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Mitigating Reptile Road Mortality: Fence Failures Compromise Ecopassage Effectiveness

March 27, 2015 Comments off

Mitigating Reptile Road Mortality: Fence Failures Compromise Ecopassage Effectiveness
Source: PLoS ONE

Roadways pose serious threats to animal populations. The installation of roadway mitigation measures is becoming increasingly common, yet studies that rigorously evaluate the effectiveness of these conservation tools remain rare. A highway expansion project in Ontario, Canada included exclusion fencing and ecopassages as mitigation measures designed to offset detrimental effects to one of the most imperial groups of vertebrates, reptiles. Taking a multispecies approach, we used a Before-After-Control-Impact study design to compare reptile abundance on the highway before and after mitigation at an Impact site and a Control site from 1 May to 31 August in 2012 and 2013. During this time, radio telemetry, wildlife cameras, and an automated PIT-tag reading system were used to monitor reptile movements and use of ecopassages. Additionally, a willingness to utilize experiment was conducted to quantify turtle behavioral responses to ecopassages. We found no difference in abundance of turtles on the road between the un-mitigated and mitigated highways, and an increase in the percentage of both snakes and turtles detected dead on the road post-mitigation, suggesting that the fencing was not effective. Although ecopassages were used by reptiles, the number of crossings through ecopassages was lower than road-surface crossings. Furthermore, turtle willingness to use ecopassages was lower than that reported in previous arena studies, suggesting that effectiveness of ecopassages may be compromised when alternative crossing options are available (e.g., through holes in exclusion structures). Our rigorous evaluation of reptile roadway mitigation demonstrated that when exclusion structures fail, the effectiveness of population connectivity structures is compromised. Our project emphasizes the need to design mitigation measures with the biology and behavior of the target species in mind, to implement mitigation designs in a rigorous fashion, and quantitatively evaluate road mitigation to ensure allow for adaptive management and optimization of these increasingly important conservation tools.

See: Mitigating reptile road mortality

The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change as a Gateway Belief: Experimental Evidence

March 12, 2015 Comments off

The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change as a Gateway Belief: Experimental Evidence
Source: PLoS ONE

There is currently widespread public misunderstanding about the degree of scientific consensus on human-caused climate change, both in the US as well as internationally. Moreover, previous research has identified important associations between public perceptions of the scientific consensus, belief in climate change and support for climate policy. This paper extends this line of research by advancing and providing experimental evidence for a “gateway belief model” (GBM). Using national data (N = 1104) from a consensus-message experiment, we find that increasing public perceptions of the scientific consensus is significantly and causally associated with an increase in the belief that climate change is happening, human-caused and a worrisome threat. In turn, changes in these key beliefs are predictive of increased support for public action. In short, we find that perceived scientific agreement is an important gateway belief, ultimately influencing public responses to climate change.

Implications of the Circumpolar Genetic Structure of Polar Bears for Their Conservation in a Rapidly Warming Arctic

February 25, 2015 Comments off

Implications of the Circumpolar Genetic Structure of Polar Bears for Their Conservation in a Rapidly Warming Arctic
Source: PLoS ONE

We provide an expansive analysis of polar bear (Ursus maritimus) circumpolar genetic variation during the last two decades of decline in their sea-ice habitat. We sought to evaluate whether their genetic diversity and structure have changed over this period of habitat decline, how their current genetic patterns compare with past patterns, and how genetic demography changed with ancient fluctuations in climate. Characterizing their circumpolar genetic structure using microsatellite data, we defined four clusters that largely correspond to current ecological and oceanographic factors: Eastern Polar Basin, Western Polar Basin, Canadian Archipelago and Southern Canada. We document evidence for recent (ca. last 1–3 generations) directional gene flow from Southern Canada and the Eastern Polar Basin towards the Canadian Archipelago, an area hypothesized to be a future refugium for polar bears as climate-induced habitat decline continues. Our data provide empirical evidence in support of this hypothesis. The direction of current gene flow differs from earlier patterns of gene flow in the Holocene. From analyses of mitochondrial DNA, the Canadian Archipelago cluster and the Barents Sea subpopulation within the Eastern Polar Basin cluster did not show signals of population expansion, suggesting these areas may have served also as past interglacial refugia. Mismatch analyses of mitochondrial DNA data from polar and the paraphyletic brown bear (U. arctos) uncovered offset signals in timing of population expansion between the two species, that are attributed to differential demographic responses to past climate cycling. Mitogenomic structure of polar bears was shallow and developed recently, in contrast to the multiple clades of brown bears. We found no genetic signatures of recent hybridization between the species in our large, circumpolar sample, suggesting that recently observed hybrids represent localized events. Documenting changes in subpopulation connectivity will allow polar nations to proactively adjust conservation actions to continuing decline in sea-ice habitat.

See: Polar Bears Shifting to Areas with More Sea Ice — Genetic Study Reveals (USGS)

Red, Purple and Pink: The Colors of Diffusion on Pinterest

February 23, 2015 Comments off

Red, Purple and Pink: The Colors of Diffusion on Pinterest
Source: PLoS ONE

Many lab studies have shown that colors can evoke powerful emotions and impact human behavior. Might these phenomena drive how we act online? A key research challenge for image-sharing communities is uncovering the mechanisms by which content spreads through the community. In this paper, we investigate whether there is link between color and diffusion. Drawing on a corpus of one million images crawled from Pinterest, we find that color significantly impacts the diffusion of images and adoption of content on image sharing communities such as Pinterest, even after partially controlling for network structure and activity. Specifically, Red, Purple and pink seem to promote diffusion, while Green, Blue, Black and Yellow suppress it. To our knowledge, our study is the first to investigate how colors relate to online user behavior. In addition to contributing to the research conversation surrounding diffusion, these findings suggest future work using sophisticated computer vision techniques. We conclude with a discussion on the theoretical, practical and design implications suggested by this work—e.g. design of engaging image filters.

A Clinical Index to Predict Progression from Mild Cognitive Impairment to Dementia Due to Alzheimer’s Disease

February 10, 2015 Comments off

A Clinical Index to Predict Progression from Mild Cognitive Impairment to Dementia Due to Alzheimer’s Disease
Source: PLoS ONE

Background
Mild cognitive impairment is often a precursor to dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease, but many patients with mild cognitive impairment never develop dementia. New diagnostic criteria may lead to more patients receiving a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment.

Objective
To develop a prediction index for the 3-year risk of progression from mild cognitive impairment to dementia relying only on information that can be readily obtained in most clinical settings.

Design and Participants
382 participants diagnosed with amnestic mild cognitive impairment enrolled in the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), a multi-site, longitudinal, observational study.

Main Predictors Measures
Demographics, comorbid conditions, caregiver report of participant symptoms and function, and participant performance on individual items from basic neuropsychological scales.

Main Outcome Measure
Progression to probable Alzheimer’s disease.

Categories: dementia, PLoS ONE, science

Does Global Progress on Sanitation Really Lag behind Water? An Analysis of Global Progress on Community- and Household-Level Access to Safe Water and Sanitation

January 26, 2015 Comments off

Does Global Progress on Sanitation Really Lag behind Water? An Analysis of Global Progress on Community- and Household-Level Access to Safe Water and Sanitation
Source: PLoS ONE

Safe drinking water and sanitation are important determinants of human health and wellbeing and have recently been declared human rights by the international community. Increased access to both were included in the Millennium Development Goals under a single dedicated target for 2015. This target was reached in 2010 for water but sanitation will fall short; however, there is an important difference in the benchmarks used for assessing global access. For drinking water the benchmark is community-level access whilst for sanitation it is household-level access, so a pit latrine shared between households does not count toward the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target. We estimated global progress for water and sanitation under two scenarios: with equivalent household- and community-level benchmarks. Our results demonstrate that the “sanitation deficit” is apparent only when household-level sanitation access is contrasted with community-level water access. When equivalent benchmarks are used for water and sanitation, the global deficit is as great for water as it is for sanitation, and sanitation progress in the MDG-period (1990–2015) outstrips that in water. As both drinking water and sanitation access yield greater benefits at the household-level than at the community-level, we conclude that any post–2015 goals should consider a household-level benchmark for both.

See: Study calls for new global standard for safe drinking water and sanitation (Science Daily)

New Year’s Res-Illusions: Food Shopping in the New Year Competes with Healthy Intentions

January 8, 2015 Comments off

New Year’s Res-Illusions: Food Shopping in the New Year Competes with Healthy Intentions
Source: PLoS ONE

Objective
How do the holidays – and the possible New Year’s resolutions that follow – influence a household’s purchase patterns of healthier foods versus less healthy foods? This has important implications for both holiday food shopping and post-holiday shopping.

Methods
207 households were recruited to participate in a randomized-controlled trial conducted at two regional-grocery chain locations in upstate New York. Item-level transaction records were tracked over a seven-month period (July 2010 to March 2011). The cooperating grocer’s proprietary nutrient-rating system was used to designate “healthy,” and “less healthy” items. Calorie data were extracted from online nutritional databases. Expenditures and calories purchased for the holiday period (Thanksgiving-New Year’s), and the post-holiday period (New Year’s-March), were compared to baseline (July-Thanksgiving) amounts.

Results
During the holiday season, household food expenditures increased 15% compared to baseline ($105.74 to $121.83; p<0.001), with 75% of additional expenditures accounted for by less-healthy items. Consistent with what one would expect from New Year’s resolutions, sales of healthy foods increased 29.4% ($13.24/week) after the holiday season compared to baseline, and 18.9% ($9.26/week) compared to the holiday period. Unfortunately, sales of less-healthy foods remained at holiday levels ($72.85/week holiday period vs. $72.52/week post-holiday). Calories purchased each week increased 9.3% (450 calories per serving/week) after the New Year compared to the holiday period, and increased 20.2% (890 calories per serving/week) compared to baseline.

Conclusions
Despite resolutions to eat more healthfully after New Year’s, consumers may adjust to a new “status quo” of increased less-healthy food purchasing during the holidays, and dubiously fulfill their New Year’s resolutions by spending more on healthy foods. Encouraging consumers to substitute healthy items for less-healthy items may be one way for practitioners and public health officials to help consumers fulfill New Year’s resolutions, and reverse holiday weight gain.

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