Study finds birdsong remains the same after 1080 drops

Claims that forests “fall silent” because birds are killed in such large numbers during 1080 poison drops are unsupported by newly released research by Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington scientists.

Aerial 1080 (sodium monoflueoroacetate) operations control introduced mammals such as possums, rats, and stoats that prey on native species, including birds. The introduced mammals are also vectors of bovine tuberculosis and eat significant amounts of native vegetation.

Debate around continued use of 1080 often centres on its potential impact on non-targets, with some groups saying it kills large numbers of the very birds it aims to protect.

Associate Professor Stephen Hartley and Master’s students Roald Bomans and Asher Cook, from the University’s School of Biological Sciences, used bioacoustic monitoring to track the short-term general and species-specific trends of birdsong in treatment and non-treatment areas. Continue reading

Solving a hidden threat to New Zealand’s meat and dairy industry

Beef and lamb exports, among New Zealand’s major industries, potentially will exceed $3 billion for the first time this year. But a high prevalence of veterinary pathogens causes high rates of animal death, suffering, and decreased production, and diseases like pneumonia in sheep and mastitis in cows lack effective vaccines.

Associate Professors Bridget Stocker and Mattie Timmer, from Victoria University of Wellington, are working with AgResearch to help address this problem, developing vaccines to help prevent ovine pneumonia, with promising early results.

This is the next step in an ongoing project for the university researchers, who have spent the past few years developing a new class of vaccine adjuvant—which is an additive to a vaccine that improves the host’s immune response and increases vaccine efficacy.

During the development of this adjuvant class, the researchers, along with their PhD student, Amy Foster, worked with Professor Sho Yamasaki, from Japan, one of the world’s foremost experts in immunology. Continue reading

Separating cars from cows in climate policy

Long-lived atmospheric pollutants that build up over centuries, like CO2, should be treated differently from short-lived pollutants which disappear within a few years, like methane, an international team of researchers is arguing.

The collaboration involved Victoria University of Wellington researchers.

The Government should pay heed to the team’s recommendation before further regulating New Zealand’s biggest industries in the agricultural sector.

Current policies tend to treat all pollutants as equivalent, the researchers say. But methane should be treated differently and a separate climate change policy is needed to regulate methane emissions.

Scimex reports a press statement from Victoria University of Wellington HERE.

A new collaboration between researchers at Victoria University of Wellington, the Universities of Oxford and Reading in the United Kingdom and the Centre for International Climate Research in Norway shows a better way to think about how methane might fit into carbon budgets, the statement says.

“Current climate change policy suggests a ‘one size fits all’ approach to dealing with emissions,” says Professor Dave Frame, head of Victoria University’s Climate Change Research Institute.

“But there are two distinct types of emissions, and to properly address climate change and create fair and accurate climate change policy we must treat these two groups differently.”

The two types of emissions that contribute to climate change can be divided into ‘long-lived’ and ‘short-lived’ pollutants.

“Long-lived pollutants, like carbon dioxide, persist in the atmosphere, building up over centuries,” says Dr Michelle Cain, from the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford.

“The carbon dioxide created by burning coal in the 18th century is still affecting the climate today.

“Short-lived pollutants, like methane, disappear within a few years. Their effect on the climate is important but very different from that of carbon dioxide, yet current policies treat them all as equivalent.”

The research collaboration proposes a new approach to climate change policy that would address the effects of these different emissions.

This would be particularly relevant to New Zealand agriculture.

“We don’t actually need to give up eating meat or dairy to stabilise global temperatures,” says Professor Myles Allen from the University of Oxford, who led the study.

“We just need to stop increasing emissions from these sources. But we do need to give up dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Climate policies could be designed to reflect this.”

Under current policies, industries that produce methane are managed as though that methane has a permanently worsening effect on the climate, says Professor Frame.

“But this is not the case. Implementing a policy that better reflects the actual impact of different pollutants on global temperatures would give agriculture a fair and reasonable way to manage their emissions and reduce their impact on the environment.

“Implementing a policy like this would show New Zealand to be leaders and innovators in climate change policy. It would also help New Zealand efficiently manage their emissions, and could even get us to the point where we manage them so well we stop contributing to global climate change at all.”

The research can be seen in npj/Climate and Atmospheric Science HERE.

Source: Scimex

Victoria University research tackles nitrate pollution in waterways

Research carried out at Victoria University of Wellington has made big strides in tackling New Zealand’s serious nitrate pollution problem.

PhD student Putri Fraser, together with researchers from the University’s School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, have combined iron and natural silicates to create a safer, easier method of removing nitrate pollution from waterways.

Nitrate pollution destroys river habitats and aquatic life.

“Previous research shows that nano-sized iron can remove pollutants from soil and waterways, but it’s not a perfect solution,” Putri says.

“The iron is magnetic, so these nano-sized particles can clump up, reducing their reactivity and also making them difficult to work with. This clumping can also occur if they are ingested by fish, potentially harming wildlife.”

Putri needed to find a way of making the nano-sized iron less likely to clump but still maintain its reactivity towards pollutants.

She tested several different products, but the solution came in the form of a microsilicate product she first encountered while working as a Summer Research Scholar at Callaghan Innovation in 2012.

“This microsilicate product is cheap to produce and is a by-product of thermal power generation,” Putri says. “My supervisor (Dr Robin Fulton from Victoria University’s School of Chemical and Physical Sciences) and I thought it was very fitting to use another waste product to deal with nitrate waste.”

Putri says they were able to coat the microsilicate with the nano-sized iron, effectively increasing the size of the nano-iron while maintaining its reactivity.

“Coating the silicate with the iron makes it easier to distribute the iron in a solution, so the soil gets better coverage,” Putri says.

“Also, as the silicate-coated nanoparticles cannot clump, we don’t have to worry about any potential negative interactions with fish.

Dr Fulton says Putri’s research is significant.

“Not only has she made new materials for removing nitrate from waterways, she has also discovered that the ability of the nano-sized iron to remove nitrates is strongly influenced by the minerals around it.

“This discovery has implications for determining the best strategies for using nano-sized iron to address many environmental pollution issues.”

The next step is to see if this method can help with other pollutants.

“Along with a research team at the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, I’m going to try different metals and coatings to see if there is a more effective combination, and also to see it’s possible to remove other pollutants from the soil using this method,” Putri says.

Putri will graduate with a PhD in Chemistry at Victoria University’s May graduation next week.

Source: Victoria University of Wellington