Study tracks spike in zipline accidents

Children under 10 tabbed as most susceptible to serious injury; researchers call for better safety standards

Staff Report

Popular zipline attractions should be subject to uniform safety standards across all jurisdictions to protect children from serious injuries, public health researchers said this week after documenting an alarming spike in injuries.

The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital found that an estimated 16,850 non-fatal zipline-related injuries were treated in U.S. emergency departments from 1997 through 2012, with 70 percent of the injuries occurred during the last four years of the study period, indicating a growing problem.

In 2012 alone, there were more than 3,600 people treated in U.S. emergency departments for zipline-related injuries, nearly 10 per day. Children younger than 10 years of age accounted for almost half (45 percent) of the zipline-related injuries while youth, ages 10-19, accounted for an additional 33 percent of injured patients. Continue reading

Chile creates largest marine preserve in the Americas

 Photo courtesy Enric Sala/National Geographic

A new marine park off the coast of Chile will help protect important ocean resources. Photo courtesy Enric Sala/National Geographic.

‘A gift to the world …’

Staff Report

The creation of the world’s largest marine park in the Americas could help rebuild fish stocks off the coast of South America, ocean experts said this week, hailing Chile’s announcement that it will protect 297,518 square kilometers as a no-take zone. With the formation of Nazca-Desventuradas, Chile will now protect 12 percent of its marine surface area

 “Chile is one of the world’s primary fishing countries,” said Alex Muñoz, vice president for Oceana in Chile. “With the creation of this large marine park, Chile also becomes a world leader in marine conservation.” Continue reading

Morning photo: City edits

Old town

I took the long way to Upper Austrian press club yesterday, walking across the Danube, then up through the old town to the castle and down the other side into the center of the city. Even following that detour, it’s only a 20 minute walk, but it gave me a chance to check out some of the sights along the way on a friendly and warm autumn day. After meeting some local reporters for lunch in the beer garden, I sat for a few minutes in the town’s main square and edited the morning snapshots for this set. All except the overlook image were run through multiple layers of filters and sharpening to create some grain that, for me, emphasize the cobblestone patterns and the old stone wall behind the statue.

Grassroots support leads to proposal for new marine sanctuaries

Shipwreck areas in Wisconsin and Maryland eyed for protection


NOAA is seeking comments on its proposal to designate two areas in Wisconsin (left) and Maryland (right) as national marine sanctuaries. (Credit: NOAA).

Staff Report

Two historic shipwreck sites could be designated as National Marine Sanctuaries under a proposal outlined by President Barack Obama at an international ocean conference today.

In a press release, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it’s the first time since 2000 that the agency has identified new sites for that designation. NOAA is taking public comment on the proposal. Continue reading

Web commerce speeds invasive plant threat

himalayan balsam

Himalayan balsam was introduced as an ornamental and quickly spread throughout the northern hemisphere where it’s considered an invasive plant that displaces native flora in some areas. Photo courtesy Royal Horticultural Society.

Swiss study tracks online sales of potential invaders

Staff Report

Online commerce is accelerating the invasive species threat worldwide, Swiss reasearchers said last week after taking a close look at at the unbridled market for buying and selling plants on the internet.

These days, all it takes is one click to spread potentially invasive plants from continent to continent – and unintentionally encouraging biological invasions, the researchers said, referring to invaders like goldenrod, Himalayan balsam and the Chinese windmill palm — all of which now threaten native biodiversity in the Alpine republic.

The assess the extent of the problem, ETH Zurich researchers monitoried online trades of about two-thirds of the world’s flora on eBay plus nine other online trading platforms for 50 days, tracking which plant species were offered for sale in various countries, and how often. Continue reading

Feds track record Central Valley groundwater depletion


California’s Central Valley, as seen from the International Space Station. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

‘The Central Valley has many areas where recent groundwater levels are more than 100 feet below previous historical low …’

Staff Report

Farmers in California’s Central Valley pumped more groundwater than ever during the state’s ongoing drought, causing aquifers to drop to new record low levels, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The agency recently launched a website to help track Central Valley groundwater depletion and land subsidence. A new paper released about the same time shows geographical nuances in the decline. The biggest changes are in the southern Central Valley, where farmers have shifted from planting annual and seasonal crops to perennial plants. Continue reading

Study says asteroid impact may have intensified volcanic activity 66 million years ago, leading to dinosaur extinction


New research offers clues on Permian mass extinction. Photo courtesy NASA Blue Marble.

Deep earthquakes could also rattle magma chambers and lead to more eruptions

Staff Report

A long-running debate about the relative importance of an asteroid impact versus the effects of large-scale vulcanism on an ancient mass extinction event may be moot.

A new study by University of California Berkely geologists suggests that both are related. An asteroid impact on Earth may have accelerated volcanic eruptions some 66 million years ago, and together, the planet-wide catastrophes caused the extinction of many land and marine animals, including the dinosaurs.

The study includes the most accurate dates yet for the volcanic eruptions before and after the impact. The new dates show that the Deccan Traps lava flows, which at the time were erupting at a slower pace, doubled in output within 50,000 years of the asteroid or comet impact that is thought to have initiated the last mass extinction on Earth. Continue reading


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