Humble moss helped create our oxygen-rich atmosphere

The evolution of the first land plants including mosses may explain a long-standing mystery of how Earth's atmosphere became enriched with oxygen, according to an international study.

Oxygen in its current form first appeared in Earth's atmosphere some 2.4 billion years ago, in an incident known as the Great Oxidation Event. However, it was not until roughly 400 million years ago that this vital compound first approached modern levels in the atmosphere. This shift steered the trajectory of life on Earth and researchers have long debated how oxygen rose to modern concentrations.

In a study, Professor Tim Lenton, and his colleagues theorised that the earliest land plants, which colonised the land from 470 million years ago onwards, are responsible for the levels of oxygen that sustains our lives today. Their emergence and evolution permanently increased the flux of organic carbon into sedimentary rocks, the primary source for atmospheric oxygen, thus driving up oxygen levels in a second oxygenation event and establishing a new, stable oxygen cycle.

For birds, red means 'go': Some flowers evolved red hues favored by birds

New research has shown that certain flowers have shifted away from using insects as pollinators and evolved their flower colour to the red hues favoured by birds.

In a study, biologists have shown for the first time that native flowers exclusively pollinated by birds have evolved colour spectral signatures that are best discriminated by those birds.

Dr Adrian Dyer said previous studies had shown that flower colour evolved to attract bees as pollinators.

"We know that some flowers had evolved spectral signatures to suit bee pollinators, but the story for bird-pollinated flowers was not clear," Dr Dyer said.

Mountain environments more vulnerable to climate change than previously reported

New research Professor Solomon Dobrowski shows that organisms will face more hardships as they relocate when climate change makes their current homes uninhabitable.

Dobrowski and co-author Sean Parks, propose a new method to model how fast and where organisms will need to move to keep pace with climate change.

Mountains support roughly a quarter of the globe's terrestrial biodiversity, contain about a third of its protected areas and house nearly half of the world's biodiversity hotspots.

Human 'super predator' more terrifying than bears, wolves and dogs

Bears, wolves and other large carnivores are frightening beasts but the fear they inspire in their prey pales in comparison to that caused by the human 'super predator.'

A new study demonstrates that smaller carnivores, like European badgers, that may be prey to large carnivores, actually perceive humans as far more frightening. Globally, humans now kill smaller carnivores at much higher rates than large carnivores do, and these results indicate that smaller carnivores have learned to fear the human 'super predator' far more than they fear their traditional enemies according to Science daily.

Rice crops that can cut pollution

A new study has identified "superstar" varieties of rice that can reduce fertilizer loss and cut down on environmental pollution in the process according to Science daily.

The study, authored by Professor Herbert Kronzucker in collaboration with a team, looked at 19 varieties of rice to see which ones were more efficient at using nitrogen.

"We have this bucolic idea of agriculture -- animals grazing or vast fields of majestic crops -- but the global reality is it's one of the biggest drivers of environmental pollution and climate change," says Kronzucker.