Earth

Bergmann's rule for lizards: They're larger, retain heat longer in colder high-altitude habitats

Bergmann's rule for lizards: They're larger, retain heat longer in colder high-altitude habitats

Scientists at the University of Granada have found that the long-tailed lizard, Psammodromus algirus, is larger when living at high altitude, with a cold climate, than at a lower, and therefore warmer, altitude. In addition, lizards living at over 2,000 meters retain heat longer because they are larger.

Fishing worsens forage fish collapses

Fishing worsens forage fish collapses

A new simulation shows for the first time that fishing likely worsens population collapses in species of forage fish, including herring, anchovies and sardines. Some of the largest fisheries in the world target these species, and these "baitfish" are also a key source of food for larger marine animals, including salmon, tuna, seabirds and whales.

Strawberries can be grown in acidic soil at high elevations

Strawberries can be grown in acidic soil at high elevations

ruit and vegetable production in high-elevation areas can be a difficult enterprise. Variable weather and soil conditions typical of these regions, such as the southwestern United States, present multiple challenges for growers. "High frequency and intensity of late spring frosts in semiarid climates have made fruit production challenging," explained Shengrui Yao, corresponding author of a study in the February 2015 issue of HortScience. "Growers may only harvest five to six apple crops during a 10-year period, and, as a result, many are forced to abandon their orchards."

We can fix the Great Barrier Reef - here's how

We can fix the Great Barrier Reef - here's how

Leading coral reef scientists say Australia could restore the Great Barrier Reef to its former glory through better policies that focus on science, protection and conservation.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Climate Change, the authors argue that all the stressors on the Reef need to be reduced for it to recover.

Game played in sync increases children's perceived similarity, closeness

What helps children who have just met form a connection? A new study shows that a simple game played together in sync on a computer led 8-year-olds to report a greater sense of similarity and closeness immediately after the activity.

Children who played the same game but not in a synchronous way did not report the same increase in connection.

The findings, published April 8 by PLOS ONE, give an example of how a physical activity performed in unison helps children feel more positively toward each other and could perhaps increase their empathy.

Enriched broccoli reduces cholesterol

Including a new broccoli variety in the diet reduces blood LDL-cholesterol levels by around 6%, according to the results of human trials led by the Institute of Food Research.

The broccoli variety was bred to contain two to three times more of a naturally occurring compound glucoraphanin. It is now available in supermarkets, under the name Beneforte.

Working with colleagues at the University of Reading, in two independent studies, the researchers gave a total of 130 volunteers 400g of the high glucoraphanin broccoli per week to include in their normal diet.

Asbestos use in Asia poses serious health dangers

The use of asbestos continues to increase in Asia despite clear health hazards. A recent Respirology review notes that with approximately 4.3 billion people and a growing population, Asia will likely see a large crop of asbestos-related lung diseases in the next few decades. Some of the cases will be benign, but it is likely that there will be many cases of mesothelioma and lung cancer.

Efforts are needed to improve the recognition and diagnosis of asbestos-related lung diseases, and government and non-government groups must cooperate to take steps to prevent them.

Climate change, plant roots may accelerate carbon loss from soils

Soil, long thought to be a semi-permanent storehouse for ancient carbon, may be releasing carbon dioxide to the atmosphere faster than anyone thought, according to Oregon State University soil scientists.

In a study published in this week's online edition of the journal Nature Climate Change, the researchers showed that chemicals emitted by plant roots act on carbon that is bonded to minerals in the soil, breaking the bonds and exposing previously protected carbon to decomposition by microbes.

Producing rubber from lettuce

Prickly lettuce, a common weed that has long vexed farmers, has potential as a new cash crop providing raw material for rubber production, according to Washington State University scientists.

Writing in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, they describe regions in the plant's genetic code linked to rubber production. The findings open the way for breeding for desired traits and developing a new crop source for rubber in the Pacific Northwest.

New study could mean aflatoxin resistance, increased corn yields

A study of corn has identified useful gene variations for yield increases, drought tolerance and aflatoxin resistance that could make a real difference to producers in the years to come, according to researchers.

The study included the growing years of 2011, a drought year, and 2012, and was conducted on dryland and irrigated corn in College Station and in Mississippi, all with similar results, said Dr. Seth Murray, an AgriLife Research corn breeder in the soil and crop science department of Texas A&M University at College Station.