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Trees actually emit methane: Study



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.




Ears can be used for ECG to predict heart rhythm



heart rhythm
Representational Image

London, March 18: Researchers have developed a novel electrocardiogram (ECG) method that uses signals from the ear to check heart rhythm, making it easy for drivers, athletes, and persons in the military to scan their own heartbeat.

This is the first study to show that the ear can be used for ECG signal detection, said researchers at the annual congress of European Heart Rhythm Association 2019 in Lisbon.

“Mobile ECG devices present a major opportunity to detect atrial fibrillation, the most common heart rhythm disorder, and thereby prevent strokes and reduce hospitalisations,” said Raffaele De Lucia, of the University Hospital of Pisa in Italy.

“All available portable ECG devices require both hands, but what if symptoms happen while driving?” De Lucia asked.

The study included 32 consecutive healthy volunteers (cardiology students and nurses). An ECG was first performed by the standard method, which uses the index and middle finger of each hand.

A second ECG was conducted using the index and middle finger of the left hand and a clip attached to the left ear.

All ECGs were printed and analysed by the device and by two cardiologists who were blinded to which method had been used. No differences were detected in the ECG results obtained by the two methods, the researchers said.

“We have shown how the ear can be used as an innovative anatomical site for ECG signal detection in healthy adults. We are now conducting further studies to validate this method in patients with cardiac arrhythmias,” De Lucia said.

The authors said findings will pave the way for a new kind of single lead ECG wearable device, which leaves one hand free, making it easier to use.

Besides detecting previously undiagnosed atrial fibrillation, the device would be used to evaluate physical performance during exercise, prevent fainting and check the heart during symptoms including dizziness and breathlessness.


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Modicare a hoax, excludes outpatient care: Congress




Jairam Ramesh

New Delhi, March 16 : The Congress on Saturday said the much publicised Ayushman Bharat scheme, also known as Modicare, was a “jumla” (hoax) as it excludes outpatient treatment, which constitutes 87 per cent of patients.

“The claim that ‘Modicare’ has provided each household insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh is a huge fraud. The cheapest equivalent private sector plan in the market for a family headed by a 30-year old costs Rs 5,252 per year,” Congress spokesman Jairam Ramesh said.

He said most plans are in the Rs 10,000-15,000 range, but Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) claims to provide the same for Rs 1,100, with a central contribution of Rs 660.

“In Chhattisgarh, the state government calculated that the Rs 1,100 premium is enough to cover only Rs 50,000 and made insurance firms bid for only Rs 50,000 insurance cover.

“All claims above Rs 50,000 and Rs 5 lakh are paid by the state insurance trust, the Mukhyamantri Sanjeevani Sahayata Kosh Yojana, to which the central government contributes no money,” Ramesh said.

“The state government calculates the actual cost of providing Rs 5 lakh cover as Rs 2,000 per year. The claim that ‘Modicare’ is giving Rs 5 lakh of insurance to the people is a ‘classic jumla’,” he said.

He said patients will not have access to adequate healthcare under PMJAY because it excludes outpatient treatment.

“Outpatient treatment is a serious financial burden that accounted for 63 per cent of the Rs 4,955 spent by households out of their pockets on health in 2014. The Modi government’s lack of focus on primary healthcare reflects in its spending priorities.

“Under the National Health Mission, 1.5 lakh primary health centres and sub-centres are to be upgraded into Health and Wellness Centres. But measly budget allocations of Rs 1,200 crore in 2018-19 and Rs 1,600 crore in 2019-20 show a lack of intent,” he said.

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Say no to cheese omelettes for healthier heart



Cheese Omlette

New York, March 16: Do you savour cheese omelettes? If so, think again as consuming more eggs and dietary cholesterol may up the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and death from any cause, researchers have warned.

The study suggests that egg yolks are one of the richest sources of dietary cholesterol among all commonly consumed foods. One large egg has 186 milligrams of dietary cholesterol in the yolk.

“The take-home message is really about cholesterol, which happens to be high in eggs and specifically yolks,” said co-author Norrina Allen, Associate Professor at the Northwestern University.

“As part of a healthy diet, people need to consume lower amounts of cholesterol. People who consume less cholesterol have a lower risk of heart disease,” Allen added.

For the study, which will be published in the journal JAMA, the team involved 29,615 adults from six prospective cohort studies for up to 31 years of follow up.

They found eating 300 mg of dietary cholesterol per day was associated with 17 per cent higher risk of incident cardiovascular disease and 18 per cent higher risk of all-cause deaths.

The cholesterol was the driving factor independent of saturated fat consumption and other dietary fat, the team said.

Eating three to four eggs per week was associated with 6 per cent higher risk of CVD and 8 per cent higher risk of any cause of death, they added.

The researchers say that eating less than 300 milligrams of dietary cholesterol per day was the guideline recommendation before 2015. However, the most recent dietary guidelines omitted a daily limit for dietary cholesterol.

The guidelines also include weekly egg consumption as part of a healthy diet. An adult in the US gets an average of 300 milligrams per day of cholesterol and eats about three or four eggs per week.

Other animal products such as red meat, processed meat and high-fat dairy products (butter or whipped cream) also have high cholesterol content, said lead author Wenze Zhong from the varsity.


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