White House Invests in Vital Honey Bee Conservation Efforts
Pollinators such as the common honey bee contribute as much as $15 billion to the United States agricultural market. With bee populations experiencing a staggering decline, the U.S. government is taking steps to try and save them.
What's the Latest?
The United States Department of Agriculture will be investing $8 million for five states to expand honey bee habitats, Reuters reports. The investment is part of a push to help support dwindling populations of crop pollinators across the country. Nearly a quarter of the country's managed honey bee colonies were lost this past winter, a continuation of a staggering yearly trend. From the Reuters wire:
The recent increased loss of honey bee colonies is thought to be caused by factors including a loss of natural forage and inadequate diets, mite infestations and diseases, loss of genetic diversity, and exposure to certain pesticides.
What's the Big Idea?
The effort to revitalize honey bee populations isn't just a goal of conservationists, it's an economic imperative:
"Honey bee pollination alone adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year in the United States," the White House said.
That's right: $15 billion with a b(ee). Each year, honey bees pollinate plants that produce about 25% of all food consumed by Americans. These include apples, watermelons, beans, and almonds.
The bee crisis isn't merely an American one; European governments have reported similar declines. The heightened rate at which honey bees are dying could imperil the global food market and entire agricultural industries. If pollinator populations continue to shrink, food supplies would be cut and prices would rise to dangerous levels. This has been a fear for many years now and scientists have made many attempts to stave off colony collapse, including the production of genetically modified bees.
It's relieving that the U.S. government recognizes the importance of pollinators to our food supply and economy. It remains to be seen whether their strategies churn out positive results.
Read more at Reuters
Photo credit: szefei / Shutterstock
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.