Study finds secret to diverse forests' super success

We’ve long known that diverse stands of trees tend to be more productive than monocultures. What we haven’t known is why. In a paper published today in the scientific journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, researchers from the University of Minnesota and Université du Québec à Montréal show the talent behind the trait: Thanks to their natural different growth forms and ability to modify their shape to fit the available space, multiple species are able to fill in vertical gaps with branches and leaves. This maximizes their combined ability to soak up the sun falling on a particular plot of land and turn it into tree — absorbing planet-warming carbon dioxide and producing wood in the process.

Frogs have unique ability to see colour in the dark

The night vision of frogs and toads appears to be superior to that of all other animals. They have the ability to see colour even when it is so dark that humans are not able to see anything at all. This has been shown in a new study by researchers from Lund University in Sweden.

Invasive and Native Marsh Grasses May Provide Similar Benefits to Protected Wetlands

An invasive species of marsh grass that spreads, kudzu-like, throughout North American wetlands, may provide similar benefits to protected wetlands as native marsh grasses. According to new research from North Carolina State University, the invasive marsh grass’s effects on carbon storage, erosion prevention and plant diversity in protected wetlands are neutral. The findings could impact management strategies aimed at eradicating the invasive grass.

Archeologists at the vanguard of environmental and climate research

We tend to think of the overuse of natural resources, climatic instability, and large-scale human land use as quintessentially modern day problems. Yet a group of researchers led by archaeologists and calling themselves historical ecologists have recently come together to determine what we need to know about past human-environmental relationships to build a more sustainable future. These historical ecologists crowd-sourced hundreds of research questions from scholars around the world that, when answered, will reveal key information about how people have hade impact on and responded to changing environments over the course of thousands of years. Workshops were held at Uppsala University (Sweden) and Simon Fraser University (Canada) to discuss submissions from scholars and identify the 50 questions that are most in need of answering. The list of 50 priority issues for historical ecology will be published Friday in the open access journal PLOS ONE.

New use for paper industry's sludge and fly ash in plastics

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland examined, as part of the EU's Reffibre project, whether new industrial applications could be developed for various types of sludge and fly ash generated by the paper and board industry.  Laboratory tests showed that these side streams can replace up to 50% of oil-based polypropylene. They can be used as a raw material in plastic composites made using injection moulding and extrusion.

Coming soon: Oil spill-mapping swarms of flying drones

Inspired by bird and insect behavior, engineers create software to enable teams of common UAVs to work togetherThousands of ants converge to follow the most direct path from their colony to their food and back. A swarm of inexpensive, unmanned drones quickly map an offshore oil spill.

What's The Leading Cause Of Wildfires In The U.S.? Humans

Wildfires can start when lightning strikes or when someone fails to put out a campfire. New research shows that people start a lot more fires than lightning does — so much so that people are drastically altering wildfire in America.

No, Cellphones Don't Cause Cancer. Probably

The tin foil hat, while fashionable, is an ineffective way of keeping the government’s radio waves from infiltrating and manipulating your mind. In fact, the hat may boost certain radio frequencies, which is OK because there’s no such thing as mind-controlling waves anyway.

Tracking the Movement of Cyborg Cockroaches

New research from North Carolina State University offers insights into how far and how fast cyborg cockroaches – or biobots – move when exploring new spaces. The work moves researchers closer to their goal of using biobots to explore collapsed buildings and other spaces in order to identify survivors.

Getting Rid of the Last Bits of Sulfur in Fuel

Scientists led by a team at Caltech have developed a new method for potentially removing nearly all sulfur compounds from gas and diesel fuel.Sulfur compounds in fuels such as gasoline and diesel create air pollution when the fuel is burned. To address that challenge, large-scale oil refinery processes remove the majority of sulfur from fuel down to a government-mandated level. The new technique, however, has the potential to reduce sulfur down to a fraction of that amount, which would further reduce air pollution and extend the lifetime of vehicles' catalytic converters, which control tailpipe emissions.