SMC Science Deadline: Seabirds' plastic plight, falling trees and MBIE funding

By Sciencemediacentre.co.nz received 3 years ago

Categories: Science
Age: 19 until 30 year 31 until 64 years 65 and older
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Issue 343,  04 Sep 2015

In this issue:

Plastic diet
MBIE funding
Trillion trees Policy updates
New from the SMC

Quick Links

SMC Alerts
Media Registration
About us
Contact the SMC

New from the SMC

In the News: Three trillion trees on earth – study   In the News: Seabirds’ plastic plight   Expert Reaction: Seabird plastic ingestion bad, getting worse   Expert Reaction: Marine Protected Area definition too loose
The SMC network
  Expert Reaction: High salt intake could directly increase risk of obesity   Expert Reaction: Reproducibility of psychological research   Briefing: Teenage goths, self-harm and depression
Australian SMC
  Expert Reaction: NSW flooding and Jerrara Dam evacuation

  Find out more about our media training for scientists:
Science Media SAVVY

Top news from scimex.org  the Science Media Centre's news sharing platform.
NZ's medical advert claims are unfounded or have weak evidence

Poo transplants to beat superbugs

Rabbits irreversibly damaging southern islands

Fat hormone alters runners high

Plastic not fantastic for birds

By 2050 it will be tough to find a seabird that hasn’t eaten plastic, predicts a new Australian study.

The research, published in the journal PNAS, assessed how widespread the threat of plastic is for the world’s seabirds, including albatrosses, shearwaters and penguins.
Researchers from CSIRO in Australia and Imperial College London combined data from studies going back to the 1960s, building an estimate of how many individual seabirds and seabird species were currently eating plastic.
The scientists estimate that 90% of all seabirds alive today have eaten plastic of some kind. This includes bags, bottle caps, and plastic fibres from synthetic clothes. Birds mistake the brightly coloured items for food, or swallow them by accident, and this causes gut impaction, weight loss and sometimes even death.
Based on current trends, the researchers predict that plastic ingestion will affect 99% of the world’s seabird species by 2050,
The worst affected area was the Southern Ocean boundary in the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand, due to its abundance of seabirds.

Dr Matt Rayner, Curator of Land Vertebrates at Auckland War Memorial Museum, says the finding is not unexpected.

“The high concentration of affected seabird species around New Zealand may be surprising to the general public but not to those working in seabird conservation and research," he told the SMC.
"New Zealand is the global centre of seabird diversity with more endemic seabirds than any other country."
What can we do?  Dr Rayner did have some advice:
"First we should be concerned, as top predators seabirds are indicators of the health of our oceans and many of our seabird populations are not doing well meaning our oceans are not doing well. 
"On a local small scale level the public should become more concerned with the massive use of plastics in our everyday lives, on a global scale we need to be concerned that our politicians are engaged and concerned about such environmental issues as part of a global pollution mitigation strategy."
You can read more expert commentary and a round up of national news coverage on the Science Media Centre website.

Policy news & developments

Pacific health: Ala Mo'ui, a programme designed to facilitate the delivery of high-quality health services that meet the needs of Pacific people, has released its first six monthly progress report.
Bus rules: New rules that allow buses, including double-deckers, to carry more people will come into effect next month, according to the Ministry of Transport.

MBIE funding for NZ science

The Government has announced the recipients of the 2015 Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment funding round, injecting $96.5 million into innovative and exciting research projects over the next four years.

Of a total 157 initial proposals, 48 research programmes were selected to be funded in the biological industries, energy and minerals, environment, hazards and infrastructure, health and society, and high-value manufacturing and services.

Funded projects include research investigating medical implants, insecticides, 3D printing, dairy goat infant formula, dental diagnostics, sensors, self-cleaning ceramic coatings, waterproof roads, family violence prevention and aquifer management.

“Research-led science is a key driver of economic growth," Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce said in a media release announcing the recipients.
"The Government’s science investment aims to produce excellent science that has the greatest capacity to benefit New Zealand."

You can read more about the funding and a list of successful applications on the MBIE website.

Quoted: Radio New Zealand

"It can affect your children and their future decisions that they have to make, it can affect the wider community...and I think when you choose to immunise your children, it's not just yourself you're protecting, but everyone else,"
  Auckland mother-of-two Kelly Brake comments on new research showing 56 percent of expectant parents reported receiving no information about vaccination

How many trees on earth?

Three trillion, reckons a new study involving Kiwi researchers.

The new tree count is based on 400,000 measured tree density estimates from every continent except Antarctica, producing the most comprehensive global map of forest tree density to date.
The study also found that humans generally are not good for trees. While the total number of trees is higher than expected, it is only half as many as there were at the dawn of human civilisation, according to the new research published yesterday in Nature.
"Tree densities usually plummet as the human population increases," said Thomas Crowther, a postdoctoral fellow at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and lead author of the study.
"Deforestation, land-use change, and forest management are responsible for a gross loss of over 15 billion trees each year."

Dr Susan Wiser, who manages Landcare Research’s National Vegetation Survey Databank, provided valuable data about New Zealand forests for the study.

She said the findings would be invaluable in managing climate change and guiding local, national and international reforestation efforts. 

Landcare Research general manager science Dr Peter Millard said it was important to have accurate numbers of trees across the globe in order to protect the precious resource.

“Trees are very important to us. They’re a major sink for carbon dioxide and source of oxygen. If we go on losing forests we’re in effect losing the lungs of the planet," he said.

You can a round up of New Zealand coverage on the Science Media Centre website.

New from Sciblogs

Some of the highlights from this week's Sciblogs posts:
NIWA in astonishing attack on scientist association - Siouxsie Wiles reacts to the news that NIWA will no longer fund membership to the NZ Association of Scientists.
Infectious Thoughts
On Memory, Nobel Prizes, Seahorses, and the Future of Science - Guest blogger Michael Corballis reflects on his journey to New Zealand.
Guest Work
Science communication and awards in New Zealand - Grant Jacobs discusses the state of science communication in Aoteoroa.
Code for Life

Upcoming events

Please see the SMC Events Calendar for more events and details. Female Athlete Health Symposium - 3-5 September, Hamilton. Two-day symposium focussing on energy deficiency and related concerns of female athletes including disordered eating practices, bone health, menstrual disruption and other performance issues.
New Zealand Immunisation Conference and Workshop - 3-5 September, Hamilton. Opportunity for researchers and practitioners to learn, share and enjoy a few days of all things vaccine and immunisation related.
Public Health Association 2015 Conference - 7-9 September, Dunedin. Conference to provide a window on the range of activities currently going on across Aotearoa which together are improving the health of all New Zealanders
2015 Royal Australasian College of Medical Administrators Conference - 9-11 September, Auckland. Australasia’s Medical Administrators will come to together to share information and research, innovative practices and evidence based practice case studies.

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