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Species may be lost due to isolation

A new study has revealed that the increasing fragmentation of forest patches by roads and development are making them isolated green islands, which can lose species and biological diversity.

The study, by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers, is revealing that decades of fragmentation of Wisconsin’s forests have taken a largely unseen toll on the sustainability of these natural ecosystems.

The long generation times of trees and other plants have masked many of the ecological changes already under way in the patches of forest that remain, according to study co-author Don Waller.

“Things may look healthy, but over time we see an erosion of biodiversity,” he said.

To better catalog the changes at work, he and colleagues looked beyond the trees to the forest understory — the shrubs, grasses and herbs covering the forest floor — to witness how Wisconsin’s forests are really faring.

Their results show that fragmentation is reducing the abundance and diversity of native plants in southern Wisconsin forests.

SCS good for chronic pain

A new study has revealed that electrical spinal cord stimulation (SCS) might provide military personnel, suffering from back and other chronic pain, to perform strenuous duties efficiently.

“We present six cases that demonstrate SCS can be a viable option for motivated patients in a physically and mentally challenging environment,” said the researchers.

The equipment is surgically implanted to generate electrical current to the spinal cord, disrupting the nerve signals responsible for perceived pain.

Because of the need for implanted equipment, SCS has generally not been considered a good option for patients who are physically active.

However, present study led by Dr Anthony Dragovich of Womack Army Medical Centre has shown that SCS may be useful in managing the unique medical challenges posed by pain problems in military personnel.

Effects of global warming on rain

A new study has determined that an abrupt change in climate, like global warming, can cause a shift in monsoon patterns and hurt agriculture.

The study took into account the fact that an abrupt change in climate in the distant past has been associated with a shift of seasonal monsoons to the south, causing more rain to fall over the oceans than in the Earth’s tropical regions, and leading to a dramatic drop in global vegetation growth.

If similar changes were to happen to the Earth’s climate today as a result of global warming, as scientists believe is possible, this might lead to drier tropics, more wildfires and declines in agricultural production in some of the world’s most heavily populated regions.

Artificial DNA puts light on creation

A team of scientists has created a simple chemical system that mimics DNA, which could offer possible clues about the primordial world, and how life emerges.

The new analog to DNA, created by a team of Scripps Research scientists, assembles and disassembles itself without the need for enzymes.

Because the new system comprises components that might reasonably be expected in a primordial world, the new chemical system could answer questions about how life could emerge.

The work might also be a starting point on the way to exotic new materials that repair themselves or transform in response to their environment.

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