Animals, Environment, News, World Problems

Some models no longer available: Earth enters its 6th mass extinction phase, humans accelerate the losses

Coming soon, at an intersection near you!
Image via: shutterstock.com

Geological evidence indicate that our planet has seen five mass extinction cycles since life first appeared on the planet. While they sound like the kind of cataclysmic events that only beardy men with huge boats survive through (read that in a book once, so it must be true), they are actually an integral part of life. The cycles free up

Environmental Issues, News, World Problems

Japan still wants to slaughter hundreds of whales “for science”

Japan doesn't stop at nothing and continues to kill whales for alleged scientific research. AAP Image/Supplied by Sea Shepherd Australia, Tim Watters

This Friday, the International Whaling Commission issued a report in which it states Japan has failed to provide any reasonable explanation for its mass killing of over 4,000 whales in the Antarctic for the past 12 years. The country says it’s hunting whales for research purposes, but clearly it’s all a front. A lame excuse. Unimpressed by the report, Japan officials claim there’s a debate and lack of consensus (not really), and even though it “acknowledges” the IWC position it will likely continue as before. In other words, they don’t care.

Animals, Biology

Moon Jellyfish morphs back into symmetry after losing limbs

The moon jellyfish move ther remaining limbs around to become symmetrical again. Image: Michael Abrams and Ty Basinge

A novel, previously unseen self-repair mechanism was reported by a team of researchers at Caltech who studied the moon jellyfish. A lot of animals, mostly invertebrates, grow back their lost limbs after these are bitten off by predators or lost in an accident. The moon jellyfish, however, employs a different tactic altogether: instead of expending a lot of energy to regrow its lost limb, the animal re-arranges the limbs it has left to regain symmetry. Even when it’s left with two limbs out of its initial eight, the jellyfish will still re-arrange itself. This sort of mechanism might prove extremely useful in designing self-repairing robots.

Agriculture, Climate, News, Nutrition, Science

Rising oceans and sinking bread: how climate change might ruin loaves

The larger loaf on the right was made with wheat grown in today's conditions. The (slightly depressing) loaf on the left was grown in high carbon dioxide conditions.
Photo: Simone Dalton

A research group working at the Australian Grains Free Air CO₂ Enrichment facility (AgFace) in Victoria is studying the effect elevated carbon dioxide will have on crops such as wheat, lentils, canola and field pea. They grow experimental crops in the open, surrounded by thin tubes that eject carbon dioxide into the air around the plants. Findings show that crops have higher yield (up to 25% more), but less proteins. Elevated CO2 also seems to ruin bread made from the grown wheat.

Agriculture, Animals, News

Pollinating Bees are Worth Billions, and We’re Still Not Protecting Them

Image via Fabulous Arizona.

Wild bees provide environmental services worth $3,250 (€2,880) per hectare per year – accounting for billions, globally. Writing in Nature Communications, study authors quantify how much bees are doing for us, and stress that despite all their immense value, we still don’t have a concrete plan to stop their numbers from dwindling.

News, World Problems

Earth’s water basins disappearing at alarming rate, study finds

Aquifer illustration. Image via Wikipedia.

We tend to think of the Earth’s water as an inexhaustible resource; after all, you learn the basic water cycle in first grade – water moves from the rivers to the oceans and then evaporates into the atmosphere and then it comes back as rain – so how could it be disappearing? Well, the reality is much more complex than that, and as two different studies showed, we may actually be heading towards a major water crisis.

Animals, Biology, News

Octopus is so cute that ‘Adorable’ might become its name

This cute flapjack octopus can survive at depths over 1000 feet.

Among the best thing about being a biologist is you get to name things when you discover it. Now, a marine researcher in California will name one of the cutest invertebrates we’ve ever seen: so adorable, that it might actually be named ‘adorabilis’.

Climate, News

Renewable energy might dominate the market by 2030

Image via QZ.

In only 15 years, renewable energy (wind, solar, hydro) could surpass fossil fuels as the main provider of energy. According to a new International Energy Agency (IEA) report, renewables could provide more than 50% of the energy market by 2050. But even so, they warn, without bolder emission cuts, we’ll be blowing past our current climate targets.

Animals, Environmental Issues, News

Ocean acidification could destroy shelled animals by 2030

callout-ocean-acid_292459

Ocean acidification, one of the often ignored dangers associated with climate change is becoming increasingly worrying. As our climate becomes hotter and hotter, the oceans become more and more acidic, and this threatens some animals’ ability to create and maintain carbonatic shells.

Environment, Environmental Issues, News

State politics affect greenhouse gas emissions

Image via Environment Magazine.

It seems rather obvious to me, but there was a lot of debate regarding how a country’s politics affect its emissions – for better or for worse. A new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that environmental policies in the US have had a significant impact on emissions from 1990 to present days. Despite growing