In this issue

Issue 107

Can't see the sky for the trees
Trees and grasses release volatile organic compounds that react in the upper atmosphere with sunlight, to produce smog. These volatile compounds add to photochemical smog in the same way as emissions from human sources.
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Wild game chase
Researchers have found that African ruminants can digest plants with high tannin levels. This is due to proteins in animals' saliva which bind to the tannins, reducing their troublesome effects in the rumen.
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Ebbe Nielson - a voice for the silent majority
A tribute to the late entomologist Ebbe Nielson, director of the Australian National Insect Collection since 1990.
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Squirrelling the macadamia
Seven species of macadamia tree occur in Australia. As only two are edible, the international macadamia industry is therefore reliant on a limited genetic base. In a bid to preserve wild macadamia varieties 'gene banks' or plantations have been established in the National Macadamia Germplasm Conservation Program.
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Taming wild limes
Six native citrus species are found in Australia. These native limes have given rise to colourful new citrus varieties. Three varieties are currently being evaluated in commercial orchards in Australia.
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What's happening to India's vultures?
A dramatic decline in India's vulture populations has sparked an international investigation. Initial investigations suggest a pathogen, such as a virus, could be the cause of the decline.
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Blowfly inspires novel cleansing
CSIRO scientists are developing enzymes to clean up pesticide residues in the environment. The research was inspired by a resistant form of the sheep blowfly which has evolved resistance to the insecticide used against it.
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Landscape architects
Technology for measuring and simulating the structural growth of plants, and the effects of environmental factors and other organisms on them, is allowing scientists to conduct virtual experiments that reduce the need for lengthy and expensive field trials. Simulations rely on mathematical representations of growth rules, called 'L-systems', which enable structural growth to be calculated and displayed on a computer screen.
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Taking water out of range
The provision of water from the Great Artesian Basin to many parts of Australia's rangelands has brought mixed blessings for native plants and animals. Some species increase in abundance with closeness to water; others decrease in abundance. Strategies are needed to ensure survival of the decreasing species. The Biograze project has provided a set of planning principles and methods for practical wildlife conservation. These involve controlling the location of artificial waterpoints to develop regional networks of lightly grazed or ungrazed areas in which grazing sensitive plants and animals can flourish. Research indicates this can be done without significant reductions in pastoral productivity.
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Six-legged friends
Of the 1,600 species of wild bees native to Australia, about 14 are stingless. As these species are harmless to humans, they are an increasingly attractive addition to the suburban backyard. The bees produce only a small amount of honey, but pollinate crops and bushland during their search for nectar and pollen.
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Princes of bees
Urban development is a threat to native bees. Recent initiatives have increased awareness of the need to conserve these insects. The Bee Rescue Service is one such initiative. Some of its members sell rescued hives to help cover rescue costs; others keep the bees to enhance pollination of crops or bushland.
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The sting
The varroa mite has decimated European honeybee populations around the world. In Australia efforts are underway to protect the European honeybee from this parasitic mite. Australian scientists are close to identifying a chemical signal released by the honeybee that stimulates mite reproduction. Isolation of this signal could lead to the development of bees resistant to the mite.
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Channel vision
The ARIDFLO project will help scientists and natural resource managers to understand the relationships between flow patterns in unregulated arid zone rivers and the condition of the resident flora and fauna. This understanding will inform community and government debate, and assist in decision making which concerning future proposals to regulate the flow of inland rivers or extract water for irrigation. As part of the project, research has been undertaken in the Lake Eyre Basin.
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Dreamtime science
Ecologist Alan Newsome has developed a close bond with the indigenous communities of Central Australia. He has gently probed their ancient, sacred stories, to discover an enormous source of ecological knowledge.
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Grains of truth
Murder, mystery and intrigue are part of Jugo Ilic's job as CSIRO's leading authority in the identification of wood. His expertise has been called upon to help in the search of Captain Cook's ship Endeavour, to solve murders, and to assist Australia's timber industry by improving knowledge and understanding of Australian native tree species.
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Evaluating fish taggers
Researchers have found that data from cooperative tagging programs are unsuited for quantitative analysis of fish life-history.
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Hosting the quandong
The quandong is a semi-parasitic tree that grows best when its root system is tapped into the roots of a host plant. Research indicates that the quandong receives glucose from white cedars and an insecticidal compound from creeping boobialla.
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Budding myth
Eucalypts are famous for their ability to sprout epicormic shoots along their branches and stems. In eucalypts the epicormic buds tend to form, only when required, from tissues close to the wood.
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Birds for profit?
Research suggests that birds can be sustainably utilised as an economic product. Harvesting of second-hatched chicks of the southern ground hornbill, African hawk-eagle and milky eagle owl by the Makuleke people, South Africa, has shown the economic and conservation potential of such husbandry.
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Cool kangaroos
Kangaroo paw flowers deteriorate quickly following removal from cold storage. Researchers have studied why this occurs in an attempt to prolong vase life.
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Fire cues for seed germination
Botanists have investigated the influence of heat-shock, darkness, direct smoke and smoke solutions in promoting germination in the epacridaceae family.
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Tapping the tree of life
To Pacific Islanders the coconut palm is 'the tree of life'. Only one part of the tree - the coconut husk - is wasted. A recent forestry experiment has found a valuable use for the husks, or coir, as a potting medium. Use of husks has been found to boost both villager employment and the growth of young plantation coconut trees.
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