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228t h
issue, June 17, 2013
URUGUAY: Aves Uruguay to...
Yukiko Hirabayashi of the University of Tokyo and colleagues looked at the likely pattern of
hazard in 29 of the world’s g...
The wheels are based around a shape that fits inside a cube. They aren't quite a square, and
aren't quite circular, but ar...
A more accurate test for Down's syndrome which can also be given earlier in pregnancy than current checks
has been develop...
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Newsletter 228


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Newsletter 228

  1. 1. SOUTH AMERICA ENVIRONMENT, SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND HEALTH NEWSLETTER 228t h issue, June 17, 2013 URUGUAY: Aves Uruguay to Promote an Observatory of Natural Grasslands Aves Uruguay is a pioneer Uruguayan NGO dedicated to the study and conservation of birds. It plans to launch an Observatory of Natural Grasslands, for the diagnosis, evaluation and monitoring of the main natural ecosystem of this country. Aves Uruguay represents BirdLife International, a federation of over one hundred countries and their leading organizations dedicated to the study and conservation of birds. According to Inés Paullier, Aves Uruguay president, “birds act as a thermometer of the state of conservation of natural ecosystems”. The main concern of the biologists and agronomists who participate in this organization are the Uruguayan grasslands: “Natural grasslands are disappearing rapidly due to increased crop cultivation and continuous afforestation”, according to Victor Pereira, a board member of the organization. Natural grasslands are not only a shelter for endangered species, they are also the best possible ground for development of Uruguayan cattle-farming. “The role of natural grasslands is much more important than is commonly imagined: they sustain various eco-system services such as providing rich soil for agriculture, clean water for city dwellers, as well as regulating floods and droughts”. Thus stated Agronomist Ernesto Viglizzo, who was invited by Aves Uruguay, together with a team of qualified experts to develop an Index of Conservation of the Natural Grasslands - “Indice de Conservación de Pastizales Naturales” (ICP). The ICP is one of the tools that Aves Uruguay devised, within the framework of the Alliance for the Grasslands which groups together conservationists and rural farmers of the region. “The aim of the alliance is to reward those farmers who are protecting their grasslands, and continue to produce crops using their natural pastures to full advantage”, as explained by Nicolás Marchand, the coordinator of the Alliance for the Grasslands. The alliance has created a Seal to certify Grassland Beef, with a protocol that allows purchasers to check which ranches contribute toward the conservation of the environment and bird wildlife. Inés Paullier describes this forthcoming challenge of the organization as follows: “An Observatory would allow us to incorporate new technologies and the tools that we are creating thanks to our team and the joint work carried out in the region in the framework of the Alliance of the Grasslands, and especially thanks to the Inter-American Development Bank Project which has brought together the regional governments in their efforts to strive toward a consolidated policy of incentives”. The Observatory of Natural Grasslands is to be physically situated in Uruguay, although it would provide technology and evaluation services to the rest of the region, thanks to the network linking Aves Uruguay to those involved in sustainable rural production in the participating countries. Read more: 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.  URUGUAY: Aves Uruguay to Promote an Observatory of Natural Grasslands.  Climate Change: Could Mean Once a Century Floods Every 10 Years.  Health: B12 Deficiency.  Technology: Wheel Reinvented for Skateboards.  Conservation: Scientists Discover New Transfer Rout of Carbon into Waterways.  Health: Early Down’s Test “More Sensitive”  Science: Study Reveals How Birds Evolved.  June 24-27, 2013 REO in Sao Paulo, Brazil  June 28-29, 2013 Peru Green Build 2013 Expo & International Congress, Lima, Peru  July 10-12, 2013 Eolica, Buenos Aires, Argentina  August 19-23, 2013 10th Latin American Congress of Private Nature Reserves, Chile congreso-latino-agosto- 2013.html Next events: In this issue:
  2. 2. Yukiko Hirabayashi of the University of Tokyo and colleagues looked at the likely pattern of hazard in 29 of the world’s great river basins. They considered the risk in those places where greater numbers of people were settled, and used 11 global climate models to project flood dangers by the end of this century. They warn in their report published in Nature Climate Change, that the frequency of floods will increase in Southeast Asia, Peninsular India, eastern Africa and the northern half of the Andes of South America. More at stake. Conditions in northern and Eastern Europe – the scene of recent and current calamitous flooding – could get less hazardous, along with Anatolia, central Asia, North Amer- ica and southern South America. The predictions, of course, come with the usual caveat: that the real exposure to flooding will depend to a great extent on what governments finally decide to do about greenhouse emissions, how much the world warms, what water management or flood con- trol plans are put in place and on population growth in the regions at risk. But those lower latitude countries where both popula- tion and economic investment are on the increase will have more at stake in the decades to come, and should prepare for greater flood risks. Floods in the last three decades have claimed 200,000 lives and caused around $400 billion in economic damage: they have also cost an estimated three billion people their homes, farms, businesses and livestock. Great river basins. The most recent assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that overall, there was a “low confidence in projections of changes in fluvial floods. Confidence is low due to limited evidence and because the causes of regional changes are complex”. [...] “Major attention should be paid to low-latitude countries where flood frequency and population are both projected to increase.” Read more at: What do all of these diseases have in common? Alzheimer’s, dementia, cognitive decline and mem- ory loss (collectively referred to as “aging”), multiple sclerosis (MS) and other neurological disor- ders, mental illness (depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, psychosis), cardiovascular disease, learn- ing or developmental disorders in kids, autism spectrum disorder, autoimmune disease and immune dysregulation, cancer, male and female infertility? Answer: They can all mimic the signs and symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency. B12 deficiency. It is not a bizarre, mysterious disease. It’s written about in every medical textbook and its causes and effects are well-established in the scientific literature. However, B12 deficiency is far more common than most health care practitioners and the general public realize. Data from the Tufts University Framingham Offspring Study suggest that 40 percent of people between the ages of 26 and 83 have plasma B12 levels in the low normal range – a range at which many experience neurological symptoms. Most surprising to the researchers was the fact that low B12 levels were as common in younger people as they were in the elderly. That said, B12 deficiency has been esti- mated to affect about 40% of people over 60 years of age. It’s entirely possible that at least some of the symptoms we attribute to “normal” aging – such as memory loss, cognitive decline, decreased mobility, etc. – are at least in part caused by B12 deficiency. Why is B12 deficiency so under-diagnosed? B12 deficiency is often missed for two reasons. First, it’s not routinely tested by most physicians. Second, the low end of the laboratory reference range is too low. This is why most studies underestimate true levels of deficiency. Many B12 deficient people have so-called “normal” levels of B12. [...] Why is B12 deficiency so common? The absorption of B12 is complex and involves several steps – each of which can go wrong. Causes of B12 malabsorption include: intestinal dysbiosis, leaky gut and/or gut inflammation, atrophic gastrits or hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid), pernicious anemia (autoimmune condition), medications (especially PPIs and other acid-suppressing drugs), alcohol, exposure to nitrous oxide (during surgery or recreational use), This explains why B12 deficiency can occur even in people eating large amounts of B12-containing animal products. I Read full article at: CLIMATE CHANGE: Could Mean Once a Century Floods Every 10 Years By Tim Radford HEALTH: B12 Deficiency, a Silent Epidemic with Serious Consequences By Chris Kresser Photo by Banfield . Under Wikimedia Commons License. Photo by Saltanat. Under Wikimedia Commons License.
  3. 3. The wheels are based around a shape that fits inside a cube. They aren't quite a square, and aren't quite circular, but are made up of three strips, each of which create a helical shape when they roll. This forms a sine wave pattern where the wheels make contact with the ground. The creators say this results in less friction points on the ground to allow the wheel to roll faster than a traditional skateboard wheel and also allows for better handling in rough and wet terrain, which causes problems for normal wheels. The sine wave pattern also grants improved lateral grip, as the width of the wheel is able to be increased without adding any unnecessary friction, and thus, slowing down the board. It also provides three lips for stopping, where a traditional wheel only has one. Another interesting application of Shark Wheels is the ability to mix different hardnesses in the same wheel. The hardness of a skateboard wheel is measured in terms of durometers, and the three interlocking pieces of this particular wheel allows the rider to choose three different ones in each wheel, which grants extra customization in terms of grip and slide. Shark Wheel is seeking funding for its interesting new wheel design on Kickstarter and is offering a wide range of options for back- ers. Buyers looking to add the 70 mm wheels to an existing board can do so for a minimum pledge of $50 while the early bird spe- cial lasts. Once those are gone, the required pledge goes up to $55. The team has already reached its funding goal, so deliveries should start rolling by September 2013. The Kickstarter pitch below provides more information on the Shark Wheel and shows actual skateboarders trying them out. Read full article and watch the video at: Human activities such as deforestation may be driving more carbon into inland waterways than previously believed, creating a massive and little-studied carbon sink in lakes, rivers and coastal zones, according to a new study. The findings about leakage of carbon into the "land-ocean aquatic continuum," which incorporates most waterways between land and ocean, underscore the need for additional research about the movement of carbon through natural systems, according to the study, published this week in Nature Geoscience. The work also signals the need for additional examination of how the carbon in these waterways behaves in comparison to soils in terms of long-term sequestration, the study says. "For the first time, we have tried to quantify the extent to which humans are causing the transfer of carbon from the land," said Pierre Regnier, a professor at Université Libre de Bruxelles and lead author of the study. "They are accelerating the transfer." It will be important for future researchers to consider the carbon in reservoirs, lakes, streams, coastal zones, rivers and estuaries to ensure that estimates of global carbon stores are accurate, he said. About 50 percent of the carbon generated from burning fossil fuels remains in the atmosphere, Regnier explained. The other half is absorbed by land via forests and soils, and water. A Human-Induced Transfer. Previously, there had been an assumption that carbon flowed from land to sea as part of a "natural loop" of the carbon cycle with little interference from humans, the scientists said. Conventional wisdom dictated that the amount of carbon flowing from land into waterways like estuaries and lakes had changed little since preindustrial times. But in the new study, the scientists reported that the transfer of carbon into these waterways has increased by as much 1 billion tons annually since preindustrial times, largely because of deforestation, sewage water movements, weathering and other human-driven causes that push carbon out of soil and trees. About 40 percent of this carbon in the "land-ocean continuum" is emitted back into the atmos- phere as carbon dioxide, and about 50 percent is sequestered, they said. Roughly 10 percent of the carbon flowing through inland waterways actually makes it to the ocean, they said. One im- mediate repercussion of the research is that the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change does not consider the human-driven flux of carbon into the land-ocean continuum, Reg- nier said. Read full article at: TECHNOLOGY: Wheel Literally Reinvented, at Least for Skateboards By Dave LeClair Photo credit. Photo by cfree14. Under Wikimedia Commons License. CLIMATE CHANGE: Scientists Discover New Transfer Route of Carbon into Waterways By Christa Marshall
  4. 4. A more accurate test for Down's syndrome which can also be given earlier in pregnancy than current checks has been developed, say experts. A study of 1,000 pregnancies found the test of foetal DNA in maternal blood can show a baby is "almost cer- tainly" affected or unaffected by Down's. The King's College London team behind it said it could help women decide if they needed further, invasive tests. The Down's Syndrome Association said the new test was not "imminent". Around 750 babies are born with Down's syndrome each year in the UK. The condition is caused by the presence of an extra copy of chromosome 21, which occurs by chance. 'Nearly diagnostic'. Women are currently tested between weeks 11 and 13 of pregnancy. They have an ultra- sound, during which a pocket of fluid at the back of a baby's neck - the nuchal translucency - is measured. Ba- bies with Down's syndrome tend to have more fluid than normal. 'Lip-service'. Next month, the professor and his team are to begin a two-year prospective study of 20,000 women in NHS hospitals to further as- sess the test. However it currently costs around £400, so Prof Nicolaides says - if the cost does not fall - it may be that the NHS could use the con- ventional test (which costs £180) for all pregnant women, then the foetal DNA test for those at a higher risk - perhaps 10-15% of all pregnancies. He said his aim was to offer women clearer information to allow them to make choices about how they should proceed. "It has been trendy to say we must involve patients in the decision-making process, but it has often been something we only pay lip-service to. "If the risk is say one in 250, how do they decide? When they have much more clarity, a clearer result, it is made easier." Carol Boys, chief executive of the Down's Syndrome Association (DSA) said: "The latest results from Prof Nicolaides and his team at King's College show that the use of an early non-invasive blood test that could be used throughout the national screening programme is still a fair way off. "The DSA considers it far more important at this point to focus on providing relevant, accurate and up-to-date information about Down's syndrome, delivered by midwives and associated health professionals, who have received our targeted training prior to any screening test. "We are currently seeking full funding to ensure that our Tell it Right, Start it Right training can be rolled out nationally in readiness for the time when the non- invasive diagnostic test in early pregnancy is a reality in the UK. "We do not believe that this is imminent." Read full article at: New research sheds light on why some birds have lost their penises over the course of evolution. Land fowl, such as chickens, have normally developing penises as early embryos, but only have rudimentary organs as adults. A study in Current Biology shows that these birds initiate a genetic "programme" during develop- ment that stops the budding penises from growing. The loss of the organ could have given hens more control over reproduction. Co-author Dr Martin Cohn, from the University of Florida in Gainesville, said: "Our discovery shows that reduction of the penis during bird evolution occurred by activation of a normal mechanism of programmed cell death in a new location, the tip of the emerging penis." The team discovered that a gene called Bmp4 plays a critical role in this process. In chicken development, Bmp4 switches on and the birds' developing male genitals shrink away. In ducks and emus, which retain their penises, the gene stays switched off and the organs continue to grow. Chicken and egg. Given the absence of a penis, chickens and other land fowl have had to develop a method of fertilisation that does not rely on penetration. Both male and female birds have an orifice known as a cloaca. When the cloacae are touched together, sperm is transferred to the female reproductive tract. This is known as a "cloacal kiss". However, the reasons why the penis was lost remain less clear. Lead author Ana Herrera, also from the University of Florida, speculated that the loss could leave hens with greater control over their reproductive lives. The study could also provide clues to other evolutionary conundrums, such as how snakes lost their limbs. And it might yield some potential answers to medical questions, say the researchers. Dr Cohn commented: "Genitalia are affected by birth defects more than almost any other organ. "Dissecting the molecular basis of the naturally occurring variation generated by evolution can lead to discoveries of new mechanisms of embryonic development, some of which are totally un- expected. "This allows us to not only understand how evolution works but also gain new insights into possible causes of malformations." Read full article at: HEALTH: Early Down's Test 'More Sensitive' By Caroline Parkinson Photo by Wolfgang Moroder. Under Wikimedia Commons License.a SCIENCE: Study Reveals How Birds Evolved Photo by Dario Sanches. Under Wikimedia Commons License.