Satellite shows high productivity from US corn belt

Data from satellite sensors show that during the Northern Hemisphere’s growing season, the Midwest region of the United States boasts more photosynthetic activity than any other spot on Earth, according to NASA and university scientists.Healthy plants convert light to energy via photosynthesis, but chlorophyll also emits a fraction of absorbed light as fluorescent glow that is invisible to the naked eye. The magnitude of the glow is an excellent indicator of the amount of photosynthesis, or gross productivity, of plants in a given region.Research in 2013 led by Joanna Joiner, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., demonstrated that fluorescence from plants could be teased out of data from existing satellites, which were designed and built for other purposes. The new research led by Luis Guanter of the Freie Universitt Berlin, used the data for the first time to estimate photosynthesis from agriculture. Results were published March 25 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.According to co-author Christian Frankenberg of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., “The paper shows that fluorescence is a much better proxy for agricultural productivity than anything we’ve had before. This can go a long way regarding monitoring — and maybe even predicting — regional crop yields.”Guanter, Joiner and Frankenberg launched their collaboration at a 2012 workshop, hosted by the Keck Institute for Space Studies at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, to explore measurements of photosynthesis from space. The team noticed that on an annual basis, the tropics are the most productive. But during the Northern Hemisphere’s growing season, the U.S. Corn Belt “really stands out,” Frankenberg said. “Areas all over the world are not as productive as this area.”The researchers set out to describe the phenomenon observed by carefully interpreting the data from the Global Ozone Monitoring Experiment 2 (GOME-2) on Metop-A, a European meteorological satellite. Data showed that fluorescence from the Corn Belt, which extends from Ohio to Nebraska and Kansas, peaks in July at levels 40 percent greater than those observed in the Amazon.Comparison with ground-based measurements from carbon flux towers and yield statistics confirmed the results.The match between ground-based measurements and satellite measurements was a “pleasant surprise,” said Joiner, a co-author on the paper. …

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$100 Amazon GC Giveaway (pinterest)

$100 Amazon GC Giveaway (pinterest) Emily Dickey posted this in GiveawaysMoooore money! Week 4 of a month of Amazon gift card giveaways–time to shop! This week it’s for Pinterest pages and I know you’re already following mine Good luck!Makobi Scribe is bringing you this Amazon Pinterest blast where one lucky reader will win a $100 Amazon gift card. The giveaway is open to everyone and provided by Makobi Scribe. Good Luck! If you are a blogger, you can sign up for this blast here.Entry-FormMarch 22nd, 2014 | Tags: Amazon, Gift Card, Giveaway | Category: Giveaways

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$100 Amazon giveaway (twitter blast)

$100 Amazon giveaway (twitter blast) Emily Dickey posted this in GiveawaysI’ll be having one of these $100 Amazon giveaway posts each week through March! Hope one of my readers gets lucky and wins some spending money Good luck!Makobi Scribe and Sason and Pobi are bringing you this Amazon Twitter blast. The winner will receive an Amazon gift card for $100. The giveaway is open to Everyone Good Luck! If you are a blogger, you can sign up for this blast here.Entry-FormFebruary 9th, 2014 | Tags: Amazon, Gift Card, Giveaway | Category: Giveaways

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Natural remedies for kids: Zarbee’s (coupon)

I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting (#MC) for Zarbee’s Naturals (#ZarbeesCough). I received product samples and a promotional item as a thank you for participating.Did you know that about 10,000 kids every year are sent to the emergency room from accidental cough syrup overdoses? In 2007 the FDA stated these products were not safe for young children and many were then removed from store shelves or were labeled for ages 4 and up. So when you have little ones that need relief, where do you find it? It is miserable to see your babies not feeling well and being unable to help.natural remediesDr. Zarbock felt the same way for his 4 sons. He needed a solution and discovered a clinical trial that showed dark …

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New maps highlight habitat corridors in the tropics

A team of Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) scientists created maps of habitat corridors connecting protected areas in the tropics to incorporate biodiversity co-benefits into climate change mitigation strategies. Drs. Patrick Jantz, Scott Goetz, and Nadine Laporte describe their findings in an article entitled, “Carbon stock corridors to mitigate climate change and promote biodiversity in the tropics,” available online in the journal Nature Climate Change on January 26.Climate change and deforestation are changing tropical ecosystems, isolating organisms in protected areas that will change along with climate, threatening their survival. Nearly every animal and plant species requires travelling some distance for nutrition, reproduction and genetic diversity, but few conservation or climate mitigation strategies take the connections between conserved lands into account. These habitat corridors are essential for longer-term biodiversity conservation, while also providing opportunities for climate change mitigation in the form of carbon sequestration and avoiding emissions from deforestation.According to lead author Dr. Jantz, “Maintaining connectivity of forest ecosystems provides ecological and societal benefits ensuring long-term species survival and providing room for ecosystems to reorganize in response to climate change and protecting ecosystem services that people depend on.” Co-author Dr. Goetz sees corridors as “avenues for migration of flora and fauna” needed for their survival “under the climate change we’re already committed to.”The team used a high-resolution data set of vegetation carbon stock (VCS) to map 16,257 corridors through areas of the highest biomass between 5,600 protected areas in the tropics. For Dr. Jantz, “the VCS corridor approach informs global frameworks for land management based climate change mitigation by showing which forests contain significant carbon stocks and are important for tropical biodiversity.”Part of the study focused on the Legal Amazon, where the team used economic and biological information combining species richness and endemism with economic opportunity costs and deforestation threats to prioritize optimal corridors. For Dr. …

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Clutter Video Tip: Organizing Products that Solve Everything! (Or Not…)

With a wave of your wand and an “alakazam” all of your clutter will disappear! That would be awesome, but… It takes more than hocus pocus to organize your closet and keep it that way. Watch this video to get a little shazam from your organizing tools. That’s not just bippity boppity boo.(Click here to watch on YouTube if you can’t see the embedded player. Or watch the video at HELP: “LIKE”-ing, sharing, and commenting on these Clutter Video Tip videos on YouTube really helps me a lot to get the word out about the information we have to offer. If you like it, please go to YouTube and take only a few seconds to Like, Share, and/or Comment. …

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Clutter Video Tip: Is Your House Too Small?

Do you feel like your home is too small? Are you trying to keep up with the Jones’s instead of just keeping up with your stuff? Good things really do come in small packages. But you also don’t want to feel like a small fish in a big pond. Watch this video for tips on how not to sweat the small stuff and to be thankful for small mercies.(Click here to watch on YouTube if you can’t see the embedded player. Or watch the video at HELP: “LIKE”-ing, sharing, and commenting on these Clutter Video Tip videos on YouTube really helps me a lot to get the word out about the information we have to offer. If you like it, …

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Current pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions put over 600 million people at risk of higher water scarcity

Sep. 12, 2013 — Our current pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which are projected to set the global mean temperature increase at around 3.5°C above pre-industrial levels, will expose 668 million people worldwide to new or aggravated water scarcity.This is according to a new study published today, 13 September, in IOP Publishing’s journal Environmental Research Letters, which has calculated that a further 11 per cent of the world’s population, taken from the year 2000, will live in water-scarce river basins or, for those already living in water-scarce regions, find that the effects will be aggravated.The results show that people in the Middle East, North Africa, Southern Europe and the Southwest of the USA will experience the most significant changes.The results show that if the global mean temperature increases by 2°C — the internationally agreed target — then eight per cent of the world population (486 million people) will be exposed to new or aggravated water scarcity, specifically in the Near and Middle East.Lead author of the research Dr Dieter Gerten, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said: “Our global assessments suggest that many regions will have less water available per person.”Even if the increase is restricted to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, many regions will have to adapt their water management and demand to a lower supply, especially since the population is expected to grow significantly in many of these regions.””The unequal spatial pattern of exposure to climate change impacts sheds interesting light on the responsibility of high-emission countries and could have a bearing on both mitigation and adaption burden sharing.”According to Dr Gerten, the main driver of new or aggravated water scarcity is declining precipitation; however, increased temperatures will also lead to an increase in evapotranspiration of water and, thus, decrease the resources.The anticipated increase in population will have even stronger effects on the ratio of water demand and water availability in some regions.To assess the impacts of different mean global warming levels, the international group of researchers combined existing simulations from 19 climate change models with eight different global warming trajectories. The latter ranged from 1.5°C to 5°C increases above pre-industrial levels, resulting in a total of 152 climate change scenarios that were examined.In addition to water shortages, the researchers assessed the impact that future climatic changes may have on global terrestrial ecosystems. They sought to discover what areas will be affected by strong ecosystem changes, and whether these areas are rich in biodiversity and/or contain unique species.”At a global warming of 2°C, notable ecosystem restructuring is likely for regions such as the tundra and some semi-arid regions. At global warming levels beyond 3°C, the area affected by significant ecosystem transformation would significantly increase and encroach into biodiversity-rich regions,” continued Dr Gerten.”Beyond a mean global warming of 4°C, we show with high confidence that biodiversity hotspots such as parts of the Amazon will be affected.”

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Hidden shell middens reveal ancient human presence in Bolivian Amazon

Aug. 28, 2013 — Previously unknown archeological sites in forest islands reveal human presence in the western Amazon as early as 10,000 years ago, according to research published August 28 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Umberto Lombardo from the University of Bern, Switzerland and colleagues from other institutions.Share This:The study focuses on a region in the Bolivian Amazon thought to be rarely occupied by pre-agricultural communities due to unfavorable environmental conditions. Hundreds of ‘forest islands’- small forested mounds of earth- are found throughout the region, their origins attributed to termites, erosion or ancient human activity. In this study, the authors report that three of these islands are shell middens, mounds of seashells left by settlers in the early Holocene period, approximately 10,400 years ago.Samples of soil from these three mounds revealed a dense accumulation of freshwater snail shells, animal bones and charcoal forming the middens. The mounds appear to have formed in two phases: an older layer composed primarily of snail shells, and an overlying layer composed of organic matter containing pottery, bone tools and human bones. The two are separated by a thin layer rich in pieces of burnt clay and earth, and the uppermost layer of deposits was also seen to contain occasional fragments of earthenware pottery.Radiocarbon analysis of two middens indicates that humans settled in this region during the early Holocene, approximately 10,400 years ago, and shells and other artefacts built up into mounds over an approximately 6,000 year period of human use. The sites may have been abandoned as climate shifted towards wetter conditions later. Lombardo adds, “We have discovered the oldest archaeological sites in western and southern Amazonia. These sites allow us to reconstruct 10,000 years of human-environment interactions in the Bolivian Amazon.”Share this story on Facebook, Twitter, and Google:Other social bookmarking and sharing tools:|Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by Public Library of Science, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. …

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Competition changes how people view strangers online: On sites like eBay, strangers no longer seen as ‘just like you’

Aug. 12, 2013 — An anonymous stranger you encounter on websites like Yelp or Amazon may seem to be just like you, and a potential friend. But a stranger on a site like eBay is a whole different story.A new study finds that on websites where people compete against each other, assumptions about strangers change.Previous research has shown that people have a bias toward thinking that strangers they encounter online are probably just like them.But when they are competitors, strangers are seen as different, and not sharing your traits and values — and that changes how people act, said Rebecca Walker Naylor, co-author of the study and assistant professor of marketing at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.”When you’re competing against people you don’t know, you actually bid much more aggressively than you might normally, because you assume that these strangers aren’t similar to you,” she said.”You feel you have the license to bid aggressively because the other bidders aren’t like you and you don’t have to be nice to them.”Naylor said the results should serve as a caution for people who shop on auction sites like eBay.”You need to be aware that, whether you mean to or not, you will naturally see other anonymous bidders as different from you. That will get the competitive juices flowing and you might end up paying more than you really want,” she said.Naylor conducted the study with Cait Poynor Lamberton of the Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh, and David Norton at the University of Connecticut.Their findings appear in the August 2013 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.In several related experiments, the researchers conducted simulated online auctions in which people thought they were bidding for products like a popular energy drink. In some cases, the study participants knew they were similar — or dissimilar — from the people they were bidding against, while other times they didn’t know anything about their competitors.In one study, college students were told they would be bidding on a bottle of Five Hour Energy Drink. They were then shown one of three profiles of a “representative” bidder they were competing against. In one profile, the bidder was demographically similar to the participant. A second profile featured a profile that was demographically different. The third profile was ambiguous, so these participants couldn’t tell how similar they were to their competition.Before the bidding, the researchers primed some participants for competition by having them complete a word search involving words describing competition, such as “battle,” “challenge” and “contend.”As expected, the participants’ bid was lowest — 75 cents — when they competed against someone similar to themselves. When they were bidding against people who were not like them, their high bid went up to $1.22.But the bid was highest when the participant competed against an anonymous person — all the way to $1.28.”They automatically assumed that if they didn’t know anything about this person they were bidding against, it must be someone who is not like them,” Naylor said. …

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Tracking Twitter may enhance monitoring of food safety at restaurants

Aug. 7, 2013 — A new system could tell you how likely it is for you to become ill if you visit a particular restaurant by ‘listening’ to the tweets from other restaurant patrons.The University of Rochester researchers say their system, nEmesis, can help people make more informed decisions, and it also has the potential to complement traditional public health methods for monitoring food safety, such as restaurant inspections. For example, it could enable what they call “adaptive inspections,” inspections guided in part by the real-time information that nEmesis provides.The system combines machine-learning and crowdsourcing techniques to analyze millions of tweets to find people reporting food poisoning symptoms following a restaurant visit. This volume of tweets would be impossible to analyze manually, the researchers note. Over a four-month period, the system collected 3.8 million tweets from more than 94,000 unique users in New York City, traced 23,000 restaurant visitors, and found 480 reports of likely food poisoning. They also found they correlate fairly well with public inspection data by the local health department, as the researchers describe in a paper to be presented at the Conference on Human Computation & Crowdsourcing in Palm Springs, Calif., in November.The system ranks restaurants according to how likely it is for someone to become ill after visiting that restaurant.”The Twitter reports are not an exact indicator — any individual case could well be due to factors unrelated to the restaurant meal — but in aggregate the numbers are revealing,” said Henry Kautz, chair of the computer science department at the University of Rochester and co-author of the paper. In other words, a “seemingly random collection of online rants becomes an actionable alert,” according to Kautz, which can help detect cases of foodborne illness in a timely manner.nEmesis “listens” to relevant public tweets and detects restaurant visits by matching up where a person tweets from and the known locations of restaurants. People will often tweet from their phones or other mobile devices, which are GPS enabled. This means that tweets can be “geotagged”: the tweet not only provides information in the 140 characters allowed, but also about where the user was at the time.If a user tweets from a location that is determined to be a restaurant (by using the locations of 24,904 restaurants that had been visited by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in New York City), the system will continue to track this person’s tweets for 72 hours, even when they’re not geotagged, or when they are tweeted from a different device. If a user then tweets about feeling ill, the system captures the information that this person is now ill and had visited a specific restaurant.The correlation between the Twitter data and the public inspection data means that about one third of the inspection scores could be reliably predicted from the Twitter data. …

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Detour ahead: Cities, farms reroute animals seeking cooler climes

June 19, 2013 — In spite of considerable human development, the southeastern United States region could provide some of the Western Hemisphere’s more heavily used thoroughfares for mammals, birds and amphibians on their way to cooler environments in a warming world, according to new research led by the University of Washington.The region is among half a dozen areas that could experience heavier traffic compared with the average species-movement across the Western Hemisphere in response to a warming climate. The estimate in southeastern states, for example, is up to 2.5 times the average amount of movement across North and South America.Other areas that could see pronounced animal movements are northeastern North America, including around the Great Lakes and north into Canada; southeastern Brazil, home to both the species-rich Atlantic Forest and major cities such as Sao Paulo with its 11 million residents; and the Amazon Basin. The basin, stretching across seven South American countries, could have the greatest animal movements, up to 17 times the average across the hemisphere. The high northern latitudes also show pronounced species movements, not because of animals currently found there but because of an expected influx of species.While previous studies mapped where animals need to move to find climates that suit them, this is the first broad-scale study to also consider how animals might travel when confronted with cities, large agricultural areas and other human related barriers, according to Joshua Lawler, UW associate professor of environmental and forestry sciences and lead author of a paper appearing June 19 online in Ecology Letters.The golden mouse, ornate chorus frog and southern cricket frog — three of the species that will likely be on the move in southeastern U.S. — were among the nearly 3,000 mammals, birds and amphibians the scientists included in their study, nearly half of all such animals in the Western Hemisphere.”We took into account that many animals aren’t just going to be able to head directly to areas with climates that suit them,” Lawler said. “Some animals, particularly small mammals and amphibians, are going to have to avoid highways, agricultural development and the like. We also took into consideration major natural barriers such as the Great Lakes in North America and the Amazon River in South America.”Identifying where large numbers of species will need to move can help guide land use and conservation planning. Many of the animals moving southward through central Argentina will be funneled by agriculture and development through the more intact parts of the Gran Chaco region and into the Sierras de Córdoba and the Andes mountains. Similarly, the southern Appalachian Mountains in the southeastern U.S. are projected to act as a conduit for species moving northward in response to climate change.”These findings highlight the importance of the natural corridors that exist in these places — corridors that likely warrant more concerted conservation efforts to help species move in response to climate change,” Lawler said.In other places barriers may need to be breached for animals to disperse successfully.”Southeastern Brazil, for instance, has lots of species that need to move but is a heavily converted landscape. …

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Deep, permeable soils buffer impacts of crop fertilizer on Amazon streams

Apr. 24, 2013 — The often damaging impacts of intensive agriculture on nearby streams, rivers, and their wildlife has been well documented in temperate zones, such as North America and Europe.

Yet a new study in an important tropical zone — the fast-changing southern Amazon, a region marked by widespread replacement of native forest by cattle ranches and more recently croplands — suggests that at least some of those damaging impacts may be buffered by the very deep and highly permeable soils that characterize large areas of the expanding cropland.

The study, led by Christopher Neill, director of the Ecosystems Center at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), is published this week in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. This entire journal issue is devoted to the consequences of massive land-use changes in Mato Grosso, Brazil, the Amazon’s biggest and most dynamic agricultural frontier.

“Over the past two decades, Mato Grosso has experienced both the highest rates of deforestation (mostly for pasture and soya bean expansion) and the greatest reduction in deforestation rates (associated with [government] policies and macroeconomic factors) in the Amazon,” write the editors of the issue, who include Neill’s collaborator Michael T. Coe of Woods Hole Research Center. “The regional focus of this issue allows for a deep assessment of the complex ecological and social changes related to agricultural transformation of a tropical forest environment.”

Neill’s study looked specifically at the impacts of soybean agriculture on water quality and quantity at Tanguro Ranch, a nearly 200,000-acre farm similar in climate and geography to large tracts of the Amazon where soybean production, largely for export as animal feed, is expanding rapidly.

The ranch has watersheds that are entirely forested, as well as watersheds that are now entirely soybean cropland, allowing for a comparison.

“We were surprised to find that, despite intensive agriculture at Tanguro Ranch, the streams do not appear to be receiving a significant amount of either nitrogen or phosphorus, despite a high application of phosphorus fertilizer to adjacent cropland,” says Neill.

This is in contrast to many Northern Hemisphere cropland areas where fertilizers are known to add nutrients to the soil that, with rainfall, run off into freshwater streams and rivers, leading to over-fertilization and low-oxygen conditions that endanger fish and other aquatic life.

At Tanguro Ranch, however, “the soils are old and highly weathered, very deep, and likely to be fairly uniform over great depths,” Neill says. “Water infiltrates the soil very rapidly, and the soil has a great capacity to absorb the nutrients. It appears to act as an enormous buffer.”

However, this situation is in transition, he notes. “The southeastern Amazon is a very fast-moving environment of change. Right now, most soybean fields are not fertilized with nitrogen. But that will change because the Amazon is poised for large increases in nitrogen fertilizer use as double-cropping (soybeans plus corn) becomes more prevalent,” Neill says. “So it’s quite possible we will see greater effects on water quality in the future.”

The study also noted impacts of deforestation on the quantity of water entering streams. Typically, after a forest is cut down,

about four times more surface water runs off into small streams because of reduced evaporation to the atmosphere. However, at Tanguro Ranch, rainfall infiltrates quickly into the soil and streams are fed predominantly by groundwater, so stream levels don’t fluctuate dramatically, during either the wet and dry seasons, even in cropland watersheds.

“We don’t see large changes to the structure of stream channels in small headwater streams, ” Neill says. “But in the bigger rivers, we see a cumulative impact of all the extra water from those small streams piling up. When larger rivers have to handle that extra water caused by deforestation, they change geomorphically; their floodplains get re-arranged. Those are also rivers that people use for water supplies, fishing, and transportation. “

Finally, the study showed that the agricultural streams were warmer than the forested streams, caused both by a reduction in bordering forest and the presence of impoundments (small human-made dams).

“Warmer water has implications for the fish,” Neill says, “because it holds less oxygen. Warmer water also increases fish metabolism, so fish need more food. We don’t know if warming and other changes associated with expanding cropland also increase fish food supply — if they don’t, some fish may not have enough energy to survive.”

Neill has been working at Tanguro Ranch since 2007 with collaborators from Woods Hole Research Center, Brown University, the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM), and the University of São Paulo. Other authors in this journal issue include MBL Senior Scientist Linda Deegan; Shelby Riskin and Gillian Galford, both of whom graduated from the Brown-MBL Graduate Program in Biological and Environmental Sciences; and Brown-MBL faculty members Stephen Porder, Leah VanWey, and Jack Mustard.

“Tanguro Ranch is the focus of a huge amount of the science on land transitions and social-ecological dynamics in the Amazon,” says Marty Downs, associate director of Brown University’s Environmental Change Initiative.

Neill’s study was funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, the Fundacão de Amparo á Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo, the Packard Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and the Brazilian Council for Scientific and Technological Development.

Theme Issue Ecology, economy and management of an agroindustrial frontier landscape in the southeast Amazon, compiled and edited by Paulo M. Brando, Michael T. Coe and Ruth DeFries. Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. B, June 5, 2013.

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