Taxonomy term

agriculture

Humans accidentally created new rivers in Europe

Meandering rivers that flow through and transport sediment to deltas often split off from their main courses and flow in different directions. This process, called avulsion, happens naturally when a river overflows its banks and the floodwaters carve out a new course for the river to follow. But humans can also trigger avulsions by changing the shape of the landscape, and in a new study, scientists report that people have been doing this for a very long time.

15 Feb 2019

Did early agriculture knock the climate off track?

During the last 2.5 million years, Earth’s climate has seen cycles of advancing and retreating glaciers over much of the Northern Hemisphere. We are currently in a warm, interglacial period — one that’s been prolonged by increases in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane. According to a new study in Nature, these high concentrations of greenhouse gases have disrupted the recent pattern of cycling in Earth’s climate and pushed back the next ice age. The study also suggests that human activity, beginning thousands of years ago with early agriculture and continuing through to the present day, has fueled the rise in greenhouse gas concentrations.

12 Dec 2018

Weedy seeds gathered in once-green Sahara

Today, the vast and arid Sahara Desert seems an unlikely place to find early signs of seed gathering and plant cultivation in Africa, but new evidence shows that, 10,000 years ago, people were collecting, sorting and saving seeds near a rock shelter known as Takarkori.

28 Jun 2018

From farm to filter: Restored wetlands remediate nitrogen pollution

The early 20th-century invention of a nitrogen-fixation process revolutionized agriculture and made it possible to feed the planet’s growing population. But nitrogen runoff is polluting our waterways and suffocating aquatic life. Now, researchers looking for ways to reverse that trend are turning farmland into wetlands to filter nitrogen from streams and rivers.
20 Apr 2018

Geomedia: Books: Putting 'Seeds on Ice' to protect crop diversity

Tucked away, deep underground, in a frozen corner of the Scandinavian north is the safety net for our food supply. The Global Seed Vault, on the island of Spitsbergen in Norway’s Svalbard Archipelago and popularly known as the “doomsday vault,” shelters our most precious seeds from possible global catastrophe.

07 Feb 2018

Dividing line: The past, present and future of the 100th Meridian

In 1878, John Wesley Powell first advanced the idea that the climatic boundary between the United States’ humid East and arid West lay along the 100th meridian, which
runs from pole to pole and, today, cuts through six U.S. states. But what does it really mean, and what is its future?
22 Jan 2018

When agriculture went to our heads

The dawn of agriculture left an indelible mark on early human societies, and a new study finds that eating softer, cultivated foods subtly changed the shape of human skulls. Scientists have long suspected that the transition from hunting and foraging to farming and raising livestock would have affected our skulls, specifically the mandible and other anatomy involved in chewing, but quantifying such changes has proven difficult.

01 Nov 2017

Nineteenth-century cows muddied Southern California continental shelf

When offshore ecosystems deteriorate, scientists often look at changing ocean conditions, urban runoff or fishing as potential explanations. Cows usually don’t come to mind. But new research investigating the seafloor off the coast of Los Angeles suggests that 19th-century cattle, despite their terrestrial lifestyle, left a lasting impact on the underwater habitat there.

26 Jul 2017

Tibetan Plateau populated long before advent of agriculture

Due to the harsh living conditions of the Tibetan Plateau — which has an average elevation over 4,500 meters — archaeologists have long assumed that people didn’t live in the Himalayan high country until after the adoption of agriculture in this region of the world, about 3,600 years ago. But a new study of a trove of handprints and footprints found around a fossilized mud spring in Tibet is suggesting that people may have lived here as early as 13,000 years ago.

16 May 2017

Grapes reveal impacts of sulfur-rich Samalas eruption on 13th-century climate

The A.D. 1257 eruption of the Indonesian volcano Samalas sent an ash plume an estimated 43 kilometers into the sky in one of the most sulfur-rich eruptions of the last 7,000 years. A new study using tree rings, ice cores and historical records investigates how this colossal eruption impacted climate across the Northern Hemisphere, finding that the eruption triggered severe cold in some regions, while other areas were less affected. The pattern could be explained by the behavior of sulfate particles in the atmosphere, researchers suggest.

28 Apr 2017

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