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Plastic Pollution in the World’s Oceans: More than 5 Trillion Plastic Pieces Weighing over 250,000 Tons Afloat at Sea

December 15, 2014 Comments off

Plastic Pollution in the World’s Oceans: More than 5 Trillion Plastic Pieces Weighing over 250,000 Tons Afloat at Sea
Source: PLoS ONE

Plastic pollution is ubiquitous throughout the marine environment, yet estimates of the global abundance and weight of floating plastics have lacked data, particularly from the Southern Hemisphere and remote regions. Here we report an estimate of the total number of plastic particles and their weight floating in the world’s oceans from 24 expeditions (2007–2013) across all five sub-tropical gyres, costal Australia, Bay of Bengal and the Mediterranean Sea conducting surface net tows (N = 680) and visual survey transects of large plastic debris (N = 891). Using an oceanographic model of floating debris dispersal calibrated by our data, and correcting for wind-driven vertical mixing, we estimate a minimum of 5.25 trillion particles weighing 268,940 tons. When comparing between four size classes, two microplastic 4.75 mm, a tremendous loss of microplastics is observed from the sea surface compared to expected rates of fragmentation, suggesting there are mechanisms at play that remove <4.75 mm plastic particles from the ocean surface.

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Categories: environment, PLoS ONE, water

Effects of Climate Variability and Accelerated Forest Thinning on Watershed-Scale Runoff in Southwestern USA Ponderosa Pine Forests

December 1, 2014 Comments off

Effects of Climate Variability and Accelerated Forest Thinning on Watershed-Scale Runoff in Southwestern USA Ponderosa Pine Forests
Source: PLoS ONE

The recent mortality of up to 20% of forests and woodlands in the southwestern United States, along with declining stream flows and projected future water shortages, heightens the need to understand how management practices can enhance forest resilience and functioning under unprecedented scales of drought and wildfire. To address this challenge, a combination of mechanical thinning and fire treatments are planned for 238,000 hectares (588,000 acres) of ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forests across central Arizona, USA. Mechanical thinning can increase runoff at fine scales, as well as reduce fire risk and tree water stress during drought, but the effects of this practice have not been studied at scales commensurate with recent forest disturbances or under a highly variable climate. Modifying a historical runoff model, we constructed scenarios to estimate increases in runoff from thinning ponderosa pine at the landscape and watershed scales based on driving variables: pace, extent and intensity of forest treatments and variability in winter precipitation. We found that runoff on thinned forests was about 20% greater than unthinned forests, regardless of whether treatments occurred in a drought or pluvial period. The magnitude of this increase is similar to observed declines in snowpack for the region, suggesting that accelerated thinning may lessen runoff losses due to warming effects. Gains in runoff were temporary (six years after treatment) and modest when compared to mean annual runoff from the study watersheds (0–3%). Nonetheless gains observed during drought periods could play a role in augmenting river flows on a seasonal basis, improving conditions for water-dependent natural resources, as well as benefit water supplies for downstream communities. Results of this study and others suggest that accelerated forest thinning at large scales could improve the water balance and resilience of forests and sustain the ecosystem services they provide.

Patterns of Brain Activation when Mothers View Their Own Child and Dog: An fMRI Study

November 24, 2014 Comments off

Patterns of Brain Activation when Mothers View Their Own Child and Dog: An fMRI Study
Source: PLoS ONE

Neural substrates underlying the human-pet relationship are largely unknown. We examined fMRI brain activation patterns as mothers viewed images of their own child and dog and an unfamiliar child and dog. There was a common network of brain regions involved in emotion, reward, affiliation, visual processing and social cognition when mothers viewed images of both their child and dog. Viewing images of their child resulted in brain activity in the midbrain (ventral tegmental area/substantia nigra involved in reward/affiliation), while a more posterior cortical brain activation pattern involving fusiform gyrus (visual processing of faces and social cognition) characterized a mother’s response to her dog. Mothers also rated images of their child and dog as eliciting similar levels of excitement (arousal) and pleasantness (valence), although the difference in the own vs. unfamiliar child comparison was larger than the own vs. unfamiliar dog comparison for arousal. Valence ratings of their dog were also positively correlated with ratings of the attachment to their dog. Although there are similarities in the perceived emotional experience and brain function associated with the mother-child and mother-dog bond, there are also key differences that may reflect variance in the evolutionary course and function of these relationships.

Identifying Risk Factors for PTSD in Women Seeking Medical Help after Rape

November 24, 2014 Comments off

Identifying Risk Factors for PTSD in Women Seeking Medical Help after Rape
Source: PLoS ONE

Objectives
Rape has been found to be the trauma most commonly associated with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among women. It is therefore important to be able to identify those women at greatest risk of developing PTSD. The aims of the present study were to analyze the PTSD prevalence six months after sexual assaults and identify the major risk factors for developing PTSD.

Methods
Participants were 317 female victims of rape who sought help at the Emergency Clinic for Raped Women at Stockholm South Hospital, Sweden. Baseline assessments of mental health were carried out and followed up after six months.

Results
Thirty-nine percent of the women had developed PTSD at the six month assessment, and 47% suffered from moderate or severe depression. The major risk factors for PTSD were having been sexually assaulted by more than one person, suffering from acute stress disorder (ASD) shortly after the assault, having been exposed to several acts during the assault, having been injured, having co-morbid depression, and having a history of more than two earlier traumas. Further, ASD on its own was found to be a poor predictor of PTSD because of the substantial ceiling effect after sexual assaults.

Conclusions
Development of PTSD is common in the aftermath of sexual assaults. Increased risk of developing PTSD is caused by a combination of victim vulnerability and the extent of the dramatic nature of the current assault. By identifying those women at greatest risk of developing PTSD appropriate therapeutic resources can be directed.

The Use of Google Trends in Health Care Research: A Systematic Review

November 17, 2014 Comments off

The Use of Google Trends in Health Care Research: A Systematic Review
Source: PLoS ONE

Background
Google Trends is a novel, freely accessible tool that allows users to interact with Internet search data, which may provide deep insights into population behavior and health-related phenomena. However, there is limited knowledge about its potential uses and limitations. We therefore systematically reviewed health care literature using Google Trends to classify articles by topic and study aim; evaluate the methodology and validation of the tool; and address limitations for its use in research.

Methods and Findings
PRISMA guidelines were followed. Two independent reviewers systematically identified studies utilizing Google Trends for health care research from MEDLINE and PubMed. Seventy studies met our inclusion criteria. Google Trends publications increased seven-fold from 2009 to 2013. Studies were classified into four topic domains: infectious disease (27% of articles), mental health and substance use (24%), other non-communicable diseases (16%), and general population behavior (33%). By use, 27% of articles utilized Google Trends for casual inference, 39% for description, and 34% for surveillance. Among surveillance studies, 92% were validated against a reference standard data source, and 80% of studies using correlation had a correlation statistic ≥0.70. Overall, 67% of articles provided a rationale for their search input. However, only 7% of articles were reproducible based on complete documentation of search strategy. We present a checklist to facilitate appropriate methodological documentation for future studies. A limitation of the study is the challenge of classifying heterogeneous studies utilizing a novel data source.

Conclusion
Google Trends is being used to study health phenomena in a variety of topic domains in myriad ways. However, poor documentation of methods precludes the reproducibility of the findings. Such documentation would enable other researchers to determine the consistency of results provided by Google Trends for a well-specified query over time. Furthermore, greater transparency can improve its reliability as a research tool.

Systematic Review of the Efficacy of Cognitive-Behavior Therapy Related Treatments for Victims of Natural Disasters: A Worldwide Problem

November 7, 2014 Comments off

Systematic Review of the Efficacy of Cognitive-Behavior Therapy Related Treatments for Victims of Natural Disasters: A Worldwide Problem
Source: PLoS ONE

Natural disasters can have devastating consequences. Each year, about 225 million people are victims of natural disasters worldwide, and up to 13,5 million of these people can develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the first or second year following the disaster. Cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) is the first-choice treatment for this disorder. In order to evaluate the efficacy of psychotherapeutic treatment based on cognitive-behavior therapy for people who developed post traumatic stress disorder after natural disasters we conducted a systematic search of published studies. We used the terms reported below in the electronic databases ISI Web of Science, PsycINFO, PubMed, PILOTS and Scopus with no restrictions of language or publication date. Articles that described randomized controlled, non-randomized controlled and non controlled studies on the efficacy of cognitive-behavior therapy for individuals diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after exposure to a natural disaster were eligible for inclusion. The studies were required to use a standardized measure of effectiveness before and after the intervention and have a group of patients who had used cognitive-behavior therapy as the only intervention. Our search identified 820 studies, and 11 were selected for this review. These 11 studies involved 742 subjects, 10 related to earthquakes and 1 to a hurricane. The cognitive-behavior therapy techniques used were various: 7 studies used exposure therapy, 2 studies used problem solving, and the only 2 studies with adolescents used techniques including reconstructions and reprocessing of the traumatic experience. As limitations, the search involved only five electronic databases, no experts in the field were consulted, and the heterogeneity of the findings made it impossible to perform a meta-analysis. The results suggest the efficacy of cognitive-behavior therapy, particularly exposure techniques, for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder after earthquakes. However, further studies with stronger methodologies, i.e. randomized-control trials and non-randomized controlled trials, are needed.

The Inequality Footprints of Nations: A Novel Approach to Quantitative Accounting of Income Inequality

November 4, 2014 Comments off

The Inequality Footprints of Nations: A Novel Approach to Quantitative Accounting of Income Inequality
Source: PLoS ONE

In this study we use economic input-output analysis to calculate the inequality footprint of nations. An inequality footprint shows the link that each country’s domestic economic activity has to income distribution elsewhere in the world. To this end we use employment and household income accounts for 187 countries and an historical time series dating back to 1990. Our results show that in 2010, most developed countries had an inequality footprint that was higher than their within-country inequality, meaning that in order to support domestic lifestyles, these countries source imports from more unequal economies. Amongst exceptions are the United States and United Kingdom, which placed them on a par with many developing countries. Russia has a high within-country inequality nevertheless it has the lowest inequality footprint in the world, which is because of its trade connections with the Commonwealth of Independent States and Europe. Our findings show that the commodities that are inequality-intensive, such as electronic components, chemicals, fertilizers, minerals, and agricultural products often originate in developing countries characterized by high levels of inequality. Consumption of these commodities may implicate within-country inequality in both developing and developed countries.

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