Supernova explosion impacted Earth within the last 9 million years

 Two new papers appearing in the journal Nature this week are "slam-dunk" evidence that energies from supernovae have buffeted our planet, according to astrophysicist Adrian Melott of the University of Kansas.Melott offers his judgment of these studies in an associated letter, entitled "Supernovae in the neighborhood," also appearing this week in Nature.One paper, authored by Anton Wallner and colleagues, proves the existence of ancient seabed deposits of iron-60 isotopes, tracing their source to supernovae occurring about 325 light years from Earth. The second paper, by a team headed by Deiter Breitschwerdt, estimates explosion times of these supernovae, isolating two events: one 1.7 to 3.2 million years ago, and the other 6.5 to 8.7 million years ago. 

Earth's soils could play key role in locking away greenhouse gases

The world's soils could store an extra 8 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases, helping to limit the impacts of climate change, research suggests.Adopting the latest technologies and sustainable land use practices on a global scale could allow more emissions to be stored in farmland and natural wild spaces, the study shows. 

Good news for the Iberian lynx!

WWF welcomes the 2015 Iberian lynx census released today by the government of Andalusia. The survey shows a significant increase in population with the Iberian lynx reaching the highest number since the species was found to be the most endangered cat in the world in 2002. The latest population figure of 404 individuals is up from the 327 recorded in 2014. The survey identified 120 breeding females divided into five areas of the Iberian Peninsula including four in Spain – Doñana, Sierra Morena, Montes de Toledo, Valley Matachel – as well as Portugal’s Vale do Guadiana.  

Can urban gardeners benefit ecosystems while keeping food traditions alive?

When conjuring up an image of a healthy ecosystem, few of us would think of a modern city. But scientists are increasingly recognizing that the majority of ecosystems are now influenced by humans, and even home gardens in urban landscapes can contribute important ecosystem services.

Good news for the world's tiger populations!

It’s estimated that there are as few as 3,200 tigers left in the wild — that’s nearly a 97 percent loss in wild tigers over just a century. However, scientists are now saying that the world’s tiger population can double by 2022. 

Illegal gold mining in Brazil exposing indigenous peoples to high levels of mercury

Illegal gold mining in the Amazon has a devastating effect on indigenous peoples, writes Sarina Kidd. First the miners bring disease, deforestation and even murder. Then long after they have gone, communities are left to suffer deadly mercury poisoning. Now the UN has been called on to intervene.In Brazil, new statistics reveal alarming rates of mercury poisoning amongst the Yanomami and Yekuana. 90% of Indians in one community are severely affected, with levels far above that recommended by the WHO.Mercury poisoning is devastating tribal peoples across Amazonia, Survival International has warned. 

NASA examines El Nino's impact on ocean's food source

El Niño years can have a big impact on the littlest plants in the ocean, and NASA scientists are studying the relationship between the two. In El Niño years, huge masses of warm water – equivalent to about half of the volume of the Mediterranean Sea – slosh east across the Pacific Ocean towards South America. While this warm water changes storm systems in the atmosphere, it also has an impact below the ocean’s surface. These impacts, which researchers can visualize with satellite data, can ripple up the food chain to fisheries and the livelihoods of fishermen.

Eat your walnuts today!

Initial findings from the Walnuts and Healthy Aging (WAHA) study presented at Experimental Biology 2016 (EB) indicate that daily walnut consumption positively impacts blood cholesterol levels without adverse effects on body weight among older adults. The WAHA study is a dual site two-year clinical trial conducted by researchers from the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona and Loma Linda University and is aimed at determining the effect of walnuts on age-related health issues. "Given walnuts are a high-energy food, a prevailing concern has been that their long term consumption might be associated with weight gain," said Dr. Emilio Ros, director of the Lipid Clinic, Endocrinology & Nutrition Service at the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona. "The preliminary results of the WAHA study demonstrate that daily consumption of walnuts for one year by a sizable cohort of aging free-living persons has no adverse effects on body weight. They also show that the well-known cholesterol-lowering effect of walnut diets works equally well in the elderly and is maintained in the long term. Acquiring the good fats and other nutrients from walnuts while keeping adiposity at bay and reducing blood cholesterol levels are important to overall nutritional well-being of aging adults. It's encouraging to see that eating walnuts may benefit this particular population."  

Scotland shuts down its last coal-fired electric power plant

After nearly 50 years of service, Scotland’s last coal-fired power plant — Longannet Power Station — has finally gone offline, putting an end to over 100 years of burning coal for electricity.It’s an important moment for Scottish Power, which looks ahead to clean power initiatives with the goal of going all-renewable by 2020,But it’s also a very symbolic action for the world. Hopefully other nations will follow suit, creating a domino effect as country by country eliminates its coal plants — like the one above — in favor of renewable alternatives.

Lower indoor temperatures in winter correlate with thinner waistlines

Elderly adults are bigger around the middle when they turn up the heat inside their homes during the cold season and have smaller waistlines when their homes stay cool, new research finds. Investigators from Japan will present their study results Friday at the Endocrine Society's 98th annual meeting in Boston."Although cold exposure may be a trigger of cardiovascular disease, our data suggest that safe and appropriate cold exposure may be an effective preventive measure against obesity," said the study's lead investigator, Keigo Saeki, MD, PhD, of Nara Medical University School of Medicine Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, Nara, Japan.Cold exposure activates thermogenesis, to generate body heat, in brown fat. This type of fat is the good calorie-burning fat that prior research found most humans have. However, Saeki said the association between the amount of cold exposure and obesity in real life remains unclear.