Ecosystems

Mercury in the oceans increasing
August 6, 2014 05:29 PM - Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Although the days of odd behavior among hat makers are a thing of the past, the dangers mercury poses to humans and the environment persist today. Mercury is a naturally occurring element as well as a by-product of such distinctly human enterprises as burning coal and making cement. Estimates of "bioavailable" mercury—forms of the element that can be taken up by animals and humans—play an important role in everything from drafting an international treaty designed to protect humans and the environment from mercury emissions, to establishing public policies behind warnings about seafood consumption.

How Did Ebola Zaire Get To Guniea?
August 6, 2014 04:13 PM - Daniel Stiles, MONGABAY.COM

Is the great ape trade responsible for the current outbreak of Ebola? The vicious Ebola virus outbreak that has already killed more than 800 people this year, in addition to sowing panic, fear and confusion throughout West Africa, was not a strain endemic to the region as initially believed. Instead the University of Edinburgh found that the strain is the same as the Ebola Zaïre found in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), formerly Zaïre. TheRobert-Koch Institute in Germany confirmed the finding.

New Zoo Concept Boasts No Cages
August 6, 2014 08:44 AM - Alicia Graef, Care2

Danish architects are taking on the task of creating a zoo environment that will change what the face of captivity looks like in the future with the reveal of plans for what it's calling the "world's most advanced zoo." The Givskud Zoo in Denmark has accepted a design from the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) that has no cages and will allow animals to live in environments that mimic their natural habitats. The first phase is expected to be completed by 2019, just in time for the park’s 50th anniversary.

A lake appears in Tunisia desert!
August 5, 2014 12:46 PM - Laurie Balbo, Green Prophet

Tunisia offers other-worldly landscapes, fantastical and mysterious. Did you know that four of the Star Wars movies were partially filmed in the southern part of the country? (Tunisia had a starring role as the planet Tatooine). Now, adding to the Atlas mountains and Sahara desert, the tiny republic has another tourist attraction — a newborn lake. Discovered by shepherds just last month in the middle of Tunisian desert, there has been no official explanation for its sudden appearance. Some geologists have proposed that seismic activity may have disrupted the natural water table, pushing water from underground aquifers to the surface. Others disagree.

Co-evolution Benefits Aborigines and Kangaroos
August 4, 2014 09:01 AM - University of Utah

Australia's Aboriginal Martu people hunt kangaroos and set small grass fires to catch lizards, as they have for at least 2,000 years. A University of Utah researcher found such man-made disruption boosts kangaroo populations — showing how co-evolution helped marsupials and made Aborigines into unintentional conservationists. "We have uncovered a framework that allows us to predict when human subsistence practices might be detrimental to the environment and when they might be beneficial," says Brian Codding, an assistant professor of anthropology.

Toledo, Ohio water problems
August 3, 2014 09:14 AM - Codi Kozacek, Circle of Blue

The City of Toledo has issued a "Do Not Drink" advisory for residents served by Toledo Water after chemical tests confirmed the presence of unsafe levels of the algal toxin Microcystin in the drinking water plant’s finished water. The advisory, spanning three counties in Ohio and one in Michigan, leaves more than 400,000 people in the Toledo area without drinking water. "Do not drink the water," Melanie Amato, public information officer for the Ohio Department of Health, told Circle of Blue. "You can shower in it, bathe in it, but do not try to ingest it. That means no washing dishes; you can brush your teeth with it as long as you don’t swallow any water, but we recommend using bottled water for that as well."

Underestimating the Impacts of Old-Growth Logging
August 1, 2014 09:28 AM - Rhett A. Butler, MONGABAY.COM

Ecologists may be underestimating the impact of logging in old-growth tropical forests by failing to account for subtleties in how different animal groups respond to the intensity of timber extraction, argues a paper published today in the journal Current Biology. The study, led by Zuzana Burivalova of ETH Zurich, is based on a meta-analysis of 48 studies that evaluated the impact of selective logging on mammals, birds, amphibians, and invertebrates in tropical forests. Burivalova, together with co-authors Cagan Sekercioglu and Lian Pin Koh, found that biodiversity is inversely proportional to logging intensity.

Drilling in the Dark
August 1, 2014 08:54 AM - University of Wisconsin-Madison

As production of shale gas soars, the industry's effects on nature and wildlife remain largely unexplored, according to a study by a group of conservation biologists published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment on August 1. The report emphasizes the need to determine the environmental impact of chemical contamination from spills, well-casing failure, and other accidents. "We know very little about how shale gas production is affecting plants and wildlife," says author Sara Souther, a conservation fellow in the Department of Botany at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "And in particular, there is a lack of accessible and reliable information on spills, wastewater disposal and the chemistry of fracturing fluids. Of the 24 U.S. states with active shale gas reservoirs, only five maintain public records of spills and accidents." The 800 percent increase in U.S. shale gas production between 2007 and 2012 is largely due to the use of hydraulic fracturing. Also called fracking, the process uses high-pressure injection of water, laden with sand and a variety of chemicals, to open cracks in the gas reservoir so natural gas can flow to the well.

Nesting Implications for the Northern Gulf Loggerhead
July 31, 2014 10:29 AM - Allison Winter, ENN

After the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, a massive response to protect beaches, wetlands, and wildlife occurred. Nonetheless, because of the spill, extensive damage to marine and wildlife habitats were reported and many studies have been conducted to quantify the affects of the oil spill on specific species. One study in particular which started in the wake of the spill looks at the nesting of loggerhead sea turtles in the northern Gulf and how their feeding areas have been not only affected by the Deepwater Horizon spill, but by commercial fishing operations, and areas used for oil and gas extraction.

Boat noise impacts development and survival of marine invertebrates
July 31, 2014 08:42 AM - University of Bristol

The development and survival of an important group of marine invertebrates known as sea hares is under threat from increasing boat noise in the world's oceans, according to a new study by researchers from the UK and France. While previous studies have shown that marine noise can affect animal movement and communication, with unknown ecological consequences, scientists from the Universities of Bristol and Exeter and the École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE) CRIOBE in France have demonstrated that boat noise stops embryonic development and increases larval mortality in sea hares.

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