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Trees actually emit methane: Study

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New York, April 3: Rather than storing it, tree trunks in upland forests actually emit methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, say a study.
Upland forest soils usually take up and store methane, but this effect can be counteracted by methane emissions from tree trunks, the research team found.

Because of methane’s global warming potential, identifying the sources and “sinks” or storehouses of this greenhouse gas is critical for measuring and understanding its implications across ecosystems.

The new findings, published in the journal Ecosystems, represent a new, previously unaccounted source of this powerful greenhouse gas.

“We believe our work can help fill in some gaps in methane budgets and environmental processes in global ecosystem models,” said the study’s leader Rodrigo Vargas, Assistant Professor at University of Delaware in Newark, US.

In a 30-acre area of upland forest in the US, the researchers tested a cluster of trees, soil and coarse woody debris (CWD) — dead wood lying on the forest floor in various stages of decomposition — to measure fluxes of methane and carbon dioxide.

“What we’ve found in this study is that some coarse woody debris acts kind of like the soil and consumes methane while other pieces of coarse woody debris emit small amounts of methane, which is also what we saw with living tree trunks,” Daniel Warner from University of Delaware said.

While tree trunks have been known to release carbon dioxide, this research showed that they were also releasing methane.

“The tree trunks constantly have low but detectable emissions of methane. Soils are providing an environmental service of sequestering this potent greenhouse gas, but the trunks are releasing methane equivalent to four per cent of what could be captured by CWD and soils at the ecosystem scale,” Vargas said.

Overall, the tree trunks acted as a source of carbon dioxide and as a small source of methane, but the magnitude of gases emitted varied with the species.

The researchers said their next step would be to identify the mechanisms of methane production and transport in tree trunks.

“At this moment, the mechanisms of methane production in upland forests are not clear. Methane can be either transported from the soils upward inside the stem and diffused to the atmosphere or produced inside the stem by fungi or archaea — single-celled microorganisms,” Vargas said.

IANS

 

Health

Maternal blood sugar likely to affect baby’s heart

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New York, Dec 16: Women with high blood sugar early in pregnancy may raise their baby’s risk of developing a congenital heart defect, according to a study.

While it has been long known that diabetes in pregnancy raises the odds for congenital heart defects in babies.

The new findings reveal that risk extends even to women without diabetes in their earliest part of pregnancy, when the foetal heart is forming.

“Most women who have a child with congenital heart disease are not diabetic,” said James Priest, assistant professor at the Stanford University in California.

The results showed that the risk of giving birth to a child with a congenital heart defect was elevated by 8 per cent for every increase of 10 milligrams per deciliter in blood glucose levels in the early stages of pregnancy.

“We found that in women who don’t already have diabetes or develop diabetes during pregnancy, we can still measure risk for having a child with congenital heart disease by looking at their glucose values during the first trimester of pregnancy,” Priest added.

For the study, published in The Journal of Paediatrics, the team examined medical records from 19,107 pairs of mothers and their babies born between 2009 and 2015, which included details of the mothers’ prenatal care, including blood test results and any cardiac diagnoses made for the babies during pregnancy or after birth.

The study may be helpful to measure blood glucose early in pregnancy in all pregnant women to help determine which individuals are at greater risk for having a baby with a heart defect.

“Knowing about defects prenatally improves outcomes because mothers can receive specialised care that increases their babies’ chances of being healthier after birth,” Priest added.

IANS

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Radiation from smartphones may up miscarriage risk: Study

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Pregnant woman, smartphone

New York, Dec 14: Pregnant women’s exposure to non-ionising radiation from smartphones, Bluetooth devices and laptops may more than double the risk of miscarriage, a study has showed.

Non-ionising radiation — radiation that produces enough energy to move around atoms in a molecule, but not enough to remove electrons completely — from magnetic fields is produced when electric devices are in use and electricity is flowing.

It can be generated by a number of environmental sources, including electric appliances, power lines and transformers, wireless devices and wireless networks.

While the health hazards from ionising radiation are well-established and include radiation sickness, cancer and genetic damage, the evidence of health risks to humans from non-ionising radiation remains limited, said De-Kun Li, a reproductive and perinatal epidemiologist at the Kaiser Permanente — a US-based health care firm.

For the study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, the team asked for 913 pregnant women over age 18 to wear a small (a bit larger than a deck of cards) magnetic-field monitoring device for 24 hours.

After controlling for multiple other factors, women who were exposed to higher magnetic fields levels had 2.72 times the risk of miscarriage than those with lower magnetic fields exposure.

The increased risk of miscarriage associated with high magnetic fields was consistently observed regardless of the sources of high magnetic fields. The association was much stronger if magnetic fields was measured on a typical day of participants’ pregnancies.

The finding also demonstrated that accurate measurement of magnetic field exposure is vital for examining magnetic field health effects.

“This study provides evidence from a human population that magnetic field non-ionising radiation could have adverse biological impacts on human health,” Li noted.

“We hope that the finding from this study will stimulate much-needed additional studies into the potential environmental hazards to human health, including the health of pregnant women,” he said.

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Use of Smartphone before sleep may make your kid obese: Study

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New York, Dec 10: Beware if your children have a habit of playing games on smartphones before sleeping, he or she may face an increased risk of becoming obese, warns a study.

It was discovered kids who used digital devices such as watching TV or playing games on smartphones before going to bed got an average of 30 minutes less sleep in comparison to those who did not.

This lack of proper sleep not only caused fatigue and attention problems in school, but also disrupted their eating habits. This leads to higher body mass indexes (BMI), news agency IANS reported.

“We saw technology before bed being associated with less sleep and higher BMIs,”stated Caitlyn Fuller, researcher at the Pennsylvania State University in the US.

“We also saw this technology use being associated with more fatigue in the morning, which circling back, is another risk factor for higher BMIs. So we’re seeing a loop pattern forming,” Fuller further asserted.

The study, published in the journal Global Pediatric Health, examined the sleep and technology habits of 234 children, between the age of eight to 17 years.

As per the suggestions from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), parents should set some limitations regarding the use of technology, like requiring their kids to put away their devices during meal times and keeping phones out of bedrooms at night.

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