I found this important story via twitter from The great Beyond - nature bringing ground-breaking news from the world of science. Visit nature.com here.
Egyptian seed bank looted -- updated - February 01, 2011
Mummies aren’t the only research resources threatened in Egypt, after a tumultuous week of anti-government protests that has resulted in a security vacuum. The Egyptian Deserts Gene Bank, a seed and plant collection in the North Sinai region, was looted, according to the Global Crop Diversity Trust. The vandals stole equipment and destroyed the bank’s cooling system.
According to a Worldwatch Institute blog, the bank is a repository for Egyptian desert plants, including wild fruit and medicinal plants, and also includes a herbarium, a tissue culture laboratory and an 18-acre field. Many of the plants and seeds housed there are not found in another Egyptian seed bank in Giza, which has not been looted, according to the Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog.
“This is yet another sobering reminder of how fragile the diversity in genebanks can be, and the importance of safety duplication,” said a statement on the website of Global Crop Diversity Trust.
Cary Fowler, director of Global Crop Diversity Trust, says the bank's collection includes wild relatives of tomato, eggplant and watermelon. Damage to the cooling system wouldn't necessarily cause immediate harm to the seed collection. "The seeds would not instantly die," he says, but "this could certainly damage them."
There have also been reports of looting in Egyptian museums over the past few days. The country’s most prominent archaeologist Zahi Hawass - who was yesterday appointed Minister of Antiquities - said that looters at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo robbed the gift shop and damaged a statuette of King Tutankhamun. Two mummies were also destroyed, their heads torn off and bones strewn across the floor, according to MSNBC.
Image of Egyptian Deserts Gene Bank from Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog
This story found at the same site was also pause for thought. Click on title to read more!
Record droughts raise alarm over the Amazon - February 03, 2011
The drought last year in the Amazon basin was even more widespread and intense than the supposedly once-in-a-century dry spell in 2005.
The second extreme drought to have hit the region in five years raises concerns that world’s largest rain forest – a major sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide – could be approaching a tipping point.
“If drought events continue, the era of intact Amazon forests buffering the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide may have passed,” a team led by Simon Lewis of Leeds University in the UK writes in tomorrow’s issue of Science.
The team compared rainfall anomalies and water stress to trees across 5.3 million square kilometres of the Amazon basin during 2005 and 2010. Last year’s drought affected a larger area than the oen in 2005, and was most pronounced in southwestern Amazonia, north-central Bolivia and in the state of Mato Grosso in Brasil, they report.
Drought conditions during the dry season last year have led to numerous forest fires and extremely low water levels in many rivers, including the Rio Negro, which in October reached a record low at Manaus, the capital of Brazil’s Amazonas state.