Exeter University study casts doubt on theory of dinosaur extinction

Pioneering new research has debunked the theory that the asteroid that is thought to have led to the extinction of dinosaurs also caused vast global firestorms that ravaged planet Earth.A team of researchers from the University of Exeter, University of Edinburgh and Imperial College London recreated the immense energy released from an extra-terrestrial collision with Earth that occurred around the time that dinosaurs became extinct. They found that the intense but short-lived heat near the impact site could not have ignited live plants, challenging the idea that the impact led to global firestorms. These firestorms have previously been considered a major contender in the puzzle to find out what caused the mass extinction of life on Earth 65 million years ago.

The Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer sets its sights on habitable planets

The NASA-funded Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer, or LBTI, has completed its first study of dust in the "habitable zone" around a star, opening a new door to finding planets like Earth. Dust is a natural byproduct of the planet-formation process, but too much of it can block our view of planets.The findings will help in the design of future space missions that have the goal of taking pictures of planets similar to Earth, called exo-Earths. "Kepler told us how common Earth-like planets are," said Phil Hinz, the principal investigator of the LBTI project at the University of Arizona, Tucson, referring to NASA's planet-hunting Kepler mission, which has identified more than 4,000 planetary candidates around stars. "Now we want to find out just how dusty and obscured planetary environments are, and how difficult the planets will be to image."

Are Marine Mammals Adapting to Avoid Humans?

Remarkable ocean research shows us that certain whale and seal species are reaching new depths and breaking records by diving so far away from the surface that experts are shocked that they can even survive the pressure. Some animals like the Cuvier’s beaked whales can dive almost 10,000 feet and hold their breath for 138 minutes.

Why Certification is Critical for the Industrialization of Bamboo

We’ve been down this path before; a new species, a new crop, a new product. A silver bullet plant that can be grown on degraded land and provide exactly what industry needs. And yet typically such plants go one of two ways; the way of Jatropha, which after a few years of being touted as the miracle plant of the biofuel industry, simply faded into nothingness; or the way of oil palm, where industrialization boomed, and with it came a mile wide trench of environmental devastation.No plant is inherently green. And bamboo is no different. It can be grown well, and sustainably. Or it can be the cause of deforestation, conversion of natural ecosystems, and subsequent environmental and social degradation.So why is bamboo forging a path that is likely to be different? Simply, the foremost player currently responsible for the plant’s industrialization at a global and commercial scale is setting a benchmark of sustainability in front as they pioneer and grow the plant at scale, rather than in their wake as an after thought.

Global wheat yields threatened by warming with serious consequences

Just one degree of global warming could cut wheat yields by 42 million tonnes worldwide, around 6% of the crop, writes Paul Brown - causing devastating shortages of this staple food.Market shortages would cause price rises. Many developing countries, and the hungry poor within them, would not be able to afford wheat or bread.

Planting Milkweed for the Monarch's? Be sure to use the native species!

Sometimes we do the wrong thing for the right reasons. That appears to be the case for countless Americans hoping to aid the monarch butterfly. Hearing that pesticides have destroyed the milkweed that monarchs rely on for survival, sympathetic animal lovers have attempted to do their part to support the butterflies by growing milkweed in their own gardens. Alas, emerging research suggests that this well-intentioned plan appears to actually be harming the species even further.Unfortunately, most of the milkweed purchased for this purpose is the “wrong kind.” This kind, known as tropical milkweed, is popular with gardening companies since it continues to bloom longer than the type to which monarch butterflies are accustomed. While monarchs are still more than content to eat this milkweed, that doesn’t make it good for them.

How do atmospheric rivers and aerosols impact California rainfall?

In the midst of the California rainy season, scientists are embarking on a field campaign designed to improve the understanding of the natural and human-caused phenomena that determine when and how the state gets its precipitation. They will do so by studying atmospheric rivers, meteorological events that include the famous rainmaker known as the Pineapple Express.CalWater 2015 is an interagency, interdisciplinary field campaign starting January 14, 2015. CalWater 2015 will entail four research aircraft flying through major storms while a ship outfitted with additional instruments cruises below. The research team includes scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, NOAA, and NASA and uses resources from the DOE’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Climate Research Facility—a national scientific user facility.

Earth is Easter Island

The ocean surrounding Easter Island is vast and great, so large it seems impossible that one could ever sail away and find a home away from home.  Trees and animals fill the land to the very coast, a paradise, a home.  This is where the Rapanui reside, a great Polynesian people, a great nation.  They built great Moai to their gods. They ripped the trees from their roots, used them for rope, homes, fire and boat.  Their people reached in the tens of thousands, vast and great.  This is where the Rapanui reside, in their island, in an ocean so far from anything, so alone.  They did not take notice to the consequences of destroying their land, they did not notice that the destruction of nature was the destruction their home, their paradise.  For many generations they lived taking what they wanted from the island, and despite the changes their home had gone through they still did not change their ways.  The droughts, the famine, the changes, in their home happening too slowly for them to notice in time.  The lack of food, the starvation of the poor, the absence of other life.  Even if some of them had known what was to come if they stayed their course it did not matter, and once the very last tree on Easter island was slain their fate was sealed.  The death of an entire people, an extinction.  This is where the Rapanui reside, in the dirt, in their tombs, lost, forgotten, the only thing left are their great Moai, and one day they will be gone too.

Wild pollinators at risk due to diseased commercial bees

A new study from the University of Exeter has found that viruses carried by commercial bees can jump to wild pollinator populations with potentially devastating effects. The researchers are calling for new measures to be introduced that will prevent the introduction of diseased pollinators into natural environments. Commercial species of honey bee and bumble bee are typically used to pollinate crops such as tomatoes, sweet peppers and oilseed rape. Fast evolving viruses carried by these managed populations have the potential to decimate wild pollinator species, including bees, hoverflies and butterflies, placing biodiversity and food security at risk.

European study shows biofuel production can increase with low impacts

EU countries could increase their production of biofuels with a minimum impact on the environment, Utrecht University scientists concluded in a study published on Tuesday (13 January). Biofuels are the main green alternative to fossil fuels used in transport, but they compete with feed crops that share the same agricultural land.As a consequence, forests are being turned into farmland to increase the terrestrial surface for planting more food crops, a phenomenon known as indirect land use change (ILUC).