Snow Science in Support of Our Nation's Water Supply
February 16, 2017 11:29 AM - NASA

Researchers have completed the first flights of a NASA-led field campaign that is targeting one of the biggest gaps in scientists' understanding of Earth's water resources: snow.

NASA uses the vantage point of space to study all aspects of Earth as an interconnected system. But there remain significant obstacles to measuring accurately how much water is stored across the planet's snow-covered regions. The amount of water in snow plays a major role in water availability for drinking water, agriculture and hydropower.

Laissez-faire is not good enough for reforestation
February 16, 2017 09:59 AM - Fabio Bergamin via ETH Zurich

In order to restore tropical rainforests, it is not enough to simply set up protected areas and leave them to their own devices. In particular, tree species with large fruit and seeds distributed by birds will have to be actively planted. This is one of the conclusions of a large-scale study by scientists from ETH Zurich in the Western Ghats, the mountain range running along the western coast of India. Today, the rainforest that exists there is highly fragmented. In the late 20th century in particular, large areas fell victim to intensive logging and commercial agriculture such as coffee and tea plantations.

How much biomass grows in the savannah?
February 16, 2017 09:49 AM - Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena

Savannahs form one of the largest habitats in the world, covering around one-fifth of the Earth's land area. They are mainly to be found in sub-Saharan Africa. Savannahs are home not only to unique wildlife, including the 'Big Five' - the African elephant, rhinoceros, Cape buffalo, leopard and lion - but also to thousands of endemic plant species such as the baobab, or monkey bread tree.

Monarch Butterflies Just Lost Another Third of Their Population
February 16, 2017 07:02 AM - Alicia Graefi, Care2

While international efforts are underway to protect iconic monarch butterflies from disappearing, the latest population count has found their numbers have dropped by nearly one-third since last year.

According to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, in the 1990s, an estimated one billion monarchs embarked on an epic annual migration. Their journey takes them from sites in Canada and the U.S. to wintering grounds in California and Mexico, where they find shelter and warmth among oyamel fir trees in the winter.

New Methods Further Discern Extreme Fluctuations in Forage Fish Populations
February 15, 2017 04:34 PM - NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region

California sardine stocks famously crashed in John Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row.” New research, building on the pioneering work of Soutar and Isaacs in the late 1960’s and others, shows in greater detail that such forage fish stocks have undergone boom-bust cycles for centuries, with at least three species off the U.S. West Coast repeatedly experiencing steep population increases followed by declines long before commercial fishing began.

Natural population fluctuations in Pacific sardine, northern anchovy and Pacific hake off California have been so common that the species were in collapsed condition 29 to 40 percent of the time over the 500-year period from A.D. 1000 to 1500, according to the study published today in Geophysical Research Letters. Using a long time series of fish scales deposited in low-oxygen offshore sedimentary environments off southern California, the authors from NOAA Fisheries and the University of Michigan described such collapses as “an intrinsic property of some forage fish populations that should be expected, just as droughts are expected in an arid climate.” 

Extraordinary Levels of Pollution Found in the Deepest Part of the Sea
February 15, 2017 03:01 PM - Alicia Graef, Care2

Since the Mariana Trench is the deepest part of the ocean, you might guess that it is safe from the impact of humans, but you would be wrong. Scientists have found that, despite its depth and remoteness, the deep sea contains levels of toxins that match some of the most polluted marine systems on earth.

Global Ocean De-Oxygenation Quantified
February 15, 2017 02:15 PM - GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel

The ongoing global change causes rising ocean temperatures and changes the ocean circulation. Therefore less oxygen is dissolved in surface waters and less oxygen is transported into the deep sea. This reduction of oceanic oxygen supply has major consequences for the organisms in the ocean. In the international journal Nature, oceanographers of GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel have now published the most comprehensive analysis on oxygen loss in the world's oceans and their cause so far.

Bigger May Not Be Better When It Comes to Mississippi River Diversions
February 15, 2017 08:40 AM - United States Geological Survey (USGS)

River diversions are a common coastal wetland restoration tool, but recent research, conducted by U.S. Geological Survey in collaboration with researchers in Louisiana State University’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the LSU AgCenter, has shown that large-scale Mississippi River diversions may significantly change water quality in estuaries, affecting economically important shellfish and fish species.

NOAA ship journeys into remote, deep Pacific ocean
February 15, 2017 08:27 AM - NOAA

Using the Deep Discoverer ROV, scientists will investigate deepwater habitats, geology, and the biology of sea animals as it dives as far as 3.7 miles (6,000 meters) deep. The public can watch online.

The 2017 explorations will run through September and are part of the third and final year of NOAA’s Campaign to Address Pacific monument Science, Technology, and Ocean NEeds, known as CAPSTONE, a major multiyear science initiative focusing on the deep ocean of U.S. marine protected areas in the central and western Pacific.

Eating Fish? Then You're Eating Plastic, Too
February 15, 2017 07:25 AM - Susan Bird, Care2

Synthetic fleece is something of a modern miracle. It keeps us warm and cozy, is easily cleaned and doesn’t even require we harm any animals to make it. Perfect, right? Well, every miracle comes with a price.

It turns out that every time we wash one fleece pullover or jacket, we’re sending about two grams of plastic microfibers out into our environment. Where those fibers end up from there is a bit concerning, because you’re probably eating them.

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