#London&GermanResearcers; #Rainforests; #SouthPole; #WarmWeather
London (United Kingdom), Apr 1 (Canadian-Media): Evidence of rainforests found by researchers near the South Pole 90 million years ago is suggestive of exceptionally warm climate at the time, phys.org/news reports said.
Map of the drill site and how to continents were arranged 90 million years ago.
Image Credit: Alfred-Wegener-Institut
Analysis of the preserved roots from forest soil discovered by a team from the UK and Germany from the Cretaceous period within 900 km of the South Pole shows that the world at that time was a lot warmer than previously thought.
An international team of researchers led by geoscientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research in Germany and including Imperial College London researchers conducted the discovery and analysis. Their findings are published Apr 1 in Nature.
Co-author Professor Tina van de Flierdt, from the Department of Earth Science & Engineering at Imperial, said: "The preservation of this 90-million-year-old forest is exceptional, but even more surprising is the world it reveals. Even during months of darkness, swampy temperate rainforests were able to grow close to the South Pole, revealing an even warmer climate than we expected."
The work also suggests that the carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere were higher than expected during the mid-Cretaceous period, 115-80 million years ago, challenging climate models of the period.
Professor Tina van de Flierdt and Dr Johann Klages work on the sample of ancient soil. Credit: T. Ronge, Alfred-Wegener-Institut
The mid-Cretaceous was the heyday of the dinosaurs but was also the warmest period in the past 140 million years, with temperatures in the tropics as high as 35 degrees Celsius and sea level 170 metres higher than today.
However, little was known about the environment south of the Antarctic Circle at this time. Now, researchers have discovered evidence of a temperate rainforest in the region, such as would be found in New Zealand today. This was despite a four-month polar night, meaning for a third of every year there was no life-giving sunlight at all.
The presence of the forest suggests average temperatures were around 12 degrees Celsius and that there was unlikely to be an ice cap at the South Pole at the time.
The evidence for the Antarctic forest comes from a core of sediment drilled into the seabed near the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers in West Antarctica. One section of the core, that would have originally been deposited on land, caught the researchers' attention with its strange colour.
The team CT-scanned the section of the core and discovered a dense network of fossil roots, which was so well preserved that they could make out individual cell structures. The sample also contained countless traces of pollen and spores from plants, including the first remnants of flowering plants ever found at these high Antarctic latitudes.
Illustration of the Antarctic rainforest. Credit: Alfred-Wegener-Institut/James McKay
To reconstruct the environment of this preserved forest, the team assessed the climatic conditions under which the plants' modern descendants live, as well as analysing temperature and precipitation indicators within the sample.
They found that the annual mean air temperature was around 12 degrees Celsius; roughly two degrees warmer than the mean temperature in Germany today. Average summer temperatures were around 19 degrees Celsius; water temperatures in the rivers and swamps reached up to 20 degrees; and the amount and intensity of rainfall in West Antarctica were similar to those in today's Wales.
To get these conditions, the researchers conclude that 90 million years ago the Antarctic continent was covered with dense vegetation, there were no land-ice masses on the scale of an ice sheet in the South Pole region, and the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere was far higher than previously assumed for the Cretaceous.
Lead author Dr. Johann Klages, from the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, said: "Before our study, the general assumption was that the global carbon dioxide concentration in the Cretaceous was roughly 1000 ppm. But in our model-based experiments, it took concentration levels of 1120 to 1680 ppm to reach the average temperatures back then in the Antarctic."
#FossilMolluskShells; #lateCretaceous; #EarthScience; #photosyntheticSymbionts; #AncientReefBuilders
New York, Mar 09 (Canadian-Media): Earth turned faster at the end of the time of the dinosaurs than it does today, rotating 372 times a year, compared to the current 365, according to a new study of fossil mollusk shells from the late Cretaceous. This means a day lasted only 23 and a half hours, according to the new study in AGU's journal Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology, phys.org/news reports said.
Fossil rudist bivalves (Vaccinites) from the Al-Hajar Mountains, United Arab Emirates. Credit: Wikipedia, Wilson44691 – Own work, Public Domain
The ancient mollusk, from an extinct and wildly diverse group known as rudist clams, grew fast, laying down daily growth rings. The new study used lasers to sample minute slices of shell and count the growth rings more accurately than human researchers with microscopes.
The growth rings allowed the researchers to determine the number of days in a year and more accurately calculate the length of a day 70 million years ago. The new measurement informs models of how the Moon formed and how close to Earth it has been over the 4.5-billion-year history of the Earth-Moon gravitational dance.
The new study also found corroborating evidence that the mollusks harbored photosynthetic symbionts that may have fueled reef-building on the scale of modern-day corals.
The high resolution obtained in the new study combined with the fast growth rate of the ancient bivalves revealed unprecedented detail about how the animal lived and the water conditions it grew in, down to a fraction of a day.
"We have about four to five datapoints per day, and this is something that you almost never get in geological history. We can basically look at a day 70 million years ago. It's pretty amazing," said Niels de Winter, an analytical geochemist at Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the lead author of the new study.
Climate reconstructions of the deep past typically describe long term changes that occur on the scale of tens of thousands of years. Studies like this one give a glimpse of change on the timescale of living things and have the potential to bridge the gap between climate and weather models.
Chemical analysis of the shell indicates ocean temperatures were warmer in the Late Cretaceous than previously appreciated, reaching 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in summer and exceeding 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) in winter. The summer high temperatures likely approached the physiological limits for mollusks, de Winter said.
"The high fidelity of this data-set has allowed the authors to draw two particularly interesting inferences that help to sharpen our understanding of both Cretaceous astrochronology and rudist palaeobiology," said Peter Skelton, a retired lecturer of palaeobiology at The Open University and a rudist expert unaffiliated with the new study.
The new study analyzed a single individual that lived for over nine years in a shallow seabed in the tropics—a location which is now, 70-million-years later, dry land in the mountains of Oman.
Torreites sanchezi mollusks look like tall pint glasses with lids shaped like bear claw pastries. The ancient mollusks had two shells, or valves, that met in a hinge, like asymmetrical clams, and grew in dense reefs, like modern oysters. They thrived in water several degrees warmer worldwide than modern oceans.
In the late Cretaceous, rudists like T. sanchezi dominated the reef-building niche in tropical waters around the world, filling the role held by corals today. They disappeared in the same event that killed the non-avian dinosaurs 66 million years ago.
". There's nothing like it living today," de Winter said. "In the late Cretaceous especially, worldwide most of the reef builders are these bivalves. So they really took on the ecosystem building role that the corals have nowadays."
The new method focused a laser on small bits of shell, making holes 10 micrometers in diameter, or about as wide as a red blood cell. Trace elements in these tiny samples reveal information about the temperature and chemistry of the water at the time the shell formed. The analysis provided accurate measurements of the width and number of daily growth rings as well as seasonal patterns. The researchers used seasonal variations in the fossilized shell to identify years.
The new study found the composition of the shell changed more over the course of a day than over seasons, or with the cycles of ocean tides. The fine-scale resolution of the daily layers shows the shell grew much faster during the day than at night
"This bivalve had a very strong dependence on this daily cycle, which suggests that it had photosymbionts," de Winter said. "You have the day-night rhythm of the light being recorded in the shell."
This result suggests daylight was more important to the lifestyle of the ancient mollusk than might be expected if it fed itself primarily by filtering food from the water, like modern day clams and oysters, according to the authors. De Winter said the mollusks likely had a relationship with an indwelling symbiotic species that fed on sunlight, similar to living giant clams, which harbor symbiotic algae.
"Until now, all published arguments for photosymbiosis in rudists have been essentially speculative, based on merely suggestive morphological traits, and in some cases were demonstrably erroneous. This paper is the first to provide convincing evidence in favor of the hypothesis," Skelton said, but cautioned that the new study's conclusion was specific to Torreites and could not be generalized to other rudists.
De Winter's careful count of the number of daily layers found 372 for each yearly interval. This was not a surprise, because scientists know days were shorter in the past. The result is, however, the most accurate now available for the late Cretaceous, and has a surprising application to modeling the evolution of the Earth-Moon system.
The length of a year has been constant over Earth's history, because Earth's orbit around the Sun does not change. But the number of days within a year has been shortening over time because days have been growing longer. The length of a day has been growing steadily longer as friction from ocean tides, caused by the Moon's gravity, slows Earth's rotation.
The pull of the tides accelerates the Moon a little in its orbit, so as Earth's spin slows, the Moon moves farther away. The moon is pulling away from Earth at 3.82 centimeters (1.5 inches) per year. Precise laser measurements of distance to the Moon from Earth have demonstrated this increasing distance since the Apollo program left helpful reflectors on the Moon's surface.
But scientists conclude the Moon could not have been receding at this rate throughout its history, because projecting its progress linearly back in time would put the Moon inside the Earth only 1.4 billion years ago. Scientists know from other evidence that the Moon has been with us much longer, most likely coalescing in the wake of a massive collision early in Earth's history, over 4.5 billion years ago. So the Moon's rate of retreat has changed over time, and information from the past, like a year in the life of an ancient clam, helps researchers reconstruct that history and model of the formation of the moon.
Because in the history of the Moon, 70 million years is a blink in time, de Winter and his colleagues hope to apply their new method to older fossils and catch snapshots of days even deeper in time.
#Kenya; #GivePower; #NGOs; #AccessToCleanWater; #SolarPowerTechnology
Kenya, Mar 08 (Canadian-Media): Give Power is one of the most active non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are trying to fight for access to clean water with their main mission to install solar power technology that can help the communities get access to clean water, media reports said.
Give Power. Image credit: Twitter
Before the installation of Give Power, the inhabitants of Kiunga had to travel one hour each day to reach a water source which was used also by animals and full of parasites leading to spread of diseases and dehydration in very hot and rural areas.
Kenya and the village named Kiunga, managed to install a solar-powered desalination system to transforms ocean water into drinkable water and can produce around 70 thousand liters of water, sufficient for 35 people per day.
Desalination is a process which required lots of energy to separate salt and minerals from the water through a membrane to which many chemicals had been added.
An alternative solution to this problem was found by Give Power through their solar water farms by the use of solar panels, Tesla batteries, and water pumps.
Another advantage offered by this technology is that the final product is free of saline residues which pollute the environment.
Initiatives like Give Power are a boon to 2.2 billion people around the world who do not have access to drinking water and 4.2 billion can’t access safely managed sanitation services, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
#Virginia, #microfossils; #oldestGreenSeaweeds
Virginia (United States), Feb 24 (Canadian-Media): Virginia Tech paleontologists have made a remarkable discovery in China: 1 billion-year-old micro-fossils of green seaweeds that could be related to the ancestor of the earliest land plants and trees that first developed 450 million years ago, phys./news reports said.
A photo of a green seaweed fossil dating back 1 billion years. The image was captured using a microscope as the fossil itself is 2 millimeters long, roughly the size of a flea. The dark color of this fossil was created by adding a drop of mineral oil to the rock in which it's embedded, to create contrast.
Image Credit: Virginia Tech
The micro-fossil seaweeds—a form of algae known as Proterocladus antiquus—are barely visible to the naked eyed at 2 millimeters in length, or roughly the size of a typical flea. Professor Shuhai Xiao said the fossils are the oldest green seaweeds ever found. They were imprinted in rock taken from an area of dry land—formerly ocean—near the city of Dalian in the Liaoning Province of northern China. Previously, the earliest convincing fossil record of green seaweeds were found in rock dated at roughly 800 million years old.
The findings—led by Xiao and Qing Tang, a post-doctoral researcher, both in the Department of Geosciences, part of the Virginia Tech College of Science—are featured in the latest issue of Nature Ecology & Evolution (link not active until embargo lifts). "These new fossils suggest that green seaweeds were important players in the ocean long before their land-plant descendants moved and took control of dry land," Xiao said.
"The entire biosphere is largely dependent on plants and algae for food and oxygen, yet land plants did not evolve until about 450 million years ago," Xiao said. "Our study shows that green seaweeds evolved no later than 1 billion years ago, pushing back the record of green seaweeds by about 200 million years. What kind of seaweeds supplied food to the marine ecosystem?"
Shuhai said the current hypothesis is that land plants—the trees, grasses, food crops, bushes, even kudzu—evolved from green seaweeds, which were aquatic plants. Through geological time—millions upon millions of years—they moved out of the water and became adapted to and prospered on dry land, their new natural environment. "These fossils are related to the ancestors of all the modern land plants we see today."
However, Xiao added the caveat that not all geobiologists are on the same page—that debate on the origins of green plants remains debated. "Not everyone agrees with us; some scientists think that green plants started in rivers and lakes, and then conquered the ocean and land later," added Xiao, a member of the Virginia Tech Global Change Center.
There are three main types of seaweed: brown (Phaeophyceae), green (Chlorophyta), and red (Rhodophyta), and thousands of species of each kind. Fossils of red seaweed, which are now common on ocean floors, have been dated as far back as 1.047 billion years old.
"There are some modern green seaweeds that look very similar to the fossils that we found," Xiao said. "A group of modern green seaweeds, known as siphonocladaleans, are particularly similar in shape and size to the fossils we found."
Photosynthetic plants are, of course, vital to the ecological balance of the planet because they produce organic carbon and oxygen through photosynthesis, and they provide food and the basis of shelter for untold numbers of mammals, fish, and more. Yet, going back 2 billion years, Earth had no green plants at all in oceans, Xiao said.
It was Tang who discovered the micro-fossils of the seaweeds using an electronic microscope at Virginia Tech's campus and brought it to Xiao's attention. To more easily see the fossils, mineral oil was dripped onto the fossil to create a strong contrast.
"These seaweeds display multiple branches, upright growths, and specialized cells known as akinetes that are very common in this type of fossil," he said. "Taken together, these features strongly suggest that the fossil is a green seaweed with complex multicellularity that is circa 1 billion years old. These likely represent the earliest fossil of green seaweeds. In short, our study tells us that the ubiquitous green plants we see today can be traced back to at least 1 billion years."
According to Xiao and Tang, the tiny seaweeds once lived in a shallow ocean, died, and then became "cooked" beneath a thick pile of sediment, preserving the organic shapes of the seaweeds as fossils. Many millions of years later, the sediment was then lifted up out of the ocean and became the dry land where the fossils were retrieved by Xiao and his team, which included scientists from Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology in China.
#Ecology; #BirdMigration; #MPYC; #EnergyEfficiency
New York, Feb 19 (Canadian-Media): Neither wind, nor rain—nor massive sheets of ice—have kept Earth's birds from their appointed rounds of migrating to better climes, according to a new study, phys.org/news reports said.
Bird migration. Image credit: CCO Public Domain
That's the conclusion of a new study from the Max Planck-Yale Center for Biodiversity Movement and Global Change (MPYC), which simulated global bird migrations during scenarios of past climate conditions. The researchers said that, in the Americas in particular, migrating birds successfully maneuvered vastly changing landscapes in the past 50,000 years.
"Our simulations predict that bird migration worldwide has remained relatively constant over this period, suggesting an origin for this phenomenon that is older than the glacial cycles of recent Earth history," said first author Marius Somveille, a former MPYC researcher who is starting a postdoctoral position at Colorado State University.
Yet there has been regional variation in migrating birds' response to climate change, the researchers said. In the Americas, for example, there has been a larger increase in the distances that birds have migrated over the past 50,000 years, compared with other parts of the world.
"In the last ice age, up to about 18,000 years ago, North America had an ice sheet that covered a large part of the continent and prevented bird species from living there," said Yale's Walter Jetz, senior author of the study, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and co-director of MPYC.
"This ice sheet retreated and birds colonized the land—and those birds were likely highly migratory, as seasonality in this area was pronounced. Our simulations suggest that toward the present this part of the world has seen both migratory distances and migration activity significantly increase," he said.
The study appears in the journal Nature Communications.
Using existing data about the global distribution of migratory birds, the researchers created a model that predicted migrations based on energy efficiency: They positioned each species' breeding and non-breeding ranges in a way that accounted for the availability of food and how much energy birds would reasonably expend during migration.
To estimate migration activity far in the past, the researchers applied their model to reconstructions of past climate conditions.
Co-author and MPYC co-director Martin Wikelski of the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior said the findings may be of use to conservationists and policymakers because the simulations "have the potential to inform predictions of how future climate change will impact bird migrations."
#AnimalRemains; #SaharanEnvironment; #catfish; #Tilapia; #TakarkorirockShelter; #HistoryMuseumOfBelgium; #SaharanTadrartAcacusMountains
Belgium, Feb 19 (Canadian-Media): Catfish and tilapia make up many of the animal remains uncovered in the Saharan environment of the Takarkori rock shelter in southwestern Libya, according to a study published February 19, 2020 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Wim Van Neer from the the Natural History Museum in Belgium, Belgium and Savino di Lernia, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy, and colleagues, phys.org/news reports said.
View of Takarkori shelter from the west. Credit: Savino di Lernia, 2020
Today, the Saharan Tadrart Acacus mountains are windy, hot, and hyperarid; however, the fossil record shows that for much of the early and middle Holocene (10,200 to 4650 years BP), this region was humid and rich in water as well as life, with evidence of multiple human settlements and diverse fauna.
Rock shelters within the Tadrart Acacus preserve not only significant floral and faunal remains, but also significant cultural artifacts and rock art due to early Holocene occupation of these shelters. In this study, the authors worked with the Libyan Department of Antiquities in excavating parts of the Takarkori rock shelter to identify and date animal remains found at this site and investigate shifts in the abundance and type of these animal remains over time.
Fish remains made up almost 80 percent of the entire find overall, which numbered 17,551 faunal remains total (19 percent of these were mammal remains, with bird, reptile, mollusc, and amphibian remains the last 1.3 percent). All of the fish and most of the other remains were determined to be human food refuse, due to cut marks and traces of burning—the two fish genera at Takarkori were identified as catfish and tilapia.
Based on the relative dates for these remains, the amount of fish decreased over time (from 90 percent of all remains 10,200-8000 years BP versus only 40 percent of all remains 5900-4650 years BP) as the number of mammal remains increased, suggesting the inhabitants of Takarkori gradually focused more on hunting/livestock. The authors also found the proportion of tilapia specifically decreased more significantly over time, which may have been because catfish have accessory breathing organs allowing them to breathe air and survive in shallow, high-temperature waters—further evidence that this now-desert environment became less favorable to fish as the aridity increased.
The authors add: "This study reveals the ancient hydrographic network of the Sahara and its interconnection with the Nile, providing crucial information on the dramatic climate changes that led to the formation of the largest hot desert in the world. Takarkori rock shelter has once again proved to be a real treasure for African archaeology and beyond: a fundamental place to reconstruct the complex dynamics between ancient human groups and their environment in a changing climate."
#UnitedKingdom; #FreshwaterInsects; #Ecology; #Hydrology; #NERC
United Kingdom, Feb 17 (Canadian-Media): Many insects, mosses and lichens in the UK are bucking the trend of biodiversity loss, according to a comprehensive analysis of over 5,000 species led by UCL and the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH).
Spider. Image credit: CCO Public Domain
The researchers say their findings on UK biodiversity between 1970 and 2015, published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, may provide evidence that efforts to improve air and water quality could be paying off.
"By looking at long-term trends in the distribution of understudied species, we found evidence of concerning declines, but we also found that it's not all bad news. Some groups of species, particularly freshwater insects, appear to be undergoing a strong recovery," said the study's lead author, Dr. Charlie Outhwaite (UCL Centre for Biodiversity & Environment Research, UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, and the RSPB).
Funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the researchers analysed trends in the distribution of invertebrates (such as insects and spiders), bryophytes (such as mosses) and lichens over a 45-year period, to see whether they were following the same declining trends reported in better-studied groups such as mammals, birds and butterflies.
Across all 5,214 species surveyed, overall occupancy (distribution) was 11% higher in 2015 than in 1970. The researchers were not able to estimate the total numbers of each species, but gauged how well each species was doing by whether its geographic range was expanding or shrinking.
They found substantial variation between the different groups, and between individual species within each group. Among the four major groups studied, only one of them—terrestrial non-insect invertebrates (mainly spiders, centipedes and millipedes) - exhibited an overall trend of declining distribution (by 7% since 1970).
More positively, freshwater insects, such as mayflies, dragonflies and caddisflies, have undergone a strong recovery since the mid-1990s, recently surpassing 1970 levels following a 47% decline from 1970 to 1994. Mosses and lichens have also increased in average occupancy (distribution) by 36%, while terrestrial insects, such as ants and moths, exhibited a slight increase.
The data included over 24 million records, each identifying a sighting of a particular species in a particular location, sourced from numerous biological recording schemes. People from across the UK have been contributing to the recording schemes on a volunteer basis for decades.
While the volunteers used inconsistent methods to collect their records, having such a vast quantity of data enabled the researchers to analyse it effectively using occupancy modelling techniques.
"Our study demonstrates the power of citizen science, as anyone can contribute to impactful academic research. We couldn't have done this research without the hard work of thousands of volunteers who have contributed to recording schemes over the years," said Dr. Outhwaite.
While the study period only went back to 1970, other research suggests that many of the species studied would have been experiencing long-term declines dating back to the industrial revolution or further, due to pollution or habitat losses from agricultural expansion and urbanisation.
While they did not investigate the particular reasons for the declines and recoveries found in this study, the researchers say that it's likely that environmental protection initiatives are helping some species recover. Mosses and lichens are known to be susceptible to air pollution, while freshwater insects likely benefited from improvements in waste water treatment since the early 1990s.
#HumanDrivenCarbonEmissions, #WarmClimate; #ClimateChange; #Ecosystem
Dublin (Ireland), Feb 10 (Canadian-Media): The world is waking up to the fact that human-driven carbon emissions are responsible for warming our climate, driving unprecedented changes to ecosystems, and placing us on course for the sixth mass extinction event in Earth's history, phys.org/news reports said.
Geologists studying the Lower Jurassic (Pliensbachian) Belemnite Marl Member mudstone succession in Dorset, UK, showing orbitally paced variations of the sediment composition similar to the studied core in Wales. Image Credit: Dr Micha Ruhl
However, new research publishing this week in leading international journal PNAS, sheds fresh light on the complicated interplay of factors affecting global climate and the carbon cycle—and on what transpired millions of years ago to spark two of the most devastating extinction events in Earth's history.
Using chemical data from ancient mudstone deposits in Wales, an international team involving scientists from Trinity College Dublin discovered that periodic changes in the shape of Earth's orbit around the Sun were partly responsible for changes in the carbon-cycle and global climate during and in between the Triassic-Jurassic Mass Extinction (around 201 million years ago, when around 80% of the species on Earth disappeared forever) and the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event (around 183 million years ago).
In addition, volcanic activity released large amounts of greenhouse gases into the oceans and atmosphere at that point in time, which resulted in major global carbon cycle perturbations as well as global climate and environmental change.
Dr. Micha Ruhl, Assistant Professor in Sedimentology at Trinity, said:
"Our work shows that for the 18 million years or so in between the Triassic-Jurassic mass extinction and the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event, Earth's global carbon-cycle was in a constant state of change."
Eccentricity of the Earth's orbit around the Sun. The fluctuation between a nearly circular and elliptical orbit drives cyclic changes in the Earth's environment, including the global carbon cycle. Credit: Marisa Storm
"Periodic changes in the shape of Earth's orbit around the sun impacted on the amount of energy received by Earth from the sun, which in turn impacted climatic and environmental processes, as well as the carbon-cycle, on local, regional and global scales."
"Although this phenomenon is well known for having caused the glacial cycles in more recent times, the present study shows that these external forcing mechanisms on Earth's systems were also operating, and controlling Earth's carbon cycle in the distant past, even during non-glacial times when Earth was marked by hot-house climate conditions."
Present-day orbital configurations and solar system processes should have resulted in a future return to glacial conditions. However, anthropogenic carbon release will likely have disrupted this natural process, causing rapid global warming, rather than a steady return to cooler climates.
#MinnesotaOffersIncentives; #BeefriendlyWildFlowers; #Bumblebee; #ExtinctionOfSpecies;
Minnesota (United States), Feb 4 (Canadian-Media): An incentive of nearly a million dollar has been made by the state of Minnesota, United States for people to transform their lawns into bee-friendly wildflowers, clover and native grasses, media reports said.
Bumblebee. Image credit: Facebook
With a goal to provide food sources for pollinators of all kinds, and specifically to bumblebee, which is on the brink of extinction, the citizens are being urged by the the state to stop spraying herbicide, stop mowing so often so that their lawns re-wild into a more natural state.
Importance of bumblebees to the region is evident by the research of James Wolfin, a bee habitat researcher at University of Minnesota, which says that bumblebees vibrate at frequency that unlocks pollen not reached by other insects.
Pollinators have become more dependent on urban and suburban lawn flowers due to the loss of native prairies and forests across the country.
Wolfin's research is focused on bee lawns, which are grassy yards with small flowers such as Dutch white clover, creeping thyme, self heal, ground plum and dandelions.
Besides being excellent food source for bees, the flowers are both cheap to plant and easy to maintain.
“A pound of Dutch white clover is about $7 and it grows low enough that people wouldn’t even have to change the way they mow their lawn,” Wolfin
Around 55 of Minnesota’s 350 bee species depend on white clover alone, he notes.
“So just by not treating white clover like a weed and letting it grow in a yard provides a really powerful resource for nearly 20% of the bee species in the state,” Wolfin said.
The program is expected to begin in spring of 2020.
Citizens inhabiting bumblebee zones are eligible for grants up to $500, while people living in zones of secondary and tertiary importance to bees are eligible for $350 and $150 respectively.
#CropProtection; #GeneticallyEngineeredDiamondbackMoth; #PestControl
New York, Jan 29 (Canadian-Media): A newly published study reports a successful, first-ever open-field release of a self-limiting, genetically engineered diamondback moth, stating that it paves the way for an effective and sustainable approach to pest control, phys.org/news reports said.
Credit: CC0 Public Domain
The diamondback moth, also known as Plutella xylostella, is highly damaging to brassica crops such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and canola. This new strain of diamondback moth, developed by Oxitec Ltd, is modified to control pest diamondback moth in a targeted manner. The study showed the engineered strain had similar field behaviors to unmodified diamondback moths, with results offering promise for future protection of farmers' brassica crops.
The Cornell study was led by Professor Anthony Shelton in the Department of Entomology at Cornell University's AgriTech in New York and has been published in Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology.
Oxitec's self-limiting diamondback moth is modified to control its pest counterparts in the field. After release of males of this strain, they find and mate with pest females, but the self-limiting gene passed to offspring prevents female caterpillars from surviving. With sustained releases, the pest population is suppressed in a targeted, ecologically sustainable way. After releases stop, the self-limiting insects decline and disappear from the environment within a few generations.
The field test builds on previously published work in greenhouses by Professor Shelton and colleagues that demonstrated sustained releases of the self-limiting strain effectively suppressed the pest population and prevented resistance developing to an insecticide, a win-win situation for pest control.
"Our research builds on the sterile insect technique for managing insects that was developed back in the 1950s and celebrated by Rachel Carson in her book, Silent Spring," reports Professor Shelton. "Using genetic engineering is simply a more effiicient method to get to the same end."
Male moths as a crop protection solution
Employing field and laboratory testing, as well as mathematical modelling, the researchers gathered relevant information on the genetically engineered strain of diamondback moth, whose wild counterparts cause billions of dollars in damage. The study was the first in the world to release self-limiting agricultural insects into an open field.
"For the field study, we used the "mark-release-recapture" method, which has been used for decades to study insect movement in fields. Each strain was dusted with a fluorescent powder to mark each group before release, then captured in pheromone traps and identified by the powder color and a molecular marker in the engineered strain," explains Shelton.
The researchers were very pleased with the results of this comprehensive study.
"When released into a field, the self-limiting male insects behaved similarly to their non-modified counterparts in terms of factors that are relevant to their future application in crop protection, such as survival and distance travelled. In laboratory studies they competed equally well for female mates" reports Shelton. "Our mathematical models indicate that releasing the self-limiting strain would control a pest population without the use of supplementary insecticides, as was demonstrated in our greenhouse studies."
"This study demonstrates the immense potential of this exciting technology as a highly effective pest management tool, which can protect crops in an environmentally sustainable way and is self-limiting in the environment," says Dr. Neil Morrison, Oxitec's agriculture lead and study co-author.