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Kourou, French Guiana

Bourennane H.,French National Institute for Agricultural Research | Douay F.,CNRS Soil and Environment Laboratory | Sterckeman T.,CNRS Soil and Environment Laboratory | Villanneau E.,NRA | And 3 more authors.
Geoderma | Year: 2010

Anthropogenic trace element contamination of soils in the densely populated and industrialized Nord-Pas de Calais region (France) was quantified using enrichment factors (EFs). Total concentrations of Al and 18 trace elements (As, Bi, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Hg, In, Mn, Mo, Ni, Pb, Sb, Se, Sn, Tl, V, and Zn) were determined in 252 sampling sites both in topsoil and deep horizons of soils developed from sedimentary materials. Thus, at each sampling site an enrichment factor was computed for each of the 18 trace elements as the ratio between total concentrations of the trace element in topsoil and deep horizons in the same soil pit, normalized by concentrations of Al measured in the same horizons and the same pit. To estimate EF values at unsampled locations and then to assess the spatial magnitude of anthropogenic trace element contamination over the whole study area (12400 km2), variography analysis was used to quantify the spatial structure of each EF. Results have shown that values of 8 EFs are spatially correlated. These EFs were thus mapped using the sequential Gaussian simulation technique. One hundred horizon samples from 50 supplementary sites were analysed for the structured trace elements and Al contents and used for the mapping validation. Results of the validation based on the accuracy plots and goodness statistics (G and D) allowed us to conclude that EF maps exhibited high certainty in regard to the validation data set. In addition, results have shown that E-type estimates were accurate when they are used to estimate the measured EF value of the validation data set. Accordingly, these maps were used to discuss the origin of patches of surface horizon enrichment displaying an exogenous input of the trace elements investigated. The whole study area under discussion is strongly enriched with cadmium, originating from both industrial and agricultural activities. Surface horizons also exhibit locally high levels of Pb and Zn enrichment, mainly around well-known former or current industrial sites. However, Pb and Zn enriched surface horizons are far less widespread than those enriched in Cd. Higher Cu, Bi and Sn EF values were observed in the northern part of the region studied than in the southern part. The dissimilarity underlined a rather diffuse contamination from the urbanized zone in the north to the rural zone in the south of the region. The enrichment of surface horizons by In and Tl seems insignificant. Some unstructured EFs were attributes to point-source enrichments. © 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. Source

Gautier M.,NRA | Laloe D.,French National Institute for Agricultural Research | Moazami-Goudarzi K.,French National Institute for Agricultural Research
PLoS ONE | Year: 2010

Background: Modern cattle originate from populations of the wild extinct aurochs through a few domestication events which occurred about 8,000 years ago. Newly domesticated populations subsequently spread worldwide following breeder migration routes. The resulting complex historical origins associated with both natural and artificial selection have led to the differentiation of numerous different cattle breeds displaying a broad phenotypic variety over a short period of time. Methodology/Principal Findings: This study gives a detailed assessment of cattle genetic diversity based on 1,121 individuals sampled in 47 populations from different parts of the world (with a special focus on French cattle) genotyped for 44,706 autosomal SNPs. The analyzed data set consisted of new genotypes for 296 individuals representing 14 French cattle breeds which were combined to those available from three previously published studies. After characterizing SNP polymorphism in the different populations, we performed a detailed analysis of genetic structure at both the individual and population levels. We further searched for spatial patterns of genetic diversity among 23 European populations, most of them being of French origin, under the recently developed spatial Principal Component analysis framework. Conclusions/Significance: Overall, such high throughput genotyping data confirmed a clear partitioning of the cattle genetic diversity into distinct breeds. In addition, patterns of differentiation among the three main groups of populations-the African taurine, the European taurine and zebus-may provide some additional support for three distinct domestication centres. Finally, among the European cattle breeds investigated, spatial patterns of genetic diversity were found in good agreement with the two main migration routes towards France, initially postulated based on archeological evidence. © 2010 Gautier et al. Source

Morgavi D.P.,NRA | Kelly W.J.,Agresearch Ltd. | Janssen P.H.,Agresearch Ltd. | Attwood G.T.,Agresearch Ltd.
Animal | Year: 2013

Meat and milk produced by ruminants are important agricultural products and are major sources of protein for humans. Ruminant production is of considerable economic value and underpins food security in many regions of the world. However, the sector faces major challenges because of diminishing natural resources and ensuing increases in production costs, and also because of the increased awareness of the environmental impact of farming ruminants. The digestion of feed and the production of enteric methane are key functions that could be manipulated by having a thorough understanding of the rumen microbiome. Advances in DNA sequencing technologies and bioinformatics are transforming our understanding of complex microbial ecosystems, including the gastrointestinal tract of mammals. The application of these techniques to the rumen ecosystem has allowed the study of the microbial diversity under different dietary and production conditions. Furthermore, the sequencing of genomes from several cultured rumen bacterial and archaeal species is providing detailed information about their physiology. More recently, metagenomics, mainly aimed at understanding the enzymatic machinery involved in the degradation of plant structural polysaccharides, is starting to produce new insights by allowing access to the total community and sidestepping the limitations imposed by cultivation. These advances highlight the promise of these approaches for characterising the rumen microbial community structure and linking this with the functions of the rumen microbiota. Initial results using high-throughput culture-independent technologies have also shown that the rumen microbiome is far more complex and diverse than the human caecum. Therefore, cataloguing its genes will require a considerable sequencing and bioinformatic effort. Nevertheless, the construction of a rumen microbial gene catalogue through metagenomics and genomic sequencing of key populations is an attainable goal. A rumen microbial gene catalogue is necessary to understand the function of the microbiome and its interaction with the host animal and feeds, and it will provide a basis for integrative microbiome-host models and inform strategies promoting less-polluting, more robust and efficient ruminants. © 2011 The Animal Consortium. Source

News Article | November 15, 2015
Site: http://www.techtimes.com/rss/sections/environment.xml

"Terminator" icon Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in Wildlife Conservation Society's (WCS) new video as part of a campaign to save African elephants from illegal poaching. The video shows Schwarzenegger blowing up an elephant tusk with explosives in order to get rid of the demand for ivory tusks. WCS, a conservationist group based at the Bronx Zoo in New York, said the elephant tusk blown up in the video was donated by the Los Angeles Zoo. The group added that this year, over 42 tons of illegally poached ivory, also called 'the white gold of jihad,' were openly destroyed across eight countries worldwide. "We are extremely grateful Arnold Schwarzenegger has joined the 96 Elephants campaign, and we are hopeful that his global following of fans will become allies to stop the killing, stop the trafficking and stop the demand of ivory," said WCS's 96 Elephants director John Calvelli. WCS's campaign called "96 Elephants" is building a countrywide support community to tighten limitations of ivory's commercial sale in the U.S., which is the second biggest ivory market after China. Early in 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed limits and an almost complete ban of commercial ivory trade. Backed by WCS, the proposed rules were opposed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) who said it will spur potential limits on guns with ivory handles, which are considered family heirlooms. NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker explained that the proposed limit will make a legally owned possession illegal by law. This will then make criminals out of decent citizens who possess a gun with ivory handles. Though elephant ivory tusks appear sophisticated, illegal poaching these treasured teeth are brutal. The poachers use high-tech gear including helicopters, night-vision goggles and GPS equipment to locate African elephants before hacking the tusks off with an axe while the animal is still alive. Ivory is used to make elaborate art and trinkets for buyers mostly concentrated in East Asia. The demand for ivory results in killing at least 96 elephants in Africa every day. In 2012, approximately 35,000 elephants were killed due to the high demand. In June, a ton of seized ivory sculptures were publicly smashed in Times Square in New York. The ivory shards will be used to create an elephant memorial.

News Article | March 5, 2016
Site: http://motherboard.vice.com/

Last year we wrote a story about Prime Minister Infinity, a super-realistic political simulator that lets players take control of one of Canada’s main political parties and lead it to victory in the 2015 federal election. Players could tinker with an astonishing amount of details, modifying their candidate's policy positions with a series of sliders in order to pinpoint their stance on a variety of issues. It's an accurate and considerate—read, Canadian—simulation that's been refined over 15 years. But fuck that noise. We're in the midst of an American election, and I want an election game that caters to my American sensibilities. I want something simple, flashy, and a little obnoxious. I want to kick ass and take names. Most important of all, I want to win without having to think about it too much. Enter The Political Machine 2016, an American presidential election simulator made in America by developer Stardock. If Prime Minister Infinity overwhelms the player with details and realism, The Political Machine keeps it simple.It skips the primaries and jumps right into the general election, so all you have to do to get going is choose your candidate. "We feel like the best part of that process was running for the president, and adding the primaries would just add time and complexity to the game without enough 'new fun' to justify it," VP of Stardock Entertainment Derek Paxton told me. You can make your own candidate, but part of the reason Stardock has released a new version of The Political Machine for every election since 2004 is that it allows the developer to add the relevant candidates and issues of that election cycle. I consider myself pretty good at games, and The Political Machine seemed simple enough. So when scrolling through the bobblehead renditions of the current political field, I picked the candidate I thought would be most entertaining to make president: Dr. Ben Carson. The Political Machine also allows players to pick their opponent, so I picked the Democrat that I and the current polls agree is most likely to become the next president: Hillary Clinton. As I found out, these early decisions underestimated both Clinton and The Political Machine as an accurate simulator. By default, The Political Machine suggested I play the game on the easy setting, and undertake a campaign that lasts 21 weeks, though players can choose to play on difficulties as high as "masochistic" (which makes the AI opponent more vicious), and campaigns that are 52 weeks long. Each week counts as a turn, during which players use a limited amount of energy to perform as many tasks as they can: travel to different states, give speeches, pay for political ads, build headquarters, and more. It's a lot like Sid Meier's Civilization. Players win a game of The Political Machine in the same way real candidates win the election: a candidate that gets the most votes in a state wins that state's delegates. The candidate with the most delegates becomes president. The delegate distribution is carried out the same way it is in reality, and the states' political affiliation and top issues mirror reality, too. States along the border with Mexico are more concerned with immigration, for example. "We update throughout the process to add issues that occur in the real campaign," Paxton said. "It is always interesting to us to see the development of the campaign from the time we start working on the game up until the election. The topics often change considerably, and we update the game to reflect that." For example, Stardock is now preparing a patch that adds random issues that could crop up because of the Supreme Court vacancy or the Flint water crisis. I "role-played" as Carson, meaning I tried to emulate his positions on issues as best as I understood them from the debates. That alone didn't make the game harder. For example, just like in real life, winning the delegate-rich Florida can make or break a Republican campaign, but that's not a hard place to be a Republican. I simply flew bobblehead Carson down there, gave a speech about how we must destroy ISIS, ran political ads about my commitment to Israel, and watched my numbers go up. These positions also didn't come to haunt me on the national level. I couldn't win an endorsement from environmental groups because Carson is just not the kind of candidate to stump about climate change, but there's no shortage of other influential groups willing to back me, including the NRA, foreign policy experts, and business moguls. Overall, Democrats and Republicans are well balanced. There's nothing ideologically that prevents either side from winning. A Republican will have a hard time winning Massachusetts and a Democrat will have a hard time winning Texas, but there's always a path to victory. The problem with Carson is his stats. Just like a role-playing game, each candidate has between 1-10 points in a variety of skills that define his or her abilities: Money, fundraising ability, charisma, intelligence, experience, and so on. If it was just about issues, Carson would win. Image: Stardock "Surprisingly, we find that designers who side with one party unfairly handicap their own party too much," Paxton said. "I don’t know if they are overbalancing for their own bias, or if they are just too harsh on the candidates they know more about. But we generally go through a few rounds trying to get the candidates right and making sure their stats are reasonable, not just crazy caricatures or their public perception." If you watched Carson in any of the debates, you might agree that his defining characteristic is that he's a bit… subdued. Especially compared to the rabid Republican lineup this year. To me, he seems like he's always just waking up, about to go to sleep, or like he just ripped the dankest bowl of indica. Either way, I know I'm not alone because in The Political Machine Carson's biggest flaw is his low stamina rating, a pitiful 4 out of 10. This makes winning the White House almost impossible. After several hours and more than a half-dozen attempts, I certainly haven't been able to do it. When Carson gets to a state and delivers his message (mostly that the US should fight ISIS), people love it, but he can't get around fast enough. This is especially a challenge for a Republican, who has to hop around a large number of states worth few delegates in the South. So while Hillary, who has 7 stamina, is zooming between Ohio, California, Florida and New York with enough energy to give speeches along the way, Carson flies to Florida, gives a speech, and then maybe has enough energy left to get to Texas before taking a nap. I tried the traditional Republican strategy of forfeiting coastal states like New York and California while running the board in the middle many times, but never pulled it off. Carson always ran out of energy or money before he could cover enough ground, allowing Clinton to nab Louisiana, sometimes even Florida. One time I even tried a crazy strategy of investing most of my resources in Texas, Florida, and California, and the latter even turned red in the final weeks before the election, but in the end Clinton always managed to take it. It was incredibly frustrating because Carson's problem wasn't that people disagreed with him. The Political Machine's America generally agreed with his platform that guns are good and ISIS is bad. He just didn't have the resources and god/game-given attributes to pull it off. In this way, The Political Machine is disturbingly like the real thing. It's about the candidate, not the issues; personality, not substance. In fact, a candidate's position on an issue is the most flexible part of the game. I could give Carson a platform that copied Bernie Sanders' socialist playbook, or any other opinion I wanted. It doesn't matter. After a number of losses and a couple of hours, I gave up on Carson. I wanted to win, goddammit, so I picked Donald Trump. It was as if I lowered the difficulty setting. He had the same message as Carson, essentially, but he starts the campaign with $5 million, as opposed to Carson's $3 million. He also has 7 stamina, 8 fund raising ability, and 8 charisma. I beat Clinton by a landslide on my first try with Trump. I even won California. In this sense, The Political Machine is horribly unbalanced. I like to win, but I also like the illusion that I accomplished something. When I played with Carson I never won, but the challenge actually forced me to understand the basic rules of the game. When I played as Trump, the rules didn't matter because he was so overpowered. I won so much I got tired of winning. If I was at Stardock working on the next patch, I'd make Carson a little stronger, sure, but the top priority should be nerfing Trump.

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