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Earth Changes

Better Earth

Koalas Under Threat From Climate Change

New research shows increased temperatures and carbon dioxide levels are a threat to the Australian national icon, the koala.

Professor Ian Hume, Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, and his students from the University of Sydney have been researching the effects of CO2 increases and temperature rises on eucalypts.

©iStockphoto/Sawayasu Tsuji
Koalas are fussy about the species of eucalypts that they eat as different species contain different ratios of nutrients to anti-nutrients.

Professor Hume's group have shown in the laboratory that increases in CO2 affect the level of nutrients and 'anti-nutrients' (things that are either toxic or interfere with the digestion of nutrients) in eucalypt leaves. Anti-nutrients in eucalypts are built from carbon and an increase in carbon dioxide levels will favour the production of anti-nutrients over nutrients.

Black Cat

Cat Urine Makes Mice Macho

Tom and Jerry may never get along, but cats could help mice get lucky in love.

Cat odor is known scare mice away, but it also seems to act like an aphrodisiac for the rodents, a new study shows.

The smell makes male mice more macho, helping lure in females, researchers said.


When Bears Steal Human Food, Mom's Not To Blame

Researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) found that the black bears that become habituated to human food and garbage may not be learning these behaviors exclusively from their mothers, as widely assumed. Bears that steal human food sources are just as likely to form these habits on their own or pick them up from unrelated, "bad influence" bears.

black bears
©Jon Beckmann/Wildlife Conservation Society
According to a study by researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society, black bears that become habituated on human food and garbage do not necessarily learn these behaviors from their mother as previously assumed.

The study, which examines the role of genetic relatedness in black bear behavior that leads to conflict with humans, appears in the latest edition of the Journal of Mammalogy.

"Understanding how bears acquire behavior is important in conservation biology and devising strategies to minimize potential human-wildlife conflicts," says Dr. Jon Beckmann, a co-author of the study. "According to our findings, bears that feed on human food and garbage are not always learning these habits from their mothers."

Better Earth

Ivory Coast seeks $1 mln for three-headed coconut tree

ABIDJAN - Researchers in Ivory Coast are asking $1 million for a three-headed hybrid coconut tree they believe could substantially boost the tropical nut's yield.

Scientists at Ivory Coast's National Agronomic Research Centre (NARC) discovered the tree after mixing different strains of coconut palm in an effort to build disease resistance.

"We still don't have a buyer, but we are hopeful because we remain in talks with certain partners to buy this hybrid," said Jean Louis Konan, head of NARC's coconut research program.

Researchers decided last year to sell the hybrid to support the research centre, whose 800 hectares (1,980 acres) of coconut trees contain 99 varieties from across the world.


Utah bee population hit by deadly disease, crops could be affected

The mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder, which has led to the loss of millions of bees and in a worst-case scenario could be a threat to the food chain that humans depend on for life, has made its way to Utah.

Gary Dutson is being confronted by the malady firsthand. He has had to sell off 500 acres of farmland that's been in his family for two generations - largely because he's lost so many of his honeybees.

Dutson, who lives outside Delta in eastern Utah, had built up his bee operation to 4,000 hives by last fall when colonies began dying off for no apparent reason. Within months, he lost half his bees in an inexplicable disaster not seen since his father began beekeeping more than 70 years ago.

Until recently, Utah beekeepers seemed to be dodging the mysterious ailment, which has been killing off honeybees in other parts of the nation for the past two years. In 2007 alone, beekeepers lost 30 percent of the 2.5 million managed colonies to diseases, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Cloud Lightning

Tornado knocks vehicles around in N. Carolina, kills 1

Authorities began combing through the wreckage Friday caused by a reported tornado that killed one person and injured three others in central North Carolina.

Bizarro Earth

Chile gives volcano holdouts ultimatum to flee

PUERTO MONTT/FUTALEUFU - Chile on Thursday ordered holdout residents to flee from an erupting volcano in the remote region of Patagonia and vowed to force them out if they refuse to obey.

The military evacuated a small contingent of troops and journalists from near Chaiten volcano in southern Chile before dawn on Thursday after it spat out fiery material.

Chaiten volcano
©REUTERS/Jorge Cortizo
Jose Marciano, wearing a face mask to protect himself from volcanic ash, walks in Futaleufu, near the Chaiten volcano, located some 1,450 km (900 miles) south of Santiago, May 8, 2008.

But some civilians refused to leave two villages near the volcano that began erupting last week for the first time in thousands of years. It has spewed ash that has reached the Atlantic seaboard and the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires.

Cloud Lightning

Global Warming or Global Cooling?

The title link is to a great article showing how different sources of historical temperature data tell conflicting stories. Data from NASA implies that global temperatures are increasing while information from the UK Meteorological Office, University of Alabama and Remote Sensing Systems clearly show that temperatures have been falling for quite some time. To further confuse matters, the often cited NASA data did not support global warming until the raw data was massaged to no longer match the original measurements. Older temperatures were interpolated and adjusted downwards, and recent temperatures were presented as higher than the actual raw values that were initially recorded.


Climate change and the recent dengue fever outbreak

Earlier in April of this year the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the health of hundreds of millions of people might be put at risk by the effects of climate change.


New Jason Satellite Indicates 23-Year Global Cooling

Now it's not just the sunspots that predict a 23-year global cooling. The new Jason oceanographic satellite shows that 2007 was a "cool" La Nina year - but Jason also says something more important is at work: The much larger and more persistent Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) has turned into its cool phase, telling us to expect moderately lower global temperatures until 2030 or so.