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

Concept: English Channel


Growing evidence suggests that anthropogenic litter, particularly plastic, represents a highly pervasive and persistent threat to global marine ecosystems. Multinational research is progressing to characterise its sources, distribution and abundance so that interventions aimed at reducing future inputs and clearing extant litter can be developed. Citizen science projects, whereby members of the public gather information, offer a low-cost method of collecting large volumes of data with considerable temporal and spatial coverage. Furthermore, such projects raise awareness of environmental issues and can lead to positive changes in behaviours and attitudes. We present data collected over a decade (2005-2014 inclusive) by Marine Conservation Society (MCS) volunteers during beach litter surveys carried along the British coastline, with the aim of increasing knowledge on the composition, spatial distribution and temporal trends of coastal debris. Unlike many citizen science projects, the MCS beach litter survey programme gathers information on the number of volunteers, duration of surveys and distances covered. This comprehensive information provides an opportunity to standardise data for variation in sampling effort among surveys, enhancing the value of outputs and robustness of findings. We found that plastic is the main constituent of anthropogenic litter on British beaches and the majority of traceable items originate from land-based sources, such as public littering. We identify the coast of the Western English Channel and Celtic Sea as experiencing the highest relative litter levels. Increasing trends over the 10-year time period were detected for a number of individual item categories, yet no statistically significant change in total (effort-corrected) litter was detected. We discuss the limitations of the dataset and make recommendations for future work. The study demonstrates the value of citizen science data in providing insights that would otherwise not be possible due to logistical and financial constraints of running government-funded sampling programmes on such large scales.

Concepts: Time, Statistics, Data, Coast, Beach, Waste, Output, English Channel


Late Quaternary separation of Britain from mainland Europe is considered to be a consequence of spillover of a large proglacial lake in the Southern North Sea basin. Lake spillover is inferred to have caused breaching of a rock ridge at the Dover Strait, although this hypothesis remains untested. Here we show that opening of the Strait involved at least two major episodes of erosion. Sub-bottom records reveal a remarkable set of sediment-infilled depressions that are deeply incised into bedrock that we interpret as giant plunge pools. These support a model of initial erosion of the Dover Strait by lake overspill, plunge pool erosion by waterfalls and subsequent dam breaching. Cross-cutting of these landforms by a prominent bedrock-eroded valley that is characterized by features associated with catastrophic flooding indicates final breaching of the Strait by high-magnitude flows. These events set-up conditions for island Britain during sea-level highstands and caused large-scale re-routing of NW European drainage.

Concepts: Continent, United Kingdom, Drainage basin, Europe, Pleistocene, Geomorphology, English Channel, Strait of Dover


Fine-scale genetic variation between human populations is interesting as a signature of historical demographic events and because of its potential for confounding disease studies. We use haplotype-based statistical methods to analyse genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data from a carefully chosen geographically diverse sample of 2,039 individuals from the United Kingdom. This reveals a rich and detailed pattern of genetic differentiation with remarkable concordance between genetic clusters and geography. The regional genetic differentiation and differing patterns of shared ancestry with 6,209 individuals from across Europe carry clear signals of historical demographic events. We estimate the genetic contribution to southeastern England from Anglo-Saxon migrations to be under half, and identify the regions not carrying genetic material from these migrations. We suggest significant pre-Roman but post-Mesolithic movement into southeastern England from continental Europe, and show that in non-Saxon parts of the United Kingdom, there exist genetically differentiated subgroups rather than a general ‘Celtic’ population.

Concepts: DNA, Genetics, Statistics, Demography, United Kingdom, Europe, Continental Europe, English Channel


On page 4773 Yongtaek Hong, Hoichang Yang, and co-workers demonstrate high-performance, flexible, all-inkjet-printed organic thin-film transistor (OTFT) inverters showing full up-down switching. They are implemented by introducing organic-compatible, hydroxylfree, end-functionalized polystyrene at the interfaces of the channel and source/drain contact.

Concepts: Organic semiconductor, English Channel


As the hardware of FLIM technique becomes mature, the most important criterion for FLIM application is the correct interpretation of its data. In this research, first of all, a more orthogonal phasor approach, called as Modified Phasor Approach (MPA), is put forward. It is a way to calculate the lifetime of the complex fluorescent process, and a rule to measure how much the fluorescence process deviates from single exponential decay. Secondly, MPA is used to analysis the time-resolved fluorescence processes of the transfected CHO-K1 Cell lines expressing adenosine receptor A1R tagged by CYP and YFP, measured in the channel of the acceptor. The image of the fluorescence lifetime and the multiplication of the fluorescence lifetime and deviation from single exponential decay reveal the details of the Homo-FRET. In one word, MPA provides the physical meaning in its whole modified phasor space, and broadens the way for the application of the fluorescence lifetime imaging.

Concepts: Fluorescence, Measurement, Radioactive decay, Computer program, Real number, Exponential function, English Channel, Ruler


One of the best-studied mechanosensitive channels is the mechanosensitive channel of large conductance (MscL). MscL senses tension in the membrane evoked by an osmotic down shock and directly couples it to large conformational changes leading to the opening of the channel. Spectroscopic techniques offer unique possibilities to monitor these conformational changes if it were possible to generate tension in the lipid bilayer, the native environment of MscL, during the measurements. To this end, asymmetric insertion of l-α-lysophosphatidylcholine (LPC) into the lipid bilayer has been effective; however, how LPC activates MscL is not fully understood. Here, the effects of LPC on tension-sensitive mutants of a bacterial MscL and on MscL homologs with different tension sensitivities are reported, leading to the conclusion that the mode of action of LPC is different from that of applied tension. Our results imply that LPC shifts the free energy of gating by interfering with MscL-membrane coupling. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the fine-tuned addition of LPC can be used for controlled activation of MscL in spectroscopic studies.-Mukherjee, N., Jose, M. D., Birkner, J. P., Walko, M., Ingólfsson, H. I., Dimitrova, A., Arnarez, C., Marrink, S. J., Koçer, A. The activation mode of the mechanosensitive ion channel, MscL, by lysophosphatidylcholine differs from tension-induced gating.

Concepts: Spectroscopy, Cell membrane, Lipid bilayer, Channel, The Conclusion, English Channel, Mechanosensitive channels, Mechanosensitive ion channel


Chronic low-frequency anthropogenic sound, such as shipping noise, may be negatively affecting marine life. The EU’s Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) includes a specific indicator focused on this noise. This indicator is the yearly average sound level in third-octave bands with centre frequencies at 63Hz and 125Hz. These levels are described for Falmouth Bay, UK, an active port at the entrance to the English Channel. Underwater sound was recorded for 30min h(-1) over the period June 2012 to November 2013 for a total of 435days. Mean third-octave levels were louder in the 125-Hz band (annual mean level of 96.0dB re 1μPa) than in the 63-Hz band (92.6dB re 1 μPa). These levels and variations are assessed as a function of seasons, shipping activity and wave height, providing comparison points for future monitoring activities, including the MSFD and emerging international regulation.

Concepts: European Union, United Kingdom, Acoustics, Sound, Sound pressure, Channel Islands, English Channel, Cornwall


The Mesolithic-to-Neolithic transition marked the time when a hunter-gatherer economy gave way to agriculture, coinciding with rising sea levels. Bouldnor Cliff, is a submarine archaeological site off the Isle of Wight in the United Kingdom that has a well-preserved Mesolithic paleosol dated to 8000 years before the present. We analyzed a core obtained from sealed sediments, combining evidence from microgeomorphology and microfossils with sedimentary ancient DNA (sedaDNA) analyses to reconstruct floral and faunal changes during the occupation of this site, before it was submerged. In agreement with palynological analyses, the sedaDNA sequences suggest a mixed habitat of oak forest and herbaceous plants. However, they also provide evidence of wheat 2000 years earlier than mainland Britain and 400 years earlier than proximate European sites. These results suggest that sophisticated social networks linked the Neolithic front in southern Europe to the Mesolithic peoples of northern Europe.

Concepts: United Kingdom, Europe, England, British Isles, British people, Northern Europe, English Channel, Isle of Man


This paper presents data from the English Channel area of Britain and Northern France on the spatial distribution of Lower to early Middle Palaeolithic pre-MIS5 interglacial sites which are used to test the contention that the pattern of the richest sites is a real archaeological distribution and not of taphonomic origin. These sites show a marked concentration in the middle-lower reaches of river valleys with most being upstream of, but close to, estimated interglacial tidal limits. A plant and animal database derived from Middle-Late Pleistocene sites in the region is used to estimate the potentially edible foods and their distribution in the typically undulating landscape of the region. This is then converted into the potential availability of macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, fats) and selected micronutrients. The floodplain is shown to be the optimum location in the nutritional landscape (nutriscape). In addition to both absolute and seasonal macronutrient advantages the floodplains could have provided foods rich in key micronutrients, which are linked to better health, the maintenance of fertility and minimization of infant mortality. Such places may have been seen as ‘good (or healthy) places’ explaining the high number of artefacts accumulated by repeated visitation over long periods of time and possible occupation. The distribution of these sites reflects the richest aquatic and wetland successional habitats along valley floors. Such locations would have provided foods rich in a wide range of nutrients, importantly including those in short supply at these latitudes. When combined with other benefits, the high nutrient diversity made these locations the optimal niche in northwest European mixed temperate woodland environments. It is argued here that the use of these nutritionally advantageous locations as nodal or central points facilitated a healthy variant of the Palaeolithic diet which permitted habitation at the edge of these hominins' range.

Concepts: Nutrition, Nutrient, Vitamin, Essential nutrient, Micronutrient, Pleistocene, Paleolithic, English Channel


The temperate waters of the North-Eastern Atlantic have a long history of maritime resource richness and, as a result, the European Union is endeavouring to maintain regional productivity and biodiversity. At the intersection of these aims lies potential conflict, signalling the need for integrated, cross-border management approaches. This paper focuses on the marine megafauna of the region. This guild of consumers was formerly abundant, but is now depleted and protected under various national and international legislative structures. We present a meta-analysis of available megafauna datasets using presence-only distribution models to characterise suitable habitat and identify spatially-important regions within the English Channel and southern bight of the North Sea. The integration of studies from dedicated and opportunistic observer programmes in the United Kingdom and France provide a valuable perspective on the spatial and seasonal distribution of various taxonomic groups, including large pelagic fishes and sharks, marine mammals, seabirds and marine turtles. The Western English Channel emerged as a hotspot of biodiversity for megafauna, while species richness was low in the Eastern English Channel. Spatial conservation planning is complicated by the highly mobile nature of marine megafauna, however they are important components of the marine environment and understanding their distribution is a first crucial step toward their inclusion into marine ecosystem management.

Concepts: European Union, Atlantic Ocean, United Kingdom, England, France, British Isles, North Sea, English Channel