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Sun, 24 Sep 2023
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Earth Changes


Desert plant may hold key to surviving food shortage

The plant, Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi, is unique because, unlike normal plants, it captures most of its carbon dioxide at night when the air is cooler and more humid, making it 10 times more water-efficient than major crops such as wheat. Scientists will use the latest next-generation DNA sequencing to analyse the plant's genetic code and understand how these plants function at night.

The project will generate a genome sequence database that will be used as an Internet resource for plant biologists throughout the world.

The research comes at a time when farmland across the globe normally used for growing food such as rice and wheat is being taken over by bio-fuel crops used for bioethanol production as a petrol substitute. Scientists believe that the novel genes found in Kalanchoe could provide a model of how bio-fuel plants could be grown on un-utilised desert and semi-arid lands, rather than on fertile farmland needed for producing food.

Comment: Although the current food shortage due to expanding bioethanol production is nothing but a fraud, this research and discovery of Kalanchoe's properties may become useful when human population will have to withstand harsh environmental conditions as a result of Comet bombardment or dusting in the atmosphere.


US: Southeast Va. 2,700-acre fire could burn for weeks

Thick smoke rose out of the smoldering floor of the Great Dismal Swamp yesterday and drifted across the dirt road where firefighters were trying to stop the blaze.

Wayne Johnson, an information officer for the U.S. Forest Service, warned that the woods were full of snags -- burned-out trees that fell on the unwary long after the fire had passed. As he spoke, a big tree hidden in the smoke hit the earth with a crash.

Johnson is one of more than 360 firefighters trying to hem in the South One fire, a 2,700-acre blaze in the remote swamp between Lake Drummond and the North Carolina line. Over the past two weeks, shifting winds have sent the fire's smoke for hundreds of miles in every direction.


Millions displaced after east Indian floods

More than two million people have been left homeless after floods swept across eastern India over the past week, national radio reported on Thursday.

Unexpected heavy rain began lashing the area last Thursday, nearly two weeks ahead of the monsoon season, which usually occurs in the country from early July to September.


High hormone levels in seabird chicks prepare them to kill their siblings

The Nazca booby, a Galápagos Island seabird, emerges from its shell ready to kill its brother or sister. Wake Forest University biologists and their colleagues have linked the murderous behavior to high levels of testosterone and other male hormones found in the hatchlings.

The study appears in the June 18 edition of the online journal PLoS ONE available here.

The elevated levels of male hormones, called androgens, increase aggression in both male and female chicks and prepare the birds to fight to the death as soon as they hatch, said David J. Anderson, professor of biology at Wake Forest and project leader.

©Wake Forest University
Adult Nazca booby.


US: Hundreds urged to evacuate due to California wildfire

A stubborn central California wildfire that has burned more than 65 square miles of wilderness has destroyed several homes and led to evacuation warnings for dozens of residents.

About 50 people living near the Los Padres National Forest in Monterey County received voluntary evacuation notices Wednesday. Another 500 were told to prepare for a possible evacuation.

Cloud Lightning

8 inches of hail falls in Nebraska

Holt County snowplows were out Tuesday night clearing 8 inches of hail that fell during a storm.

Hail in Nebraska


Barn razed in wildfire east of Colorado Springs

One building and a corral burned today after dry lightning strikes ignited at least four grass fires that were nourished by strong wind gusts.

El Paso County Sheriff's Lt. Lari Sevene said authorities received at least six calls about 2 p.m. of fires in the area, roughly 15 miles east of Colorado Springs.

Sevene said deputies notified residents in a "a handful - maybe three or four" homes to evacuate or prepare to evacuate. No injuries to people or animals were reported.

Two of the fires were under control by 4 p.m. Wednesday.

As of 5:00 p.m., some 1,000 acres had been consumed by four separate fires.


Fires raging in Cyprus

A raging forest fire forced the evacuation of six villages in southwest Cyprus on Wednesday and the water-starved island sought aid from Greece.

Cyprus fires

Cloud Lightning

China: Soldiers, sandbags to fore in drenched south

Soldiers scrambled to shore up soggy levies with sandbags yesterday in southern China as forecasters warned that more heavy rain in the northern region could trigger flooding on the Yellow River, the country's second-longest.

At least 63 people have died and 13 are missing in this month's rain-driven flooding, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said in a statement yesterday. China's overall flood death toll for the year stood at 171 in 20 provinces and regions.

Bizarro Earth

China's Water Problems Reach Olympian Proportians

As the opening of the Olympic Games in Beijing draws near, spare a thought for a Chinese peasant named Yan. He lives in the mountains about an hour's drive north of the main Olympic Green, not far from the Great Wall. His village, Shijiayao, is wasting away.

That's because authorities in Beijing, bent on fueling the capital's epic growth, have commandeered nearly every drop of water they can pump from the surrounding countryside. Deprived of government help to drill wells or dam springs, Shijiayao's 30 inhabitants - all that's left of a population of about 300 peasants two decades ago - have no water to farm their terraced fields. They subsist on a rain-dependent crop and on raising a few scrawny donkeys, which they sell for cash or slaughter for meat.