Discovered in Green: Small amounts of a common contaminant is spreading breast cancer, reading palm trees teaches us about plant diversity and climate change, handling bark beetles, and how to get plant's to act less defensive.
- Fresh news and ideas about our planet's future See full coverageSmall doses of cadmium are spreading breast cancers. Small concentrations over a long period of time causes breast cancers to develop and spread in a more aggressive way. This scary-sounding finding gets scarier with the following quote: "Unfortunately, cadmium is all around us – it is in our food, our water, our makeup and our air," explains researcher Maggie Louie. "Many of us are exposed to very low levels of cadmium from the environment on a daily basis, and our research shows that even small concentrations of this metal at prolonged exposures can cause breast cancer cell growth," she continues. So, every single day, we come in contact with stuff that could turn a treatable disease into something harder to handle. [American Society of Molecular Biology]
- Reading palm (trees) illuminates the importance of plant diversity. Guess reading palms of all sorts works as a soothsaying technique. (Har har!) Looking at palm trees, researchers have determined that climate change millions of years ago has affected palm diversity, which is also a marker of how well a certain climate has done in warmer temps. Rainforests with more diverse palms, have fared better. This all means that the warming millions of years ago has intense biodiversity effects, so the warming now will have similar effects. "If species are severely affected by current and future climate change, it'll mean that there are long-lasting consequences for biodiversity, maybe over many millions of years to come – at least much longer than we've ever dreamt of before," explains researcher Daniel Kissling. [Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences]
- Bark beetle management tips. Bark beetles, that crunchy little guy over there, can cost forest managers money and grief, eating away at tree bark. A new paper has some tips on how to handle these annoyances. Though, this sounds like an ominous (and potentially murderous paper), the advice is actually quite eco-friendly. "The keys to managing bark beetles are maintaining a diversity of healthy, site-adapted tree species and adequate spacing between host trees," explains the research report. "The diversity of site-adapted tree species reduces the likelihood of beetle outbreaks because a mixture of tree species creates a more complex environment within which beetles must detect and reach suitable hosts," it continues. Honestly, we were expecting mafia style offings. [Journal of Integrated Pest Management]
- How to restore a plant's balance. Plants do this very human thing when under harsh conditions: They get defensive, in a self-harmy kind of way. Instead of allowing themselves to continue to grow, they recoil. Researchers have figured out a way to get them to continue growing during this defense process. "What we've discovered is that some key components of growth and defense programs physically interact with each other," explains researcher Sheng Yang He, who discovered two hormones that work together during crises. "Communication between the two is how plants coordinate the two different situations." Researchers hope they can use the knowledge of these two hormones to get plants to stop acting so baby. "Perhaps at some point we can genetically or chemically engineer the plants so they don't talk to each other that much," He said. "This way we may be able to increase yield and defense at the same time." [Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences]