Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Arctic rainfall predicted to increase faster than expected

Kayaking in the Canadian Arctic. Photo credit -  Kerry Raymond

Nature Communications

The amount of rainfall in the Arctic may increase at a faster rate than previously thought, according to a modelling study published in Nature Communications. The research suggests that total rainfall will supersede snowfall in the Arctic decades earlier than previously thought, and could have various climatic, ecosystem and socio-economic impacts.

The Arctic is known to be warming faster than most other parts of the world, leading to substantial environmental changes in this region. Research suggests that there will be more rainfall than snowfall in the Arctic at some stage of the 21st century, but it is not yet clear when this shift will occur.

Michelle McCrystall and colleagues used the latest projections from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6) to assess the changes in the Arctic water cycle by the year 2100. The authors found that precipitation, such as rainfall and snowfall, is projected to increase in all seasons. Rainfall is projected to become the dominant form of precipitation one to two decades earlier than previous models suggested, depending on the season and region, linked to increased warming and a faster decline of sea ice. For example, previous models projected the central Arctic to transition to a rainfall-dominated region in 2090, but it is now predicted to transition in 2060/2070. The authors suggest that a transition to a rainfall-dominated Arctic could occur at lower temperature thresholds than previous models projected, even at 1.5°C warming in some regions, such as Greenland.

The authors argue that more stringent climate mitigation policies are required, as a rainfall-dominant Arctic would have impacts on ice sheet melting, rivers and wild animal populations, and have important social-ecological, cultural and economic implications.

Monday, November 22, 2021


 Manitoba/Canada News Release


The governments of Canada and Manitoba are investing $2.2 million in three agricultural research projects, to be conducted by Topigs Norsvin Canada (TN), that will enhance the competitiveness of Manitoba pork producers by improving the precision feeding of sows and promoting higher animal welfare standards, Federal Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau and Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development Minister Ralph Eichler announced today.

"These innovative projects will give the pork industry more tools in their sustainability toolbox," said Bibeau. "They will help to improve feeding and housing for the pigs, which leads to better resource efficiency and a reduced environmental footprint for producers. Topigs Norsvin plays a big role in making Canada a global leader in swine genetics, and we are proud to support their work."

"Our government is pleased to support the work of our producers through these innovative projects that will accelerate agricultural innovation, promote knowledge transfer to producers, advance value-added opportunities, strengthen competitiveness and support sustainable agricultural development in our provincial pork industry," said Eichler. "The results of these projects will be valuable in our continuing efforts to strengthen the sustainability of our provincial pork industry."

The three research projects, which will help the pork industry be more environmentally and economically sustainable, will focus on:

improving competitiveness and sustainability of pork production through increased feed efficiency, improved carcass quality and higher animal welfare standards by innovative application of microbiome profiling, computer tomography and genomics;

advancing sow reproductive knowledge and management practices for optimal lifetime productivity and embryo transfer success; and innovative application of artificial intelligence, machine learning, behavioural science and genomics to enhance resource efficiency for environmental sustainability of sow farms in Manitoba using welfare friendly production.

Funding is provided by the Ag Action Manitoba Program-Research and Innovation, through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership. The funded research will be beneficial to the province's first-of-its-kind sustainable protein strategy, ensuring Manitoba producers are well-positioned to remain leaders in plant and animal protein development in the face of increased global demand for high-quality protein, the minister added.

A key element of the strategy includes using innovation to grow livestock herds for animal protein and new acres for plant protein, while ensuring Manitoba remains a strong environment for investment and is responsive to the needs of producers.

TN is establishing an over $30-million new research and development facility in Plumas, Manitoba. It is to be completed by the end of 2022 and is aimed at sow management, where the funded projects will be conducted and results shared with industry stakeholders. The first of its kind in the world, these projects will utilize leading-edge artificial intelligence, computer vision, behavioural research, and precision feeding to generate a database comprised of important animal health and welfare data.

"Topigs Norsvin continuously monitors international developments in the pork industry and prides itself as a leader in the sector," said Hans Olislagers, Chief Technical Officer, Topigs Norsvin. "Implementation of loose housing of sows during farrowing is already legislated in several countries and we recognize our responsibility to breed and select pigs while maintaining the integrity of animal welfare. This assures our customers that our genetics will fit the housing systems and market demands of the future."

The Canadian Agricultural Partnership is a five-year, $3-billion investment by Canada's federal, provincial and territorial governments to strengthen and grow Canada's agriculture, agri-food and agri-products sectors. This commitment includes $2 billion for programs cost-shared by the federal, provincial and territorial governments that are designed and delivered by provinces and territories.


In Hogs we Trust - Part 11

$$The Price we Pay for Corporate Pork$$

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Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Cancer: Fatty acid in palm oil promotes tumour metastasis in mice


Vast areas of rain forest habitat continue to be cleared for oil palm plantations like
this in Sarawak. Photo credit: Ben Sutherland

Exposure to high concentrations of a dietary fatty acid contained in palm oil promotes the metastasis of mouth and skin cancer cells in mice, according to a paper published in Nature.

Changes in the uptake and metabolism of fatty acids have been linked to cancer metastasis — the process by which cancer cells spread to other parts of the body. However, it is unclear which dietary fatty acids in particular might be responsible for these changes, and the biological mechanisms involved.

Salvador Benitah and colleagues exposed human mouth and skin cancer cells to one of three types of dietary fatty acid — palmitic acid (the main saturated fatty acid in palm oil), oleic acid or linoleic acid — for four days, before introducing them into corresponding tissues in mice fed a standard diet. Although tumour initiation was not found to be influenced by any of the fatty acids studied, palmitic acid significantly increased both the penetrance and size of existing metastatic lesions. No such significant effect was observed for oleic or linoleic acid.

Pro-metastatic cancer cells also retained ‘memory’ of exposure to high levels of palmitic acid. For example, tumours from mice fed a palm-oil-rich diet for only ten days or tumour cells exposed to palmitic acid in the laboratory transiently for four days (before returning to normal medium) remained highly metastatic even when transplanted into mice fed on a normal diet. This process is associated with epigenetic changes — molecular modifications that alter patterns of gene expression without the DNA itself being altered — in metastatic cells that are suggested to mediate the long-term stimulation of metastasis.

The findings may aid in the identification of new therapies, the authors conclude.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Farmers on the Canadian prairies set fire to their fields - are they placing their reputation as "stewards of the land" on the line?

by Larry Powell
SHOAL LAKE, MANITOBA, CANADA: As dedicated, well-meaning people gathered in Scotland to find ways to counter our climate crisis, farmers on the Canadian prairies were waging a "scorched earth" war on their fields.  By taking advantage of severe drought that has rendered those fields tinder-dry, they were able to effectively burn down marsh-plants - mostly cattails in and around wetlands diminished by that same drought. 
Farmers commonly use specially-fitted quads like this to light fires on their land. 
PinP photos. 

Dozens of such fires could be spotted each day for many days this fall in the vicinity of my own community in southwestern Manitoba, too.

So, do they really "get" the adage, "Think globally. Act locally?" 

You be the judge.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Airguns and ship sounds dangerously disrupt the natural behaviour of the "unicorn of the sea." Study

The Royal Society - Biology Letters

A pod of narwhals in the Arctic.

Manmade noise is increasing in the Arctic, posing a threat to narwhals. To study this, narwhals were fitted with tags and exposed to ship and airgun noise. The whales showed clear reactions to sound disturbance by first reducing and then ceasing foraging. Reactions could be detected as far as 40 km from the ship, where the signals were embedded in the natural background noise. The reactions of the whales demonstrate their sensitivity and emphasize that - "if healthy narwhal populations are to be maintained," humans need to "manage" activities that make such noise.

The findings have just been published by the Royal Society.

Please also read:


Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Baleens - beneficial gluttons of the high seas

Scientists believe the ravenous appetites of baleen whales - Earth's largest creatures - and their prodigious waste - hold clues to the very health and productivity of our oceans.

by Larry Powell

A blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) defecates. Photo credit-Ryan Lavery (Smithsonian)

Baleens include humpbacks, fins, minkes and blue whales, the latter being the largest creatures ever to live on Earth. The carnivorous marine mammals catch and consume vast amounts of prey. And they recycle ocean nutrients by excreting undigested food in what have been described as "volcano-like" movements.

A minke whale tagged by the research team off the coast of Antarctica in 2019. Credit: Ari Friedlaender under NOAA/NMFS permit 23095.

By attaching tags to the backs of 321 whales from seven baleen species, the researchers now reckon that - before the onset of whaling in the twentieth century - and in the Southern Ocean alone - baleens were, amazingly, consuming more than twice what the world's entire marine fisheries catch today. 

A humpback whale feeds on sand lance in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Credit: Elliott Hazen

Yearly, they probably ate 430 million tonnes of Antarctic krill (small crustaceans found in all the world's oceans) before whaling ramped up in the 19 hundreds in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Southern Oceans. That's up to thirty percent of their entire body mass, on average, and, in some areas of the ocean at least, triple the volume previously thought. And, incredibly, it's twice the total biomass of this entire species of krill thought to exist today. 

The scientists hope, if baleen numbers could somehow recover to what they were before that twentieth century whaling, their "nutrient recycling services" could not only help boost ocean productivity but restore ecosystem functions to their previous glory.

According to the Smithsonian Institute, heavily involved in the study, whales both eat and excrete immense amounts of iron. It is an important nutrient which spurs the growth of phytoplankton blooms. If it weren't for the whales, this valuable commodity would sink from near the surface, where the whales live (and where the iron is needed), to the bottom where it would be lost. 

These findings have just been published in the journal, Nature.

Massive B.C. coal mines are about to get a new owner. Why some are worried about Glencore’s record

THE NARWHAL Coal mine at Tumbler Ridge, B.C.  Jeffrey Wynne ,      If the sale goes through, the company will inherit a contamination proble...