Discovered: Climate change threatens the fanciest of ingredients; permafrost is melting; WiFi networks could stifle bovine belching; scientists find relatives of Lonesome George the tortoise.
Is a world without truffles a world any of us can live in? Uber-rich haute cuisine aficionados have to decide what's more important: their gas-guzzling private jets or their decadent truffle garnishing. Because now, according to scientists with the Swiss Federal Research Institute, global warming is directly causing a drop-off in the truffle harvest. "Given the symbiotic fungi-host asssociation, we postulate that competition for summer soil moisture... might be a critical factor for truffle fruit body production, particularly in semi-arid environments," the researchers write. Fifty years ago, truffle harvesters hauled in about 200-300 tons of truffles each year. Now, dry summers are causing yields to drop to 25 tonnes per year, making prices skyrocket to $2,500 per kilo. [AFP]
Permafrost may not be so permanent. How awkward will it be if we eventually have to refer to permafrost—by its very etymology, something that's not supposed to disappear—in the past tense? Scientists with the U.N. Environment Programme are warning that the frozen ground covering 24 percent of exposed Northern Hemisphere land is thawing at worrying rates. Their findings "indicate that large-scale thawing of permafrost may have already started," which could lead to even worse warming feedback loops. If it were to all melt away, the permafrost's 1,700 billion metric tons of carbon would be released into the atmosphere, doubling the about of carbon currently stored up there. [Scientific American]