Connect with us

Science

Soft coral garden found in Greenland’s deep sea

Published

on

June 29 (UPI) — Scientists have discovered a soft coral garden off the coast of western Greenland, some 1,600 feet below the ocean surface.

The ecosystem — described Monday in the journal Frontiers in Marine Biology — was discovered using a novel, low-cost underwater video system developed by researchers at University College London, the Zoological Society of London and the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources.

The discovery could have implications for the management of nearby deep-sea trawl fisheries.

“The deep sea is often over-looked in terms of exploration. In fact we have better maps of the surface of Mars, than we do of the deep sea,” Stephen Long, first author on the new study, said in a news release.

“The development of a low-cost tool that can withstand deep-sea environments opens up new possibilities for our understanding and management of marine ecosystems,” said Long, a postdoctoral researcher in the geography department at UCL. “We’ll be working with the Greenland government and fishing industry to ensure this fragile, complex and beautiful habitat is protected.”

The soft coral garden features an abundance of cauliflower corals, as well as feather stars, sponges, anemones, brittle stars and hydrozoans bryozoans.

“Coral gardens are characterized by collections of one or more species — typically of non-reef forming coral — that sit on a wide range of hard and soft bottom habitats, from rock to sand, and support a diversity of fauna,” said Chris Yesson, study co-author and ZSL researcher. “There is considerable diversity among coral garden communities, which have previously been observed in areas such as northwest and southeast Iceland.”

In addition to being pitch black, deep sea environments host extreme ocean pressures. The pressure at 500 meters, or 1,600 feet, underwater is 50 times greater than at sea-level.

Most deep sea observations require expensive remote-controlled submersibles, but for the latest survey, researchers developed a low-cost alternative using a GoPro video camera, outfitted with lights and lasers, and housed in a pressure-proof container. Scientists situated the protected camera system in a large steel frame and lowered it into the ocean off the coast of Greenland.

The researcher team deposited their video sled on the ocean bottom and started recording. Scientists captured 15 minutes at a time across 18 different locations.

“A towed video sled is not unique. However, our research is certainly the first example of a low-cost DIY video sled led being used to explore deep-sea habitats in Greenland’s 2.2 million square kilometers of sea,” Long said. “So far, the team has managed to reach an impressive depth of 1,500 meters. It has worked remarkably well and led to interest from researchers in other parts of the world.”

The deep sea is one the planet’s least understood environs, but researchers hope their new video sled will make deep sea research more accessible to scientists across the globe.

“Greenland’s seafloor is virtually unexplored, although we know is it inhabited by more than 2000 different species together contributing to complex and diverse habitats, and to the functioning of the marine ecosystem,” said Martin Blicher, researcher at the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources.

“Despite knowing so little about these seafloor habitats, the Greenlandic economy depends on a small number of fisheries which trawl the seabed. We hope that studies like this will increase our understanding of ecological relationships, and contribute to sustainable fisheries management,” Blicher said.



Source link

Science

Different type of photosynthesis may save temperate crops from climate change

Published

on

Oct. 23 (UPI) — In many places, climate change is expected to bring hotter, drier weather. In a new study, published Friday in the journal The Plant Cell, scientists considered whether an alternative mode of photosynthesis, might yield more heat-tolerant and drought-resistant plants.

Most plants in arid and semi-arid environs use a photosynthesis method called Crassulacean acid metabolism, or CAM. Alternatively, plants in temperate environs, including crops, rely on a photosynthesis method called C3 carbon fixation.

Plants using C3 carbon fixation absorb CO2 through their leaves’ stomatal pores. The daytime process allows C3 plants to immediately convert sunlight into food. When conditions are especially hot and dry, C3 metabolism causes plants to lose too much water.

Conversely, CAM plants absorb CO2 through their stomatal pores at the night. The carbon gets stored in cells until daytime, when it is converted into food via photosynthesis. This alternative carbon fixation technique allows CAM plants to close their stomatal pores during the day to prevent excess water loss.

For the new study, researchers developed sophisticated biological models to determine whether C3 plants genetically engineered to perform CAM photosynthesis would fare better as hotter, drier weather becomes the norm.

Researchers tested their genetic engineering simulations across a variety of temperature and relative humidity conditions. The data showed that the benefits provided by a switch to CAM metabolism are influenced by the vacuolar storage capacity of a plant’s leaves, which is dictated by climate conditions.

“Moreover, our model identified an alternative CAM cycle involving mitochondrial isocitrate dehydrogenase as a potential contributor to initial carbon fixation at night,” researchers wrote in their paper. “Simulations across a range of environmental conditions show that the water-saving potential of CAM strongly depends on the daytime weather conditions.”

In other words, engineering CAM metabolism in temperature plants isn’t a cure-all. Still, authors of the new study suggest their findings will help plant scientists developed new strategies for engineering greater resiliency among C3 crops.

“Modelling is a powerful tool for exploring complex systems and it provides insights that can guide lab and field-based work,” lead study author Nadine Töpfer said in a news release.

“I believe that our results will provide encouragement and ideas for the researchers who aim to transfer the water-conserving trait of CAM plants into other species,” said Töpfer, a postdoctoral researcher at the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research in Germany.



Source link

Continue Reading

Science

The arrival of seabirds transformed the Falkland Islands 5,000 years ago

Published

on

Oct. 23 (UPI) — Roughly 5,000 years ago, seabirds colonized the Falkland Islands in record numbers. New research — published Friday in the journal Science Advances — suggests the seabirds arrived around the same time that the South Atlantic cooled, and their arrival shifted the ecosystems on the Falkland Islands.

Today, the remote South Atlantic islands remain a refuge for several important seabird species, including great shearwaters, black-browed albatrosses, white-chinned petrels and five species of penguins.

For a few thousand years, these burrowing and ground nesting seabirds had the islands mostly to themselves, but over the last few centuries, the birds have lost ground to sheep grazing and erosion.

In addition, sea and air temperatures in the South Atlantic have been steadily rising as a result of climate change.

To better understand how Falkland Island seabirds might cope in a warmer climate, scientists set out to study the history of climate change and ecological changes on the Falkland Islands.

By sampling peat core layers, researchers were able to reconstruct a 14,000-year record of climate and ecological shifts on the island. The data confirmed that seabirds began migrating to the islands in large numbers around the time the South Atlantic began to cool.

“Our 14,000-year record shows that seabirds established at Surf Bay during cooler climates,” lead study author Dulcinea Groff said in a news release.

“Seabird conservation efforts in the South Atlantic should be prepared for these species to move to new breeding grounds in a warmer world, and those locations may not be protected,” said Groff, who led the research while she was a doctoral student in ecology and environmental sciences at the University of Maine.

The peat layers also revealed a dramatic ecological transformation following the arrival of seabirds. Marine-derived nutrients from guano rejuvenated the island’s poor soil, allowing the establishment of tussock grasses, or bunch grasses. Ash in the peat layers showed the proliferation of grasslands across the islands led to an increase in seasonal wildfires.

Researchers suggest their work is a reminder of the important connections between disparate ecosystems, as well as an example of how quickly ecosystems can be transformed.

“Our study is unique because it documents a direct linkage across ocean and land ecosystems between top predators of the oceans — the seabirds — and island plant communities,” said Groff, now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Wyoming. “The abrupt ecosystem shift happened within a matter of a few decades and suggests that as the climate continues to warm, it’s critical to think about where seabirds will go in the future and plan to protect those places.”

It’s not just rising temperatures that conservationists are worried about, she said.

Grasslands on the Falkland Islands have been degraded by a couple centuries of livestock grazing. The islands’ wildlife species depend on the health of the grasslands. And because the island’s tussock grass depend on bird droppings, a decline in the abundance of seabirds could have broad ecological repercussions.

“As the climate warms, seabirds may find and occupy more suitable environments elsewhere, and we should expect that the coastal grasslands will respond to the loss in nutrients from seabird guano,” said Groff.



Source link

Continue Reading

Science

SpaceX launches cluster of Starlink satellites

Published

on

Oct. 24 (UPI) — SpaceX launched its Falcon 9 rocket into space Saturday morning, carrying 60 Internet satellites into orbit to help establish connections to remote areas.

The launch, which was originally scheduled for Wednesday, took off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It went off without a hitch with the booster rocket safely landing on SpaceX’s drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

The upper stage of the Falcon 9 deployed the satellites into orbit 63 minutes after takeoff, allowing SpaceX to build on its previous successes.

SpaceX had put 180 Starlink satellites into space before Saturday’s launch. The launch was the mission’s 15th, but only the 14th with operational broadband satellites. The Starlink constellation currently boasts in excess of 800 mini satellites.

“The goal of Starlink is to create a network that will help provide internet services to those who are not yet connected, and to provide reliable and affordable Internet across the globe,” according to the Kennedy Space Center.

SpaceX was originally scheduled to launch Starlink-14 on Wednesday, but bad weather forced officials to scrub the launch. Liftoff was rescheduled for Thursday, but when a camera on the rocket’s upper stage failed, officials decided to nix the launch again.

SpaceX fans and media members have taken to referring to October as “Scrubtober” on social media, as SpaceX has been continually frustrated by poor weather and launch delays.

Despite the delays, SpaceX is inching closer to being able to offer everyday Internet users the chance to surf the web using Starlink.

Earlier this month, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk tweeted that Starlink’s constellation had grown large enough to begin beta-testing the Internet service system in both the United States and southern Canada.

Earlier this week, SpaceX announced that it would offer Starlink’s broadband services free of charge to families in Texas’ Ector County Independent School District. More than a third of children and their families in the district are without Internet access.



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending