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Extinction of Marine Life – Causes

marine life extinctionThe latest studies and research show that the world’s ocean is at the verge of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history. The research has further concluded that the speed and rate of degeneration in the ocean is far faster than anyone has predicted.

Many of the negative impacts previously identified are greater than the worst predictions.

Every species, either small or large, play a vital role in maintaining a well balanced ecosystem. Hence the loss of any species can be detrimental to the ecosystem.

Various studies show that regional ecosystems such as estuaries, coral reefs, and coastal and oceanic fish communities are undergoing rapid losses whether in individuals or whole species.

It is quite apparent that human activity has greatly contributed to species extinction. A major factor for aquatic species extinction is killing by humans for reasons such as food, recreation and many more. Habitat destruction which includes biological, physical and chemical factors is also largely responsible for the extinction of aquatic species. Here are some examples habitat destruction:

Physical Alterations:

  • Trawl fishing
  • Commercial development and construction
  • Structures for water diversion
  • Coastal engineering

Chemical Alterations:

  • Ocean acidification
  • Organic waste
  • High concentration of heavy metals
  • Plastics and particles

Climate change such as global warming has increased local water temperatures beyond the suitable range of many species. Such changes have led to alterations in the food web which in turn have made productive areas such as welling regions less productive. Scientists also suggest that pollutants including flame retardant chemicals and synthetic musks are being traced in the Polar Seas, and that these chemicals can be absorbed by tiny particles in the ocean which are in turn ingested by marine creatures.

Species extinction is causing disturbance in marine species biodiversity. An important approach to protect marine ecosystems is Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that are established in order to protect the richness of marine life and the environment. Species extinction can be avoided through integrated control and maintenance of habitats. Crucial habitats can be maintained by limiting physical activities such as fishing and coastal construction.

Pollution Leading to Severe Climate Changes

NHT- Blog- XXX- 28 January 2014According to a study published on May 10 in Geophysical Research Letters, pollution is warming the atmosphere through summer thunderstorm clouds. A study carried out by National Academy of Sciences revealed pollution plays into climate warming. Atmospheric scientist Jiwen Fan and her colleagues concluded that pollution makes clouds linger by decreasing the size and increasing the lifespan of cloud and ice particles.

The research concluded further that the daily temperature range is reducing due to the clouds caused by pollution. High clouds left after a thunderstorm cool the earth during the day with their shadows but trap heat like a blanket at night. Clouds from late afternoon thunderstorms last long into the night instead of dispersing, causing warmer nights.

It is found that pollution in the air allows the ice and water particles to fall slower than they would in a clean atmosphere due to their reduction in size. Due to the slow dispersion, the storm clouds last much longer, those results in more extreme weather. The longer lasting clouds have an effect on climate change. Cars, trucks, and smokestacks release tiny particles into the atmosphere known as aerosols. Aerosols have an impact on climate causing the overall effect of cooling. The man-made particle cloud cover formed by aerosols serves as a form of insulation, having the warm air trapped beneath it.

Sulfur dioxide is a major pollutant associated with climate change. Though it is primarily known as a cause of acid rain, but it also reflects light when released into the atmosphere. This keeps the sunlight out and causes Earth to cool. Sulfur dioxide released into the atmosphere from volcanic eruptions causes cooling that lasts for years.

However these effects of pollution on the climate and weather can be controlled gradually if we follow a few steps. It is better to drive less and walk more and make use of public transit. We must help develop communities that promote walking, cycling and public transit use. Recycling and conservation is a good way to reduce your carbon footprint. Governments, on the other hand, should take more severe steps to limit emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Effect of Meditation on Gene Expression

NHT- Blog- XXXIX- 31 January 2014It is well known that mindful meditation promotes attention on the present moment that helps in easing emotional stress. Not only meditation creates a positive influence on a person’s health but also there may be an actual biological trigger for these therapeutic effects.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, along with colleagues from France and Spain have discovered the first evidence of a session of mindfulness meditation causing specific molecular changes occurring in a person’s body.

For the study, the researchers compared the effects of an eight-hour mindfulness session on a group of people experienced with meditation to a control group who participated in quiet, non-meditative activities. Various genetic and molecular differences were found that included increased levels of gene-regulating machinery and reduced levels of pro-inflammatory genes. This in turn correlated with faster physical recovery from a stressful situation.

According to Richard J. Davidson, founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, this was the first study that showed rapid changes in gene expression within people associated with mindfulness meditation practice. As per the co-author of the study Dr. Perla Kaliman, the changes were observed in genes that were targets of anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs.

The findings showed a down-regulation – the process by which a cell decreases the quantity of a cellular component, such as RNA or protein, of genes that have been implicated in inflammation. The affected genes included pro-inflammatory genes RIPK2 and COX2 and also HDAC that regulates the activity of other genes by removing a type of chemical tag.

Impulsive epigenetic responses to stress, diet or exercise have been witnessed in the previous studies in rodents and in people. It is clear that the genes are quite dynamic in their expression and that a calm mind has a potential influence on their expression.

These studies have laid the foundation for future studies to further assess meditation strategies for the treatment of chronic inflammatory conditions.

NHT- Blog- XXXVII- 31 January 2014

Researchers publishing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences analyzed almost 1000 brain scans of men and women (428 males and 521 females aged 8 to 22) trying to find out the differences and similarities between them, and found that the brain circuit between men and women appear to be different in two ways.

The neutral wiring in the brains of women is heavily connected between the left and right hemispheres. Contrary to this, the neutral circuitry of the male brain is the strongest between the front and back regions within each hemisphere. Theoretically, these connections across the hemispheres of the brain suggest greater ability in facilitating social interaction, enhanced memory and switching multiple tasks. The connections between the front and back regions of the brain indicate enhanced coordination and sensory activities.

Ragini Verma, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, told how these findings explained why men can’t multi-task and why women have better memory and social skills. The study justified why men’s brains are wired more for perception and coordination and women’s for multitasking.

The functional studies show that the left part of the brain is more for logical thinking whereas the right part is for more spontaneous thinking. So if there’s a task that involves both these things, women are hardwired to do it better. Women are better at intuitive thinking and are better at remembering things.

The researchers used a water-based imaging technique known as DTI that can trace and highlight the fiber pathways connecting the different regions of the brain and shows the foundation for the network of the whole brain. The scans showed greater connectivity between the left and right sides of the brain in women. However, in men, the connections were mostly confined to individual hemispheres. The only region where men had more connections between the left and right sides of the brain was in the cerebellum, which plays a vital role in the motor control.

Males and females, up to the age of 13, showed few differences in connectivity that became more with age.

Fracking – Serving Poison to Ourselves

Earth3I have always been fond of peeping inside the well. I still remember the time few years back when I followed my mother going to the well to draw water. All this seemed very amusing to me. But she no more goes to the well. When I asked her the reason, she told me that the water of the well is not clean enough for us to drink or use. I could not reason out the cause of this. How had the water of the well become septic?

While trying to figure out the reason, I came across a term that was possibly the answer to my question – Hydraulic Fracturing. The practice is also known as fracking and has been one of the talked-about resource recovery methods in the country. It’s an economical method to recover natural gas from dense shale formations.

The fluid that returns to the surface because of the internal pressure of the rock formation contains injected chemicals and natural materials like metals and hydrocarbons.

Let us take a look at some of the facts and results of hydraulic fracturing:

  • It takes 1-8 million gallons of water to complete each fracturing job. This water is mixed with sand and chemicals to create fracking fluid Approximately 40,000 gallons of chemicals are used per fracturing.
  • About 600 chemicals are used in fracking fluid that includes carcinogens and toxins such as lead, uranium, mercury, methanol, hydrochloric acid, formaldehyde and many more.
  • During the process, methane gas and toxic chemicals leach out from the system and contaminate nearby groundwater. Methane concentrations are 17 times higher in drinking-water wells near fracturing sites than in normal wells.
  •  This contaminated water is used for drinking for nearby cities and towns. There have been more than 1,000 documented cases of water contamination next to areas of gas drilling as well as sensory, respiratory, and neurological damage due to ingested contaminated water.

There are many other harmful results of fracking that will not only affect us but also the nature. Fracking needs to be controlled to a great extent. There is need for the governments to come together against this practice. Serious steps need to be taken before it’s too late.