University of Delaware look at adding silicon to soil to strengthen plant defenses

To help plants better fend off insect pests, researchers are considering arming them with stones.The University of Delaware’s Ivan Hiltpold and researchers from the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment at Western Sydney University in Australia are examining the addition of silicon to the soil in which plants are grown to help strengthen plants against potential predators.The research was published recently in the journal Soil Biology and Biochemistry and was funded by Sugar Research Australia. Adam Frew, currently a postdoctoral research fellow at the Charles Sturt University in Australia, is the lead author on the paper.

Study Finds Drought Recoveries Taking Longer

As global temperatures continue to rise, droughts are expected to become more frequent and severe in many regions during this century. A new study with NASA participation finds that land ecosystems took progressively longer to recover from droughts in the 20th century, and incomplete drought recovery may become the new normal in some areas, possibly leading to tree death and increased emissions of greenhouse gases.In results published Aug. 10 in the journal Nature, a research team led by Christopher Schwalm of Woods Hole Research Center, Falmouth, Massachusetts, and including a scientist from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, measured recovery time following droughts in various regions of the world. They used projections from climate models verified by observations from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA's Terra satellite and ground measurements. The researchers found that drought recovery was taking longer in all land areas. In two particularly vulnerable regions -- the tropics and northern high latitudes -- recovery took ever longer than in other regions.

Case study suggests new approach to urban water supply

If you live in the developed world, safe water is usually just a faucet-turn away. And yet, global warming, drought conditions, and population growth in coming decades could change that, ushering in an era of uncertain access to water.Now an MIT-based research team has evaluated those potential problems and, based on a case study in Australia, suggested an alternate approach to water planning. In a new paper, the researchers find there is often a strong case for building relatively modest, incremental additions to water infrastructure in advanced countries, rather than expensive larger-scale projects that may be needed only rarely.

Air pollution linked to cardiovascular disease; air purifiers may lessen impact

Exposure to high levels of air pollution increased stress hormone levels and negative metabolic changes in otherwise healthy, young adults in a recent study conducted in China. Air purifiers appeared to lessen the negative effects, according to new research published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.Researchers focused on fine particulate matter (PM2.5) – a component of air pollution emitted from vehicles, factories, power plants, fires and smoking – because many studies have suggested this type of major air pollutant might lead to cardiovascular and metabolic health consequences, according to Haidong Kan, M.D., Ph.D., study author and professor of environmental health sciences at Fudan University in Shanghai, China.

Monkey Species Not Seen Alive for 80 Years Rediscovered in the Amazon

Scientists have rediscovered a species of monkey in the Brazilian Amazon not seen alive since 1936, according to reporting by Mongabay.The species, the bald-faced Vanzolini saki, was first discovered along the Rio Eiru more than 80 years ago by Alfonzo Olalla, an Ecuadorian naturalist. But scientists had found no other living evidence of the monkey since then. Earlier this year, a team of seven primatologists, led by Laura Marsh of the Global Conservation Institute, began a three-month expedition aboard a boat through the Upper Jurua River and its tributaries to search for the missing monkey and survey other wildlife in the remote region of Brazil.

Lights, camera, CRISPR: Biologists use gene editing to store movies in DNA

Internet users have a variety of format options in which to store their movies, and biologists have now joined the party. Researchers have used the microbial immune system CRISPR–Cas to encode a movie into the genome of the bacterium Escherichia coli.The technical achievement, reported on 12 July in Nature, is a step towards creating cellular recording systems that are capable of encoding a series of events, says Seth Shipman, a synthetic biologist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. While studying brain development, Shipman became frustrated by the lack of a technique to capture how cells in the brain take on distinct identities. This inspired him to explore the possibility of making cellular recorders.

NASA's Sees a Tightly Wound Typhoon Banyan

Satellite imagery from NASA-NOAA's Suomi NPP satellite showed powerful storms tightly would around Typhoon Banyan's center as it moved through the Pacific Ocean.On Aug. 14 at 02:06 UTC (Aug. 13 at 10:06 p.m. EDT) the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument aboard NASA-NOAA's Suomi NPP satellite provided a visible look at Banyan. The visible image showed a tight concentration of strong thunderstorms around the center of circulation, but no eye was visible. However, microwave satellite imagery did reveal an eye.

Student's idea leads to Antarctic volcano discovery

An Edinburgh student has helped identify what may be the largest volcanic region on Earth.

How goldfish make alcohol to survive without oxygen

Scientists at the Universities of Liverpool and Oslo have uncovered the secret behind a goldfish’s remarkable ability to produce alcohol as a way of surviving harsh winters beneath frozen lakes.Humans and most other vertebrate animals die within a few minutes without oxygen. Yet goldfish and their wild relatives, crucian carp, can survive for days, even months, in oxygen-free water at the bottom of ice-covered ponds.During this time, the fish are able to convert anaerobically produced lactic acid into ethanol, which then diffuses across their gills into the surrounding water and avoids a dangerous build-up of lactic acid in the body.

Jackdaws flap their wings to save energy

For the first time, researchers have observed that birds that fly actively and flap their wings save energy. Biologists at Lund University in Sweden have now shown that jackdaws minimise their energy consumption when they lift off and fly, because the feathers on their wing tips create several small vortices instead of a single large one. The discovery could potentially be applied within the aeronautical industry.