Macro-portrait of future bird and wetland scenarios under climate change

Using a mountain of satellite photographic data and decades of waterfowl counts, a Texas Tech University biologist said she and others have found a correlation with the amount of waterfowl and the amount of wetlands available across the plains from Canada to Texas.More wetlands meaning more waterfowl may sound like a no-brainer, but researchers were able to land at conclusion using macrosystems ecology said Nancy McIntyre, a professor of biological sciences and curator of birds at the Natural Science Research Laboratory.The research appeared in a special edition of the peer-reviewed journal, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, dedicated to macrosystems ecology.”The novelty of what we’re doing is in taking the weather data from the past to be able to say certain types of precipitation conditions led to X amount of available wetlands, which was associated with Y number of birds,” McIntyre said. “If future climate scenarios say we should get fewer but more extreme precipitation events, then we can estimate how many wetlands and birds will be around in the future, so long as no more wetlands are converted into farm use or turned into neighborhoods. That’s work in progress. It sounds straightforward, but it has never been done because of the complexity and the massive amount of data used here.”Macrosystems ecology is a new and emerging science using large amounts of information that are analyzed by faster and smarter computers to not only create greater understanding of how habitats interact, but also make better predictions about how these systems may react in the face of global climate change, she said.”A change in the number of wetlands available can cascade in to the variety and numbers of birds, as well as amphibians, dragonflies and a number of other animals,” McIntyre said. “In the United States, we’ve lost about 50 percent of the nation’s original wetlands in the past 200 years. The losses are particularly bad in the Great Plains, where about 98 percent of the wetlands have disappeared since 1986. With climate change on the horizon, we’re trying to understand how these wetlands and the animals that use them interact.”The research was part of a $1.6 million grant from the National Science Foundation. McIntyre and others looked at freshwater wetlands across the Great Plains from the prairie potholes carved by glacial activity in the north, through the Rainwater Basin of Nebraska down to the playa lakes of the South Plains.”They call it the duck factory of the world,” McIntyre said. “Most of the ducks breed up there and overwinter down here. But there are about 300 species of regularly occurring, breeding land birds in the Great Plains, many of which use these wetlands.”Researchers studied photos from satellites that passed over the same area of land every 16 days, she said. …

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Cancer risks double when two carcinogens present at ‘safe’ levels, epigenetics study finds

June 28, 2013 — Science knows that arsenic and estrogen can cause cancer. At certain very low levels, the chemicals offer little to no threats to human health.However, new research conducted by Texas Tech University scientists has found that low doses of both chemicals together — even at levels low enough to be considered “safe” for humans if they were on their own — can cause cancer in prostate cells.The combination of the two chemicals was almost twice as likely to create cancer in prostate cells, the research found. The study published online in the peer-reviewed journal The Prostate.Kamaleshwar Singh, an assistant professor at The Institute of Environmental and Human Health (TIEHH) at Texas Tech said the findings could have an impact on health regulations regarding the “safe” doses of these chemicals and others. Most regulations are set by testing one chemical at a time on cells. Very few if any have looked at multiple chemicals at the same time.”The majority of cancers are caused by environmental influences,” Singh said. “Only about 5 to 10 percent of cancers are due to genetic predisposition. Science has looked at these chemicals, such as arsenic, and tested them in a lab to find the amounts that may cause cancer. But that’s just a single chemical in a single test. In the real world, we are getting exposed to many chemicals at once.”Singh said he became interested in studying two chemicals at once after looking at arsenic’s carcinogenic properties in a previous paper.Because cigarette smoke and well water in some areas, including India, Mexico and even Lubbock county, can contain arsenic, Singh and his doctoral student, Justin Treas, wondered how the carcinogenic properties might change when paired with the presence of another carcinogenic chemical.The two focused on estrogen because of the chemical’s abundance. Many plastics, such as food can liners and bisphenol A (BPA), release small amounts of chemicals that mimic estrogen in the body.”Co-exposure was creating a greater impact,” Singh said. …

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