229t h
issue, June 24, 2013
Some of the world's largest cities are improving their energy efficiency, a report said Thursday,
while nations struggle t...
A team of Oxford University scientists has found that Hoff crabs are recent migrants from the Pacific
Ocean, taking the Dr...
Stem cells under the base of a fingernail could one day be used to treat malformed nails or possibly
amputated limbs, rese...
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Newsletter 229


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Newsletter 229

  1. 1. SOUTH AMERICA ENVIRONMENT, SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND HEALTH NEWSLETTER 229t h issue, June 24, 2013 CLIMATE CHANGE: Detour Ahead: Cities, Farms Reroute Animals SeekingCooler Climes By Sandra Hines In spite of considerable human development, the southeastern United States region could provide some of the Western Hemisphere’s more heavily used thoroughfares for mammals, birds and amphibians on their way to cooler environments in a warming world, according to new research led by the University of Washington. The region is among half a dozen areas that could experience heavier traffic compared with the average species-movement across the Western Hemisphere in response to a warming climate. The estimate in southeastern states, for example, is up to 2.5 times the average amount of movement across North and South America. Other areas that could see pronounced animal movements are northeastern North America, including around the Great Lakes and north into Canada; southeastern Brazil, home to both the species-rich Atlantic Forest and major cities such as Sao Paulo with its 11 million residents; and the Amazon Basin. The basin, stretching across seven South American countries, could have the greatest animal movements, up to 17 times the average across the hemisphere. While previous studies mapped where animals need to move to find climates that suit them, this is the first broad-scale study to also consider how animals might travel when confronted with cities, large agricultural areas and other human related barriers, according to Joshua Lawler, UW associate professor of environmental and forestry sciences and lead author of a paper appearing June 19 online in Ecology Letters. Their study included nearly 3,000 mammals, birds and amphibians. “We took into account that many animals aren’t just going to be able to head directly to areas with climates that suit them,” Lawler said. “Some animals, particularly small mammals and amphibians, are going to have to avoid highways, agricultural development and the like. We also took into consideration major natural barriers such as the Great Lakes in North America and the Amazon River in South America.” Identifying where large numbers of species will need to move can help guide land use and conservation planning. Many of the animals moving southward through central Argentina will be funneled by agriculture and development through the more intact parts of the Gran Chaco region and into the Sierras de Córdoba and the Andes mountains. “These findings highlight the importance of the natural corridors that exist in these places – corridors that likely warrant more concerted conservation efforts to help species move in response to climate change,” Lawler said. In other places barriers may need to be breached for animals to disperse successfully. “Southeastern Brazil, for instance, has lots of species that need to move but is a heavily converted landscape. In such places conservation efforts may be needed to reconnect native habitats,” Lawler said. Read more: climes/ 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.  Climate Change: Detour Ahead, Cities, Farms Reroute Animals Seeking Cooler Climes .  Energy: World Cities Improving Energy Efficiency.  Climate Change: Women Are Key Drivers in Adaptation.  Science: How Did Hoff Crab Evolve?  Science: Plants Seen Doing Quantum Physics.  Science: Nail Zone Stem Cells, Tissue Regrow Fingerprints.  Technology: Nanoparticles From Rice Husks Set For Use in Batteries.  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: Image credit: University of Washington.
  2. 2. Some of the world's largest cities are improving their energy efficiency, a report said Thursday, while nations struggle to forge a global response to climate change. Cities are taking action to reduce their carbon emissions and better manage their water strat- egy, said a report by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), which runs a platform for companies and cities to measure, disclose, manage and share environmental information. The 110-city report from the London-based organisation follows the G8 summit of world leaders hosted by Britain this week. Los Angeles led the way, managing annual energy savings of $13 million (9.85 million euros) -- largely by retro-fitting traffic signals and street lights --followed by Washington and Las Vegas with $6.3 million, the CDP found. "Cities are hotbeds of innovation, and local governments have been quick to implement many new ways to combat and adapt to climate change and resource scarcity," said Conor Riffle, head of CDP's cities programme. "These leading cities are enjoying multiple paybacks for their economies and communities. National governments should pay close atten- tion." Cities that took part in the study included Toyko, Seoul, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, Singapore, Sydney, New York, Los An- geles, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Johannesburg, Moscow, Paris and London. The study found that the European cities surveyed produced $12,502 gross domestic product per metric tonne of carbon dioxide emissions, with South American cities pro- ducing $6,816, East Asian cities $5,831 and North American cities $5,550. The report found that one out of every two actions cities take to reduce emissions are focused on efficiency. It found that 62 percent of such actions had the potential to attract new busi- ness and investment. Meanwhile it found that 55 percent of the cities studied were undertaking initiatives to reduce emissions that promote walking and cycling. Read more at: Plans to protect ecosystems and help people adapt to climate change ― also known as ecosystem- based adaptation (EBA) ― must involve vulnerable groups, including women and communities greatly hit by global warming if they are to succeed, according to scientists who met in Tanzania on March 21-23. Scientists and policymakers at the UN-led international workshop on EBA in Dar-es-Salaam, also said that more needed to be done to monitor and evaluate the cost-effectiveness of such adaptation, and to learn from past experiences in order to transfer knowledge into action and policy. "Adaptation to the adverse effects of climate change is vital in order to reduce the impacts of cli- mate change that are happening now, and increase resilience to future impacts," says Richard Kinley, deputy executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which organised the meeting. "Ecosystem -based approaches are part of the solution that countries could use in building resilience to climate change," he adds. For example, mangroves or forest — rather than artificial sea walls — should be maintained or restored to help protect coastlines. The man- groves can improve water quality and thus increase fish yields, while also protecting fishing communities from future disasters. Shyla Raghav, senior manager for climate adaptation policy at Conservation International, a non-profit environmental organisation, tells SciDev.Net that the workshop took stock of the science and implementation of EBA around the world, and demonstrated the need for further action to help understand, enable and implement the approach. Raghav calls for systems such as agro- biodiversity, the preservation of seeds and the maintenance of a genetic pool to help make agriculture more resilient. She high- lights the importance of involving stakeholders in such measures and adds that women often serve as stewards of nature and eco- systems and are key drivers of adaptation measures. A session on gender and indigenous knowledge at the meeting identified best practices in EBA. These include: engaging stake- holders, especially marginalised groups early on; the inclusion of specific gender and indigenous knowledge in national adaptation planning and implementation stages; and using both indigenous and conventional knowledge to design and implement EBA. Read full article at: ENERGY: World Cities Improving Energy Efficiency By AFP CLIMATE CHANGE: Women Are 'Key Drivers' in Climate Change Adaptation By Bernard Appiah Photo by Tesnec S.p.A. Under Wikimedia Commons License. Photo by Gabrielsus. Under Wikimedia Commons License.
  3. 3. A team of Oxford University scientists has found that Hoff crabs are recent migrants from the Pacific Ocean, taking the Drake Passage between South America and Antarctica and scuttling to deep-sea vents in the Southern and Indian Oceans. They are believed to have split from their cousins, the hairy- clawed Yeti crabs, in making the long move. Hoff crabs were discovered in 2010, some five years after the discovery of the Yeti crab. The two spe- cies are now believed to share a common ancestor that lived about 40 million years ago. Hoff crabs, so named after shaggy-chested actor David Hasselhoff, had previously thought not to have moved much at all. Scientists had suggested that the unusual animals were living fossils, ancient crabs that had been forgotten deep beneath the sea. The furry little crabs make their homes in some of Earth's most improbable environments, clinging to deep-sea volcanic vents that heat the water to 716 degrees Fahrenheit. There is no light there, and the water offers lit- tle oxygen, but lots of noxious chemicals. To survive there, the Hoff crabs resort to inventive agriculture. These animal anomalies feed themselves by 'farming' bacteria in the hair on their chests. They then comb their hair with their mouth, like a tractor chugging through tracts of crops, and feast on the bacteria grown on their chest plantation. Still, despite that creative farming, the new research published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B suggests that the crabs are becoming increasingly vulnerable, as global warming alters the oxygen levels of our oceans. That change tips out of balance a deli- cate ecosystem in which the crabs survive: the crabs must get just close enough to the vents to farm their bacteria (which live off the vent’s chemicals) but also stay just far enough from the vents to source enough oxygen (which is not available to close to the vents) to breathe. Getting too close to the vents means getting boiled. “The life of these charismatic crustaceans is a delicate balancing act,’ said Nicolai Roterman of Oxford University’s Department of Zoology, in a press release. “Their challenge is to position themselves close enough to the vents to thrive but not so close that they risk suffocating or getting cooked alive.” Scientists believe that a previous period of global warming about 55 million years ago lowered the oxygen levels around the vents to the point that all the animals there were killed off, to be replaced with this latest batch of resourceful animals, including the Hoff Crab. Read full article at: According to a report published in Science journal, plant cells absorb photons from light, where their energy is converted with extraordinary efficiency, reinforcing the idea that an effect called “coherence” helps to determine the most efficient path for the photons. However a recent study showed how light is funneled to these plant reaction centers where light is converted into chemical energy. To demonstrate their hypothesis, scientists used lasers at single molecules of the light- harvesting machinery. What has surprised even the researchers behind the research is not only that these coherences do indeed exist, but that they also seem to change character, always permitting photons to take the most efficient path into the reaction centres. Until very recently, quantum mechanics - a frequently arcane branch of physics most often probed in laboratory settings at the coldest temperatures and lowest pressures - would not have been expected in biological settings. The fact that plants and animals are extremely warm and soft by comparison would suggest that delicate quantum states should disappear in living things, leaving behaviour explicable by the more familiar "classical physics" that is taught in school. But the new results join the ranks of a field that seems finally to be gaining ground: quantum biology. 'Something shocking'. Niek van Hulst of the Institute of Photonic Sciences in Castelldefels, Spain, and colleagues studied the light- harvesting complexes. These are literally like antennas that gather up light, and are arranged like adjacent rings. When laser light is shone on just one isolated ring, some of it is re-released in the form of what is called fluorescence. But what the team saw is that over time, that amount of fluorescence rose and fell - a sign that the energy was coming and going elsewhere: a coherence. Read full article at: SCIENCE: How Did the Chest-Hair-Farming Hoff Crab Evolve? Scientists Solve Mystery By Elizabeth Barber Painting by Vincent Van Gogh. Photo by Kristian Peters. Under Wikimedia Commons License. SCIENCE: Plants 'Seen Doing Quantum Physics'
  4. 4. Stem cells under the base of a fingernail could one day be used to treat malformed nails or possibly amputated limbs, research by New York University suggests. A study in mice indicated a chemical signal that triggers stem cells to develop into new nail tissue also attracts new nerves that promote nail and bone regeneration, reported Wednesday. Mayumi Ito of New York University Langone Medical Center and her colleagues found stem cells that produce the hard nail and the soft tissue underneath. When they cut off the end of a mouse's toe, signals from the regrowing nail stimulated the tissue below to form new bone, the authors said. Researchers said they found the digit bones can regenerate only if the stump has some nail stem cells remaining. However, they also found that cells alone weren't enough -- also necessary was an area of tissue that grows from the stem cells during normal nail growth, said. After amputation, the tissue sends signals that attract nerves into the end of the stump and begin bone regeneration, researchers said. If the nail zone is removed or the signals are blocked, regeneration won't occur. When the researchers genetically manipulated the mice to initiate the regeneration signals permanently, nail stem cells alone spurred regeneration even without the nail tissue zone, said. The findings were published in Wednesday's edition of Nature. Read full article at: Rice farmers may soon have a more lucrative use for a common low-value byproduct: rice husks, the hard, protective coverings around the edible grains. The husks contain natural silicon nanoparticles that can easily be extracted and used in battery manufacture, a study shows. The simple and low-cost process for recovering the nanoparticles and using them in the lithium-ion batteries, which are commonly found in portable electronics, was published in Scientific Reports last month (29 May). Silicon nanomaterials have various industrial applications but they are complicated, costly and energy-intensive to produce. Meanwhile, 120 million tonnes of rice husks are produced as byproducts of rice agriculture worldwide each year. "The novelty of this paper is the high- yield and low-cost recovery of nano-structured silicon from an agricultural byproduct. And the morphology of the recovered silicon is ideal for direct application in high-energy, lithium-ion batteries," Yi Cui, study coauthor and associate professor at Stanford University, United States, tells SciDev.Net. "A lot of developing countries, such as China and India, produce a huge amount of rice husks each year. Currently, the rice husks only have some low added-value applications," he says. The new procedure, Cui says, could allow these countries to use the husks to build batteries, and his team is trying to establish links with battery companies to achieve this. "China plays an important role in battery manufacturing, so the rice nano-silicon could be locally integrated into battery manufacturing," he adds. Jie Xiao, a senior scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, United States, says the "approach is interesting and promis- ing" but warns that "more research needs to take place before this method would be useful on a broad scale". Farmers will proba- bly be unable to directly sell rice husks to battery companies since most of these firms do not make their own raw materials, she says. "However, companies that supply [battery] electrode materials, or chemical factories, could build [production] lines to proc- ess husks and harvest [their] silicon for battery use," she adds. Cary Hayner, chief technology officer of SiNode Systems — a materials venture based out of Northwestern University that is com- mercialising novel silicon-based battery anode technology — says the study demonstrates what could be a tremendous opportu- nity to make use of an abundant agricultural byproduct. "Farmers would be best served by selling their rice husks to a company that will transform the husks into the useful silicon," he says. Read full article at: SCIENCE: Nail Zone Stem Cells, Tissue Regrow Fingerprints By Caroline Parkinson Photo by F.G. comm. Under Wikimedia Commons License.a TECHNOLOGY: Nanoparticles From Rice Husks Set For Use in Batteries By David Nance Photo by GST HBK. Under Wikimedia Commons License.