Burmese Pythons are killing the rabbits in the Florida Everglades

How exactly DID Burmese Pythons get so numerous in the Everglades?  Were they released by owners who didn't want them and they found they liked the ecosystem?Nearly 80 percent of radio-tracked marsh rabbits that died in Everglades National Park in a recent study were eaten by Burmese pythons, according to a new publication by University of Florida and U.S. Geological Survey researchers.  A year later, there was no sign of a rabbit population in the study area.  The study demonstrates that Burmese pythons are now the dominant predator of marsh rabbits, and likely other mid-sized animals in the park, potentially upsetting the balance of a valuable ecosystem.

Stinging nettle chemical improves cancer drug

A cancer drug could be made 50 times more effective by a chemical found in stinging nettles and ants, new research finds. Researchers at the University of Warwick found that when the chemical, Sodium Formate, is used in combination with a metal-based cancer treatment it can greatly increase its ability to shut down cancer cells.

Road kill: Recommendations to protect biodiversity

Governments and donors must pay more attention to the environmental impact of road networks to limit their “devastating” effect on ecosystems, a study on global infrastructure expansion has warned. Road construction opens a “Pandora’s box” of negative impact, according to the authors of the paper, published this month in Current Biology. These include deforestation, animals hunted to extinction, land grabs by speculators betting on development, and wildfires. 

NASA using space radar to track groundwater pollution risks

Water is our most precious natural resource.  Without clean water to drink human populations cannot exist.  But our water supplies are under constant assault from anthropogenic pollution.When pollutants get into groundwater, they can stay there for decades. Cleanup efforts are difficult, expensive and not always successful. It would be better to protect groundwater from contamination in the first place, but risks to groundwater are moving targets. Although unchanging factors such as porous soil or shallow aquifer depth play a role, the greatest risk comes from the source of the pollutants: people. And people are always moving. A growing city, in particular, usually means a growing threat to groundwater quality. To lock on to the moving target of groundwater risk, planners worldwide need up-to-date information on how people are changing the land surface.

Arctic sea ice continues to shrink

Arctic sea ice shrank to the lowest winter extent ever recorded, according to data released today by the US-based National Snow and Ice Data Center. The record-low ice level follows earlier news that 2014 was the warmest year since record keeping began. An unusually warm February in parts of Alaska and Russia contributed to the record ice low. The winter reach of Arctic ice decreased 1.1 million square kilometres compared to the average maximum from 1981 to 2010. This represents an area more than twice the size of Sweden. "This is not a record to be proud of. Low sea ice can create a series of reactions that further threaten the Arctic and the rest of the globe," said Alexander Shestakov, Director, WWF Global Arctic Programme.

Electric Vehicles are Cool, Literally.

A study in this week’s Scientific Report by researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) and in China add more fuel to the already hot debate about whether electric vehicles are more environmentally friendly than conventional vehicles by uncovering two hidden benefits.They show that the cool factor is real – in that electric vehicles emit significantly less heat.  That difference could mitigate the urban heat island effect, the phenomenon that helps turn big cities like Beijing into pressure cookers in warm months.

Canadian Grocer to Sell “Ugly” Fruit

If you have traveled to regions such as the Balkans, India or rural Latin America, the appearance of misshapen fruit and vegetables everywhere would have hardly surprised you; and of course, they are delicious. But shopping trends on both side of the Atlantic have led consumers to believe fruit should be uniform in color and shape.

A bright side to aging

Hollywood has given moviegoers many classic portrayals of grumpy old men. But new research suggests that getting older doesn’t necessarily make people cynical and suspicious. Instead, trust tends to increase as people age, a development that can be beneficial for well-being, according to two new large-scale studies by researchers at Northwestern University and the University at Buffalo.“When we think of old age, we often think of decline and loss,” said study co-author Claudia Haase, an assistant professor of Human Development and Social Policy at Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy.

Amazon forest trees dying younger, reducing carbon uptake

From a peak of two billion tonnes of carbon dioxide each year in the 1990s, the net uptake by the forest has halved and is now for the first time being overtaken by fossil fuel emissions in Latin America.  The results of this monumental 30-year survey of the South American rainforest, which involved an international team of almost 100 researchers and was led by the University of Leeds, are published today in the journal Nature.

The importance of methane seeps in microbial biodiversity of sea floor

A new study “provides evidence that methane seeps are island-like habitats that harbor distinct microbial communities unique from other seafloor ecosystems." These seeps play an important role in microbial biodiversity of the sea floor.Methane seeps are natural gas leaks in the sea floor that emit methane into the water. Microorganisms that live on or near these seeps can use the methane as a food source, preventing the gas from collecting in the surrounding hydrosphere or migrating into the atmosphere.“Marine environments are a potentially huge source for methane outputs to the atmosphere, but the surrounding microbes keep things in check by eating 75 percent of the methane before it gets to the atmosphere. These organisms are an important part of the underwater ecosystem, particularly as it relates to global gas cycles that are climate important in terms of greenhouse gas emissions,” said University of Delaware assistant professor of marine biosciences, Jennifer Biddle.