Pharaonic medicine

Not much detail in this press release from the University of Manchester, but the idea to document what plants were used – and how – by the ancient Egyptians for medicinal purposes sounds great.

Assisted migration

Would you move a species threatened by climate change to an area where it isn’t currently found but where the new climate suits it better? That’s “assisted migration,” and the lively debate around it is described by Carl Zimmer in the New York Times here. He quotes a thorough review of the ecological and evolutionary responses to climate change which may be found online as a pdf here. It seems to me that assisted migration is likely to be feasible for only a small number of wild species, but what about crops? Making threatened crops and landraces available to farmers in more suitable climates sounds like a pretty good idea to me.

Latin cooking

This piece on the polyphenolic content of yearba mate (llex paraguariensis), a tea-like drink traditionally consumed in South America by pouring boiling water onto leaves held in a seasoned gourd, led me to this interesting-sounding book on Hispanic foods in general. Polyphenols are antioxidants and the food industry wants to add them to juices and teas.

Identifying trees from the air

We received the following request from Carlos E. Gonzalez of the Department of Geography, King’s College London in response to an earlier posting on botanical keys. I hope readers will be able to help him out.

As part of my PhD I have been developing an online taxonomic key for tree identification (higher taxa) on the basis on aerial photography. The taxonomic key uses some aerial photography over the Tiputini Biodiversity Station, and the user answers a series of questions on each crown in order to come to an identification. I am now testing this key in order to understand better (a) its success rate in the identification of trees using a large number of different observers and (b) the patterns of correct and erroneous identifications and implications for the key and for how different observers visualise and separate crown features in imagery. I would be very grateful if you would take a short time to identify 20 trees for me. You can find instructions and access to the key and imagery here. Your computer needs to have a copy of Google Earth version 4, available here. I cannot identify which users have given particular answers but will be able to provide some general feedback to the group of users as a whole. PLEASE ALSO FORWARD TO OTHERS WHO MIGHT CONTRIBUTE. Many thanks! Carlos