In this issue

Issue 85

Exposing the private life of emus
A study of emu behaviour at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, ACT, has found they may be the most promiscuous birds in the world. It reveals that emus combine monogamy, polyandry and promiscuity in their efforts to enhance reproductive success.
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A bacterium with an appetite for algae
A bacteria has been found which produces an enzyme which breaks down the most powerful toxin produced by Mycrocystis cyanobacteria (blue-green algae).
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Packaged fungi speed plantation growth
Research has shown that inoculation of plantation blue gum, Eucalyptus globulus, seedlings with entomycorrhizal fungi can produce increases in growth rates.
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Keeping the dog from the dingo
The future of pure breed dingoes is threatened by cross-breeding with the domestic dog. Islands off Australia's coast may offer the best hope for preserving dingoes in their natural habitat to maintain a pure dingo gene pool.
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Frog lore - too little too late?
Stream-dwelling frogs from upland rainforests in north-east Queensland have mysteriously declined at altitudes above about 400 metres. Lowland populations, however, appear unaffected. One hypothesis is that the decline is due to a virus.
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Balancing the water budget
Australia is one of the most water-rich nations. However, water is not distributed evenly. This leads to problems in using too much, keeping it clean and of how much it should cost.
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Irrigation at the crossroads
Three main problems face the irrigation industry in the Murray-Darling Basin: not enough water in some areas, too much water in others, and everywhere, degradation of rivers and catchments. The pressure is on to get the most return for the least water with the least waste. This will mean a new kind of irrigation industry, built on tradeable water rights which will increase the price of water.
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Rice and cotton: reducing their thirst
Rice and cotton are two of Australia's largest irrigation crops. Both industries are now under pressure, to lessen their drain on water resources. A technique used in rice growing to reduce water use is puddling which involves rotary hoeing the saturated clay soil in flooded rice bays into a water-resistant barrier. In the cotton industry techniques proposed to reduce water use include drip irrigation and improved farm management practices.
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Vignerons offered better ways to water
Two irrigation techniques are helping to reduce water use by grape growers. One technique involves manipulating natural hormonal mechanisms in grapevines, without affecting fruit yields or quality. Irrigation systems are being developed that will enable growers to achieve the same result. The other technique involves a sub-surface irrigation system using slotted agricultural pipe buried about 15 centimetres underground.
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Storage goes underground
The CSIRO Division of Water Resources, in association with the Centre for Groundwater Studies, is taking part in a plan to capture and treat stormwater and sewage effluents (waste water) at times of high flow, then to store the recycled water deep underground in existing aquifers until needed. The main research challenge is to guard against contaminating the aquifers with chemicals and microorganisms. One experimental site is a housing development called Andrews Farm on the Northern Adelaide Plains, SA.
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Waterwise on the Golden Mile
The Goldfields region of Western Australia rely on water pumped from a reservoir 557 kilometres away. In an effort to avoid the even greater cost of supplying extra water to the goldfields, Kalgoorlie Boulder has been made the focus of a flagship scheme designed to cut local water use by 15 per cent.
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Seed saviours
Acacia seeds are gaining popularity as a food source. Since 1992, botanist Jock Morse has worked with eight Aboriginal groups in Western Australia and the Northern Territory to collect seed and record the characteristics of about 30 acacia species traditionally used as food plants in central Australia. Based on this information and observations of the species in the field, 11 of the most promising seed producers have been selected. These will be assessed during field trials conducted with four Aboriginal communities.
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A legacy in their hands
Regular, intensive processing of acacia seeds is thought to have begun well after Aboriginal people settled central Australia. Despite the decline of regular seed processing, people in remote communities retain extensive knowledge of traditional practices. The techniques of seed collection and processing are described.
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What's in a taxon?
In botanical classification, a taxon commonly refers to a particular species. The names and relationships of different species vary as scientific knowledge develops. Some species of Australia's inland acacias are currently under change as detailed examination of plants have revealed different growth and survival characteristics among acacias previously considered morphologically similar.
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Speaking for the silent majority
The work of phytoplankton ecologist, Peter Thompson, is unravelling many of Australia's algal mysteries. Thompson's work, about half of which involves the Swan River, WA, concentrates on nutrient levels of lakes and rivers, searching for ways to reduce extremes of phytoplankton behaviour.
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A macadamia's best friend
The introduced honeybee, Apis mellifera, and the stingless bee, Trigonia carbonaria, a native of Australia's north-east coast, are important pollinators of the macadamia tree. Research has gained knowledge of bee behaviour that can be applied in practical ways to enhance production in macadamia orchards.
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