Sciences – Daily News Egypt Egypt’s Only Daily Independent Newspaper In English Wed, 19 Feb 2020 15:47:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Neanderthals used flowers in their mortuary practices: study Tue, 18 Feb 2020 18:49:30 +0000 A whole range of techniques were used in the research

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In the 1950s, Shanidar Cave in the foothills of Iraqi Kurdistan, was excavated when archaeologist Ralph Solecki uncovered partial remains of ten Neanderthal men, women, and children. Recently, scientists came up with new findings related to the mortuary practices of this ancient species.

A team of researchers from the UK published on Tuesday a paper in the journal Antiquity, revealing that Neanderthals used flowers in their funerary practices. The discovery of new, articulated Neanderthal remains directly adjacent to the Shanidar 4 ‘flower burial’ offers a rare opportunity to investigate Neanderthal mortuary activity with the full range of modern archaeological techniques.

Debates continue around whether Neanderthals intentionally buried their dead and, if they did, how their mortuary activity varied spatially and geographically, and also whether there were symbolic or ritual components to the way they treated their dead. These ongoing debates necessarily rely heavily on the re-evaluation of older excavations conducted at a time when standards of excavation, sedimentary analysis, and documentation differed from today.

“The new in situ articulated Neanderthal remains from Shanidar Cave reported in this paper, in combination with their stratigraphic contexts, provide strong evidence for the deliberate burial of this individual. We have been able to determine that this individual was an older adult, based on how worn down the teeth are, but we don’t yet know whether they were male or female as we lack the pelvis,” said Emma Pomeroy, the paper’s lead author from Cambridge’s Department of Archaeology.

Pomeroy told Daily News Egypt that the study’s findings also offer an unparalleled opportunity to reassess the relationships between the individuals represented by the Shanidar 4, 6, 8 and 9 remains, and to consider whether this unique assemblage represents evidence of simultaneous (or near simultaneous) burial activity. There is also the theory that Neanderthals returned to the same place over time to deposit their dead.

“Certainly, some of our most recent findings show that below the new remains, separated by layers of sediment, there are further Neanderthal bones, suggesting repeated use of the site, and indeed this exact spot, to deposit the dead on separate occasions,” she added.

The new excavations at Shanidar Cave began in 2015, though the work on this study started in 2014. Researchers have discovered the new remains described in the paper in 2016, and have been working on the excavation and analysis of the remains and the samples since 2017.

Regarding the methods her and her team used for the study, Pomeroy noted that a whole range of techniques were used in the research “obviously the excavation of the remains themselves, which included photogrammetry to record their positions in 3D; extensive recording and sampling of the sediments for lab analyses including pollen, ancient DNA, microscopic plant remains, microfauna (small mammal and amphibian) remains, snail shell, and charcoal.”

She added that her team were “taking samples and readings for Optically Stimulated Luminescence dating; and sediment micromorphology to look at the microscopic structure of the sediments.” They have been using microCT (computed tomography) back in Cambridge to record the skeletal remains in 3D and reveal information such as the degree of tooth wear, preservation, etc, before more cleaning and conservation takes place.

The lead author of the paper believes that the results of this study are important for a number of reasons. These reasons owing to the rarity of finding articulated Neanderthal remains (meaning that the bones are still in correct anatomical connection). This gives the researchers a chance to make the most out of modern archaeological science techniques to get as much information as possible about the bones themselves and their context – is there any evidence that a hole was dug to put the body in? Was it then covered in soil? Were plants put with the body?

She explained also that these remains are directly next to the controversial ‘flower burial’ at Shanidar Cave which was also part of a cluster of 4 individuals (Shanidar 4, 6, 8 and 9). “We have good information about the flower burial Shanidar 4 from the original excavations, but not about whether there was evidence for this individual being placed in a dug out, and unfortunately the precise positions of the other individuals’ bones was not recoverable at the time they were excavated, meaning we aren’t sure whether they arrived in that location at exactly the same time, their positions in the ground etc.,” the researcher said.

Combined with evidence from Ralph Solecki’s archive and all the new analyses that the researchers have done and will do in the near future, this is an incredibly rare opportunity to make a truly novel contribution to the debates around Neanderthal behaviour, according to Pomeroy.

Analyses are ongoing and there is more evidence to be recovered. Pomeroy believes that the paper’s results are important and will add to our understanding of the evolution of modern human behaviour. However, as of yet, scientists don’t well understand when and why these behaviours evolved.

Understanding how a dead body is treated can give us evidence for the existence of abstract and symbolic thought, care, and compassion for other individuals, and of feelings of mourning and loss, all important components of what we think of as human characteristics.

All human societies have rituals and symbolic activities they perform in relation to their dead, whether it be through burial, cremation, ‘sky burials,’ etc. The extent to which Neanderthals were as cognitively sophisticated as us and whether they were capable of symbolic thought, compassion etc. is still an area of debate, as is the extent to which they engaged in such behaviour.

“Another common characteristic of humans is having special places dedicated for the dead, and that is something we may have evidence for here, particularly since we can see multiple individuals deposited in precisely the same spot, and on more than one occasion,” Pomeroy explained, “the most exciting thing in this is work is having the chance to try to answer some of the questions or points of contention about Neanderthal behaviour towards the dead, particularly in relation to such an iconic site as Shanidar Cave and especially the unparalleled cluster of individuals including the flower burial, that have been so central to debates and so controversial.”

It’s rare to find articulated Neanderthal remains in their original location (these are the first to our knowledge in 25 years) and archaeological science advances quickly, “so we have a whole range of new techniques to help clarify some of the debates around Neanderthal behaviour towards the dead. It’s also exciting that we have evidence of the remains being placed in a dug depression and for ancient plant material in the sediment with the bones – this will be key for re-evaluating Neanderthal mortuary behaviour and revisiting the flower burial evidence.”

“The possibility that we might have a chance to retrieve DNA from this individual is also very exciting, although I am trying not to get too excited, yet. The preservation of ancient DNA in south west Asia is not great, given that it is relatively warm there, so to date we only have ancient DNA from Neanderthals from more northern regions. But with the new individual, we have the parts of the skull which preserve DNA best, so this greatly increases our chances. Recovering DNA from this individual would add really important new data about Neanderthal variation and interbreeding, so we have our fingers crossed!” the researcher said.

The research is still working on the topic and according to Pomeroy, this paper is just the beginning, so there will be much more evidence to come. “One thing we need at this stage, for example, is more evidence about the preservation of plant remains in sediments that don’t contain Neanderthal bones, so that we can see whether plant remains are uniquely associated with the bones, or more widely distributed around the site,” she noted.

The researchers still need to clarify exactly how the new finds relate to those from the cluster of Shanidar 4,6,8, and 9 which they are working on using some of Ralph Solecki’s archive data at the National Anthropological Archive at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. They also need to re-evaluate the bones themselves from his findings to better understand which remains belong to which individual, including the new find.

“We still have work to do in refining the dates of the material, which is ongoing, and more work concerning the morphology (physical characteristics of this individual), their health, age at death and whether they were male or female (which we hope to address through paleo-proteomics – the analysis of ancient proteins in the teeth),”  Pomeroy explained.

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Does animal size in zoos matter? Wed, 05 Feb 2020 10:37:55 +0000 New study connects larger charismatic animals, more diverse species, to higher zoo attendance, conservation funding in wild

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As the sixth mass extinction sends shock waves through whole segments of species, modern zoos and aquariums stand as leading sources of conservation funding and safe havens for populations deemed threatened in the wild.

Collectively, members of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums attract 10% of the planet’s population and contributes more than $350m annually to conservation programmes in the wild, making them the world’s third largest funder after World Wildlife Fund and The Nature Conservancy.

But how do zoos and aquariums address the growing need for funding programmes as more populations face threats due to climate change, disease, human encroachment, and disease?

The answer begins with you, the visitor, according to research published recently in the international journal Nature Communications. Zoos and aquariums that see more visitors also contribute more funding to conservation activities on site and in the wild. Which leaves zoo and aquarium directors asking the same question that these researchers asked: What compels people to come? Is it the large, iconic species of mammals? Or is it more?

The study, entitled “A system wide approach to managing zoo collections for visitor attendance and conservation in the wild,” conducted by researchers at Trinity College Dublin, the National University of Ireland, Galway, University of Southern Denmark, and the global non-profit Species360, finds that, yes, attendance is higher at zoos where large, iconic animals like rhinos, tigers, and bears reside.

“Our findings show that charismatic animals in the care of accredited zoos and the visitors that come to see them, are helping to make a difference by driving much needed conservation actions,” says Dalia Conde co-author and species conservation specialist at the University of Southern Denmark. She is also the Director of Science at Species360.

However, according to Conde, zoos and aquariums hold “

16% of the planet’s threatened species. With an unmatched knowledge on animal biology, medicine, welfare, and high number of visitors, they are uniquely positioned to help avert one of humanities major crises.”

She expresses the enormous power of these communities, saying:

“In contrast with the past five mass extinctions in the Earth’s history, the current extinction crisis is human driven. This is good news because it means we are in a position to solve it! And zoos and aquariums still have much room to reach their full conservation potential.”

Dr Kevin Healy, co-author of the study and lecturer at the National University of Ireland, Galway, adds:

“While having big charismatic animals is one way to gather an audience, having a more unusual collection of species is an alternative way to drive gate receipts and with them conservations fund.”

An example could be a collection of many different butterfly species or threatened amphibians.

This was found by modelling the relationships between attendance, animals, conservation, and other factors for 450 zoological institutions worldwide.

Several factors, including size and variety of species, influence attendance and conservation funding at zoos and aquariums, according to the study published in Natural Communications.

The study provides “global evidence to suggest that zoos don’t need to compromise their economic viability and entertainment value in order to have a significant value to conservation,” says Yvonne Buckley, co-author of the study and professor of Zoology at Trinity College Dublin.

“Zoos and aquariums attract more than 700 million people annually around the world. That’s an unparalleled audience for conservation education,” says co-author Andrew Mooney, PhD Candidate in Trinity’s School of Natural Sciences.

Central to the study’s findings is the Species360 Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS), which has grown to one of the largest sets of wildlife data worldwide. Over 1,200 zoos and aquariums in 99 countries use ZIMS to curate and share information on thousands of animals in their care. ZIMS data analysis, in turn, is a key source for scientists working with organisms such as IUCN Species Survival Commission, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species – CITES, and the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network – TRAFFIC, to sustain populations, improve animal welfare, fight illegal trade, and more.

The US Association of Zoos and Aquariums conduct 115 different reintroduction programmes, more than 40 of which are designed to bolster populations of species listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

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Alarming amounts of pollutants released in Red Sea annually: study Wed, 05 Feb 2020 10:33:00 +0000 Levels of ethane and propane in the air above the Red Sea’s North end were extremely high

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The intense fossil fuel exploitation in the Middle East is responsible for the release of large amounts of gaseous pollutants into the atmosphere, particularly since the region accommodates more than half of the world’s known oil and gas reserves.

In 2017, during a large scientific expedition around the Arabian Peninsula, organised by the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, the researchers noticed a strange anomaly.

According to a paper published recently in scientific journal Nature, the levels of ethane and propane in the air above the northern end of the Red Sea were massive: up to 40 times higher than predicted by existing atmospheric models.

Results of the model showed that biomass burning, fuel production and transmission, and industrial emissions were supposed to describe the regional hydrocarbon abundance. However, neither of these sources was able to explain these observations.

“During a ship expedition around the Arabian Peninsula, we observed unexplainably high levels of ethane and propane in the air above the northern Red Sea. The levels of ethane and propane were respectively up to 20 and 40 times higher than predicted by existing atmospheric models,” said Efstratios Bourtsoukidis, an environmental physicist at Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, and first author of the study.

He told Daily News Egypt that in order to investigate this discrepancy, he and his team analysed in detail each of the possible sources. As there was no previous data from this region, the team had to run numerous calculations and in-depth investigations in order to find the source.

At the end, the researchers came to an unexpected conclusion: the high concentrations of the atmospheric ethane and propane originate from the bottom of the northern Red Sea. This overlooked underwater source is comparable with total anthropogenic emissions from Middle Eastern countries, and significantly impact the regional atmospheric chemistry.

In regard to the methods used in the study, Bourtsoukidis explained that the measurements were taken during the Air Quality and Climate Change in the Arabian Basin (AQABA) ship campaign that took place in the waters around the Arabian Peninsula.

According to the author, the AQABA project is the first-ever in-situ comprehensive characterisation of gaseous and aerosol processes in the Middle East that took place between June and August 2017 and was led by the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz. The ship traversed the Mediterranean Sea, the Suez Canal, the Red Sea, the northern Indian Ocean, and the Arabian Gulf, before returning via the same route, covering around 20,000km at sea and yielding a rich dataset of a plethora of atmospheric gases.

For the study, the team used a Gas Chromatography – Flame Ionisation Detector (GC-FID). This technique was first established in the late 1950s, but this is the first time that it was operated on board a ship vessel.

“The results are important because they add a significant source in our global emission inventories. The better we characterise the global emission sources, the better we can understand their atmospheric implications,” said Bourtsoukidis. In comparison with other Middle East countries, Egypt is in the middle. However, combining ethane and propane, Egypt is releasing around 0.1 teragrams of these gases per year, he added.

Bourtsoukidis noted: “These light hydrocarbons should not impact the coral reefs in the region. However, further investigations by marine biochemists will shed light on potential implications.”

“The emission strength was extremely surprising. It is interesting to “smell” in the air what is happening at the bottom of the sea. But the most exciting part was that we had to combine different scientific disciplines to reach a conclusion. Information from geological and oceanographic studies had to be accounted for being able to explain the atmospheric concentrations,” the author explained.

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Smart single mother bees learn from their neighbours Wed, 29 Jan 2020 13:30:08 +0000 The research team set up artificial nests in parks and grasslands across South East England and London from 2016-2018 to study the behaviours of different species of solitary cavity-nesting mason bees.

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Solitary female bees inspect other nests for signs of danger before making decisions on where to build their own, a new London-based study suggests.

The study, led by researchers at Queen Mary University of London, found the clever bees looked for signs of parasite infection in other species’ nests. Based on this technique, bees search for safe places where they can bring up their own brood.

The research team set up artificial nests in parks and grasslands across South East England and London from 2016-2018 to study the behaviours of different species of solitary cavity-nesting mason bees.

The scientists also tested the ability for these species to notice other cues of parasite infection in the surrounding environment.

They showed that solitary bees were surprisingly intelligent in their observations and were able to remember geometric symbols found next to parasitised nests, and avoid nests near these symbols in future breeding periods.

Olli Loukola, lead author and postdoctoral fellow at Queen Mary University of London and the University of Oulu, said: “It’s amazing that solitary bees are able to use such a complex strategy in their nest-site decisions. It really requires a sophisticated cognitive flexibility and it is fascinating to uncover how much genius is found in these small-brained solitary bees.

“Despite being solitary, these bees live in communities and can learn from each other. As environmental factors such as nesting suitability, predation, and parasitism change both spatially and over time, it makes sense for bees to glean information from their neighbours, even if they aren’t the same species.”

Most research to-date has focused on social species, which live in communities led by a queen with several dozen to several thousand workers. However, most wild species are in fact solitary and individuals build their own nest rather than living in a hive as part of a larger community.

Whilst these bees live independently, they often exist in in groups with multiple different species residing in close proximity to each other.

Lars Chittka, Professor of Sensory and Behavioural Ecology at Queen Mary University of London, said: There are around 20,000 solitary bee species in total and about 150 live right here in London. In these species, female individuals, or ‘single mothers’ build their own nests. The male bees never do any work.

“Our research suggests that despite the fact that these females largely work alone, they’re able to use cues in their environment and activities of other animals in their surroundings, to successfully protect their broods.”

With reported declines in bee numbers over the last few years, studies that improve our understanding of their behaviour and the environmental pressures they face are important for future conservation efforts to save these pollinators.

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5 science events to look forward to this year Wed, 29 Jan 2020 13:00:36 +0000 Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Khaled Abdel Ghaffar announced that the third Egyptian satellite QSAT will launch in June, as part of the Knowledge Alliance programme funded by the ministry for the purpose of development and scientific research.

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The world will witness several science events this year, including climate change, medical trials, and space exploration. Here’s five of the most important events, we believe, locally and internationally.

Egypt’s third satellite

Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Khaled Abdel Ghaffar announced that the third Egyptian satellite QSAT will launch in June, as part of the Knowledge Alliance programme funded by the ministry for the purpose of development and scientific research.

Abdel Ghaffar added that the Ministry has a clear plan for 2020 related to satellite techniques. He pointed out that the three satellites are aimed at research and development purposes, including agricultural development, urban planning, following-up on major national projects, coastal environmental studies, climate prediction, and natural hazards. It will be a small and exploratory-oriented satellite, fully manufactured by Egyptians to help detect groundwater.

The minister stressed that each university will be able to launch its own satellite, which has been a dream for years, adding that the ministry is working on this in coordination with the Egyptian Space Agency and the Spacecraft Assembly, Integration, and Test (AIT) Centre in the New Administrative Capital.

Climate events

As climate change and its impacts are some of the major crises that the globe is facing currently, one of the biggest international events on the issue, COP26 climate conference, will be held in November in the United Kingdom. At the conference, countries must come forward with updated targets for reducing their greenhouse-gas emissions to help limit global warming to no more than 2°C. 

The United Nations Environment Programme is also expected to release a major report on the scientific and technical aspects of geoengineering in August. Geoengineering is one of the approaches that scientists believe could be used to fight climate change. These techniques include pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and blocking sunlight.

Not too far from that, the International Seabed Authority will also issue long-awaited regulations regarding mining in the sea. These regulations will come at a time when scientists have concerns that we do not have the needed knowledge about the negative impacts of practicing mining in the sea, as there are doubts that this could damage marine ecosystems, with potentially disastrous impacts on already stressed environments.

CRISPR’s clinical tests

The CRISPR gene-editing tool, a genetic engineering technique in molecular biology by which the genomes of living organisms may be modified, will undergo tests this year to ensure its expected role in treating cancer and genetic diseases.

The clinical tests will be conducted by an American team using CRISPR to disable three genes in T cells – which plays a central role in the immune response- that are then returned to a cancer patient’s body. This promising approach could help the immune system stop malignant cells from growing and potentially extend a patient’s life. Another team of Chinese researchers are working on an approach to treat patients with sickle cell anemia and thalassemia by using the DNA editor to switch on the gene coding for a fatal version of hemoglobin to compensate for the defective adult form of the oxygen-carrying protein; last fall, scientists reported success in two patients and in 2020 will present longer-term results for a larger group, according to Science magazine.

Human spaceflight

The year would see the fulfilment of several long-promised achievements in human spaceflight. For the first time, private companies would launch humans into orbit, and two different companies would send paying tourists on suborbital missions. The aerospace community has been watching and waiting for these milestones for years, but 2020 is probably the year for both.

We may also see a number of new rocket debuts this year, both big and small. A record number of missions—four—are also due to launch to Mars from four different space agencies. That’s just the beginning of what promises to be an exciting year; here’s a look at what we’re most eagerly anticipating in the coming 11.5 months.

The year would also see the fulfilment the long-promised manned space flight, especially by private companies to send tourists on suborbital missions. SpaceX’s Dragon 2 spacecraft and Boeing’s Star Liner CST-100 will make their first manned flights to the International Space Station. Projects of the two companies have witnessed some delays, but finally they have succeeded, in recent months, in their trials and tests in preparation for the mission.

According to a report published by the Conversation, the two companies have conducted safety tests that included; multiple parachute falls, the ability of capsules to shoot themselves away from missiles they carry in emergency situations and failure to launch. However, last December, an unmanned test of a Starliner failed to reach the International Space Station due to a problem with the programme. On the other hand, SpaceX has completed the first Dragon 2 experimental flight, and is currently expecting to launch its first manned mission to the International Space Station in the first quarter of 2020.

Artemis 1

One of the most important anticipated science events this year is the Artemis I, formerly known as the Exploration Mission-1, which will be the first integrated test of NASA’s deep space exploration systems: the Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, and the ground systems at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

It will also be the first in a series of increasingly complex missions by ‎NASA that will enable human exploration to the Moon and Mars.

The spacecraft will launch on the most powerful rockets in the world and fly beyond any spacecraft built for human travel has ever done, traveling about 250,000 kilometres from Earth, thousands of miles beyond the Moon over the course of about three-week.

According to NASA, Orion will stay in space longer than any ship for astronauts has done without docking to a space station. It would return home faster and warmer than ever before.

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Egypt’s water strategy based on 4 directives Sun, 26 Jan 2020 16:46:25 +0000 Torrents were a top priority for the ministry since 2016

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Egypt is one of the most arid countries in the world and currently suffers from a 90% gap in its water resources. The country receives about 70% of its water flow from the Blue Nile and Atbara River, both stemming in the Ethiopian plateau, then merging to become the Main Nile in northern Sudan.

The Nile river is Egypt’s lifeblood, as the Nile’s water provides us with about 97% of its present water needs. This amount of water equals only 660 cubic metres per person, one of the world’s lowest annual per capita water shares. Egypt’s Nile water share equals 55 bn cubic metres.

But as Egypt’s population is expected to double in the next 50 years, Egypt is projected to have critical countrywide fresh water and food shortages by 2025, according to a study conducted by the Geological Society of America GSA.

As negotiations over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) become more and more tumultuous, Egypt needs to look for alternatives to cope with its water crisis and meet the demand of its populations.

Daily News Egypt met with Ragab Abdel Azeem, the Deputy Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, to brief us on the ministry’s strategy for the new year. He told DNE that in order to meet our needs of water, the ministry has set a strategy of four directives for developing water resources, rationalising water use, purifying water, protecting it from pollution, and creating the appropriate environment for implementing previous directives.

On the rationalisation directive, what are the ministry’s procedures in this regard?

In the rationalisation part, the ministry started implementing a number of measures to rationalise water, raise the efficiency of its use, and ensure that water reaches all beneficiaries. The first procedure is to prepare the network of canals and reform the distribution canals to improve the environment and ensure water is not wasted, and to repair and prepare dilapidated water facilities (arches) and its gates to save water and secure its safe delivery to users.

These facilities are used to control the amount of water and its distribution through their gates to different places where the beneficiaries are located. The limited water resources require that the canal system be able to deliver water from the mouth of the canal to its end, and in the case of an expansion in some canals, it absorbs larger quantities of water and thus weakens the delivery of water to the beneficiaries.

The second measure in rationalisation is to implement a modern irrigation system as an alternative to flood irrigation. Among the benefits of modern irrigation is rationalising the use of water for irrigation, and increasing crop productivity by more than 30%. Therefore, farmers are the first beneficiary of the modern irrigation systems, and increased farm income due to reduced operating and maintenance costs. Also, in the case of using modern irrigation, the farmer can cultivate the entire land area, and he can maintain the modern irrigation network buried under the soil himself.

To avoid the effect of the accumulation of salt in the soil, after the end of the season, the farmer removes the irrigation network and once floods the land to wash the soil in preparation for the next agricultural season. The third procedure is to cooperate with the Water and Wastewater Company to rationalise the use of domestic water, with a number of steps, such as installing water-saving parts in faucets. These items were produced by the ministry of military production and are available at cheap prices. The Ministry has also carried out awareness-raising campaigns about the importance of rationalising the use of drinking water.

What do you mean by “creating the appropriate environment”?

Creating the appropriate environment to implement the other parts of the strategy, this is the second part of the strategy. It includes training and human capacity building for employees, engineers and technicians working in the field of water resources and irrigation. The Ministry established the Regional Training Sector for Water Resources and Irrigation (RTSWRI), for this purpose, and it also provides training for specialists from African countries. This directive also includes laws and regulations for the use of water.

The Ministry has also implemented programmes and campaigns to educate farmers and citizens about the importance of water rationalisation, such as awareness campaigns for farmers in the fields. The Ministry has worked in engaging the beneficiaries in water management by establishing farmers associations, that they choose their board to represent them before the Ministry. The Ministry focuses on the research field for the purpose of water regulation and management.

The new water resources law was prepared and discussed in the House of Representatives and awaiting approval. Coordination was made with all ministries and entities that have comments on the law, such as the Ministry of Environment, which there were points of disagreement between them and the Ministry of Irrigation related to the application of penalties on those who violate the laws of environment.

The Ministry of Irrigation is currently working on preparing a coordination protocol with the monitoring bodies on the Nile River to coordinate efforts and benefit from the data collected by each party, and that there is no duplication in monitoring process. There were fears by the Ministry of Transport regarding the process of river navigation in the Nile River, about the routes of touristic boats in the river, and ensuring safe river navigation. The Ministry of Irrigation developed locks on the river’s navigational course with modern technologies to facilitate the process of crossing touristic boats that used to take hours to cross the lock, and now, crossing it only takes 17 minutes.

What about the other two directives of the strategy? 

As for the second directive, it is the directive of water purification and protection from pollution. The Ministry of Irrigation coordinates with the concerned ministries and governorates to move garbage dumps away from canals and establish places for recycling garbage. The Ministry is cooperating with the Ministry of Housing on projects to purify wastewater. There are restrictions in Egypt on the use of treated wastewater for drinking or for irrigating food crops, but only for industry and for irrigating non-fruitful trees.

In the development directive, the ministry is conducting many studies on estimating the underground reservoir in Egypt and its potential for use in a way that contributes to development, but does not deplete this non-renewable resource. The Ministry also cooperates with Egyptian universities and research centres to assess the potential of underground reservoirs in Egyptian deserts and their use in a manner that ensures their sustainability, such as the agricultural manufacturing usages that consumes a small amount of water and provides a large return.

In cooperation with the Ministry of Housing, the ministry is also implementing seawater desalination projects. Modern technology contributes to increasing the efficiency of desalination for use in drinking and its use in providing water needs for new urban populations on the coasts. Research centres affiliated to the ministries of irrigation and agriculture are conducting studies on the possibility of using salt water to irrigate some crops, such as some species of wheat and rice.

What are your procedures for dealing with torrents and benefit from their waters? 

Torrents were a top priority for the ministry since 2016 when Dr. Mohamed Abdel-Ati came to lead the ministry, to avoid what happened in 2015 when torrents caused great damage in some governorates. Since that date, the ministry has developed plans and programmes to deal with torrents and make use of its water. The volume of spending on flood protection projects and their utilisation reached about EGP 5 bn during the past five years. West of the delta, the ministry has established giant flood prevention stations, and emergency centres equipped with the necessary equipments to alleviate the torrents.

We built dams in Sinai and the Red Sea governorate, and constructed more than 250 artificial lakes in Sinai to collect torrent water so that residential communities in the region can benefit from them in drinking tanks, agriculture, and grasing. We implemented protection works to protect touristic facilities from the dangers of torrents, and to store water for use in groundwater recharge or for domestic use.

As a result of these efforts, 2018 was a safe year, and so did 2019, with no losses. We created the Torrents Chamber in cooperation with the concerned governorates and ministries to coordinate in order to face any torrential risks. The monitoring maps prepared by the Nile Forecast Centre affiliated to the ministry estimates the locations and timing of the expected rainfall within the next 3 days. Arab countries expressed desire to benefit from Egypt’s experiences in dealing with torrents.

Egypt is one of the most affected countries by climate change, what are your efforts in combating its impact on the country?

Regarding climate changes, the Public Authority for Shore Protection monitors climate changes and establishes protection works to protect the coastline from sea level rise that threaten the northern coast of Egypt, especially the Nile Delta. We prepared a plan to protect the areas most threatened and prevent sea waves from attacking national projects, residential areas, and agricultural lands. We spend about EGP 200m annually to protect the coasts from the risks of climate change.

The Ministry of Irrigation succeeded in obtaining a $2m grant from the Green Climate Fund last year for the Enhancing Climate Change Adaptation in the North Coast and Nile Delta Regions of Egypt project (ECCADP). We have identified 69 kilometers from Salloum to Al-Arish, which will be protected under the project. The Ministry had prepared previous studies to determine the most vulnerable sites to climate change risks such as the governorates of Kafr El-Sheikh, which has 14 kilometers that represent a critical area threatened by climate change risks, the most important of which is the Burullus Power Station, East Kushner Canal, 12 kilometers in Damietta, Dakahlia, and Port Said, Beheira, Alexandria and Al-Arish.

The ministry has identified sites to monitor climate change so that we can know the stability or rise in sea level and, therefore, we take the necessary action based on the results of the monitoring. The Ministry is also affiliated with the Coastal Research Institute, which is concerned with monitoring climate changes and their impacts on Egyptian coasts. Due to the importance of the issue, the Ministry of Irrigation raised the budget of the Public Authority for Shore Protection from EGP 200m to EGP 715m for the current year.

Can you please brief us on your solar irrigation projects?

We have started in the past two years to implement the use of solar energy for irrigation in underground wells instead of diesel. The project started in the New Valley governorate with a three-year plan to make all the wells of the governorate solar-powered. The project was also implemented in the delta governorates to operate irrigation systems using solar energy, and the use of this energy in a number of government buildings.

Regarding the dangers of using solar energy with regard to excessive use and depletion of underground reserves, there are no dangers, the panels that are installed work for only seven hours a day, which is the duration of solar brightness, thus reducing the number of pumping hours from 12 hours or more -in case of using diesel- to 7 hours only since the panels do not store energy for use at night. There is no need to worry about the dangers of excessive pumping of water because the ministry has implemented awareness campaigns for users of this technology, explaining the dangers of the overuse of water in irrigation on the crop itself and on strategic groundwater reserves.

The groundwater in Egypt is limited and non-renewable, and accordingly there is a need for the government to determine the proper amount of water to be used. It will also be implementing punishments for those who exceed the quantity of groundwater permissible. This is done through remote monitoring of wells after the installation of meters on each well to monitor the quantities of pumping. Even if the user increased the number of hours of operating the well, he will not be able to exceed the amount of water permitted for pumping.

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Interdisciplinary study reveals new insights into evolution of sign language Fri, 24 Jan 2020 16:07:27 +0000 Natural human languages come in two main types; based on the modality in which they are expressed and perceived: spoken languages in the oral-aural modality and signed languages in the gestural-visual modality

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A new study, published by Royal Society Open Science, shed light on the origin and evolution of European sign languages. Using phylogenetic network methods to compare dozens of sign languages, researchers identified five main European sign language lineages that dispersed to other parts of the world since the late 18th century.

Natural human languages come in two main types; based on the modality in which they are expressed and perceived: spoken languages in the oral-aural modality and signed languages in the gestural-visual modality. Although spoken languages and their histories have received the majority of scientific attention, researchers assume that signing, while far less studied, is at least as ancient as speech. “While the evolution of spoken languages has been studied for more than 200 years, research on sign language evolution is still in its infancy,” said Justin Power, first author of the study.

“Much of what we know about the history of contemporary sign languages came from historical accounts of contact between deaf educational institutions and educators. We wanted to know if a comparison of sign languages using contemporary and historical sources could shed light on how European sign languages developed and spread around the world,” he added.

Many of the world’s sign languages included a set of manual forms representing a written alphabet, which signers use to spell written words using a sequence of handshapes. Historical examples of such manual alphabets can be found for many sign languages dating back to the establishment of educational institutions for the deaf during the European Enlightenment.

To conduct the study, the researchers began by building an annotated database of 40 contemporary and 36 historical manual alphabets. They then compared the manual alphabets using phylogenetic network methods, which could show varying degrees of relation between many languages at the same time. This allowed them to visualise and understand the complex connections between languages without assuming a priori of commonalities between languages are simply due to common inheritance, as it would be suggested by phylogenetic tree methods.

“For this study, we created the largest cross-linguistic comparative database of sign languages available,” said Johann-Mattis List, another author of the study. “The database helped us track the evolution of sign languages over the past few centuries, providing a clearer picture about the roots of the contemporary diversity of the world’s sign languages.”

By adapting methods from historical linguistics and evolutionary biology, the team of scientists was able to infer likely relationships among sign languages. “Despite dealing with fundamentally different data, the analogies between the evolution of sign languages and biological evolution are striking, especially when we look at the gain and loss of lineage-specific traits”, said Guido Grimm, the team’s phylogeneticist.

The researchers were able to group the sign languages in the study into five main evolutionary lineages, similar to the usage of phylogenetic networks created in genetic research, revealing how the languages changed as they spread across Europe and into other parts of the world.

Power said, “The network methods allowed us to analyse in detail the complex evolution of complete lineages, manual alphabets, and individual handshapes.”

“Integrating these methods with our research into historical manual alphabets gives us a powerful framework for understanding the evolution of sign languages.”

The study’s results confirmed many of the sign language dispersal events known from the historical record, but the results also turned up several surprises. For instance, the study confirmed the influence of French Sign Language on deaf education and signing communities in many regions, including in Western Europe and the Americas, which researchers previously emphasised.

However, in addition to confirming these connections, the current study highlighted the dispersal of Austrian Sign Language to central and northern Europe, as well as to Russia – a lineage about which little was previously known. “We were very excited about our findings,” said Power.

He added, “Our interdisciplinary approach combined traditional scholarship with computational phylogenetic methods, and gave us new keys for understanding the evolutionary histories of the world’s sign languages.”

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Despite FDA’s anti-vaping campaign, popularity of e-cigarette grows Fri, 24 Jan 2020 16:07:16 +0000 E-cigarettes are like a gateway to traditional smoking: study

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Electronic cigarettes have become a worldwide trend, especially among young adults. A new study published in Frontiers in Communication said that promotional vaping Instagram posts outnumber anti-vaping content 10,000 to 1.

Despite “The Real Cost” awareness campaign launched by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2018, nearly one third of American teenagers are estimated to use e-cigarettes. The current study highlights the limited impact of the FDA campaign, while also using deep learning – an artificial intelligence method – to better understand marketing tactics used by vaping companies.

“US public health officials have been calling vaping among youth an epidemic and have been putting a lot of effort into trying to stop this epidemic by introducing #TheRealCost anti-vaping campaign,” said Julia Vassey of the University of California, Berkeley, US. “But this stark imbalance in the volume of posts has caused the FDA message to be overwhelmed by marketing from the vaping brands,” she added.

Many teenagers continue to view e-cigarettes as a healthier option than conventional cigarettes, but vaping is associated with inflammation, reduced immune responses, and breathing troubles. To further understand how vaping is perceived on social media, Vassey and her collaborators at the UC Berkeley Center for Integrative Research on Childhood Leukemia and the Environment (CIRCLE) collected 245,894 Instagram posts spanning from before and after the #TheRealCost campaign launch. The team also conducted interviews with five vaping influencers and eight college-age social media users.

“We focused on Instagram because the vaping influencers we interviewed for this study identified Instagram as their most important social media marketing platform,” explained Vassey, adding that “based on the results, the FDA anti-vaping campaign is not very popular and we saw Instagram user comments disputing the FDA claims of damaging health effects from nicotine and calling the campaign propaganda.”

In contrast to the FDA’s intentions, Vassey and her colleagues found that vaping posts received nearly three times more “likes” after the campaign launch. They also found that there were six times as many posts that had over 100 likes. Importantly, participants in the focus groups additionally suggested that anti-vaping campaign promoted scare tactics rather than offering guidance on how to quit vaping.

By analysing common themes across Instagram images, researchers found that over 70% contained e-juices and devices, which contain higher nicotine concentrations and are often popular among e-cigarette novices. The analytics data shared by the vaping influencers also showed that many of their followers were underage (13 to 17 years old).

The results of this study were limited to Instagram content (as opposed to other social media outlets) and the researchers plan to investigate how content translates to actual vaping use next.

“We’re hoping the findings will inform public health regulators about the most popular channels used by vaping influencers to promote vaping content among underage population in order to help counter e-cigarette marketing and slow vaping proliferation among youth,” said Vassey. “This study could also contribute to providing direction for future federal and local public health anti-vaping intervention campaigns.”

According to a previous study published by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, published in the American Journal of Medicine, young adults who use electronic cigarettes are more than four times as likely to begin smoking tobacco cigarettes within 18 months as their peers who do not vape.

The World Health Organization estimates that tobacco kills up to one half of its regular users via cardiovascular disease, lung and other cancers, and respiratory illnesses.

The researchers believe that e-cigarettes are serving as a gateway to traditional smoking. The study is the first US nationally representative survey that followed, for more than a year, people aged 18 to 30 years old who were initially non-smokers.

To do so, the researchers analysed a survey of US adults who were randomly selected in March 2013 to complete a questionnaire about their tobacco use. Eighteen months later, in October 2014, 915 participants who said they had never smoked cigarettes completed a follow-up survey.

Depending on the results of the survey, the team applied “weights” to the results by over and under-emphasising the answers of the survey participants in order to arrive at findings that would be more representative of the true makeup of the US population.

The findings of the study showed that only 14.2% of those surveyed were Hispanic, so the team over-emphasised their answers so that the weighted sample and final results were 19.7% Hispanic.

According to the results of the final weighted survey, the researchers demonstrated that 11.2% of participants (none of whom had ever smoked when they completed the initial questionnaire) had started smoking tobacco cigarettes.

Of participants who said they vaped e-cigarettes in the first questionnaire, 47.7% had started smoking cigarettes 18 months later, compared to 10.2% of those who did not use e-cigarettes. Without the survey weights to make the sample representative of the US population, 37.5% of e-cigarette users had started smoking cigarettes 18 months later, compared to 9% of those who didn’t use e-cigarettes, the study reveals.

“Early evidence on the potential value of e-cigarettes for cessation or reduction of cigarette smoking has been mixed,” said lead author Brian A. Primack, director of Pitt’s Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health, and Dean of Pitt’s Honors College.

Primack told Daily News Egypt, “Our study finds that in non-smokers, e-cigarettes make people more likely to start smoking. This supports policy and educational interventions designed to decrease the use of e-cigarettes among non-smokers, and suggest that clinicians who treat e-cigarette users should counsel them both about their potential for harm and about the high risk of transitioning to tobacco cigarettes among initial non-smokers.”

Primack said that young adulthood is an important time when people establish whether they use tobacco or not. He added that more research will be needed to determine why e-cigarettes increase the risk of someone transitioning to tobacco cigarettes.

According to the lead author, several factors are likely at play, including that using e-cigarettes mimics the behaviour of smoking traditional cigarettes, the sweet vape is a gentle introduction to smoking harsher tobacco, and the build-up of nicotine addiction could lead e-cigarette users to seek out more nicotine-packed tobacco cigarettes.

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Analysing DNA in soil could be an effective way of tracking animals Wed, 15 Jan 2020 17:10:09 +0000 Another advantage of eDNA is the possibility of distinguishing species that look similar. For example, the researchers found the DNA of the Norway rat in soil samples, confirming the presence of this species in the area for the first time. Previous camera surveys could not tell the difference between Norway and black rats.

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It’s hard to protect something you can’t find. A new Stanford study reveals sampling soil for animals’ DNA can provide valuable information for conservation efforts and may significantly reduce the cost and time necessary for current conservation experiments, such as camera traps.

The process, outlined on 14 January in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, also proved effective at distinguishing genetic differences between species that otherwise look identical, a difficult task for traditional tracking approaches. This new method may even reveal previously unknown species, according to the researchers. Although the technique still needs refinement, the authors are optimistic that it could one day revolutionise the study of species in the wild.

“We need a quantum leap in the way we identify and track animals,” said study lead author Kevin Leempoel, a postdoctoral research fellow in biology at Stanford. “This may be it.”

The spectre of extinction hangs over more than a quarter of all animal species, according to the best estimate of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which maintains a list of threatened and extinct species. Conservationists have documented extreme declines in animal populations in every region on Earth.

One of the most promising tools for monitoring biodiversity – which is key to large-scale conservation efforts – is the study of environmental DNA (eDNA) in discarded animal materials, such as hair, skin, and saliva. After extracting DNA, scientists compare their findings to online DNA sequence databases to identify the species. It’s a relatively fast, low-maintenance process compared to traditional approaches for studying species diversity, distribution and abundance, such as live-trapping, animal tracking, and camera trapping,. The researchers spent about $4,500 for all the study’s supplies, other than lab equipment. A similar study with camera traps would cost more than twice as much.

Despite the obvious advantages, questions about the efficacy of eDNA analyses have remained. That’s in part due to most research only taking place in ocean and freshwater environments. Among the few studies done on land, most have been in enclosed areas, such as zoos, or limited to a small number of species.

Working at Stanford’s 1,193-acre Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, Leempoel and his colleagues studied eDNA in soil. Not only did they identify almost every animal that nearby camera traps had spotted in the previous four years, but they also found genetic evidence of a number of small mammals, including bats and voles, rarely if ever seen by cameras. These creatures had likely escaped the cameras’ gaze because they are too small to trigger them. Overall, there was an 80% chance of finding an animal’s eDNA in an area within 30 days of the animal’s presence there.

Another advantage of eDNA is the possibility of distinguishing species that look similar. For example, the researchers found the DNA of the Norway rat in soil samples, confirming the presence of this species in the area for the first time. Previous camera surveys could not tell the difference between Norway and black rats.

Compared with camera records and other observations, eDNA identifications appeared to be closely correlated with how frequently and recently animals had been in the area. The analysis turned up no hint of badgers – unrecorded on cameras for the previous four years – domestic cats or weasels – caught on camera only a few times in the previous two years.

“By corroborating photographs of animals with their genetic remains in the environment, this study reveals both hidden biodiversity in a terrestrial ecosystem and how well these eDNA techniques will work in other places,” said study senior author Elizabeth Hadly, the Paul S. and Billie Achilles Professor in Environmental Biology in Stanford’s School of Humanities and Sciences.

Despite these positive results, questions remain about the potential of eDNA analysis. Scientists do not know how frequently an animal must pass by a given area to be detectable in an eDNA sample, or how recent that passage must be. If an animal’s size affects the amount of DNA it leaves behind, as the researchers speculate, some animals would only rarely be sampled while others would be overrepresented. No one knows the precise volume and number of samples that should be collected for maximum accuracy, or which environmental source is the most versatile, or whether all species are even detectable via eDNA analysis.

The study results appeared to overrepresent some species, such as mountain lions and bobcats, possibly due to the felines’ habit of frequently marking their territory with urine and feces, and because they frequently use trails such as those where the researchers took soil samples. In general, it’s impossible to know whether pieces of skin, fur, or dried scat were transported by wind or by other species that had consumed the animal as prey.

Perhaps most importantly, incomplete DNA databases and limitations of the study’s design made it difficult to detect all species present in the area, and caused at least two inconsistent results among the genetic sequencing approaches the researchers used. Analysing eDNA remains relatively time-consuming because proven protocols have yet to be established. Still, the researchers are optimistic about the approach’s promise.

“Its overall accuracy, combined with decreasing costs of genetic sequencing and new portable sequencers, makes eDNA a likely candidate to become the standard for biodiversity surveys in the next decade,” Leempoel concluded.

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New study finds Ocean acidification does not affect behaviour of coral reef fish Wed, 15 Jan 2020 17:09:32 +0000 According to previous literature, ocean acidity negatively affects the coral reef fish, disrupting their natural behaviour and leading them to be attracted to the smell of predators in acidic waters.

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Over the past decade, many research studies have suggested that there is a relationship between the behaviour of coral reef fish and the increase of carbon dioxide due to human-caused ocean acidification.

According to previous literature, ocean acidity negatively affects the coral reef fish, disrupting their natural behaviour and leading them to be attracted to the smell of predators in acidic waters.

However, a new study published in the journal “Nature” last week, conducted by researchers from Canadian, Australian, Swedish and Norwegian universities, stated that the behaviour of fish is not affected at all by the degree of ocean acidity.

Timothy Clark, associate professor of environmental science at the Deakin University in Australia, and the main author of the study, said the findings of the study are important as they go against previous studies on coral reef fish. However, they suggest further research is necessary to find a more concrete link.

“The study specifically shows that high carbon dioxide concentrations do not affect the direction of fish movement, nor does it change the fish’s response to chemical signals from predators,” Clark told Daily News Egypt.

However, the study did not deny the negative effects of climate change on the marine environment, and researchers expect that the degree of ocean acidification not seen in the past 30m years, constituting a threat to marine life.

The negative effects of carbon dioxide emissions and global warming on coral reef ecosystems cause coral bleaching during heat waves, as well as more frequent storms destroying fish habitats.

The study took three years to prepare, during which the researchers tested the results of previous studies on ocean acidification by conducting experimental studies on 900 individual animals belonging to six different species of fish in both wild areas and industrial reservoirs.

“We did experimental studies, looking at avoidance of chemical cues from a predator, swimming activity and behavioural lateralisation. We video recorded most of our experiments and used tracking software to analyse the data in a non-biased manner. We also ran data simulations on our own dataset to better understand the statistical probability of previous results published in this field,” Clark added.

He noted that the research team also conducted simulations of the data they obtained, to better understand the statistical possibility of previous published results.

The lead researcher explained further that ocean acidification does not pose a direct threat to coral reef fish, which means that the scientific community can direct its efforts towards studying environmental pressures that pose a greater threat to marine life, such as global warming, habitat destruction, and pollution.

Responding to our question about the possibility of criticizing the results of the study on the basis that it followed a different approach from previous studies or was conducted in different environmental times and conditions,

Commenting on the validity of this experiment’s methodology, Clark said “some people may claim that the disparity between our results and previous publications can be explained by methodological differences. However, we took great care to match the species, life stages, locations, seasons and techniques used previously.”

He concluded, “We have exhausted all methodological avenues that may explain our different findings compared with previous studies, and thus it is necessary to search elsewhere to understand why the disparity exists.”

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Researchers estimate the global extent of river ice cover loss Thu, 02 Jan 2020 08:30:49 +0000 This decline will have economic and environmental consequences

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The annual river ice cover will decline by about six days for every one-degree Celsius increase in global temperatures, a new study by researchers from the University of North Carolina’s Chapel Hill Department of Geological Sciences found. This decline will have economic and environmental consequences.

The study, titled “The Past and Future of Global River Ice,” was published on Wednesday in the journal Nature. It is the first study to look at the future of river ice on a global scale.

More than half of Earth’s rivers freeze over every year. Those rivers support important transportation networks for communities and industries located at high latitudes. Ice cover also regulates the amount of greenhouse gasses released from rivers into Earth’s atmosphere.

“We used more than 400,000 satellite images taken over 34 years to measure which rivers seasonally freeze over worldwide, which is about 56% of all large rivers,” said Xiao Yang, a geological sciences postdoctoral scholar at UNC-Chapel Hill and lead author of the paper. “We detected widespread declines in monthly river ice coverage. And the predicted trend of future ice loss is likely to lead to economic challenges for people and industries along these rivers, and shifting seasonal patterns in greenhouse gas emissions from the ice-affected rivers.”

The team also looked at changes to river ice cover in the past, and modelled predicted changes for the future. Comparing river ice cover from 2008-2018 and 1984-1994, the team found a monthly global decline ranging from3 to 4.3 percentage points. The greatest declines were found in the Tibetan Plateau, Eastern Europe, and Alaska.

“The observed decline in river ice is likely to continue with predicted global warming,” the study explains.

For the future, the team compared expected river ice cover through 2009-2029 and 2080-2100. Findings showed monthly declines in the Northern Hemisphere ranging from 9-15% in the winter months and 12-68% during the spring and fall. The Rocky Mountains, north-eastern United States, Eastern Europe, and the Tibetan Plateau are expected to take the heaviest impact.

“Ultimately, what this study shows is the power of combining massive amounts of satellite imagery with climate models to help better project how our planet will change,” said UNC-Chapel Hill Associate Professor of Global Hydrology Tamlin Pavelsky.

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“Jane” and “Petey” reveal mystery of how big T. rex grew Thu, 02 Jan 2020 08:00:28 +0000 T. rex, the most famous dinosaur in the world, would have been slightly taller than a draft horse and twice as long

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In the famous movie “Jurassic World”, the film’s creators portrayed pterosaurs as huge dinosaurs flying in the air with talons that can swipe people from the ground and throw them away, although the last pterosaur was estimated to live millions of years before the evolution of humans.

While the tyrannosaurus rex (T. rex) is a very popular and legendary predator with a length of about 12 metres with a longitudinal head of up to five metres, containing strong teeth that can easily crush bones, we know relatively little about how large it was.

In a new study published in the journal Science Advances on Wednesday, a research team led by the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences examined the bones of two non-adult and medium-sized pterosaurs to explore more information about the legendary and ancient creature.

In early 2000s, the fossils of two comparatively small T. rex skeletons were collected from Carter County, Montana, by Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford, Illinois. 

Scientists nicknamed the two skeletons as “Jane” and “Petey”, noting that the tyrannosaurs would have been slightly taller than a draft horse and twice as long.

Lead author of the study Holly Ballard, Ph.D., from Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences said that many museums used to collect the biggest and most impressive fossils of a dinosaur species for display. 

“The problem is that those smaller fossils may be from younger animals. So, for a long time we’ve had large gaps in our understanding of how dinosaurs grew up, and the T. rex is no exception,” she added. 

Ballard told Daily News Egypt that the tyrannosaurus rex is the most famous dinosaur in the world, but we know relatively little about how it grew so big. To help answer this question, the bone tissue microstructure of two half-grown T. rexes was examined. Bone microstructure reveals how fast an animal was growing, how old it was when it died, and whether or not it was an adult. 

“When we looked at the leg bone microstructure in these two dinosaurs, we found they were growing quickly, showed no sign of approaching adult size, and were about 13-15 years of age. Taken together, our results refute the hypothesised presence of a smaller tyrannosaur living alongside the T. rex called ‘Nanotyrannus’. Instead, these smaller tyrannosaurs were juvenile T. rexes,” Woodward noted. 

She explained further that because the T. rex took about 20 years to reach adulthood, the paper’s results support a growing body of evidence that the T. rex was able to exclude other carnivores from the mid-sized carnivore niche, giving it the ruling Hell Creek Formation that made it such a apex carnivore.

In order to get to the findings of the study, the researchers used bone histology, the study of bone tissue microstructure. From the microstructure, the scientists were able to obtain a cross-section from the leg bones of each tyrannosaur. 

“We glued this cross-section to a glass slide and polished it down on a grinder-polisher wheel until the fossil section was so thin that light can pass through. This usually occurs at about 60 micrometres in total thickness. To view the bone tissue, we used a polarising microscope and a total magnification between 20x and 100x. At this level we observed bone tissue organisation, blood vessel canals, and the cavities that housed bone cells,” Woodward added. 


The results of this study are so important because this is the first time the bone histology of a juvenile T. rex has been described in detail, and the conclusions help add to our understanding of the most famous dinosaur in the world. 

According to researchers, we have known very little about how the T. rex grew, and this research helps fill in some of those gaps. It also shows us that the T. rex was very successful ecologically: although it took 20 years to reach adult size, this allowed for the T. rex to exploit various ecological carnivore niches as it grew bigger. Essentially, the T. rex only had competition for a certain food source from other T. rexes of the same size.


Ballard said that the results of the study are part of a larger study she and her team began in 2014, to explore in detail the growth dynamics of the Tyrannosaurus rex and its close relatives. The results they report on here will be incorporated into this larger study.


One point that wasn’t discussed in detail in the paper is that right now, only two juvenile T. rexes have been histologically examined in any detail (the two in this study), but it is important for future studies to histologically examine more specimens, both older and younger, to complete the picture. Although histology removes a part of bone for analysis, scientists still know nothing about T. rex growth rates or ages.

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New study investigates reasons behind lack of staph vaccines Sat, 28 Dec 2019 11:42:51 +0000 New approach points to untapped immune cells, early immunisation

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Staph bacteria, the leading cause of potentially dangerous skin infections, are most feared for the drug-resistant strains that have become a serious threat to public health. Attempts to develop a vaccine against methicillin antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) have failed to outsmart the superbug’s ubiquity and adaptability to antibiotics.

Now, a study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis may help explain why previous attempts to develop a staph vaccine have failed, while also suggesting a new approach to vaccine design. This approach focuses on activating an untapped set of immune cells, as well as immunising against staph in utero or within the first few days after birth.

The research on mice found that T cells – one of the body’s major types of highly specific immune cells – play a critical role in protecting the body against staph bacteria. Most vaccines rely solely on stimulating the other main type of immune cells, the B cells, which produce antibodies to attack disease-causing microorganisms such as bacteria.

The findings were published online this week in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

“Across the globe, staph infections have become a pervasive health threat because of increasing antibiotic resistance,” said senior author Juliane Bubeck-Wardenburg, MD, PhD, director of the Washington University’s Division of Pediatric Critical Care.

“Despite the medical community’s best efforts, the superbug has shown a consistent ability to elude treatment. Our findings indicate that a robust T cell response is absolutely essential for protection against staph infections,” he added.

Highly contagious, staph survives and thrives on human skin and can be spread through skin-to-skin contact or exposure via contaminated surfaces. Generally, the bacteria live harmlessly and invisibly in about one-third of the population. From their residence on the skin, the bacteria can cause red, pus-filled sores. Ever persistent, the superbug will deliver recurrent infections in about half of its victims.

Staph strains can enter the bloodstream, bones, or organs and lead to pneumonia, severe organ damage and other serious complications in hundreds of thousands of people each year. More than 10,000 people die in the US from drug-resistant staph infections annually.

“The focus in the vaccine field for Staphylococcus aureus during the past 20 years has been on generating antibody responses, not on specific T cell responses,” Bubeck-Wardenburg said, adding, “This new approach shows promise.”

For nearly 15 years, Bubeck-Wardenburg has studied a single toxin — called alpha-toxin — made by staph. This toxin plays a role in tissue damage in multiple forms of infection. “An important thing about the alpha-toxin is that it is found in all staph strains, meaning those that are and are not antibiotic-resistant,” she said. “Understanding this allowed us to devise studies in mice that examined the effect of alpha-toxin on the immune response in minor skin infections as well as in more serious infections that spread in the bloodstream.”

The researchers found that the immune cells did not protect mice that had minor staph infections on their skin. However, mice that were exposed to life-threatening staph infections in the bloodstream did develop protection. “We discovered a robust T cell response targeting staph in the bloodstream,” Bubeck-Wardenburg said. “By contrast, T cells were diminished in skin infections as a result of the toxin. Because skin infection is very common, we think that staph uses alpha-toxin to prevent the body from activating a T cell response that affords protection against the bacteria.”

In terms of the big picture, Bubeck-Wardenburg said blocking the toxin in skin infections may yield a healthy T cell response.

Further, protecting the T cell response from the time of birth may re-programme the bacteria’s overall effect on the immune system. “This bug is deliberate and acts in a sinister way early on,” she said. “The bug appears to be using the toxin to shape the T cell response in a way that’s favourable for the bug but not for humans.”

Previous vaccine development efforts have focused on adults. However, Bubeck-Wardenburg said, a vaccine may be more likely to succeed if administered before infants first encounter staph. Therefore, immunization should happen before initial exposure to staph, to block the toxin and generate a vigorous T cell response.

“We envision two strategies,” Bubeck-Wardenburg said. “One is immunising pregnant women so they can transfer antibodies that protect infants against the toxin at birth. The second involves immunising infants within a day or two after birth. Neither of these strategies has been considered for staph vaccines to date.”

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Intermittent fasting could be part of a healthy lifestyle: research Sat, 28 Dec 2019 11:41:26 +0000 This eating pattern can modify risk factors associated with obesity and diabetes

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For many people, New Year is a time to adopt new habits as a renewed commitment to personal health. Enthusiastic fitness buffs pack into gyms and grocery stores filled with shoppers eager to try out a new diet.

But, are these diets scientific evidence-based? In a review article published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Mark Mattson, professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, explains what intermittent fasting does.

Mattson, who has studied the health impact of intermittent fasting for 25 years, and adopted it himself for about 20 years, believes that “intermittent fasting could be part of a healthy lifestyle.”

His new article is intended to clarify the science and clinical applications of intermittent fasting in ways that may help physicians guide patients who want to try it.

Intermittent fasting, he clarifies, fall generally into two categories: daily time-restricted feeding, which narrows eating times to six-eight hours per day, and so-called 5:2 intermittent fasting, in which people limit themselves to one moderate-sized meal two days each week.

An array of animal and some human studies have shown that alternating between times of fasting and eating supports cellular health, probably by triggering an age-old adaptation to periods of food scarcity called metabolic switching. Such a switch occurs when cells use up their stores of rapidly accessible, sugar-based fuel, and begin converting fat into energy in a slower metabolic process.

Mattson says studies have shown that this switch improves blood sugar regulation, increases resistance to stress, and suppresses inflammation. Because most Americans eat three meals plus snacks each day, they do not experience the switch, or the suggested benefits.

In the article, Mattson notes that four studies in both animals and people found intermittent fasting also decreased blood pressure and lipid levels, and rested heart rates.

Evidence is also mounting that intermittent fasting can modify risk factors associated with obesity and diabetes, says Mattson. Two studies at the University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust of 100 overweight women showed that those on the 5:2 intermittent fasting diet lost the same amount of weight as women who restricted calories, but did better on measures of insulin sensitivity and reduced belly fat than those in the calorie-reduction group.

Recently, he adds, preliminary studies suggest that intermittent fasting could benefit brain health too. A multicentre clinical trial at the University of Toronto in April found that 220 healthy, nonobese adults who maintained a calorie restricted diet for two years showed signs of improved memory in a battery of cognitive tests. While far more research needs to be done to prove any effects of intermittent fasting on learning and memory, Mattson says if that proof is found, the fasting – or a pharmaceutical equivalent that mimics it – may offer interventions that can stave off neurodegeneration and dementia.

“We are at a transition point where we could soon consider adding information about intermittent fasting to medical school curricula alongside standard advice about healthy diets and exercise,” he says.

Mattson acknowledges that researchers do “not fully understand the specific mechanisms of metabolic switching and that “some people are unable or unwilling to adhere” to the fasting regimens. Yet, he argues that with guidance and some patience, most people can incorporate them into their lives. It takes some time for the body to adjust to intermittent fasting, and to get beyond initial hunger pangs and irritability that accompany it. “Patients should be advised that feeling hungry and irritable is common initially and usually passes after two weeks to a month as the body and brain become accustomed to the new habit,” Mattson adds.

To manage this hurdle, he suggests that physicians advise patients to gradually increase the duration and frequency of the fasting periods over the course of several months, instead of “going cold turkey.” As with all lifestyle changes, says Mattson, it’s important for physicians to know the scientific evidence so they can communicate potential benefits, harms, and challenges, and offer support.

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Last known appearance of Homo erectus dates back to 108,000-117,000 years ago: study Wed, 18 Dec 2019 18:01:39 +0000 Homo erectus is one of direct ancestors of modern humans migrated from Africa to Asia before 2m years ago

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In 1891, a Dutch army surgeon, Eugène Dubois announced that he has found a well-preserved skullcap at Trinil on the Solo River. The fossils had prominent brow ridges, retreating forehead, and angled rear skull. After a few years, near where the skull was discovered, Dubois found a remarkably complete and modern-looking femur. 

This bone was so similar to a modern human femur to the extent that made Dubois decided that the individual to which it belonged must have walked erect, determining that the fossils he had found belong to “Homo erectus”, one of the direct ancestors of modern humans.

About 40,000 years ago, the Homo erectus has disappeared, but this disappearance has an only exception in a location called Ngandong on the Indonesian island of Java, where researchers were unable to agree on a precise time period for the site, until now.

In a new study published by Nature on Wednesday, an international team of researchers announced that they were able to estimate the last existence of Homo erectus at Ngandong was between 108,000 and 117,000 years ago.

The researchers believe that the last time Homo erectus was seen in Java predated the arrival of modern humans on the island by at least 35,000 years. The study was led by the University of Iowa; Macquarie University; and the Institute of Technology Bandung, Indonesia. 

Homo erectus migrated from Africa to Asia before 2m years ago, when sea levels were low due to glacial periods, and Java was connected to mainland Asia by a land bridge which allowed Homo erectus to walk to the present-day island. Scientists believe that Homo erectus was the first of human’s relatives to have human-like body proportions, with shorter arms and longer legs relative to its torso. 

In this paper, the research team time-stamped the site by dating animal fossils from the same bonebed where 12 Homo erectus skull caps and two tibia had been found, and then dated the surrounding land forms—mostly terraces below and above Ngandong—to establish an accurate record for the primeval humans’ possible last stand on Earth.

They present 52 new age estimates for the Ngandong evidence. They include animal fossil fragments and sediment from the rediscovered fossil bed where the original Homo erectus remains were found by Dutch surveyors in the 1930s, and a sequence of dates for the river terraces below and above the fossil site.

Dating the stalagmites from caves in the Southern Mountains of Ngandong enabled the researchers to determine when these mountains first rose, and then determine when the Solo River began coursing through the Ngandong site, and the river terrace sequence was created.

“We have for the first time convincingly established the exact timing for the extinction of Homo erectus, one of our most important ancestors. Homo erectus is a major part of our human evolution story. The site of Ngandong in Java containing 12 skulls caps and two lower leg bones of Homo erectus representing their last known appearance, yet it has had no convincing timeline for over 90 years,” said Kira Westaway, associate professor at Macquarie University and a co-lead author on the paper. 

Westaway told Daily News Egypt that the research team was able to succeed where others did not because they have tried a different approach relied on dating the burial sediments. Instead of just focusing on the fossils themselves, the team used their place in the landscape system to constrain them on multiple levels. Each stage constrains the one above and below, by doing this we could see that a younger or older age for Ngandong is not possible. 

Regarding the importance of the findings of the paper, Westaway said that knowing when this species became extinct helps us understand where they sit in the evolutionary tree, with whom they interacted, and why they became extinct.

According to the researcher, the paper’s conclusion clearly shows that the previous claims that Homo erectus and modern humans overlapped in this region are misguided. However, the new age range for the Ngandong Homo erectus does open up the possibility for interactions with another hominid, the Denisovans, known from the cold caves of Russia. 

“This is a human species [Denisovans] more known for its genetic make-up rather than actual fossils but we suspect that this species roamed as far as Southeast Asia and may have interacted with the Ngandong Homo erectus. This is yet to be proven but the possibility of intermixing with Denisovans is an exciting prospect well worth exploring,” Westaway illustrated. 

Russell Ciochon, professor in the Department of Anthropology at Iowa and co-corresponding author on the study, attributed the extinction of Homo erectus to environmental change. He explained to DNE that this species has arrived in the Indonesian archipelago in a time when Ngandong was mostly grassland, but around 130,000 years ago, the environment at Ngandong changed and Homo erectus was likely unable to adapt to this new rainforest environment.

Homo erectus was an incredibly long-lived species with a massive geographic distribution which makes it one of the most successful hominins that ever lived, “our research shows that Homo erectus did not survive late enough to interact with modern humans on Java. Ngandong is the youngest known Homo erectus site in the world, so there is no evidence that they encountered modern humans,” said Ciochon. 

He stressed that the current study provides the age of the last known appearance of Homo erectus, but it does not mean that this is the age of extinction to this group, noting that small groups of Homo erectus may have lived longer without leaving fossil evidence. 


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New fossil uncovered in Wadi Al Hitan reveals secrets of whale locomotion Wed, 11 Dec 2019 19:05:58 +0000 Aegicetus gehennae dates back to around 47 to 41m years ago, among best-preserved ancient whales 

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In early 2017, during a usual trip in the Wadi Al Hitan World Heritage Site in the Western Desert of Egypt, Mohammed Sameh, the manager of geology and fossils in the Nature Conservation Administration at the Ministry of Environment discovered a site of many pieces of fossils of an ancient whale. 

About 37 years ago at the Fayoum desert, where the 200-square-kilometre Wadi Al-Hitan is located, was covered with water as part of the old Mediterranean Sea “Tethys Sea” which existed about 200 million years ago. 

The Tethys Sea existed over Fayoum almost 200m years ago, before shrinking North and becoming the Mediterranean Sea and desertification turning the sea floor into a desert.

At first glance, Sameh thought that he had found the juniors of Basilosaurus isis, a genus of large, predatory whale, but after doing some research and consultation with other scientists, Sameh and his research team found that their new discovery was a new species and an important step in the evolution of whale locomotion. 

According to a recent paper published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, the uncovered fossils describe a new genus and species of protocetid named Aegicetus gehennae which was dated back to around 41m to 47m years ago. 

Protocetids are a group of early whales known from the Eocene Epoch of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. While modern whales are fully aquatic and use their tails to propel themselves through the water, most protocetids are thought to have been semi-aquatic and swam mainly with their limbs.

The newly discovered creature appears to have been well-adapted for swimming through undulation of the mid-body and tail, similar to how crocodiles swim today, and is among the best-preserved ancient whales. 

Philip Gingerich of the University of Michigan and the first author of the paper said that Aegicetus gehennae is a new Eocene-age fossil whale and the principal specimen of Aegicetus has an exceptionally complete skeleton of an animal 3.5 meters long that probably weighed about 900 kg when it was alive. 

It is distinctive among early whales in retaining relatively large functional hind limbs, but the pelvis and hind limbs were no longer firmly connected to the vertebral column or backbone. Much of the vertebral column including the tail is elongated for a whale of this type, indicating that Aegicetus swam by some form of possibly eel-like mid-body through tail undulation,” Gingerich told Daily News Egypt.

He explained further that this form of swimming is transitional between the foot-powered swimming of earlier whales and the tail-powered swimming of modern whales. “The main thing the new fossil shows is that the transition from foot-powered swimming to tail-powered swimming was through an intermediate elongated-body undulatory stage,” he noted. 

The body shape of Aegicetus is similar to that of other ancient whales of its time, such as the famous Basilosaurus, however, the Basilosaurs isis was longer that Aegicetus, as it was an 15 metres long and 1.5 metric tonnes whale which was an apex predator and lived in the late Eocene, about  38m to 34m years ago. 

“This paper documents a previously unknown protocetid whale, which is an early type of whale that is thought to be amphibious. Also, these findings represents the youngest ever discovery of a semi-aquatic early whale,” Mark D. Uhen, professor of palaeontology at George Mason University, US told DNE. 

He further explained that findings of the paper help to document the transition of whales from fully terrestrial mammals to fully aquatic mammals.

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New research confirms timing of tropical glacier melt at the end of last ice age Wed, 11 Dec 2019 17:01:57 +0000 Decrease in temperature differences may have forced warming at low latitudes

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Tropical glaciers in Africa and South America began their retreat simultaneously at the end of the last ice age about 20,000 years ago, a Dartmouth College study suggests.

The finding of synchrony in ice retreat across the global tropics clarifies how the low latitudes transformed during one of Earth’s most extreme climate change events and can help current-day predictions of our own climate future.

The study, published by Science Advances, supports the overwhelming scientific consensus on the role of carbon dioxide in causing global climate change, but adds additional levels of complexity to the understanding of the Earth’s climate system and how ice ages rapidly end. The result also adds to the understanding of the sequencing of glacial retreat between the tropics and the polar regions at the time.

“Carbon dioxide is what caused the Earth to come out of the last ice age,” said Meredith Kelly, an associate professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at Dartmouth and senior researcher in the study.

“But there are also processes that began before carbon dioxide increased that are important to the overall story of how the period ended, and that’s what we wanted to understand,” he added.

According to the Dartmouth study, glaciers in tropical Africa and South America reached their maximum extents about 21,000-29,000 years ago and then began to melt. This retreat is earlier than the significant rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide recorded at about 18,200 years ago.

The findings demonstrate a trend of increasing tropical temperatures across the planet and suggest that the warming may have been caused by a reduction in the temperature differences between the Earth’s polar regions and the tropics.

At the end of the last ice age in the Arctic, small changes in Earth’s orbit resulted in more solar radiation and warmer temperatures, and caused a retreat of the northern ice sheets. In Antarctica, the change of the planet’s angle to the sun created longer summers. The reduction in the temperature gradient between the poles and the tropics slowed the movement of heat out of the low latitudes to the extreme north and south, making the tropics warmer and resulting in faster loss of glaciers in the region.

Once changes in ocean and atmospheric circulation patterns and the upsurge in carbon dioxide took over, the planet was left in an overwhelming warming spiral that melted ice sheets near the poles and all but eliminated glaciers in the tropics.

“Just a couple of thousand years could make all the difference in our understanding of past and present climate change events,” said Margaret Jackson, the lead author of the study and a PhD student at Dartmouth.

“This study shows that glaciers were responding to warming even before the deglacial rise in carbon dioxide pushed the planet over the edge to end the last ice age,” he added.

In addition to a simultaneous, pan-tropical warming, the study’s additional finding that tropical glaciers reached their maximum extents at the same time as glaciers at higher latitudes confirms a global synchrony of cooling during the last ice age.

Field research for the study was conducted on glacial moraines in the equatorial Rwenzori Mountains located on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mountain glaciers, particularly those located at high elevations in tropical regions, are sensitive to changes in temperature. The study used the past extents of tropical glaciers to infer past changes in tropical temperatures.

Researchers determined the timing of tropical glacier advance and retreat by analysing beryllium-10, a radioactive isotope that is produced in quartz. Since beryllium-10 is only made when a rock surface is exposed to the atmosphere, its concentration indicates the amount of time since a glacial moraine was deposited.

Prior research using beryllium-10 dating indicated that some tropical glaciers achieved their maximum extents during the height of the last ice age. But those findings were limited to South America. The Dartmouth study recalculated the previously-determined data taken from sites across tropical South America and extended the findings to tropical East Africa to demonstrate that glacier loss during this period was a pan-tropical phenomenon.

“We knew from past work that tropical glaciers in South America may have retreated early, but we didn’t know how widespread the phenomenon was. The Rwenzori Mountains proved to be the perfect outdoor laboratory to confirm the pan-tropical timing of past climate change,” said Jackson.

While ice core records from the tropics are available to researchers, interpreting information about past climate from them can be complex. Since the tropics are far from the direct cooling of high latitude ice sheets, the region can be used to better understand global temperatures during the last glacial period and help provide clues about how Earth’s temperature changed over time.

The study also helps researchers understand how temperature gradients, greenhouse gasses, atmospheric circulation and ocean circulation work together to cause the planet to “flip” between cold and warm periods.

“Today’s planet is entering a new climate mode that is unprecedented in the last millions of years,” said Kelly. “Models of past change events can help us predict the future, and our more complete understanding of the tropics serves as an important piece of puzzle.”

Existing research on tropical glaciers during the last ice age is constrained to Africa and South America. Future work aims to determine whether sites in other regions can add to the understanding of global climate change.

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Climate change and geopolitical stress threaten globe’s natural “water towers” Wed, 11 Dec 2019 16:10:39 +0000 These factors threaten the water resources on which 1.9 billion people depend

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A recent study revealed a new threat to about 1.9 billion people who depend on meltwater coming from glaciers and mountain basins that cover vast areas of land all over the world to meet their water needs.

The study, published in Nature scientific journal on Monday, describes these mountain basins as natural “water towers,” which researchers say are experiencing significant degradation under the pressures caused by climate change and several political, social, and economic factors. 

Compared to the plain region, a natural water tower generates seasonally a high runoff of rainwater, as a result of precipitation and then delaying its release by storing it in snow and glaciers (due to low temperatures at high altitudes) and in small lakes in these towers.

The 32-member research team from different international universities led by the Dutch Utrecht University, has identified 78 units of water towers worldwide. The study defines a “water tower unit” as the intersection between a major river basin and the mountains that supply it with water.

Using several indicators, such as precipitation, the size of glacier, the snow cover, and the rates of demand for this water, whether for irrigation, industry, or domestic use, the researchers were able to assess the sensitivity of these units to climate change as well as political and social factors.

Walter Immerzeel, professor of mountain hydrology at the University of Utrecht and lead author of the study, told Daily News Egypt that his research team has for the first time categorised these units according to their importance for neighbouring lowland societies, as well as their degree of exposure to future environmental, social, and economic factors. 

These factors threaten the water resources on which the 1.9 billion people who live in these regions depend, nearly a quarter of the world’s population. These factors included political tensions, climate change, population changes, and GDP rates.

“Mountains are vital to the Earth’s water system, and the most important mountain ranges on Earth are most vulnerable to future changes, so preserving natural water towers is necessary to protect mountain ecosystems and their inhabitants, and ensure water, food and energy security for a quarter of the world’s population at one time,” Immerzeel added.

According to the findings of the study, the area of ​​the upper Indus River Basin – which consists of vast areas of the Himalayas that cover parts of Afghanistan, China, India, and Pakistan – is the most important water tower unit, and it is also the weakest due to the large population growth in one of the world’s most densely populated areas, in addition to projected economic growth and increased pressure from climate change.

The water towers of the Andes, the Rocky Mountains of the Americas, the European Alps, and the mountains of the Ganges basin in Asia also face the same challenges.

Therefore, the study stresses the need to develop international policies and strategies to protect these distinct ecosystems from the impacts of climate change and various political and social factors.

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Climate change could affect 94% of Egypt’s coral reef tourism value Sun, 08 Dec 2019 07:00:17 +0000 Extreme events, coral bleaching are among climate-related issues placing tourism at risk

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Coral reefs tourism is a significant component of Egypt’s beach tourism, as the country which has two large coasts in the Mediterranean and Red seas gains about $7 bn per year from this sector of coastal tourism. However, due to climate change, all of this could change in just a few years.

According to a recent study by a team of international researchers, Egypt, among other coastal countries in the world such as Mexico, Indonesia, Maldives, Malaysia, Australia, and Thailand, are at risk of losing about 95% of their income from coral reef tourism if world nations don’t take serious action in combatting the rise of planet-warming emissions.

Despite Egypt’s coral reefs’ situation, it is not the worst among the list of countries affected by the rise of global warming, but is believed to be highly affected in terms of economics as Egypt ranks number one in the world in terms of countries with the highest coral reef tourism values, gaining $ 6bn. It could suffer from 94% income cuts in revenues by 2100.


On-reef tourism value pertains to in-water activities such as diving, snorkeling, and glass-bottom boats. Adjacent-reef tourism value captures a range of indirect benefits from coral reefs, including the provision of sandy beaches, sheltered water, seafood, and attractive views. 

The paper which was highlighted on the sidelines of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Madrid, Spain last week, was commissioned by the leaders of 14 countries with ocean-dependent economies and looked at ocean fisheries seafood cultivation industries, and coral reef tourism.

Findings from the paper illustrated that coral reef tourism is not the only tourism sector that will be impacted by climate change, but also other non-reef coastal attractions such as the coastal glaciers in Ilulissat Icefjord, Denmark, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and coastal cities like Venice, Italy or Alexandria, Egypt. 

“Coastal tourism and other marine-related recreational activities contributes substantially to the tourism sector. Around 121 million people each year participate in ocean-based tourism, spending $47bn in 2003 and supporting one million jobs,” according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) special report on the ocean and cryosphere in a changing climate. The report noted that extreme events and coral bleaching are among the climate-related issues placing tourism at risk.

Enhancing coral reef resilience to climate change and reducing the negative impacts of climate change and associated ocean disturbances to coastal economies, requires improving the resilience of marine and coastal ecosystems to climate change. Establishing marine protected areas and Marine Protected Areas (MPA) networks can help improve the ecological resilience of coral reefs. MPAs protect marine ecosystems and their services from environmental uncertainties.

Elena Ojea, a senior researcher at the University of Vigo, Spain, and one of the authors of the research paper, told reporters that; ‘action in reducing emissions really needs to be taken, or we will be facing very important impacts on oceans and people.”

Ojea warned that the 30 million people directly employed in ocean fishing each year will be heavily affected as fish struggle with hotter and more acidic oceans and move to new regions or die.

About a month ago, the Reef-World Foundation and Chamber of Diving and Watersports (CDWS) called for tourists and operators to remember the actions they can take to protect the precious coral reefs in tourist destinations on the Egyptian Red Sea coast. The foundation also announced that Egypt has adopted the Green Fins environmental standards to protect its coral reefs. Green Fins is an ambitious action plan to strengthen sustainability within the marine tourism sector across Egypt.


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Small population, inbreeding could have led to Neanderthal’s demise Wed, 27 Nov 2019 20:47:34 +0000 Neanderthal extinction coincided with modern humans’ migration into Near East and Europe

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A new study revealed that small populations, inbreeding, and random demographic fluctuations could have been the reasons behind the Neanderthal extinction around 40,000 years ago, according to paleoanthropologists.

The paper was published on Wednesday on the open-access journal PLOS ONE by researchers from Eindhoven University of Technology, the Netherlands. Their findings exonerate humans from causing the Neanderthal’s disappearance, suggesting that “the species” demise might have been due merely to a stroke of bad, demographic luck.”

Neanderthals are extinct species of archaic humans who lived in Eurasia about 430,000 years ago. Scientists divide them into three subcategories: the early Neanderthals who lived between 430,000 and 130,000 years, followed by the classic Neanderthals who lived from 130,000 to 47,000 years, then the late Neanderthals who lived between 47 thousand to 28 thousand years.

Little was known about the genetic diversity of Neanderthals, or the relationship between them and modern humans, for which studies have long reported friction before the eventual disappearance.

The first fossil of a Neanderthal man was discovered in 1856 in the Neander Valley, Germany, and Neanderthals are the sister group of all modern humans. Previous studies have revealed similarities between the human genome and the Neanderthal genome, a move that has led to the identification of genetic traits of current humans.

The Neanderthal’s extinction happened about the same time that anatomically modern humans began migrating into the Near East and Europe.

However, the role modern humans played in Neanderthal extinction is disputed. In this study, the authors used population modelling to explore whether Neanderthal populations could have vanished without external factors such as competition from modern humans.

Scientists remain puzzled by the sudden extinction of Neanderthals, some 40,000 years ago, but Krist Vaesen, associate professor of the philosophy of innovation at the department of Philosophy and Ethics, Eindhoven University of Technology told Daily News Egypt that his research suggests that scientists might have been too quick in attributing the demise of Neanderthals to the invasion of our species, Homo sapiens. 

“Relying on models from conservation biology, we conclude that the downfall of Neanderthals may have been the result of their small population size alone,” he said.

In the new study, the team used data from contemporary hunter-gatherer populations as parameters, the authors developed population models for simulated Neanderthal populations of various initial sizes (50, 100, 500, 1,000, or 5,000 individuals). 

After that, researchers simulated for their model, the effects of inbreeding Allee effects -which is a phenomenon in biology where reduced population size negatively impacts individuals’ fitness- and annual random demographic fluctuations in births, deaths, and the sex ratio, to see if these factors could bring about an extinction event over a 10,000-year period.

Vaesen further explained that the team used a set of mathematical and computer models from conservation biology to represent Neanderthal populations. And then let these populations undergo three processes that small populations are particularly vulnerable to: inbreeding, difficulties in mate-finding, and random fluctuations (in mortality and reproduction). 

“To our own surprise, we found that even if Neanderthals had been fully identical to modern humans, they faced, over time, a considerable risk of extinction, and this merely due to their small population size,” Vaesen added.

This suggests that no invasion of another species, let alone a superior species, was needed for them to vanish from the face of the earth. Neanderthals might simply have been unfortunate to have lived in small numbers.

The population model showed that inbreeding alone was unlikely to have led to extinction which has happened only in the smallest model population. However, reproduction-related Allee effects through which 25% or fewer Neanderthal females gave birth within a given year (as is common in modern hunter-gatherers) could have caused extinction in populations of up to 1,000 individuals. In conjunction with demographic fluctuations, Allee effects plus inbreeding could have caused extinction across all population sizes modelled within the 10,000 years allotted.

The population models are limited by their parameters, which are based on modern human hunter-gatherers and exclude the impact of the Allee effect on survival rates. It’s also possible that modern humans could have impacted Neanderthal populations in ways which reinforced inbreeding and Allee effects, but are not reflected in the models.

However, by modelling for demographic issues alone, the authors believe these models may serve as a “null hypothesis” for future competing theories—including the impact of modern humans on Neanderthals.

“We see the results of our study as a null hypothesis (no relation between the two measured subjects) against which other explanations need to be assessed. Regardless of whether external factors or resource competition played a role in the extinction of Neanderthals, our study suggests that any plausible explanation also needs to incorporate demographic factors as key variables,” said Vaesen.

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Almost 40% of species are vulnerable to climate change, study reveals Wed, 27 Nov 2019 20:41:06 +0000 Researchers investigate which proportion of the world's land plants are exceedingly rare

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Nearly 40% of global land plant species are categorised as very rare, and are most at risk for extinction as climate change continues to progress, a new University of Arizona-led research reveals.

The findings are published in a special issue of Science Advances journal that coincides with the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP25, in Madrid, Spain. The COP25 is a conference of convening nations to act on climate change. The international meeting runs from the second of December through 13 December 2019.

“When talking about global biodiversity, we had a good approximation of the total number of land plant species, but we didn’t have a real handle on how many there really are,” said lead Author Brian Enquist, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at University of Arizona.

Thirty-five researchers from institutions around the world worked for 10 years to compile 20 million observational records of the world’s land plants. The result is the largest dataset on botanical biodiversity ever created. The researchers hope this information can help reduce the loss of global biodiversity by informing strategic conservation action that takes into consideration the effects of climate change.

They found that there are about 435,000 unique land plant species on Earth.

“So that’s an important number to have, but it’s also just bookkeeping. What we really wanted to understand is the nature of that diversity and what will happen to this diversity in the future,” Enquist said.

“Some species are found everywhere – they’re like the Starbucks of plant species. But others are very rare – think a small standalone café,” he added.

Enquist and his team revealed that 36.5% of all land plant species are “exceedingly rare”, meaning they have only been observed and recorded less than five times ever.

“According to ecological and evolutionary theory, we would expect many species to be rare, but the actual observed number we found was actually pretty startling. There are many more rare species than we expected,” he added.

Moreover, researchers found that rare species tend to cluster in a handful of hotspots, such as the Northern Andes in South America, Costa Rica, South Africa, Madagascar, and Southeast Asia. These regions, they found, remained climatologically stable as the world emerged from the last ice age, allowing such rare species to persist.

But just because these species enjoyed a relatively stable climate in the past doesn’t mean they’ll enjoy a stable future. The research also revealed that these very rare-species hotspots are projected to experience a disproportionately high rate of future climatic changes and human disruption, Enquist added.

“We learned that in many of these regions, there’s increasing human activity such as agriculture, cities, towns, land use, and clearing. So that’s not exactly the best of news,” he said.

He added, “If nothing is done, this all indicates that there will be a significant reduction in diversity – mainly in rare species – because their low numbers make them more prone to extinction.”

And it’s these rare species that science knows very little about.

By focusing on identifying rare species, “this work is better able to highlight the dual threats of climate change and human impact on the regions that harbour much of the world’s rare plant species and emphasises the need for strategic conservation to protect these cradles of biodiversity,” said Patrick Roehrdanz a co-author on the paper and managing scientist at Conservation International.

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CDC recommends that people should not use THC-containing e-cigarette, or vaping, products Tue, 19 Nov 2019 18:00:55 +0000 CDC has identified vitamin E acetate as a chemical of concern among people with e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI).

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CDC has identified vitamin E acetate as a chemical of concern among people with e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI).

Recent CDC laboratory testing of bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid samples (fluid samples collected from the lungs) from 29 patients with EVALI submitted to CDC from 10 states found vitamin E acetate in all of the samples. Vitamin E acetate might be used as an additive, most notably as a thickening agent in THC-containing e-cigarette, or vaping, products.

CDC recommends that people should not use e-cigarette, or vaping, products that contain THC, particularly from informal sources like friends, or family, or in-person or online dealers. Until the relationship of vitamin E acetate and lung health is better understood, vitamin E acetate should not be added to e-cigarette, or vaping, products. In addition, people should not add any substance to e-cigarette or vaping products that are not intended by the manufacturer, including products purchased through retail establishments. CDC will continue to update guidance, as appropriate, as new data become available from this outbreak investigation.

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World scientists declare climate emergency Fri, 08 Nov 2019 14:08:22 +0000 More than 11,000 scientists endorse six steps to address climate emergency

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Scientific consensus on the threat of climate change is well established, going back 40 years to the First World Climate Conference held in Geneva in 1979. Over the ensuing decades, attendees of similar assemblies have cited the growing threat of a changing climate and admonished governments and other policymaking bodies to take action.

Writing in BioScience, members of a worldwide coalition of scientists argue that too little action has been taken. Citing humanity’s persistent failure to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, as well as a moral obligation among scientists to clearly warn humanity of any catastrophic threat, a group led by William J. Ripple and Christopher Wolf, both scientists with Oregon State University, have signed the “World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency,” published on Tuesday in the BioScience journal. 

With a focus on future action to reduce climate-change-related harm, the article describes graphical indicators, which they describe as “vital signs,” related to climate change and areas requiring immediate global action.

The authors explain that while some indicators related to human activities are broadly positive–such as declining birth rates and increased uptake of renewable fuels–most are not. Rather, they point to “profoundly troubling signs from human activities,” such as growing livestock populations, global tree cover loss, higher carbon dioxide emissions, and so forth. It is the authors’ hope that these “vital signs” may be used by policymakers, the private sector, and public to “understand the magnitude of this crisis, track progress, and realign priorities for alleviating climate change.”

Accomplishing such aims will require “major transformations in the ways our global society functions and interacts with natural ecosystems,” said the authors. They focus on six key objectives: energy sector reform, reduction of short-lived pollutants, ecosystem restoration, food system optimisation, the establishment of a carbon-free economy, and a stable human population.

Despite major concerns and significant work to come, Ripple and his colleagues see some room for optimism. “We are encouraged by a recent surge of concern. Governmental bodies are making climate emergency declarations. Schoolchildren are striking. Ecocide lawsuits are proceeding in the courts. Grassroots citizen movements are demanding change, and many countries, states, provinces, cities, and businesses are responding. Such swift actions are our best hope to sustain life on planet Earth, our only home.”

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Challenges, opportunities for solar irrigation in MENA evaluated Fri, 08 Nov 2019 14:01:54 +0000 Tele-metric monitoring system implemented by the ministry allows remote shutdown of solar power plant 

The post Challenges, opportunities for solar irrigation in MENA evaluated appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

The use of solar energy in the Arab region offers investment opportunities in various areas, including its usage in waste recycling plants, provision of electricity, groundwater pumping stations, and irrigation norias in a number of North African countries, including Egypt and Tunisia.

In a workshop held on the side-lines of the second edition of the annual Cairo Water Week, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in cooperation with the Egyptian Ministry of Irrigation, organised a session to discuss one of FAO’s irrigation projects based on the use of solar energy in Egypt and Tunisia.

During the workshop, Egyptian Farmer from Assiut governorate, Essam Hashim, briefly presented his experience in installing a solar irrigation station. With the assistance of the project, he had conducted feasibility studies for his 130-meter-deep well, where the experiment was a success and  saved a lot of money.

Hashim said that the experience was beneficial to him by up to 85%. His only problem is with technical support and maintenance and asked the ministry to help with.

From Tunisia, Farmer Salim Hezek presented the experience of a pilot project for the use of solar energy in the “Megrine” area of ​​Tunisia, which sells surplus power generated from the plants to the state electricity or the distribution company, to benefit the owners of the electricity for free.

The pilot project consists of a pumping station equipped with solar energy with a total capacity of 40 kilowatts (kW), irrigating 40 hectares of fruit trees such as olives, figs, and plums, in addition to a water tank with a capacity of 100 cubic metres (cm). The station operates for seven hours a day, three days a week.

The project which lasted for almost a year, has reduced water consumption by 30% and halved the price of electricity.

Regarding the experience of the Egyptian Ministry of  Water Resources and Irrigation,  Deputy Minister Ragab Abdel Azim, said that they have started to implement the use of solar energy for irrigation in underground wells instead of diesel in the past two years.

The project initially started in the New Valley governorate with a three-year plan to make all the wells of the governorate solar-powered. It was also implemented in the Delta governorates to operate irrigation systems using solar energy, and use the energy in a number of government buildings.


Regarding the dangers of using solar energy with regard to excessive use and depletion of underground reserves, Abdel Azim denies any dangers. He explains that the solar panels that are installed work for only seven hours a day in the duration of solar brightness. Thus, they reduce the number of pumping hours from 12 hours or more in case of using diesel to seven hours only because the panels do not store energy to use at night since it is costly.

On that note, Abdel Azim said assured there is no need to worry about the dangers of excessive pumping of groundwater because the ministry has launched awareness campaigns for users of this technology that explains the dangers of overuse of water in irrigation on the crop itself and on the strategic groundwater reserves.

“The characteristics of solar wells in the Bahariya Oasis have improved and the water level in the well has increased as a result of reducing the number of hours of water withdrawal,” added Abdel Azim.

With regards to ensuring the compliance of farmers with the ministry’s guidelines of use and quantities, Abdel Azim explained that the groundwater in Egypt is limited and non-renewable., and accordingly there is a need for the government to determine the proper amount of water to be used. It will also be implementing punishments for those who exceed the quantity of groundwater permissible.

Abdel Azim further explained that this is done through remote monitoring of wells after the installation of  meters on each one to monitor the quantities of pumping. “Even if the user increased the number of hours of operating the well, he will not be able to exceed the amount of water allowed to be pumped,” he stressed.

The tele-metric monitoring system recently implemented by the ministry allows remote shutdown of the solar power plant that operates the well. The system is highly accurate to avoid data collection errors by conventional methods and reduce both the chances of human error and expenses. It will also help in making decisions.

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Potential scenarios for filling GERD estimated Fri, 01 Nov 2019 19:48:04 +0000 The number of years should not be determined in advance, as this depends mainly on levels of annual water flows, says professor Peter Riad

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Negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) are still ongoing over its filling and operation. The Egyptians have been closely following the updates since both President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry repeatedly stressed the issue is a matter of life and death.

Daily News Egypt met with Peter Hany Riad, assistant professor at the Irrigation and Hydraulics Department, Faculty of Engineering at Ain Shams University, to clarify some unclear points regarding the different scenarios of filling the GERD reservoir.

Can you give us a brief summary about the GERD?

The GERD is a gravity dam on the Blue Nile River in Ethiopia. It has been under construction since 2011. It is in the Benishangul-Gumuz Region of Ethiopia, about 15 km east the country’s border with Sudan. Its reservoir capacity is 74bn cubic metre (cm), of which 14.8bn cm is dead storage and 59.2bn cm is active storage. 

The dam’s turbines are installed at a certain level to avoid the entrance of sediments inside the turbines. Below this level, water and sediments are entrapped which is the dead storage of the reservoir, while above this level is the active storage.

Its main purpose is generating electricity power at 16,153GW per year, in that case it will be the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa as well as the seventh largest in the world. 

What are the potential impacts of GERD on Egypt?

Many experts and studies are expecting significant impacts on Egypt, mainly during the filling stage of the GERD’s reservoir. This can be worse in years with average or low inflow from the Blue Nile. If no cooperation has occurred in the filling stage between the three countries, it is expected that a gradual decrease in Lake Nasser, High Aswan Dam’s reservoir, volume occurs and accordingly a shortage in power generation. 

Most of the population in Egypt (more than 100 million in 2019) relies heavily on the Nile River which is the main source of the water supply. The Nile represents more than 85% of the conventional water resources in Egypt, mostly consumed in irrigation. Rainfall in Egypt is scarce as it is estimated at 1.5bn cm per year, while rainfall in Ethiopia is around 820bn cm per year and in Sudan around 1.93trn cm per year.

Egypt is reusing agricultural drainage and treated waste water four to seven times per year to cover its needs. In Egypt, there are approximately 8.5m feddan allocated to agriculture, each feddan needs in average 5bn cm of water per year.

Peter Hany Riad

What are the GERD’s impacts on Sudan?

For Sudan, positive and negative impacts are expected. The main positive impacts are buying electricity from the power generated by the GERD, and accumulating large amounts of sediments upstream the dam, which in turn will extend the Sudanese dams. In addition, the flow coming out of the GERD will be uniform along the entire year, instead of being concentrated within three to four months per year, which used to cause many problems like inundation of the river banks or flooding villages.  

However, it will also cause severe reduction in the natural fertilizers that used to be carried out by the river to Sudan. In case of the dam’s failure, it will threaten the lives of thousands in Sudan. Moreover, the ecosystem in areas that the Nile River used to pass through will be affected as the water flow will be lower and controlled, and the groundwater table will be reduced.

What are the potential scenarios for filling the GERD?

Recently, I made a practical research study about the different scenarios for filling the GERD and their impacts on both countries, Egypt and Ethiopia. For this purpose, I have built up a model on excel using a long period of water inflow with historical data. 

In the first scenario, filling on predetermined number of years, five or seven years, which means equal cuts every year. In case of five years, the filling volume will be 74bn cm in five years which means 14.88bn cm per year. In case of the seven-year scenario, the filling volume in five years will be 74bn cm which means 10.63bn cm per year. 

In the second scenario which I support, the filling volume will be based on a percentage of the incoming flow in different cases either dry or wet seasons with different percentages.

Based on some historical data, some assumptions were considered. Egypt consumes at least 74bn cm annually from Lake Nasser, where evaporation losses annually amount to about 14% of the lake volume. The minimum critical level is 160 cm, but below this level there will be significant losses in hydropower generated by the High Aswan Dam and the agricultural lands might be lost and devastated.

What did your research conclude?

The main conclusions were that scenario one has a high risk to Egypt, especially in cases of frequent average or low incoming flow. It can also be impractical to Ethiopia especially in cases of frequent high incoming flow. 

The second scenario showed more flexibility for both countries; less risk to Egypt and more practical to Ethiopia. In cases of high inflow (above the average), maximum cutting percentage should be 30%. In cases of low inflow (below the average), maximum cutting percentage should be 20% or less (depending on the degree of the inflow). It is recommended to start filling, while Lake Nasser has a high level above 165m cm.

The number of years should not be determined in advance, as this depends mainly on degrees of the incoming flow annually. If the filling years has high flows, then the GERD reservoir will be filled faster and vice versa. 

Aswan High Dam

Why have you chosen the Aswan High Dam as a reference in your study? How similar is it to GERD?

The High Dam in southern Egypt impounds the largest man-made reservoir on the Nile River, Lake Nasser, with active capacity of 132bn cm. It is a multipurpose dam for flooding control, providing water storage for irrigation, and generating hydroelectricity. 

It is the safe valve against high floods and long-term storage against droughts. It protected Egypt from famine due to severe drought in the period from 1978 to 1987. It is expected that the High Dam and its reservoir will be the most influenced dam and impounded reservoir by the GERD, that is why my study was concentrated on the High Dam. 

What are your recommendations to overcome such challenges?

Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia are three great countries with common long history and civilisation. I believe that they can create from their challenges new opportunities for exchanging benefits and cooperation. Nile River used to be a strong bond not a conflict. 

The three countries should work together on realising the maximum development for each without harm to the others. There should be an insurance for countries which might be harmed, paid by the countries which get benefits or offer compensations. In cases of lost lands or changing crop yields, the other countries can offer new lands or offer percentage out of their profits to import the lost crops. 

It is highly important for the new dam to have an integrated management team consisting of many experts from the three countries. Models and researches should cover the impacts of the new dam to guarantee the best operation and control.

Many projects can be carried out or completed in upper basin countries to save so much water in new constructed canals like in Mashar basin, Bahr El Ghazal, and Jonglei. 

The post Potential scenarios for filling GERD estimated appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Meteorological Authority expects stable weather on Sunday Sat, 26 Oct 2019 20:50:37 +0000 As a result of “medicanes”, more than 20 people died in different governorates

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Egypt’s Meteorological Authority expects an improvement in Egypt’s weather following the state of instability that hit the country over the past five days. 

Light rainfall is predicted to occur in the coastal regions of Egypt on Sunday and the regular rates of temperatures are estimated to be restored, according to the authority’s statement.

Egypt and other countries of the eastern Mediterranean are currently facing an extremely unusual Mediterranean tropical-like cyclones, “medicanes” which is a rare climatic phenomenon reaching the strength of a Category 1 hurricane. 

As a result of this “medicanes” more than 20 people were killed in different governorates. 

According to the Official UK Meteorological Office, cluster of thunderstorms were monitored close to Cyprus “as a potential ‘medicane’ develops, something that is incredibly rare this far east in the Mediterranean.”

The office warned of expected flash flooding and rough sea waves on coastal zones.

This kind of climatic phenomenon are rare in the Middle East due to its tropical characteristics that are not totally applied in the east of the Mediterranean region. Additionally, tropical or semi tropical cyclones need vast water areas in order to be formed which is not the case in the Mediterranean Sea. 

On Thursday, Egypt’s Meteorological Authority issued warnings expecting increase of clouds and heavy rain and thunder over the governorates of Alexandria, Damietta, Kafr El Sheikh governorate, and the cities of Baltim, Rashid, Al-Arish, and Rafah. Nile Delta’s governorates are also facing heavy rain. 

There are warnings across the country calling upon people to stay at home and not go to schools. 

Moreover, the Ministry of Tourism announced on Friday halting all touristic tours across the country because of the bad weather.

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New innovations, techniques in water purification, irrigation presented in CWW exhibition Wed, 23 Oct 2019 18:49:50 +0000 The exhibition attracted numerous booths for organisations such as WMO, FAO

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The Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation hosted an exhibition on the side-lines of the second edition of the Cairo Water Week (CWW) held from 20 to 24 October in Cairo to promote and raise awareness over water issues. 

The exhibition included numerous booths for organisations such as the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the National Water Research Centre (NWRC), the Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP), and other organisations.  

One of the main silver exhibitors in the exhibition were the Science Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) schools. The curricula in these schools are based on innovation technology. Accordingly, its students presented two projects, one for treating sewage and industrial waters, and the second for an innovative irrigation system based “hydroponics,” a method of farming by immersing plants in water without soil.

One of the students involved in the projects, Mostafa Mahmoud, told Daily News Egypt (DNE) that with the help of the smart robot a school students developed, they were able to measure moisture in different parts of soil and estimate which parts of soil need water to provide it with its needs. 

The robot has a water tank to offer the water needed for the soil, and the entire system is controlled with a mobile connected to the robot. 

Home Pure Co, is a diamond exhibitor which presented a home pure filtration system with nine stages of filtration and more than 35 ultra-tech filter technology. 

Speaking to DNE, Mohamed Fathy from the production department in the company explained that the new purification system presented by Home Pure consists of nine stages such as the sediment filter, high-performing activated carbon block filter, and the antibacterial silver-lite stone. 

October University for Modern Sciences and Arts (MSA) also participated as a silver exhibitor. A team from the university presented new techniques in remote sensors to measure the water level in lakes and canals. The entire system is local-made by the team of the university. The new technique is operated by solar power. 

The Ministry of Military Production also participated through its purification unit which helps in rationalising the use of water through increasing the power of pumping water in taps but decreasing the amount itself. The system is now generalised in most governmental facilities. 

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Arab experience with urban nexus presented on the side-lines of CWW Wed, 23 Oct 2019 18:11:09 +0000 Urban nexus means coordinating water, energy and food sectors to achieve their security at the same time

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On the side-lines of the second edition of the Cairo Water Week (CWW) currently held in Cairo, the Regional Interdependence Dialogue Programme of the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), in cooperation with the Arab League, held a workshop entitled “Promoting Urban Nexus in the Middle East and North Africa”.

The workshop aims at discussing the concept of urban interdependence and the mechanisms of achieving it, highlighting the pivotal role of municipalities in achieving the nexus of water and energy sectors, and finding solutions for sustainable urban development.

Participants in the workshop presented successful experiences for achieving urban nexus in Arab municipalities in Jordan, Morocco, and Lebanon, in addition to presenting examples of sustainability projects in Egypt.

Head of Research at the Middle East Desalination Research Centre (MEDRC), Jauad El Kharraz explains that the concept of urban nexus is to coordinate water, energy, and food sectors to achieve the resources’ security in tandem. 

It also focuses on not using one of these resources at the expense of another, which requires coordination between decision-makers in the three sectors to coordinate sustainable policies to serve national and international strategies.

“In order for urban nexus to achieve tangible and rapid results, we must focus on implementing it at the local, small, and medium-sized cities, by calling on workers in each of the three sectors to discuss the policies and challenges of each sector, and then coordinate the implementation of the concept of nexus,” El Kharraz told Daily News Egypt.

He stresses the importance of involving the private sector in urban nexus projects, in addition to inviting scientists and researchers in these sectors to present the latest scientific experiments and technologies such as solar energy and water desalination.

El-Kharraz believes that the current application in the Arab region of the concept of urban nexus is highly successful, pointing out the importance of coordination among the different municipalities in the Arab region to benefit from the experiences of others.

Deputy governor of Giza in Egypt Lamia Abdel Kader, says the governorate is expanding solar projects to ease pressure on the electricity grid by setting up solar power plants to take advantage of Giza’s high solar brightness.

Abdel Kader told DNE that the governorate is working to educate citizens about projects implemented to rationalise consumption in water and energy. She pointed to the establishment of greywater treatment plants for use in the “landscape” such as irrigation of gardens and tree belts.

The Deputy Governor of Giza pointed out that the state is currently establishing three cities in the concept of sustainable city, which works to achieve nexus between the components of the urban system. These cities are the New Administrative Capital, the New City of El Alamein, and East Port Said.

Regarding the implementation of urban nexus in existing cities, she says it will take a long time and will face many difficulties.

“Giza is currently trying to reach an agreement with one of the companies involved in recycling solid waste to establish a factory serving the area of ​​Burqash in Al-Qanater. This plant will recycle solid waste in the region and neighbouring areas such as Kerdasa and Oseem, in addition to generating thermal and electricity power from this plant, “explains Abdelkader.

Director of the National Centre for Energy Research at the Royal Scientific Society in Jordan Mohiuddin Tawalbeh, said during the workshop that to achieve the urban nexus project in the Jordanian city of Karak, the municipalities in which the project was implemented were selected based on certain criteria depending on the desire to achieve urban nexus and the cooperation with the organisers of the project.

Tawalbeh referred to one of the successful examples of the project’s implementation in Jordan, the wastewater treatment plant in Khirbet Al-Samra municipality, which produces 90% of its energy needs, and uses treated water for agricultural purposes.

He also pointed to the successful re-use of ablution water from mosques, which he says is water that is almost completely clean and does not require much effort in purification. Many municipalities in Karak also succeeded in cooperating with the private sector to establish solar power plants.

Regarding the Lebanese experience,  Mayor of Jdeidet Chouf municipality Hesham Al-Fatayri, said that the municipality started implementing the urban nexus project with the support of GIZ and the partnership of civil society. 

The first municipality project was to develop a plan to reduce carbon emissions from the municipality by 40%.

One of the most important challenges faced by the Jdeidet Chouf municipality is the legislative challenge as decisions are taken and legislation is enacted at the national rather than the local level.

Workshop participants concluded that the private sector should be involved in the implementation of urban nexus projects to benefit from achieving profits while maintaining the sustainability of resources. They also highlighted the importance of coordination among the operators of the three sectors, and the increase of economic tools such as grants and financing to prevent unfair policies on water. In addition, the use of modern technology regarding water treatment and waste recycling.

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Years of fear: Egypt’s choices after GERD Fri, 18 Oct 2019 12:30:37 +0000 Science holds answers for Egypt’s water poverty 

The post Years of fear: Egypt’s choices after GERD  appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

In the tenth century, Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah – the sixth Fatimid caliph of Egypt – witnessed a significant problem as a water shortage crisis emerged in the country due to a severe decline in the River Nile’s levels at the time.

The Nile has a significance value for the Egyptians as it was the secret of the country’s ancient civilisation. To address the water shortage at the time, the Fatimid caliph thought about damming the river, and assigned the famous Arab mathematician and physicist Al-Hassan Ibn Al-Haytham to work on it. Proved to be an engineering challenge,  Ibn Al-Haytham has feigned illness to avoid the caliph’s wrath and punishment.

Over hundreds of years since this plan, Egypt’s rulers built numerous small dams and bridges until the establishment of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s. 

The Nile is Egypt’s lifeblood, as the country depends on its share to secure the Nile River Basin’s most populated country’s needs of water, by about 97%. This amount of water equals only 660 cubic metres (cm) per person, one of the world’s lowest annual per capita water share. 

But as population is expected to double in the next 50 years, Egypt is projected to have a critical countrywide fresh water and food shortages by 2025, according to a study conducted by the Geological Society of America (GSA). 

In the upcoming 30 years, Egypt’s population is estimated to reach 150 million which will lead to a decrease in the per capita share of water to be 350 cm/year. 

Now, Egypt is under pressure of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), but it still has some few choices to cope with the crisis, owing to science for bringing up most of these solutions. 

Years of fear 

Nowadays, Egypt is not fearing the floods of the river, but the mass hydraulic constructions by upstream countries such as the GERD which is 60% complete, and will be Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam on the Nile.

Negotiations between the three main concerned countries over the GERD; Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan, had reached a deadlock, particularly between Egypt and Ethiopia. 

Egypt receives about 70% of its water flow from the Blue Nile and Atbara River, both sourced in the Ethiopian plateau, then merge as the main Nile in the northern Sudan. 

Operation and filling period of the GERD are the main problematic issues between the concerned parties to reach solutions to amid the Ethiopian insistence on storage within a period of three years while Egypt requests a 7-year filing period.

Egypt’s Ministry of Irrigation blamed Ethiopia for the failure of negotiations, saying that Addis Ababa surprised the attendees of the trilateral technical meeting in Khartoum early this month, with a new proposal against all the previous agreements regarding the filing and operating rules of the GERD.

Addis Ababa argues that the GERD is essential for its societal and economic development because two-thirds of the country has been suffering from electricity shortage for too long.

According to the Ministry of Irrigation, the Ethiopian proposal excluded any guarantees for an annual discharge from the GERD, and dealing with future droughts and protracted droughts. 

Ethiopia also refused to discuss the rules of operating the dam, and insisted on limiting the negotiations of the filling phase and the rules of operation only during the filling phase. The Ethiopian stance contradicts the fifth article of the Declaration of Principles Agreement signed on 23 March 2015. It also violates the international legislations regarding constructing and managing dams over common rivers.  

Diplomatic efforts 

Professor of International Law Ayman Salama, told Daily News Egypt that the 2015 agreement stressed that only peaceful diplomatic means could be used to settle any dispute on applying the agreement between the three countries. He noted that the agreement did not mention the possibility of international arbitration among the three countries.

Salama added that if there is a good intention from the all parties, Egypt could request Ethiopia’s acceptance to go for the international arbitration, then the international arbitration committee will give the decision. 

Regarding Egypt’s further proposal to invite the World Bank (WB) to the negotiations, Salama said that Egypt did not inform the bank before applying the proposal to the Ethiopian side, and he believes that the bank itself would not accept mediation.  

In light of the failure of the negotiations, Egypt called for applying the Article 10 of the declaration of principles.

According to the Article 10, “If the parties [three countries] are unable to resolve the dispute through consultation or negotiation, they may jointly request for conciliation, mediation or refer the matter for the consideration of the Heads of State/Heads of Government.”

In response to the Egyptian call, the Sudanese Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, Yasser Abbas, rejected involving any fourth party into the negotiations, affirming his country’s trust in the current committee to reach a solution for the issue. 

Meanwhile, the United States issued a statement seconding the three countries in their negotiations to reach a cooperative, sustainable, and mutually beneficial agreement on filling and operating the GERD. 

Recycling drainage water

One of Egypt’s expected solutions for the water crisis is recycling the drainage water. Egypt’s Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Abdel Aty, said recently that the country is to invest in expanding its use of treated drainage water to be able to cope with the water shortage and other water-related disruptions.

“In Egypt, 10% of agricultural water is recycled drainage water, and that success could be matched in other countries where there is large-scale surface irrigation,” a recent joint report of the WB  and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

According to the report, Egypt set up a successful example that reusing the drainage water as unusual source of water could be effective and cheap.

The report pointed out Egypt’s approach of decentralising the responsibility of water management to local areas, for example, at Salheia city in the East Delta where a local groundwater association established a common management system and invested in a piped network, and now manages the aquifer sustainably. 

It highlighted the importance of achieving better understanding to the dynamics of water management, to ensure that water does not add to fragility, but rather promotes stability, and contributes to resilience in the region. 

The report also called for redoubling efforts towards sustainable and efficient management of water resources, reliable and affordable delivery of water services to all, and protection from water-related catastrophes.


Depending on the country’s ground water reservoir as well as desalinating the seawater could also be an additional solution to meet the domestic demand for water. A new study pointed out that the domestic water sector is one of the largest water users in Egypt, which consumes more than 16% of the total renewable water resources. 

Egypt is urgently required to have its plan to face the increase in the current consumption of domestic water from around 9.2bn cm in 2016 to about 15bn cm of water by 2040 from alternatives to the Nile waters, according to findings of the study that was published in the American Journal of Engineering Research (AJER).

According to the study, domestic water in Egypt is diverted from two main sources. The first source is surface water (SW) which supplies about 88.99% and the second one is groundwater, which supplies about 10.77% of total demands, and about 0.24% from sea water desalination. The major factor that affects the amount of diverted water for domestic use is the efficiency of the delivery networks. 

Osama Sallam, the author of the study and researcher at the Egyptian National Water Research Centre told DNE, “the groundwater and seawater desalination are together promising sources for meeting the future water needs of Egypt. By 2040, Egypt will need additional 5bn cm to meet the domestic use of water to reach the needed amount 15bn cm.” 

Sallam illustrated that the Egyptian groundwater reservoir is fresh and has a low level of salinity, thus allows meeting the future demand of domestic water, and is also cheaper than seawater desalination. 

He further added that the process of seawater desalination is very expensive and the cost of desalinating one cubic meter of water costs $1,000 in addition to $1 for other costs of operating and maintenance. 

The researcher explained that this process is the promising source of water for coastal governorates particularly when Egypt rely on cheaper sources for energy, that will help in decreasing the cost of desalination.    

Drought-tolerant crops 

One of the important Egyptian experiences in cultivating drought-tolerant crops was by Said Soliman, a professor of genetics at the Faculty of Agriculture, Zagazig University. He was working for a long time in progressing new species of rice that resist drought and use less amount of water.

Speaking to DNE, Soliman said that he has developed a new species of rice, named “Oraby” after the iconic army leader Ahmed Oraby. This species of engineered rice takes about 120 days to grow, compared to 145 days for normal rice. He added that Oraby rice could be cultivated twice in the year.  

Oraby rice could be cultivated in all kinds of land, as it was successfully cultivated in Toshka project, Aswan governorate, in both sandy and clay soils.

According to Soliman, it is possible to cultivate 2m feddan of the engineered rice with the same amount of water which is allocated to irrigate 1m feddan of normal rice. Oraby rice will achieve increase in productivity by 2m tonnes of rice, meaning 1 tonne per feddan.

Water from desert

Most of Egypt’s land is desert, about 97 % of the country’s area. Actually, Egypt is just a desert with a very tiny line of water which crosses its land from south to north, the River Nile. However, the desert could hold a solution, and could also be a source of water.

For arid countries like Egypt, scientists at University of California, Berkeley, have developed a device that produces water from dry desert air, using sunlight only. 

The method depends on developing a molecular powder, a metal–organic framework (MOF), that is highly porous and acts like a sponge to absorb water. 

According to the study which was published by Science Advances journal, the powder saturated with water during moist and cool night after it was packed in a frame at a plexiglass box. 

After that it releases water as sunlight heats it during the day, and then the resulted water condenses on the side of the box which was kept open at night and closed in the day. The process takes 24 hours (a normal day), and could be also an additional solution for the water crisis in arid countries.

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Science meets journalism in a two-day conference at Goethe Institute Sun, 13 Oct 2019 13:17:52 +0000 Arab audience is consuming science articles at high rates

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Under the theme of “Science Meets Journalism- Multidisciplinary Perspectives,” the Goethe Institute and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) hosted a conference about science journalism on Saturday.

The two-day event is part of the project “Scientific Storytelling” which the Goethe Institute has organised since 2007 in cooperation with the DAAD, with support of the German Federal Foreign Office.

Dozens of science journalists, scientists, and science lovers have gathered to address the challenges that science journalism is facing, including the relation between scientific research and journalism, fake news, and how media shapes and impact people’s common knowledge about scientific topics.

Prominent Egyptian Novelist and science Journalist Mohamed El-Makhzangy was the keynote speaker in the conference opening. He emphasised the significance of science journalism in simplifying the scientific knowledge for the laymen, and how it is important for science journalists to understand and digest the scientific topics before delivering it to an audience.

During the event, Fatma Soliman, representative of the DAAD highlighted the efforts of her organisation in supporting scientific research and helping scientists promote their research, achievements, and delivery to the public in a simple way.

Soliman added that DAAD sends five journalists per year to Germany to learn about the  science communication community there.

Hanan Badr, media and communication scholar at Cairo University and at Freie Universität in Berlin, stressed the need for more conferences to explain the way science touches our lives and changes the way which public audience looks at scientists.

One of the main speakers at the conference, Ehab El-Refaee, assistant professor of neurology at Cairo University, told Daily News Egypt (DNE) that scientists and journalists are not communicating in the best way.

He believes that one of the major misunderstandings is the conflict of interest and the mix between journalism and advertisement.

Ahmed Balah, senior editor of Nature journal stressed to DNE that science journalists should avoid conflict of interest between promotion and real scientific reporting. He also highlighted that science journalists should fact check their work and learn the basics of using scientific technology.

Balah is of the view that specialising in a certain area in science journalism is important. It allows the journalist to focus on their topic of interest and garners them credibility as an expert in their chosen field.

Bothina Osama, MENA regional co-ordinator at SciDev.Net said in her speech that topics such as water issues and health are attracting Arab audiences more than any other topic. She also believes that Arab audience is consuming science through scientific articles at higher rates.

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