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Science Briefs

Ready for that bowl of buffaloberries?

An underutilized berry that could be the new super fruit is the buffaloberry. A new study in the Journal of Food Science, published by the Institute of Food Technologists, found that buffaloberries contain large amounts of lycopene and a related acidic compound, methyl-lycopenoate, which are important antioxidants and nutrients beneficial for human health.

The bright red fruit has a tart flavor and has historically been used as a source of nutrients for many Native Americans. The sugar and acidity of the fruit make it desirable as a fresh or dried product. In addition to its potential health benefits, lycopenoate may also be used as a natural food colorant. Recently, the buffaloberry has drawn attention from several commercial wine producers.

The tree on which the fruit grows is a member of the olive family native to Western North America and is found on many Indian reservations, often where little else grows well. ift.org

Shaded snow doesn’t always melt slower

The lab of Jessica Lundquist, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Washington, has shown that tree cover actually causes snow to melt more quickly on the western slopes of the Pacific Northwest’s Cascade Mountains and in other warm, Mediterranean-type climates around the world. Alternatively, open, clear gaps in the forests tend to keep snow on the ground longer into the spring and summer. Lundquist and her colleagues published their findings online this fall in Water Resources Research.

Common sense says that the shade of a tree will help retain snow, and snow exposed to sunlight in open areas will melt. This typically is the case in regions where winter temperatures are below freezing, such as the Northeast, Midwest and most of central and eastern Canada. But in Mediterranean climates – where the average winter temperatures usually are above 30 degrees Fahrenheit – a different phenomenon occurs. Snow tends to melt under the tree canopy and stay more intact in open meadows or gaps in a forest.

This happens in part because trees in warmer, maritime forests radiate heat in the form of long-wave radiation to a greater degree than the sky does. Heat radiating from the trees contributes to snow melting under the canopy first. washington.edu/news

Feral cats and urban coyotes are not chums

Cats that live outdoors in the city do their darnedest to steer clear of urban coyotes, a new study says. And because of that dodging, the study suggests, the cats cause less damage to wildlife in urban green spaces. And they live longer and are healthier than previously thought.

“Free-roaming cats are basically partitioning their use of the urban landscape. They’re not using the natural areas in cities very much because of the coyote presence there,” said the study’s lead author, Stan Gehrt, associate professor of environment and natural resources at Ohio State University. “It reduces the cats’ vulnerability to coyotes, but at the same time, it means the coyotes are essentially protecting these natural areas from cat predation.”

The study, published recently in the online journal PLOS ONE, is the first to show how coyotes and free-roaming cats share space and interact with each other in urban areas.

researchnews.osu.edu

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