Newsletter 222


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Newsletter 222

  1. 1. SOUTH AMERICA ENVIRONMENT, SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND HEALTH NEWSLETTER222 t h issue, March 4, 2013 In this issue: Earth Hour: March 23, 2013 At 8:30pm on Saturday, 23 March 2013, unite with millions of people around the globe while Earth Hour: March 23, switching off your lights for Earth Hour as a symbolic act of global unity. It is an opportunity for all 2013. of us to come together to celebrate, reflect on our actions and our impact on the environment, BRAZIL: Dengue Cases Almost Triple As and make a renewed commitment to preserving our planet. New Strain Spreads. Health: Peruvian We cannot continue to use the equivalent of 1.5 times the planet’s natural resources to support Engineers Develop a consumption patterns and we cannot afford to ignore the critical environmental challenges we are Device to Threat facing. We need to switch over to more sustainable ways of living and doing business. Our individual Glaucoma. actions have collective impact. Science: Scientists Reconstruct Russian In South Africa, most of our energy needs are supplied by polluting, finite sources such as coal, oil Meteor’s Path. and gas. Whether it is lighting and heating our homes, charging our phones or getting from place to Oceans: Seals Retrieve place, we all depend on energy. We must become aware of the kind of energy we use and the need New Data on Deep to switch to clean, renewable energy sources such as sun, wind and water. If we embrace the power Antarctic Waters. of nature rather than act against it, we can ensure sustainable energy supply into the future, while Conservation: preserving the health of the planet on which we depend. Beautiful Colors and Shapes of Undersea Creatures. WWF also aims to motivate and mobilise as many people to get involved and celebrate Earth Hour in whatever way best honours the planet. This year, an exciting online platform of ‘Things to do in Next events: the dark’ will offer a number of ideas for celebrating Earth Hour as well as local events around the country to choose from during the special March 22, 2013 hour of darkness. World Water Day March 23, 2013 WWF-SA encourages everyone to Earth Hour celebrate Earth Hour, whether out and April17-19, 2013 about or at home: maybe a braai with International Fair of friends, a candlelit dinner with a loved one Technologies Energy, or hosting a neighbourhood stargazing Santiago, Chile picnic? What will you be doing on April 22, 2013 Saturday, 23 March at 8:30pm, when the Earth Day lights are turned off in your home? June 5, 2013 World Environment Day July 10-12, 2013 Switch off your lights during Earth Hour Eolica, Buenos Aires, and switch over to sustainable ways of Argentina living beyond the hour. Read more: earth_hour/ The information contained herein was gathered from news sources from across the region, and the views expressed below do not necessarily reflect those of the Regional Environmental HUB Office or of our constituent posts. Addressees interested in sharing any ESTH-related events of USG interest are welcome to do so. For questions or comments, please contact us at * Free translation prepared by REO staff.
  2. 2. BRAZIL: Dengue Cases Almost Triple As New Strain SpreadsHealth authorities in Brazil say there has been a steep rise in the confirmed cases of dengue feverthis year. More than 200,000 people were infected in the first seven weeks of 2013 compared to70,000 in the same period last year, official figures suggest.The southern state of Mato Grosso do Sul has been hardest hit. Officials said the cases were likelyto rise as the rainy season increases the risk of reproduction of the mosquito which transmits thedisease. Health Minister Alexandre Padilha said that despite the higher incidence, the cases hadbeen less severe than those recorded last year. Aedes Aegypti. Photo by Marcos Teixeira de Freitas.He said 33 people had died from the flu-like disease in the first seven weeks of 2013 compared to (flickr user). Under Creative Commons License.41 last year. According to Mr Padilha, these figures showed that the authorities were followingthe right strategies in their fight against the fever. He said extra training given to health care professionals and improvements tothe network of basic care providers had clearly paid off.But Mr Padilha warned state authorities not to let down their guard as the rainy season could exacerbate the situation, with stand-ing water providing an ideal breeding ground for the mosquitoes carrying the disease. Apart from Mato Grosso do Sul, seven otherstates across southern and central Brazil have been affected by the epidemic.More than half of the cases have been caused by the DENV-4 strain of the virus, which was first detected in Brazil in 2011. MrPadilha said that because the strain was still relatively new to the country, more people were susceptible to infection.There are four known types of dengue fever. Once people are infected by one type, they become immune to that variation, but notto other strains.Read full article at: Peruvian Engineers Develop a Device to Treat Glaucoma* Engineers Carlos Ojeda and Gerardo Rojas from Piura University have developed an innovative device that can treat glaucoma effectively. They had the advice of Peruvian physicians and coordinated with doctors from the Polytechnic University of Madrid. The silicon device has three very small components: a plate, a tube and a valve. The device can be surgically implanted over the sclerotic part of the eye. “This is a simple design, both in size and in shape, and make surgery easier” says Ojeda. Also, it is biocompatible, guaranteeing that it will not be rejected by the human body.Peripheral Vision Loss in Glaucoma. Photo by Ambi The main element is the valve. This membrane helps to control the eye pressureOct (flickr user). Under Creative Commons License. when it reaches high levels (15mm mercury). At this pressure, the intraocular liq- uid can rise the valve and go through a tube to a plate. This mechanism assures aflow in one direction, avoiding return to the previous chamber, thus reducing the risk of hypotony (decrease of the muscle tone),produced by excessive drainage.The plate receives the intraocular liquid, forming a capsule between the sclerotic and the conjunctiva, which absorbs and drainsthis liquid.The plate counts on two orifices which allow the increase of reception capacity up to 70 microliters. “The orifices also help for theliquid film to be more plain to facilitate draining” says Ojeda.ECONOMIC BENEFITS. At the moment, these devices are not manufactured in Peru, and imported ones are expensive. However,manufacturing these devices locally would reduce their cost by half the amount of the international price,” points out Ernesto Ar-riola, project assistant.It is expected that this device will be ready for distribution by December of this year.Read more at:
  3. 3. S C I E N C E : C o l o m b i a n Scientists Reconstruct Russian Meteors Path By Joseph Serna Colombian scientists have reconstructed the interstellar path of a meteor that flamed across the Russian skyline this month and smashed into the countryside, leaving hun- dreds of people injured. The meteor, estimated to be about 45 feet across and weighing 10,000 tons, was flung toward Earth as it orbited around the sun. It wasn’t a declaration of war by bugs on Klendathu after all. Apparently, it was just a matter of time before it hit, researchers concluded in a study published this week on taken on February 23, 2013 Chelyabinsk, about 1500kilometers (930 miles) east of Moscow,by tonynetone (flickr user).Under Creative Commons License. The studys authors, from the University of Antioquia in Medellin, Colombia, triangu- lated the meteor’s position using landmarks, shadows and camera footage. They se-lected two points in the meteor’s path to calculate its trajectory: when it burned through the atmosphere and the light emittedgrew brightest, acting like a giant torch over the Russian sky, and when it exploded and blasted meteorites across the landscape.The researchers estimated the space rock’s height by measuring the shadow it cast on light poles seen in so many videos taken bydashboard-mounted cameras.Other data points included the lake near Chelyabinsk where a meteor fragment landed and left a huge hole in the ice, and the cen-ter of Korkino, a small town to the south, where video showed the meteor passing overhead.The Chelyabinsk meteor was an Apollo asteroid, the team concluded. Apollo asteroids are a class of asteroids with longer ellipticalorbits than Earth. When they pass between Earth and the sun, they cross our orbital path.The meteor struck Earth going about 40,000 mph, scientists estimated in the days after impact.Below is a video the team created of the meteor’s estimated orbit for the last four years.A copy of the paper is available here. A video of the meteors orbit compared to Earth and Mars is below. more at:,0,3601573.storyOCEANS: Seals Retrieve New Data on Deep Antarctic WatersTo learn more about "Antarctic bottom water" -- very dense, very deep layers ofwater beneath the southernmost parts of the planet -- scientists deployed a teamof elephant seals to retrieve hard-to-get data near the ocean floor. The data willhelp researchers understand how Antarctic bottom water affects the oceans circu-lation.The seals, which had been outfitted with head sensors, helped confirm the exis-tence of a fourth area of Antarctic bottom water, with the additional support ofsatellite data and underwater moorings. This new data could help with future cli-mate change modeling. "The seals went to an area of the coastline that no shipwas ever going to get to," said Guy Williams, of Antarctic Climate and EcosystemCRC in Tasmania, Australia, who co-authored the study.Twenty Southern Ocean elephant seals finished four data dives per day during the2011 study period, near east Antarcticas Davis Station."Several of the seals foraged on the continental slope as far down as 1,800 meters,punching through into a layer of this dense water cascading down the abyss," Wil-liams said in a statement. "They gave us very rare and valuable wintertime meas-urements of this process" (Pauline Askin, Reuters, Feb. 26).Read full article at: Photo by (flickr user). Under Creative Commons License.
  4. 4. CONSERVATION: Beautiful Colors and Shapes of Undersea Creatures Starfish or sea stars are echinoderms belonging to the class Aster- oidea. The names "starfish" and "sea star" essentially refer to members of the class Asteroidea. However, common usage fre- quently finds these names also applied to ophiuroids, which are correctly referred to as "brittle stars" or "basket stars". About 1,800 living species of starfish occur in all the worlds oceans, in- cluding the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic and Southern Ocean re- gions. Starfish occur across a broad depth range from the intertidal to abyssal depths of greater than 6,000 m (20,000 ft). Starfish are among the most familiar of marine animals found on the seabed. They typically have a central disc and five arms, though some species have many more arms than this. The aboralPhoto by Richard Ling. or upper surface may be smooth, granular or spiny, and is covered with overlapping plates. Many species are brightly coloured in vari-ous shades of red or orange, while others are blue, grey, brown, or drab. Starfish have tube feet operated by a hydrau-lic system and a mouth at the centre of the oral or lower sur-face. They are opportunistic feeders and are mostly predatorson benthic invertebrates. Several species having specializedfeeding behaviours, including suspension feeding and adapta-tions for feeding on specific prey. They have complex life cyclesand can reproduce both sexually and asexually. Most can regen-erate damaged or lost arms.About 1,600 living species of starfish are known. Echinodermsmaintain a delicate internal electrolyte balance in their bodiesand this is only possible in a marine environment. This meansstarfish occur in all of the Earths oceans, but are not found inany freshwater habitats. The greatest variety of species is foundin the tropical Indo-Pacific. Other areas known for their greatdiversity include the tropical-temperate regions around Austra- Photo by Thomas Quine.lia, the tropical East Pacific and the cold-temperate water of theNorth Pacific (California to Alaska). All starfish live on the seabed, but their larvae are planktonic, which allows them to disperse to new locations. Habitats range from tropical coral reefs, rocks, shell brash, gravel, mud, and sand to kelp for- ests, seagrass meadows and the deep-sea floor. Starfish and other echinoderms pump water directly into their bodies via the water vascular system. This makes them vulnerable to all forms of water pollution, as they have little ability to filter out the toxins and contaminants it contains. Oil spills and similar events often take a toll on echinoderm populations that carry far-reaching consequences for the ecosystem. Read more at: by Bruno Vellutini.