Hexbyte Glen Cove 'Extreme' wildfires and heavy smoke grip western US and Canada thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove ‘Extreme’ wildfires and heavy smoke grip western US and Canada

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Firefighters have been dispatched from as far away as San Francisco to tackle the massive Oregon blaze.

A brutal start to the wildfire season in the western United States and Canada worsened Thursday as a massive Oregon blaze exploded in dry, windy conditions and a new California blaze threatened communities devastated by the 2018 Camp Fire.

Wildfire officials raised their preparedness level to the highest tier—the earliest such move in a decade—and Canada’s military joined evacuation efforts, as the region reels from the effects of consecutive heat waves that experts say have been worsened by .

“This fire is going to continue to grow—the extremely dry vegetation and weather are not in our favor,” said Joe Hessel, who is leading a team tackling Oregon’s 227,000-acre Bootleg Fire.

Burning through the equivalent of 130,000 soccer fields, the Bootleg Fire some 250 miles south of Portland is the largest active blaze in the US, bellowing heavy smoke visible from space that is blanketing parts of neighboring Washington and Idaho.

Firefighters have been dispatched from as far away as San Francisco to tackle the massive blaze, which is showing “extreme” growth through drought-affected brush and due to hot, dry and breezy conditions.

It began more than a week ago and is just seven percent contained, having destroyed 21 homes and threatening almost 2,000 more.

The inferno is just one of around 70 burning some one million acres (400,000 hectares) in the US alone.

The Bootleg Fire some 250 miles south of Portland is the largest active blaze in the US.

‘Deja vu’

The governor of the northwestern state of Montana on Wednesday declared a statewide wildland fire emergency.

And in California, the newly ignited Dixie Fire began ripping through land near the town of Paradise which was razed by the notorious 2018 Camp Fire—the deadliest in the state’s modern history, killing 86 people.

“The fire started just a couple of miles [away], on the same road, as the Camp Fire in 2018,” David Little of the North Valley Community Foundation, set up to help Camp Fire victims, told the Los Angeles Times.

“It’s really a sense of deja vu that’s uneasy.”

The Dixie Fire doubled in size overnight and was zero percent contained, but was moving away from populated areas such as Paradise.

Elsewhere in California the much larger Beckwourth Complex—a combination of two blazes sparked by lightning last week—neared 100,000 acres Thursday.

Last year was the worst in California’s by acres burnt, but 2021 is currently outpacing even that record destruction. The season is starting earlier and ending later each year, while much of the state is in the grip of a severe multi-year drought.

In Canada, the armed forces are now participating in wildfire evacuations in British Columbia for the first time since the fires began, a military source told AFP.

Air quality alerts have been issued in many parts of British Columbia due to smoke from forest fires.

As of Thursday afternoon, the province had 309 fires, 23 of which started in the last two days.

Scientists say heat waves arriving in the western US and Canada in late June would have been “virtually impossible” without human-caused climate change.

Human activity has driven global temperatures up, stoking increasingly fierce storms, extreme heat waves, droughts and wildfires.

© 2021 AFP

‘Extreme’ wildfires and heavy smoke grip western US and Canada (2021, July 15)
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Hexbyte Glen Cove Research team develops new tool to help farmers make crop input decisions thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Research team develops new tool to help farmers make crop input decisions

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and nitrogen water pollution from agriculture are top environmental priorities in the United States. Key to achieving climate goals is helping producers navigate carbon markets, while also helping the environment and improving farm income.

A new tool developed by a University of Minnesota research team allows farmers to create a budget balance sheet of any reduction plans and see the economic and environmental cost, return and margins, all customized to fields under their management.

“With these numbers in mind, farmers can make more informed decisions on nitrogen mitigation that not only saves them money, but also significantly reduces pollutants to the environment,” said Zhenong Jin, who led the research and is an assistant professor in the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering (BBE) in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS).

Previous tools did not allow for customized predictions for every field in the U.S. corn belt, as the computational and storage costs of running these crop models at large scale would be very expensive.

As outlined in an article published in IOPscience, the research team built a series of machine-learning-based metamodels that can almost perfectly mimic a well-tested crop model at much faster speeds. Using the metamodels, they generated millions of scenario simulations and investigated two fundamental sustainability questions—where are the mitigation hotspots, and how much mitigation can be expected under different management scenarios.

“We synthesized four simulated indicators of agroecosystem sustainability—yield, N2O emissions, nitrogen leaching, and changes in soil organic carbon—into economic net as the basis for identifying hotspots and infeasible land for mitigation,” said Taegon Kim, CFANS research associate in the BBE department. The societal benefits include from GHG mitigation, as well as improved water and air quality.

“By providing key sustainability indicators related to upstream crop production, our metamodels can be a useful tool for food companies to quantify the emissions in their supply chain and distinguish mitigation options for setting sustainability goals,” said Timothy Smith, professor of Sustainable Systems Management and International Business Management in CFANS’s BBE department.

The study, conducted in the U.S. Midwest corn belt, found that:

  • Reducing nitrogen fertilizer by 10% leads to 9.8% fewer N2O emissions and 9.6% less nitrogen leaching, at the cost of 4.9% more soil organic carbon depletion, but only a 0.6% yield reduction over the study region.
  • The estimated net total annual social benefits are worth $395 million (uncertainty ranges from $114 million to nearly $1.3 billion), including a savings of $334 million by avoiding GHG emissions and water pollution, $100 million using less fertilizer, and a negative $40 million due to yield losses.
  • More than 50% of the net social benefits come from 20% of the study areas, which thus can be viewed as hot spots where actions should be prioritized.

“Our analysis revealed hot spots where excessive can be cut without yield penalty,” said Jin. “We noticed in some places that reducing nitrogen-related pollution comes at a cost of depleting in soil, suggesting that other regenerative practices, such as cover cropping, need to be bundled with nitrogen management.”

In the future, the team will expand the framework presented in this study and develop more advanced and accurate carbon qualification models through a combination of process-based models, artificial intelligence and remote sensing.

More information:
Taegon Kim et al, Quantifying nitrogen loss hotspots and mitigation potential for individual fields in the US Corn Belt with a metamodeling approach, Environmental Research Letters (2021). DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/ac0d21

Research team develops new tool to help farmers make crop input decisions (2021, July 15)

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Kelp for corn growth? Scientists demystify natural products for crops thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Kelp for corn growth? Scientists demystify natural products for crops

Hexbyte Glen Cove

University of Illinois scientists, including Connor Sible (pictured), are making it easier for farmers to choose biostimulant products to boost corn production with a new article breaking down composition, mechanisms, efficacy, and application considerations. Credit: University of Illinois

Corn growers can choose from a wide array of products to make the most of their crop, but the latest could bring seaweed extract to a field near you. The marine product is just one class in a growing market of crop biostimulants marketed for corn.

Biostimulants benefit crops and soil, but the dizzying array of products has farmers confused, according to Fred Below, corn and soybean researcher at the University of Illinois.

“Farmers hear the term ‘plant biostimulant’ and think they all do the same thing, and can be used in the same way at the same time. But that’s not the case. There’s huge confusion over what these products do, and when and how they should be used,” says Below, professor in the Department of Crop Sciences at Illinois.

To quell the confusion, Below, along with doctoral student Connor Sible and research specialist Juliann Seebauer, categorized available biostimulant products into eight classes based on their modes of action. Their review, which includes summaries of product composition, mechanisms, efficacy, and application considerations, is published in the journal Agronomy.

Generally, plant biostimulants enhance natural processes in plants or soil that in turn, boost crop quality and yield through enhanced nutrient uptake, nutrient efficiency, or stress tolerance.

According to the researchers’ classification system, half of the products are live microorganisms, including , , phosphorus-solubilizing microbes, or other beneficial microbes. The other half are chemistries or chemical byproducts from “formerly living” organisms, as Sible puts it. These include seaweed extracts, humic and fulvic acids, concentrated enzymes, and biochar.

It’s not always completely clear how or why biostimulants work the way they do, but Sible and Below say there’s a time and a place for each. It’s up to the grower to consider which biostimulant fits their goal.

“When we talk to growers, that’s the first thing we say. What is the problem you’re having, and what is it you’re trying to accomplish? Then we can suggest which product from this or that biostimulant category might be your best bet,” Below says.

Sible adds, “Sometimes farmers will try these products because the sales pitch sounds good, but they won’t get the response they want in the field. So they’ll walk away from all biostimulants. Those kinds of poor outcomes could be prevented with more information. That’s why we felt this was important. We’re actively researching these products to help growers understand what they are and how they work, so they can select the right one for their production system.”

Many of the products target nutrient management, with an eye toward reducing or replacing application of synthetic fertilizers. For example, soybean growers are familiar with nitrogen-fixing microorganisms, but Sible says new technologies, including gene editing, are enabling these microbes to thrive in the corn root zone as well.

“We see in our research that these products can help you be more efficient with your fertilizer,” he says. “It’s all about better management and stewardship of nutrients. If we can add something to our fertilizer plan to make that happen, it’s a win-win.”

Plant biostimulants aren’t new. Specialty growers have applied nitrogen-fixing bacteria, mycorrhizal fungus, seaweed extracts, and similar products for years. But as start-up companies have scaled up production or partnered with big seed and fertilizer companies, they’ve started eyeing the row crop market.

“All the big companies have partnerships in the biological world now, because it’s viewed as part of sustainability or regenerative ag. Some of these products purport to have soil health benefits, and that’s all the rage,” Below says.

Sible adds that some of the big seed companies are already coating seeds with live inoculants to give seedlings a solid start. “A lot of growers are actually using biostimulants without necessarily knowing it.”

Seed coatings are only one method of application. Below says including biostimulant application with standard management practices, such as in-furrow application at seeding or during an herbicide or fungicide pass, provides a free ride for the products.

“When biostimulants can go in with practices that are already being done, that makes their application cost-effective,” he says.

Sible notes the average cost of biostimulants is $8 to $12 per acre, but some of the microbial products push $20 to $25. Despite the expense, Below says a lot of farmers are willing to invest this year.

“Commodity prices are really quite high right now, so farmers might be thinking, ‘Why don’t I try something I normally wouldn’t try?’ We just want to have them try something that has a greater likelihood to be worthwhile,” he says.

More information:
Connor N. Sible et al, Plant Biostimulants: A Categorical Review, Their Implications for Row Crop Production, and Relation to Soil Health Indicators, Agronomy (2021). DOI: 10.3390/agronomy11071297

Kelp for corn growth? Scientists demystify natural products for crops (2021, July 15)

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Teasing out the impact of Airbnb listings on neighborhood crime thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Teasing out the impact of Airbnb listings on neighborhood crime

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain

A new study on the effects of Airbnb listings on Boston neighborhoods suggests that the prevalence of listings may hamper local social dynamics that prevent crime. However, tourists themselves do not appear to generate or attract higher levels of crime. Babak Heydari, Daniel T. O’Brien, and Laiyang Ke of Northeastern University in Boston, MA, U.S. present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on July 14, 2021.

Widespread sentiment holds that Airbnb listings cause increased in residential . However, there has been limited research to explore and clarify this link.

To better understand the relationship between Airbnb listings and crime, Heydari and colleagues conducted a statistical analysis of listings and data on different types of crime (using categories of 911 calls) in Boston, MA. Covering a period from 2011 to 2017, they focused on two mechanisms by which the presence of short-term rentals might boost crime. First, tourists themselves may generate or attract crime. Second, the presence of Airbnb listings may disrupt local social dynamics that would normally mitigate or prevent crime.

The researchers found that the prevalence of Airbnb listings in a given neighborhood was linked to higher rates of violence, but not to public social disorder or private conflict. In addition, this link did not appear immediately after the listings became available to tourists, but rather arose and grew over several years.

These findings, especially the lag in increased violence, suggest that Airbnb tourists themselves do not cause or attract greater amounts of crime. Instead, an increased proportion of a neighborhood’s housing units being converted to short-term rentals may gradually erode local social dynamics, leading to increased violence.

These findings could help and make better-informed decisions related to the impact of Airbnb listings on neighborhoods. These findings could also be useful for platform companies to create more effective governance and self-regulating mechanisms. Future research could explore whether similar results are seen in other cities, including those of difference sizes or demographics. Additional studies could also investigate other facets of the presence of Airbnb listings in neighborhoods.

Heydari says: “We show that it’s not the number of Airbnb tourists who stay in a neighborhood that causes increase in criminal activities, but it’s the creation of transient properties spread throughout a neighborhood that undermines social organization and social capital and over time and can cause disorder and criminal activities as a result.

Heydari adds, “This paper is one of the first papers that measures the causal social impact of sharing platforms at neighborhood level for short-term rental platforms [and] quantifies the causal effect of short-term rentals on criminal activities and disorders in neighborhoods. More importantly, [this paper] identifies the mechanism behind such effects. Identifying causal mechanism is for more effective governance of these platforms, either through government regulations or via designing self-regulating by platforms themselves.”

More information:
Ke L, T. O’Brien D, Heydari B (2021) Airbnb and neighborhood crime: The incursion of tourists or the erosion of local social dynamics? PLoS ONE 16(7): e0253315. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0253315

Teasing out the impact of Airbnb listings on neighborhood crime (2021, July 14)
retrieved 15 July 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-07-impact

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Dogs may not return their owners' good deeds thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Dogs may not return their owners’ good deeds

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Pet dog being fed. Credit: Rebecca Fränzle

Domestic dogs show many adaptations to living closely with humans, but they do not seem to reciprocate food-giving according to a study, publishing July 14 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, led by Jim McGetrick and colleagues at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria.

The researchers trained 37 to operate a food dispenser by pressing a button, before separating the button and dispenser in separate enclosures. In the first stage, dogs were paired with two unfamiliar humans one at a time. One human partner was helpful—pressing their button to dispense food in the dog’s enclosure—and one was unhelpful. The researchers also reversed the set-up, with a button in the dog’s enclosure that operated a food dispenser in the human’s enclosure. They found no significant differences in the dogs’ tendency to press the button for helpful or unhelpful human partners, and the human’s in the did not affect the dog’s behavior towards them in free interaction sessions after the trials.

Previous studies have demonstrated that dogs are capable of directing helpful behaviors towards other dogs that have helped them previously—a behavior known as —and research suggests dogs are also able to distinguish between cooperative and uncooperative humans. However, the present study failed to find evidence that dogs can combine these capabilities to reciprocate help from humans. This finding may reflect a lack of ability or inclination among dogs to reciprocate, or the experimental design may not have detected it. For example, the authors suggest that the dogs may not have understood the experiment because humans are typically the food-giver in the relationship, not the receiver, or because the dogs failed to recognize the connection between the ‘s helpful behavior and the reward.

The authors add: “In our study, pet dogs received food from humans but did not return the favor.”

More information:
McGetrick J, Poncet L, Amann M, Schullern-Schrattenhofen J, Fux L, Martínez M, et al. (2021) Dogs fail to reciprocate the receipt of food from a human in a food-giving task. PLoS ONE 16(7): e0253277. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0253277

Dogs may not return their owners’ good deeds (2021, July 14)
retrieved 15 July 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-07-dogs-owners-good-deeds.html

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Even on Facebook, COVID-19 polarized members of US Congress: study thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Even on Facebook, COVID-19 polarized members of US Congress: study

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When communicating about COVID-19, most messages by members of Congress have a positive or negative tone. Credit: Laura Moses / OpenMoji

Facebook posts by members of the U.S. Congress reveal the depth of the partisan divide over the COVID-19 pandemic, new research shows.

A study of all 12,031 Facebook posts concerning the pandemic by members of Congress between March and October 2020 showed that Democrats generally took a more negative or neutral tone on the issue, while Republicans were more likely to have a positive tone in their posts.

Public crises, like the pandemic, highlight how central social media is to messaging and how important it is to understand how rhetoric impacts engagement and sharing of messages said Laura Moses, co-author of the study and a doctoral student in at The Ohio State University.

“When members of Congress communicate with the public about the pandemic, there is not a ‘rally around the flag’ effect, suggesting a shift toward partisan politics,” Moses said.

The study also found that Democrats posted more on COVID-19 than did Republicans, were shared more often than positive ones, and Republicans’ posts attracted more engagement, such as “likes” and comments, than did Democrats’ messages.

Moses conducted the study with Janet Box-Steffensmeier, professor of political science at Ohio State. Their results were published today (July 14, 2021) in the journal Science Advances.

These findings reflect the overall fractured nature of politics in the country today, Box-Steffensmeier said.

“We find partisan tone differences in messaging, even at the outset of the crisis” she said.

The researchers measured the tone in members’ Facebook messages using a state-of-the-art machine learning tool that analyzed the text in each message. The tool looked for the use of words that are positive or negative to give an overall “sentiment” score for each message.

For example, a post offering a resource guide to staying safe and healthy was labeled positive. A message that criticized a Trump administration official for comparing lockdowns to slavery was labeled negative. A post that urged readers to wear a mask was marked as neutral.

Results showed that Democratic members posted an average of 26 times about COVID-19 during the period of the study, compared to 18 times for Republicans. The only pandemic-related issue that Republicans posted more about than Democrats was social distancing.

The daily average tone by political party, values near 1 are more positive and values near -1 are more negative. Credit: Box-Steffensmeier and Moses, Sci. Adv. 2021; 7: eabg2898

While Democrats tended to have a more negative tone than did Republicans, they were still slightly on the positive side overall. The one issue about which Democrats were more negative than positive was the postal service: Trump admitted to blocking funding for the , and some Democrats tied this to delayed delivery of medicines, as well as interference with mail-in voting.

Many of the more negative posts by Democrats were critical of the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic.

Republicans were most positive when discussing resources and sharing information related to the pandemic.

“For example, Democrats use a more negative tone when discussing the pandemic and the Trump administration than Republicans discussing the same topic,” Moses said.

Democrats’ tone shifted drastically relative to Republicans’ after milestones that marked the severity of the , such as when COVID-19 deaths in the United States exceeded 100,000, the study found.

Overall, negative posts were more likely to be spread by Facebook users, meaning that Democrats saw an increase in their messages being shared. But Republicans saw an increase in engagement, meaning users commented on their posts or responded with one of the reaction emojis such as “like” or “love.”

There was an increase in “sad” emoji reactions to the more negatively toned posts and to posts by more liberal members, results showed.

Negative tone also increased the use of the “haha” emoji, suggesting that users were replying with sarcasm or distaste.

The researchers noted that the study did not account for images or videos used in the posts, which may also affect the tone that Facebook users take away from a message.

Even with just the text, the study showed that tone impacts engagement with messaging from members of Congress. This has important implications for understanding how government can connect individuals with crucial information in emergent or pivotal moments, Box-Steffensmeier said.

“Facebook messages about COVID-19 suggest that members of Congress were not amplifying the public health or medical professional information about the global health emergency,” she said.

“The divergence in tone between Democrats and Republicans suggests that members of are crafting messaging to represent their opinions or political identity, rather than sending a unified government response.”

More information:
J.M. Box-Steffensmeier el al., “Meaningful messaging: Sentiment in elite social media communication with the public on the COVID-19 pandemic,” Science Advances (2021). advances.sciencemag.org/lookup … .1126/sciadv.abg2898

Even on Facebook, COVID-19 polarized members of US Congress: study (2021, July 14)
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Hexbyte Glen Cove In the world capital of vanilla production, nearly three out of four farmers say they don't have enough to eat thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove In the world capital of vanilla production, nearly three out of four farmers say they don’t have enough to eat

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Vanilla beans. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Madagascar, famous for its lemurs, is home to almost 26 million people. Despite the cultural and natural riches, Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world. Over 70% of Malagasy people are farmers, and food security is a constant challenge. Rice is the most important food crop, but lately an internationally-prized crop has taken center stage: vanilla. Most of the world’s best quality vanilla comes from Madagascar. While most Malagasy farmers live on less than $2 per day, selling vanilla can make some farmers rich beyond their dreams, though these profits come with a price, and a new study illustrates it is not enough to overcome food insecurity.

In a paper published June 25, 2021 in the journal Food Security, a team of scientists collaborating between Duke University and in Madagascar set out to investigate the links between natural resource use, farming practices, socioeconomics, and . Their recently published article in the journal Food Security details intricate interactions between household demographics, farming productivity, and the likelihood of experiencing food shortages.

The team interviewed almost 400 people in three remote rural villages in an area known as the SAVA region, an acronym for the four main towns in the region: Sambava, Andapa, Vohemar, and Antalaha. The Duke University Lemur Center has been operating conservation and research activities in the SAVA region for 10 years. By partnering with local scientists, the team was able to fine-tune the way they captured data on farming practices and food security. Both of the Malagasy partners are preparing graduate degrees and expanding their research to lead the next generation of local scientists.

The international research team found that a significant proportion of respondents (up to 76%) reported that they experienced times during which did not have adequate access to food during the previous three years. The most common cause that they reported was small land size; most respondents estimated they owned less than 4 hectares of land (

The vanilla market is subject to extreme volatility, with prices varying by an order of magnitude from year to year. Vanilla is also a labor- and time-intensive crop; it requires specific growing conditions of soil, humidity, and shade, it takes at least three years from planting to the first crop. Without the natural pollinators in its home range of Mexico, Malagasy vanilla requires hand pollination by the farmers, and whole crops can be devastated by natural disasters like disease outbreaks and cyclones. Further, the high price of vanilla brings with it ‘hot spending,” resulting in cycles of boom and bust for impoverished farmers. Because of the high price, vanilla is often stolen, which leads farmers to spend weeks in their fields guarding the vanilla from thieves before harvesting. It also leads to early harvests, before the vanilla beans have completely ripened, which degrades the quality of the final products and can exacerbate price volatility.

In addition to the effects of farming productivity on the probability of food insecurity, the research revealed that household demographics, specifically the number of people living in the household, had an interactive effect with land size. Those farmers that had larger household sizes (up to 10 in this sample) had a higher probability of experiencing food insecurity than smaller households, but only if they had small landholdings. Those larger families that had larger landholdings had the lowest food insecurity. These trends have been documented in many similar settings, in which larger landholdings require more labor, and family labor is crucial to achieving food sovereignty.

The results have important implications for sustainable development in this system. The team found that greater rice and vanilla productivity can significantly reduce food insecurity. Therefore, a greater emphasis on training in sustainable, and regenerative, practices is necessary. There is momentum in this direction, with new national-level initiatives to improve rice production and increase farmers’ resilience to climate change. Further, many international aid organizations and NGOs operating in Madagascar are already training farmers in new, regenerative agriculture techniques. The Duke Lemur Center is partnering with the local university in the SAVA region to develop extension services in regenerative agriculture techniques that can increase food production while also preserving and even increasing biodiversity. With a grant from the General Mills, the Duke Lemur Center is developing training modules and conducting workshops with over 200 farmers to increase the adoption of regenerative agriculture techniques.

Further, at government levels, improved land tenure and infrastructure for securing land rights is needed because farmers perceive that the greatest cause of food insecurity is their small landholdings. Due to the current land tenure infrastructure, securing deeds and titles to land is largely inaccessible to rural farmers. This can lead to conflicts over land rights, feelings of insecurity, and little motivation to invest in more long-term sustainable farming strategies (e.g., agroforestry). By improving the ability of farmers to secure titles to their land, as well as access agricultural extension services, farmers may be able to increase and productivity, as well as increased legal recognition and protection.

To move forward as a global society, we must seek to achieve the United Nation (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). One of the SDGs is Goal #2, Zero Hunger. There are almost 1 billion people in the world who do not have adequate access to enough safe and nutritious food. This must change if we expect to develop sustainably in the future. Focusing on some of the hardest cases, Madagascar stands out as a country with high rates of childhood malnutrition, prevalence of anemia, and poverty. This year, more than one million people are negatively impacted by a three-year drought that has resulted in mass famine and a serious need for external aid. Sadly, these tragedies occur in one of the most biodiverse places on earth, where 80-90% of the species are found no where else on earth. This paradox results in a clash between natural resource conservation and human wellbeing.

Achieving the UN’s SDGs will not be easy; in fact, we are falling far short of our targets after the first decade. The next ten years will determine if we meet these goals or not, and our collective actions as a global society will dictate whether we transform our society for a sustainable future or continue with the self-destructive path we have been following. Further research and interventions are still needed to conserve biodiversity and improve human livelihoods.

More information:

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Report: Women economists underrepresented 'at every level' in UK academia thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Report: Women economists underrepresented ‘at every level’ in UK academia

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Credit: University of Cambridge

New research shows the gender gap in the teaching and study of economics is still dramatic and actually getting worse. Economists argue that this is not just a problem for the discipline, but for society as a whole.

Women are underrepresented “at almost every level” within the discipline of economics in UK universities, according to a new report co-authored by a Cambridge .

In fact, Dr. Victoria Bateman says the new report for Royal Economics Society (RES) reveals signs of “stagnation and retreat” in the closing of gender gaps across the study of economics—with female intake (relative to male) actually falling at both undergraduate and master’s levels over the last two decades.

Published today, the report, “Gender Imbalance in UK Economics,” marks 25 years since the establishment of the RES Women’s Committee, which was set up to monitor and advance the representation of in UK economics.

“The economy affects everyone, and economists need to represent us all,” said Bateman, an Economics Fellow at Gonville and Caius College. “If they don’t, that’s a major barrier to building a solid understanding of the economy.”

“Across all students, from undergraduate to Ph.D., there are twice as many men studying economics as there are women in UK universities. While in many respects the discipline of economics has come a long way in the 21st century, the is clearly still real, persistent and in some ways getting worse.”

Bateman and colleagues argue that attracting, retaining and promoting female economists is a “particular problem” within UK academia when compared to areas of government and third sector organizations such as think tanks.

Only a quarter (26%) of economists working in UK academia are female, and only 15% of economics professors are women, compared to 38% of the economists at the UK Treasury and 44% of researchers at think tanks.

Credit: University of Cambridge

Among UK students entering the discipline, the gender gap has actually widened since 2002, when 31% of economics undergraduates and 37% of master’s students were women. By 2018, this had fallen to 27% and 31% respectively. Bateman says these statistics show that the closure of the gender gap in economics “isn’t simply a matter of time”.

“Only a third of economics lecturers in the UK are women, and just fifteen percent of economics professors,” said report co-author Dr. Erin Hengel, who received her Ph.D. in economics from Cambridge before going on to lecture at the University of Liverpool.

“While these figures are better than they were twenty-five years ago, the improving trend has leveled off. It appears that progress is starting to slow far before we reach any kind of gender parity.”

When the report’s authors factored in ethnicity, the percentage of female students was higher. In 2018, a third (33%) of Black economics undergraduates and 31% of Asian ethnicity undergraduates were women, compared to a quarter (25%) of White students.

However, women from ethnic minority backgrounds are not staying in academic economics. The report also found that at Ph.D. level, the proportion of women is ten percentage points lower among minority candidates than white candidates.

Perhaps startlingly, the report found that between 2012 and 2018 there was not a single Black woman employed as a professor of economics anywhere in the UK.

Bateman says she hopes the new report will serve as a “call to arms” for the discipline of economics. “We are calling on universities to ask themselves why so few UK women are attracted to studying and researching the economy and why, even when they are, they do not stay,” she said.

Bateman’s 2019 book The Sex Factor showed how the status and freedom of women are central to prosperity, and that “ blindness” in economics has left the discipline wide of the mark on everything from poverty and inequality to understanding cycles of boom and bust.

“Unless economists are diverse, we cannot hope to build a complete understanding of the economy, and, with it, formulate the right kinds of policies,” Bateman added.

Report: Women economists underrepresented ‘at every level’ in UK academia (2021, July 13)
retrieved 14 July 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-07-women-economists-underrepresented-uk-academia.html

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Putting an end to billions in fishing subsidies could improve fish stocks and ocean health thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Putting an end to billions in fishing subsidies could improve fish stocks and ocean health

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Industrial fishing trawlers stocking up on unsustainable quantities of fish. Credit: Shutterstock

Global fish catches are fluctuating near the highest levels ever reported, while the fraction of fish stocks that are sustainable has never been lower. Nevertheless, governments spent US$22 billion of public money on harmful fisheries subsidies in 2018.

These harmful subsidies fund the construction of new fishing vessels or reduce the cost of fuel, for example. They increase fishing capacity by reducing costs, which heightens the risk of overfishing. In short, they limit our ability to sustainably manage our fisheries.

Their scale and impact means that international reform of fishing subsidies is now a necessity, and may be the single greatest global action we can take to ensure an abundant ocean. Later this month, the World Trade Organization (WTO) will continue its negotiations on fisheries subsidies. These negotiations began in 2001, and are intended to incorporate the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

As a fisheries researcher I believe establishing international rules on fisheries subsidies would be a significant step towards rebuilding an abundant ocean. It would reduce inequity in international fish trade—and help stop overfishing.

Why do harmful fisheries subsidies exist?

Historically, subsidies were seen as good things that let governments implement new policies. Each was introduced for a specific reason, whether to benefit a subset of individuals or society as a whole.

Three broad arguments support subsidies: to address social equity issues and conservation concerns, and to incentivize .

Subsidies to support economic growth were once important for ensuring food security, and powered the post-war expansion of fisheries and the recent industrialization of developing nations’ fisheries.

However, fears of food shortages in many nations have largely receded, and 90 percent of global fish stocks are either fully exploited or overfished, meaning they have been fished to the maximum—or beyond. As such, economic growth arguments no longer exist, at least not for developed nations.

Some conservation-focused subsidies may still be beneficial. For example, subsidies may be used to restore depleted stocks by releasing cultured fish or to finance the adoption of more benign fishing methods.

But research has provided a greater understanding of the overall impact and effectiveness of fisheries subsidies. Most are now considered to be harmful, and the majority exist for political reasons: to lower fishing costs and delay the inevitable economic and social impacts of overfishing.

CC BY-SA” data-thumb=”https://scx1.b-cdn.net/csz/news/tmb/2021/putting-an-end-to-bill-1.jpg”>

Small-scale fisheries in Bangladesh. Credit: Worldfish, 2001/flickr, CC BY-SA

How do fisheries subsidies relate to other SDGs?

Concerns over fisheries subsidies are not new. In 1776, Adam Smith wrote about British herring fishing subsidies that were provided proportionally to the length of vessels. Their intention was to promote exports. Instead they led to larger vessels, raised local food prices and decimated Scottish small-scale fisheries.

Little has changed in 250 years. The largest vessels still receive the greatest share of the spoils. Many of these vessels originate from rich countries but fish in the waters of poorer countries, transferring the risk of overfishing to those that can least afford it. Our latest study estimates that a third of the subsidies provided by the largest fishing nations go towards fishing in other countries’ waters.

The UN SDGs were set up to address many of these global issues and achieve a more sustainable future. But fisheries subsidies makes the SDGs on ocean sustainability, poverty and hunger, difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.

Harmful fisheries subsidies damage fish stocks, undermine the economic viability of small-scale producers and jeopardize the livelihoods and of coastal communities. It is vital that the WTO negotiations succeed.

What’s the state of play of the WTO negotiations?

The negotiations began in 2001, with vague aims of “clarifying and improving” existing rules on subsidies. However, no meaningful progress was made—except on defining fisheries subsidies—until efforts were reinvigorated in 2015, when the SDGs specifically targeted the elimination of harmful subsidies, through the conclusion of the WTO negotiations.

Six years later, encouraged by the new WTO Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, an agreement is within reach. On May 11, 2021, a draft agreement was made public—the first since 2007. However, the text remains negotiable and must be agreed to by all 164 ministers at talks on July 15.

What are the key points of draft text and upcoming talks?

The draft essentially proposes three categories of prohibited subsidies, those that support illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing (Article 3.1); affect overfished stocks (Article 4.1); or lead to overcapacity and overfishing (Article 5.1).

This may sound simple. But the diverse political, economic, cultural and practical complexities pose real challenges. How are harmful practices determined, and who determines them?

The article addressing IUU lacks impact. IUU activities are secretive and obscure. Removing subsidies to known IUU fishers would eliminate only a small portion of the total and will likely have no impact on sustainability.

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing threatens the sustainable management of marine resources, and represents about 20 per cent of annual catches. Credit: UN Food and Agriculture Organization

The article dealing with overfished stocks may have a greater impact, but debates continue over who decides if a is overfished. The status of surprisingly few stocks is known—in the central Mediterranean, for example, less than two percent of landings come from assessed stocks. Stock assessments are technically demanding and costly.

The article covering overcapacity and overfishing could truly end harmful fisheries subsidies. It is, however, the least developed. In its current state it includes a promising list of subsidy types to be prohibited.

But it also includes a loophole that allows subsidies if measures are in place to keep stocks sustainable. It is unclear what measures would qualify or where the burden of proof would lie. This loophole could remove the teeth from the only rule that might bite!

What are the possible outcomes?

The WTO talks require a precarious balance between appeasing the diverse interests of members and ensuring rules are effective and practical. I am cautiously optimistic an agreement will be reached, particularly for the articles on IUU and overfished stocks. I remain concerned, however, that loopholes will render the article on overcapacity and overfishing ineffective. We require all three articles to achieve sustainable fisheries globally.

While we do not want to see the inclusion of blanket loopholes, any agreement will contain special treatment for developing nations.

This issue is sensitive and complex. I believe that long-term sustainability is only achievable if all nations have autonomy over their resources. Currently many developing nations enter unfavourable agreements where rich nations catch fish that host nations are unable to. Subsidies may be necessary for some nations to develop their fisheries.

However, such exemptions must not be perpetual or extended to include industrial fisheries. And as even small subsidies can be harmful, developing nations must fund fleet development in ways that don’t undermine sustainability.

The reality of history, however, suggests that no final outcome will be achieved in July. Further talks will be required to finalize Article 5, and therefore the agreement itself.

Is any agreement better than no agreement?

Any agreement is a positive outcome if it reduces the global provision of harmful fisheries subsidies. Even a watered-down agreement provides a platform for more progressive future rules. Research shows that reducing fishing capacity inline with resource availability could lead to more fish, support more jobs and lift millions of people from hunger.

Yet adherence to new rules must be monitored and enforced, particularly as subsidies are highly complex and their reporting often vague or green-washed. Future battles will revolve around issues of transparent reporting and the measured effectiveness of the agreement.

What is important is that the WTO is able to reach consensus and we can take an important step—no matter how small—towards rebuilding fish stocks for the communities that rely on them.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Putting an end to billions in fishing subsidies could improve fish stocks and ocean health (2021, July 13)
retrieved 14 July 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-07-billions-fishing-subsidies-fish-stocks.html

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Researchers discover better way to identify DNA variants thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Researchers discover better way to identify DNA variants

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3D-model of DNA. Credit: Michael Ströck/Wikimedia/ GNU Free Documentation License

USC researchers have achieved a better way to identify elusive DNA variants responsible for genetic changes affecting cell functions and diseases.

Using tools, scientists at the university’s Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences studied “variable-number tandem repeats” (VNTR) in DNA. VNTRs are stretches of DNA made of a short pattern of nucleotides repeated over and over, like a plaid pattern shirt. Though they comprise but 3% of the human genome, the repetitive DNA governs how some genes are encoded and levels of proteins are produced in a cell, and account for most of the structural variation.

Current methods do not accurately detect the variations in genes in some repetitive sequences. The new method by the USC scientists can detect variants among different populations of people and how it they affect , which helps to discover links between VNTR variation and traits or disease.

“This type of repetitive DNA has been called ‘dark matter’ of the because it has been difficult to sequence and analyze how it varies,” said Mark Chaisson, assistant professor of quantitative and computational biology and corresponding author of the study. “We showed that variation in can have a substantial effect on , so future studies may use this approach to understand the genetic basis of disease and ways to improve our health.”

The study was published in Nature Communications on July 12.

The study also says:

  • Variants in genetic codes are responsible for Huntington’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), schizophrenia, diabetes and attention-deficit disorder, as previous research has shown.
  • While other tools, based on algorithms, have been developed to detect genetic variants, they provide incomplete information, especially for the VNTRs.
  • The new software tool the USC scientists developed derives from a repeat-pangenome graph, a data structure that encodes population diversity and repetitions of VNTR locations on a chromosome to identify more gene sequences with better accuracy.

More information:
Nature Communications (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-24378-0

Researchers discover better way to identify DNA variants (2021, July 12)
retrieved 13 July 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-07-dna-variants.html

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part may be reproduced without the written perm

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