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Glacier surfaces support unique microbial food webs dominated by organic and inorganic debris called ‘cryoconite’. Observations from Longyearbreen, Spitsbergen, show how these aggregate particles can develop an internal structure following the cementation of mineral grains (mostly quartz and dolomite) by filamentous microorganisms. Measurements of carbon and dissolved O2 show that these microorganisms, mostly cyanobacteria, promote significant rates of photosynthesis (average 17 μgC g−1 d−1) which assist aggregate growth by increasing the biomass and producing glue-like extracellular polymeric substances. The primary production takes place not only upon the surface of the aggregates but also just beneath, due to the translucence of the quartz particles. However, since total photosynthesis is matched by respiration (average 19 μgC g−1 d−1), primary production does not contribute directly to cryoconite accumulation upon the glacier surface. The microorganisms therefore influence the surface albedo most by cementing dark particles and organic debris together, rather than simply growing over it. Time-lapse photographs show that cryoconite is likely to reside upon the glacier for years as a result of this aggregation. These observations therefore show that a better understanding of the relationship between supraglacial debris and ablation upon glaciers requires an appreciation of the biological processes that take place during summer.
We analyse the adoption of an Integrated Food-Energy System (IFES) in southern Malawi. The IFES combined the improved cookstove (chitetezo mbaula in Chichewa), designed to reduce demand for fuelwood, with the pigeonpea variety Mthawajuni, which increased both food supply and supply of fuelwood from pigeonpea stems. Adoption of the improved cookstove was found to be higher among households that were better off and where women had greater control over decision-making. However, adoption of the IFES was not associated with reduced demand for fuelwood from forests and hills or reduced frequency of collection. IFES adopters might have high fuelwood consumption because they were better off, but fuelwood consumption in better-off households did not differ significantly between IFES adopters and non-adopters. Pigeonpea increased food supply for adopter households, including children aged less than five years. Consequently, the IFES has had mixed results, improving food supply but not reducing demand for fuelwood. Households ranked early maturity, fuelwood and yield as the three most important reasons for preferring Mthawajuni over other varieties of pigeonpea. The plant breeding programme for pigeonpea in Malawi should evaluate improved varieties not only for earliness and grain yield but also for the production of fuelwood. Improved varieties with desirable market traits have had limited success in the absence of reliable markets and price incentives.
We are very sad to say goodbye to Dr Lindsay Innes, OBE, FRSE who is retiring from the post of Book Review Editor that he has held for 15 years. During that time, Lindsay has worked tirelessly to ensure that regular readers of Experimental Agriculture have always been able to find out what books they should be reading, and why, by consulting the Journal's concise, incisive reviews by renowned experts from a bewildering range of fields. Lindsay, whose career description reads like a summary of all the top jobs in International Agricultural Research, always knew the best person to ask to review a book and the result was that we got the best reviews. We will miss him but we thank him sincerely for his work for the journal and we wish Lindsay the best of luck for the future.