New maps reveal locations of species at risk as climate changes

In research published today in the journal Nature, CSIRO and an international team of scientists revealed global maps showing how fast and in which direction local climates are shifting. This new study points to a simpler way of looking at climatic changes and their likely effects on biodiversity.As climate change unfolds over the next century, plants and animals will need to adapt or shift locations to track their ideal climate.”The maps show areas where plants and animals may struggle to find a new home in a changing climate and provide crucial information for targeting conservation efforts,” CSIRO’s Dr Elvira Poloczanska said.The study analyzed 50 years of sea surface and land temperature data (1960-2009) and also investigated two future scenarios for marine environments (‘business as usual’ and a 1.75C temperature increase).The new maps show where new thermal environments are being generated and where existing environments may disappear.”The maps show us how fast and in which direction temperatures are shifting, and where climate migrants following them may hit barriers such as coastlines. Our work shows that climate migration is far more complex than a simple shift towards the poles,” ecological geographer with the project Kristen Williams said.”Across Australia, species are already experiencing warmer temperatures. In terrestrial habitats, species have started to seek relief by moving to higher elevations, or further south. However, some species of animals and plants cannot move large distances, and some not at all.”Species migration can have important consequences for local biodiversity. For example, the dry, flat continental interior of Australia is a hot, arid region where species already exist close to the margin of their thermal tolerances.Some species driven south from monsoonal northern Australia in the hope of cooler habitats may perish in that environment.”In the oceans, warming waters and a strengthening of the East Australian Current have mobilised the Long-spined Sea Urchin (Centrostephanus rodgersii), previously only found as far south as southern NSW, to invade the eastern Tasmania coast. This has resulted in the decline of giant kelp forests with knock-on effects for commercially-fished rock lobsters,” Dr Poloczanska said.CSIRO and University of Queensland’s Anthony Richardson said the study cannot be used as a sole guide as to what to do in the face of climate change.”Biological factors such as a species’ capacity to adapt and disperse need to be taken into consideration,” Professor Richardson said.”But in an unprecedented period of climate change, economic development and fast growing demand on an already pressured planet, we need to act fast to make sure as much of the world’s living resources survive that change.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by CSIRO Australia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Capturing brain activity with sculpted light

Sep. 9, 2013 — A major aim of today’s neuroscience is to understand how an organism’s nervous system processes sensory input and generates behavior. To achieve this goal, scientists must obtain detailed maps of how the nerve cells are wired up in the brain, as well as information on how these networks interact in real time.The organism many neuroscientists turn to in order to study brain function is a tiny, transparent worm found in rotting soil. The simple nematode C. elegans is equipped with just 302 neurons that are connected by roughly 8000 synapses. It is the only animal for which a complete nervous system has been anatomically mapped.Researchers have so far focused on studying the activity of single neurons and small networks in the worm, but have not been able to establish a functional map of the entire nervous system. This is mainly due to limitations in the imaging-techniques they employ: the activity of single cells can be resolved with high precision, but simultaneously looking at the function of all neurons that comprise entire brains has been a major challenge. Thus, there was always a trade-off between spatial or temporal accuracy and the size of brain regions that could be studied.Scientists at Vienna’s Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP), the Max Perutz Laboratories (MFPL), and the Research Platform Quantum Phenomena & Nanoscale Biological Systems (QuNaBioS) of the University of Vienna have now closed this gap and developed a high speed imaging technique with single neuron resolution that bypasses these limitations. In a paper published online in Nature Methods, the teams of Alipasha Vaziri and Manuel Zimmer describe the technique which is based on their ability to “sculpt” the three-dimensional distribution of light in the sample. With this new kind of microscopy, they are able to record the activity of 70% of the nerve cells in a worm’s head with high spatial and temporal resolution.”Previously, we would have to scan the focused light by the microscope in all three dimensions,” says quantum physicist Robert Prevedel. …

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Gravity variations over Earth much bigger than previously thought

Sep. 4, 2013 — A joint Australian-German research team led by Curtin University’s Dr Christian Hirt has created the highest-resolution maps of Earth’s gravity field to date — showing gravitational variations up to 40 per cent larger than previously assumed.Using detailed topographic information obtained from the US Space Shuttle, a specialist team including Associate Professor Michael Kuhn, Dr Sten Claessens and Moritz Rexer from Curtin’s Western Australian Centre for Geodesy and Professor Roland Pail and Thomas Fecher from Technical University Munich improved the resolution of previous global gravity field maps by a factor of 40.”This is a world-first effort to portray the gravity field for all countries of our planet with unseen detail,” Dr Hirt said.”Our research team calculated free-fall gravity at three billion points — that’s one every 200 metres — to create these highest-resolution gravity maps. They show the subtle changes in gravity over most land areas of Earth.”The new gravity maps revealed the variations of free-fall gravity over Earth were much bigger than previously thought.Earth’s gravitational pull is smallest on the top of the Huascaran mountain in the South American Andes, and largest near the North Pole.”Only a few years ago, this research would not have been possible,” Dr Hirt said.”The creation of the maps would have required about 80 years of office PC computation time but advanced supercomputing provided by the Western Australian iVEC facility helped us to complete the maps within a few months.”High-resolution gravity maps are required in civil engineering, for instance, for building of canals, bridges and tunnels. The mining industry could also benefit.”The maps can be used by surveyors and other spatial science professionals to precisely measure topographic heights with satellite systems such as the Global Positioning System (GPS),” Dr Hirt said.The findings of the research team from Curtin and Technical University Munich have recently appeared in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.Earth’s gravity field gallery: http://geodesy.curtin.edu.au/research/models/GGMplus/gallery.cfm

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New maps depict impact of HIV in America

June 27, 2013 — Today, on National HIV Testing Day, the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University launched its annual update of AIDSVu, including new interactive online maps that show the latest HIV prevalence data for 20 U.S. cities by ZIP code or census tract. AIDSVu also includes new city snapshots displaying HIV prevalence alongside various social determinants of health — such as poverty, lack of health insurance and educational attainment.Share This:AIDSVu — the most detailed publicly available view of HIV prevalence in the United States — is a compilation of interactive online maps that display HIV prevalence data at the national, state and local levels and by different demographics, including age, race and sex. The maps pinpoint areas of the country where the rates of people living with an HIV diagnosis are the highest. These areas include urban centers in the Northeast and the South, and visualize where the needs for prevention, testing, and treatment services are the most urgent.”Our National HIV/AIDS Strategy calls for reducing new HIV infections by intensifying our efforts in HIV prevention where the epidemic is most concentrated. AIDSVu provides a roadmap to identifying those high-prevalence areas of the HIV epidemic and showing where the local testing resources are located,” says Patrick S. Sullivan, PhD, DVM, professor of epidemiology at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, and the principal researcher for AIDSVu. “The addition of new city data means that AIDSVu now displays data from 20 U.S. cities. This expanded city information is critical because most HIV diagnoses in the United States occur in cities.”The free, interactive online tool’s new data and features include:National maps displaying 2010 data at the state-and county-level, the most recent national HIV prevalence data available from the U.S. …

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