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Without carbon emissions reductions by 2050, mangroves unlikely to survive

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June 4 (UPI) — Mangroves provide hundreds of millions of dollars in protections against coastal storms and flooding every year, but they could soon be gone if carbon emissions aren’t significantly curbed in the coming decades.

New research suggests that if CO2 emissions aren’t drastically cut by 2050, mangroves are unlikely to survive the sea level rise that’s expected to accompany a warming climate.

For the new study, published online Thursday in the journal Science, researchers analyzed sediment layers from the end of Earth’s last deglaciation period, 10,000 years ago. Based on the analysis, scientists ran simulations to estimate the effects of sea level rise on mangroves under two scenarios, low and high carbon emissions.

The models showed that under a high carbon scenario, featuring 6 millimeters of sea level rise per year, mangroves would be highly unlikely to grow fast enough to keep up with rising seas. Simulations predicted the demise of mangroves with 90 percent certainty.

When sea levels rose less than 5 millimeters per year, mangroves were able to increase their vertical growth to survive rising seas.

“We know that sea level rise is inevitable due to climate change, but not much is known about how different rates of sea level rise affect the growth of mangroves, which is an important ecosystem for the health of the Earth,” lead study author Neil Saintilan, professor of earth and environmental sciences at Macquarie University in Australia, said in a news release.

In addition to protecting coastal infrastructure from waves and flooding, threats that will be exacerbated by sea level rise, mangroves provide vital habitat for a diversity of marine species. If carbon emissions keep pace, those habitats are unlikely to persist past the middle of this century.

“In 30 years, if we continue on a high-emissions trajectory, essentially all mangroves, including those in Singapore, will face a high risk of loss,” said study co-author Benjamin Horton, professor of environmental sciences at NTU Singapore. “This research therefore highlights yet another compelling reason why countries must take urgent action to reduce carbon emissions. Mangroves are amongst the most valuable of natural ecosystems, supporting coastal fisheries and biodiversity, while protecting shorelines from wave and storm attack across the tropics.”

Mangroves don’t just provide shelter to animals and quell storm waves. They also store carbon. Scientists tracked the proliferation of mangroves at the end of the last deglaciation period by measuring the draw down of carbon concentrations in ancient coastal sediment layers.

Researchers estimate mangroves will be forced to move inland if they can’t grow vertically fast enough to outrace sea level rise. As they encroach on the shore, mangroves will have to compete with land plants, a competition they are unlikely to win.

“Most of what we know about the response of mangroves to rising sea level comes from observations over the past several years to decades when rates of rise are slower than projected for later this century,” said study co-author Nicole Khan, assistant professor of earth sciences at the University of Hong Kong. “This research offers new insights because we looked deeper into the past when rates of sea level rise were rapid, reaching those projected under high emissions scenarios.”

“Our results underscore the importance of reducing emissions and adopting coastal management and adaptation measures that allow mangroves to naturally expand into low-lying coastal areas to protect these valuable ecosystems,” Khan said.



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Apple recalls shipment of iPhone 6 Plus due to photo glitch

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CUPERTINO, Calif., Aug. 23 (UPI) — Apple has recalled a shipment of its iPhone 6 Plus due to a technological glitch that produces blurry photos in the device’s camera, the company announced.

The recall affects a small number of iPhone 6 Plus devices, Apple said in a statement, which have demonstrated a glitch in the iSight camera.

Apple said it’s “a component that may fail causing your photos to look blurry.”

Apple created a web page where users can enter their phone’s serial number to determine if they are affected by the recall.

The iPhone 6 and larger iPhone 6 Plus were released last September.



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‘Invisible’ words reveal common structure among famous stories

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Aug. 7 (UPI) — Storytelling requires a narrative arc, but the trajectory of a dramatic arc isn’t always obvious.

By tracing the abundance of “invisible” words — pronouns, articles and other short words — researchers were able to identify patterns shared by a diversity of stories, from Shakespeare to Spielberg, according to a study published Friday in Science Advances.

“Over the years, these ‘invisible’ words have been found to be related to a whole mess of psychological processes — how people use small words like articles and pronouns tell us about a person’s mental health, thinking style, their social status, and even how well they get along with other people,” study lead author Ryan Boyd told UPI.

“In many ways, it was a natural progression to look at what these words can tell us how the nature of stories,” said Boyd, a lecturer in behavioral analytics at the University of Leeds.

For the study, Boyd and his colleagues used a range of statistical techniques to analyze the abundance and distribution of invisible words in 40,000 fictional texts, including short stories, novels and movie scripts.

The analysis revealed a common structure — a so-called narrative curve — featuring three distinct phases.

During the “staging” phase, authors use prepositions and articles in greater abundance, peppering their prose with “a” and “the.” These words are more useful at the beginning, when authors must set the scene and provide the audience with basic information.

The middle phase is defined by plot progression, which is revealed by a greater abundance of auxiliary verbs, adverbs and pronouns — or interactional language. During this phase, “the house” from the staging phase becomes “her home” or “it.”

During the third phase, cognitive tension is ramped up as the narrative arc reaches a climax. As the author guides the reader or viewer through the process of conflict resolution, cognitive-processing words like “think,” “believe,” “understand” and “cause” begin to crop up in greater numbers.

Researchers found this three-phase narrative shape remained consistent, regardless of a stories length.

“A 25,000 word story has the same shape as a 250 word story,” said Boyd, lead author of the new study. “It seems, then, that we are able to do a good job of structuring our stories in an optimal way regardless of how much space we have to do it in.”

The researchers set up a website showing the shapes of staging, plot progression and cognitive tension in eight texts at The Arc of Narrative website.

The patterns left by invisible words proved both good and bad stories — tales spun by amateurs, as well as professionals — utilize similar structures.

“Our results confirm what people have long believed about stories,” Boyd said. “Like DNA, we knew about it long before we could actually see it and measure it. With these new methods, we are able to see and measure the ‘DNA’ of stories and understand them in more objective, scientific ways.”

According to Boyd, studying the patterns of stories can offer insights into cognitive processes unique to humans.

“What these story shapes seem to tell us is that we have, to some degree, evolved to process information in certain ways,” he said. “We need to understand the ‘who’ and ‘what’ in order to understand the ‘why’ of our everyday lives and the lives of others.”

The authors of the latest story are already mining text for other language patterns that might help researchers determine whether a story-teller is telling the truth, or perhaps reveal the secrets to a “good” story.



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Florida Current study confirms decline in strength of Gulf Stream

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Aug. 7 (UPI) — New research suggests the strength of the Florida Current, which forms the beginning of the Gulf Stream, has weakened considerably over the last century.

The findings, published Friday in the journal Nature Climate Change, corroborate the predictions of several models that suggest the Gulf Stream has slowed over the last several decades.

The Florida Current is a thermal ocean current that flows from west to east around the tip of Florida, joining the Gulf Stream off Florida’s east coast.

Scientists have been tracking the strength of the Florida Current since the early 1980s — not long enough to identify multi-decadal or centennial trends.

To better understand the current’s historical changes, Christopher Piecuch, researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, decided to study the relationship between coastal sea level and the strength of near-shore currents.

While researchers have only been measuring the Florida Current for a few decades, scientists have been recording sea level data since the early 1900s. Piecuch was able to use the data to predict historic changes in the strength of near-shore currents.

“In the ocean, almost everything is connected,” Christopher Piecuch, sole author of the new study, said in a news release. “We can use those connections to look at things in the past or far from shore, giving us a more complete view of the ocean and how it changes across space and time.”

The statistical analysis performed by Piecuch showed the Florida Current and Gulf Stream are the weakest they’ve been during the last 110 years.

The findings are in agreement with ocean current models that suggest climate change has caused a slowdown of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, of which the Gulf Stream is a part.

Piecuch said he hopes his research will help other scientists use coastal current data to study changes in bigger currents like the Gulf Stream.

“If we can monitor something over the horizon by making measurements from shore, then that’s a win for science and potentially for society,” he said.



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