2018/12/19: scientists are discovering subsurface microbial beings that shake up what we think we know about life. Archaea and bacteria make up the majority of life in the deep subsurface, and it’s estimated that there are more of these kinds of microbes below ground than above.
Some 200 to 600 octillion microbes live beneath our continents, suggests an analysis of data from sites all over the world, and even more live beneath the seafloor. Together they weigh the equivalent of up to 200 million blue whales — and far more than all 7.5 billion humans. Subterranean diversity rivals that of the surface, with most underground organisms yet to be discovered or characterized.
There are basically two kinds of feeders in the deep subsurface. Some scavengers survive on leftovers of photosynthesis from the surface that have been buried for up to hundreds of millions of years.
“We are familiar with oxygen breathing, but the microorganisms have multiple options,” said Isabelle Daniel, a geobiologist at Université Claude Bernard Lyon in France.
Candidatus Desulforudis audaxviator, the cobalt, rod-shaped bacteria in the picture above, breathes what’s released when certain rocks meet water: “You take a rock. Put it with water. Heat it up a bit, not even extreme heat, and it will produce everything that life needs to go,” said Karen Lloyd, a microbiologist at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Other microbes even breathe uranium and expel the waste as teeny crystals.
Subsurface microbes might only reproduce every thirty years, or take even longer. If nutrients run low, the microbes enter a dormant stage and focus the little energy they have on maintenance.
They’ll reproduce when some other energy source comes along — and that takes time, perhaps geological time. It can take tens to thousands of years for a new population to replace an old one.
2018/10/03: The announcement from a new genetic technology had successfully eradicated a carefully contained population of Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes grabbed headlines last week across the world. It not only indicated an incredible piece of science. It also opened a Pandora’s box of complicated ethical questions.
The technology works by creating a disruption to a particular gene found in the sex cells of mosquitoes. By manipulating something called the “doublesex” gene, the researchers were able to ensure a stream of female descendents possessing a biological mix of both male and female mosquito parts. These “intersex” mosquitoes are both genetically and phenotypically revolutionary.
Is it desirable for humans, rather than evolutionary forces, to determine both the species composition and the genetic make-up of the organisms that surround us? As technologies reach deeper into the surrounding world and become more precise, is it morally acceptable for humans to drive engineered changes through systems previously determined by ancient forces lying beyond our species’ reach? To some extent this means the transformation of nature into artifact.
Such a future would mark a new period in earth’s history in which one species takes up a novel role as planetary manager and designer. This species would do this consciously, deliberately, and – in the case of gene drives – quite dramatically.
Such a tightly engineered future may be inevitable. It may, in many ways, also be highly desirable.
What it shouldn’t be is a future we find ourselves immersed in without the chance to debate it, to reflect on it, and to fully understand the arguments both in its favor and against it. This is a discussion that is only just beginning.
In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of children continue to die of malaria.
2015/12/02: circular economy will boost the EU's competitiveness by protecting businesses against scarcity of resources and volatile prices, helping to create new business opportunities and innovative, more efficient ways of producing and consuming.
It will create local jobs at all skills levels and opportunities for social integration and cohesion. At the same time, it will save energy and help avoid the irreversible damages caused by using up resources at a rate that exceeds the Earth's capacity to renew them in terms of climate and biodiversity, air, soil and water pollution.
Action on the circular economy therefore ties in closely with key EU priorities
Per una Pasqua non violenta da anni Terra Nuova ospita con condivisione ed entusiasmo gli appelli delle associazioni animaliste, vegetariane e vegane contro la macellazione degli agnelli. Ma a rivendicare il loro ruolo e la loro attività sono quest'anno anche i pastori, in particolare quelli d'Abruzzo. Abbiamo voluto dare voce anche a loro, perché anche la loro prospettiva esiste. E dal confronto, cui vi invitiamo in maniera costruttiva, non può che nascere qualcosa di buono.
Surveys in German nature reserves point to a dramatic decline in insect biomass
New insights from the deep past should transform the way we work with forests. By George Monbiot, published in BBC Wildlife magazine, June 2015 Why is it possible to lay
A rash of white shark attacks this summer points to a rebounding population in the US - a sign of healthier oceans and the need to coexist with this apex predator.
Africa needs to step up the protection of its tropical forests.
This leaf is packed with nutrients, grows in dry tropic climates where people are malnourished, and appeals to affluent health buffs, too.
Environmental regulators in the US have proposed the creation of pesticide-free zones on a temporary basis to protect commercial honeybees, which continue to suffer from alarming mass die-offs.
There's a battle going on in your garden between invasive and valuable domestic pollinators. Here's how to tilt the fight in favor of our humble bumble bee.
Molto (troppo?) olio di palma tra gli sponsor e partner di EXPO. Anticipazione dell'inchiesta che andr224 in onda a Report, domenica alle 21.45 su Rai3
Understanding the evolution of fossil fish could help us explore the ocean and build better underwater vehicles, such as the equipment used in the search for flight MH370.
A UC Davis researcher, working with citizen scientists, has been tracking flattened animals. Here's what they've learned.
The oxygen is being sucked out of the ocean, and while much of it is happening far below the surface, it will still affect us above.
The ick factor isn't the only thing keeping grasshoppers from being a viable food in North America. The real problem is learning to farm them.
Plan A was to make conditions as perfect as possible to breed the last remaining northern white rhinos. Ol Pejeta did everything they could to make that a possibility.
Your grandpa's favorite fish (and mine) can't support a West Coast fishery - or all the charismatic megafauna -- that rely on them.
The salmon look stressed. Behind the algae-streaked windows at Seattle's Hiram Chittenden fish ladder they're bumping heads, flipping in the current, and pointing their narrow jaws upstream. To get
Land-sharing model of conservation is helping large predators thrive in the wild - and even the British countryside could support big carnivores, study finds