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Concept: Guam


Neurofibrillary tangles (NFT) and β-amyloid plaques are the neurological hallmarks of both Alzheimer’s disease and an unusual paralytic illness suffered by Chamorro villagers on the Pacific island of Guam. Many Chamorros with the disease suffer dementia, and in some villages one-quarter of the adults perished from the disease. Like Alzheimer’s, the causal factors of Guamanian amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/parkinsonism dementia complex (ALS/PDC) are poorly understood. In replicated experiments, we found that chronic dietary exposure to a cyanobacterial toxin present in the traditional Chamorro diet, β-N-methylamino-l-alanine (BMAA), triggers the formation of both NFT and β-amyloid deposits similar in structure and density to those found in brain tissues of Chamorros who died with ALS/PDC. Vervets (Chlorocebus sabaeus) fed for 140 days with BMAA-dosed fruit developed NFT and sparse β-amyloid deposits in the brain. Co-administration of the dietary amino acid l-serine with l-BMAA significantly reduced the density of NFT. These findings indicate that while chronic exposure to the environmental toxin BMAA can trigger neurodegeneration in vulnerable individuals, increasing the amount of l-serine in the diet can reduce the risk.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Medicine, Neurology, Dementia, Mariana Islands, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Chamorro people


Approximately 25% of individuals aged 65 years or older in the United States have diabetes mellitus. Diabetes rates in this age group are higher for Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AA/PI) than for whites. We examined racial/ethnic differences in diabetes-related potentially preventable hospitalizations (DRPH) among people aged 65 years or older for Japanese, Chinese, Filipinos, Native Hawaiians, and whites.

Concepts: Hawaii, United States, White American, Pacific Ocean, Native Americans in the United States, Asian American, Native Hawaiians, Guam


The combination of small-scale manipulative experiments and large-scale natural experiments provides a powerful approach for demonstrating the importance of top-down trophic control on the ecosystem scale. The most compelling natural experiments have come from studies examining the landscape-scale loss of apex predators like sea otters, wolves, fish and land crabs. Birds are dominant apex predators in terrestrial systems around the world, yet all studies on their role as predators have come from small-scale experiments; the top-down impact of bird loss on their arthropod prey has yet to be examined at a landscape scale. Here, we use a unique natural experiment, the extirpation of insectivorous birds from nearly all forests on the island of Guam by the invasive brown tree snake, to produce the first assessment of the impacts of bird loss on their prey. We focused on spiders because experimental studies showed a consistent top-down effect of birds on spiders. We conducted spider web surveys in native forest on Guam and three nearby islands with healthy bird populations. Spider web densities on the island of Guam were 40 times greater than densities on islands with birds during the wet season, and 2.3 times greater during the dry season. These results confirm the general trend from manipulative experiments conducted in other systems however, the effect size was much greater in this natural experiment than in most manipulative experiments. In addition, bird loss appears to have removed the seasonality of spider webs and led to larger webs in at least one spider species in the forests of Guam than on nearby islands with birds. We discuss several possible mechanisms for the observed changes. Overall, our results suggest that effect sizes from smaller-scale experimental studies may significantly underestimate the impact of bird loss on spider density as demonstrated by this large-scale natural experiment.

Concepts: Experimental design, Experiment, Apex predator, Invasive species, Spider, Guam, Brown tree snake, Spinneret


Throughout the tropics, coral reef ecosystems, which are critically important to people, have been greatly altered by humans. Differentiating human impacts from natural drivers of ecosystem state is essential to effective management. Here we present a dataset from a large-scale monitoring program that surveys coral reef fish assemblages and habitats encompassing the bulk of the US-affiliated tropical Pacific, and spanning wide gradients in both natural drivers and human impact. Currently, this includes >5,500 surveys from 39 islands and atolls in Hawaii (including the main and Northwestern Hawaiian Islands) and affiliated geo-political regions of American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the Pacific Remote Islands Areas. The dataset spans 2010-2017, during which time, each region was visited at least every three years, and ~500-1,000 surveys performed annually. This standardised dataset is a powerful resource that can be used to understand how human, environmental and oceanographic conditions influence coral reef fish community structure and function, providing a basis for research to support effective management outcomes.

Concepts: United States, Coral reef, Pacific Ocean, Micronesia, Mariana Islands, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Hawaiian Islands


Compared with the United States overall, Guam has higher mortality rates from cardiovascular disease and stroke (1). Excess sodium intake can increase blood pressure and risk for cardiovascular disease (2,3). To determine the availability and promotion of lower-sodium options in the nutrition environment, the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services (DPHSS) conducted an assessment in September 2015 using previously validated tools adapted to include sodium measures. Stores (N = 114) and restaurants (N = 63) were randomly sampled by region (north, central, and south). Data from 100 stores and 62 restaurants were analyzed and weighted to account for the sampling design. Across the nine product types assessed, lower-sodium products were offered less frequently than regular-sodium products (p<0.001) with <50% of stores offering lower-sodium canned vegetables, tuna, salad dressing, soy sauce, and hot dogs. Lower-sodium products were also less frequently offered in small stores than large (two or more cash registers) stores. Reduced-sodium soy sauce cost more than regular soy sauce (p<0.001) in stores offering both options in the same size bottle. Few restaurants engaged in promotion practices such as posting sodium information (3%) or identifying lower-sodium entrées (1%). Improving the availability and promotion of lower-sodium foods in stores and restaurants could help support healthier eating in Guam.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Nutrition, United States, Eating, Food, Restaurant, Guam, Condiment


Fatal opioid overdose in the United States is at epidemic levels. Naloxone, an effective opioid antidote, is commonly administered by advanced emergency medical services (EMS) personnel in the prehospital setting. While states are rapidly moving to increase access to naloxone for community bystanders, the EMS system remains the primary source for out-of-hospital naloxone access. Many communities have limited advanced EMS response capability and therefore may not have prehospital access to the medication indicated for opioid overdose reversal. The goal of this research was to determine the authority of different levels of EMS personnel to administer naloxone for the reversal of opioid overdose in the United States, Guam, and Puerto Rico.

Concepts: United States, U.S. state, Emergency medical services, Massachusetts, Puerto Rico, Guam


Assessment and identification of spatial structures in the distribution and abundance of invasive species is important for unraveling the underlying ecological processes. The invasive agricultural insect pest Halyomorpha halys that causes severe economic losses in the United States is currently expanding both within United States and across Europe. We examined the drivers of H. halys invasion by characterizing the distribution and abundance patterns of H. halys and native stink bugs (Chinavia hilaris and Euschistus servus) across eight different spatial scales. We then quantified the interactive and individual influences of temperature, and measures of resource availability and distance from source populations, and their relevant spatial scales. We used Moran’s Eigenvector Maps based on Gabriel graph framework to quantify spatial relationships among the soybean fields in mid-Atlantic Unites States surveyed for stink bugs.

Concepts: Ecology, United States, Poverty in the United States, California, Native Americans in the United States, Invasive species, Guam, Great Lakes


Background: Launched by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1998, the High Production Volume (HPV) Challenge Program was developed to address the perceived gap in basic hazard information for the 2,800 chemicals produced or imported into the United States in quantities of ≥ 1 million pounds per year. Health and environmental effects data obtained from either existing information or through new vertebrate animal testing were voluntarily submitted by chemical companies (sponsors) to the U.S. EPA. Despite the potential for extensive animal testing, animal welfare guidelines were not provided until after the start of the program.Objectives: We evaluated compliance with the animal welfare principles that arose from an agreement reached between the U.S. EPA and animal protection organizations and tracked the HPV program’s use of animals for testing.Discussion: Under a worst-case scenario, the HPV program had the potential to consume 3.5 million animals in new testing. After application of animal-saving measures, approximately 127,000 were actually used. Categorization of chemicals based on similar structure-activity and application of read-across, along with use of existing test data, were the most effective means of reducing animal testing. However, animal-saving measures were inconsistently used by both sponsors and the U.S. EPA.Conclusions: Lessons learned from the HPV program can be applied to future programs to minimize animal testing and promote more human-relevant chemical risk assessment.

Concepts: United States, Federal government of the United States, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Environmentalism, Chemical industry, Guam, Environmental protection, Animal welfare


Species interactions, both mutualistic and antagonistic, are widely recognized as providing important ecosystem services. Fruit-eating animals influence plant recruitment by increasing germination during gut passage and moving seeds away from conspecifics. However, relative to studies focused on the importance of frugivores for plant population maintenance, few studies target frugivores as ecosystem service providers, and frugivores are underappreciated as ecosystem service providers relative to other mutualists such as pollinators. Here we use an accidental experiment to elucidate the role of seed dispersal by frugivores for maintaining a culturally and economically important plant, the donne' sali chili (Capsicum frutescens) in the Mariana Islands. One of the islands (Guam) has lost nearly all of its native forest birds due to an invasive snake (Boiga irregularis), whereas nearby islands have relatively intact bird populations. We hypothesized that frugivore loss would influence chili recruitment and abundance, which could have economic and cultural impacts. By using video cameras, we confirmed that birds were the primary seed dispersers. We used captive bird feeding trials to obtain gut-passed seeds to use in a seedling emergence experiment. The experiment showed that gut-passed seeds emerged sooner and at a higher proportion than seeds from whole fruits. Consistent with our findings that birds benefit chilies, we observed lower chili abundance on Guam than on islands with birds. In a survey questionnaire of island residents, the majority of residents reported an association between the wild chili and local cultural values and traditions. In addition, we identified a thriving market for chili products, suggesting benefits of wild chilies to people in the Marianas both as consumers and producers. Our study therefore documents seed dispersal as both a cultural and a supporting ecosystem service. We provide a comprehensive case study on how seed-dispersed plants decline in the absence of their disperser, and how to apply mixed-methods in ecosystem service assessments. Furthermore, we suggest that scientists and resource managers may utilize fruit-frugivore mutualisms concerning socially valuable plants to gather support for frugivore and forest conservation efforts. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Plant, Ecology, Fruit, Seed, Plant morphology, Mariana Islands, Guam, Seed dispersal


Experiments have demonstrated that ocean acidification (OA) conditions projected to occur by the end of the century will slow the calcification of numerous coral species and accelerate the biological erosion of reef habitats (bioerosion). Microborers, which bore holes less than 100 μm diameter, are one of the most pervasive agents of bioerosion and are present throughout all calcium carbonate substrates within the reef environment. The response of diverse reef functional groups to OA is known from real-world ecosystems, but to date our understanding of the relationship between ocean pH and carbonate dissolution by microborers is limited to controlled laboratory experiments. Here we examine the settlement of microborers to pure mineral calcium carbonate substrates (calcite) along a natural pH gradient at a volcanically acidified reef at Maug, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). Colonization of pioneer microborers was higher in the lower pH waters near the vent field. Depth of microborer penetration was highly variable both among and within sites (4.2-195.5 μm) over the short duration of the study (3 mo.) and no clear relationship to increasing CO2 was observed. Calculated rates of biogenic dissolution, however, were highest at the two sites closer to the vent and were not significantly different from each other. These data represent the first evidence of OA-enhancement of microboring flora colonization in newly available substrates and provide further evidence that microborers, especially bioeroding chlorophytes, respond positively to low pH. The accelerated breakdown and dissolution of reef framework structures with OA will likely lead to declines in structural complexity and integrity, as well as possible loss of essential habitat.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, PH, Calcite, Aragonite, Mariana Islands, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Saipan