Meaning of YEAR IN REVIEW 1997: ENVIRONMENT in English

BOTANICAL GARDENS The development of international policies to harmonize the responses to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) dominated the international activities concerning botanical gardens during 1996. At the third meeting of the Conference of Parties to the CBD, held in Buenos Aires, Arg., an international working group was established. A conference for botanical gardens in Latin America and the Caribbean was held in Caxias do Sul, Brazil. The program included courses on collection maintenance and botanical illustration. Also in that region, about 80% of the collections of the 100-year-old Cienfuegos Botanic Garden in Cuba was badly damaged or destroyed by a hurricane in October. The garden then launched an international appeal for funds for restoration. In Paran, Arg., a workshop was held at the National University of Entre Ros to plan the development of its new botanical garden. Work was completed by Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) on a new version of the International Transfer Format for botanic garden living plant records. This international standard was used to help facilitate the transfer of electronic data between botanic gardens. Meetings of a European joint advisory group to BGCI and the International Association of Botanic Gardens were held in Pisa, Italy, and Crdoba, Spain, to strengthen links between European botanical gardens and between the gardens and the European Union. Representatives from the major botanical gardens of the EU nations were included. Also during the year in Europe, the Dutch Botanic Gardens Foundation produced a catalogue of the 7,000 conifer trees in cultivation in Dutch botanic gardens. The Lyon (France) Botanic Garden celebrated its 200th anniversary by serving as host of a congress of the French botanical gardens association. A project in the U.K. to establish a national botanic garden in Wales received funding from the U.K. national lottery. A new greenhouse display on plant evolution was opened at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, near London. The Cambridge University Botanic Garden celebrated its 150th anniversary. A new plant-collections network for Britain and Ireland, PlantNet, was launched at a conference held at the Oxford University Botanic Garden, which also celebrated its 375th anniversary during the year. The Australian Network for Plant Conservation produced new guidelines for germ plasm (the bearers of heredity) conservation in Australia. Workshops on the development of computer databases for botanical garden collections in Indonesia were held at two gardens, in Java and Bali. An international workshop on biodiversity conservation and evaluation took place at the Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute, Trivandrum, India. The Center for Plant Conservation (CPC), headquartered in St. Louis, Mo., developed an emergency plan to prevent the genetic loss of 110 of Hawaii's most critically endangered species. The CPC linked 28 U.S. botanical gardens and arboretums to maintain a collection of 500 of the nation's rarest plants. Great Britain's Darwin Initiative for the Survival of Species funded BGCI for a three-year project to prepare computer software for Russian botanical gardens and to hold a series of training workshops. A workshop on "Institutional Management for Botanic Gardens in the Former Soviet Union" was held at the Central Siberian Botanic Garden in Novosibirsk. (PETER S. WYSE JACKSON) GARDENING In nonindustrialized parts of Asia, flower gardens were proliferating in concert with the opening of the economy to private enterprise and the increased availability and affordability of food. In China a large flower market opened near the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, and an even larger one was planned in a southeastern suburb that had traditionally housed those who for centuries had provided the flowers used in the Imperial Palace. The growth in floral popularity, partly fueled by young Chinese suitors who began observing Valentine's Day, prompted peasants in rural areas to turn over garden space to flowers that would be sold in Beijing. The rise of a significant middle class in India affected gardening there as well. With sufficient income to add fresh vegetables to their diet on a regular basis, Indian consumers were driving the creation of a produce packing and shipping industry resembling that of the United States. The use of hybrid vegetable seed by growers in India, as in the U.S., swelled from 25% to about 45% of the market. India's middle class was also increasing its purchases of ornamental plants, especially foliage plants, which were easier to maintain in India's diverse but almost entirely hot climates. A whole industry of small nursery operators sprouted to provide these plants. In addition, landscape contractors were hired to create private gardens and yard landscapes, an activity that was previously restricted, for the most part, to public institutions. The 1995-96 winter in Europe was very hard, with cold temperatures, little snow cover, and a late spring all the way from the Baltic region to Hungary and Romania. As a result, many perennials died back, production was reduced for many nurseries, and consumer sales were delayed until late in the season. Among Central and Eastern European suppliers, however, sales were robust, owing primarily to the rise of a middle class with money to spend and an interest in improving their lives and property. Four gold medals were awarded in 1996 by Fleuroselect, the European-based international seed-testing organization. A hybrid, Delphinium Centurion Sky Blue, was the first of its kind to receive this prestigious award. It was taller, 90-120 cm (35-47 in), than many of the newly introduced delphiniums, and it bloomed the first year from seed. The flowers were a clear, light blue with a white centre, or "eye." Celosia argentea cristata Bombay Purple was slightly taller and was bred primarily for professional growers of cut flowers. The plant was extremely uniform in habit, and the blooms, which were triangular, 15 cm (6 in) on a side, were borne singly on erect stems. The sun-loving hybrid Gazania splendens Daybreak Bright Orange was a bedding plant. This low-growing South African native, the second of the Daybreak series to win a Fleuroselect gold medal, reached only 23 cm (9 in) but had a spread of almost 30 cm (12 in). The flowers were bright orange, with a narrow brown ring around the ochre centre, and were about 8 cm (3 in) in diameter. Myosotis sylvatica Rosylva was a biennial. The small, 6-8-mm (0.2-0.3-in), flowers were borne in unusually tight florets, appeared earlier and lasted longer than other forget-me-nots, and were pink rather than blue. The plants grew to about 20 cm (8 in) tall and had a spread of 25 cm (10 in). The winter was also very harsh in the eastern U.S., where gardens got off to their slowest start in decades. The cold affected many producers and marketers of garden seeds and plants, though once the weather warmed up late in the season, sales returned to near normal levels. Consolidation in the seed industry continued at a rapid pace. All-America Selections (AAS) awarded medals to three vegetable entries, two flower entries, and one bedding plant entry, Zinnia angustifolia Crystal White. The small-flowered, heat-tolerant, long-blooming relative to the common Zinnia elegans had a high tolerance to most common zinnia diseases and grew only to about 25 cm tall. Of the flower winners, Prestige Scarlet Celosia was one of a new type called "multiflora" celosia, which provided more and smaller blooms than older types. Prestige Scarlet's deep-coloured blooms, about 90-100 mm (3.5-3.9 in) in diameter, were borne on plants 40-50 cm (16-20 in) tall and were useful for both fresh and dried bouquets. Gypsy baby's breath, Gypsophila muralis, was a dwarf that grew to only 25-40 cm (10-16 in) instead of the 75-100 cm (29-39 in) more common for the perennial form G. paniculata yet was more substantial than the annual form G. elegans. The 0.6-cm (0.25-in) stellarlike pink blooms were borne on bushy plants with finely textured foliage ideal for containers. AAS awards for vegetables in the 1997 season went to Dynamo hybrid cabbage, a green variety that matured in about 70 days and was resistant to Fusarium wilt (yellows) and stressful growing conditions. Okra Cajun Delight was a new okra hybrid suitable even for northern gardens. The pods were ready to harvest at the 7-10-cm (3-4-in) stage only 55 days after being transplanted into fully warmed soil. An herb, Siam Queen Thai basil, an improved form of the standard Licorice basil, captured the final AAS award. Plants were stocky, reaching a mature height of 60-91 cm (24-36 in) and spread of about 60 cm, with dense, dark violet flowers. First harvest could occur only 45-50 days after transplantation into thoroughly warm soil. (SHEPHERD OGDEN) See also Agriculture and Food Supplies; Business and Industry Review: Energy; Life Sciences. This article updates conservation; gardening. WILDLIFE CONSERVATION In 1996 as part of a last-ditch attempt to increase the size of the western flock of Siberian cranes (Grus leucogeranus), two captive-raised adult males from the U.S. were released in Iran to join the small flock (8-11 birds) that wintered in the Caspian lowlands. If they paired with wild females and flew north, transmitters attached to the birds would enable the unknown breeding grounds in Russia to be located. The only other flock of the western population, which wintered at Keoladeo National Park in India, had been feared extinct when the birds did not appear for two consecutive winters in 1993-94 and 1994-95, but four birds arrived in the winter of 1995-96. Six captive-raised California condors (Gymnogyps californianus) were released in Arizona north of the Grand Canyon in early December. In February scientists in Chile located what might be the last remaining viable wild population of the liana Berberidopsis corallina, which grew only in Chile and was essential to rural basket weavers. Its survival in the wild had been jeopardized by clearance of lowland forest, and seed was collected as a first step to restoring the species. A network of sites to protect some 60 species of birds that migrate from the Arctic down eastern Asia to Australia was launched in March at a meeting of the 92 signatories to the Ramsar Convention (on Wetlands of International Importance). Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, and the Philippines were expected to nominate sites for the scheme, which would be known as the East Asian-Australasian Shorebird Reserve Network. In the spring Russia established a new 4,200-sq km (1,620-sq mi) nature reserve in the Severnaya Zemlya archipelago, including Domashniy Island, home to the world's largest colony of ivory gulls (Pagophila eburnea). Wapusk in northern Manitoba became Canada's 37th national park. It contained one of the world's largest known polar bear (Ursus maritimus) denning sites and provided shelter for thousands of migratory waterfowl and shorebirds. New Zealand established the Kahurangi National Park in northwestern Nelson; it contained some of the country's rarest birds and 100 plant species seen nowhere else. In May the Congo bay owl (Phodilus prigoginei) was seen for the first time since 1951 in the Itombwe forest in eastern Zaire. The forest was considered to be the most important area for bird conservation in Africa, but it was unprotected and was threatened by logging, hunting, and agriculture. Other rediscoveries reported in 1996 included the lesser masked owl (Tyto sororcula; not recorded since 1922) in the Tanimbar archipelago of Indonesia and Edwards's pheasant (Lophura edwardsi; not seen since 1928) in Bach Ma National Park in central Vietnam. In October 1995 the Tibetan red deer (a subspecies of Cervus elaphus), which had been thought to be extinct, was discovered in southeastern Tibet. Most of the deer were in scattered remnant herds, but one viable population was discovered in hills where there were good prospects for its conservation, and moves were made to establish a reserve for the animal in cooperation with local residents. The future of the endangered Madagascar tortoise, or angonoka (Geochelone yniphora), was threatened by the theft of two breeding females and 73 young from the world's only captive-breeding centre for the species, 145 km (90 mi) from Baly Bay, Madagascar, the only place in the world where the species occurred in the wild. On May 31 Malaysia and the Philippines established the world's first conservation area for marine turtles to cross international borders. The Turtle Islands Heritage Protected Area included nine islands that housed the largest green turtle (Chelonia mydas) nesting population in Southeast Asia and an important hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) nesting ground. Long-term turtle-protection efforts appeared to have paid off in Mexico, where there was evidence of rising populations of olive ridleys (Lepidochelys olivacea) in Oaxaca and of Kemp's ridleys (L. kempii) at Rancho Nuevo, Tamaulipas. The first documented case of a sea turtle species' returning to nest at a site where it had been experimentally imprinted was recorded. Two Kemp's ridleys, which had been hatched from eggs laid at Rancho Nuevo and reared, tagged, and released in the 1980s at Padre Island, Texas, returned to nest at the release beach. News of the leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) was not so good; numbers crashed in Mexico, where half the world's leatherbacks nest. Only 500 turtles nested in the 1995-96 season, compared with 6,500 in 1984. Numbers of this species had been falling steadily worldwide, and it was possible that the population had reached a critical level. In June it was reported that 20,000 Swainson's hawks (Buteo swainsoni) had died after feeding on grasshoppers at their winter feeding grounds in the La Pampa region of Argentina. Organophosphate pesticides used in intensive crop cultivation were thought to be to blame. In July U.S. scientists announced that the cause of an epidemic that killed 158 of the 2,600 manatees (Trichechus manatus) in Florida in March and April was a toxin produced by the red tide that had been affecting Florida's west coast. Two new species of mammals were reported in August; a new species of bushy-tailed cloud rat, Crateromys heaneyi, from Panay Island in the Philippines brought the total number of known bushy-tailed cloud rats to four, all from the Philippines, and a new marmoset in the southern Amazon, between the Tapajs and Madeira rivers in Brazil, had been named Callithrix sateri after the Sateri people, on whose land it was discovered. Rhino horns weighing a total of 240 kg (530 lb) and worth almost 3 million were seized by police in London in September. The horns, the largest seizure ever recorded, were believed to be destined for Taiwanese, Hong Kong, and Chinese communities in the U.K. and were probably from private collections gathered from animals shot earlier in the century. During the year new categories and criteria developed by IUCN-the World Conservation Union were used to evaluate the status of the world's wild animal species. The results were published in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals in October at the World Conservation Congress in Montreal. (JACQUI M. MORRIS) ZOOS The cause of the tragic fire at the Philadelphia Zoo on Christmas Eve 1995, the worst zoo fire in U.S. history, was identified as a malfunction in an electrical heat trace cable used to prevent pipes from freezing. The fire destroyed the World of Primates building and 23 of its inhabitants, including the longest-established gorilla family in the United States, which died from smoke inhalation. The zoo immediately began fund-raising efforts to build a new primate house, estimated to cost about $21 million. Donations poured in so quickly that officials planned to begin construction early in 1997 and open the new facility in spring 1999. Other primate exhibits around the world made headlines in 1996. On August 16 at the Brookfield Zoo near Chicago, Binti Jua, a female West African gorilla, rescued a three-year-old boy who had slipped and fallen into the primate pavilion. Before anyone could reach the child, the gorilla scooped him up into her arms. She cradled and protected the boy from the other gorillas as she carried him to the entrance of the enclosure and deposited him at the feet of astounded zoo personnel. At the Copenhagen Zoo, space was made in the primate house for a unique display: two Homo sapiens. A Danish couple moved into temporary living quarters at the zoo with the intention of reminding visitors of their close kinship to the apes. Two giant pandas arrived from China in September to reside at the San Diego (Calif.) Zoo for the next 12 years. The pandas, the first to be allowed into the United States since 1993, were on loan as part of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association Giant Panda Species Survival Plan, a program dedicated to conservation, education, research, and captive breeding. In return, the San Diego Zoo was to donate $1 million annually to habitat-preservation projects in China. Six California condors bred at the Los Angeles Zoo and at the Peregrine Fund World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho, were released into northern Arizona by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in December. About four hectares (ten acres) of federal land around the site were closed temporarily to protect the birds until they dispersed. In efforts to enhance contributions to wildlife conservation, research, and education and to provide more realistic environmental settings for their animals, many zoos continued to create exhibits that represented major ecosystems. In exhibits such as the RainForest at the Cleveland (Ohio) Metroparks Zoo, which opened in 1992, complex relationships between plants, animals, and environment were explored. To celebrate its centennial the Denver (Colo.) Zoological Gardens opened Primate Panorama, a new naturalistic wildlife habitat, in 1996. Unfortunately, a number of zoos remained financially strapped and unable to make necessary improvements. One such was the zoo in Santiago, Chile, built in 1920, never renovated, and considered one of the worst facilities in Latin America by many veterinarians and animal rights activists. The zoo received national attention in 1996 when a pair of lions twice escaped from their cages. (MARY JANE FRIEDRICH) Fashions The spring-summer 1996 international women's ready-to-wear collections were marked by the absence of a singular definitive look. Designers in London, Paris, Milan, and New York presented a number of options, including bright colours, particularly orange and lime green, and bold-patterned clothes. Designer Tom Ford produced what was christened "hippie chic" for the Italian fashion house Gucci. The style featured lace and velvet caftans and was reportedly inspired by the 1960s socialite Talitha Getty. Most talked-about were two wardrobe alternatives: a casual, wearable style that the press called "no-fuss chic" and a more frivolous look that came to be known as "good taste/bad taste." No-fuss chic took a simple approach to dressing. It was based on a wardrobe of neat, interchangeable separates: a pair of tailored trousers shown with or without a matching jacket, a crisp white shirt, or a sleek sweater cut close to the body, and stylish yet sensible shoes--either flats or footwear with "block" heels. Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel showed the look best, sending models onto the runway in a casual mix-and-match ensemble: loosely cut pastel tweed Chanel jackets, cotton piqu shirts, and chinos. Meanwhile, good taste/bad taste featured the mixing of fashion elements. Sharply tailored items like skirts and trousers were cut from cheap functional fabrics such as polyester, and textiles were printed with odd, clashing patterns in off colours--bile green, purple, brown, and cream. Such clothes were shown mostly by such young designers as Jean Colonna, Anna Sui, and Gianni Versace's sister Donatella. Miuccia Prada, the foremost purveyor of the style, produced a collection of "geek" prints that fell flat and confused usually complimentary critics. Her new designs were in sharp contrast to those of previous seasons: subtle, tailored clothes often cut from couture fabrics. At the international men's collection, the spring-summer styles were decidedly toned down following a year of hit-and-miss flamboyance. Men adopted styles to suit their own lives and occupations, which made the designer-dictated wardrobe obsolete. For the night of the Academy Award presentations, U.S. actress Sharon Stone, a symbol of Hollywood glamour followed the men's lead. She rejected ensembles offered to her by Valentino and Vera Wang, two prominent fashion designers. Instead, Stone opted for a mix of her own clothes: a Gap black turtleneck, a floor-length Armani evening coat, and a pair of diamond earrings. Meanwhile, 21-year old model-actress Chloe Sevigny, the star of Larry Clark's Kids and the model for Prada's diffusion line Miu Miu, explained the hip ideal for young people to London's Evening Standard newspaper. "Just day to day," she said, "I'm trying to be antifashionable." Fashion, it seemed, was out of fashion. After years of offering a form of mass entertainment, the industry suffered from a wave of negative publicity. Clothes shopping was no longer a diversion in the U.S., where corporate downsizing coupled with a loss of interest in fashion among baby boomers depressed the apparel industry. Other sectors of the industry were plagued by a series of setbacks and scandals. Terrorist bombings in Paris and the necessary security checks at the spring-summer pret-a-porter collections caused a general feeling of unease among those in attendance. Then, in early winter, a series of general strikes hit France, threatening to delay production involved in the spring-summer couture collections that were presented in January. In New York City in January, Barneys, the high-fashion chain of stores run by the Pressman family, sought protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Barneys had been a fashion leader in the U.S. during the 1980s, with an innovative approach to advertising, merchandising, and the creation of stylish shop interiors. Problems also beset the New York-based Council of Fashion Designers of America, which had organized the staging of fashion collections held biannually at tent shows in Manhattan's Bryant Park. A few weeks before the autumn-winter collections were set to debut, Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan backed out without notice or much explanation, announcing that they would show their work in more "intimate" venues. Such high-profile designers as Joan Vass, Badgely Mischka, Todd Oldham, and Ghost followed them. Some claimed that the cost of producing a tent-sized show was too high (an estimated $100,000 for an hour-long presentation) and that the presence of lower-priced apparel lines diminished the feeling of exclusivity. The general consensus was that the circuslike atmosphere created by staging fashion shows in large venues such as tents and even in the Carrousel du Louvre, a Paris structure that was expressly built for that purpose but was rejected by most French designers for their autumn-winter shows and couture collections, no longer suited the more minimal, less overtly glamorous spirit of fashion. In the spring the fashion media were involved in two scandals. Supermodel Naomi Campbell was reportedly "highly insulted" and unhappy with the representation given black models after the editor of American Vogue, Anna Wintour, relocated Campbell's cover photo to the inside fold and featured white model Nikki Taylor on the cover instead. In its assessment of the situation, The Times (London) reported that sales figures had been known to drop when a black model was featured on the cover of a women's fashion magazine. In London controversy erupted after pictures of the very thin, partially exposed form of model Trish Goff appeared in the June issue of British Vogue. In response the Omega Watch Corp., a major source of Vogue's advertising revenues, announced that it would stop placing ads in the magazine, claiming that officials were angered by the "anorexic proportions" of the "skeletal models" featured in the magazine. Though Omega retreated from its stance one week after the scandal went public, the incident highlighted the emaciated images that were often presented to the public. The womanly proportions of the '80s supermodel had by 1996 disappeared from fashion's spotlight. In September German model Claudia Schiffer announced her retirement. Now popular on the autumn-winter runways were models the New York Times summed up as "skinny, white, young, and devoid of personality." They suited "heroin chic," the glamorous junkie look that proved popular with stylists and makeup artists who put together the autumn-winter shows for Vivienne Westwood, Helmut Lang, and Ann Demeulemeester, among others. Reportedly inspired by the drug culture, on view in the film Trainspotting and the Broadway musical Rent, this style raised questions about drug habits among models and further highlighted the turbulence within the industry. Innovation was hard to find at the autumn-winter ready-to-wear and couture collections. Karl Lagerfeld had revived black lycra leggings, a fashion element that most critics had hoped women left behind with the '80s. Meanwhile, the dominant trend among most designers of ready-to-wear was a '70s style: a long lean silhouette, featuring maxicoats, long skirts, knee-high boots, and a slimmer variation of bell bottoms, known now as boot-cut trousers. Rich colours such as plum, chocolate, and navy replaced basic black. Also shown were military looks, ranging from drab olive green trousers and sophisticated tailored jackets featuring epaulets and gold accessories to androgynous tailored trouser suits, styles that belonged to previous seasons. The '70s also became a dominant theme in autumn-winter men's collections, as symbolized by such sartorial statements as fur- and faux fur-trimmed coats, jackets with sharply emphasized shoulders or those with wide lapels, and boot-cut trousers. More important was a distinct move away from loose, unconstructed clothes. Tailoring made a return, and tapering, which made garments and suiting slimmer fitting, was introduced. Particularly influential on the men's front was the U.S. designer Ralph Lauren, whose two lines--Purple Label and Blue Label--featured tailored one-button and double-breasted suits worn with solid-coloured ties and white shirts. Midyear, fashion mourned the loss of two trendsetters. The U.S.-born, Paris-based model Wallis Franken, the muse and wife of French fashion designer Claude Montana, was found dead outside her Paris apartment, apparently a suicide. In August British designer Ossie Clark (see OBITUARIES) was found murdered in his apartment in London. His lover, Diego Cogolato, was later arrested and charged with murder. Though living close to the poverty line at the time of his death, Clark had been one of the most influential British designers of the late '60s. He had dressed Mick and Bianca Jagger and designed the clothes for the film Bonnie and Clyde, among other projects. Despite the bleak outlook, there was reason to celebrate. The year 1996 marked both the 50th anniversary of the introduction of Louis Reard's bikini and the 30th anniversary of Yves Saint Laurent's "le smoking," a classic tailored tuxedo pantsuit for women. British fashion scored a triple coup. The London-educated designer John Galliano (see BIOGRAPHIES) assumed the role of designer in chief at the French fashion house Givenchy in January before replacing Gianfranco Ferre as designer in chief of couture and ready-to-wear at Christian Dior in October. (Both fashion houses were owned by the French company Louis Vuitton Mot Hennessy.) Meanwhile, the London-based avant-garde designer Alexander McQueen replaced Galliano at Givenchy and was later named British Fashion Designer of the Year. His "bumsters," trousers that revealed the top half of the buttocks, helped revive the long, lean silhouette that proved successful for many designers. British model Stella Tennant became "the official face of Chanel." (BRONWYN COSGRAVE) See also Business and Industry Review: Apparel. This article updates dress. Health and Disease Genetics. The pace of the Human Genome Project accelerated in 1996. In October scientists from the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Japan published the most complete map to date, detailing the sequence and location of more than 16,000 of the estimated 50,000-100,000 human genes. The new map, available on the Internet through the U.S. National Library of Medicine (http:/ /, was expected to be a valuable tool in the search for genes that predispose individuals to disease. Progress continued to be made in locating specific disease-related genes. Scientists in Seattle, Wash., identified the gene for Werner's syndrome, a rare inherited disease marked by premature aging. Affected individuals usually die in their 40s of heart attacks or cancer. Further study of the gene, located on chromosome 8, was expected to yield clues to the normal aging process. After a four-year search U.S., Australian, and Swedish researchers cloned a tumour suppressor gene that, when mutated, was believed to be responsible for basal-cell skin cancers. A research team in Philadelphia identified a gene that may be involved in esophageal, stomach, and colon cancers, and U.S. and Swedish scientists announced the discovery of a gene believed to predispose men to cancer of the prostate. U.S. and Italian researchers identified a site on chromosome 4 that is linked to some cases of Parkinson's disease, a common neurodegenerative disorder. A collaborative study by researchers in several countries revealed the gene responsible for Friedreich's ataxia, a disorder that affects gait and strength in the legs and confines most victims to a wheelchair by their late 20s. The prospect of a simple, noninvasive prenatal test based on the isolation of fetal cells from the mother's blood was advanced by scientists at the University of California, San Francisco, who used the technique to diagnose inherited blood disorders in two fetuses. As genetic testing became more feasible, its potential pitfalls became more apparent. A study of individuals with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer found that fewer than half wanted to undergo an experimental test for genetic susceptibility. Many declined because of concerns about job and insurance discrimination if they tested positive. Another study of 332 individuals in families with genetic disorders found that one-fourth believed they had been discriminated against in terms of obtaining life insurance; one-fourth reported discrimination in obtaining health insurance, and 13% reported discrimination in employment. Cardiovascular Disease. Two studies sponsored by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that dietary changes and weight loss can prevent and control high blood pressure (hypertension). A multicentre investigation involving more than 450 adults with and without hypertension, found that reducing overall fat intake and eating more fruits and vegetables (9 to 10 servings a day) and low-fat dairy products (3 servings a day) were as effective as drugs in lowering blood pressure. A study of more than 900 people aged 60 to 80 found that blood pressure control could be safely maintained in many subjects by means of weight loss and reduced salt intake without the use of antihypertensive drugs. The debate over the contribution of dietary sodium (salt) to hypertension continued. A meta-analysis of 56 trials of salt restriction published in May found that older people with high blood pressure benefited, but younger individuals with normal blood pressure did not. The Canadian authors concluded that current recommendations calling for universal dietary sodium restriction are unnecessary. They were challenged, however, by scientists from the Intersalt study, an investigation of the relationship between salt and blood pressure in more than 10,000 people in 32 countries. An update of the 1988 Intersalt data, also published in May, reaffirmed the importance of salt restriction in the control of blood pressure. Researchers at Tufts University, Medford, Mass., found that high levels of a "bad" form of cholesterol, known as lipoprotein (a), can double a man's risk of premature heart attack. New research showed that the fatty substances known as triglycerides can thicken the blood and increase the risk of heart attacks at lower levels than previously thought. A large study of an experimental blood-thinning drug called clopidogrel found it to be more effective and safer than aspirin in preventing heart attacks, while a separate study showed that an experimental clot-inhibitor, integrelin, works better than aspirin in patients suffering from reduced blood flow to the heart. There was further evidence of the life-saving potential of thrombolytic, or clot-dissolving, drugs for treatment of acute heart attack. Research at Erasmus University, Rotterdam, Neth., highlighted the importance of administering the drugs as soon as possible after the attack. This conclusion was supported by work in Scotland that showed that in patients receiving thrombolytic drugs two or more hours after the onset of symptoms, every hour's delay in the administration of the drugs had an appreciable effect on long-term survival. A Dutch study published in January found that laser surgery to open blocked arteries--laser angioplasty--is no more effective than balloon angioplasty, a procedure in which a balloon threaded into a blocked vessel is inflated at the site of the blockage. Not all physicians who perform balloon angioplasty have sufficient experience with the procedure, however. According to a report presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in November, patients whose doctors performed an annual average of only 30 balloon angioplasties had higher death rates and required additional surgery more often than those whose clinicians performed 50 or more procedures. An analysis of 300 men and women with coronary heart disease in Belgium reawakened interest in personality as a factor that--along with cholesterol, blood pressure, and other variables--can affect prognosis. It showed that those with so-called type-D personality--characterized by depression, social alienation, and the suppression of feelings--had significantly higher death rates than those with other personality types. A Harvard Medical School study of 1,305 veterans found that the grumpiest old men--those who reported episodes of extreme anger--were at three times greater risk than their more placid counterparts. GEOLOGY AND GEOCHEMISTRY More than 5,000 geologists attended the 30th International Geological Congress in Beijing during August 1996. Song Ruixiang, president of the congress, outlined the role of geology in China's five-year plan, emphasizing the search for minerals and petroleum with a view to protection of the environment. Increasing recognition of the fact that environmental protection is one aspect of resource exploitation was also apparent at the 1996 annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver, Colo., during October. Of some 200 technical sessions, 25% addressed the ways that Earth science is relevant to environmental problems, ranging from ground-water contamination to the cleanup of radioactive waste. At the General Assembly of the International Council of Scientific Unions in Washington, D.C., in September, much attention was paid to the "sustainable development" of society through the next century. The problems and progress were presented in a booklet, Understanding Planet Earth, which described processes occurring in the outer layers of the Earth during the fairly recent past as a basis for predicting future changes. The Earth may be in transition from an ice age to a global greenhouse, with the rate of change probably being enhanced by society's contributions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide to the atmosphere from the combustion of fossil fuels. A recent report by Robert Gastaldo of Auburn (Ala.) University and two colleagues analyzed the changes in vegetation worldwide during the two icehouse-greenhouse transitions that occurred in the late Paleozoic (about 300 million and 275 million years ago). Plant life changed during the geologically short time interval of 1,000 to 10,000 years; the primeval forests were replaced by vegetation dominated by seed plants. Recognizing such patterns of change would, the geologists believed, help them make predictions about future changes. Geologists everywhere were concerned that although the need for interdisciplinary science for environmental management is recognized, the central role of geology in both resource acquisition and environmental problems was not appreciated by policy makers and the public in general. There was a scarcity of geologists among scientific advisers to government at all levels. Consequently, many efforts were under way to educate the public and policy makers about the reciprocal relationship between geology and society and the ways in which the world's aggressive agricultural and industrial activities are changing the biosphere and the geologic cycles. The geochemical activities of the biosphere (the outer shell of the world where life exists) may help compensate for the degradation of the environment by human activities. For example, J. Craig Venter of the Institute for Genomic Research in Rockville, Md., and his team reported the complete genetic identification of a tiny, single-celled organism collected in 1983 from a hot submarine hydrothermal vent in the Pacific Ocean, 1,600 km (995 mi) from Baja California. Since the DNA and genes of the organism differ from those of organisms in the two major groups of living things, the prokaryotes and eukaryotes, it had been assigned to a third branch of life called archaea. It was proposed that up to 20% of the Earth's biomass may be inhabited by this organism and its relatives, associated with the hot vents of the deep oceans. The ability of the organism to recycle methane and digest heavy metals, converting them into other compounds, might one day be exploited by humans. Another discovery of previously unknown organisms, reported in August, generated much excitement and debate. David S. McKay (see BIOGRAPHIES) of NASA's Johnson Space Center, with eight coauthors, reported evidence for the occurrence of bacterial microfossils in a 4.5 billion-year-old meteorite from Mars that reached Earth about 13,000 years ago. The meteorite contains cracks filled with carbonate material, presumably deposited by solution at a time when Mars still supported free water. The carbonates contain organic material and structures resembling microfossils, along with iron sulfide and magnetite minerals similar to those produced by bacteria on the Earth. Some scientists believed that inorganic processes could yield the same products. A later investigation by Colin Pillinger and colleagues at the Open University, Milton Keynes, Eng., found carbon isotope ratios in the sample consistent with those formed by microscopic life forms on Earth. Pillinger also reported similar findings for a second meteorite from Mars that was only 600,000 years old. The process of evolution--the history of the biosphere--is recorded both in rocks and in the genes of animals. Recent advances in molecular biology were revealing molecular evidence of evolution that had yet to be reconciled with the fossil evidence. Gregory Wray, Jeffrey Levinton, and Leo Shapiro at the State University of New York at Stony Brook studied the genes of more than 200 species of 16 animal groups. They reported that the huge genetic differences they discovered between the groups, which they calibrated against changes in dated fossils of the many species, indicated that the animals last shared a common ancestor as long ago as 1.2 billion years. In contrast, the evidence from the fossil record was that nearly all known groups of animals appeared during a few million years in the early Cambrian Period, about 540 million years ago. There was little evidence to show how life evolved before the Cambrian Period until one of the greatest discoveries about evolution in many years was reported by John Grotzinger at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and three colleagues at the end of 1995. They explo

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