#bacteriaAndArchaeaOnEarth; #EarthDeepRockyCrust; #RockFormation
New York/Canadian-Media: Below the verdant surface and organic rich soil, life extends kilometers into Earth's deep rocky crust. The continental deep subsurface is likely one of the largest reservoirs of bacteria and archaea on Earth, many forming biofilms—like a microbial coating of the rock surface, https://phys.org/news reports said.
DeMMO field team from left to right: Lily Momper, Brittany Kruger, and Caitlin Casar sampling fracture fluids from a DeMMO borehole installation. Image Credit: ©Matt Kapust
This microbial population survives without light or oxygen and with minimal organic carbon sources, and can get energy by eating or respiring minerals. Distributed throughout the deep subsurface, these biofilms could represent 20-80% of the total bacterial and archaeal biomass in the continental subsurface according to the most recent estimate. But are these microbial populations spread evenly on rock surfaces, or do they prefer to colonize specific minerals in the rocks?
To answer this question, researchers from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, led a study to analyze the growth and distribution of microbial communities in deep continental subsurface settings. This work shows that the host rock mineral composition drives biofilm distribution, producing "hotspots" of microbial life. The study was published in Frontiers in Microbiology.
Hotspots of microbial life
To realize this study, the researchers went 1.5 kilometers below the surface in the Deep Mine Microbial Observatory (DeMMO), housed within a former gold mine now known as the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF), located in Lead, South Dakota. There, below-ground, the researchers cultivated biofilms on native rocks rich in iron and sulfur-bearing minerals. After six months, the researchers analyzed the microbial composition and physical characteristics of newly grown biofilms, as well as its distributions using microscopy, spectroscopy and spatial modelling approaches.
The spatial analyses conducted by the researchers revealed hotspots where the biofilm was denser. These hotspots correlate with iron-rich mineral grains in the rocks, highlighting some mineral preferences for biofilm colonization.
"Our results demonstrate the strong spatial dependence of biofilm colonization on minerals in rock surfaces. We think that this spatial dependence is due to microbes getting their energy from the minerals they colonize." explains Caitlin Casar, first author of the study.
Altogether, these results demonstrate that host rock mineralogy is a key driver of biofilm distribution, which could help improve estimates of the microbial distribution of the Earth's deep continental subsurface. But leading intraterrestrial studies could also inform other topics.
"Our findings could inform the contribution of biofilms to global nutrient cycles, and also have astrobiological implications as these findings provide insight into biomass distributions in a Mars analog system" says Caitlin Casar.
Indeed, extraterrestrial life could exist in similar subsurface environments where the microorganisms are protected from both radiation and extreme temperatures. Mars, for example, has an iron and sulfur-rich composition similar to DeMMO's rock formations, which we now know are capable of driving the formation of microbial hotspots below-ground.
#UniversityofCambridge; #ChemistryOfAncientRocks; #EarthAndMoonFormation
England/Canadian-Media: New research led by the University of Cambridge (United Kingdom) has found rare evidence—preserved in the chemistry of ancient rocks from Greenland—which tells of a time when Earth was almost entirely molten.
At first glance the rocks that make up Greenland's Isua supracrustal belt look just like any modern basalt you'd find on the sea floor. But this outcrop, which was first described in the 1960s, is the oldest exposure of rocks on Earth. It is known to contain the earliest evidence of microbial life and plate tectonics. Credit: Hanika Rizo
The study, published in the journal Science Advances, yields information on a important period in our planet's formation, when a deep sea of incandescent magma stretched across Earth's surface and extended hundreds of kilometers into its interior.
It is the gradual cooling and crystallization of this 'magma ocean' that set the chemistry of Earth's interior—a defining stage in the assembly of our planet's structure and the formation of our early atmosphere.
Scientists know that catastrophic impacts during the formation of the Earth and Moon would have generated enough energy to melt our planet's interior. But we don't know much about this distant and fiery phase of Earth's history because tectonic processes have recycled almost all rocks older than 4 billion years.
Now researchers have found the chemical remnants of the magma ocean in 3.6-billion-year-old rocks from southwestern Greenland.
The findings support the long-held theory that Earth was once almost entirely molten and provide a window into a time when the planet started to solidify and develop the chemistry that now governs its internal structure. The research suggests that other rocks on Earth's surface may also preserve evidence of ancient magma oceans.
"There are few opportunities to get geological constraints on the events in the first billion years of Earth's history. It's astonishing that we can even hold these rocks in our hands—let alone get so much detail about the early history of our planet," said lead author Dr. Helen Williams, from Cambridge's Department of Earth Sciences.
The study brings forensic chemical analysis together with thermodynamic modelling in search of the primeval origins of the Greenland rocks, and how they got to the surface.
At first glance, the rocks that make up Greenland's Isua supracrustal belt look just like any modern basalt you'd find on the sea floor. But this outcrop, which was first described in the 1960s, is the oldest exposure of rocks on Earth. It is known to contain the earliest evidence of microbial life and plate tectonics.
The new research shows that the Isua rocks also preserve rare evidence which even predates plate tectonics—the residues of some of the crystals left behind as that magma ocean cooled.
"It was a combination of some new chemical analyses we did and the previously published data that flagged to us that the Isua rocks might contain traces of ancient material. The hafnium and neodymium isotopes were really tantalizing, because those isotope systems are very hard to modify—so we had to look at their chemistry in more detail," said co-author Dr. Hanika Rizo, from Carleton University.
Iron isotopic systematics confirmed to Williams and the team that the Isua rocks were derived from parts of the Earth's interior that formed as a consequence of magma ocean crystallization.
Most of this primeval rock has been mixed up by convection in the mantle, but scientists think that some isolated zones deep at the mantle-core boundary—ancient crystal graveyards—may have remained undisturbed for billions of years.
It's the relics of these crystal graveyards that Williams and her colleagues observed in the Isua rock chemistry. "Those samples with the iron fingerprint also have a tungsten anomaly—a signature of Earth's formation—which makes us think that their origin can be traced back to these primeval crystals," said Williams.
But how did these signals from the deep mantle find their way up to the surface? Their isotopic makeup shows they were not just funnelled up from melting at the core-mantle boundary. Their journey was more circuitous, involving several stages of crystallization and remelting—a kind of distillation process. The mix of ancient crystals and magma would have first migrated to the upper mantle, where it was churned up to create a 'marble cake' of rocks from different depths. Later melting of that hybrid of rocks is what produced the magma which fed this part of Greenland.
The team's findings suggest that modern hotspot volcanoes, which are thought to have formed relatively recently, may actually be influenced by ancient processes.
"The geochemical signals we report in the Greenland rocks bear similarities to rocks erupted from hotspot volcanoes like Hawaii—something we are interested in is whether they might also be tapping into the depths and accessing regions of the interior usually beyond our reach," said Dr. Oliver Shorttle, who is jointly based at Cambridge's Department of Earth Sciences and Institute of Astronomy.
The team's findings came out of a project funded by Deep Volatiles, a NERC-funded 5-year research program. They now plan to continue their quest to understand the magma ocean by widening their search for clues in ancient rocks and experimentally modelling isotopic fractionation in the lower mantle.
"We've been able to unpick what one part of our planet's interior was doing billions of years ago, but to fill in the picture further we must keep searching for more chemical clues in ancient rocks," said co-author Dr. Simon Matthews from the University of Iceland.
Scientists have often been reluctant to look for chemical evidence of these ancient events. "The evidence is often altered by the course of time. But the fact we found what we did suggests that the chemistry of other ancient rocks may yield further insights into the Earth's formation and evolution—and that's immensely exciting," said Williams.
Indian agriculture: Groundwater depletion could reduce winter cropped acreage significantly in years
#IndianAgridulture; #Irrigation; #MichiganUnivResearch; #Environment; #Sustainability
Michigan/Canadian-Media: According to Michigan University research, India is the world's second-largest producer of wheat and rice and is home to more than 600 million farmers, Phys.org news reports said.
Tube well irrigation in Gujarat, India. Credit: Meha Jain
The country has achieved impressive food-production gains since the 1960s, due in part to an increased reliance on irrigation wells, which allowed Indian farmers to expand production into the mostly dry winter and summer seasons.
But those gains have come at a cost: The country that produces 10% of the world's crops is now the world's largest consumer of groundwater, and aquifers are rapidly becoming depleted across much of India.
Indian government officials have suggested that switching from groundwater-depleting wells to irrigation canals, which divert surface water from lakes and rivers, is one way to overcome projected shortfalls.
But in a study scheduled for publication Feb. 24 in the journal Science Advances, a University of Michigan researcher and her colleagues conclude that a switch to canal irrigation will not fully compensate for the expected loss of groundwater in Indian agriculture.
The authors estimate that if Indian farmers lose all access to groundwater in overexploited regions, and if that irrigation water is not replaced with water from other sources, then winter cropped acreage could be reduced by up to 20% nationwide. However, that scenario seems highly unlikely and was included in the study only as an upper-bound estimate.
It seems more likely that any future groundwater shortfalls would be at least partially offset by increases in canal irrigation. But even if all Indian regions currently using depleted groundwater switch to canal irrigation, winter cropped acreage could still decline by 7% nationwide and by 24% in the most severely affected locations, according to the researchers.
"Our results highlight the critical importance of groundwater for Indian agriculture and rural livelihoods, and we were able to show that simply providing canal irrigation as a substitute irrigation source will likely not be enough to maintain current production levels in the face of groundwater depletion," said study lead author Meha Jain of the University of Michigan.
The study analyzed high-resolution satellite imagery and village-level census data and focused on winter cropped acreage. While nearly all Indian farmers plant crops during the monsoon to take advantage of seasonal rains, winter agriculture is mainly reliant on groundwater irrigation and now accounts for 44% of the country's annual cropped acreage for food grains.
"These findings suggest that other adaptation strategies, in addition to canal expansion, are needed to cope with ongoing groundwater losses," said Jain, an assistant professor at the U-M School for Environment and Sustainability.
Maps showing state-by-state Indian winter cropped area loss estimates due to groundwater depletion in coming decades, with and without replacement by canals. Darker shades of pink and red indicate greater projected losses. The map on the left (A) shows projected winter cropped acreage losses if all critically depleted groundwater is lost, with no replacement. Map on the right (B) shows projected winter cropped acreage losses if groundwater irrigation is replaced with canals (using national-level regression coefficients). Credit: Jain et al. in Science Advances 2021.
The possibilities include switching from winter rice to less water-intensive cereals, increased adoption of sprinklers and drip irrigation to conserve water in the fields, and policies to increase the efficiency of irrigation canals.
While groundwater depletion is becoming a global threat to food security, and the extent of current and projected groundwater depletion are well documented, the potential impacts on food production remain poorly quantified.
The study by Jain and colleagues is the first to use high-resolution empirical data, including census data about the irrigation methods used in more than 500,000 Indian villages, to estimate the crop production losses that may occur when overexploited groundwater is lost.
The proliferation of deep (>100 feet) irrigation wells called tube wells since the 1960s has enabled Indian farmers to increase the number of seasons when crops are planted in a given year. This increase in "cropping intensity" is credited for much of the country's food-production gains.
The researchers used satellite data to measure Indian winter cropped area, a key determinant of cropping intensity. They then linked the satellite data to census information about the three main types of irrigation infrastructure in India: shallow "dug wells," deeper tube wells and canals that divert surface water.
Linking the two datasets allowed them to determine the relative efficacy of each irrigation method. That, in turn, enabled them to estimate potential future acreage losses and the ability of canal expansion to fill the gap.
The study's worst-case scenario found that winter cropped area could decrease by up to 20% nationwide and by 68% in the most severely affected regions, if farmers lose all access to groundwater and if that irrigation water is not replaced from another source. The expected losses would largely occur in northwest and central India, according to the study.
The researchers also found that increased distance from existing irrigation canals is strongly associated with decreased acreage planted with winter crops. In the future, a greater reliance on canals could increase inequities related to irrigation access, according to the authors.
"This suggests that while canals may be a viable form of irrigation for those who live near canals, they may lead to more unequal access to irrigation across villages compared to wells, with negative impacts for those who live farther from canals," the authors wrote.
In addition, the lakes and rivers that feed irrigation canals rise and fall in response to rainfall variability, unlike deep groundwater wells. So, a greater reliance on canal irrigation in the future would result in increased sensitivity to year-to-year precipitation fluctuations, as well as any long-term trends due to human-caused climate change.
"Understanding the complex relationship between food security and water availability is crucial as we prepare for future rainfall variability due to global climate change," said co-author Gillian Galford of the University of Vermont.
#Asteroid; #Research; #DinosaursExtinction
New York/Canadian-Media: Researchers believe they have closed the case of what killed the dinosaurs, definitively linking their extinction with an asteroid that slammed into Earth 66 million years ago by finding a key piece of evidence: asteroid dust inside the impact crater, phys.org news reports said.
Dust from the asteroid impact was blown into the atmosphere where it blocked out the sun and led to the extinction of 75% of life, including all non-avian dinosaurs. Image: Willgard Krause. Image credit: Pixabay
Death by asteroid rather than by a series of volcanic eruptions or some other global calamity has been the leading hypothesis since the 1980s, when scientists found asteroid dust in the geologic layer that marks the extinction of the dinosaurs. This discovery painted an apocalyptic picture of dust from the vaporized asteroid and rocks from impact circling the planet, blocking out the sun and bringing about mass death through a dark, sustained global winter—all before drifting back to Earth to form the layer enriched in asteroid material that's visible today.
In the 1990s, the connection was strengthened with the discovery of a 125-mile-wide Chicxulub impact crater beneath the Gulf of Mexico that is the same age as the rock layer. The new study seals the deal, researchers said, by finding asteroid dust with a matching chemical fingerprint within that crater at the precise geological location that marks the time of the extinction.
"The circle is now finally complete," said Steven Goderis, a geochemistry professor at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, who led the study published in Science Advances on Feb. 24.
The crater left by the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs is located in the Yucatán Peninsula and is called Chicxulub after a nearby town. Part of the crater is offshore and part of it is on land. The crater is buried beneath many layers of rock and sediment. A 2016 mission led by the International Ocean Discovery Program extracted rock cores from the offshore portion of the crater. Credit: The University of Texas at Austin/Jackson School of Geosciences/ Google Maps
The study is the latest to come from a 2016 International Ocean Discovery Program mission co-led by The University of Texas at Austin that collected nearly 3,000 feet of rock core from the crater buried under the seafloor. Research from this mission has helped fill in gaps about the impact, the aftermath and the recovery of life.
The telltale sign of asteroid dust is the element iridium—which is rare in the Earth's crust, but present at elevated levels in certain types of asteroids. An iridium spike in the geologic layer found all over the world is how the asteroid hypothesis was born. In the new study, researchers found a similar spike in a section of rock pulled from the crater. In the crater, the sediment layer deposited in the days to years after the strike is so thick that scientists were able to precisely date the dust to a mere two decades after impact.
"We are now at the level of coincidence that geologically doesn't happen without causation," said co-author Sean Gulick, a research professor at the UT Jackson School of Geosciences who co-led the 2016 expedition with Joanna Morgan of Imperial College London. "It puts to bed any doubts that the iridium anomaly [in the geologic layer] is not related to the Chicxulub crater."
The dust is all that remains of the 7-mile-wide asteroid that slammed into the planet millions of years ago, triggering the extinction of 75% of life on Earth, including all nonavian dinosaurs.
Researchers estimate that the dust kicked up by the impact circulated in the atmosphere for no more than a couple of decades—which, Gulick points out, helps time how long extinction took.
"If you're actually going to put a clock on extinction 66 million years ago, you could easily make an argument that it all happened within a couple of decades, which is basically how long it takes for everything to starve to death," he said.
The highest concentrations of iridium were found within a 5-centimeter section of the rock core retrieved from the top of the crater's peak ring—a high-elevation point in the crater that formed when rocks rebounded then collapsed from the force of impact.
The iridium analysis was carried out by labs in Austria, Belgium, Japan and the United States.
"We combined the results from four independent laboratories around the world to make sure we got this right," said Goderis.
A section of rock core pulled from the crater left by the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. Researchers found high concentrations of the element iridium –a marker for asteroid material –in the middle section of the core that contains a mixture of ash from the impact and ocean sediment deposited over decades. The iridium is measured in parts per billion. Credit: International Ocean Discovery Program.
In addition to iridium, the crater section showed elevated levels of other elements associated with asteroid material. The concentration and composition of these "asteroid elements" resembled measurements taken from the geologic layer at 52 sites around the world.
The core section and geologic layer also have earthbound elements in common, including sulfurous compounds. A 2019 study found that sulfur-bearing rocks are missing from much of the rest of the core despite being present in large volumes in the surrounding limestone. This indicates that the impact blew the original sulfur into the atmosphere, where it may have made a bad situation worse by exacerbating global cooling and seeding acid rain.
Gulick and colleagues at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics and Bureau of Economic Geology—both units of the UT Jackson School—plan to return to the crater this summer to begin surveying sites at its center, where they hope to plan a future drilling effort to recover more asteroid material.
#Archaeology; #Pompeii; #Italy; #Naples; #CeremonialChariot
New York/Canadian-Media: Officials at the Pompeii archaeological site in Italy announced Saturday the discovery of an intact ceremonial chariot, one of several important discoveries made in the same area outside the park near Naples following an investigation into an illegal dig, phys.org reported.
A view of a chariot, with its iron elements, bronze decorations and mineralized wooden remains, that was found in Civita Giuliana, north of Pompeii. Officials at the Pompeii archaeological site near Naples on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021, announced the first-ever discovery of an intact ceremonial chariot, one of several important discoveries made in the same area outside the park following an investigation into an illegal dig. Image credit: Parco Archeologico di Pompei via AP
The chariot, with its iron elements, bronze decorations and mineralized wooden remains, was found in the ruins of a settlement north of Pompeii, beyond the walls of the ancient city, parked in the portico of a stable where the remains of three horses previously were discovered.
The Archaeological Park of Pompeii called the chariot "an exceptional discovery" and said "it represents a unique find—which has no parallel in Italy thus far—in an excellent state of preservation."
The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD destroyed Pompeii. The chariot was spared when the walls and roof of the structure it was in collapsed, and also survived looting by modern-day antiquities thieves, who had dug tunnels through to the site, grazing but not damaging the four-wheeled cart, according to park officials.
The chariot was found on the grounds of what is one of the most significant ancient villas in the area around Vesuvius, with a panoramic view of the Mediterranean Sea. on the outskirts of the ancient Roman city.
Archaeologists last year found in the same area on the outskirts of Pompeii, Civita Giulian, the skeletal remains of what are believed to have been a wealthy man and his male slave, attempting to escape death.
A detail of the decoration of a chariot, with its iron elements, bronze decorations and mineralized wooden remains, that was found in Civita Giuliana, north of Pompeii. Officials at the Pompeii archaeological site near Naples on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021, announced the first-ever discovery of an intact ceremonial chariot, one of several important discoveries made in the same area outside the park following an investigation into an illegal dig. Image credit: Parco Archeologico di Pompei via AP
The chariot's first iron element emerged on Jan. 7 from the blanket of volcanic material filling the two-story portico. Archaeologists believe the cart was used for festivities and parades, perhaps also to carry brides to their new homes.
While chariots for daily life or the transport of agricultural products have been previously found at Pompeii, officials said the new find is the first ceremonial chariot unearthed in its entirety.
The villa was discovered after police came across the illegal tunnels in 2017, officials said. Two people who live in the houses atop the site are currently on trial for allegedly digging more than 80 meters of tunnels at the site.
#Caltech; #Seismologists; #Google; #DetectingEarthquakes; #IntlTelecommunications
New York/Canadian-Media: Seismologists at Caltech working with optics experts at Google have developed a method to use existing underwater telecommunication cables to detect earthquakes. The technique could lead to improved earthquake and tsunami warning systems around the world, published in the February 26 issue of the journal Science.
Image credit: Credit: California Institute of Technology
A vast network of more than a million kilometers of fiber optic cable lies at the bottom of Earth's oceans. In the 1980s, telecommunication companies and governments began laying these cables, each of which can span thousands of kilometers. Today, the global network is considered the backbone of international telecommunications.
Scientists have long sought a way to use those submerged cables to monitor seismicity. After all, more than 70 percent of the globe is covered by water, and it is extremely difficult and expensive to install, monitor, and run underwater seismometers to keep track of the earth's movements beneath the seas. What would be ideal, researchers say, is to monitor seismicity by making use of the infrastructure already in place along the ocean floor.
Previous efforts to use optical fibers to study seismicity have relied on the addition of sophisticated scientific instruments and/or the use of so-called "dark fibers," fiber optic cables that are not actively being used.
Now Zhongwen Zhan (Ph.D. '13), assistant professor of geophysics at Caltech, and his colleagues have come up with a way to analyze the light traveling through "lit" fibers—in other words, existing and functioning submarine cables—to detect earthquakes and ocean waves without the need for any additional equipment.
"This new technique can really convert the majority of submarine cables into geophysical sensors that are thousands of kilometers long to detect earthquakes and possibly tsunamis in the future," says Zhan. "We believe this is the first solution for monitoring seismicity on the ocean floor that could feasibly be implemented around the world. It could complement the existing network of ground-based seismometers and tsunami-monitoring buoys to make the detection of submarine earthquakes and tsunamis much faster in many cases."
The cable networks work through the use of lasers that send pulses of information through glass fibers bundled within the cables to deliver data at rates faster than 200,000 kilometers per second to receivers at the other end. To make optimal use of the cables—that is, to transfer as much information as possible across them—one of the things operators monitor is the polarization of the light that travels within the fibers. Like other light that passes through a polarizing filter, laser light is polarized—meaning, its electric field oscillates in just one direction rather than any which way. Controlling the direction of the electric field can allow multiple signals to travel through the same fiber simultaneously. At the receiving end, devices check the state of polarization of each signal to see how it has changed along the path of the cable to make sure that the signals are not getting mixed.
In their work, the researchers focused on the Curie Cable, a submarine fiber optic cable that stretches more than 10,000 kilometers along the eastern edge of the Pacific Ocean from Los Angeles to Valparaiso, Chile. (Although Zhan says the technique could be used on many of the hundreds of submarine cables that criss-cross the globe.)
On land, all sorts of disturbances, such as changes in temperature and even lightning strikes, can change the polarization of light traveling through fiber optic cables. Because the temperature in the deep ocean remains nearly constant and because there are so few disturbances there, the change in polarization from one end of the Curie Cable to the other remains quite stable over time, Zhan and his colleagues found.
However, during earthquakes and when storms produce large ocean waves, the polarization changes suddenly and dramatically, allowing the researchers to easily identify such events in the data.
Currently, when earthquakes occur miles offshore, it can take minutes for the seismic waves to reach land-based seismometers and even longer for any tsunami waves to be verified. Using the new technique, the entire length of a submarine cable acts as a single sensor in a hard-to-monitor location. Polarization can be measured as often as 20 times per second. That means that if an earthquake strikes close to a particular area, a warning could be delivered to the potentially affected areas within a matter of seconds.
During the nine months of testing reported in the new study (between December 2019 and September 2020), the researchers detected about 20 moderate-to-large earthquakes along the Curie Cable, including the magnitude-7.7 earthquake that took place off of Jamaica on January 28, 2020.
Although no tsunamis were detected during the study, the researchers were able to detect changes in polarization produced by ocean swells that originated in the Southern Ocean. They believe the changes in polarization observed during those events were caused by pressure changes along the seafloor as powerful waves traveled past the cable. "This means we can detect ocean waves, so it is plausible that one day we will be able to detect tsunami waves," says Zhan.
Zhan and his colleagues at Caltech are now developing a machine learning algorithm that would be able to determine whether detected changes in polarization are produced by earthquakes or ocean waves rather than some other change to the system, such as a ship or crab moving the cable. They expect that the entire detection and notification process could be automated to provide critical information in addition to the data already collected by the global network of land-based seismometers and the buoys in the Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART) system, operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Data Buoy Center.
The new Science paper is titled "Optical polarization-based seismic and water wave sensing on transoceanic cables."
#FAO; #multilingualElearning; #GenderEquality; #ClimateChange; #Fisheries; #Malnutrition; #SoilSustainability; #LandSustainability; #Poverty
FAO/Canadian-Media: 2020 was a particular year and one in which we spent more time online than ever. From virtual meetings to e-birthday parties, our participation in online activities soared – including internet learning. The benefits are many: you can study what you like, when you like, wherever you like. And if you are looking for new courses to get those brain synapses going, you should check out FAO’s extensive catalogue of online, completely free, courses!
FAO e-learning Courses. Image credit: FAO
The FAO eLearning Academy offers multilingual e-learning courses on a variety of topics from food security and nutrition to socio-economic development and sustainable management of natural resources. These courses are created and peer reviewed by a wide range of experts to ensure content accuracy, quality and coherence.
So go ahead and take advantage of them! What topics are you interested in?
Ensuring gender equality in agri-food systems
Women are vital to the agricultural sector. They produce crops, tend to livestock, collect water, gather firewood and sell produce. However, their important roles are often overlooked. If we want more sustainable food systems, we need to start acknowledging and propelling the role of women. But where to start? Well, the Developing gender-sensitive value chains course is as good a place as any!
This course covers all the basics, from the FAO gender-sensitive value chain framework, to how to conduct a gender-sensitive analysis of agrifood value chains. It also discusses the best way to address gender-based constraints in the agricultural sector and provide women and men with equal opportunities.
Mitigating the impacts of climate change on fisheries
The fisheries and aquaculture sector is very valuable, providing many populations with nutritious food and generating income for millions around the world. But climate change is having a big impact, with shifting ocean currents and warming waters changing the distribution of fish stocks and altering the structure of ecosystems. If you’re interested in knowing more, the Climate-smart fisheries course is for you.
It includes general facts about the fisheries and aquaculture sector, the main impacts and implications of climate change on it and the main measures we can take to ensure that fisheries and aquaculture are climate-smart.
Promoting school meals to prevent malnutrition in children
School meals are a key way of preventing malnutrition in children, and governments and development actors are increasingly recognizing their importance and value. The benefits of FAO’s Home-Grown School Feeding (HGSF) programs go beyond education and nutrition to also improving the livelihoods of smallholder famers and strengthening local communities.
The Home-Grown School Feeding course goes into detail about planning these programs and ensuring that they are integrated into national contexts, offering different design and implementation options, including models for linking HGSF to local agriculture.
Improving nutrition through sustainable food chains
With growing populations, expanding cities and climate change negatively affecting agricultural land, it is more important than ever that we develop food chains in a sustainable way. The Sustainable Food Chains for Nutrition course aims to equip project designers and managers with the concepts, principles and tools they need to leverage value chain approaches to improve nutrition through agriculture and food systems.
Managing soil and land sustainably
Soils are a highly valuable natural resource, supporting biodiversity, food production, human health and regulating greenhouse gas emissions. But they are also finite - when soil degrades, it is not recoverable within a human lifespan. The Climate-smart soil and land management course focuses on protecting soils and farming sustainably. It provides technical knowledge and examines how wide-scale implementation of climate-smart soil and land management practices can help mitigate climate change and enhance adaptation to its impacts.
Reducing poverty in rural areas
Most poor people live in rural areas of developing countries, so rural development plays an important part in ending poverty. The Reducing rural poverty: policies and approaches course is perfect for brushing up your knowledge on this topic, giving an overview of rural development approaches since the 1950s including modernisation, the Green Revolution, Local Economic Development as well as regional approaches. It also highlights policy areas where interventions are needed in order to achieve empowerment, economic inclusion and resilience building.
Learners from all around the globe and staff from a variety of institutions have taken FAO’s courses – and now you can too! Head over to FAO’s eLearning academy and have a browse of the catalogue. You’ll boost your knowledge and get a certificate to add to your CV – or even put on your wall!
#Russia; #Archaeology; #BurialGround; #ElkToothOrnaments; #UnivOfHelsinki; #Research
Russia/Canadian-Media: A remote burial ground on the island of Yuzhniy Oleniy Ostrov in Lake Onega in the Republic of Karelia, Russia was discovered roughly 8,200 years ago by the archaeologists where men, women and children of varying ages were buried in outfits decorated with elk tooth ornaments.
A total of 90 elk teeth were placed next to the hips and thighs of the body in grave 127, possibly attached to a garment resembling an apron. There were elk teeth pendants also on the waist. Red ochre had been sprinkled on top of the deceased. Credit: Tom Bjorklund
While wearing a shark tooth on a necklace might be common today, our ancestors were wearing jewelry fashioned out of elk teeth
Curious to find out who the people buried in outfits decorated with elk tooth ornaments were, and what the pendants meant to them, a study headed by archaeologist Kristiina Mannermaa, University of Helsinki analyzed the manufacturing technique of a total of more than 4,000 tooth ornaments or the way in which the teeth had been processed for attachment or suspension.
The results were surprising, as practically all of the teeth had been processed identically by making one or more small grooves at the tip of the root, which made tying the pendants easier. In fact, Kristiina Mannermaa calls the people found in the burial site the people of grooved elk tooth pendants.
"Interestingly, the grooves were not always made on the broadest side of the tooth, which would be the easiest option. In many graves, the grooves are on the thin side of the tooth where the unstable position of the tooth makes them harder to do. The artisan may have resorted to this method in order to tie them in a specific position," researcher Riitta Rainio from the University of Helsinki noted.
"Even though there are pendants made of beaver and bear teeth in the graves, the share of elk teeth in them is overwhelming," Mannermaa says.
The highest number of elk teeth were found in the graves of young adult women and men, the lowest in those of children and elderly people. In other words, elk tooth ornaments were in one way or another linked to age, possibly specific to the peak reproductive years.
Elk, being the most important animal in the ideology and beliefs of the prehistorical hunter-gatherers of the Eurasian forest zone, and their limited availability made elk teeth a valuable material to ancient hunters. Elks were not brought down very often, and not all members of the community contributed to hunting.
In addition to Mannermaa, and Riitta Rainio from the University of Helsinki, this study was also contributed by Evgeniy Yurievich Girya and Dmitriy Gerasimov from Peter the Great's Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography.
According to the study published in the journal Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, young men and women were the most common owners of the elk teeth.
The researchers believe this may have been an attempt from the young people to signify fertility among potential mates.
#BC; #VictoriaPEH; #Victorian&EarlyEdwardianObjects; #KellyBlack; #CanadaParks; #ConservationOfHistoricPlacesInCanada
British Columbia/Canadian-Media: An unexpected brick pathway in the property's gardens that sheds light on Victorian-era life had been revealed during restoration work at Victoria's Point Ellice House (PEH), PEH museum reports said.
Point Ellice House Museum and Gardens. Image credit: Twitter Handle
Constructed between 1861 and 1862, Point Ellice House, the national and provincial historic site is one of the oldest homes in the city known as one of the best preserved examples of an Italianate villa-style design home full of one of the North America's largest collections of late Victorian and early Edwardian objects in their original setting.
Point Ellice House is surrounded by elaborate gardens containing an orchard and a well with the garden being used for food production and cut flowers.
While restoring the kitchen garden on the property which had begun earlier in the year, before the pandemic, a very elaborate brick pathway with two different paths intersecting each other was revealed, said Kelly Black the museum's executive director.
Brick pathway unearthed. Image credit: Twitter handle of PEH.
Besides century-old bricks, some of which came from the historic Baker and Son's Brickyard, pieces of pottery fragments, glass, animal bones and bits of metal that provide additional context to life during the Victorian era were found.
PEH being a heritage site, the restoration work was done according to Parks Canada's Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada.
"Anytime you uncover something you didn't expect to be there, it's like buried treasure, even if they are just bricks...essentially meant taking each brick up, brick by brick, and placing it just adjacent to where the path would be so we could lay them down as we found them, essentially," said Black.
It means carefully recording the context of every brick found and preserving its place in the garden.
The museum being closed at present due to COVID-19, the site can only be seen through pictures for now. Black said that he hopes it will be able to reopen in May.
#Norway; #MeltingIcePatch; #NorwayJotunheimenMountains; #AncientArrows; #reindeerAntlers
Norway/Canadian-Media: A team of researchers affiliated with a host of institutions in Norway and one in the U.K., has unveiled their findings after collecting and studying a very large number of ancient arrows they found near a melting ice patch in Norway's Jotunheimen Mountains, published in the journal The Holocene, phys.org reports said.
An arrow from c. AD 700 as it was found lying on the stones in the scree, close to the melting ice. Image Credit: Innlandet Fylkeskommune
In their paper published in the journal The Holocene, the group describes how they kept their research secret to avoid the possibility of others contaminating the site and what they have learned about the arrows thus far.Back in 2006, archeologist Reidar Marstein found an ancient shoe lying near a melting ice patch (which subsequent recent has shown to have formed approximately around 5600BC) in the Jotunheimen Mountains.
The shoe was initially believed to have been from the Viking era, but subsequent study showed it to be approximately 3,300 years old. That led the researchers to further investigate the site. They discovered that the area was littered with arrows used by hunters thousands of years ago. That set off a research project that involved detailing the location of each arrow found and then the study of it that followed. To date, the team has found 68 arrows at the site, dating from the Stone Age up to the Middle Ages—the oldest has been dated to 6,000 years ago, which they note is approximately 800 years before Ötzi.
The researchers note that the ice patch is very nearly a glacier and thus is quite large—but not nearly as large as it once was. Global warming has been melting the patch and as that has occurred material once frozen inside the patch has been exposed. The researchers have found most of the arrows on the ground next to the ice patch, which has led to degradation due to exposure to the elements. But they have also found several arrows laying on top of the ice, an indication that they have only recently been exposed. They note that while some of the arrows found on top of the ice were in good condition, many were not, suggesting they had been degraded due to ice movement inside the patch—and perhaps exposure due to prior melting of the patch.
The researchers have also found reindeer antlers and bones and other biological matter but have been surprised by how few of them have been revealed as the ice melts.