Sciences – Daily News Egypt Egypt’s Only Daily Independent Newspaper In English Fri, 22 Mar 2019 19:54:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Adapting organic, ecological farming systems: Cuba revolutionises its agriculture sector Wed, 20 Mar 2019 15:45:50 +0000 Country replaces tractors with bulls to plough land due to fuel shortage

The post Adapting organic, ecological farming systems: Cuba revolutionises its agriculture sector appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Before 1989, Cuba was an important country in the so-called green revolution, which heavily relied on imported oil from the Soviet Union.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, and under a harsh American blockade, Cuba was exposed to the worst food crisis in its history, which forced them to search for urgent solutions to break the impasse.

The solutions were new and unprecedented. Cities, backyards, balconies, roofs, corridors, schools, hospitals, government and private institutions, and even non-arable areas, were planted using containers or sacks through alternative or movable soil.

Cuba used organic and semi-organic systems to convert organic waste into compost (organic fertiliser) to feed plants. It also relied on the natural control of insect pests, plant diseases, weeds, and completely prevented the use of pesticides in urban agriculture.

Furthermore, Cuba provided untapped lands within cities for long periods of time without rent and opened new markets. It also encouraged enterprises to market their own products to their employees. Agricultural extension departments were established in various Cuban regions. Cooperatives supplied seeds, organic fertilisers, and natural pesticides to people in the Cuban capital. Cuba’s capital Havana has hundreds of urban orchards.

In parallel with the urbanisation of cities, the Cuban government dismantled large farms into smaller ones, to become more manageable and capable of withstanding sustainable agriculture practices. In these farms, Cuba replaced tractors with bulls to plough the land due to the fuel shortage. Some 300,000 bulls are currently engaged in agriculture process in Cuba, in addition to over 200 biological control centres throughout the country, with all biological control agents produced from beneficial bacteria, fungi, and insects.

Over 350,000 farms, including 150,000 family farms, have managed to produce about 97% of their needs of vegetables, such as lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, avocados, cucumbers, herbs, medicinal herbs, and other products, such as poultry and meat. All the rest relied on draining organic waste and turning it into fertilizers.

The experience of ecological agriculture in Cuba has contributed toward reducing both global warming and climate change, since tractors were replaced with bulls, the quality of air improved.

It also led to the provision of hundreds of thousands of jobs. This contributed to crime reduction, especially in informal housing areas.


Professor: Khaled Ghanem

Professor of Organic Agriculture at Al-Azhar University

The post Adapting organic, ecological farming systems: Cuba revolutionises its agriculture sector appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

]]> 0
Shipping traffic globally could increase invasive species Wed, 20 Mar 2019 15:35:21 +0000 Global maritime traffic to increase by 240% to 1,209% by 2050, compared with 2014 levels

The post Shipping traffic globally could increase invasive species appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

One of the key questions is how will environmental drivers change over time? While we have good estimates for drivers such as climate change, far less is known about biological invasions.

A recent study by McGill University researchers revealed that rising global maritime traffic could lead to sharp increases in invasive species around the world over the next 30 years.

Findings of the study which appeared on Monday in the Nature Sustainability journal, suggested that shipping growth will far outweigh climate change in spreading non-indigenous pests to new environments in the coming decades.

Previous studies have often focused on the socio-cultural impact of invasive species on indigenous peoples, rather than considering their knowledge, scientific research, and ongoing initiatives to address invasive species and environmental change, more widely.

The study is considered to be the first estimate of global shipping traffic change over time, and the consequences it could have on biological invasions. Other work in invasion ecology has modelled shipping traffic as constant, despite all historical evidence being to the contrary.

In the study, researchers have shown that forecasts for biological invasions could be underestimated by an order of magnitude through not considering the changes in human vectors of transport (i.e. shipping).

“This work is broadly integrative, synthesising data and research across disciplines, including maritime traffic, socioeconomic indicators, quantitative projections of global development and climate change, and invasion models” Anthony Sardain, the researcher at McGill University, and correspondent author of the study, told Daily News Egypt.

Foreseeing impact  

Regarding the importance of the study, Sardain said that it gains its significance from two reasons. First, biological invasions are relevant since they are believed to be one of the major drivers of biodiversity change and cause economic damage costing billions annually. It is a major unanswered question of how they will change in the future.

“Our study finds that, unless appropriate action is taken, we could anticipate an exponential increase in such invasions, which, conceivably, could have unprecedented economic and ecological consequences,” he stated.

“The question of forecasting biological invasions is one which the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is interested in answering,” Sardain added.

The IPBES is the biodiversity equivalent to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

He noted that human vectors of transport are important, since humans are the primary means by which non-indigenous species are moved around the world. Shipping accounts for 80% of world trade, and about 60-90% of marine bio-invasions.

To understand how invasions will change, we need to understand how human movement patterns could change.

For main conclusions of the paper, the researchers expected global maritime traffic to increase from 240% to 1,209% by 2050, compared with 2014 levels. Integrating their predictions with global climate change projections and shipping-mediated invasion models, the researchers forecast invasion risks to surge in middle-income countries, particularly in northeast Asia.

They also discovered that shipping growth will have a far greater effect on marine invasions than climate-driven environmental changes, while climate change might actually decrease the average probability of invasion, and the emerging global shipping network (GSN) could then yield a three to 20-fold increase in global invasion risk.


In order to reach their findings, the researchers used various statistical methods. “Namely, we developed a novel model of global shipping traffic, which we combined with published models of biological invasions and global economic development scenarios prepared as part of the IPCC to derive projections of biological invasions to 2050,” the researcher said.   

He added that the team of researchers began working on this particular study in 2014.

Sardain explained further that invasive species have largely ecological and economic damages. The study concerned all marine species that are predisposed to be transported via shipping traffic, either through ships’ hull fouling or through ballast water release.

According to the paper, particularly damaging examples of worldwide species which have been spread through these channels include: the zebra mussel Dreissena polymorpha and the Asian clam Potamocorbula amurensis in the US, the comb jelly Mnemiopsis leidyi in the Black and Azov Seas, and the toxic dinoflagellate Gymnodinium catenatum and the northern Pacific sea star Asterias amurensis in Australia

Most affected regions

According to the study, the greatest transfer of invasive species will occur along connections with the highest shipping traffic. The researchers detected that connections with middle income economies, in particular northeast Asia, will likely see the greatest increase.

Connections with large, developed economies, e.g. around the Mediterranean, or fast-growing, but less-developed economies – African and Southern South America – will experience more moderate increases.

Meanwhile, smaller, slow-growing economies, such as those in the eastern Indo-Pacific region, will remain relatively low-traffic – and thus experience fewer invasions – all the way through to 2050.

“Science is a stepwise endeavour, and as such we will continue to work on, extend, and improve our model. We will continue to refine our model, for instance looking at within-regional traffic, as well as other environmental consequences of shipping beyond invasive species,” Sardain said.

The post Shipping traffic globally could increase invasive species appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

]]> 0
Scientists to end China’s hegemony on Rare Earth Elements production Wed, 13 Mar 2019 12:30:19 +0000 One of potential sources of REE is phosphogypsum

The post Scientists to end China’s hegemony on Rare Earth Elements production appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

For the past several years, the United States government has been concerned about the supply issues of materials which are critical to technologies including batteries, magnets, and clean energy solutions, such as solar panels and wind turbines.  

For a large class of these elements called Rare Earth Elements (REE), China is by far the world’s largest producer–90% of REE were produced in China in 2011–and so it is of economic and scientific interest to find alternate sources of REE.  

REE are a group of elements which include 17 chemical elements, 15 of which belong to a series of lanthanides found at the bottom of a periodic table, such as lanthanum, neodymium, samarium, atrium, and scandium.

Although they are called rare elements, they are not rare at all, as they are more plentiful and abundant than silver, gold, and platinum, and the least plentiful elements of the REE are leucite and thulium. Extraction of these elements is a highly cost-effective process especially on agricultural land. The process of extracting 1 tonne of these elements costs the world 300 metres of fertile soil.

One of the potential sources of REE is phosphogypsum (PG) which is a waste product of the fertiliser industry, according to a new study published recently in the Journal of Chemical Thermodynamics.

The total amount of REE thrown away by the fertiliser industry counts more than 100kt, and is on the same order of magnitude as the amount of rare earth oxides produced by the entire world (more than 126kt).

“For this reason, we were interested in building up the scientific literature about the leaching of REE from PG in several different acid systems. Results from our study are the first step in making predictions about the cost efficiency of leaching REE from PG in real world industrial applications,” Richard Riman, from Rutgers University and corresponding author of the study, told Daily News Egypt.

Riman added that he and his team used a biologically produced acid called bio lixiviant, which is expected to be less harmful to the environment than traditionally used mineral acids which are very acidic. This bio lixiviant was produced by collaborator researchers from Idaho National Labs and is primarily composed of gluconic acid created by bacteria.

Along with the bio lixiviant, the team tested a pure commercial gluconic acid, sulfuric acid, and phosphoric acid on synthetic PG samples containing the REE, such as yttrium, cerium, neodymium, samarium, europium, and ytterbium.

It was unexpectedly found that at the same pH (2.1 in the study’s case) phosphoric acid and sulfuric acid failed to solvate REE while gluconic acid “did a great job,” according to the paper. pH in chemistry refers to a logarithmic scale used to specify the acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution.

Riman further explained that gluconic acid is a much weaker acid compared to phosphoric and sulfuric acids since at the same concentration it releases a far smaller amount of free proton (H+), so it would usually be expected to solvate less REE. The better leaching results for gluconic acid over the sulfuric and phosphoric acids is due to the chelation of the REE. 

“We also tested the lixivants at equal concentrations (220 mm).  In this scenario it was found that the order of leaching efficiency (from most to least) was sulfuric acid, bio lixiviant, gluconic acid, and then phosphoric acid for all REE except yttrium. Yttrium was almost equally leached by all four lixiviants.  In all cases the bio lixiviant was superior to the commercial gluconic acid in REE leached,” the corresponding author of the study added.

Regarding the methods that the researchers have used to reach the results of the study, Riman said that the main characterisation method used in the study was Inductively Coupled Plasma- Optical Emission Spectroscopy (ICP-OES).  

This tool uses a plasma to ionise the elements making up a solution phase sample. Each ion will then emit light at specific wavelengths for each element. These wavelengths are well tabulated in literature and therefore the amount of each element can be correlated from the intensity of light emitted from the sample.

The researchers used this method to find out “how much of each rare earth element was leached into solution by the acids we tested.”

For the bioleaching work specifically, the experiments were started about a year ago and the paper was written over the summer. Passing the manuscript around to many research collaborators for revisions took a few months after that. For more general work on rare earth phosphate solubility and characterisation as well as some other analysis of phosphogyspum, the research group has been performing experiments for several years with the help of their collaborators who are part of the Critical Materials Institute.

“Regarding the purposes of our work, I believe we did a good job answering the questions we were interested in. However, we made no steps toward assessing the cost effectiveness of our methods in real world extraction processes. We have instead provided important data that could allow others to make a more educated determination about economic viability,” said Riman, stressing that this is a topic that must be considered by any prospective business wanting to benefit of rare earth leaching.

He added that he and his team will certainly be continuing work on the extraction of rare earth elements from waste streams. One of the decisions they will be making in the near future is whether they want to continue studying phosphogypsum as a mineral of interest or other waste products from the fertiliser industry which also contain large amounts of rare earths.

The post Scientists to end China’s hegemony on Rare Earth Elements production appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

]]> 0
Grave of 140 slaughtered children in Peru reveals Chimú secrets Wed, 13 Mar 2019 12:00:58 +0000 Great sacrifice was for Chimú ancestors to stop heavy rain

The post Grave of 140 slaughtered children in Peru reveals Chimú secrets appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

About 100 metres away from the Pacific coast in Huanchaco province, northern Peru, researchers noted the appearance of bones among the sand in what scientists later found to be a mass grave.

Firstly, Gabriel Prieto, a professor of archaeology at the National University of Trujillo, found the remains of 43 children and 74 llamas in a hole which he later found was used for burial for ancient religious rituals.

After exploring the area, archaeologists and anthropologists uncovered a mass grave for more than 140 children, three adults, and about 200 young llamas.

The grave dates back to over 600 years, and archaeological evidence has shown that children, adults, and llamas were all slaughtered as a sacrifice for the sake of ancient ancestors belonging to the prehistoric Chimú culture.

The Chimú culture had flourished in the region along the north coast of Peru from about 900 until 1470 AD, at the time when the Inca empire invaded the region.


The archaeological site of Huanchaquito-Las Llamas, where researchers found the grave, is one of the largest cases of child sacrifice ever known in the Americas.

A recent study published last week in PLOS One journal explained the results of the study of fossils that were found by the research team from Peru. The study is evidence of previously unknown rituals involving a large sacrifice of children and llamas.

Prieto told Daily News Egypt that this discovery was a shock for him and his colleagues, as they found many skeletons belonging to children. According to the lead researcher in the study, it took five years to reach the findings of the paper, after the analysis of bone DNA.

The Chimú culture was based on a community of master agriculturalists who had developed a sophisticated network of water channels to bring water from the mountains to irrigate fields and deliver fresh water to palaces, gardens, squares, and temples.

The study showed that the children were found wrapped with cotton cloth. The children were buried in groups of three. It was noted that some of the children have red paintings on their heads, while others wore cotton headgear.

Perhaps all the children may have been killed by one horizontal slab, and the structures indicated that many chest cages have been emptied, so scientists believe that the children’s hearts may have been removed shortly after death.

“We cannot prove that, but it was certainly common and important in the Mayans’ rites to take out a still beating heart,” Prieto added.


Little is known about the faith of the Chimú people, since they did not keep written records and their art is very symbolic, so the mystery of the great sacrifice of children and llamas is unclear.

However, scientists pointed out that the children and llamas were buried in a thick layer of mud on top of the sand, suggesting that the sacrifices occurred after heavy rains caused flooding and mudslides in the area.

Although the northern coast of Peru is very arid, the El Niño climatic phenomena can bring heavy rains and unexpected floods to the region.

Scientists believe that the great sacrifice of children and llamas was a sacrifice for the Chimú ancestors to stop the heavy rain that had affected their economy. At that time, the people of Chimú used to believe that their ancestors controlled the rain and climate conditions.

The post Grave of 140 slaughtered children in Peru reveals Chimú secrets appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

]]> 0
World oceans face more frequent, faster ‘angry’ summers Wed, 06 Mar 2019 14:39:38 +0000 Marine heatwaves increased by 54% during past 60 years

The post World oceans face more frequent, faster ‘angry’ summers appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Marine heatwaves (MHWs) are increasing in frequency, with 54% surge in heatwave days per year in the period of 1987-2016 compared to 1925-1954, according to a recent paper published on Monday in the Nature Climate Change.

Researchers from a number of Australian and British universities found that these events vary in their physical manifestations, yet all affect key species and ecosystem structure and functioning.

Regional case studies have documented how marine heatwaves can alter the structure and function of entire ecosystems by causing widespread mortality, species range shifts, and community reconfiguration.

The aim of the study was to use a unifying framework that allows marine heatwaves to be compared across latitudes, ocean basins, and ecosystems.

“Our analysis showed that the number of days in any one year that would be classed as MHWs has increased by 54% on average over about 60 years,” Dan Smale, researcher in the UK Marine Biological Association and first author of the study, told Daily News Egypt.

Angry Summers

This increase in heatwaves means that any given population of marine organisms, whether corals, seaweeds, or fish, have likely experienced more extreme ocean temperatures in the early 21st century compared to the middle of 20th century.

Sea temperature has a strong influence over marine organisms, as they evolved to exist within specific thermal levels, and they have optimal temperatures for performance. If sea temperatures get too high, marine organisms may be unable to cope, become stressed, and ultimately die. This may be just a few individuals or entire populations, leading to local extinctions or changing entire ecosystems.

Just as how atmospheric heatwaves can cause forest fires, crop failures, and animal deaths, marine heatwaves can also cause widespread devastation. Regional case studies have shown how MHWs can devastate coral reefs, kelp forests, and seagrass meadows, and cause mass die-offs of fish, lobsters, birds, and mammals if the food web is disrupted.

By impacting ecosystem goods and services, such as fisheries landings and biogeochemical processes, MHWs can also have major socioeconomic and political ramifications. The human-caused climate change is driving the redistribution of species and reorganisation of natural systems, and represents a major threat to global biodiversity, according to the study.

Egypt is one of the countries expected to be affected by the impact of heatwaves. Fisheries alongside coasts are under the threat of increasing temperatures which may cause high loss of fish and other marine creatures.

According to the latest report of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Egypt is facing the impact of rising temperatures which will lead to northwards shifts in ranges of fish species with impacts on fishery production.

The researchers quantified trends and attributes of MHWs across all ocean basins and examined their biological impacts from species to ecosystems. They concluded that multiple regions in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans are particularly vulnerable to MHW intensification, due to the co-existence of high levels of biodiversity, a prevalence of species found at their warm range edges or concurrent non-climatic human impacts.

Findings of the study pointed out that the 21st century has already experienced record-shattering atmospheric heatwaves, such as the 2003 European heatwave, the Australian Angry Summer of 2012-2013, and the European “Lucifer” heatwave in 2017, with devastating consequences for human health, economies, and the environment.

Smale said that his team showed that all of the well-studied MHW events, such as the MHWs observed in the Mediterranean and off Western Australia, had adverse ecological effects and that a range of organisms from plankton through corals to fish and seabirds are affected by these events.

“We showed that MHWs can impact upon ecosystem services provided to human societies. For example, species of fish and crustaceans targeted for human consumption may be locally wiped-out by MHWs, and the carbon stored by seagrasses and mangroves may be released if they are devastated by extreme temperatures,” he added.

Observational datasets

The researchers used a variety of observational datasets to reveal the trend of increasing marine heatwaves, combining satellite data with a range century long datasets taken from ships and various land based measuring stations. They, then, removed the influences of natural variability caused by the El Nino Southern Oscillation, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation to find the underlying trend.

To reach to their findings, the researchers observed trends in the annual number of MHW days and the implications for marine ecosystems globally. They incorporated existing data on marine taxon richness, the proportion of species found at their warm range edges and non-climatic human impacts to identify regions of high vulnerability, where increased occurrences of MHWs overlap with areas of high biodiversity, temperature sensitivity, or concurrent anthropogenic stressors.

The team also conducted a meta-analysis on the impacts of MHWs by examining ecological responses to eight prominent MHW events that have been studied in sufficient detail for formal analysis. During the study, the researchers examined 1,049 ecological observations, recalculated to 182 independent effect sizes from 116 research papers that examined responses of organisms, populations, and communities to MHWs.

“We also explored relationships between the occurrence of MHWs and the health of three globally important foundation species (coral, seagrass, and kelp) from three independent time series that were collected at sufficient spatiotemporal resolutions to explicitly link ecological responses to MHWs. Finally, we reviewed the literature on MHWs for evidence of impacts of these events on goods and services to human society,” said the first author.

Continuous work

“Our working group began in 2014, since when we have published four papers on the subject of marine heatwaves and their impacts. We started working on this particular paper in 2016, so it’s been about three years in the making,” Smale said.

Explaining the importance of the study’s findings to our knowledge about climate change and biodiversity, Smale told DNE that the frequency and intensity of MHWs is strongly influenced by manmade climate change because as the oceans absorb excess heat, they become on average warmer, so that when these events happen, they happen from a hotter starting point.

Ocean systems are facing a number of threats, such as plastic pollution and ocean acidification, but it is clear that extreme warming events can drive abrupt changes in entire ecosystems with widespread consequences. MHWs will have a major impact on the oceans in the coming decades.

About how can we protect our biodiversity from the impacts of climate change, Smale illustrated that impacts can only be minimised by combining a rapid reduction in greenhouse emissions with a more adaptable and pragmatic approach to the management of marine ecosystems.

Our international working group is still active in the research area. Our current research aims to project MHWs into the future, using climate models. This will help us better understand where impacts are likely to be the greatest. We are also developing a forecasting tool that can be used to predict MHWs over short timescales (weeks to months), which may help marine sectors, such as aquaculture and fisheries plan, ahead for these events, Smale said.

The post World oceans face more frequent, faster ‘angry’ summers appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

]]> 0
Second-ever HIV patient cured: study Wed, 06 Mar 2019 10:00:30 +0000 It comes 10 years after first case, known as the ‘Berlin Patient’

The post Second-ever HIV patient cured: study appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Scientists announced on Tuesday the second ever case of a patient experiencing remission from HIV-1 infection, which causes AIDS, was cured after stem-cell transplantation.

According to a paper published in Nature by researchers at the University College of London (UCL) and Imperial College London, the patient has been in remission for 18 months, but the authors caution that it is too early to say that the patient is completely cured of HIV and will continue to monitor his condition.

Researchers used the same method that proved successful for a previous HIV-positive patient in Berlin in 2007.

This case comes 10 years after the first case, known as “Berlin Patient”. Both patients were treated with stem cell transplantation from donors carrying a genetic mutation that prevents expression of HIV receptor CCR5, according to the paper.

“At the moment, the only way to treat HIV is with medications that suppress the virus, which people need to take for their entire lives, posing a particular challenge in developing countries,” said the study’s lead author, Ravindra Gupta, from UCL, UCLH, and University of Cambridge.

He added, “finding a way to eliminate the virus entirely is an urgent global priority, but is particularly difficult because the virus integrates into the white blood cells of its host.”

HIV is a growing concern. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 37 million people are living with HIV worldwide, but only 59% are receiving ARV and drug-resistant. Almost 1 million people die annually from HIV-related causes.

CCR5 is the most commonly used receptor by HIV-1. People who have two mutated copies of the CCR5 allele are resistant to the HIV-1 virus strain that uses this receptor, as the virus cannot enter host cells.

Commenting on the study, professor Graham Cooke, NIHR Research Professor and Infectious Diseases Professor at Imperial College London, said: “This second ‘London patient’, whose HIV has been controlled following bone marrow transplantation, is encouraging. Other patients treated in a similar way since the ‘Berlin patient’ has not seen similar results.”

He added that this work should encourage HIV patients needing bone marrow transplantation to consider a CCR5 negative donor, if possible. If we can understand better why the procedure works in some patients and not others, we will be closer to our ultimate goal of curing HIV. At the moment, the procedure still carries too much risk to be used in patients who are otherwise well, as daily tablet treatment for HIV is able to maintain patient’s long-term health.”

The post Second-ever HIV patient cured: study appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

]]> 0
FAO warns of biodiversity loss, praises biodiversity-friendly practices Wed, 27 Feb 2019 07:00:37 +0000 Rising temperatures will lead to northwards shifts in ranges of fish species in Egypt

The post FAO warns of biodiversity loss, praises biodiversity-friendly practices appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warned in a recent report that the biodiversity of food and agriculture in the Arab region is under serious danger. This is the first-ever report to analyse the state of plants, animals, and microorganisms that support food and agricultural production – at genetic, species, and ecosystem levels.

It is based on the analysis of global data and reports provided specifically-for this report-by 91 countries. Findings of the report presented mounting evidence that the biodiversity that underpins our food systems, at all levels, is declining around the world.

The report warned that once biodiversity is lost, plant, animal and microorganism species that are critical to our food systems, cannot be recovered, placing the future of our food under severe threat.

A significant number, 75% of the world’s food crops, depend, at least in part, on pollination. But bee colony’s losses are rising; 17% of vertebrate pollinator species are threatened with global extinction, rising to 30% for island species, according to the FAO.

Despite the rise of biodiversity-friendly practices, the report urges more efforts to be exerted to stop the loss of biodiversity for food and agriculture, calling upon governments and the international community to address, amongst other things, the major drivers of biodiversity loss.  

The FAO pointed out the importance of conserving biodiversity, clarifying that 82% of the calories in the human food supply are provided by terrestrial plants, 16% by terrestrial animals, and 1% by aquatic animals and plants. According to the report, 33% of fish stocks are overfished, and 60% have reached their sustainable limit.

Middle East crisis

According to the FAO’s report which addressed the state of the world’s biodiversity for food and agriculture, a number of countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are suffering of the impact of biodiversity loss on people’s lives and diets.

It has stated that Egypt is facing the impact of rising temperatures which will lead to northward shifts in ranges of fish species, with impacts on fishery production. In Morocco, urbanisation is one of the most serious threats to its biodiversity.

The rapid expansion of human settlements into areas that are rich in biodiversity for food and agriculture, and the removal of sand and rocks from sites such as coastal dunes and wade beds for use in construction are resulting in the loss of habitats and the species they shelter.

Biodiversity for food and agriculture includes both wild and domesticated plants and animals that provide food, feed, fuel and fibre, associated biodiversity, and the myriad of organisms that support food production, including bees and other pollinators; plants, animals and microorganisms (such as forest trees, mangroves, earthworms, ladybugs, rhizobium) that help purify water and air, keep soils fertile, fish and trees healthy, and fight crop pests and livestock diseases, according to the report.

Oman has witnessed a decline in wild foods, such as figs and berries from forest trees over time, because of the loss of pollinator populations, driven in turn by extreme heat, associated with climate change, and the effects of pests and diseases.

The impact of climate change is likely to reduce the availability of wild foods in Jordan, adding to the burden on women from traditional communities who will have to walk longer distances to find wild foods.

The report concluded that the drivers of biodiversity loss for food and agriculture in most countries are changes in land and water use and management, followed by lack of inadequate policies to preserve biodiversity, pollution, overexploitation, overharvesting, and climate change. Forests and coastal habitats are reported to be particularly at risk.

Biodiversity-friendly practices

A considerable amount, 80% of the 91 countries mentioned in the report indicate that they use one or more biodiversity-friendly practices. These practices include organic agriculture, integrated crop–livestock, and agro-forestry systems, aquaponics, and conservation agriculture.

Conservation agriculture is already practised on 180m hectares-over 12% of global arable land-and has been increasing at a rate of 10m hectares per year for the last decade, according to the report.

Some countries in the MENA have implemented steps in the way of biodiversity-friendly practices such as Oman which has started using breeding programmes to improve local wheat and barley landraces, as these have shorter growing seasons and can be managed more flexibly, especially during years with prolonged periods of extreme heat.

Lebanon notes the conservation of a number of invertebrate species on farms because of their role in biological control. In Algeria, citizens are using a ‘ghout’ system, which is a traditional and complex hydro-agricultural system for food production in dry areas, where water is limited. It depends on cultivating lowlands in wades.

Answering Daily News Egypt’s question about why biodiversity-friendly practices are not sufficient despite the fact that they are on the rise, a team of four FAO experts said via email that the practices are on the rise but this is often from a low starting point. A lot of land is being farmed in a biodiversity-unfriendly way. Many fish stocks are being fished unsustainably.

Forest areas in many countries are still declining. Waters are being polluted, including by runoff from agriculture. Many rangelands are being degraded by poor management of grazing livestock. Vital coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, coral reefs, and sea grass beds are being degraded and destroyed.

All of this is being exacerbated by the effects of climate change. It also needs to be borne in mind that there is a lot which is to be learned about how specific management practices affect biodiversity.

In short, while there are some positive developments, their impacts are currently being jeopardised by those of negative drivers. This is why we need both to increase support for the implementation of sustainable practices (including improving research into their effectiveness) and tackle the factors that are driving biodiversity loss.

Responding to the question of how can loss of biodiversity for food and agriculture affect our lives, the researchers explained the following:

In many ways. Many of the crops we eat rely on animal pollinators. Without their natural enemies, the populations of crop pests would increase, threatening food supplies. Forests, grasslands, wetlands, and marine habitats are vital to the world’s carbon cycle. In a world where many people are already suffering as a result of the impacts of climate change, we cannot afford to lose the biodiversity that underpins these processes. Many ecosystems and the biodiversity within them help to purify our water and air, protect us from threats such as floods and storms, and provide habitats for species such as fish that many people depend for their livelihoods.

It was important to know what individuals and governments will do to stop the loss of biodiversity for food and agriculture, so the researchers told DNE:

It is clear that governments have a vital role to play, both in terms of actions at a national level and in terms of international collaboration. Many of the drivers that are negatively affecting biodiversity for food and agriculture require a policy response, whether climate change, destructive land-and water-use practices, use of agricultural inputs at levels that damage biodiversity, or discharge of pollution from industry.

Where promoting sustainable use and conservation is concerned, much more needs to be done to create an ‘enabling framework’: favourable policies and legislation; incentive measures to support sustainable management; establishment of protected areas and support for habitat restoration; enhanced research on the roles of biodiversity in food and agriculture; the impacts of different management practices on biodiversity, and more effective monitoring of the status of species and ecosystems.

The procedures also include better education and awareness-raising on contributions of biodiversity toward food and agriculture, as well as on the use of biodiversity-friendly management practices and strategies. 

In many of these fields, the state of provision is still very inadequate. Funding needs to be improved. People need to be trained so that they have the relevant skills. Collaboration needs improvement within and across the sectors of food and agriculture (i.e. the crop, livestock, forest, fisheries, and aquaculture sectors) between stakeholders involved in food and agriculture and those involved in conservation and environmental management, and between countries.


What individuals can do, clearly depends very much on their individual circumstances. Some are directly involved in the management of biodiversity for food and agriculture such as farmers, fish farmers, livestock keepers, etc. Some have considerable purchasing power that can help create demand for biodiversity-friendly product, Whereas some are in a position to exert political pressure on governments, producers, or suppliers. And then some have the opportunity to undertake voluntary conservation work or to participate as ‘citizen scientists’ in biodiversity monitoring schemes.


The post FAO warns of biodiversity loss, praises biodiversity-friendly practices appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

]]> 0
New study warns of hegemony of four main crops Wed, 20 Feb 2019 14:00:54 +0000 We hope to inform specific policy counsel that support crop diversity on country-by-country basis

The post New study warns of hegemony of four main crops appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Despite the linear increase of the species-level taxonomic diversity of crops that are being cultivated on large-scale agricultural lands over the past 50 years, environmental and socio-economic differences support expectations that temporal changes in crop diversity vary across regions.

An ecological theory also suggests that changes in crop taxonomic diversity may not necessarily reflect changes in the evolutionary diversity of crops, according to a new study published last week in PLOS ONE journal.

The researchers in University of Toronto in Canada used data from the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) to assess changes in crop taxonomic and phylogenetic diversity across 22 subcontinental-scale regions from 1961 to 2014.

The paper pointed out that whereas crop diversity has in fact increased, the same kinds of crops being grown but on a much larger scale, meaning that the same commercially valuable crops, such as soybeans, wheat, rice and corn, are now being grown on industrial farms across Asia, Europe, and the Americas, covering almost 50% of agricultural lands.

Daily News Egypt interviewed Adam R Martin, a researcher at the Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences at the University of Toronto and the first author of the study. He clarified and explained the main conclusions and methods of the paper, the transcript for which is below, lightly edited for clarity:

Would you please tell us more about the study’s outcomes?

We reached two primary conclusions in the study. The first was that our results suggest crop diversity at regional scales is increasing. For example, here in North America only 93 different crops are now being grown on large industrial scales, versus only 80 in the 1960s.

However, the second finding was that crop diversity at a global scale is decreasing. Specifically, when comparing different regions of the world, such as Asia, Africa, or the Americas, farms have (and are) becoming more homogenous and similar to one another in terms of the crops being grown.

Why are the findings of this study very important?

Because these findings have major implications for the socio-economics of food, as well as for the ecological sustainability of farms. For example, this pattern of global homogenisation raises questions as to what types of food will be available in different parts of the world in the future; these changes in likelihood will contribute to reduced food sovereignty into the future.

These findings of homogenisation also raise the likelihood that farms in different parts of the world are becoming increasingly susceptible to the same types of pests, diseases, or other environmental changes that might threaten crop yields in the future.

Which methods have you used to reach to the results of the study?

We analysed data from the FAO of the United Nations, which documents changes in crop diversity across all regions of the world from 1961-2014.

The research team found that between 1961 and 2014, researchers observed three distinct periods: the first saw a slight change in the diversity of crops from 1961 to the late 1970s, ten years of sharp diversity from the early 1980s, and finally, this diversity of crops began to decline gradually since early 1990s. However, the study indicates that the largest increase in global crop diversity occurred in the 1980s when different types of crops were introduced into new areas.

Most interesting, however, is that researchers found that although the 1970s and 1980s saw regional increases in crop diversity, both periods were also characterised by increased dominance of a few crop species.

How long have you been working on the study?

Approximately one and a half years from conceptualisation to publication.

Why it is a problem to have four major crops? How can this affect sustainable agriculture?

Having four major crops (wheat, maize, soybean, and rice) occupy more than 50% of global farms is problematic because extremely large expanses of agricultural lands are now virtually ecologically identical worldwide. These four crops in particular, are widely acknowledged to be those grown in largest monocultures, where only a single crop species or genetic strain are cultivated under very high chemical inputs and irrigation systems.

From a sustainability perspective, these four crops represent those that contribute the largest to overall environmental impacts of industrial agriculture, including water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and declines in soil fertility. So their continued expansion represents a major environmental threat.

At the same time, these four crops now represent a disproportionately large proportion of calories consumed by people (about 75% according to some reports). So when supplies for these four crops drop due to things like weather-related yield reductions or diversion to biofuels (as in the case with maize), overall food prices can spike dramatically. So the increasing production and reliance on these crops for food represents a major threat to food security.

Why is the decline in global crop diversity an issue?


We think about this from two perspectives. The first is an ecological/environmental perspective that will influence food security. As crop diversity continues to be reduced on a global scale, many different parts of the world are likely to be affected by the same pest and disease outbreaks, or other environmental shifts such as climate change that reduce crop yields.


The second is from a social perspective that will influence food sovereignty. More and more of the world’s farms are now looking the same: monocultures comprised of one or a small number of crops that rely heavily on intensive chemical pesticides and fertilisers. Choosing food that is culturally appropriate, healthy, and produced through sustainable methods (ex not in massive chemically-intensive monocultures), becomes more challenging as global crop diversity – and the range of sustainable farming practices – declines.

What shall we do to overcome our food crisis?


Addressing current and looming food crises in the future will rely on diversifying farms with a wider range of regionally adapted crops. Agro-ecological research suggests that growing multiple crops on the same farm is a key in mitigating the negative environmental impacts associated with large industrial monoculture farming.


From a socio-economic perspective, supporting smallholder farmers is also key in addressing food crises. Small holder farmers (ie those owning and managing less than 1 ha of land) maintain a vast amount of the world’s crop genetic diversity, and are very progressive in adopting new sustainable farming methods. Yet smallholder farms have been highly vulnerable to the expansion of industrial agriculture. Therefore we need policies that support smallholder farms and their key role in dealing with food crises.

Are there any points in the study that you believe have not thoroughly discussed in the paper?


One key idea in the paper that likely has not received as much attention (at least in the media) is the idea that within regions, changes in crop diversity are not simply a result of more land being allocated to agriculture (i.e. agricultural expansion).


To us, this suggests there are two broad policy avenues for promoting sustainable agriculture: one set of policies governs the diversity of crops that are growing (ex crop-specific subsides), while the other governs how much land is allocated to agriculture (ex land-use planning). Recognising these two avenues are fundamentally different is critical in having a more specific discussion on how to best pursue sustainable agriculture policy.

And are you still working on the topic?


Yes, we are planning our follow up to this analysis. Our recent paper assessed crop diversity trends at a regional scale (ex within North America, Central America, North Africa, East Africa, etc) and a global one. Our next step is to assess the change in crop diversity at a country level. In doing so, the hope is that we can then inform specific policy recommendations that support crop diversity on a country-by-country basis (starting here in Canada).

The post New study warns of hegemony of four main crops appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

]]> 0
FAO warns of desert locust raids in Egypt, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen Sat, 16 Feb 2019 18:57:25 +0000 Egypt in danger of migratory pest, as groups of mature winged adults, few swarms moved north along coast to southeast Egypt

The post FAO warns of desert locust raids in Egypt, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warned of an outbreak of the desert locust populations in Sudan and Eritrea which are rapidly spreading along both sides of the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

According to the FAO’s statement on Friday, the heavy rains and cyclones have triggered the recent surge in desert locust populations. It has called upon all the affected countries to step up their vigilance and control measures in order to contain the destructive infestations, and protect crops from “the world’s most dangerous migratory pest”.  

Since October 2018, heavy rains along the Red Sea coastal plains in Eritrea and Sudan have allowed two generations of breeding, leading to a substantial increase in locust populations and the formation of highly mobile swarms.

In mid-January 2019, one swarm at least crossed the Red Sea to the northern coast of Saudi Arabia, and other swarms followed the first one about one week later.

Egypt is in danger of this dangerous migratory pest, as groups of mature winged adults and few swarms also moved north along the coast to southeast Egypt at the end of January.

The migrated swarms have bred in the interior of Saudi Arabia, while two generations of breeding also occurred in the south-eastern Empty Quarter region near the Yemen-Oman border, after unusually heavy rains from cyclones Mekunu and Luban in May and October 2018, respectively.

The FAO added that aerial spraying operations were mounted in Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, and Egypt, treating more than 80,000 hectares since December 2019.

The FAO predicts that breeding will continue in February, generating new swarms. Adult locust swarms can fly up to 150 kilometres per day with the wind, while a very small swarm eats the same amount of food in one day as about 35,000 people.

The post FAO warns of desert locust raids in Egypt, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

]]> 0
Arctic lakes emit less carbon amount than previously thought Wed, 13 Feb 2019 16:17:41 +0000 In many parts of world, lakes receive, break down plenty of terrestrial carbon

The post Arctic lakes emit less carbon amount than previously thought appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

A new research by the University of Washington and the US Geological Survey suggests that the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. One of the results of this situation is the thawing of the permafrost, a layer of earth that has remained frozen for thousands of years in some areas.

This frozen soil and vegetation currently holds more than twice the carbon found in the atmosphere, according to the study which was published on Monday in the Nature Geoscience journal.

Matthew Bogard, a postdoctoral associate at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, University of Washington, and the first author of the study, told Daily News Egypt that there are millions of lakes in high latitude landscapes, but we have very little information about the vast majority of them because they are so remote and difficult to study.  

“The climate of the arctic and the sub-Arctic regions is changing rapidly, so our research provides a benchmark against which to evaluate future changes in lake carbon cycling and their ability to produce and emit greenhouse gases,” said Bogard.

In many parts of the world, lakes receive and break down a lot of terrestrial carbon. Northern lakes are especially important because they cover such a large fraction of the landscape compared to other parts of the world.  

Conclusions of the study show that a subset of northern lakes may deviate from this trend. This subset of lakes is also extremely under-studied, so the paper provides important new information to better understand the overall carbon cycle of circumpolar landscapes.

Given how difficult it is to study remote lakes like this, this was a major team effort that used a unique combination of many different approaches to cover as many aspects of lake carbon cycling as possible.  

“We used field based approaches (flying to remote lakes by float-plane and measuring lake properties on site) and preserved large quantities of water for later analyses at our respective laboratories (using a combination of both standard and cutting edge chemical measurements),” Bogard explained the methods and approaches of the study.  

He further added that the team put equipment in some of the lakes to record conditions every hour, to fill in some of the blanks between spring and fall when the team was physically on site. They then used a survey of published data, plus computer-based mapping and satellite-based remote sensing observations to put these lakes into a broader context worldwide.

The post Arctic lakes emit less carbon amount than previously thought appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

]]> 0
Climate change could have economic opportunity for Arctic nations Wed, 13 Feb 2019 16:10:19 +0000 About 8% of annual sediment input delivered to global oceans comes from Greenland ice sheet

The post Climate change could have economic opportunity for Arctic nations appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Despite its bad impact, however nations can also adapt and benefit from some of climatic change effects. One of the most affected places of climate change is the Arctic island, Greenland.

An international team revealed in a new study that the melting glaciers in Greenland leave deposits and river sediment along its shores. Findings of the study were published on Monday in the journal Nature Sustainability.

These sediments were identified by researchers as one of the unforeseen economic opportunities for the Arctic nation: exporting excess sand and gravel abroad, where raw materials for infrastructure are in high demand.

According to the study which was conducted by researchers from CU Boulder, the University of Copenhagen, Arizona State University and the Rhode Island School of Design, the melting Greenland ice sheet delivers an enormous amount of sediments to the coast.

While demand has only increased thanks to global urbanisation and infrastructure investments, the global sand reserves have been rapidly depleted in recent decades.

“In the study we show that Greenland could diversify its economy towards export of its sand resources and the potential impacts on the environment and local way of life,” Lars Lønsmann Iversen, a research fellow at Arizona State University’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability told Daily News Egypt.

“Mette Bendixen-the first author of the study-started working with coastal dynamics in Greenland in 2009 as part of her PhD, I joined the work in 2014. We started working on the published study in March 2018,” Iversen said.

The researchers estimate that the amount of sand delivered to Greenland’s coast each year has a market value equivalent to more than half of the Greenland’s gross domestic product ($2.22bn in 2015) and this value is expected to double within the next 25 years if the global sand prices continue to increase, according to Iversen.

About 8% of the annual sediment contribution delivered to the global oceans comes from the Greenland ice sheet and with continued global warming, this number is expected to increase.

The paper focused on the struggle of arctic nations such as Greenland with the ongoing impacts of climate change, particularly an overreliance on now-vulnerable commercial fisheries and few other large industries.

For years, Greenland has worked on diversifying its economy through mining, oil extraction, and tourism, but progress has been slow, as the country still reports a 10% unemployment rate, and persistent revenue shortfalls.

But the scene is not completely good as some scientists believe that removing this sand could have negative impacts on the environment. The current study itself points out that sand exploitation could be controversial, as it would potentially interfere with the pristine Arctic landscape.

So the researchers recommend a careful assessment of the environmental impact and implementation in collaboration with the Greenlandic society.

Iversen told DNE that the study is a forward-looking in perspective and thereby solely relies on already published knowledge. “However, the paper builds on our research on coastal change in Greenland as a response to the melting of the Greenland ice sheet (we are a collective group of geologist, geographers and ecologist),” he said.

In 2017 the researchers published a study in Nature showing the coast of Greenland is expanding as a consequence of a melting ice sheet and diminishing arctic sea ice cover.

“Yes, certainty,” Iversen said responding to DNE’s inquiry about if there are any points in the study that he believes were not discussed enough in the paper, and whether they are still working on the topic.

“Our results are somewhat forward-looking. Still a great deal of uncertainty exists around what impacts sand mining would have on the local environment and communities.” he said, adding that future research will be essential to document the persistence and quality of sand delivered to the coast and how sand mining impacts local ecosystems and associated ecosystem services.

Furthermore, profitability will be determined by the international market value of sand and the costs of extraction and transport, which may affect whether and when Greenland elects to develop this industry. Detailed market analyses focusing on extraction cost and shipping expenses still needs to be carried out to ensure that the sand industry will be a competitive business with the global market, according to Iversen.

“We are actively initiating research on the future existence of these sand resources as the Greenland ice sheet continues to melt and what role these sand outlets play for local fjord ecosystems,” he explained. The team is also trying to develop collaborations with economist and local agencies in Greenland to better understand the market values, future consumer sources, and local impacts/inclusion of any sand mining in Greenland.

Extraction of sediment (dredging) will surely have some effects on the local environment, the researcher explained. However, much of the disturbance to be caused by dredging does resemble the current condition along the coastal outlets in Greenland.

Known consequences of increasing glacial sediments entering the Arctic ocean due to ice sheet melt are homogenisation of benthic habitats due to deposition and reduced light availability limiting primary productivity, Iversen added. 


Sand extraction via dredging of marine sediments shares many of the same disturbance consequences for the local environment as those mentioned above. Excavation, transportation, and disposal of fresh unconsolidated material enhance dispersal of sediments into the water and changes in seabed surface and turbidity from dredging plumes, ultimately affecting local ecosystems. 


Thus, direct removal of bed sediments could locally enhance or even amplify the ongoing changes in ecosystem dynamics along the coast of Greenland.

But this is something that needs much more work, and environmental impact assessments of sand extraction will be needed in order to secure a minimum impact on the local ecosystems. It is also important to note that the majority of the sand from the Greenland ice sheet comes from a handful of outlets in the south western part of the country. In practice, it might only be one or two places that would be of interest for sand mining.

The post Climate change could have economic opportunity for Arctic nations appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

]]> 0
Scientists reveal secrets of Denisovans in Siberian cave Wed, 06 Feb 2019 10:00:47 +0000 Findings show that Denisovans, Neanderthals interbred over 100 years ago

The post Scientists reveal secrets of Denisovans in Siberian cave appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

After about a decade since scientists have sequenced the DNA from an ancient bone fragment belonging to a woman from an entirely new species of humans, scientists are now uncovering the first and only confirmed home of the Denisovans.

The home of the Denisovans was discovered where the ancient bone was found in a cave in Siberia in a region close to the Russian, Chinese, Mongolian, and Kazakh borders.

According to two recent studies published in Nature last week, the Denisovans are an ancient group of extinct humans who lived alongside other modern humans and Neanderthals in stone age Eurasia.  

The Denisova cave lies in the Altai mountains of southern Siberia, a few hundred kilometres from the Russian border with Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and China. The place is almost magical according to the researchers, with its Alpine-like scenery, wild horses, and soaring eagles.

This has now changed after an international team of researchers published two papers which make it clear that the cave is as extraordinary as its ancient occupants. Not only do the papers give us a better understanding of who lived there and when, but they also reveal some of the objects that its residents made. “Some of the material is beautiful,” says Thomas Higham from the University of Oxford. “We think it might be the earliest of its kind in Eurasia,” he added.

Michael Petraglia from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany stated “It was a great experience,” as he visited the cave last year. “When we were in the cave, it was cold inside, and the excavators told us that the sediments are sometimes frozen. This helps to ensure that the DNA gets preserved,” he added.

Lying at the heart of a large river valley, the cave was also attractive to stone age humans. The new research concludes that Denisovans and Neanderthals both lived there at various points over the past 300,000 years. Our species, Homo sapiens, probably occupied the cave within the past 50,000 years.

The Denisovans are a mysterious group of humans who lived in eastern Eurasia during the stone age. About 765,000 years ago, they shared a common ancestor with Neanderthals and our species.

“We used a method called optical dating in order to estimate the time of deposition of the sediments in the cave. By doing so, we can also obtain dates for the artefacts, as well as animal and plant remains contained in the same sedimentary layers,” Zenobia Jacobs, from the Centre for Archaeological Science at the University of Wollongong in Australia told Daily News Egypt, as she was involved in the two studies.

“We can also obtain a rough estimate of the age of the hominin fossils at the Denisova Cave, but it is better to use other methods in order to date the fossils directly, because they are very small and isolated and could have been moved easily after the initial burial,” she further added.

Moreover, Jacobs pointed out that the tiny size of the fossils is why the researchers used a combination of optical, radiocarbon, and uranium-series dating methods, together with stratigraphic information and relative genetic ages (obtained from the mitochondrial DNA extracted from the fossil bones and teeth), in order to develop a statistical (Bayesian) model for a more reliable chronology for the hominin fossil.

This is the first time that we have a clear timeline for the complete hominin occupation of the Denisova cave across all three chambers (east, main, and south) from about 300,000 years ago. This reliable timeline enables us to link the archaeological, environmental, fossil, and DNA information together across space and time in order to look for patterns of change in the hominin presence, behaviour, as well as their interactions with prevailing climates. This also opens up a lot of opportunities to interrogate the archaeological record with more details.

Noteworthy, Jacobs and her team have been working on the study for seven years since 2012.

Depending on the findings of the two studies, we can now say with certainty that Denisovans have been present in the Denisova cave from at least 200,000 years ago (possibly 300,000 years ago, but we do not have hominin fossils or DNA associated with artefacts of this age) until about 50,000 years ago.

An important consequence of this timeline is that the most recent age estimates for the Denisovans at Denisova cave suggest that they have persisted long enough to have directly encountered modern humans (Homo sapiens) who were migrating through Asia. Certainly, modern humans were present in other parts of Asia about 50,000 years ago, but the nearest modern human fossils to the Denisova cave are located about 1,000 kilometres away at Ust-Ishim on the Siberian plains.

There are no fossil or DNA remains of Homo sapiens at the Denisova cave known at the present time. Therefore, the Denisovan ancestry of the Australian Aboriginals and New Guinean people could, therefore, be the result of direct interbreeding between their ancestors and the Denisovans, but we do not know where this interaction took place.

Moreover, Jacobs stated, “We can also say that the Neanderthals were present starting from at least 190,000 years ago until at least 90,000 years ago, but further fossil discoveries and DNA from the cave sediments may extend the time range of both the Denisovans and Neanderthals at the site. The fossil of mixed ancestry (Denisova 11) is about 100,000 years old, so we can say for certain that the Neanderthals and Denisovans met and interacted with each other at this time, when climatic conditions were especially favourable (relatively warm).”

Previous excavations were almost entirely carried out in the main and east chambers of the Denisova cave. Accordingly, the researchers will continue their study in the third chamber (south chamber) where excavations have only recently begun and are continuing at the present time.

Furthermore, they are also working on a large number of other sites in the Altai region, which contain archaeological and environmental records and some hominin fossils, in order to provide a regional-scale timeline for the hominin occupation and the environmental history of southern Siberia.

The post Scientists reveal secrets of Denisovans in Siberian cave appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

]]> 0
Earth core started to solidify 565m years ago, unlike previous beliefs Wed, 30 Jan 2019 09:30:47 +0000 “There is this huge range of 2bn years which scientists think is time frame when inner core was formed,” says Tarduno

The post Earth core started to solidify 565m years ago, unlike previous beliefs appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Earth’s inner core plays a vital role in generating the magnetic field which protects our planet from harmful solar wind—streams of radiation coming from the sun—and makes the Earth habitable. However, scientists had numerous speculations and studies about the age of this inner core.

A recent study conducted by researchers in the University of Rochester indicated that the Earth’s inner core is younger than what scientists thought, offering a new insight into the history of the Earth’s magnetic field and planetary habitability.

The study published by Nature Geosciences on Monday said that the inner core started to solidify only about 565m years ago—relatively younger than our 4.5bn-year-old planet.

“Until this data, the age of the inner core was uncertain,” said John Tarduno, a professor of earth and environmental sciences at Rochester. Tarduno informed Daily News Egypt via email, “There is this huge range of 2bn years, which scientists think is the time frame when the inner core was formed. These are the first field-strength data from the younger part of the range of possibilities suggesting that the inner core is really young.”

Earth’s magnetic field is generated in its liquid iron core via geodynamo—a process during which the kinetic energy of conducting moving fluids is converted into magnetic energy. Researchers believe a weak geodynamo—and a magnetic shield—formed early in Earth’s history, shortly after the event which created the Earth’s moon.

For the next several billion years, the energy to drive the dynamo decreased until a critical point 565m years ago, when “the dynamo was on the point of collapse,” Tarduno said. Despite its drastically weakened state, however, the dynamo did not go away. The researchers conjectured it was at this point in the geological time scale—or sometime shortly after—that the inner core began to form, giving strength to the geodynamo.

“This is a critical point in the evolution of the planet. The field did not collapse because the inner core started to grow and provided a new energy source for the formation of the geodynamo,” Tarduno said.

To know about the evolution of the geodynamo, the researchers of the study measured the strength of the ancient magnetic field locked within single crystals of the mineral feldspar. The samples were collected from the Sept-lles Complex in northern Quebec and contain tiny magnetic needles with ideal recording properties.

“The feldspar protects those needles from later alteration on geological time scales, so we get a much higher resolution record of the ancient strains in the magnetic field by measuring these single crystals,” according to Tarduno.

By studying the magnetism locked in ancient crystals—a field known as palaeomagnetism—the researchers found that the intensity of the magnetic field was extremely low 565m years ago, lower than anything we have ever seen before. This indicates that the inner core may have formed around this time in order to restore strength to the dynamo and, in turn, to the magnetic field.

Our magnetic field is part of what makes Earth a special planet, and, so far, the only one that has life. The evolution of the Earth’s interior and the resulting geodynamo generated within play a critical role in the preservation of life, according to the research.

An improved understanding of this evolution of the Earth’s interior may provide researchers key clues, not only for planet formation and habitability on Earth, but in the search for life on exoplanets which resemble Earth.

“The same factors which drive dynamos on Earth might affect the magnetic shielding on exoplanets. It could be the case that some planets do not have long-lived dynamos and those planets would not have the magnetic shielding we have, meaning that their atmosphere and water might be removed,” Tarduno said.

Besides being a critical point in the evolution of Earth, almost 565m years ago was also a critical time for the major diversification of life on Earth. This is a time of Ediacaran fauna, the first large complex organisms we saw in the geologic record. These are a fundamental change from the microbial life preserved in older rocks.

“It is true that if we have lower magnetic shielding, we would have more harmful radiation coming in to the Earth. That radiation might be harmful for DNA, for example, and there has been speculation that this could stimulate mutations,” Tarduno said. Although, there isn’t a strong evidence of this correlation in the geological record, the new data will certainly stimulate more thoughts on this issue.

The post Earth core started to solidify 565m years ago, unlike previous beliefs appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

]]> 0
Geopolitics, climate change pose threats to food production Wed, 30 Jan 2019 09:00:25 +0000 Researchers identify 226 food shocks across 134 nations in 53-year period

The post Geopolitics, climate change pose threats to food production appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Food shocks and their consequences across land and sea pose cumulative threats to global sustainability. These can be the main challenges facing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as they could disrupt food supply and security, livelihoods, and human well-being.

A new research published by Nature Sustainability on Monday has identified 226 food shocks across 134 nations in a period of 53 years. Findings of the study, which was conducted by a team of researchers from Australian and American universities, referred to an increasing frequency of food shocks across all sectors on a global scale.

The study’s lead author Richard Cottrell from the University of Tasmania in Australia told Daily News Egypt that the study focuses on food production shocks which are sudden losses of crops, livestock, or fish due to extreme weather conditions and geopolitical events like war.

“We wanted to know if there was a difference in the frequency and causes of shocks to land-based food production in crops and livestock, versus aquatic food systems, such as wild caught and farmed fish, and also whether there were any links between both of them,” he said.

The researchers analysed 53 years (1961-2013) of crop, livestock, fisheries, and aquaculture data to identify where and when the shocks had occurred. Once identified and knowing which commodity was affected (e.g. wheat), they dug into the literature, scouring scientific publications, or news and NGO reports to find what had happened to that commodity in that country at that time.

The study found that extreme weather conditions and geopolitical crises were the dominant drivers of food shocks, but the effects of these causes varied across sectors. Most of the shocks that affected crop production were caused by extreme weather conditions, reinforcing concerns about the vulnerability of arable systems to climatic and meteorological volatility across the globe.

Extreme weather was found to be a major driver of shocks to livestock by 23%, particularly where reductions to feed occurred. For instance, severe summertime droughts in Mongolia in 2001 and 2010 reduced fodder and feed availability, fluctuated livestock condition and led to mass deaths during extremes winter weather.

Diseases of foot and mouth also contributed to 10% of livestock shocks. However, geopolitical crises, such as economic decentralisation in Europe or conflict in sub-Saharan Africa, accounted for the greatest proportion of 41% of the livestock shocks according to the analysis.

“We found for agriculture (both crops and livestock), that extreme weather (e.g. floods, droughts, storms) and geopolitical events (e.g. conflict or state dissolution) were the most dominant drivers of shocks. For aquatic production, overfishing of wild-caught species and diseases in farmed species were the leading drivers,” Cottrell said.

“We found that shocks to food production have increased through time across all food sectors,” the lead author added.

Cottrell noted that his team found also in many situations, that shocks on land and sea were often connected via joint threats or antagonistic effects. For example, in Ecuador, a flooding associated with the 1998 El-Nino caused widespread damage to agriculture – but between 1998 and 2000, the country’s shrimp farming industry also suffered huge losses because of an outbreak in white-spot disease.

While seemingly unrelated, both the inclement weather on land and the onset of white-spot syndrome are associated with abnormally warm waters, common during El-Nino events in the east Pacific. In contrast, when Dominica’s banana crop was decimated by Hurricane David in 1979, marine fish catch rocketed for a few years as people looked for alternative sources of income. The researchers detected a shock only a few years later in fisheries’ data, when overfishing was reported in nearshore waters.

Synchronised threats to food production across multiple sectors can pose a real threat for food security. Millions of people around the world rely on agriculture and fisheries simultaneously as an adaptation strategy to deal with seasonal fluctuations in resources. The double jeopardy of linked threats can make this impossible. Meanwhile, unanticipated shifts in people’s resource use (particularly across the land-sea divide) during times of crisis, such as in Dominica, provide other sustainability challenges when it comes to managing and protecting natural ecosystems.

Understanding these links will become increasingly important as we strive to meet global sustainability targets but the climate in which we produce food becomes more volatile. Identifying direct and indirect links between land and sea will help prevent negative outcomes for natural ecosystems and biodiversity which can happen when people switch resource use for food or livelihoods. But understanding the major threats to production across each sector, will be key to maintaining stable and safe food production into the future as our population grows.

“We also need to build resilience in our food production systems as shocks become more frequent. With greater frequency, people have less time to recover and acquire assets that help them cope during times of hardship,” the researcher said.

The post Geopolitics, climate change pose threats to food production appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

]]> 0
Environment Minister, SEMED’s managing director discuss COP14, recycling projects Tue, 29 Jan 2019 18:42:19 +0000 Fouad praised level of collaboration between bank and ministry in several environmental projects in Egypt

The post Environment Minister, SEMED’s managing director discuss COP14, recycling projects appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

The Minister of Environment, Yasmine Fouad, met on Sunday with Janet Heckman, the managing director of Southern and Eastern Mediterranean region (SEMED) at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, in order to discuss the collaboration between the ministry and the bank in recycling wastes.

During the meeting, Fouad praised the level of collaboration between the bank and the ministry in several environmental projects in Egypt. She also stressed the necessity of supporting the wastes recycling manufacturing in order to provide job opportunities for youth, increase the industrial base, boost investments, and protect the environment.

Moreover, the meeting also discussed setting a roadmap for the cooperation between the bank and the ministry in using wastes and agricultural wastes, and using it as a fuel in order to decrease carbon dioxide emissions from Egyptian industries. The meeting also discussed supporting environmental tourism in protected areas and increasing its economic use in accordance with the environmental conditions.  

Fouad further said that her ministry tends to recycle bare palm branches. The meeting also discussed Egypt’s presidency over the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP14), and Fouad’s last visit to Germany in order to benefit from the German experience in recycling wasters in cooperation with the ministries of military production and local development.

The post Environment Minister, SEMED’s managing director discuss COP14, recycling projects appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

]]> 0
Fouad stresses importance of education in raising environmental awareness Mon, 28 Jan 2019 16:22:22 +0000 Minister announced launching cultural event for environmental topics  

The post Fouad stresses importance of education in raising environmental awareness appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Minister of Environment Yasmine Fouad said on Sunday that education plays an important role in serving the environment. She added during the celebration of the national environment day, that this year’s celebration has a special topic, “education”.

She added that education helps in achieving sustainable development, and that her ministry is working to integrate the environmental perspective in the plans of the other ministries.

The celebration was organised by the Arab Office for Youth and Environment, hosted by the Al-Ahram institution—it comes on the 40th anniversary of establishing the office.

Fouad said that she has a different perspective for the role of education, saying that despite the success of the ministry in numerous fields such as establishing protected areas, and nets for water and air quality monitoring, but we need more employees in environmental projects.

She noted that her strategy is to train school pupils and students in universities and to integrate the environmental concepts in curricula in order to increase the number of environmental activists.  

The minister stressed that her ministry is collaborating with the United Nations Development Programme – UNDP to implement a campaign for public participation, as well as a strategy for raising environmental awareness. She also announced the launch of a cultural event for environmental topics in the Environmental Cultural and Educational Centre (Cairo House).   

The post Fouad stresses importance of education in raising environmental awareness appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

]]> 0
Four suggested scientific solutions for Egypt’s water dilemma Mon, 28 Jan 2019 13:00:35 +0000 Egypt projected to have critical countrywide fresh water, food shortages by 2025

The post Four suggested scientific solutions for Egypt’s water dilemma appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Egypt has reached the predicament of water scarcity, this is what the government has stated and what was also confirmed by statements from the speaker of the parliament Ali Abdel Aal late in December.

For its part, the ministry of irrigation and water resources started applying a programme of various steps to increase the welfare of water and adapt to the current and future situation. However, what has occurred made Egypt, the “gift of the Nile” -as Herodotus the Greek historian said- run out of the Nile’s water.

The government blames overpopulation of increasing the demand on water, and as population is expected to double in the next 50 years, Egypt is projected to have a critical countrywide fresh water and food shortage by 2025, according to a study conducted by the Geological Society of America (GSA).

Here we investigate the role of science in helping to solve Egypt’s water dilemma.

GERD, 5 steps for agreement

Egypt is depending on the Nile flow to provide about 97% of its present water needs with only 660 cubic metres per person, one of the world’s lowest annual per capita water shares. Meanwhile, Ethiopia is continuing to construct the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which is believed to threaten Egypt’s water security.

Elfatih A B Eltahir, professor of Hydrology and Climate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, the US, said that Egypt was not consulted when the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) was announced.

In order to effectively address the conflict on the Nile water between the three countries, (Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan) the key is not to focus on how we fill a reservoir behind a dam here or there, but instead to address the root cause of the problem by finding ways to curb population growth, and nurture soil fertility across the Nile basin, Eltahir informed Daily News Egypt.

Furthermore, Eltahir proposes some necessary elements to achieve sustainable agreement on sharing water between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan. The five elements include reaching an agreement between the three countries on curtailing the rate of population growth, and a commitment from the three countries to invest in new agricultural technologies such as better seeds, greater use of fertilisers, and efficient water use technology including more efficient use of water for cropland irrigation, such as drip irrigation, is necessary.

He also suggests rather than obstructing the efforts for building the GERD, the two downstream countries (especially Egypt) should commit to playing the role of a reliable customer for Ethiopian electricity, sold at fair market price. In his opinion, this should ensure a sustained flux of currency from Egypt to Ethiopia, which would finance badly needed development plans and help to sustain the Ethiopian economy.

Given the natural disparity in the distribution of rainfall between Ethiopia and Egypt, Ethiopia should develop its rain-fed agriculture instead of irrigated agriculture, while ensuring a sustainable annual flux of water downstream, close to the current rate of flow into Sudan, to be divided in a separate agreement between Sudan and Egypt, Eltahir says.

He added that the countries of the Eastern Nile Basin should develop a common regional approach to incorporate the potential impacts of climate change on rainfall and river flow in any negotiated agreement.

Turning heat into drinking water

Science always has the solution, and one of the solutions for the water crisis was conducted by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They built a new device which is able to turn heat into desalinated, distilled drinking water.

The device soaks up enough heat from the sun to boil water and produce superheated steam hotter than 100 degrees Celsius, without any expensive optics.

According to the study which was published recently in the Nature Communications journal, on a sunny day, the structure can passively pump out steam hot enough to sterilise medical equipment, as well as to use in cooking and cleaning.

Moreover, the steam could also be used to supply heat to industrial processes.

According to the paper, the amount of water which the device can produce depends on two main factors: the area covered by the device and solar radiation (the amount of solar radiation falling on a given area capable of generating electricity).

Findings of the study pointed out that the device is working in the presence of the sun, but does not require a bright sun; the device can be operated with solar flows of less than 1000 watts per square metre and with the help of solar condensates at times when solar radiation is low.

“It’s a completely passive system-you just leave it outside to absorb sunlight. You could scale this up to something that could be used in remote climates to generate enough drinking water for a family, or sterilise equipment for one operating room,” said Thomas Cooper, assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering at York University, and lead author of the study.

He added that each cubic metre of the area occupied by the device produces 2.5 litres of distilled water daily in a place with daily solar radiation estimated at 6 kWh per cubic metre.

Drought tolerant crops

Researchers have identified new drought-resistant plant genes that could cope with the water scarcity. Also cultivating rice could help in decreasing the salinity in the soil of Egypt’s coastal governorates.  

One of the Egyptian local experiences in this regard, is the experience of Professor of Genetics at the Faculty of Agriculture, Zagazig University, Saeed Soliman, who was working for a long time in developing a new species of drought-resistant rice and which uses less amounts of water.

Speaking to DNE, Soliman said that he has developed a species of rice named ‘Oraby’ after the political leader Ahmed Oraby who is the symbol of Zagazig university. The age of that species of engineered rice takes about 120 days compared to 145 days for normal rice. He added that Oraby rice could be cultivated twice a year.  

Oraby rice could be cultivated in all kinds of land, as it was successfully cultivated in Tushka in sandy soil, and in clay soil. According to Soliman it is possible to cultivate two million feddan of the engineered rice with the same amount of water which is allocated to irrigate one million feddan of normal rice, and Oraby rice will achieve an increase in productivity by 2 million tonnes of rice, meaning one tonne per feddan.

Harvesting water from desert air

Most of Egypt’s land is desert land. Actually Egypt is just a desert with a very small line of water which crosses its land from south to north, which is the river Nile and its valley. However, 97% of Egypt’s land is a desert in Sinai, the Eastern Desert, and the Western Desert.

For arid countries-like Egypt-scientists at the 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 in the Science Advances journal, the powder is saturated with water during moist and cool nights after it is packed in a frame in a Plexiglas box. After that it releases water as sunlight heats it up during the day, and then the resultant water condenses on the side of the box which was kept open at night and it closes during the day. The process takes a 24 hours (normal day).


Another solution that could help in decreasing the crises are depending on ground water as well as seawater desalination in order to meet the domestic demand for water. A new study pointed out that the domestic water sector is one of the largest water consumers in Egypt, using over 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 cubic metres in 2016 to about 15bn cubic metres 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.

“Groundwater and seawater desalination are together a promising source for meeting the future water needs of Egypt. By 2040 Egypt will need additional 5bn cubic metres to meet the domestic use of water to reach the needed amount 15bn cubic metres,” according to the study.

It added that the Egyptian groundwater stock is fresh and has few levels of salinity, thus allows for meeting the future demand of domestic water. It is also cheaper than seawater desalination.

The process of seawater desalination is very expensive and the cost of desalinating of one cubic metre of water costs $1,000, in addition to other costs of operating and maintenance which costs $1. But this process is the promising source of water for coastal governorates particularly when Egypt relies on cheaper energy sources, which will help in decreasing the cost of desalination.   

The post Four suggested scientific solutions for Egypt’s water dilemma appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

]]> 0
Climate change strengthens sea waves, threatens coastal zones Wed, 23 Jan 2019 10:30:19 +0000 Waves shape coastlines, influence how, where to build coastal infrastructures

The post Climate change strengthens sea waves, threatens coastal zones appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Every year, ocean waves are getting stronger and more destructive, so that the Sea level Rise (SLR) puts coastal areas at the forefront of the impacts of climate change.

Recently, scientists have found a correlation between climate change and wave behaviour, suggesting that the more temperatures rise, the stronger waves become.

The study, which was recently published in the Nature Communications journal, focused on the energy contained in ocean waves, which is transmitted from the wind and transformed into wave motion.

This metric, called wave power, has been increasing in direct association with chronological warming of the ocean surface. The upper ocean warming, measured as a rising trend in sea-surface temperatures, has influenced wind patterns globally, and this, in turn, is strengthening ocean waves.

Researchers from the University of California, Santa Cruz, discovered that the energy of ocean waves has been growing in direct correlation with the warming of the upper ocean. This is making waves stronger, and represents an influential marker of global warming on the marine climate which remained undetected.

Previous wave climate studies focused on certain parameters, such as wind speeds and wave heights, and identified changes in localised areas, and particularly for the extremes. However, this study focused on the energy transported by the waves, which is called wave power. Wave power represents the energy that is transferred from the wind to the ocean and generates waves that cross the ocean and transport this energy to our coastlines.

According to the study, the wave power includes some features that make it a particularly good indicator of how the global wave climate has been changing. This is relevant because it is why it can be a better indicator of long-term changes in the wave climate than other parameters previously used.

The wave power aggregates the information for both mean and extreme conditions, throughout seasons, so it represents over time how much energy there was. Note that, for example, values of wave heights need to be averaged, so we calculate the mean winter wave, or an extreme value associated with a certain probability.

However, this does not represent if there was a particular sequence of storms that was irregularly energetic over a season, as occurred in the winter of 2013/14 in the North Atlantic that impacted the west coast of Europe, or as occurs in the North Pacific during El Nino years. This means that two locations can have similar average values of wave heights but drastically different energy over a year depending on the storm activity, according to lead author Borja G Reguero, from the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Reguero informed Daily News Egypt that “to calculate the global wave power we used three different global hindcast datasets (wave data from computer models), and satellite observations.”

Explaining the correlation between climate change and the behaviour of waves, Reguero said that most of the heat imbalance pumped into the earth’s system is going into the ocean. Ocean heating is a critical marker of climate change. “Our study shows that this is affecting ocean-atmosphere interactions, and in turn winds, and the waves they generate and reach our shores,” he added.

This is one of the potentials of using global wave power as a new indicator of climate change. “Our study shows that wave power has been increasing in direct correlation with the increasing sea surface temperature, both globally and by ocean sub-regions. This puts wave power as a new marker of climate change, similarly to the global sea level rise, the rising temperatures, or the CO2 concentration,” the lead author said.

He explained further that when waves get stronger they have direct implications for coastal communities because wave energy is directly related to coastal processes, and has a direct effect on erosion and flooding. Wave action also shape our coastlines, and influence how and where we build coastal infrastructures, such as ports, and breakwaters.

Therefore, changes in wave action can influence navigation conditions, or can even be linked with the condition and evolution of coastal ecosystems such as coral reefs and salt marshes. When planning how to adapt, it will also be important to consider the changes in the wave climate, in addition to SLR because planning adjustment only for sea level rise might underestimate the potential consequences and the accommodation needs.

Reguero noted that coastal cities can adapt and manage the risk of coastal hazards such as flooding and erosion in different ways, including coastal protection from hard and soft such as nature-based solutions, but also through coastal zone management and policy.

The post Climate change strengthens sea waves, threatens coastal zones appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

]]> 0
Philips launches Ingenia Ambition X for step-change in productivity Wed, 23 Jan 2019 10:00:14 +0000 Application combines fully sealed BlueSeal magnet technology, workflow innovations  

The post Philips launches Ingenia Ambition X for step-change in productivity appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Philips Egypt announced on Saturday the local launch the Ingenia Ambition X 1.5T MR during the recently concluded African Society of Radiology (ASR) conference, which took place in Cairo from 16-19 January.

The new innovation is the latest advance in the Ingenia MRI portfolio, which comprises of fully-digital MRI systems, healthcare informatics, and a range of maintenance and life cycle services for integrated solutions that empower a faster, smarter, and simpler path toward enabling a confident diagnosis.

The first commercial installation of the Ingenia Ambition X was recently completed at Spital Uster Hospital, a major provider of extended primary healthcare in the canton of Zurich, Switzerland. The Ingenia Ambition X is CE marked and has received 510(k) clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In radiology, meeting the need for high productivity and an improved patient experience while ensuring excellence in imaging can be daunting. The perception is often that MR represents a trade-off between productivity and image quality. The Ingenia Ambition X provides leading-edge MR imaging capabilities while helping to increase overall productivity, combining its revolutionary BlueSeal magnet with innovations that can help reduce downtime, enable single operator workflow and speed up exam times by up to 50%.

“MRI provides exceptional diagnostic and therapy guidance capabilities, but it also places substantial operational demands on the hospital or imaging centre due to requirements for installation, footprint and service,” said Iyad AlTaiyeb the CEO of Philips North East Africa.

He added that: “BlueSeal is a breakthrough MRI technology and we’re proud to be first to market it. The fully-sealed magnet dramatically reduces the amount of liquid helium needed to cool the magnet to less than half a percent of the current norm. This results in significant operational benefits for our customers, including a smaller, lighter, and more flexible installation footprint, and a more efficient return to normal operations if an interruption in service should ever occur.”

Incorporating Philips’ breakthrough BlueSeal fully-sealed magnet, the Ingenia Ambition X is the world’s first MR system to enable helium-free operations, reducing the chance of potentially lengthy and costly disruptions, and virtually eliminating dependency on a commodity with an unpredictable supply. The fully-sealed system does not require a vent pipe, and is around 900kg lighter than its predecessor, significantly reducing the siting challenges presented by conventional magnets and lowering construction costs.

Furthermore, the Ingenia Ambition X includes a range of innovative features that combine to deliver a step-change in productivity. With Philips’ EasySwitch solution, the BlueSeal’s magnetic field can be easily turned off if an item becomes stuck in the bore. Once the problem is resolved, an in-house or Philips technician can initiate an automated ramp-up to bring the magnet back to field, minimising operational downtime. A conventional MR can require two staff to manage daily operations. The Ingenia Ambition X combines guided patient setup and adaptive intelligence-driven SmartExam analytics for automatic planning, scanning and processing. This frees up time to enable a single operator to manage the full scan from the patient’s side with just a single touch of a button.

Philips compressed SENSE is an advanced acceleration application that reduces exam times by up to 50%. In addition, Philips VitalEye is a unique approach to detecting patient physiology and breathing movement. VitalEye technology and algorithms intelligently extract signs of breathing – allowing routine exam set-up time to occur in less than a minute, even for less experienced operators. Together, these innovations help to standardise and speed up workflow, allowing clinicians to focus on the patient.

The post Philips launches Ingenia Ambition X for step-change in productivity appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

]]> 0
African Youth Conference for Environmental Sustainability in Industries to be held in April Wed, 16 Jan 2019 15:34:18 +0000 Event comes within Egypt’s presidency over African Union

The post African Youth Conference for Environmental Sustainability in Industries to be held in April appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

The Minister of Environment, Yasmine Fouad, announced on Tuesday that the ministry, in collaboration with the Federation of Egyptian Industries, will hold the African Youth Conference for Environmental Sustainability in Industries by the end of April.

The conference comes within Egypt’s presidency over the African Union.

During her speech in the conference of the Sustainable Development Goals and Business Opportunities for the Private Sector, Fouad added that the African Youth Conference aims to exchange experiences between African youth, and comes as part of Egypt’s march towards supporting environmental work in Africa, and integrating environmental aspects in industry.

She stressed that her ministry is working on integrating active youth in environmental issues, pointing out that the ministry has launched an initiative for creating new youth communities at universities interested in environmental work.

The ministry will train youth and guide them toward environmental projects which help to find solutions for environmental problems. It will also adopt applicable projects such as the project of producing biogas from agricultural wastes.

Fouad stressed the importance of integrating the environmental perspective in developmental sectors and in industries to increase productivity and competitiveness in order to reach globalism. She further added that her ministry has exerted great efforts for protecting the environment and reducing industrial pollution.

The post African Youth Conference for Environmental Sustainability in Industries to be held in April appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

]]> 0
Termites: efficient miniature fighters during droughts in rainforests Wed, 16 Jan 2019 10:00:53 +0000 This study is yet another proof that we need to conserve biodiversity

The post Termites: efficient miniature fighters during droughts in rainforests appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Despite their miniature size, but termites play an important role in mitigating the effects of drought in tropical rainforests and conserving the ecosystem in the tropical rainforests of Africa and Asia. They also contribute to the decomposition of living organisms and plants, facilitate the recycling of nutrients, enhance soil moisture, and increase nutrient efficiency.

According to a recent study published in the Science journal on Thursday, termites are one of the few living organisms that can break the cellulose found in plant materials.

The study, prepared by researchers from the Natural History Museum and Liverpool University, is the first large-scale study to test the hypothesis which theorises that termites play a crucial role in maintaining ecosystem processes in rainforests during droughts.

The researchers conducted a case study on rainforests on the Malaysian island of Borneo during and after the severe droughts that followed El Niño in 2015 and 2016. The research team compared the status of endemic sites with other sites removed from them.

El Niño is a climatic phenomenon that occurs during periods ranging from 4 to 12 years in the Pacific Ocean and causes its water to warm, which may result in dry and hot droughts in Asia and East Africa and heavy rainfall and floods in South America.

Despite the harsh environmental conditions, however, researchers found that termites increase significantly in sites hit by drought from other sites. The large number of termites during the drought period resulted in higher decomposition rates of tree leaves and nutrient cycling, and increased soil survival and winter humidity compared with non-drought periods.

Over 50% of the Earth’s tropical forests have been removed in one form or another through human activity, i.e., approximately 10m sqkm, which is vast and is likely to be less drought-resistant due to the negative effects of low termite numbers.

“When the study was conceived we were interested in better understanding and quantifying the precise role that termites play in rainforest ecosystem processes. We know they are very important for things like decomposition, but no study has yet partitioned the role of termites from that of other organisms,” lead author Hannah Griffiths, from the School of Environmental Sciences at Liverpool University informed Daily News Egypt.

To achieve the goal of the study, Griffiths and her team set up a large scale ecosystem manipulation experiment within a rainforest in Borneo, where they suppressed termite communities on experimental plots. Then, in the middle of their study, the extreme El Niño drought of 2015-2016 occurred and made them realise that this was a really exciting opportunity to look at how termite activity/abundance is influenced by drought, and how this change influences termite-mediated processes during and after this climatic event.

“What we found was really exciting,” she said. First, termite abundance/activity approximately doubled during the drought and this impacted a number of key soil processes. In areas where termite communities were intact, leaf litter decomposition increased, soil moisture was maintained, forest floor leaf litter depth increased, soil nutrient heterogeneity increased, and seedling survival was higher.

All of these effects were only evident during the drought, which shows that termites are buffering these key ecosystem processes from the negative effects of drought stress. This suggested that intact biological communities are needed to safeguard functioning ecosystems against environmental perturbations.

“Overall, this study is yet another piece of evidence that we need to conserve biodiversity, and sustain intact natural habitats and communities in order to maintain healthy functioning ecosystems, especially given that we are facing a time of unprecedented changes to the biosphere,” Griffiths told DNE.

This research shows, that it is vital to conserve intact ecosystems and communities of plants and animals because of their role as a type of ecological protection, safeguarding the maintenance of functioning natural ecosystems.

The post Termites: efficient miniature fighters during droughts in rainforests appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

]]> 0
North African date palms have Middle Eastern origin Wed, 16 Jan 2019 09:30:43 +0000 Oldest archaeological evidence for Phoenix dactylifera found in UAE, Kuwait

The post North African date palms have Middle Eastern origin appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

North African date palms are a hybrid between cultivated date palms from the Middle East and a different, wild species of palm, a recent study revealed. The source of our North African date palms belong to other species that grow on the island of Crete and in small areas of Southern Turkey, according to genome analysis.

Researchers from the New York University-Abu Dhabi’s Centre for Genomics and Systems Biology (NYUAD CGSB), revealed in a research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the US, the evolutionary history of one of the earliest domesticated tree crops in the world, which remains a major fruit crop in North Africa and the Middle East.

Using genome analysis, the researchers have found that hybridisation between date palms and P theophrasti, a species known as the Cretan wild palm which was found in the Eastern Mediterranean, is the source of the mixed ancestry and genetic distinction of North African date palms.

When the researchers say ‘Middle East’ they exclude the Egypt, Libya, and other Arab African countries that were mentioned as ‘North African’ countries.

For years, it was similar to a mystery regarding the origin of the date palms in the Middle East and North Africa. It was believed in previous scientific works that the date palms from the Middle East and North Africa are genetically different, despite their one origin, as they belong to one species ‘Phoenix dactylifera’.

Due to its differentiated characteristics, which include such popular date varieties as Medjool and Deglet Noor, the nature of North African dates, has led to questions as to how they originated. There have been suggestions, for example, that North African date palms may have been domesticated independently from date palms in the Middle East.

Researchers from NYUAD, collaborating with other scientists from NYU in New York and researchers in Greece, France, Switzerland, and the UK, gathered to solve the mystery of the origin of North African date palms. They have sequenced the genomes of a large sample of date palms from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, as well as palms from related but distinct wild species.

Findings of the study revealed that about 5-18% of the North African date palm genome is derived from the Cretan wild palm.

Compared to date palms from the Middle East, the hybridisation of Middle East varieties with wild Phoenix theophrasti has led to increased genetic diversity in the North African date palms.

The results also showed the possibility of hybridisation with P theophrasti to create new genes being introduced to cultivated date palms that could help provide better date palm varieties, for disease resistance and yield.

The P theophrasti is currently found in 10 populations on the island of Crete, with a population near the popular beach resort of Vai, which is considered to be the largest palm forest in Europe. Small populations of P theophrasti can also be found in various islands in the Aegean Sea, in mainland Greece, and Southern Turkey.

Although this species looks similar to the cultivated date palm, the fruit of P theophrasti are thin and fibrous and are generally inedible. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies P theophrasti are ‘near-threatened’ in status, which indicates that this species, while not an immediate cause for concern, may find itself threatened with extinction in the near future, according to the paper.

The researchers suggested, based on the findings of the analysis, that date palms were initially domesticated in the Middle East, possibly in the Gulf region.

The oldest archaeological evidence for Phoenix dactylifera is found in the Dalma island in the UAE, and in Kuwait, during the Arabian Neolithic period about 7,000 years ago.

In its movement of the domesticated date palms from its origin in the Arab peninsula, the P dactylifera encountered populations of Phoenix theophrasti when they reached the eastern Mediterranean.

The two hybrid species led to the origin of the date palms which currently grow in North Africa since approximately 3,000 years ago, according to archaeological evidence that was mentioned in the paper.

This study is part of the New York University Abu Dhabi Date Palm Genome Project, which was started in 2012. “We are interested in using genomics to study the diversity of date palms, so we can understand their genetic variability, their origin, and spread across the Middle East and North Africa. We are also interested in mapping genes that may be important for improving date palm agriculture,” said Michael Purugganan, silver professor of Biology at the Centre for Genomics and Systems Biology, New York University, and leader of the project.

He informed Daily News Egypt that the results of the study continue a trend of the researchers’ ideas that the movement of many fruit tree crops are accompanied by hybridisation with local wild species. Furthermore, he said that he and his team believe that hybridisation helps domesticated crops adapt to new environments by getting new alleles from wild species. So one impact of the study is to continue to highlight the importance that between-species hybridisation has on crop adaptation.

“Another impact is it provides date palm breeders with a new source of genes to help improve date palms as a crop. Breeders need not limit themselves to other date palms, but can use the related species Phoenix theophrasti as a source of genes,” Purugganan added.

Moreover, he explained further that one thing he and his team did not highlight in their paper is that the timing of the appearance of the North African date coincides with the Minoan and Phoenician activity in the Mediterranean, so it is interesting to speculate on how these old civilisations may have had a role in the origin and spread of this important North African crop species.

According to Purugganan the Date Palm Genome Project is 7 years old now, and the current study on the origin of North African dates is just one of many projects they are conducting. “This study helps us understand where the genetic differences of the North African dates like Medjool and Deglet Noor come from-part of it comes from this other species from Crete,” he said.

Purugganan told DNE that he and his team are still working on the issue of the origin of dates. They will continue to try to expand their knowledge of the genetic diversity of date palms using genomics.

The post North African date palms have Middle Eastern origin appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

]]> 0
Study reveals first direct evidence of Basilosaurus isis’ diet Wed, 09 Jan 2019 19:46:44 +0000 15-metre-long ancient whale, discovered in Wadi Al-Hitan, was top marine predator

The post Study reveals first direct evidence of Basilosaurus isis’ diet   appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Before 37m years, the Fayoum desert—where the 200 sqkm Wadi Al-Hitan is located—was covered with water as part of the old Mediterranean Sea, “Tethys Sea,” which has existed about 200m years ago. In this environment, Basilosaurus isis lived as one of the biggest marine predators in history topping the ecological pyramid.

According to a study published on Wednesday in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, an international research team revealed for the first time the diet of Basilosaurus isis. The 15-metre-long and 1.5-metric-tonne ancient whale was an apex predator that lived in the late Eocene about 38-34m years ago.

In 2010, a team, led by Manja Voss from the Museum of Natural History in Berlin, uncovered the stomach contents of an adult Basilosaurus isis in the Wadi Al-Hitan. The discovery revealed the remains of sharks, large bony fish, and, most numerously, bones from Dorudon atrox, a smaller species of ancient whale.

The Wadi Al-Hitan, which is now a UNESCO world heritage site, was once a shallow sea during the late Eocene period and is remarkable for its wealth of marine fossils.

The Basilosaurus skeleton was distinct from other skeletons in the cluster, containing Basilosaurus isis incisors and sharp cheek teeth, as well as bones. Most of the fish and Dorudon whale remains showed signs of breakage and bite marks, and tended to be clustered within the body cavity of the ancient whale.

The discovery derives its importance from being the first direct evidence of Basilosaurus’s diet. The study confirms a predator-prey-relationship of the two most frequently found fossil whales in Wadi Al-Hitan, Basilosaurus isis, and Dorudon atrox. It also extends our knowledge of ancient whales, and completes the bigger paleoecological picture of the late Eocene’s oceans of Egypt, said Voss.

She informed Daily News Egypt that the field work of the study lasted for three weeks in December 2010, and again in summer 2016, including the study of the stomach content remains and comparisons with other Basilosaurus and Dorudon specimens.

Professor Olivier Lambert from the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences informed Daily News Egypt that the study is a very fine, important contribution, as “we have a very limited knowledge of the prey types for most extinct whales, as stomach contents are extremely rare. Any new, well analysed find is thus important,” he said.

Lambert explained that Basilosaurids represent a key group in the evolutionary history of cetaceans. “First they are the earliest whales to be fully aquatic (their hind limbs are so reduced that they cannot bear their weight on land any more). Second, they most likely gave rise to the two modern lineages: the mysticetus (baleen whales and relatives) and the odontocetes (echolocating whales and dolphins),” he pointed out.

According to Lambert, finding clues on Basilosaurids’ trophic interactions (predator-prey interactions) is crucial to better understanding the ecology of the last common ancestor of all modern whales and dolphins.

Basilosaurus is a very strange whale, with body proportions departing from all other contemporaneous cetaceans. Because no modern analogue could be found, the ecology of this animal is still poorly understood, even if this is one of the most common late Eocene whales, Lambert concluded.

The post Study reveals first direct evidence of Basilosaurus isis’ diet   appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

]]> 0
Eye in sky enables scientists to gauge global poverty Wed, 09 Jan 2019 13:50:07 +0000 Researchers from Arhus University monitored implementing UN SDGs through satellite images

The post Eye in sky enables scientists to gauge global poverty appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Over 93 countries worldwide committed to achieve the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that we are committed to nationally and internationally.

It can be difficult to assess global poverty and poor economic conditions, but with an ‘eye in the sky’, researchers are able to give us a very good hint of the living conditions of populations in the world’s impoverished countries, according to a new research.

The study was conducted by a team of researchers from Aarhus University, Denmark, and was published on Monday in the American Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), taking about two years to be conducted.

The UN’s development agenda was adopted by the world’s heads of state and governments at a UN Summit in New York in 2015. The goals came into force on 1 January 2016, and will continue to set a course for further sustainable development to benefit both people and the planet that we live on until 2030.

Findings of the study reveal that in order to track the living conditions in poor nations around the world where the forthcoming population growth is highest, this will help us to achieve the UN SDGs-which 93 member countries have committed themselves to.

Researchers of the study have discovered that high resolution satellite data can be used to map economic living conditions down to a household level. Based on high resolution satellite images, they were enabled to assess the poverty status at dwelling degree in rural areas in developing countries.

Professor Jens-Christian Svenning from the Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, informed Daily News Egypt that in order to effectively work toward socio-ecological sustainability as aimed for with the UN’s SDGs, they have to be able to monitor progress toward them.

“Here, satellite-based remote sensing offers increasingly rich data for doing exactly that. In the present study, we wanted to test if high-resolution satellite imagery can be used to monitor socioeconomic wealth at the household level in rural landscapes in the developing world,” he said.

Svenning added that he and his team tested the approach on a landscape in Kenya for which they have rich ground-collected data on the socioeconomic conditions of households.

“We found that it is indeed possible to get a good indication of household wealth from satellite imagery, suggesting that this source of increasingly rich and increasingly free data offers major possibilities to monitor progress in combating poverty and socioeconomic development in general,” said Svenning who heads the research group in Aarhus.

Among other things, it revealed the size of buildings and areas of uncultivated soil, and the length of the growing season on a number of family-run farms in an agricultural area in Kenya.

The images uncovered how people use the landscape around their homes and the degree to which this changes over time. The study showed thorough analysis of satellite images that 62% of the variation in the economic conditions of individual households could be explained through the images.

“The approach in this study was relatively expensive as it was a proof of a concept approach. However, we are now working on new approaches that would considerably reduce the costs and allow us to upscale the approach to regional and national levels. This involves looking at new ways of analysing the satellite data and merging different satellite data types together,” said Gary Watmough, lead author of the study, and interdisciplinary lecturer in Land Use and Socioecological Systems at the School of Geosciences, the University of Edinburgh, the UK.

Watmough informed Daily News Egypt that “traditionally, monitoring poverty and development in low- and middle-income countries such as Kenya, has depended on data collected from household surveys.” He added that these surveys are expensive to carry out and infrequent. In comparison, high resolution satellite imagery is relatively cheap and frequently collected. Satellite imagery can provide information about a landscape and the way that land is being used and how this is changing over time.

The paper examines how the information seen in high resolution satellite imagery could, in the future, be used to improve how poverty and development can be monitored in rural areas of Kenya. According to the lead author of the study, the findings of the paper should be seen as a proof of concept that it is possible to use high resolution imagery to estimate aspects of rural wellbeing. It is also important to recognise that an approach that considers how people use the land in their region results in better predictions of wellbeing.

The data available from satellites is improving, and increasing all of the time, so in future it is possible that satellite images will form a key part of monitoring socioeconomic conditions and supporting the existing data from household surveys. “We know that the approach described in this study will have to be adaptable though as it will need to reflect the local conditions, and how people are using the land,” Watmough concluded.  

The post Eye in sky enables scientists to gauge global poverty appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

]]> 0
Study suggests generating solar energy from snow-covered mountains Wed, 09 Jan 2019 13:45:07 +0000 Electricity must be produced when it is needed, as it is difficult to store large amounts of it

The post Study suggests generating solar energy from snow-covered mountains appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

A recent study suggests that solar power can be generated not just summer but in winter as well, by placing solar panels on snow-covered mountains with steep tilt angles. The study aims to transform the seasonal production of solar energy through photovoltaic (PV) cells into PV panels from temporary—in the summer months only—to permanent in order to keep up with the increasing demand for electricity.

According to the results of the study which was published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Journal, placing the solar panels on the snow-covered mountains in this position can generate similar amounts of energy, compared with the placement of solar panels in cities and flat lands-which have a lower surface area-and can convert a large amount of electricity produced from summer to winter, and balance the relation between electricity demand and production during winter and summer.

Electricity must be produced when it is needed, because it is difficult to store large amounts of it. Solar panels produce electricity when it is sunny, but not necessarily when the demand for it is highest. In countries which use a great extent of electricity for cooling purposes, demand and PV production might be well aligned, but in mid-latitude countries the need for electricity is highest in winter when it is cold and dark. Consequently, demand and production do not correlate, according to the lead author of the study, Annelen Kahl, from L’École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland.

Kahl informed Daily News Egypt that the higher the contribution of solar PV to a country’s electricity budget, the more critical this discrepencancy will become. “It is not just important to produce as much renewable electricity as possible, it is also important to provide it at the right time. Our results show that we can significantly improve from the conventional setting,” she said.  

She noted that she started working with the renewable energies group at the EPFL in February 2015, but this specific study took probably about 1.5 years.

Achieving the study’s goals can be done by placing PV panels under steep tilt angles in a mountainous environment. The resulting effect of boosting winter electricity production is threefold: in the mountains there is less fog and cloud cover in winter than in the valleys (the typical urban installation sites), hence the incoming radiation that reaches the ground is already higher in winter.

Also, by installing the panels with a steeper inclination angle than possible in conventional urban settings (in Switzerland the law requires PV panels to flush with the roof surface), winter production is further increased because the PV surface is more perpendicular to the incoming radiation, taking into consideration that the sun is closer to the horizon in winter than in summer. The snow cover in the mountains increases the reflection of solar radiation onto the surface of the PV panel. This is due to the high reflection of snow in comparison to all other surface cover types such as soil, grass, or concrete.

The cost of the process depends on which PV technology you decide to install, and that is independent of whether it is installed on the roof of a house in a big city, on a building in a ski resort, or on a slope in the mountains. The cost of the associated infrastructure however can vary, according to support structures, cabling, and the connection to the electricity grid, and possibly road access for easy maintenance.

Explaining the process and techniques of generating energy from snow-covered mountains with steep tilt angles, Kahl said that there are three reasons why electricity production in the mountains is advantageous over production in urban areas.

The first reason is that there is less sunshine in winter, as clouds obstruct the sun, therefore less energy will reach the solar panels and they will produce less electricity. Hence, it is better to place them in locations with little cloud cover, such as the mountains. Generally, there is less cloud cover and fog at high elevations during the winter months.

The second reason is that with steep panel tilts, PV panels will generate the utmost amount of electricity when the sun rays hit the surface vertically. In winter the sun stays are very close to the horizon, and in order to receive sun rays vertically the PV panels needs to be very steep. In urban areas the panel inclination is often dictated by the roof’s slope, which is more oriented towards summer sun than toward winter sun. In mountain locations the tilt could be optimised for winter production.   

The third reason is the extra radiation reflected from the snow-since the snow is white-because it reflects light at all visible wavelengths, which includes most of the energy that comes from the sun. Clean snow can reflect as much as 85% of the incoming energy from the sun. That is almost as if there was sunshine coming from the ground, and it also reaches the surface of the solar panel. How much of it reaches the panel depends again on the inclination. Subsequently, the panel collects extra energy, and can produce additional electricity if there is snow on the ground.

The post Study suggests generating solar energy from snow-covered mountains appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

]]> 0
Mansourasouras tops Egypt’s scientific phenomenon in 2018 Wed, 02 Jan 2019 11:00:32 +0000 Egypt first Arab, African country to host COP14 on CBD

The post Mansourasouras tops Egypt’s scientific phenomenon in 2018 appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

During the past year, Egypt has witnessed several important scientific events including geological discoveries. Most of the greatest scientific events were discovered by Daily News Egypt, but here we are summarising the main events, and assembling new scientific events with previously covered events in one list according to its importance and effect. Our list includes important conferences, reports, and discoveries that affected scientific life in Egypt or had a perceived impact.


Our first and most important scientific event in 2018 was the announcement of the discovery of Mansourasouras. In late January 2018, a study has appeared in Nature Ecology and Evolution Journal, revealing the finding of the most completely preserved land-living vertebrate from the Late Cretaceous (about 94 to 66m years ago) of the African continent, and the sixth and youngest dinosaur to be discovered in Egypt.

The discovery of the new species of dinosaur, a school-bus-length, long-necked plant-eater with bony plates embedded in its skin has been unearthed in Dakhla Oasis in Egypt’s Western Desert, was conducted by a team of researchers from Mansoura University, and Ohio University, the US.

The fossilised remains of the dinosaur Mansourasaurusshahine were unearthed by an expedition undertaken by the Mansoura University Vertebrate Paleontology (MUVP) initiative, led by Hesham Sallam from the department of geology at Mansoura University.

The Egyptian-US team of researchers have identified remains of the new titanosaurian sauropod dinosaur -Mansourasaurus-, from the Upper Cretaceous Quseir Formation of the Dakhla Oasis of the Egyptian Western Desert. Remains of the discovered dinosaur Mansourasaurusshahinae genus are represented by an associated skeleton which include partial cranial elements.

During the Triassic and Jurassic periods when the dinosaurs existed, all the continents were joined together on the Pangaea supercontinent. Continents began splitting apart and shifting towards the configuration we see today during the Cretaceous Period.

Historically, it has not been clear how well-connected Africa was to other southern hemisphere landmasses and Europe during this time, and to what degree Africa’s animals may have been cut off from their neighbours and evolved on their own separate paths. Mansourasaurus, as one of the few African dinosaurs known from this time period, helped to answer that question, according to the study.

What is very important about the new discovery is that it fills the gap of the Late Cretaceous period in Africa, the time frame from 100 to 66m years ago. That means that the course of dinosaur evolution in Africa has largely remained a mystery.

By analysing features of its bones, Sallam and his team determined that Mansourasaurus is more closely related to dinosaurs from Europe and Asia than it is to those found farther south in Africa or in South America. This, in turn, shows that at least some dinosaurs could move between Africa and Europe near the end of these animals’ prevalence.

Rise in research output

Egypt and Pakistan witnessed some of the largest increases in research output in 2018 with rises of 15.9% for Egypt and 21% for Pakistan, respectively, according to estimates from the publishing-services company Clarivate Analytics.

According to a report published in the science Nature journal last week, China’s publications rose by about 15%, and India, Brazil, Mexico and Iran all saw their output grow by more than 8% compared to 2017.

The report pointed out that the global research output rose by around 5% in 2018, to an estimated 1,620,731 papers listed in a vast science-citation database Web of Science, the highest ever.

To compile the estimates, Nature depended on Clarivate, which owns Web of Science, and the analysis focused on 40 countries which have at least 10,000 papers in the database. The entire-year projections are based on the number of research and review papers published between January and August, as there is a time lag between papers being published and them appearing in the database, read the report.

However, Nature’s estimations did not clarify what has driven the strong gains by Egypt and Pakistan; Clarivate’s researchers believe that one reason could be that both Egypt and Pakistan started from a low base — near the bottom of the list of top 40 countries in overall numbers of papers.

Robert Tijssen, head of science and innovation studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands said in the report that increases in funding and international collaborations might also have boosted the rise in publications in Egypt and Pakistan.

UN – COP14

From 17 to 29 November 2018, Egypt hosted the UN Conference of the Parties of Biological Diversity – COP14. The COP14 on the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) was held in Sharm El-Sheikh, under the slogan ‘Investing in biodiversity for People and Planet.’

Egypt is the first Arab and African country to host the conference of the parties. Mexico was the former president of the conference; however, China will be the next president in 2020, and Turkey will be the president in 2022.  

The 196 governments who are parties of the UN Biological Diversity Convention agreed during the closing ceremony on an international agreement to reverse the global destruction of nature and loss of biodiversity threatening all forms of life on earth.

The governments agreed to take the needed measures to combat biodiversity and destruction of nature through accelerating actions to achieve the Aichi Biodiversity 20 targets, at the global, regional, national, and subnational levels, from now until 2020, by the end of Egypt’s presidency on the COP.

The meeting also agreed on a comprehensive and participatory process for developing the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, anticipated to be agreed upon at the next Conference of Parties (COP 15) in Beijing in 2020. The framework aims to safeguard nature and biodiversity for decades to come.

During the final session, Egypt, China, and the secretariat of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity launched the Sharm El-Sheikh to Beijing Action Agenda for Nature and People to catalyse, collect, and celebrate actions taken in support of biodiversity conservation, and its sustainable use.


From 15 to 17 December 2018, Aswan governorate hosted the 1st World Conference on
By-Products of Palm Trees and Their Applications (ByPalma). The conference was organised by faculty of engineering at Ain Shams University and was presided by the international agricultural expert professor Hamed El Mously.

The conference’s theme was ‘Rediscovering palm by-products as a resource for the sustainable development of rural communities’. It has aimed to bring together leading academic scientists, researchers, artisans, entrepreneurs and industry professionals active in the area of palm by-products, manufacturing, and crafts from all around the globe to exchange recent developments, technologies, innovations, trends, concerns, challenges and opportunities.

One of the main objectives of the conference was also to rediscover palm by-products and maximise their added-value, as well as create an economical resource which can help in the sustainable development of vast rural areas in different countries in the world. In addition, it aimed to establish an international network of scientists, artisans, and industry professionals active in the area of palm by-products, manufacturing, and crafts.

Cairo Water Week

Egypt’s Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources organised the first Cairo Water Week (CWW) in five days from 14 to 18 October 2018 under the theme ‘Water Conservation for Sustainable Development’.

CWW aimed to promote water awareness, foster new thinking about the most pressing water-related challenges, and take action towards integrated water resources management and conservation for sustainable development.

A number of water leaders, experts, and decision makers representing over 100 countries, participated in the CWW to discuss and share their ideas on common arising water problems and issues.

Minister of Irrigation, Mohamed Abdel Aty, said that the week was interested in covering various interrelated topics, such as water management for sustainable development; climate change and environment; trans-boundary water governance and benefit sharing; water scarcity, health, sanitation challenges and opportunities; science, technology and innovation.

Abdel Aty added that during the closing ceremony of the CWW that the Middle East and North Africa is the world’s most water-scarce region, and that the situation is deteriorating due to the impact of climate change. He explained further that the CWW provided an excellent platform for knowledge and experience sharing, technologies and idea promotion, sustainable development through water conservation in different uses, and added benefits for all participants.

The CWW was very critical as it came at a time when Egypt is facing a water crisis amid the Ethiopian manoeuvres to finalise its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) which raised Egypt’s fears of its historical share of the Nile’s waters.

The post Mansourasouras tops Egypt’s scientific phenomenon in 2018 appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

]]> 0
UN committed to create space for conflict resolution in 2019 Mon, 31 Dec 2018 10:00:16 +0000 Climate change moving faster than we are, says UN secretary-general

The post UN committed to create space for conflict resolution in 2019 appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

António Guterres, the United Nations’ (UN) secretary-general, said that the UN will continue to bring people together, build bridges, and create space for conflict resolution in 2019.

“We will keep up the pressure, and we will never give up. As we begin this New Year, let’s resolve to confront threats together, defend human dignity, and build a better future,” stated Guterres in his message on the occasion of the New Year.

Guterres added that last New Year, he issued a red alert, and the dangers which were referenced, and which still persisted, noting that these were anxious times for many, and that the world was undergoing a stress test.

“Climate change is running faster than we are. Geopolitical divisions are deepening, making conflicts more difficult to resolve. Record numbers of people are moving in search of safety and protection,” said Guterres.

Inequality is growing, meanwhile some  people are nominalist about a world in which a handful of people hold the same wealth as half of humanity, he added.

“Intolerance is on the rise. Trust is on the decline, yet there are also reasons for hope,” Guterres noted, explaining that the talks on Yemen have created a chance for peace, and the agreement signed in Riyadh in September between Ethiopia and Eritrea has eased long-running tensions, and brought improved prospects to an entire region. 

The agreement between the parties to the conflict in South Sudan has revitalised chances for peace, bringing more progress in the past four months than in the previous four years, Guterres affirmed.

The UN was able to bring countries together in Katowice to approve the Work Programme for the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change, Guterres said.

“Now we need to increase our ambition to beat this existential threat. It’s time to seize our last best chance. It’s time to stop the uncontrolled and spiralling climate change,” Guterres added.

In recent weeks, the UN also oversaw landmark global agreements on migration and refugees, which will help to save lives and overcome damaging stereotypes, acknowledged Guterres.

“Everywhere, people are mobilising behind the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) – our global blueprint for peace, justice, and prosperity on a healthy planet,” said Guterres, noting that when international cooperation works, the world wins.

The SDGs are the blueprint towards achieving a better and more sustainable future for all by 2030. They address the global challenges facing the world, including those related to poverty; inequality; climate; environmental degradation; prosperity; peace and justice.

According to the UN’s website, the SDGs build on decades of work by countries along with the UN, including the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. The Division for Sustainable Development Goals (DSDG) in the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) provides substantive support and capacity-building for the SDGs and their related thematic issues, including water; energy; climate; oceans; urbanisation, transport; science and technology.

The Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR) plays a key role in the UN’s evaluation of a systemwide implementation of the 2030 Agenda, and on advocacy and outreach activities related to the SDGs.

In order to make the 2030 Agenda a reality, broad ownership of the SDGs must translate into a strong commitment by all stakeholders to implement the global goals, and the DSDG aims to help facilitate this engagement.

The post UN committed to create space for conflict resolution in 2019 appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

]]> 0
Science taking pictures of cats for very important reason Wed, 26 Dec 2018 17:41:14 +0000 For AI to work well, it needs to be trained first on lot of data —not just any kind of data, but information that reflects kinds of tasks AI will be working on

The post Science taking pictures of cats for very important reason appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Engineers from Anki, an American electronics and artificial intelligence (AI) start-up robotics, are capturing pictures of cats by tiny robots set up especially for this task.

The mission is to take as many pictures as possible to help these robots which called ‘Vector,’ to learn to detect the felines that live in people’s homes.

Data — like cute cat photos — is crucial to building AI. The collection process is becoming increasingly important as we rely on AI to do an ever-increasing number of things, from helping self-driving cars navigate streets, to getting virtual assistants like Google’s Alexa to respond to voices.

That is because in order for AI to work well, it generally needs to be trained first on a lot of data — and not just any kind of data, but information that reflects the kinds of tasks the AI will be working on.

Anki started to sell Vector robots in October for $250. They are a cross between a companion and a pint-sized helper. It can give a weather update, answer questions, and take a picture of you.

Vector relies on data to figure out how to do all kinds of things. That includes using its front-facing camera to recognise people and avoid bumping into objects, or its microphones to listen to human commands that start with the words ‘Hey Vector,’ and then respond appropriately.

One thing Vector cannot do right now is spot pets, which a big problem for a robot that is meant to engage with the world around it, which in many homes will include cats or dogs, as it needs to identify them in a different way than for instance fountains or plants.

Anki’s engineers are using AI to teach Vector how to do this. A key part of making this work involves collecting data — in this case, that data includes photos of cats sitting, swiping, scratching, and sniffing.

But getting Vector to notice a cat roving around, for instance, the living room, is not as simple as just showing the robot thousands of pictures of cats from existing online databases. The engineers have already used tens of thousands of these pictures to train a neural network—a kind of machine-learning algorithm.

The company, which is also working on dog detection, hopes to roll out a feature that lets Vector perceive cats and dogs early next year.

The post Science taking pictures of cats for very important reason appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

]]> 0
Asexual reproduction in rice, turns agricultural dream into reality Wed, 26 Dec 2018 13:00:44 +0000 Number of researchers, institutions, particularly in Europe, boycott GMOs

The post Asexual reproduction in rice, turns agricultural dream into reality appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

What do you think of when you hear the phrase ‘asexual reproduction’? And how can this technique serve as a solution for our food crisis? For the past 10,000 years, the major world food crop, rice, has reproduced sexually, rearranging its DNA with each generation, and often losing desirable traits until now.

For a long time, scientists, researchers, and agricultural experts have recognised that enabling asexual reproduction in major world food crops would lead a great shift in global agriculture. The research comes amid an international food crisis, as well as the heavy burden of the impacts of climate change and water shortage.   

It was an aspiration to enable rice to reproduce asexually, but recently the agricultural dream has come true, as a team of plant scientists, led by professor Venkatesan Sundaresan from the US University of California Davis, have found a way to make rice reproduce asexually.

According to a study which was published last week in the Nature science journal, it is currently possible for a rice plant to produce seeds that grow into its parent’s clone. The new method will eventually allow farmers to plant and replant seeds from the best plant varieties, all without losing any of their valuable traits, most notably the produce or yield. Rice provides over 50% of the daily calories for half of the world’s population.

Daily News Egypt published a review about the extraordinary advance in agriculture, but this week we introduce the study in detail, with comments of the lead author, professor Sundaresan.

According to the paper, many crops that are grown by farmers worldwide are produced by genetically crossing two inbred parent seeds to produce what is scientifically called ‘hybrid seeds’. What is significant about that is that the resultant seeds surpass both parents, a phenomenon of biological synergy known as ‘hybrid vigour,’ sometimes producing twice as much grain yield.

Hybrid vigour is a phenomenon that can occur when crossbreeds of two genetically distinct parents result in an offspring that are more productive than either parent. Such hybrids have been the foundationY of many substantial yield increases in crops such as maize. Unfortunately, the next generation after these crossbreeds will not consistently maintain this hybrid vigour, so the crossbreeds have to be renovated each year.

However, if these hybrid plants could be propagated as clones, then breeders would only have to make the cross once, and then they could faithfully maintain the hybrid vigour each generation. This would greatly ease the ability of plant breeders to develop such hybrids for a wide variety of crop species.

The study of a rice gene called ‘Baby Boom 1,’ abbreviated as BBM1 in Sundaresan’s laboratory was the original idea behind this progress. The study showed that this gene is active in a rice plant’s sperm cells, and it serves as a trigger for the fertilised egg to start developing into an embryo and eventually into a whole seed.

The researchers reasoned that if they could turn the gene on in an egg cell, they might be able to bypass the fertilisation step, triggering embryo growth without sperm, a process called parthenogenesis, according to the lead author of the paper.

After disabling meiosis and introducing BBM1, the egg cells grew into embryos identical to the parent rice plant, eventually forming clonal seeds. These clonal seeds were planted to grow a full rice plant, then they planted its seeds, and continued the process over three generations.

Working on the study took five years, and over 15 years on the general problem of ‘asexual reproduction’ in rice and other cereal crops.

Speaking to Daily News Egypt via email, professor Sundaresan illustrated that his research aimed to understand the mechanism by which embryos are initiated after fertilisation, and then use this knowledge to produce seeds without fertilisation. He believes that what renders the conclusions of his paper important is that it makes the production of hybrid seeds affordable to poor farmers. “If robust hybrids plants could be easier to breed, propagate, and distribute, their cost would be reduced, making them accessible to farmers in developing countries, who are most in need of the extra food,” he said.

Responding DNE’s inquiry about the advantages of the asexual engineered rice, Sundaresan explained that hybrids have 50% or more increase yields due to favourable gene combinations.  In sexual reproduction, the genes and chromosomes are shuffled, therefore, the progeny of high yielding hybrids can have low yields. Hence, farmers have to buy new hybrid seeds every planting season. But if the hybrid reproduces asexually, the progeny will also have the same favourable gene combinations, and will also be high yielding, enabling poorer farmers to afford planting hybrids in following seasons.

According to the lead author, the results of the study can be applied to any hybrid variety that has been developed for any special condition. He also said that the produced rice will consume the same amount of water as the parental hybrid.

Chad Niederhuth, an assistant professor of Plant Biology at Michigan State University in the US, described the study as impressive. He told DNE that the study formulates an important development in our basic scientific understanding of the mechanisms regulating plant embryogenesis, the process by which embryos are formed and develop.

“After fertilisation, a new rice embryo is diploid, meaning it has two copies of its genome, one comes from the mother and one from the father. Some of the genes that are ‘expressed’, or turned on, come exclusively from the mother’s part of the genome, while some come exclusively from the father’s part,” he explained.

He further added that we do not fully understand how these parent-specific patterns of expression drive embryo development. But what this study shows is the important role of the BBM1gene in contributing towards regulating embryo development, which early on is expressed only from the father’s part of the genome. They further show that two other similar genes, Baby Boom2 (BBM2) and Baby Boom3 (BBM3) have a somewhat redundant role in this process.

Praising the effort of the researchers of the study, Niederhuth said that the authors executed an extraordinary additional progress and altered the normal pattern of BBM1 expression by turning on the mother’s copy of the gene before fertilisation from the father occured. When they did this, the embryo development proceeded, resulting in haploid plants, which have only one copy of the genome. In this case that one copy of the genome comes from the mother. Methods of creating such haploid plants are a valuable tool for plant breeding.

“They did not stop there however, the next thing they did, I think was truly ingenious,” he said. “There are two types of cell divisions that occur in plants and animals. Mitosis is how most cells in plants and animal bodies develop and it creates new cells with copies of genomes from both parents,” he added.

Niederhuth explained further that “the second type of cell division, called meiosis, creates the reproductive cells of the egg (mother) and pollen (father). These cells are haploid. Previously, a method called ‘MiMe’ was developed that substitutes mitosis for meiosis, which creates reproductive cells that are diploid. like the parent plant.”

He added that by combining the BBM1 expression method with this MiMe method, the authors showed that in some cases they could skip normal sexual reproduction and instead reproduce rice asexually. This results in the production of seeds is ultimately a clone of the parent plant.

Such clonal reproduction has been known to occur in certain plant species, but plant scientists have been trying to find methods of engineering it in crop plants for a long-time, as it would be extremely useful for growing hybrid plants, according to Niederhuth.

“While we don’t know for certain if it can be applied in other crops, it most likely can be. These same genes are found across a wide range of crops. Hence, it should be possible to effect the same changes in different crops. However, this needs to be tested,” he said, adding that “while this study represents a major breakthrough, it should be recognised that it didn’t work all the time. Therefore, the method will require further development and refinement.”

But the method of genetic engineering which the study has depended on is not internationally accepted, and there are considerable concerns about the use of genetically engineered foods.  

Ahmed Abdel Gawad, assistant professor of Botany at Mansoura University said that wildlife plants could be a safer passage rather than reproducing engineered crops which could have negative impact on our health and environment. Abdel Gawad told DNE that there is an international trend to boycott and general unease towards genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Despite the revolutionary role of genetic engineering in producing cereal crops, several researchers and institutions particularly in Europe (France for example) are boycotting these products.

In Egypt, rice crop is constrained to the Nile Delta, which is webbed by a network of canals and channels. Most of the rice crop is irrigated through agricultural drainage water, and not water directly sourced from the Nile, according to a study by the US Department of Agriculture.

The country has lately reduced the area dedicated to planting rice in the Nile Delta to cope with the shortage of water. However, there are other alternatives such as Oraby rice, which uses considerably less amounts of water than the known species of rice in Egypt, according to Said Soliman, professor of Genetics at the Faculty of Agriculture, Zagazig University.

Soliman previously told DNE that he has developed a rice species called Oraby, whose age takes about 120 days compared to145 days for normal rice. He added that Oraby rice could be cultivated twice a year and consumes less amounts of water.

The post Asexual reproduction in rice, turns agricultural dream into reality appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

]]> 0
Egypt hosts PERSGA’s workshop addressing ecosystem management in Red Sea Wed, 19 Dec 2018 14:30:03 +0000 SEM Project’s achievements exceed expectations of such projects: EEAA chairperson

The post Egypt hosts PERSGA’s workshop addressing ecosystem management in Red Sea appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Chairperson of the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA), Mohamed Salah, participated in the closing workshop of the Strategic Ecosystem Based Management Project of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden (SEM) held on Monday.

The discussion, held in Hurghada, was arranged by the Regional Organisation for the Conservation of the Environment of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden (PERSGA). International and regional experts in environmental affairs, and representatives of the World Bank attended the event which aimed at reaching a final estimation for the SEM project and its achievements in the region.

The objective of the workshop was to present and discuss the progress and achievements of the SEM, assess weaknesses, identify constraints and challenges, and issue recommendations. The project fulfils an important need in the region for managing the coastal ecosystem of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

During his speech on the meeting, Salah stressed Egypt’s keenness in joining the project to maximise the concept of societal participation in managing marine resources, in order to ensure development and sustainability of the process in accordance with the requirements of local community, as well as supporting and developing the current environmental monitoring systems.

He added that SEM set an example for achieving conservation and sustainability of marine resources, as well as contributed in the success stories of societal participation in the Egyptian protected areas.

Salah noted that despite the limited budget of the SEM project, the outcomes of the project exceeded the expectations of such projects. The SEM also provided job opportunities for the local community and enhanced their income, as well as integrated the local residents in the system of tourism industry in the Red Sea governorate.

He stressed the need to achieve the optimum and sustainable use of our marine and resources in the light of the outcomes of the SEM project. He added that the project contributed to achieving cohesion in managing marine protected areas in the region, in addition to raising the environmental awareness and forming a data base of the marine resources.

PERSGA is an intergovernmental body includes Egypt, Djibouti, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. The body is dedicated to the conservation of the coastal and marine environments found in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aqaba, Gulf of Suez, Suez Canal, and Gulf of Aden surrounding the Socotra Archipelago and nearby waters.

The organisation aims at improving the sustainable management and use of the RSGA’s coastal and marine resources. Sustainable management will reduce threats to the environment, improve livelihoods of participating coastal communities, and improve institutional, legal, and financial arrangements in this regard.

The post Egypt hosts PERSGA’s workshop addressing ecosystem management in Red Sea appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

]]> 0