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  • News

    A new map reveals the causes of forest loss worldwide

    If a tree falls in the forest, will another replace it?

    Of the roughly 3 million square kilometers of forest lost worldwide from 2001 to 2015, a new analysis suggests that 27 percent of that loss was permanent — the result of land being converted for industrial agriculture to meet global demand for products such as soy, timber, beef and palm oil. The other 73 percent of deforestation...

    09/13/2018 - 16:47 Earth, Earth, Agriculture
  • Feature

    How plant microbes could feed the world and save endangered species

    One fine Hawaiian day in 2015, Geoff Zahn and Anthony Amend set off on an eight-hour hike. They climbed a jungle mountain on the island of Oahu, swatting mosquitoes and skirting wallows of wild pigs. The two headed to the site where a patch of critically endangered Phyllostegia kaalaensis had been planted a few months earlier. What they found was dispiriting.

    “All the plants were gone,”...

    09/06/2018 - 11:00 Agriculture, Plants, Microbes
  • News

    As temperatures rise, so do insects’ appetites for corn, rice and wheat

    With temperatures creeping up as the climate warms, those very hungry caterpillars could get even hungrier, and more abundant. Crop losses to pests may grow.

    Insects will be “eating more of our lunch,” says Curtis Deutsch of the University of Washington in Seattle. Based on how heat revs up insect metabolism and reproduction, he and his colleagues estimate that each degree Celsius of...

    08/31/2018 - 12:24 Climate, Agriculture, Animals
  • News

    As algae blooms increase, scientists seek better ways to predict these toxic tides

    The stench of thousands of dead, bloated fish has hung over the beaches of western Florida for months — casualties of an algae bloom that revisits the coastline almost every year. This year’s bloom is particularly intense — and toxic. Called red tides due to the water’s murky reddish tint, the blooms emit a neurotoxin that kills sea creatures, including dolphins and endangered sea turtles, and...

    08/28/2018 - 09:00 Health, Agriculture, Climate
  • Reviews & Previews

    Why humans, and Big Macs, depend on bees

    Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of BeesThor HansonBasic Books, $27

    When you hear the word bee, the image that pops to mind is probably a honeybee. Maybe a bumblebee. But for conservation biologist Thor Hanson, author of the new book Buzz, the world is abuzz with thousands of kinds of bees, each as beautiful and intriguing as the flowers on which they land.

    Speaking from his “...

    07/08/2018 - 08:00 Animals, Agriculture, Ecology
  • News

    A big analysis of environmental data strengthens the case for plant-based diets

    From beef to beer, coffee to chocolate, there are environmental costs in what humanity chooses to eat and drink. Now a new study that quantifies the impact on the planet of producing and selling 40 different foods shows how these choices make a difference.

    Agricultural data from 38,700 farms plus details of processing and retailing in 119 countries show wide differences in environmental...

    06/06/2018 - 07:00 Sustainability, Agriculture, Climate
  • News in Brief

    As CO2 increases, rice loses B vitamins and other nutrients

    By the end of this century, rice may not deliver the same B vitamin levels that it does today. Protein and certain minerals will dwindle, too, new data suggest.

    Testing higher carbon dioxide concentrations in experimental rice paddies in China predicts losses in four vitamins — B1, B2, B5 and B9 — an international team reports May 23 in Science Advances. Adding results from similar...

    05/23/2018 - 16:17 Climate, Agriculture
  • News

    Nanoparticles could help rescue malnourished crops

    Synthetic nanoparticles used to fight cancer could also heal sickly plants.

    The particles, called liposomes, are nanosized, spherical pouches that can deliver drugs to specific parts of the body (SN: 12/16/06, p. 398). Now, researchers have filled these tiny care packages with fertilizing nutrients. The new liposomes, described online May 17 in Scientific Reports, soak into plant leaves...

    05/17/2018 - 09:00 Agriculture, Technology
  • News

    Sweet potatoes might have arrived in Polynesia long before humans

    Sweet potatoes were domesticated thousands of years ago in the Americas. So 18th century European explorers were surprised to find Polynesians had been growing the crop for centuries. Anthropologists have since hypothesized that Polynesian seafarers had brought the tuber back from expeditions to South America — a journey of over 7,500 kilometers.

    New genetic evidence instead suggests...

    04/12/2018 - 18:14 Genetics, Agriculture, Anthropology
  • Feature

    When bogs burn, the environment takes a hit

    In 2015, massive wildfires burned through Indonesia, sending thick smoke and haze as far as Thailand.

    These fires were “the worst environmental disaster in modern history,” says Thomas Smith, a wildfire expert at King’s College London. Smith estimates that the fires and smoke killed 100,000 people in Indonesia and neighboring countries and caused billions of...

    03/06/2018 - 12:00 Ecosystems, Climate, Agriculture