The forests of Kilimanjaro are unusual for two reasons. One is that there is no bamboo zone, unlike the other East African mountains which have extensive bamboo forests. Another is that it was thought that there were only a few rare plants in the Kilimanjaro forests. Research by Hemp has explained the missing bamboo and uncovered a host of rare plants.
The missing bamboo is caused by a lack of elephants. Elephants are needed to create disturbance which encourages bamboo regeneration. However, on Kilimanjaro the lower slopes of the mountain are covered in cultivation preventing elephants from ascending into the forest “There are elephants on the dry side of the mountain” says Hemp “but the valleys are too steep and deep for elephants to traverse to the wet side where the bamboo could grow”. The research demonstrates the complex links between plants and animals and the far reaching effects of changes caused by humans.
The rare plants were found in forest relicts in the deepest valleys of the cultivated lower areas suggesting that a rich forest flora once covered Mt. Kilimanjaro. The plants included a forest tree 40 m high that was new to science. “Kilimanjaro has long been excluded from the tropical rainforest biodiversity hotspot of Tanzania, but these exciting finds change the whole way we think about forest diversity of eastern Africa” said Jon Lovett, an expert in African biodiversity at the University of York.
However, the forests of Kilimanjaro are changing. Fires and logging have had a major impact on the forests. Fire in particular is reducing extent of the highest cloud forests. “The cloud forests are draped in moss and are an important water source as they catch moisture from the mist which shrouds them” explains Hemp “when they are burnt the hydrology of the whole mountain is affected”.
Kate Stinchcombe | alfa
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The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet
22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie
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.
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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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