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Safeguarding our natural resources – how do decision-makers decide?

Human activities are increasingly threatening the very elements that we need for our own survival, from clean water from forests, to ensuring the survival of crop-pollinating insects.

Scientists call these naturally occurring aspects on which we rely ‘ecosystem services’ and many governments are shifting their conservation policies to take these vital ‘ecosystem services’ into consideration.

Scientists are rushing to create ‘models’ which can predict both the availability of these services, sometimes as basic and intrinsic as water, grazing or land for crop growth and the demand for them.

There are now many such models- but they need validating- checking against reality, so that decision-makers know which model would be most suitable for their needs.

Publication date: 24 April 2019

DNA analysis finds that type of grass pollen, not total count, could be important for allergy sufferers

As the winter cold is replaced by warmer temperatures, longer days and an explosion of botanical life, up to 400m people worldwide will develop allergic reactions to airborne pollen from trees, grasses and weeds. Symptoms will range from itchy eyes, congestion and sneezing, to the aggravation of asthma and an associated cost to society that runs into the billions.

This article by Simon Creer, Professor in Molecular Ecology and Georgina Brennan, Postdoctoral Research Officer, at the School on Natural Sciences is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Publication date: 16 April 2019

Student research on freshwater microplastics hits the headlines

Research conducted by students at Bangor University, working with Friends of the Earth, has attracted global media attention.

Bangor University was commissioned by the environmental organization, to measure the amount of plastics and microplastics in British lakes and rivers- and what they found was widely reported in print and broadcast media across Britain and beyond.

Publication date: 3 April 2019

Uncoupling the link between snake venom and prey

What was fast-becoming received wisdom among herpetologists, namely that snake venom composition normally reflects the variety of their prey, has been disproved in one common species of North American rattlesnake.

Many recent studies had identified links between the type of prey and the type of venom that had evolved in venomous snake species world-wide. This was thought to reflect natural selection to optimise venom for different prey, and sometimes evolutionary ‘arms- races’ between snake and prey species.

Publication date: 13 March 2019

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