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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

 

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Health

Sunscreen can reduce skin cancer risk by 40% in youth: Study

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Sydney, July 20: Young adults who regularly use sunscreen to reduce their risk of skin cancer by 40 percent, a study has found.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), between two and three million non-melanoma skin cancers and 1,32,000 melanoma skin cancers occur each year globally.

The global incidence of melanoma continues to increase, however, the main factors that predispose to the development of melanoma seem to be connected with recreational exposure to the sun and a history of sunburn. These factors lie within each individual’s own responsibility.

“The association of sun exposure and sunburn with melanoma risk, particularly in childhood, is well established and this study showed that regularly using sunscreen was protective against the harmful effects of sun exposure,” Xinhua news agency quoted lead researcher Anne Cust, Associate Professor at the University of Sydney in Australia, as saying.

Cust noted that it is still difficult to get people to regularly apply sunscreen, and that likelihood to do so depended on a number of factors.

“Regular users of sunscreen were more likely to be female, younger, of British or northern European ancestry, and have higher education levels, lighter skin pigmentation, and a strong history of blistering sunburn,” Cust said.

“People were less likely to use sunscreen if they were male, older, less educated, or had skin that was darker or more resistant to sunburn.”

For the study, the team analysed data of around 1,700 people aged between 18 to 40 years.

“This study confirms that sunscreen is an effective form of sun protection and reduces the risk of developing melanoma as a young adult,” Cust said.

IANS

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5 natural methods to beat stress

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New Delhi, July 19: A study of 200,000 respondents by Optum has found that 46 per cent of the Indian workforce reports suffering from some form of stress.

Stress is the body’s natural response to pressure. It can have a negative effect on your body, mood, as well as behaviour, with wide-ranging effects like headaches, anxiety, fatigue and irritability.

The causes of stress vary from one person to the next, and so do the effects. Stress can be harmful for the body, and is the cause of many health and lifestyle problems. Managing stress should be a priority, but is often difficult to achieve due to lack of time or effective and simple methods to do so.

Dr Hariprasad, Ayurveda Expert at The Himalaya Drug Company, recommends the following natural methods to cope with stress:

Unwind with physical activity: All forms of physical activity are useful in managing stress. Exercising has many benefits such as releasing endorphins and calming the mind, with a reduction in stress levels being an added bonus. Even 45 minutes of physical activity a day goes a long way towards managing stress levels.

Organise your life: Organising one’s workload leads to a sense of control and peace of mind, and there are many ways to achieve this. One way to do this is through adopting good time management, by prioritising tasks, and scheduling time to complete them. Switching between tasks and having them pile up often becomes an additional source of stress. Decentralisation of tasks or asking for help as and when required is also a good way to reduce stress levels.

Use herbs in daily diet: Herbs like Ashvagandha have been proven to be effective in managing the negative effects of stress. According to Ayurveda texts and modern research, Ashvagandha helps reduce the damaging effects of long-term stress by rejuvenating the mind and body. It is an adaptogen that helps the body stabilise physiological processes, maintain a healthy balance between different biological systems, and support better resilience to stress.

Eat the right food: Your eating habits have a significant impact on stress levels. Following a healthy diet with a good balance of different food groups and all the required nutrients is essential. A diet rich in different food groups such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy, fish, and poultry would help you get the carbohydrates, proteins, fat, vitamins and minerals you need. A well-nourished body is better able to cope with the physical and emotional effects of stress.

Get enough sleep: Sleep is essential in stress management. Not getting enough sleep typically leads to irritability and fatigue. Oversleeping can make us sluggish, depressed — and puts our health at a higher risk. Getting the right amount of sleep, between 7-8 hours, is a good way to stay energised and effectively manage the challenges of the day.

In this busy and stressful life, these simple and natural methods can help you manage stress and maintain good mental and physical health.

IANS

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Decoded: How Omega-3 fatty acid helps inhibit cancer’s spread

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New York, July 16: While eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish, certain nuts and seeds, have been known to prevent heart diseases and arthritis, a new research, led by one of Indian-origin, showed that omega-3 fatty byproducts may also have anti-cancer effects.

The new study, led by Aditi Das from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, US, showed that when the human body metabolises omega-3 fatty acids, it produces a class of molecules called endocannabinoid epoxides, or EDP-EAs. These have anti-inflammatory properties and can inhibit cancer’s growth and spread.

The EDP-EAs have similar properties to cannabinoids found in marijuana — but without the psychotropic effects — and they target the same receptor in the body that cannabis does.

“We have a built-in endocannabinoid system which is anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing. Now we see it is also anti-cancer, stopping the cells from proliferating or migrating,” said study leader Aditi Das from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“These molecules could address multiple problems: cancer, inflammation and pain,” Das added.

For the study, published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, the team studied the effect of the molecule in mice with tumours of osteosarcoma — a bone cancer that is not only painful but also difficult to treat.

The results showed that the endocannabinoids slowed the growth of tumours and blood vessels, inhibited the cancer cells from migrating and caused cancer cell death.

The higher concentrations of EDP-EAs did kill cancer cells, but not as effectively as other chemotherapeutic drugs on the market. But, the compounds slowed tumour growth by inhibiting new blood vessels from forming to supply the tumour with nutrients. They also prevented interactions between the cells, and most significantly, they appeared to stop cancerous cells from migrating.

While dietary consumption of omega-3 fatty acids can lead to EDP-EAs, for those with cancer, something concentrated and fast acting is needed, Das said.

“That’s where the endocannabinoid epoxide derivatives come into play – you could make a concentrated dose of the exact compound that’s most effective against the cancer. You could also mix this with other drugs such as chemotherapies,” she added.

IANS
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