3-D Structure Of The Genome Determines How Genes Are Expressed, Research Finds

August 4, 2013 in Animals & Insects, Humans, Plants

The three-dimensional structure of the genome determines how genes are expressed, new research from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the University of Washington has found.

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For the new research, the genome’s 3D structure was analyzed in detail and at high resolution, which yielded new insight into how/why some genes are expressed and others aren’t. Some background — there’s somewhere around three meters worth of DNA tightly folded within the nucleus of every one of the human body’s cells. Depending on the ‘folding’, some genes are ‘expressed’, while others aren’t.
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Massive Arctic Greening Within Only A Few Decades? Transformation Could Make The Arctic The Center Of Human Activity

April 2, 2013 in Geology & Climate, Plants

The Arctic will experience a massive “greening” in the coming decades as a result of rising temperatures and climate change, new research from the American Museum of Natural History’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation has found. The research shows that rising temperatures will cause total plant cover area in the Arctic to increase significantly, with wooded areas increasing in size by as much as 50% in only a few decades. This rapid increase in vegetation will result in accelerated warming within the region and also globally.

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“Such widespread redistribution of Arctic vegetation would have impacts that reverberate through the global ecosystem,” said Richard Pearson, primary author of the paper and a researcher at the American Museum of Natural History’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation.

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Extinction, Mass Extinctions, Extinct Species, And The Ongoing 6th Great Mass Extinction

March 7, 2013 in Animals & Insects, Fossils, Humans, Plants

Extinction, is the process by which a species, genus, or family, becomes extinct, no longer existing and living in the world. It is the abolition and annihilation of something that previously existed in the world. In the case of biology, it refers specifically to the end of an evolutionary line, or a branch on the tree of life.

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The actual moment of extinction is considered to be when the last individual representative of that species or group is no longer living. But functional extinction can occur considerably earlier than that, as a result of loss of genetic diversity, range, or an ability for the group to recover and breed.

Most types of life, especially animals, are closely tied to their ecological niches and environments. With a loss of their living environment, and its accompanying species, extinction is almost inevitable for many types of life. Species diversification and emergence typically doesn’t occur in these circumstances, it usually happens within healthy ecosystems. The long-period of time that follows large extinction events when no new species emerge is referred to as a dead zone .

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Deforestation Effects, Causes, And Examples: Top 10 List

December 13, 2012 in Geology & Climate, Plants

Over half of the world’s forests have been destroyed in the last 10,000 or so years, the majority of this loss has occurred in the last 50 years, occurring simultaneously with a massive increase in the human population. The incredible scale of this loss has led to significant changes throughout many parts of the world, and in recent years these changes have been accelerating. These changes include: large scale extinction events, desertification, climatic changes, topsoil loss, flooding, famine, disease outbreaks, and insect ‘plagues’, among others.

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Deforestation occurs primarily due to: agriculture, fuel use (firewood, charcoal, etc), timber, pasture for livestock animals, and expanding human settlements. And also, to a degree, due to large scale war, throughout history fire has often been used as a way to deprive enemy populations of necessary resources. These areas almost always inevitably end up as wastelands via the processes of soil erosion and desertification, if they aren’t reforested. Many of the areas of the world that were deforested thousands of years ago remain as severely degraded wastelands or deserts today.

Currently the world’s annual deforestation rate is estimated to be about 13.7 million hectares a year, that’s about the land area of Greece. Roughly half of this area gets reforested to a degree, though new growth forests don’t function in the same way, support the same biodiversity, nor do they provide the many benefits that old-growth forests do. In addition to these numbers, forests have been becoming more and more affected by climate change, with increasing drought, forest fires, increased and more powerful storms, diseases, and an explosion in insect numbers.

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Death Rates Among The World’s Biggest Trees Are Soaring, Research Finds

December 8, 2012 in Geology & Climate, Plants

The death rate of the world’s largest and oldest trees has been rising significantly in recent years, according to new research. These big old trees often form the basis of many ecosystems and contribute significantly to their health and the health of the other species that live in them.

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A new report, just released by three of the world’s leading ecologists, is warning that the “alarming” and rapid increase in the death rates of trees 100-300 years old will have very negative effects on the health of ecosystems around the world. The deaths aren’t confined to any particular areas either, they are spread out amongst the forests, savannahs, woodlands, farming regions, and cities of the world.

“It’s a worldwide problem and appears to be happening in most types of forest,” says lead author Professor David Lindenmayer of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED) and Australian National University.

“Large old trees are critical in many natural and human-dominated environments. Studies of ecosystems around the world suggest populations of these trees are declining rapidly,” he and colleagues Professor Bill Laurance of James Cook University, Australia, and Professor Jerry Franklin of Washington University, USA, say in their Science report.

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