest ecosystems are more reliant on aquatic insects than temperate forest ecosystems, making them more vulnerable to disruptions to the links between land and water. This is a significant finding, as tropical forests play a vital role in global biodiversity and climate regulation. The study's authors warn that any disruption to the land-water connections in these ecosystems could have serious consequences for their health and resilience.
Geologists have reconstructed a massive and previously unknown tectonic plate that was once one-quarter the size of the Pacific Ocean. The team had predicted its existence over 10 years ago based on fragments of old tectonic plates found deep in the Earth’s mantle. To the lead researchers surprise, she found that oceanic remnants on northern Borneo must have belonged to the long-suspected plate, which scientists have named Pontus. She has now reconstructed the entire plate in its full glory.
A newly-discovered, bright yellow snail has been discovered in the Florida Keys and named in honor of Jimmy Buffet's song 'Margaritaville.' The lemon-colored marine snail, along with its lime-green cousin from Belize, is the subject of a recent study ; researchers think these snails' bright colors might help deter predators.
The Gulf Stream is intrinsic to the global climate system, bringing warm waters from the Caribbean up the East Coast of the United States. As it flows along the coast and then across the Atlantic Ocean, this powerful ocean current influences weather patterns and storms, and it carries heat from the tropics to higher latitudes as part of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. A new study now documents that over the past 20 years, the Gulf Stream has warmed faster than the global ocean as a whole and has shifted towards the coast. The study relies on over 25,000 temperature and salinity profiles collected between 2001 and 2023.
A study found that a new combination of treatments safely decreased growth of pancreatic cancer in mice by preventing cancer cells from scavenging for fuel.
Researchers have unveiled a new mechanism for regulating mitochondrial function. The findings reveal the critical role played by the enzymatic activity of the lysine acetyltransferase MOF in maintaining mitochondrial integrity and function through acetylation of mitochondrial electron transport chain component COX17. Cells lacking MOF-mediated COX17 acetylation exhibit dramatic mitochondrial defects and impaired ability to produce energy. Underscoring the clinical relevance of these findings, the team also showed that cells from human patients with a developmental disorder caused by mutations in MOF also exhibited respiratory defects that could be ameliorated by interventions such as acetylation-mimetic COX17 or mitochondrially targeted MOF.
It's well-known that birds and other animals rely on Earth's magnetic field for long-distance navigation during seasonal migrations. But how do periodic disruptions of the planet's magnetic field, caused by solar flares and other energetic outbursts, affect the reliability of those biological navigation systems?
Researchers measured natural selection in four Anolis lizard species in the wild for five consecutive time periods over three years. This long-term study in a community of lizards reveals how evolution unfolds in the wild across multiple species.
If global temperatures increase by 1 degree Celsius (C) or more than current levels, each year billions of people will be exposed to heat and humidity so extreme they will be unable to naturally cool themselves, according to interdisciplinary research. Results indicated that warming of the planet beyond 1.5 C above preindustrial levels will be increasingly devastating for human health across the planet.
Ancient Maya reservoirs, which used aquatic plants to filter and clean the water, 'can serve as archetypes for natural, sustainable water systems to address future water needs.' The Maya built and maintained reservoirs that were in use for more than 1,000 years. These reservoirs provided potable water for thousands to tens of thousands of people in cities during the annual, five-month dry season and in periods of prolonged drought.
Increased salinity usually spells trouble for freshwater insects like mayflies. A new study finds that the lack of metabolic responses to salinity may explain why some freshwater insects often struggle in higher salinity, while other freshwater invertebrates (like mollusks and crustaceans) thrive.
Ocean currents determine the structure of the deep-sea ocean floor and the transport of sediments, organic carbon, nutrients and pollutants. In flume-tank experiments, researchers have simulated how currents shape the seafloor and control sediment deposition. This will help in reconstructions of past marine conditions.
Palaeontologists discover molecular evidence of phaeomelanin, the pigment that produces ginger coloration. Phaeomelanin is now toxic to animals – this discovery may be first step in understand its evolution.
Researchers have discovered the master regulator responsible for balancing the expression of X chromosome genes between males and females in the malaria mosquito. This discovery helps scientists better understand the evolution of the epigenetic mechanisms responsible for equalizing gene expression between the sexes. The findings may contribute to the development of new ways to prevent the spread of malaria.
New research has revealed that since the 1980s, Category 4 and 5 hurricanes (maximum wind speed greater than 131 miles per hour) have been arriving three to four days earlier with each passing decade of climate change.
Grass may transfer genes from their neighbors in the same way genetically modified crops are made, a new study has revealed.
New research reaffirms that human footprints found in White Sands National Park, NM, date to the Last Glacial Maximum, placing humans in North America thousands of years earlier than once thought. In September 2021, scientists announced that ancient human footprints discovered in White Sands National Park were between 21,000 and 23,000 years old. This discovery pushed the known date of human presence in North America back by thousands of years and implied that early inhabitants and megafauna co-existed for several millennia before the terminal Pleistocene extinction event. In a follow-up study, researchers used two new independent approaches to date the footprints, both of which resulted in the same age range as the original estimate.
A fundamental discovery about the Fischer Tropsch process, a catalytic reaction used in industry to convert coal, natural gas or biomass to liquid fuels, could someday allow for more efficient fuel production. Researchers discovered previously unknown self-sustained oscillations in the Fischer Tropsch process. They found that unlike many catalytic reactions which have one steady state, this reaction periodically moves back and forth from a high to a low activity state. The discovery means that these well-controlled oscillatory states might be used in the future to control the reaction rate and the yields of desired products.