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Quick Six - August

Ancient Kauri discovered with a record of the near reversal of the Earth’s magnetic field reversal in its rings

A Kauri tree (Agathis australis) was uncovered under 8m of soil in Ngawha, Northland.  The tree, which is 2.5 metres in diameter and 20 metres long, lived for 1,500 years between 41,000 and 41,500 years ago.  This lifespan covers a period when the earth’s magnetic field almost reversed. During this period the magnetic north and south poles went on an excursion but did not complete a full reversal. This tree is the only living thing at that time we know in the world today and scientists can utilise the tree rings to now map more accurately the time taken for magnetic movement to occur.         

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Bark: A  building block for a circular bioeconomy

Bark biorefinery technologies provide a new economic opportunity to convert an underutilised waste stream into a range of high-value materials and products. These could earn an estimated $400-600 million per annum and contribute $1.8 billion to New Zealand’s GDP. With infrastructure and relevant policies in place, regional biorefineries have the potential to add several thousand new regional jobs by 2050.

Coming up with methods that can extract and refine high-value chemicals and create new products in a bark biorefinery is at the heart of a new five-year Scion-led research programme supported by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Endeavour Fund.

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Hi-tech shirt to monitor forestry workers

A project team of honour students has developed a prototype shirt that has inbuilt sensors to monitor heart rate variability as well as perspiration.  Using these measurements, the shirt could signal when the wearer is starting to suffer from fatigue or dehydration.

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Ethiopia plants 350 million trees in one day!

Now this is something Shane Jones would be enviable of.  Ethiopia’s forest cover has reduced from 40% half a century ago to around 15% today. Like many other countries around the world Ethiopia has embarked on a tree planting program and claims to have planted almost 3 billion trees since May. One Monday, state employees were given the day off as Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sought to get the rest of the country involved, and the government claimed a "record-breaking" 350 million trees were planted in only one day.   

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Terahertz imaging technique aids forest managers in earlier identification of insect damage in trees

Insect damage of forest is becoming more prevalent as trees are subject to drought and other stressful periods more frequently or longer duration due to climate change. A new terahertz imaging technique could help slow the spread of these infestations by detecting insect damage inside wood before it becomes visible on the outside.

"Detecting the boreholes of wood-destroying insects is typically done by manually inspecting the wood, and the infected area of the forest to be removed is then estimated," said Krügener. "To our knowledge, this is the first time a technical method has been used to detect insect boreholes."

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Guacamole lovers, rejoice! The avocado genome has been sequenced

Studies have shown that the Hass avocado inherited approximately 61% of its DNA from Mexican varieties and 39% from Guatemalan varieties.  The research also provides vital reference material for learning about the function of individual avocado genes, and for using genetic engineering to boost productivity of avocado trees, improve disease resistance and create fruit with new tastes and textures.

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