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Humans to blame for Creation of World’s Largest hot Sahara Desert: Study

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Hot Sahara Desert, Credits: Wikimedia

Seoul, March 15, 2017: Challenging a commonly held theory that changes in the Earth’s orbit triggered Sahara desertification, a new study suggests that humans may have played an active role in the transition of a lush green landscape into the world’s largest hot desert thousands of years ago.

The desertification of the Sahara has long been a target for scientists trying to understand climate and ecological tipping points.

Most studies done to date point to changes in the Earth’s orbit or natural changes in vegetation as the major driving forces.

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In a new paper published in the journal Frontiers in Earth Science, David Wright from Seoul National University in South Korea challenges the conclusions of these studies.

“In East Asia there are long established theories of how Neolithic populations changed the landscape so profoundly that monsoons stopped penetrating so far inland,” said Wright.

Evidence of human-driven ecological and climatic change has been documented in Europe, North America and New Zealand, said Wright who believed that similar scenarios could also apply to the Sahara.

To test his hypothesis, Wright reviewed archaeological evidence documenting the first appearances of pastoralism across the Saharan region, and compared this with records showing the spread of scrub vegetation, an indicator of an ecological shift towards desert-like conditions.

The findings confirmed his thoughts.

Beginning approximately 8,000 years ago in the regions surrounding the Nile River, pastoral communities began to appear and spread westward, increasing at the same time the spread of scrub vegetation, the study said.

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Growing agricultural addiction had a severe effect on the region’s ecology. As more vegetation was removed by the introduction of livestock, it increased the albedo (the amount of sunlight that reflects off the earth’s surface) of the land, which in turn influenced atmospheric conditions sufficiently to reduce monsoon rainfall.

The weakening monsoons caused further desertification and vegetation loss, promoting a feedback loop which eventually spread over the entirety of the modern Sahara, the study said. (IANS)

Next Story

Scientists Create Virtual Biopsy Device to Detect Skin Tumors

This procedure can be completed in 15 minutes with no discomfort to the patient

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Scientists, Virtual, Biopsy
To develop the device that can quickly determine a skin lesion's depth and potential malignancy without using a scalpel. Pixabay

Researchers have developed a “virtual biopsy” device that can distinguish between healthy skin and different types of skin lesions and carcinomas.

The ability to analyse a skin tumour non-invasively could make biopsies much less risky and distressing to patients, according the study published in the journal Skin Research and Technology.

To develop the device that can quickly determine a skin lesion’s depth and potential malignancy without using a scalpel, the researchers used sound vibrations and pulses of near-infrared light.

“This procedure can be completed in 15 minutes with no discomfort to the patient, who feels no sensation from the light or the nearly inaudible sound. It’s a significant improvement over surgical biopsies, which are expensive and time consuming,” said study lead author Frederick Silver, Professor at Rutgers University in the US.

Scientists, Virtual, Biopsy
The ability to analyse a skin tumour non-invasively could make biopsies much less risky and distressing to patients. Pixabay

The experimental procedure, called vibrational optical coherence tomography (VOCT), creates a 3D map of the legion’s width and depth under the skin with a tiny laser diode, said the study.

It also uses sound waves to test the lesion’s density and stiffness since cancer cells are stiffer than healthy cells. An inch-long speaker applies audible sound waves against the skin to measure vibrations and determine whether the lesion is malignant.

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For the findings, the research team tested the device over six months on four skin excisions and on eight volunteers without skin lesions. (IANS)