Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Gradient


There is a general consensus among Earth scientists that melting of land ice greatly contributes to sea-level rise (SLR) and that future warming will exacerbate the risks posed to human civilization. As land ice is lost to the oceans, both the Earth’s gravitational and rotational potentials are perturbed, resulting in strong spatial patterns in SLR, termed sea-level fingerprints. We lack robust forecasting models for future ice changes, which diminishes our ability to use these fingerprints to accurately predict local sea-level (LSL) changes. We exploit an advanced mathematical property of adjoint systems and determine the exact gradient of sea-level fingerprints with respect to local variations in the ice thickness of all of the world’s ice drainage systems. By exhaustively mapping these fingerprint gradients, we form a new diagnosis tool, henceforth referred to as gradient fingerprint mapping (GFM), that readily allows for improved assessments of future coastal inundation or emergence. We demonstrate that for Antarctica and Greenland, changes in the predictions of inundation at major port cities depend on the location of the drainage system. For example, in London, GFM shows LSL that is significantly affected by changes on the western part of the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS), whereas in New York, LSL change predictions are greatly sensitive to changes in the northeastern portions of the GrIS. We apply GFM to 293 major port cities to allow coastal planners to readily calculate LSL change as more reliable predictions of cryospheric mass changes become available.

Concepts: Water, Gradient, Ice sheet, Greenland ice sheet, Oceanography, Prediction, Atlantic Ocean, Forecasting


This research investigated how the strength of vegetation-soil-topography couplings varied along a gradient of biogeomorphic succession in two distinct fluvial systems: a forested river floodplain and a coastal salt marsh creek. The strength of couplings was quantified as tri-variance, which was calculated by correlating three singular axes, one each extracted using three-block partial least squares from vegetation, soil, and topography data blocks. Within each system, tri-variance was examined at low-, mid-, and high-elevation sites, which represented early-, intermediate-, and late-successional phases, respectively, and corresponded to differences in ongoing disturbance frequency and intensity. Both systems exhibited clearly increasing tri-variance from the early- to late-successional stages. The lowest-lying sites underwent frequent and intense hydrogeomorphic forcings that dynamically reworked soil substrates, restructured surface landforms, and controlled the colonization of plant species. Such conditions led vegetation, soil, and topography to show discrete, stochastic, and individualistic behaviors over space and time, resulting in a loose coupling among the three ecosystem components. In the highest-elevation sites, in contrast, disturbances that might disrupt the existing biotic-abiotic relationships were less common. Hence, ecological succession, soil-forming processes, and landform evolution occurred in tight conjunction with one another over a prolonged period, thereby strengthening couplings among them; namely, the three behaved in unity over space and time. We propose that the recurrence interval of physical disturbance is important to-and potentially serves as an indicator of-the intensity and mechanisms of vegetation-soil-topography feedbacks in fluvial biogeomorphic systems.

Concepts: Time, Ecology, Gradient, Ecosystem, Partial derivative, Ecological succession, Geomorphology, Landform


Understanding how the structure of cognition arises from the topographical organization of the cortex is a primary goal in neuroscience. Previous work has described local functional gradients extending from perceptual and motor regions to cortical areas representing more abstract functions, but an overarching framework for the association between structure and function is still lacking. Here, we show that the principal gradient revealed by the decomposition of connectivity data in humans and the macaque monkey is anchored by, at one end, regions serving primary sensory/motor functions and at the other end, transmodal regions that, in humans, are known as the default-mode network (DMN). These DMN regions exhibit the greatest geodesic distance along the cortical surface-and are precisely equidistant-from primary sensory/motor morphological landmarks. The principal gradient also provides an organizing spatial framework for multiple large-scale networks and characterizes a spectrum from unimodal to heteromodal activity in a functional metaanalysis. Together, these observations provide a characterization of the topographical organization of cortex and indicate that the role of the DMN in cognition might arise from its position at one extreme of a hierarchy, allowing it to process transmodal information that is unrelated to immediate sensory input.

Concepts: Gradient, Cerebral cortex, Primate, Knowledge, Level set, Ring, Riemannian manifold


Elevational gradients of biodiversity have been widely investigated, and yet a clear interpretation of the biotic and abiotic factors that determine how species richness varies with elevation is still elusive. In mountainous landscapes, habitats at different elevations are characterized by different areal extent and connectivity properties, key drivers of biodiversity, as predicted by metacommunity theory. However, most previous studies directly correlated species richness to elevational gradients of potential drivers, thus neglecting the interplay between such gradients and the environmental matrix. Here, we investigate the role of geomorphology in shaping patterns of species richness. We develop a spatially explicit zero-sum metacommunity model where species have an elevation-dependent fitness and otherwise neutral traits. Results show that ecological dynamics over complex terrains lead to the null expectation of a hump-shaped elevational gradient of species richness, a pattern widely observed empirically. Local species richness is found to be related to the landscape elevational connectivity, as quantified by a newly proposed metric that applies tools of complex network theory to measure the closeness of a site to others with similar habitat. Our theoretical results suggest clear geomorphic controls on elevational gradients of species richness and support the use of the landscape elevational connectivity as a null model for the analysis of the distribution of biodiversity.

Concepts: Scientific method, Ecology, Gradient, Elevation, Topography, Complex network, Landscape, Geomorphology


The gradient of air temperature with elevation (the temperature lapse rate) in the tropics is predicted to become less steep during the coming century as surface temperature rises, enhancing the threat of warming in high-mountain environments. However, the sensitivity of the lapse rate to climate change is uncertain because of poor constraints on high-elevation temperature during past climate states. We present a 25,000-year temperature reconstruction from Mount Kenya, East Africa, which demonstrates that cooling during the Last Glacial Maximum was amplified with elevation and hence that the lapse rate was significantly steeper than today. Comparison of our data with paleoclimate simulations indicates that state-of-the-art models underestimate this lapse-rate change. Consequently, future high-elevation tropical warming may be even greater than predicted.

Concepts: Gradient, Future, Tropics, Temperature, Kenya, Nairobi, Differential calculus, History of climate


PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of gradient on cycling gross efficiency and pedalling technique. METHODS: Eighteen trained cyclists were tested for efficiency, index of pedal force effectiveness (IFE), distribution of power production during the pedal revolution (dead centre size, DC) and timing and level of muscle activity of eight leg muscles. Cycling was performed on a treadmill at gradients of 0% (level), 4% and 8%, each at three different cadences (60, 75 and 90 rev·min). RESULTS: Efficiency was significantly decreased at a gradient of 8% compared with both 0% and 4% (P < 0.05). The relationship between cadence and efficiency was not changed by gradient (P > 0.05). At a gradient of 8% there was a larger IFE between 45° and 225° and larger DC, compared with 0% and 4% (P < 0.05). The onset of muscle activity for Vastus Lateralis, Vastus Medialis, Gastrocnemius Lateralis and Gastrocnemius Medialis occurred earlier with increasing gradient (all P < 0.05), whereas none of the muscles showed a change in offset (P > 0.05). Uphill cycling increased the overall muscle activity level (P < 0.05), mainly induced by increased calf muscle activity. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that uphill cycling decreases cycling gross efficiency, and is associated with changes in pedalling technique.

Concepts: Gradient, Vastus lateralis muscle


The predatory Bacteriovorax are Gram-negative bacteria ubiquitous in saltwater systems that prey upon other Gram-negative bacteria in a similar manner to the related genus Bdellovibrio. Among the phylogenetically defined clusters of Bacteriovorax, cluster V has only been isolated from estuaries suggesting that it may be a distinct estuarine phylotype. To assess this hypothesis, the spatial and temporal distribution of cluster V and other Bacteriovorax phylogenetic assemblages along the salinity gradient of Chesapeake Bay were determined. Cluster V was expected to be found in significantly greater numbers in low to moderate salinity waters compared to high salinity areas. The analyses of water and sediment samples from sites in the bay revealed cluster V to be present at the lower salinity and not high salinity sites, consistent with it being an estuarine phylotype. Cluster IV had a similar distribution pattern and may also be specifically adapted to estuaries. While the distribution of clusters V and IV were similar for salinity, they were distinct on temperature gradients, being found in cooler and in warmer temperatures, respectively. The differentiation of phylotype populations along the salinity and temporal gradients in Chesapeake Bay revealed distinct niches inhabited by different phylotypes of Bacteriovorax and unique estuarine phylotypes.

Concepts: Water, Gradient, Estuary, Partial derivative, Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation, Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay, Ria


A specific and sensitive LC-MS/MS method for analysis of F(2)-isoprostanes (F(2)-IsoPs) and prostaglandins (PGs) in urine was developed and validated to examine the levels of F(2)-IsoPs and prostaglandin F(2α) (PGF(2α)), in human urine in patients undergoing cardiac surgery. The rapid extraction for F(2)-IsoPs and PGs from urine was achieved using a polymeric weak anion solid phase extraction cartridge. The base-line separation of 8-iso-PGF(2α), 8-iso-15®-PGF(2α), PGF(2α), and 15®-PGF(2α) was carried out on a Hydro-RP column (250mm×2.0mm i.d., Phenomenex, CA) using a linear gradient of methanol:acetonitrile (1:1, v/v) in 0.1% formic acid at a flow rate of 0.2mL/min. The method was proved to be accurate and precise for simultaneous quantification of each analyte over a linear dynamic range of 0.05-50ng/mL with correlation coefficients greater than 0.99. The intra-day and inter-day assay precision at the lowest quality control (0.07ng/mL) level were less than 17%. The mean extraction recoveries of F(2)-IsoPs and PGs were in a range of 79-100%. In applications of this method to patients undergoing cardiac surgery, post-surgery urinary concentrations of 8-iso-PGF(2α) increased significantly in patients (n=14) who did not develop acute kidney (AKI) (pre-surgery 0.344±0.039 vs. post-surgery 0.682±0.094ng/mg creatinine, p<0.01), whereas there was no significant change in this isoprostane in the patients (n=4) who developed AKI (pre-surgery 0.298±0.062 vs. post-surgery 0.383±0.117ng/mg creatinine, NS). Therefore, the method is suitable for the analysis of individual F(2)-IsoPs and PGF(2α)'s in both clinical and research studies.

Concepts: Kidney, Urine, Gradient, Ureter, High performance liquid chromatography, Analytical chemistry, Prostaglandin, Separation process


Chlamydiae are obligate intracellular bacteria with two distinct morphological stages, the infectious elementary bodies (EBs) and non-infectious reticulate bodies (RBs). Here we describe a rapid and straightforward protocol for the purification of EBs and RBs involving special density gradients. It has been successfully applied to three chlamydial species.

Concepts: Bacteria, Gradient, Chlamydia


In recent years, scientists have created artificial microscopic and nanoscopic self-propelling particles, often referred to as nano- or microswimmers, capable of mimicking biological locomotion and taxis. This active diffusion enables the engineering of complex operations that so far have not been possible at the micro- and nanoscale. One of the most promising tasks is the ability to engineer nanocarriers that can autonomously navigate within tissues and organs, accessing nearly every site of the human body guided by endogenous chemical gradients. We report a fully synthetic, organic, nanoscopic system that exhibits attractive chemotaxis driven by enzymatic conversion of glucose. We achieve this by encapsulating glucose oxidase alone or in combination with catalase into nanoscopic and biocompatible asymmetric polymer vesicles (known as polymersomes). We show that these vesicles self-propel in response to an external gradient of glucose by inducing a slip velocity on their surface, which makes them move in an extremely sensitive way toward higher-concentration regions. We finally demonstrate that the chemotactic behavior of these nanoswimmers, in combination with LRP-1 (low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 1) targeting, enables a fourfold increase in penetration to the brain compared to nonchemotactic systems.

Concepts: Protein, Brain, Enzyme, Cell biology, Gradient