Friday, December 9, 2016

Giraffes facing 'silent extinction' as population plunges

A dramatic drop in giraffe populations over the past 30 years has seen the world's tallest land mammal classified as vulnerable to extinction.
Numbers have gone from around 155,000 in 1985 to 97,000 in 2015 according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The iconic animal has declined because of habitat loss, poaching and civil unrest in many parts of Africa.
Some populations are growing, mainly in southern parts of the continent.
Until now, the conservation status of giraffes was considered of "least concern" by the IUCN.

However in their latest global Red List of threatened species, the ungainly animal is now said to be "vulnerable", meaning that over three generations, the population has declined by more that 30%

Read more at BBC News

Vacuum’s quantum effect on light detected

Observations of the dense remnant of an exploded star have provided the first sign of a quantum effect on light passing through empty space.
Light from the stellar remnant, a neutron star located about 400 light-years away, is polarized, meaning that its electromagnetic waves are oriented preferentially in a particular direction like light that reflects off the surface of water (SN: 7/8/06, p. 24). That polarization is evidence of “vacuum birefringence,” a quantum effect first predicted 80 years ago caused by light interacting with the vacuum of space in a strong magnetic field. Scientists report the result in a paper to be published in the Feb. 11, 2017 issue of Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Pets offer valuable support for owners with mental health problems

Pets can help people manage their long-term mental health conditions, according to research published in the open access journal BMC Psychiatry.
The consistent presence and close physical proximity of their pets was described in this study as providing an immediate source of calm and therapeutic benefit for the pets' owners. The researchers suggest that pets should be considered a main source of support in the management of long-term mental health problems.
Lead author, Dr Helen Brooks from University of Manchester said, "The people we spoke to through the course of this study felt their pet played a range of positive roles such as helping them to manage stigma associated with their mental health by providing acceptance without judgement. Pets were also considered particularly useful during times of crisis. In this way, pets provided a unique form of validation through unconditional support, which they were often not receiving from other family or social relationships. Despite the identified benefits of pet ownership, pets were neither considered nor incorporated into the individual care plans for any of the people in our study."

The planet is heating up faster than species can migrate

Visitors to the Santa Catalina Mountains just outside Tucson, Arizona encounter a very disturbing sight: patches of dead alligator junipers scattered across hillsides at the base of the range. Wildfires did not destroy these trees — climate change did.
The trees can’t survive where it’s hot, so many have moved to higher elevations, where it is cooler. But if the heat keeps rising, they will die there too, and eventually cease to exist entirely.
“They can’t cope with the conditions,” says John J. Wiens, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona. “They simply can’t change fast enough.”

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