Life can thrive in a partially cut forest, study finds
A study conducted in Malaysia revealed that forest plants and animals can thrive in areas that have been selectively cut down, and their definition as degraded ecosystems has been questioned. An international team of researchers has studied the differences between pristine ancient forest, partially cut forest areas, and areas cleared for palm oil plantations, all in the state of Sabah in northern Borneo. The scientists used data collected over 12 years by the Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems project, one of the world’s largest ecological studies on local plant productivity, animal populations and what they eat. In each plot, the team calculated a measure of how photosynthetic energy flows throughout the ecosystem, a measure of its viability and resilience. Selective logging created open space that promotes plant growth, resulting in a 2.5-fold increase in animal vegetation consumption compared to old-growth forest, the researchers report this week. Nature. The diversity of birds and mammals remained roughly the same. In monoculture palm plantations, animals were consumed as much as in old-growth forests, but species diversity declined. The research was funded primarily by the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council.
Museum president pushes for diversity
The American Museum of Natural History named its new president last week, biochemist Sean Decatur, who will become the first African American to lead the institution. “It’s important,” says Decatur, now president of Kenyon College. “It is important that an institution reflects the broader diversity of the society it serves.” In April 2023, she will replace attorney Ellen Futter, who will become the first woman to head the 153-year-old institution. Decatur, 54, sees expanding his dual roles in research and education as the logical next step in a career spent at liberal arts colleges.
California postdocs approve the deal
Postdoctoral fellows and non-staffed scientists in the University of California system ended their nearly month-long strike on Dec. Terms guarantee that the minimum postdoctoral salary will rise to $71,490 by October 2026. The agreement also improves benefits such as family leave and childcare subsidies. Staff scientists would receive a raise of up to 4.5% each year for the 5-year term of the contract. Graduate student researchers and lecturers, who make up 36,000 of the 48,000 workers who went on strike, the largest of their kind in the U.S., remain on the strike line to argue that their current salaries do not provide a livable wage in California. Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg was brought in this week to mediate what the university describes as a “negotiation blockage.”
If your infection spreads … don’t feel guilty. Infection will be a common phenomenon in the future, it is inevitable.
- Feng Zijian from the Chinese Society of Preventive Medicine
- A conversation he had with college students after China relaxed its zero-COVID controls, quoted on the Sina Finance website.
Zantac lawsuits fail against science
When a U.S. District Court judge in Florida said it dismissed their case last week, the thousands of consumers who sued manufacturers of the popular heartburn drug Zantac for allegedly causing them to develop cancer failed to provide a reliable scientific basis for their claims. In 2020, the Food and Drug Administration requested the recall of the product after discovering that the original active ingredient, ranitidine, could develop unsafe levels of the N-Nitrosodimethylamine compound, which is categorized as a possible human carcinogen, over time and under certain storage conditions. . (The makers of Zantac changed the compound that year.) But Judge Robin Rosenberg said experts hired by the plaintiffs had not found ranitidine to cause cancer. Pharmaceutical giants GSK, Pfizer and Sanofi, which make up Zantac, were among the defendants in more than 50,000 cases covered by the verdict. The decision does not directly affect the thousands of such cases in state courts.
Methane research needs to be strengthened
According to one report, burping cows emit most of the methane gas released in the United States, but suggests that research on how to reduce this source of greenhouse gases is underfunded. Farmland provides roughly one-tenth of all US climate-altering emissions, and 28% of that agricultural share comes from methane, created by feed fermentation in the multi-compartment stomachs of cattle, sheep and goats. But research to reduce livestock emissions — for example, by supplementing their feed with red seaweed — took just $2 million of the $241 million that U.S. federal agencies spend each year on agricultural research to mitigate the effects of climate change, according to a published analysis. This week by the Breakthrough Institute, a nonprofit environmental think tank. The report found that between 2017 and 2021, most climate-related agricultural R&D funding went into studying carbon sequestration by soils and crops.
Many abalone species may be in danger of extinction
20 species of abalone that face multiple risks – shellfish highly valued as seafood – have been added to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of endangered species. Abalone are sea snails that can live for several decades and grow up to 30 centimeters long. For the first time, researchers consulting with the IUCN reviewed the conservation status of all 54 species and identified overharvesting, including poaching, as a major threat. For example, criminal networks have forced the perlemoen abalone populations of South Africa (Bad breath) to the threshold. Marine heat waves due to climate change have also affected other species. Diseases such as withering syndrome also affect some species, including the critically endangered black abalone (H. cracherodii) in California and Mexico. Howard Peters of the University of York, who led the review team, says consumers should buy abalone that has been grown or sustainably harvested.
Welcome head moved to WHO
Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust since 2013, will become the new chief scientist of the World Health Organization in early 2023. Farrar has led one of the world’s largest non-governmental science funders at Wellcome and has expanded its portfolio from basic research to areas including mental research. Health, including groundbreaking clinical trials for vaccines and treatments, the health effects of climate change and infectious diseases during the devastating Ebola epidemic in West Africa. A trained neurologist, Farrar spent nearly 20 years chairing a Wellcome-funded infectious disease research group in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, before leading Wellcome.
Portal speeds up access to US data
Researchers can now use a single website to request access to more than 1,000 restricted datasets held by 16 US institutions. The Standard Application Process was launched on 8 December at ResearchDataGov.org. It is expected to make it faster and easier for scientists to analyze trends in education, health, labor, housing and demographics in the United States from datasets that are otherwise inaccessible to the public because they involve national security, intellectual property or personal privacy. Researchers still need to be vetted before access is granted. However, data seekers from more than one institution will not have to re-enter basic information about themselves and their research team, and reviewers who review the application will apply the same criteria regardless of which institution the dataset is from. Nick Hart of the Data Foundation says he welcomes one-stop shopping. But it calls for further improvements, including a public catalog of all federal data currently being collected, to meet the 2018 law that encourages evidence-based policy making through better use of federal data.