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Latest and Breaking Science Policy News

The power of film
(University of Iowa) Researcher at the University of Iowa is the first to use the Internet and social media to systematically show how a documentary film shaped public perception and ultimately led to municipal bans on hydraulic fracking.

'Authenticity' in Mexican restaurants depends on views of managers and patrons
(University of Missouri-Columbia) According to a new University of Missouri study, whether or not a Mexican restaurant is considered 'authentic' is completely subjective; yet, authentic Mexican restaurants, while symbolizing boundaries between private cultural and ethnic customs, also function as sites for public display of ethnic and cultural identities. Researchers add that Mexican-American restaurants, while claiming authenticity, may be leading to the assimilation of Mexican culture into the American lifestyle, which could have implications for future immigration policy changes.

Evidence that Earth's first mass extinction was caused by critters not catastrophe
(Vanderbilt University) The Earth's first mass extinction event 540 million years ago was caused not by a meteorite impact or volcanic super-eruption but by the rise of early animals that dramatically changed the prehistoric environment.

UM scientist earns grant to study carbon across North America
(The University of Montana) University of Montana researcher Ashley Ballantyne recently was awarded a nearly $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study ecosystem carbon production and consumption across North America.

Soil area the size of Berlin lost each year due to water erosion in the EU
(European Commission Joint Research Centre) A recent assessment carried out by the JRC estimates that water erodes 970 million tonnes of soil every year in the EU. This would mean a one meter-depth loss of soil from an area corresponding to the size of the city of Berlin, or a one centimeter loss from an area twice the size of Belgium.

Seeing the forest and the trees, all 3 trillion of them
(Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies ) A new international study estimates that there are more than 3 trillion trees on Earth, about seven and a half times more than some previous estimates. But the total number of trees has plummeted by roughly 46 percent since the start of human civilization. The results, published in Nature, provide the most comprehensive assessment of tree populations ever produced and offer new insights into a class of organism that helps shape most terrestrial biomes.

Biodiversity belowground is just as important as aboveground
(Faculty of Science - University of Copenhagen) Although most of the world's biodiversity is below ground, surprisingly little is known about how it affects ecosystems or how it will be affected by climate change. A new study demonstrates that soil bacteria and the richness of animal species belowground play a key role in regulating a whole suite of ecosystem functions on Earth. The authors call for far more attention to this overlooked world of worms, bugs and bacteria in the soil.

Fire in the Amazon
(American Institute of Biological Sciences) A six-year controlled burn experiment in the Amazon reveals a forest that is initially resilient to fires but vulnerable in the face of drought and repeated fire, which produced high tree mortality and encouraged grassland incursion. These effects could lead to greater fire severity and reduced carbon storage.

Many North American birds may lose part of range under climate change scenarios
(PLOS) Over 50 percent of nearly 600 surveyed bird species may lose more than half of their current geographic range across three climate change scenarios through the end of the century in North America.

Parasitized bees are self-medicating in the wild, Dartmouth-led study finds
(Dartmouth College) Bumblebees infected with a common intestinal parasite are drawn to flowers whose nectar and pollen have a medicinal effect, a Dartmouth-led study shows. The findings suggest that plant chemistry could help combat the decline of bee species.

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