In this issue

Issue 98

Bizarre worm puzzles scientists
A tiny nematode from a previously undescribed genus has been identified as the cause of an unusual muscle-wasting disease. The nematode belongs to the superfamily Muspiceoidea. Muspiceoidea exhibit some bizarre characteristics, and the new nematode is particularly unusual.
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Looking down on the continent
A new service, called GEODATA SPOT-LITE, has made available on the Internet a detailed mosaic of satellite images covering all of continental Australia.
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Cool clouds shade our view of global warming
Investigations into the effect of aerosols on cloud formation have revealed a cooling effect, previously unaccounted for in climate models. This may partly explain the tendency of models to overestimate global warming. The effect is partially offsetting warming by greenhouse gas emissions.
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Wild things
The first scientific study of wild camels is being conducted on the eastern edge of the Tanami Desert. Transmitters and data loggers implanted into the abdominal cavity of 16 camels have revealed high fluctuations in body temperatures - a mechanism that enables water conservation. The study has also gathered information on camel behaviour and grazing impacts for pastoralists and other land managers.
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Hearts of darkness
The role of fungi in Australian ecosystems is vastly underestimated. They are by far the dominant component of the microbial network that recycles nutrients. Relationships between Australian fungi, plants and animals are complex and interlinked. Many Australian trees and some mammals rely on fungi for their existence. Research into mycorrhizal fungi is expanding rapidly. Only about 5 per cent of Australian fungi are estimated to have been named.
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Marine protection - learning to give and take
An international system of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), involving six management categories, was created in 1994. The categories range from no-take zones to multiple-use areas. The system is being adopted by the federal government to clarify the status of reserves in Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone. Research in Tasmania has found increases in fish, invertebrate and seaweed species in no-take reserves.
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Secrets of the lagoon
A study on the effects of prawn trawling has revealed a surprising diversity of sea bed life off Queensland's north-east coast. The study will contribute to the management of multiple use areas in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
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Bioenergy beckons
Biomass is finding favour in Australia as a source of renewable energy. Biomass energy costs less to produce than most other renewable power sources and the environmental and potential social benefits are substantial, provided the fuel resource is sustainably managed. The feasibility of biomass energy production is being considered by a number of industries and electricity providers. Sugar processors, which already generate power and heat from bagasse, are assessing the potential for expanding their electricity production. Development of the industry is likely to depend on government policy and the development of gasification technology.
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Felix the destroyer
Feral cats thrive in Australia's arid zone. Together with foxes, changed fire patterns and introduced herbivores, cats have contributed to the demise of small native animals. Efforts to recover endangered mammals, such as the mala and central rock rat, depend on feral cat control. Aboriginal women are helping to track feral cats in the Tanami Desert to help scientists better understand the behaviour of cats in the wild. Other work centres on predator-prey relationships and cat control techniques.
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Urban terrorist?
A study undertaken in the Australian Capital Territory on the effects of predation by domestic cats has found that the number or prey caught by each cat ranged widely. A total of 67 animal species were caught.
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