Global warming threatens health, doctors say

This September 2017 video from the World Health Organization South-East Asia Region – WHO SEARO says about itself:

Climate Change and Health

Climate change is happening, and is a risk to public health. Whether from greater severity and intensity of extreme weather events, changes in the spread and abundance of disease-carrying vectors such as mosquitoes, or changes to the physical environment that cause displacement or threaten livelihoods, climate change is already having an impact across our Region.

As many diseases and health conditions are climate-sensitive, the impact of climate change on health needs to be included in health policies and planning. In recognition of the immense and increasing public health risks caused by climate change, Member countries of WHO South-East Asia Region unanimously endorsed the Malé Declaration in September 2017, committing to build health systems able to anticipate, respond to, cope with, recover from and adapt to climate-related shocks and stress.

From the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council, Leopoldina – Nationale Akademie der Wissenschaften:

Climate action urgently required to protect human health in Europe

June 3, 2019

Summary: In a landmark report, the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC) focuses on the consequences of climate change for human health in Europe and the benefits of acting now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to stabilize the climate.

EASAC is the voice of independent science advice, mobilising Europe’s leading scientists from 27 national science academies to guide EU policy for the benefit of society. By considering a large body of independent studies on the effects of climate change on health, and on strategies to address the risks to health, EASAC has identified key messages and drawn important new conclusions. The evidence shows that climate change is adversely affecting human health and that health risks are projected to increase. Solutions are within reach and much can be done by acting on present knowledge, but this requires political will. With current trends in greenhouse gas emissions, a global average temperature increase of over 3°C above pre-industrial levels is projected by the end of the century. The increase will be higher over land than the oceans, exposing the world population to unprecedented rates of climate change and contributing to the burden of disease and premature mortality. Health risks will increase as climate change intensifies through a range of pathways including:

  • Increased exposure to high temperatures and extreme events such as floods and droughts, air pollution and allergens;
  • Weakening of food and nutrition security;
  • Increased incidence and changing distribution of some infectious diseases (including mosquito-borne, food-borne and water-borne diseases);
  • Growing risk of forced migration.

EASAC emphasises that the top priority is to stabilise climate and accelerate efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions. The economic benefits of action to address the current and prospective health effects of climate change are likely to be substantial.

Working Group co-chair, Professor Sir Andy Haines (London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine), comments, “If urgent action is not taken to reduce emissions in order to keep temperatures below the 2°C (or less) limit enshrined in the Paris Climate Agreement, we face potentially irreversible changes that will have wide-ranging impacts on many aspects of health. The scientific community has an important role in generating knowledge and countering misinformation. We hope that this comprehensive report will act as a wake-up call and draw attention to the need for action, particularly by pursuing policies to decarbonise the economy. The protection of health must have a higher profile in policies aimed at mitigating or adapting to the effects of climate change.” Key messages addressed in the report include:

  • Several hundred pollution pollution deaths annually in the EU could be averted by a ‘zero-carbon’ economy through reduced air pollution. Pollution endangers planetary health, damages ecosystems and is intimately linked to global climate change. Fine particulate and ozone air pollution arise from many of the same sources as emissions of greenhouse gases and short-lived climate pollutants. For the EU overall, fossil-fuel-related emissions account for more than half of the excess mortality attributed to ambient (outdoor) air pollution. A recent estimate suggests that about 350,000 excess deaths annually in the EU can be attributed to ambient air pollution from burning fossil fuels and a total of about 500,000 from all human-related activities. Understanding of the range of health effects of air pollution on the health of children and adults is growing. Seven million babies in Europe are living in areas where air pollution exceeds WHO recommended limits and such exposure may affect brain development and cognitive function. Action to reduce pollution through decarbonisation of the economy must be viewed as a priority to address both climate change and public health imperatives.
  • Promotion of healthier, more sustainable diets with increased consumption of fruit, vegetables and legumes and reduced red meat intake will lower the burden of non-communicable diseases and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    Promoting dietary change could have major health and environmental benefits, resulting in significant reductions of up to about 40% in greenhouse gas emissions from food systems as well as reducing water and land use demands. Such diets can also lead to major reductions on non-communicable disease burden through reduced risk of heart disease, stroke and other conditions.

    If food and nutrition security declines because of climate change, the EU can probably still satisfy its requirements by importing food. But this will have increasing consequences for the rest of the world; for example, by importing fodder for livestock from arable land that has been created through deforestation. It is therefore vital to develop climate-smart food systems to ensure more resilient agricultural production and to promote food and nutrition security, for the benefit of human health.

  • Climate action could avert a significant increase in the spread of infectious diseases. The spread of infectious diseases in Europe could increase through climate change. These diseases include those that are spread by vectors (particularly mosquitos) and food- and water-borne infections. There is also an increased risk to animal health across Europe from conditions such as Blue tongue virus. Distribution of the mosquito species Aedes albopictus, known to be a vector for diseases such as dengue, is already expanding in Europe and may extend to much of Western Europe within the next decade.

    Water-borne infections such as diarrhea may increase following heavy rainfall and flooding and higher temperatures may be associated with increased antibiotic resistance for pathogens such as E. coli. In the case of Salmonella species, an increase in temperature will increase multiplication and spread in food and increase the risks of food poisoning. There could also be an increase in Norovirus infections related to heavy rainfall and flooding. Strengthening communicable disease surveillance and response systems should be a priority for improving adaptation to climate change.

  • Providing evidence of the health benefits of action on climate change may be instrumental in achieving rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Although the EU is actively engaged in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to identify suitable adaptation measures, the impacts of climate change on health have been relatively neglected in EU policy. Recognising the serious challenges that climate change poses to the global health gains made in recent decades is key to promoting public engagement. Furthermore, the impact of climate change in other regions can have tangible consequences in Europe and the EU has responsibilities in addressing problems outside its area.

    The EU must do more to ensure that health impact assessment is part of all proposed initiatives, and that climate and health policy is integrated with other policy priorities including coordinating strategies at EU and national level. It is also vital that the steps are taken to counter misinformation about the causes and consequences of climate change which threaten to undermine the political will to act.


Good Cambodian Irrawaddy river dolphin news

This 9 April 2019 video says about itself:

Endangered River Dolphin Species’ Numbers On the Rise | National Geographic

Efforts to remove fishing gear in the Mekong River over the last decade have helped their numbers grow.

Asian douc langur monkeys, video

This 11 March 2019 video says about itself:

This Endangered Monkey is One of the World’s Most Colorful Primates | Short Film Showcase

Native to Southeast Asia, the endangered red-shanked douc langur is known for its striking appearance. The ‘Queen of the Primates” has bright maroon fur from its knees to its ankles.

Birds-of-paradise new genome research

This video is called National Geographic Documentary: Amazing BIRDS OF PARADISE 2016.

From GigaScience:

Birds-of-paradise genomes target sexual selection

New genomic data from 5 birds-of-paradise reveal genes that are shaped by selection and help explain the origin of their spectacular plumage

January 28, 2019

Summary: Researchers provide genome sequences for 5 birds-of-paradise species: 3 without previous genome data and 2 with improved data. Birds-of-paradise are classic examples of extreme sexual selection due to generations of females choosing mates based on ‘attractiveness’. The result is unparalleled species radiation with males exhibiting vast differences in behavior and an array of exotic feathers. Analyses identified genes potentially involved in feather characteristics, and the sequences will serve as a rich resource for evolution studies.

A new study published in the open access journal GigaScience explores the genomes of a fascinating group of birds, birds-of-paradise, with work providing genome sequences from 5 birds-of-paradise species: 3 that did not have available genome sequences. Birds-of-paradise, with their elaborate and colorful feathers as well as complex courtship displays, have a special place in natural history. They serve as a school-book example of sexual selection, which is the outcome of generations of female mate choice of males that have “attractive” features. The result is an unparalleled radiation of species where males exhibit extreme morphological features and behaviors with no other evolutionary meaning than to attract females for mating. However, very little is known about the genetic variants that distinguish the lavishly colored birds-of-paradise from their less conspicuous relatives, such as the collared flycatcher. Whole genome availability of multiple species provides a rich resource for molecular evolutionary to identify genes that came under the influence of sexual selection, and a way to assess how these genes transformed the males’ plumage into a colorful asset for mating purposes.

The famous evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr (1904-2005) once said about the birds-of-paradise: “Every ornithologist and birdwatcher has his favourite group of birds. Frankly, my own are the birds of paradise and bowerbirds. If they do not rank as high in world-wide popularity as they deserve it is only because so little is known about them.”

Taking on the task of addressing the limited amount of information available for these exotic birds were researchers from the Swedish Museum of Natural History, American scientists, and first author Stefan Prost from the Senckenberg Museum in Frankfurt. They selected three species that did not yet have available genomes sequences: the paradise crow (Lycocorax pyrrhopterus) from Obi Island in Indonesia; the paradise riflebird (Ptiloris paradiseus) from New South Wales, Australia; and the huon astrapia (Astrapia rothschildi) from Papua New Guinea. They further provided new genome sequence data to improve currently available genomic information for two other birds-of-paradise species from Papua New Guinea: the King of Saxony bird-of-paradise (Pteridophora alberti) and the red bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea rubra).

Martin Irestedt, senior curator at the Swedish Museum of Natural History, said that “Birds-of-paradise constitute one of the most famous examples on how sexual selection has driven the evolution of male plumage ornamentation and mating behaviors to its extreme. It is thus extremely exciting that we are able to present genomic data that provide the first glimpse to how genomic evolution is linked to the extraordinary phenotypic variation found in this fascinating group of birds.”

Using these five bird-of-paradise datasets, Prost and colleagues identified genes that show signs of past influence of selection and evolution, some of which appear to be important for coloration, morphology, and feather and eye development. For example, they identified a gene called ADAMTS20 that is potentially involved in producing the exquisite birds-of-paradise colorful feathers. ADAMTS20 is known to influence the development of melanocytes, specialized cells for the production of pigmentation patterns.

Thanks to modern genomics and the availability of these new datasets in the GigaScience DataBase, GigaDB, we are about to learn much more about these fascinating animals.

Himalayan marmots, new research

This October 2015 video says about itself:

On the way to Pangong Lake, Ladakh, India, Himalayan marmots (Marmota himalayana) can be seen in the alpine grass lands. They live in colonies and in deep burrows. Himalayan marmots are large squirrels. Globally there are 15 species of marmots, out of which 2 species are found in India. These are very friendly wild animals. I enjoyed it a lot. Dr M.C.Porwal.

From ScienceDaily:

Himalayan marmot genome offers clues to life at extremely high altitudes

December 20, 2018

Himalayan marmots can survive at altitudes up to 5,000 meters in the Himalayan regions of India, Nepal, and Pakistan and on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau of China, where many of them face extreme cold, little oxygen, and few other resources. Now, researchers have sequenced the first complete Himalayan marmot genome, which may help them to better explain how the marmots live in such extremes.

The findings, which appear December 20 in the journal iScience, hint at the genetic mechanisms underlying high-altitude adaptation and hibernation, the researchers say. They also serve as a valuable resource for researchers studying marmot evolution, highland disease, and cold adaptation.

“As one of the highest-altitude-dwelling mammals, the Himalayan marmot is chronically exposed to cold temperature, hypoxia, and intense UV radiation,” said Enqi Liu of Xi’an Jiaotong University Health Science Center in China. “They also hibernate for more than six months during the wintertime.”

Those striking biological features led Liu and his team, including first author Liang Bai, to consider the Himalayan marmot as an ideal animal model for studying the molecular mechanisms of adaptation to extreme environments. To begin, they sequenced and assembled a complete draft genome of a male Himalayan marmot. They also re-sequenced 20 other Himalayan marmots, including individuals living at high and low altitudes, and four other marmot species. Additionally, RNA sequencing was done to compare gene-expression differences between marmots in a state of torpor and awake marmots.

The DNA data show that the Himalayan marmot diverged from the Mongolian marmot about 2 million years ago. The researchers identified two genes, Slc25a14 and ?Aamp (a processed pseudogene), that have been selected in different directions in marmots living at low versus high altitudes, suggesting they are related to survival in high-altitude populations under conditions of extremely low oxygen.

They further suggest that Slc25a14 may have an important neuroprotective role. The shift in ?Aamp affects the stability of RNA encoding the gene Aamp, which may be a protective strategy to prevent the excess growth of new blood vessels under extremely low-oxygen conditions.

The RNA sequencing data show that gene-expression changes occur in the liver and brain during hibernation. These include genes in the fatty acid metabolism pathway as well as blood clotting and stem cell differentiation.

Interestingly, a previous study suggested that because the hibernator’s brain is exposed to near-freezing temperatures and has decreased blood flow, there is an increased risk of blood clots, the researchers note. Their brain stem cells may also be better prepared to repair injuries as an adaptation needed to survive extreme environmental stresses.

The researchers say they plan to continue improving the quality of the Himalayan marmot’s genome. They note that the Himalayan marmot is also known for being highly susceptible to woodchuck hepatitis virus and is a natural host and transmitter of the plague to humans.

“We will elucidate the immune system features responsible for the hepatitis virus and bacterial infection,” Liu said.

Eurasian wryneck camouflage, video

This video says about itself:

This Woodpecker Mimics a Snake When Threatened | Nat Geo Wild

23 September 2018

When threatened, the Eurasian wryneck bends and twists its head as if placing us under a spell. These birds were once thought to wield magical powers and to play a role in witchcraft.