Biology Botany Chemistry 

Microbes Help Plants Survive Heavy Metal Stress

By Radhika Desikan When you hear the term heavy metal, what do you think of? Music or chemistry? Exposure to heavy metal music can cause stress in some humans. But what about chemical heavy metals? Are they good or bad for the environment and living organisms? In chemical terms, heavy metals are elements in earth’s crust that have a high density (weight), and they include zinc, copper, iron, silver, gold, arsenic, lead, and cobalt, to name a few. While trace amounts of heavy metals such as copper, iron, cobalt, and…

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Anthropology Biology Botany Chemistry 

Leaf Age Matters for Plant Survival

By Radhika Desikan Does age really matter? For us humans, age seems to be a very sensitive issue relevant to how we live our lives. And while it also matters to plants, it does so at a different level. Some of our tissues, like skin, have cells that are constantly dividing (to replace dead cells) and therefore differ in age, but what defines our age as an organism is not the life span of individual cells in our body, but rather the length of time that has passed since our…

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Biology Botany 

Plants Communicate with Neighbors in Response to Touch

By Radhika Desikan How well do you and your neighbour know each other? Chances are, very little these days. But some living things, including plants, know their neighbours well. According to new research, it appears that what one plant “feels” can also be sensed by its neighbouring plant. Isn’t that remarkable? It is a fact of life that plants do not move from one place to another. Therefore plants, unlike humans, cannot move away from any impending danger, be it a herbivore, a disease-causing microbe, or even the cold and…

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Biology Botany Chemistry 

To Grow or Not to Grow? Bacteria Make Seeds Think!

By Radhika Desikan A seed is the beginning of new life for most flowering plants. It has all the potential to develop into a new plant, with its own stored food used for germination (the sprouting of a seed). However, if you have done any gardening, you might know that not all seeds always germinate. Whether or not a seed grows into a plant is determined by a number of factors, such as the presence of oxygen, water, and the right temperature. Seeds have a remarkable ability to detect whether…

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Biology Botany Physics 

How Do Plants Know Which Way to Grow?

By Shayna Keyles (@shaynakeyles) How do plants know which way is up and which way is down? No matter which way you put a seed in the soil, it will always send its roots down and its shoots up. (Unless you’re in space–we’ll get back to that later.) The answer lies in tropism: motion in response to external stimulus. This is pretty amazing, considering that in the traditional sense, plants can’t move. Specifically, plants are affected by geotropism, phototropism, and hydrotropism. In other words, plants move toward gravity, light, and water,…

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California’s Urban Forests Have Lowest Tree Cover per Resident Botany Environment 

California’s Urban Forests Have Lowest Tree Cover per Resident

By Neha Jain @lifesciexplore California’s urban forests are not just a pretty sight; they are an asset valued at a whopping $181 billion, finds a new study. But, according to the study, the state’s urban tree cover at 90.8 square meters (109 square yards) per city resident is the lowest among all US states. The good news is that there are 236 million spots available for more trees to be planted. The study finds that urban forests cover 15 percent of the urban area in California, consisting of 173 million…

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Citizen Scientists Invited to Identify Plants Botany Citizen Science 

Citizen Scientists Invited to Identify Plants

By Kate Stone @GotScienceOrg Pl@ntNet is a citizen science project and an app that helps you identify plants, thanks to the camera of your smartphone. The app recognizes more than 13,000 species around the world. We recently spoke with Rémi Knaff, community manager for the project, about plant identification and citizen science. GotScience: Who can use this plant identification tool? Knaff: The app can be used by anyone who is interested in plants or wants to be part of a citizen science project. The app uses crowdsourced data to give…

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Chemicals Used on Almond Trees Linked to Bee Deaths Animals Botany Environment 

Chemicals Used on Almond Trees Linked to Bee Deaths

By Emily Rhode @riseandsci Americans have a serious obsession with almonds. In 2016, 1.2 million metric tons were grown worldwide, and 80% of that was grown in California alone. As our taste grows for the protein-packed nut, a looming crisis threatens not only the almond crop, but the global food industry as a whole. Over the last decade, honeybee populations, which are necessary for sustaining a healthy almond industry, have been steadily declining. The reasons for the decrease are not fully clear. What if our rabid consumption of this tasty…

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Urban Life of Bees: A Pollination-Parasite Trade-Off Animals Biology Botany Environment 

Urban Life of Bees: A Pollination-Parasite Trade-Off

By Jonathan Trinastic @jptrinastic   Few people would consider cities the ideal home for bees, but what if these dense population centers could provide the means for healthy cohabitation? Scientists from Europe recently examined how bumblebees visit and pollinate flowers across urban and agricultural regions and found that urban areas can have a surprisingly beneficial effect on pollination rates. The reasons behind these results not only provide insight into how cities could be designed to better care for bees but also signal yet another danger of farming monocultures. Urban sanctuary…

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