Prosecco production takes a toll on Italy’s soil
Sorry to burst your bubbly, but demand for high-end prosecco may be
sapping northeastern Italy’s vineyards of soil — 400 million kilograms
of it per year, scientists report online January 10 at bioRxiv.org.
That’s a lot of soil, but not an anomaly. Some German vineyards,
for example, have higher soil loss rates, says geographer Jesús Rodrigo
Comino of the University of Málaga’s Institute of Geomorphology
and Soils in Spain, who was not involved in the study. But, he says, the
amount eroding from vineyards in Italy’s Veneto region — home to
prosecco with the highest quality designation, DOCG — is not
A team led by researchers from the University of Padua
in Italy calculated the sparkling wine’s “soil footprint.” The
group determined the industry was responsible for about
74 percent of the region’s total soil erosion, by studying
10 years of data on rainfall, land use and soil characteristics,
as well as high-resolution topographic maps. The team then
compared the result with average sales of DOCG prosecco to
estimate the annual soil footprint per bottle: 4. 4 kilograms,
roughly the mass of a house cat. — Cassie Martin
This app detects
an opioid overdose
A new smartphone app can detect
breathing troubles that foreshadow
an opioid overdose. The app, called
Second Chance, works by emitting
high-frequency sound waves and
monitoring the echoes that bounce
back from a user’s chest.
Computer scientist Rajalakshmi
Nandakumar and colleagues at the
University of Washington in Seattle
tested the app at a Vancouver facility
where people self-inject opioids such
as heroin under medical supervision.
The system, described in the Jan. 9
Science Translational Medicine,
observed 94 users for five minutes
after injection, when an overdose
is likely to occur. The app flagged
47 of 49 cases where a user stopped
breathing and raised one false alarm.
It also caught 41 of 47 cases where
a patient was breathing fewer than
eight times per minute.
More than 130 people die of opioid
overdoses daily in the United States.
The team still needs to ensure the
app can send alerts in time to resuscitate a person. — Maria Temming
Newfound frogs may aid fungus fight
Save for one lonely survivor in captivity, the Sehuencas water
frog hadn’t been seen in the wild since 2008. That’s when its
numbers collapsed amid an outbreak of the fungal disease
chytridiomycosis, which has devastated frog populations
worldwide. Fearing the species might be extinct, a group of
scientists searched Bolivia’s mountain forests for 10 years, and
just recently found a tiny population of five.
“It’s just incredible,” says herpetologist Robin Moore,
communications director at the nonprofit Global Wildlife
Conservation in Austin, Texas. He was among the scientists
who announced the discovery on January 15.
With no safe way to get rid of the lethal chytrid fungus in
the wild, scientists are keen to study the survivors. The five
Sehuencas water frogs ( Telmatobius yuracare) were found in
their native cloud forest habitat, where the air is moist and
cool — ideal for chytrid growth. Maybe this small population
has immunity or genetic resistance to the fungus, Moore says.
Maybe the environment, such as an unusually warm micro-
climate, is at play. Or the frogs’ survival could just be luck.
“Many species of frogs that disappeared for years — decades
in some cases — have been seen again later,” says ecologist
Karen Lips of the University of Maryland in College Park.
“Once most of the frogs are gone, the fungus declines” from
having fewer hosts to infect. Then the frogs slowly rebound.
These newly found frogs raise hopes that more popula-
tions exist in the wild and also offer researchers a chance to
help the species recover. — Jeremy Rehm
Amount of soil
year to make
one bottle of
Sehuencas water frogs live
exclusively in cool mountain
streams, where chytrid fungus
easily grows, making the
survivor shown here and four
others all the more interesting.
In Italy, vineyards
prosecco are losing
400 million kilograms
of soil every year,