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Thousands of birds disappeared like dodo

Research carried out by the Zoological Society of London and collaborators reveals that the last region on Earth to be colonized by humans was home to more than 1,000 species of birds that went extinct soon after people reached their island homes.

The paper was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.

Almost 4,000 years ago, tropical Pacific Islands were an untouched paradise, but the arrival of the first people in places like Hawaii and Fiji caused irreversible damage to these natural havens, due to overhunting and deforestation.

Tim Blackburn, director of ZSL’s Institute of Zoology, said, “We studied fossils from 41 tropical Pacific islands and using new techniques we were able to gauge how many extra species of bird disappeared without leaving any trace.

“If we take into account all the other islands in the tropical Pacific, as well as seabirds and songbirds, the total extinction toll is likely to have been around 1,300 bird species,” Blackburn said. eurekalert.org

Interactive help

for farmers’ wetlands

Engineers at Oregon State University have developed a new interactive planning tool to create networks of small wetlands in Midwest farmlands, which could help the region prevent massive spring floods and also retain water and mitigate droughts in a warming climate.

The planning approach, which is being developed and tested in a crop-dominated watershed near Indianapolis, is designed to identify the small areas best suited to wetland development, optimize their location and size, and restore a significant portion of the region’s historic water storage ability by using only a small fraction of its land.

Using this approach, the researchers found they could capture the runoff from 29 percent of a watershed using only 1.5 percent of the entire area.

The findings were published in Ecological Engineering, a professional journal. A website – http://wrestore.iupui.edu – is now available that allows users to apply the principles to their own land.

Massive floods and summer droughts have become more common and intense in the Midwest because of climate change and decades of land management that drains water rapidly into rivers via tile drains. Oregon State University

Mathematics model explains how a butterfly flies

Japanese researchers have developed sophisticated numerical simulations of a butterfly’s forward flight. In a paper in the American Institute of Physics’ journal Physics of Fluids, the researchers describe how they mathematically modeled a butterfly as a four-link rigid-body system consisting of a thorax (the segment of the insect to which the wings are attached), an abdomen, and the two wings.

Using data from observations of butterfly flight in wind tunnels, three different types of simulations were conducted. The researchers found that their mathematical butterfly did – as predicted – make use of the tiny, swirling vortices that form in the direction of travel during a downward flap, pushing air down and providing lift. However, they also observed that the flow around the butterfly is much more turbulent than expected. This turbulent flow triggers the complex trajectories characteristic to the flights of butterflies that may be one of the strategies by which the insects avoid predators. eurekalert.org

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