Environment News

Friday, January 18, 2013 - 18:36

Invasive species are known for disturbing their new homes. Whether it's the zebra mussels in the Great Lakes or garlic mustard in native woodlands, their rampant multiplication crowds out native species.  But according to research just published in the journal Diversity and Distributions, that's not yet happening as a fish called the round goby advances up dozens of streams along Wisconsin's watery eastern border.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013 - 17:21

Using the meticulous phenological records of two iconic American naturalists, Henry David Thoreau and Aldo Leopold, scientists have demonstrated that native plants in the eastern United States are flowering as much as a month earlier in response to a warming climate.

Friday, January 11, 2013 - 10:51

The mainly EU-funded DISCO project coordinated by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has developed powerful enzymes, which accelerate plant biomass conversion into sugars and further into products such as bioethanol. The project's results include lignin-tolerant enzymes and enzyme cocktails for processing spruce, straw, corn cob and wheat bran. The commercialisation of these enzymes has now begun in the Netherlands.

Friday, January 11, 2013 - 10:44

Animals have developed a variety of strategies for dealing with increasing noise pollution in their habitats. It is known, for example, that many urban birds sing at a high pitch to differentiate their song from the low-frequency sound of road traffic. However, as scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology discovered, this is just a useful side effect. The real reason for this behaviour is that songs at a higher pitch are also automatically louder. The birds can make themselves heard far better in city noise by increasing the volume of their song than by raising its frequency.

Thursday, January 10, 2013 - 12:05

Aggregations of the red and black coloured firebugs are ubiquitous under linden trees in Central Europe, where the bugs can reach astounding population densities. While these insects have no impact on humans, their African, Asian, and American relatives, the cotton stainers, are serious agricultural pests of cotton and other Malvaceous plants. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, recently discovered that these bugs need bacterial symbionts to survive on cotton seeds as their sole food source. By using high-throughput sequencing technologies, they found out that firebugs and cotton stainers share a characteristic bacterial community that colonises a specific region of their mid-gut.

Friday, January 4, 2013 - 11:50

Calcium is so much more than the mineral that makes our bones and teeth strong: It is a ubiquitous signaling molecule that provides crucial information inside of and between cells. Calcium is used to help our hearts beat regularly, our guts to function appropriately and even for fertilization to occur. It is also needed to help muscles and blood vessels contract, to secrete hormones and enzymes and to send messages throughout the nervous system.