For the first time, researchers have been able to map the true extent of gold mining in the biologically diverse region of Madre De Dios in the Peruvian Amazon. The team, led by Greg Asner, combined field surveys with airborne mapping and high-resolution satellite monitoring to show that the geographic extent of mining has increased 400% from 1999 to 2012 and that the average annual rate of forest loss has tripled since the Great Recession of 2008. Until this study, thousands of small, clandestine mines that have boomed since the economic crisis have gone unmonitored.
Reconstructing the rise of life during the period of Earth’s history when it first evolved is challenging. Earth’s oldest sedimentary rocks are not only rare, but also almost always altered by hydrothermal and tectonic activity. A new study from a team including Carnegie’s Nora Noffke, a visiting investigator, and Robert Hazen revealed the well-preserved remnants of a complex ecosystem in a nearly 3.5 billion-year-old sedimentary rock sequence in Australia.
A great deal of research has focused on the amount of global warming resulting from increased greenhouse gas concentrations. But there has been relatively little study of the pace of the change following these increases. A new study by Carnegie’s Ken Caldeira and Nathan Myhrvold of Intellectual Ventures concludes that about half of the warming occurs within the first 10 years after an instantaneous step increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration, but about one-quarter of the warming occurs more than a century after the step increase.
A new planet-hunting survey has revealed planetary candidates with orbital periods as short as four hours and so close to their host stars that they are nearly skimming the stellar surface. If confirmed, these candidates would be among the closest planets to their stars discovered so far. Brian Jackson of the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism will present his team’s findings, which are based on data from NASA’s Kepler mission, at the American Astronomical Society’s Division of Planetary Sciences meeting.
Coral reefs are tremendously important for ocean biodiversity, as well as for the economic and aesthetic value they provide to their surrounding communities. Unfortunately they have been in great decline in recent years, much of it due to the effects of global climate change. One such effect, called bleaching, occurs when the symbiotic algae that are essential for providing nutrients to the coral either lose their identifying photosynthetic pigmentation and their ability to perform photosynthesis or disappear entirely from the coral’s tissue. Without a healthy population of these algae, the coral cannot survive.
The Arabidopsis Information Resource (TAIR), a database of genetic and molecular biology data for the laboratory plant Arabidopsis thaliana, is one of the most widely used plant databases in the world. Some 60,000 scientists visit the site and view over 1,000,000 pages per month, and usage continues to climb. Funding from the National Science Foundation is ending soon and the program will begin transitioning to a subscription-based service in October.
Cells in the body wear down over time and die. In many organs, like the small intestine, adult stem cells play a vital role in maintaining function by replacing old cells with new ones. Learning about the nature of tissue stem cells can help scientists understand exactly how our organs are built, and why some organs generate cancer frequently, but others only rarely. New work from Carnegie’s Alexis Marianes and Allan Spradling used some of the most experimentally accessible tissue stem cells, the adult stem cells in the midsection of the fruit fly gut, with surprising results.
Researchers, including Alex Goncharov, have for the first time experimentally mimicked the pressure conditions of Earths’ deep mantle to measure thermal conductivity using a new measurement technique on the mantle material magnesium oxide (MgO). They found that heat transfer is lower than other predictions, with total heat flow across the Earth of about 10.4 terawatts, about 60 % of the power used today by civilization. They also found that conductivity has less dependence on pressure conditions than predicted.
Transport proteins are responsible for moving materials such as nutrients and metabolic products through a cell’s outer membrane, which seals and protects all living cells, to the cell’s interior. These transported molecules include sugars, which can be used to fuel growth or to respond to chemical signals of activity or stress outside of the cell. Measuring the activity of transporter proteins in a living organism has been a challenge for scientists, because the methods are difficult, often require the use of radioactive tracers, and are hard to use in intact tissues and organs. A team led by Wolf Frommer, director of Carnegie’s Plant Biology Department, has now developed a groundbreaking new way to overcome this technology gap.
Researchers reviewed the likelihood of continued changes to the terrestrial climate, including an analysis of a collection of 27 climate models. If emissions of heat-trapping gases continue along the recent trajectory, 21st century mean annual global warming could exceed 3.6 °F ( 2 °C) over most terrestrial regions during 2046 to 2065 and 7.2 °F (4 °C) during 2081-2100.At this pace, it will probably be the most rapid large climate change in the last 65 million years.