Hurricane Katrina made landfall August 29, 2005 becoming the costliest ($75 billion) and one of the deadliest (nearly 2,000 human lives lost) hurricanes in U.S. history. With the nation still reeling from Katrina, Hurricane Rita hit on September 24, 2005, causing $10 billion in damage but taking a far less direct toll on human lives. The duo's ecological consequences were also considerable: storm surges flooded coastal areas. Powerful winds felled forests in south Louisiana and Mississippi, havens for wildlife and migratory birds. Saltwater and polluted floodwaters from New Orleans surged into Lake Pontchartrain. Taking stock nearly a year later, experts from the Gulf Coast region will address the storms' ecological consequences and will offer insights on how ecological knowledge can help mitigate damage from future hurricanes.
"Not only is the City of New Orleans built on reclaimed wetlands that have subsided by up to 5 meters, over 25 percent of coastal wetlands disappeared in the 20th century," says John Day (Louisiana State University). Day, one of the symposia's presenters, argues that serious wetland restoration plans must close or restrict the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, a canal that contributed to the flooding of New Orleans and that disconnects the river from its delta plain. Wetlands help stem storm surges and diffuse powerful winds.
Complementing Day's argument, Paul Keddy (Southeastern Louisiana University) believes residents in the Gulf Coast states will have to decide if they want "business as usual" or a dramatic change in the way people accept the limitations and realities of dynamic coastal areas. During his presentation, Keddy will lay out what he sees as the connections between hurricanes, human irrationality, and Gulf Coast ecosystems. "From the American dust bowl to the collapse of the Canadian cod fishery, people have chosen development trajectories that are catastrophic in the longer term," he says.
Gary Shaffer (Southeastern Louisiana University) will suggest some concrete wetlands restoration steps that he believes will need to go hand-in-hand with human-made flood control barriers. "Bald cypress - water tupelo swamps are particularly effective at dampening forward progress of both floodwaters and winds," he notes. Shaffer believes that cypress and tupelo seedlings could achieve 10 meter heights within a single decade and serve as major storm damage reduction agents.
Looking specifically at Louisiana's Lake Pontchartrain, Carlton Dufrechou's (Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to restoring and preserving the Lake Pontchartrain Basin) presentation will include post-storm satellite imagery that suggests that Hurricane Katrina may have destroyed over 60 square miles of the lake's wetlands in a mere 24 hour period. "As more coastal areas disappear, residents in the region become more vulnerable to the effects of tropical storms and hurricanes," says Dufrechou. On a brighter note, however, the lake's water quality appears to have recovered to pre-Katrina conditions, in spite of being the recipient of nearly nine billion gallons of highly contaminated water pumped out of New Orleans and into the lake.
Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen
A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde
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...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
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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22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering
22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy