Ecosystems

Study finds reefs reduce wave energy by 97%
December 18, 2014 08:50 AM - Brendan Bane, MONGABAY.COM

We have a lot of stake in the coast. Coastal waters are where we host fisheries, build homes and turn to for tourism and recreation. So how should coastal communities, which comprise nearly 40 percent of the world's population, safeguard against flooding, erosion and violent weather? Marine scientist Michael Beck suggests the solution is growing right beneath some waves and, in many cases, it has been waiting there for thousands of years. 

Greenland may lose ice more rapidly than previously thought
December 17, 2014 08:54 AM - University of Buffalo

The Greenland Ice Sheet is the second-largest body of ice on Earth. It covers an area about five times the size of New York State and Kansas combined, and if it melts completely, oceans could rise by 20 feet. Coastal communities from Florida to Bangladesh would suffer extensive damage. Now, a new study is revealing just how little we understand this northern behemoth.

Earth grows new layer under Icelandic Volcano
December 16, 2014 08:41 AM - University of Leeds

New research into an Icelandic eruption has shed light on how the Earth’s crust forms, according to a paper published today in Nature. When the Bárðarbunga volcano, which is buried beneath Iceland’s Vatnajökull ice cap, reawakened in August 2014, scientists had a rare opportunity to monitor how the magma flowed through cracks in the rock away from the volcano.

Road Salt Increases Urban Stream Contamination
December 15, 2014 03:54 PM - USGS Newsroom

Average chloride concentrations often exceed toxic levels in many northern United States streams due to the use of salt to deice winter pavement, and the frequency of these occurrences nearly doubled in two decades. Chloride levels increased substantially in 84 percent of urban streams analyzed, according to a U.S. Geological Survey study that began as early as 1960 at some sites and ended as late as 2011. Levels were highest during the winter, but increased during all seasons over time at the northern sites, including near Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Chicago, Illinois; Denver, Colorado; and other metropolitan areas. The report was published today in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

Asphalt Mounds Found Off West African Coast
December 15, 2014 09:14 AM - Tom Marshall, Planet Earth Online

Scientists have discovered a large area of the deep seabed strewn with mounds of asphalt off the coast of Angola, hosting rich animal life. This is the first such discovery in the Atlantic proper or in the Southern Hemisphere, and the first time the creatures living around them have been studied in detail. It arises from a long-term collaboration between energy company BP and scientists at NERC's National Oceanography Centre (NOC).

New report finds bamboo may help mitigate climate change, reduce fossil fuel use, protect forests
December 12, 2014 10:03 AM - Julian Moll-Rocek, MONGABAY.COM

Restoring degraded land and forests with the world’s fastest growing plant, bamboo, can contribute to major carbon emission reductions. This is according to a new report released at the COP20 in Lima by the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) that discusses the massive potential of bamboo in fighting global warming, with bamboo forests projected to store more than one million tons of carbon by 2050 in China alone. 

Pollution May Cause Problems for Pollinators
December 11, 2014 10:57 AM - Lisa Marie Potter, MONGABAY.COM

While unpleasant car exhaust makes us wrinkle our noses, such human-made fumes may pose serious problems to insects searching for nectar. Researchers recently revealed that background odors make finding flowers difficult for pollinators. The study, published in Science, measured how hawk moths (Manduca sexta) pick out the sacred datura flower scent (Datura wrightii) amidst all the other smells that waft through the environment. Datura’s brilliant 15-centimeter trumpets leap from dark, heart-shaped leaves, sending smelly signals into the arid sky of the southwestern deserts where they grow. 

Scientists estimate the total weight of plastic floating in the world's oceans
December 10, 2014 03:17 PM - PLOS ONE via EurekAlert!

Nearly 269,000 tons of plastic pollution may be floating in the world's oceans, according to a study published December 10, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Marcus Eriksen from Five Gyres Institute and colleagues. Microplastic pollution is found in varying concentrations throughout the oceans, but estimates of the global abundance and weight of floating plastics, both micro and macroplastic, lack sufficient data to support them. To better estimate the total number of plastic particles and their weight floating in the world's oceans, scientists from six countries contributed data from 24 expeditions collected over a six-year period from 2007-2013 across all five sub-tropical gyres, coastal Australia, Bay of Bengal, and the Mediterranean Sea.

Can organic crops compete with industrial agriculture?
December 10, 2014 09:07 AM - UC Berkeley

A systematic overview of more than 100 studies comparing organic and conventional farming finds that the crop yields of organic agriculture are higher than previously thought. The study, conducted by UC Berkeley researchers, also found that certain practices could further shrink the productivity gap between organic crops and conventional farming.

Warming climate puts wetlands more at risk to invasive species
December 10, 2014 07:55 AM - Duke University via EurekAlert.

In the battle between native and invasive wetland plants, a new Duke University study finds climate change may tip the scales in favor of the invaders -- but it's going to be more a war of attrition than a frontal assault.

"Changing surface-water temperatures, rainfall patterns and river flows will likely give Japanese knotweed, hydrilla, honeysuckle, privet and other noxious invasive species an edge over less adaptable native species," said Neal E. Flanagan, visiting assistant professor at the Duke Wetland Center, who led the research. 

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