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Environment

  • Urgent need to defuse the microplastics time bomb

    Urgent need to defuse the microplastics time bomb

    The threat posed by microplastics to the health of the marine environment and to public health is still low on the radar, having so far failed to captivate the public’s attention. Marine scientists have long been talking about the sheer magnitude...

  • Gudja illegality

    Gudja illegality

    The owner of this plot of land in Gudja had a permit just to repair its rubble walls and install a pump room, but he then proceeded to deposit and spread large quantities of soil and place prefabricated stables on site too. Enforcement action by...

  • Slick whodunnit

    Slick whodunnit

    Bathers at St Paul’s Bay last Sunday found an oily residue slick floating on the water surface. A rigorous laboratory analysis should have been conducted on a sample of the slick to determine where it came from.

  • Quake Watch

    Quake Watch

    The most notable earthquake in August was the magnitude 5.8 event that occurred 145km south of Athens, Greece, on August 29 at 5.45am local time (green circle in map). The earthquake hypocentre was almost 100km below the earth’s surface, in the...

  • Mediterranean shore crab

    Mediterranean shore crab

    The Mediterranean shore crab is a very common, if not the most common crab in the Maltese islands. It is a native of the Mediterranean and Black seas and parts of the Atlantic. Since 1996, probably as a result of global warming, it has also been...

  • Polar bear DNA could help endangered species

    Polar bear DNA has been isolated for the first time from footprints left in the snow on an Arctic island, a breakthrough that could help scientists better protect rare and endangered wild animals, experts said. Scientists often spend days tracking...

  • Cockatoos ‘learn how to use tools’

    Cockatoos ‘learn how to use tools’

    Cockatoos learning carpentry skills sounds like a parrot sketch worthy of Monty Python. Yet this is not an example of surreal humour. Scientists have observed the brainy birds teaching each other how to make and use wooden tools to obtain food. It...

  • Less meat ‘key’ to food security

    Less meat ‘key’ to food security

    Eating less meat is “essential” to ensure future demand for food can be met and “dangerous” climate change avoided, experts have warned. A study by leading university researchers in Cambridge and Aberdeen found food production alone could exceed...

  • EU pushing the limits for vehicle emissions control

    EU pushing the limits for vehicle emissions control

    Saving several hundred euros a year on fuel for your car is an attractive proposal for anyone with added benefits of cleaner air. High fuel consumption is directly related to polluting emissions, and more fuel efficient cars mean lower bills for...

  • A sky full of stars

    A sky full of stars

    Late summer is a great time to see the Milky Way. The occasional spell of cooler weather creates better viewing conditions as it sweeps away the stagnant and moist air which characterises our Mediterranean summers. Look towards the south as from...

  • Leaf-cutter bees

    Leaf-cutter bees

    Leaf-cutter bees are solitary bees: they do not form colonies and do not produce honey. They are a large cosmopolitan group of insects which consists of about 1,500 species. In Maltese the common leaf-cutting bee is known as imqass...

  • Secret of herding sheep discovered

    Secret of herding sheep discovered

    Sheepdogs could find their job taken over by robots after scientists learned the secret of their herding ability. Rounding up sheep successfully is a deceptively simple process involving just two basic mathematical rules, a study found. One causes...

  • The Oriental Hornet

    The Oriental Hornet

    Recently concerns have been raised on this interesting but uncommon insect. Hornets are wasps that bodily are among the largest eusocial insects. The Oriental Hornet (Vespa orientals) has a similar appearance to the more widespread European...

  • Going from bad to worse

    Going from bad to worse

    One did not have to wait for the seven environmental NGOs to issue their lamentation about the current situation concerning illegal development and the evident lack of enforcement. The writing has been on the wall for some time now, with those...

  • Atlantic slows warming

    Atlantic slows warming

    The Atlantic Ocean has masked global warming this century by soaking up vast amounts of heat from the atmosphere in a shift likely to reverse from around 2030 and spur fast temperature rises, scientists said. The theory is the latest explanation...

  • Lizard tails offer clue to regrowth

    Lizard tails offer clue to regrowth

    Understanding how lizards shed and regrow their tails could lead to muscle and nerve regeneration in humans, say scientists. Researchers have identified a genetic programme that triggers new tissue growth after a lizard sacrifices its tail to...

  • Hummingbirds evolved sweet tooth

    Hummingbirds evolved sweet tooth

    Hummingbirds have evolved a sweet tooth that sets them apart from their feathered friends and has made them highly specialised nectar feeders, research shows. Scientists analysed the genetic codes of 10 bird species and found that only...

  • The Chinese banyan tree

    The Chinese banyan tree

    The Chinese banyan tree, like the fig tree, is a member of the mulberry family. It is widely planted along roads and in public gardens in many parts of the world, including the Maltese islands. It has many other names, mostly associating the tree...

  • Animal calls are ‘more like language’

    Animal calls are ‘more like language’

    Dr Dolittle’s ability to talk to the animals may have at least some scientific basis, according to research that challenges the uniqueness of human language. An analysis of vocalisations made by animals ranging from finches to whales and...

  • Earth slips into ‘ecological debt’

    Earth slips into ‘ecological debt’

    Humans have used up the natural resources the world can supply in a year in less than eight months, campaigners have warned. The world has now reached ‘earth overshoot day’, the point in the year when humans have exhausted supplies such as land,...

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