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Plant Sciences
Climate Change Increases the Risk of Ozone Damage to Plants, Swedish Research Finds PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 30 June 2011 17:14
Ground-level ozone is an air pollutant that harms humans and plants. Both climate and weather play a major role in ozone damage to plants. Researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have now shown that climate change has the potential to significantly increase the risk of ozone damage to plants in northern and central Europe by the end of this century.

"The increased risk of ozone damage to vegetation is mainly due to rising ozone concentrations and higher temperatures in the future," says Jenny Klingberg at the University of Gothenburg's Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences. "The most important effect on agricultural crops is premature aging, which result in smaller harvests with lower quality."

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Researchers Contribute to Global Plant Database, Expanding Ecosystems Research PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 30 June 2011 17:08
A new database of plants' traits will help scientists around the world learn more about how climate change is affecting ecosystems.

The availability of plant trait data in the unified global database promises to support a paradigm shift in Earth system sciences.

University of Minnesota researchers Peter Reich and Jacek Oleksyn, Department of Forest Resources, and Jeannine Cavender-Bares, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, are members of the international collaborative that developed the database, which includes 3 million traits for 69,000 of the world's roughly 300,000 plant species.

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Insight Into Plant Behavior Could Aid Quest for Efficient Biofuels PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 28 June 2011 11:22
Tiny seawater algae could hold the key to crops as a source of fuel and plants that can adapt to changing climates.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh have found that the tiny organism has developed coping mechanisms for when its main food source is in short supply.

Understanding these processes will help scientists develop crops that can survive when nutrients are scarce and to grow high-yield plants for use as biofuels.

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Unique Lab Seeks Drought-Tolerant Traits in Cotton, Other Plants PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 28 June 2011 11:17
As billion-dollar agricultural losses continue to mount in the withering Texas heat, Texas AgriLife Research scientists in Corpus Christi are taking a closer look at why some cotton varieties do better than others in drought conditions.

"We want to better understand those traits that control water use in plants so we can transfer that information to breeders and geneticists to more quickly develop drought-tolerant cultivars so badly needed here," said Dr. Carlos Fernandez, a plant physiologist at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Corpus Christi. Dr. Carlos Fernandez checks leaves of a cotton plant being evaluated for its drought tolerance.

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Global Plant Database Set to Promote Biodiversity Research and Earth-System Sciences PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 26 June 2011 18:39
The world's largest database on plants' functional properties, or traits, has been published. Scientists compiled three million traits for 69,000 out of the world's ~300,000 plant species. The achievement rests on a worldwide collaboration of scientists from 106 research institutions.

The initiative, known as TRY, is hosted at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena (Germany). Jointly coordinated with the University of Leipzig (Germany), IMBIV-CONICET (Argentina), Macquarie University (Australia), CNRS and University of Paris-Sud (France), TRY promises to become an essential tool for biodiversity research and Earth-system sciences.

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Study of Phytoremediation Benefits of 86 Indoor Plants Published; Japanese Royal Fern Tops List for Formaldehyde Removal Effectiveness PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 26 June 2011 18:31
Formaldehyde is a major contaminant of indoor air, originating from particle board, carpet, window coverings, paper products, tobacco smoke, and other sources. Indoor volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde can contribute to allergies, asthma, headaches, and a condition known as ''sick building syndrome." The concern is widespread; a 2002 report from the World Health Organization estimated that undesirable indoor volatiles represent a serious health problem that is responsible for more than 1.6 million deaths per year and 2.7% of the global burden of disease.
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Artificial Light Quality Affects Herbivore Preference for Seedlings PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 23 June 2011 08:49
In horticultural production, growers often depend on systems that use artificial light to produce high-quality transplants. Although the systems are efficient, fluorescent lamps can produce plants with shorter shoots than those grown under natural light. Studies have indicated that this reduced shoot elongation is due to the high red:far red ratio of typical commercial fluorescent lamps, which emit little far red irradiation.
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Plant Growth Rate, Stem Length Unaffected by Rice Hull, Peat Substrate PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 23 June 2011 08:38
Plant growth retardants, or PGRs, are used in greenhouse operations to produce uniform, compact, and marketable plants. Although PGRs can be applied using a variety of methods, most common applications are foliar sprays or substrate "drenches." Research has shown that drenches provide more uniform results and increase the duration of effectiveness compared with sprays, but the efficacy of drenches can be affected by factors such as the amount of solution applied and the substrate components used.
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Old, large, living trees must be left standing to protect nesting animals: UBC study PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 21 June 2011 08:47

Old trees must be protected to save the homes of more than 1,000 different bird and mammal species who nest, says a new study from the University of British Columbia. Most animals can’t carve out their own tree holes and rely on holes already formed. The study found that outside of North America, most animals nest in tree holes formed by damage and decay, a process that can take several centuries.

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Arctic Snow Can Harbor Deadly Assassin: Killer Fungal Strains PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 21 June 2011 08:32
Heavy and prolonged snowfall can bring about unexpected conditions that encourage fungal growth, leading to the death of plants in the Arctic, according to experts.

A new international study confirms that while snow has an insulating effect which helps plants to grow bigger, heavy and prolonged snow can, in certain circumstances, also encourage the rapid and extensive growth of killer fungal strains.

The research results, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, show for the first time the potential long term effects of unexpected fungal development on an arctic landscape.

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Gene Flow May Help Plants Adapt to Climate Change PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 30 June 2011 17:11
The traffic of genes among populations may help living things better adapt to climate change, especially when genes flow among groups most affected by warming, according to a UC Davis study of the Sierra Nevada cutleaved monkeyflower. The results were published online June 27 by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The findings have implications for conservation strategies, said Sharon Strauss, professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis and an author of the study.

"In extreme cases where we might consider augmenting genetic resources available to imperiled populations, it might be best to obtain these genes from populations inhabiting similar kinds of habitats," Strauss said.

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More than 300 new species discovered in the Philippines PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 30 June 2011 09:27

This spring, scientists from the California Academy of Sciences braved leeches, lionfish, whip-scorpions and a wide variety of other biting and stinging creatures to lead the most comprehensive scientific survey effort ever conducted in the Philippines, documenting both terrestrial and marine life forms from the tops of the highest mountains to the depths of the sea. They were joined on this unprecedented, multi-disciplinary undertaking by more than two dozen colleagues from the Philippines, as well as by a team of Academy educators who worked to share the expedition's findings with local community and conservation groups.

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Engineering Blue-Hued Flowers: Study of pH in Anthurium Spathe Provides Clues to Generating Blues PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 28 June 2011 11:19
Flower color in plants is determined by pigments such as aurones, anthocyanins, and carotenoids. Research has found that the ultimate color displayed is dependent not only on the pigment present, but also on other factors, including cell shape, presence of metal ions, and pH, among others. Information about the role of pH in creating color has allowed plant geneticists to engineer new hues, adding to the beauty and diversity of ornamental plants.

New experiments using Anthurium andraeanum, a tropical ornamental species with a limited range of spathe colors varying from orange to red, were designed to identify the most likely candidates for generating blues in the species.

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Female Mate Choice Enhances Offspring Fitness in an Annual Herb PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 28 June 2011 11:15
In many organisms females directly or indirectly select mates (or sperm) and potentially influence the fitness of their offspring. Mate choice and sexual selection in plants is more complex in some ways than in animals because plants are sessile organisms and often have to rely on external vectors, such as animals, for pollen transport. As such, there is only so much a plant can do to affect the timing of pollen arrival, or the size and diversity of deposited pollen. But can a plant control which pollen grains, of the hundreds that land on their stigmas, make it to the ovules?
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Dairy Manure Goes Urban: Organic Compost Improves Soil, Enhances Ornamental Plants in Residential Landscapes PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 26 June 2011 18:35
When natural ecosystems are replaced by roads, homes, and commercial structures, soil is negatively impacted. Studies have shown that, among other issues, distressed urban soils are often significantly compacted, may have alkaline pH, and may contain low amounts of essential organic matter and nutrients. This altered soil is typically not conducive to healthy plant root growth and establishment, leading to challenges for urban landscapes and home gardens.
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Biodiversity in a Changing Middle East PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 26 June 2011 18:27
Recently, a revolution  started in the Middle East which will result in changes that cannot easily be predicted. Researchers say the need for change in the region is very strong and is not limited to the purely social and political aspects, but also includes the environment and the conservation and management of cultural and natural heritage.

The concern for biodiversity in the region is illustrated in a recent article in Nature Middle East. As a focal point for the article, written by Dr Kay Van Damme (a biologist that obtained his PhD last year at UGent, Belgium), a ca. 60-page thick study was used that was written by latter researcher together with Lisa Banfield (Royal Botanical Garden of Edinburgh, UK), which appeared earlier this year in the scientific journal Zoology of the Middle East.

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Not-So-Sweet Potato Resists Pests, Disease PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 23 June 2011 08:46
Scientists from Clemson University and the USDA Agricultural Research Service have developed a new variety of not-so-sweet potato, called Liberty.

Known as a boniato, or tropical sweet potato, Liberty has a dark red skin and light yellow, dry flesh with a bland flavor. Boniato potatoes originated in the tropical Americas and are grown in south Florida in the United States. They can be served fried, mashed or in soup.

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'SpongeBob' mushroom discovered in the forests of Borneo PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 23 June 2011 08:20

Sing it with us: What lives in the rainforest, under a tree?

Spongiforma squarepantsii, a new species of mushroom almost as strange as its cartoon namesake.

Its discovery in the forests of Borneo, says San Francisco State University researcher Dennis Desjardin, suggests that even some of the most charismatic characters in the fungal kingdom are yet to be identified.

Shaped like a sea sponge, S. squarepantsii was found in 2010 in the Lambir Hills in Sarawak, Malaysia. It is bright orange—although it can turn purple when sprinkled with a strong chemical base—and smells "vaguely fruity or strongly musty," according to Desjardin and colleagues' description published in the journal Mycologia.

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Study reveals important aspects of signaling across cell membranes in plants PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 21 June 2011 08:43

Every living plant cell and animal cell is surrounded by a membrane. These cellular membranes contain receptor molecules that serve as the cell's eyes and ears, and help it communicate with other cells and with the outside world.

The receptor molecules accomplish three basic things in the communication process: 1) recognize an outside signal, 2) transport that signal across the cell's membrane and 3) initiate the reading of the signal inside the cell and then initiate the cell's response to that signal. These steps are collectively known as transmembrane signaling.

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Old, Large, Living Trees Must Be Left Standing to Protect Nesting Animals, Study Shows PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 19 June 2011 09:15
Old trees must be protected to save the homes of more than 1,000 different bird and mammal species who nest, says a new study from the University of British Columbia. Most animals can't carve out their own tree holes and rely on holes already formed. The study found that outside of North America, most animals nest in tree holes formed by damage and decay, a process that can take several centuries.

The study, published this month in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, examined the holes birds and mammals were using for nesting around the world.

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