GMOs May Be Safe to Eat, But Some Are Still Bad for the Planet

For years, one of the major arguments that has been made against genetically engineered crops is the fear that, by tampering with a plant’s DNA, it could potentially cause health issues for consumers. It’s an understandable worry, however, the scientific consensus now seems to be undeniable: Whatever faults GMO crops may have, they are safe for human consumption.

Increased vegetation in the Arctic region may counteract global warming

Climate change creates more shrub vegetation in barren, arctic ecosystems. A study at Lund University in Sweden shows that organisms, such as bacteria and fungi, are triggered to break down particularly nutritious dead parts of shrubbery. Meanwhile, the total amount of decomposition is reducing. This could have an inhibiting effect on global warming.

How fish adapt to warmer waters but not to extremes

Fish can adjust to warmer ocean temperatures, but heat waves can still kill them, a team of researchers from Sweden, Norway and Australia reports in an article published this week in Nature Communications. "A species might adapt and grow well (in warmer waters) but once you get strong heat spells, the water temperature might reach lethal temperatures and kill them," said Fredrik Jutfelt, an associate professor in biology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology who was senior author of the study.Jutfelt and his colleagues studied European perch that live in a unique enclosed basin of warm water off the Swedish coast. The man-made basin, called the Forsmark Biotest Enclosure, was created three decades ago as a 1-km2 open-air laboratory by piping warm water from the nearby Forsmark nuclear power plant into an enclosed basin. 

How do trees sleep?

Most living organisms adapt their behavior to the rhythm of day and night. Plants are no exception: flowers open in the morning, some tree leaves close during the night. Researchers have been studying the day and night cycle in plants for a long time: Linnaeus observed that flowers in a dark cellar continued to open and close, and Darwin recorded the overnight movement of plant leaves and stalks and called it "sleep". But even to this day, such studies have only been done with small plants grown in pots, and nobody knew whether trees sleep as well. Now, a team of researchers from Austria, Finland and Hungary measured the sleep movement of fully grown trees using a time series of laser scanning point clouds consisting of millions of points each.

Anthropogenic dust found to have long-rangimg impacts to oceans

As climatologists closely monitor the impact of human activity on the world's oceans, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have found yet another worrying trend impacting the health of the Pacific Ocean.A new modeling study conducted by researchers in Georgia Tech's School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences shows that for decades, air pollution drifting from East Asia out over the world's largest ocean has kicked off a chain reaction that contributed to oxygen levels falling in tropical waters thousands of miles away."There's a growing awareness that oxygen levels in the ocean may be changing over time," said Taka Ito, an associate professor at Georgia Tech. "One reason for that is the warming environment -- warm water holds less gas. But in the tropical Pacific, the oxygen level has been falling at a much faster rate than the temperature change can explain."The study, which was published May 16 in Nature Geoscience, was sponsored by the National Science Foundation, a Georgia Power Faculty Scholar Chair and a Cullen-Peck Faculty Fellowship.In the report, the researchers describe how air pollution from industrial activities had raised levels of iron and nitrogen -- key nutrients for marine life -- in the ocean off the coast of East Asia. Ocean currents then carried the nutrients to tropical regions, where they were consumed by photosynthesizing phytoplankton.

Ocean bacteria are programmed to alter climate gases

SAR11, the most abundant plankton in the world's oceans, are pumping out massive amounts of two sulfur gases that play important roles in the Earth's atmosphere, researchers announced today in the journal Nature Microbiology.

A Major Source of Air Pollution: Farms

A new study says that emissions from farms outweigh all other human sources of fine-particulate air pollution in much of the United States, Europe, Russia and China. The culprit: fumes from nitrogen-rich fertilizers and animal waste that combine in the air with industrial emissions to form solid particles—a huge source of disease and death. The good news: if industrial emissions decline in coming decades, as most projections say, fine-particle pollution will go down even if fertilizer use doubles as expected. The study appears this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.Agricultural air pollution comes mainly in the form of ammonia, which enters the air as a gas from heavily fertilized fields and livestock waste. It then combines with pollutants from combustion—mainly nitrogen oxides and sulfates from vehicles, power plants and industrial processes—to create tiny solid particles, or aerosols, no more than 2.5 micrometers across, about 1/30 the width of a human hair. The particles can penetrate deep into lungs, causing heart or pulmonary disease; a 2015 study in the journal Nature estimates they cause at least 3.3 million deaths each year globally.

Happy 'Love a Tree Day'!

What’s not to love about trees? May 16 marks National Love a Tree Day, which gives everyone a chance to get out and appreciate theYou probably know about the largest living tree: situated in the Giant Forest in California’s Sequoia National Park, the General Sherman tree, a giant sequoia, is the largest living organism, by volume, on our planet. It is 2,100 years old, weighs an estimated 2.7 million pounds, stands 275 feet tall and is 100 feet wide at its trunk. Pretty impressive!But you don’t have to travel to California to appreciate trees – in fact, they are everywhere!

Retreat of ice sheets followed millennia of methane release

Scientists have calculated that the present day ice sheets keep vast amounts of climate gas methane in check. Ice sheets are heavy and cold, providing pressure and temperatures that contain methane in form of ice-like substance called gas hydrate. If the ice sheets retreat the weight of the ice will be lifted from the ocean floor, the gas hydrates will be destabilised and the methane will be released.Studies conducted at CAGE have previously shown that ice sheets and methane hydrates are closely connected, and that release of methane from the seafloor has followed the retreat of the Barents Sea ice sheet some 20,000 years ago. But is all such release of the potent climate gas bound to be catastrophic?Not necessarily, according to a new study published in Nature Communications. It shows that the methane was indeed released as the ice sheets retreated. However the seepage did not occur in one major pulse, but over a period of 7000 to 10000 years following the initial release. 

The Great Green Wall of Africa

Though a border wall with Mexico is currently a matter of serious discussion in the United States, the aim of which is to prevent the physical movement of people (with few other apparent “benefits”), some walls can actually bring together and preserve communities, rather than divide them.In only five years, the UN says, around 60 million Africans may be displaced as their land ceases to be arable, a potential humanitarian disaster the scale of which would be unprecedented. This would be devastating to a huge portion of the African continent not only ecologically and economically but socially as well.That’s where Africa’s ingenious Great Green Wall comes in.Experts at the United Nations say without action, desertification may claim two-thirds of Africa’s farmlands in under a decade. The Great Green Wall, however, was conceived as a wide-reaching strategy to halt Northern Africa’s rapidly advancing Sahara Desert.The Great Green Wall, once complete, will stretch an incredible 4,400 miles from Senegal in West Africa to the East African nation of Djibouti. Instead of bricks and mortar, the wall will be made of trees and other vegetation, including plants that can be eaten or used to create medicine.