News: April 2019

Not so sexy salmon

New research reveals that farmed salmon have smaller ‘jaw hooks’ or ‘kype’- a secondary sexual trait, likened to the antlers of a stag, making them less attractive to females than their wild salmon cousins.

This new finding published in the peer–reviewed science journal Royal Society Open Science, implies that farm-bred salmon are less sexually attractive than their wild brethren, and that despite only being bred in captivity since the 1970’s, within some 12 generations, that they are already diverging from wild salmon.

Publication date: 30 April 2019

The last chance for Madagascar’s biodiversity

Scientists from around the world have joined together to identify the most important actions needed by Madagascar’s new government to prevent species and habitats being lost for ever.

In January, Madagascar’s recently-elected president, Andry Rajoelina, began his five-year term of office. A group of scientists from Madagascar, the UK, Australia, the USA and Finland have published a paper recommending actions needed by the new government to turn around the precipitous decline of biodiversity and help put Madagascar on a trajectory towards sustainable growth.

Publication date: 29 April 2019

Safeguarding our natural resources – how do decision-makers decide?

Human activities are increasingly threatening the very elements that we need for our own survival, from clean water from forests, to ensuring the survival of crop-pollinating insects.

Scientists call these naturally occurring aspects on which we rely ‘ecosystem services’ and many governments are shifting their conservation policies to take these vital ‘ecosystem services’ into consideration.

Scientists are rushing to create ‘models’ which can predict both the availability of these services, sometimes as basic and intrinsic as water, grazing or land for crop growth and the demand for them.

There are now many such models- but they need validating- checking against reality, so that decision-makers know which model would be most suitable for their needs.

Publication date: 24 April 2019

DNA analysis finds that type of grass pollen, not total count, could be important for allergy sufferers

As the winter cold is replaced by warmer temperatures, longer days and an explosion of botanical life, up to 400m people worldwide will develop allergic reactions to airborne pollen from trees, grasses and weeds. Symptoms will range from itchy eyes, congestion and sneezing, to the aggravation of asthma and an associated cost to society that runs into the billions.

This article by Simon Creer, Professor in Molecular Ecology and Georgina Brennan, Postdoctoral Research Officer, at the School on Natural Sciences is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Publication date: 16 April 2019

Migrating bats use the setting sun

Bats weighing no more than 6 grams, migrating over a thousand miles from the Baltic to Britain, could be the key to revealing how migrating mammals navigate.

We know more about how birds and reptiles and fish navigate than we do about mammals such as whales or wildebeest, but one part of the puzzle is revealed in the latest edition of Current Biology.

Publication date: 12 April 2019

Identifying the grass pollen that gets up your nose

Scientists could be a step closer to providing more precise pollen forecasts to the 25% of the UK population who live with either asthma or hay fever. This follows the first results of a major three-year project to analyse airborne grass pollen.

The first year’s findings, published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, have shown that it is not just the overall ‘load’ of grass pollen in the air that could cause those particularly bad days for asthma and hay fever sufferers.  Days which see increased asthma attacks or intense hay fever could be related to the release of pollen from particular grass species.

Publication date: 8 April 2019

Our Planet is billed as an Attenborough documentary with a difference but it shies away from uncomfortable truths

Over six decades, Sir David Attenborough’s name has become synonymous with high-quality nature documentaries. But while for his latest project, the Netflix series Our Planet, he is once again explaining incredible shots of nature and wildlife – this series is a little different from his past films. Many of his previous smash hits have portrayed the natural world as untouched and perfect, Our Planet is billed as putting the threats facing natural ecosystems front and centre to the narrative. In the opening scenes we are told: “For the first time in human history the stability of nature can no longer be taken for granted.”

This article by Julia P G Jones, Professor of Conservation Science, School of Natural Sciences is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Publication date: 5 April 2019

HRH Prince of Wales notes shining example of best practice in sustainable management on expansion of the Cayman Islands Marine Protected Areas

Bangor University working in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy have assisted the Department of the Environment to expand the Marine Parks system in the Cayman Islands, a British Overseas Territory in the Caribbean, through projects funded by the DEFRA Darwin Initiative. 

The expansion of Cayman’s existing marine parks was approved by the Cabinet and announced during the visit of His Royal Highness, Prince of Wales, on 28th March.  The Environment Minister indicated that “This expansion will serve to protect our local marine stocks, as well as the crucially important coral reef network surrounding our Islands for generations to come.”

Publication date: 4 April 2019

Student research on freshwater microplastics hits the headlines

Research conducted by students at Bangor University, working with Friends of the Earth, has attracted global media attention.

Bangor University was commissioned by the environmental organization, to measure the amount of plastics and microplastics in British lakes and rivers- and what they found was widely reported in print and broadcast media across Britain and beyond.

Publication date: 3 April 2019