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Reducing food waste could save the global economy $300 billion a year

February 27, 2015 Comments off

Reducing food waste could save the global economy $300 billion a year
Source: Waste & Resources Action Programme and Global Commission on the Economy and Climate

Reducing consumer food waste could save between US$120 and 300 billion per year by 2030 according to a new report by WRAP (The Waste & Resources Action Programme) and the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate. To achieve this would require a 20-50% reduction in consumer food waste.

One third of all food produced in the world ends up as waste, while the value of global consumer food waste is more than US$400 billion per year. As the global middle class expands over the course of the decade, the cost could rise to US$600 billion, according to new research conducted by WRAP for the Global Commission.

Their report, Strategies to achieve economic and environmental gains by reducing food waste, also identifies significant opportunities to improve economic performance and tackle climate change by reducing the amount of food that is wasted in agriculture, transport, storage and consumption.

Options for Improving Conservation Programs: Insights from Auction Theory and Economic Experiments

February 25, 2015 Comments off

Options for Improving Conservation Programs: Insights from Auction Theory and Economic Experiments
Source: USDA Economic Research Service

USDA spends over $5 billion per year on conservation programs, mostly on voluntary programs that pay farmers and landowners to provide environmental services. This report studies the use of auctions in conservation programs to determine if auction design can reduce Government expenditures or encourage landowners to provide greater environmental services.

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)

Randomized Trial of Peanut Consumption in Infants at Risk for Peanut Allergy

February 24, 2015 Comments off

Randomized Trial of Peanut Consumption in Infants at Risk for Peanut Allergy
Source: New England Journal of Medicine

Background
The prevalence of peanut allergy among children in Western countries has doubled in the past 10 years, and peanut allergy is becoming apparent in Africa and Asia. We evaluated strategies of peanut consumption and avoidance to determine which strategy is most effective in preventing the development of peanut allergy in infants at high risk for the allergy.

Methods
We randomly assigned 640 infants with severe eczema, egg allergy, or both to consume or avoid peanuts until 60 months of age. Participants, who were at least 4 months but younger than 11 months of age at randomization, were assigned to separate study cohorts on the basis of preexisting sensitivity to peanut extract, which was determined with the use of a skin-prick test — one consisting of participants with no measurable wheal after testing and the other consisting of those with a wheal measuring 1 to 4 mm in diameter. The primary outcome, which was assessed independently in each cohort, was the proportion of participants with peanut allergy at 60 months of age.

Results
Among the 530 infants in the intention-to-treat population who initially had negative results on the skin-prick test, the prevalence of peanut allergy at 60 months of age was 13.7% in the avoidance group and 1.9% in the consumption group (P<0.001). Among the 98 participants in the intention-to-treat population who initially had positive test results, the prevalence of peanut allergy was 35.3% in the avoidance group and 10.6% in the consumption group (P=0.004). There was no significant between-group difference in the incidence of serious adverse events. Increases in levels of peanut-specific IgG4 antibody occurred predominantly in the consumption group; a greater percentage of participants in the avoidance group had elevated titers of peanut-specific IgE antibody. A larger wheal on the skin-prick test and a lower ratio of peanut-specific IgG4:IgE were associated with peanut allergy.

Conclusions
The early introduction of peanuts significantly decreased the frequency of the development of peanut allergy among children at high risk for this allergy and modulated immune responses to peanuts. (Funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and others; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00329784.)

CRS — Water Quality Issues in the 114th Congress: An Overview (January 21, 2015)

February 24, 2015 Comments off

Water Quality Issues in the 114th Congress: An Overview (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Congressional Research Service)

Much progress has been made in achieving the ambitious goals that Congress established in 1972 in the Clean Water Act (CWA) to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters. However, long-standing problems persist, and new problems have emerged. Water quality problems are diverse, ranging from pollution runoff from farms and ranches, city streets, and other diffuse or “nonpoint” sources, to toxic substances discharged from factories and sewage treatment plants.

There is little agreement among stakeholders about what solutions are needed, whether legislation is required to address the nation’s remaining water pollution problems, or whether regulatory authorities should be reduced. For some time, efforts to comprehensively amend the CWA have stalled as interests have debated whether and exactly how to change the law. Congress has instead focused legislative attention on enacting narrow bills to extend or modify selected CWA programs, but not comprehensive proposals.

UK — Prime Minister’s challenge on dementia 2020

February 24, 2015 Comments off

Prime Minister’s challenge on dementia 2020
Source: Department of Health, Cabinet Office and Prime Minister’s Office

It sets out what this government wants to see in place by 2020 in order for England to be:

+ the best country in the world for dementia care and support and for people with dementia, their carers and families to live; and
+ the best place in the world to undertake research into dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases

It also highlights the progress to date on improving dementia care, support and research.

CRS — Bee Health: The Role of Pesticides (February 9, 2015)

February 23, 2015 Comments off

Bee Health: The Role of Pesticides (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Over the past few decades there has been heightened concern about the plight of honey bees as well as other bee species. Given the importance of honey bees and other bee species to food production, many have expressed concern about whether a “pollinator crisis” has been occurring in recent decades. Although honey bee colony losses due to bee pests, parasites, pathogens, and disease are not uncommon, there is the perception that bee health has been declining more rapidly than in prior years, both in the United States and globally. This situation gained increased attention in 2006 as some commercial beekeepers began reporting sharp declines in their honey bee colonies. Because of the severity and unusual circumstances of these colony declines, scientists named this phenomenon colony collapse disorder (CCD). Since then, honey bee colonies have continued to dwindle each year, for reasons not solely attributable to CCD. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that CCD may not be the only or even the major cause of bee colony losses in recent years. In the United States, USDA estimates of overwinter colony losses from all causes have averaged nearly 30% annually since 2006.

The precise reasons for honey bee losses are not yet known. USDA and most scientists working on the subject seem to agree that no research conclusively points to one single cause for the large number of honey bee deaths. This general conclusion was reconfirmed in a 2013 joint report by USDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Reasons cited for bee declines include a wide range of possible factors thought to be negatively affecting pollinator species. However, one issue widely noted is the role that pesticides—in particular, neonicotinoid pesticides—might play in overall bee health. Pesticides are the focus of this report. Pesticides are among many identified factors known to affect bee health, including pests and diseases, diet and nutrition, genetics, habitat loss and other environmental stressors, and beekeeping management issues, as well as the possibility that bees are being negatively affected by cumulative, multiple exposures and/or the interactive effects of several of these factors.

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