Environmental policy makers have come up with a list of the “top 100” ecological questions most in need of an answer. The list, published online in the British Ecological Societys Journal of Applied Ecology, is the result of an innovative experiment involving more than 600 environmental policy makers and academics, and includes crucial questions such as which UK habitats and species might be lost completely due to climate change, and what are the comparative biodiversity impacts of newly emerging types of renewable energy? The list should help bridge the gap between science and policy that exists in many disciplines - including ecology - and could therefore have a major impact on future ecological research and its funding.
According to the lead author, Professor Bill Sutherland of the University of East Anglia: “There is currently too little information flow between scientists and policy makers. Narrowing this gap would be very beneficial in generating policies that are based on sound science. Conversely, it is desirable that research should be more clearly directed at issues that influence policy.”
The list of 100 questions is the outcome of two days of discussion between 654 environmental policy makers and academics. The academics acted as facilitators, helping the policy makers arrive at a short-list of 100 key questions from an initial long-list of more than 1,000. Policy makers came from 30 leading environmental organisations and regulators, including the Environment Agency, SEPA, English Nature, the National Trust, Butterfly Conservation, the Wildlife Trusts, the Woodland Trust and the British Trust for Ornithology, and the short-list was agreed by consensus and compromise.
Becky Allen | alfa
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Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
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Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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