Two Faculty Members Contribute to Separate Nature-Affiliated Journal Articles

Apr. 21, 2014

Two UNLV faculty members were part of separate research projects that have resulted in publications in prestigious journals associated with Nature, including Nature Climate Change and Nature Communications.

UNLV Associate Vice President for Research and life sciences professor Stan Smith was part of a team that published its findings in the journal Nature Climate Change. The team found that arid areas, which are among the most widespread ecosystems on the planet, take up an unexpectedly large amount of carbon as levels of carbon dioxide increase in the atmosphere. The findings give scientists a better understanding of the earth’s carbon budget – how much carbon remains in the atmosphere as CO2, contributing to global warming, and how much gets stored in the land or ocean in other carbon-containing forms.

The findings come after a novel 10-year experiment in which researchers exposed plots in the Mojave Desert to elevated carbon-dioxide levels similar to those expected in 2050. They then removed soil and plants down to a meter deep and measured how much carbon was absorbed over the decade. Nature Climate Change publishes original research across the physical and social sciences and strives to synthesize interdisciplinary research. The journal follows the standards for high-quality science set by all Nature-branded journals.

A separate study involving an international team of researchers, including UNLV anthropology professor Alyssa Crittenden, has been published in the prestigious journal, Nature Communications. The study on the unique gut microbiota of a modern hunter-gatherer community in Tanzania has implications for western populations. According to The Scientist, the Hadza of Tanzania are a small population of hunter-gatherers that exhibit some of the last vestiges of Paleolithic living. The journal article is a “comparative analysis that reveals some notable differences between the gut microbiome of Hadza and either rural farmers or urban dwellers, including a greater total number of microbial taxa in the Hadza, plus a notable lack of certain species in the guts of people from this group.”

These data reveal that the Hadza gut microbe community is a unique configuration with high levels of bacteria that in western populations are often linked with disease, and low levels of other bacteria that are considered healthy. However, the Hadza experience little to no autoimmune diseases that would result from gut bacteria imbalances, suggesting that a “healthy” gut microbiome is context-dependent.

Nature Communications is a multidisciplinary journal, publishing high-quality research from all areas of the natural sciences.