Discovered: Communication towers are slaughtering our birds, deadly fungus is killing our frogs, more extreme weather is on the way, and the oceans are dirtier than we thought.
- TV and radio towers are killing our birds. Here's an unhappy consequence of industrialization. Every time we make our communication towers a little taller, the bird death toll rises along with it. According to a study by University of Southern California researchers, 6.8 million birds die every year from slamming into TV and radio towers. "Millions of the birds don't make it because they 'fall under the spell' of the lights on the towers, that are meant to keep planes at a safe distance," reads the study. Apparently, they sort of work like a mosquito zapper. "Most of the birds do not die because they run into the towers but because they get caught in the cables and guy wires propping up the structures. Some also run into each other or die from exhaustion." According to the researchers, if we just used bulbs that blink, instead of ones that don't, it would save millions of bird lives. Is it worth it? It could make for an annoying skyline. [Canada]
- Deadly fungus is killing our frogs. Looks like birds aren't the only animals in trouble. According to a new UC Berkeley study, a fungal infection that leads to dehydration in frogs is killing off a record number of the amphibians around the world. The fungus is called Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis and it disrupts the fluid and electrolyte equilibrium of frogs. "The chytrid fungus attacks an amphibian's skin, causing it to become up to 40 times thicker in some instances," reads the study. "Since frogs depend on their skin to absorb water and essential electrolytes like sodium from their environment, [researchers] knew that chytrid would disrupt fluid balance in the infected amphibians, but were surprised to find that electrolyte levels were much lower than anticipated for the Sierra Nevada sample." Hang in there guys! [Science Daily]
- Get ready for more extreme weather. A new study in the journal of Science says crazy weather patterns and storms are going to become a lot more routine in the futre. "By measuring changes in salinity on the ocean’s surface, the researchers inferred that the water cycle had accelerated by about 4 percent over the last half-century," found the study by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. "That does not sound particularly large, but it is twice the figure generated from computerized analyses of the climate." Paul J. Durack, a researcher at the laboratory says “This provides another piece of independent evidence that we need to start taking the problem of global warming seriously.” If the estimates keep their trajectory, "it implies that the water cycle could quicken by as much as 20 percent later in this century as the planet warms, potentially leading to more droughts and floods." [Science]
- The oceans are dirtier than we thought. Everyone knows the ocean is polluted from all the trash we lob into it every day. But it turns out, it's even more polluted than we thought. A new study in Geophysical Research Letters says that scientists have been underestimating the total amount of plastics in the water by an average factor of 2.5. Additionally, when there are high winds, scientists hace been underestimating the amount of plastic pollution by a factor of 27. "After taking samples of water at a depth of 16 feet (5 meters),[scientists] discovered that wind was pushing the lightweight plastic particles below the surface. That meant that decades of research into how much plastic litters the ocean, conducted by skimming only the surface, may in some cases vastly underestimate the true amount of plastic debris in the oceans." There's nothing like finding out a bad situation is worse than you actually thought it was. [Science Daily]
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