Farming with forests
October 3, 2016 02:28 PM - University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

Feeding the world’s burgeoning population is a major challenge for agricultural scientists and agribusinesses, who are busy developing higher-yielding crop varieties. Yet University of Illinois researchers stress that we should not overlook sustainability in the frenzy to achieve production goals.

More than a third of the global land area is currently in food production. This figure is likely to expand, leading to deforestation, habitat loss, and weakening of essential ecosystem services, according to U of I agroecologist Sarah Taylor Lovell and graduate student Matt Wilson. To address these and other problems, they are promoting an unconventional solution: agroforestry.

First evidence of deep-sea animals ingesting microplastics
October 3, 2016 07:11 AM - University of Oxford

Following the news that the UK government is to ban plastic microbeads by the end of 2017, a team of scientists led by the University of Oxford has discovered the first evidence of microplastics being ingested by deep-sea animals.

Researchers working on the Royal Research Ship (RRS) James Cook at two sites in the mid-Atlantic and south-west Indian Ocean found plastic microfibres inside creatures including hermit crabs, squat lobsters and sea cucumbers at depths of between 300m and 1800m.

Technique could assess historic changes to Antarctic sea ice and glaciers
September 30, 2016 10:09 AM - University of Plymouth via EurekAlert!

Historic changes to Antarctic sea ice could be unraveled using a new technique pioneered by scientists at Plymouth University.

It could also potentially be used to demonstrate past alterations to glaciers and ice shelves caused by climatic changes, a study published in Nature Communications suggests.

The new method builds on an existing technique, also developed by Plymouth University over the last 10 years, which identified a means by which scientists could measure changes to sea ice in the Arctic.

Wetlands and agriculture, not fossil fuels could be causing a global rise in methane
September 30, 2016 07:07 AM - Royal Holloway University of London

Research published today in the American Geophysical Union’s journal Global Biogeochemical Cyclesshows that recent rises in levels of methane in our atmosphere is being driven by biological sources, such as swamp gas, cow burps, or rice fields, rather than fossil fuel emissions.

Longest record of continuous carbon flux data is now publicly available
September 28, 2016 10:04 AM - Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory via ScienceDaily

Around the world -- from tundra to tropical forests, and a variety of ecosystems in between -- environmental researchers have set up micrometeorological towers to monitor carbon, water, and energy fluxes, which are measurements of how carbon dioxide (CO2), water vapor and energy (heat) circulate between the soil, plants and atmosphere. Most of these sites have been continuously collecting data, some for nearly 25 years, monitoring ecosystem-level changes through periods of extreme droughts and rising global temperatures. Each of these sites contributes to a regional network -- i.e. the European Network (Euroflux) or the Americas Network (AmeriFlux) -- and the regional networks together comprise a global network called FLUXNET.

Soil modeling to help curb climate change
September 26, 2016 05:40 PM - Natural Resources Institute Finland via ScienceDaily

Soil is a major carbon pool, whose impact on climate change is still not fully understood. According to a recent study, however, soil carbon stocks and could be modelled more accurately by factoring in the impacts of both soil nutrient status and soil composition. Determining the volume of carbon dioxide efflux from soil is important to enabling better choices in forest management with respect to curbing climate change. Knowledge of the extent and regional variation of soil carbon stocks is vital. Current soil carbon stock predictions are unreliable and it is difficult to estimate the volume of carbon dioxide efflux that is emitted from soil as a result of climate change.

Acidity in atmosphere minimized to preindustrial levels
September 26, 2016 10:30 AM - University of Copenhagen via ScienceDaily

New research shows that human pollution of the atmosphere with acid is now almost back to the level that it was before the pollution started with industrialization in the 1930s. The results come from studies of the Greenland ice sheet and are published in the scientific journal, Environmental Science and Technology.

The Greenland ice sheet is a unique archive of the climate and atmospheric composition far back in time. The ice sheet is made up of snow that falls and never melts, but rather remains year after year and is gradually compressed into ice. By drilling ice cores down through the kilometre-thick ice sheet, the researchers can analyse every single annual layer, which can tell us about past climate change and concentration of greenhouse gases and pollutants in the atmosphere.

Millions of Trees are Dying Across the US
September 26, 2016 06:53 AM - Julie Rodriguez, Care2

Throughout the U.S., trees are dying at an astonishing rate. The reasons for the die-off vary from location to location — drought, disease, insects and wildfires – but the root cause in many of these cases is the same: climate change.

The epidemic is even threatening the oldest white oak tree in America, a 600-year-old giant in New Jersey that predates Columbus’ visit to the Americas.

A Cruise Ship Just Sailed the Northwest Passage, Thanks to Climate Change
September 23, 2016 07:07 AM - s.e. smith, Care2

The Northwest Passage originated as an unattainable and lethal legend when Europeans arrived in the Americas and longed for an easy sea route across North America. Now, a cruise ship has successfully traversed the route in only a month.

It wasn’t until 1906 that Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen successfully — but with extreme difficulty — navigated what had, until then, been a theoretical journey. In the years since, heavily fortified ships with icebreakers could only make it through the floes of the Arctic in summer, when sea ice was at its lowest.

Now, a massive 14-deck cruise ship has completed the journey that was a pipe dream just over one hundred years ago — and it’s raising a lot of concerns.

Soil will absorb less atmospheric carbon than expected this century, study finds
September 22, 2016 05:23 PM - University of California, Irvine via ScienceDaily

By adding highly accurate radiocarbon dating of soil to standard Earth system models, environmental scientists from the University of California, Irvine and other institutions have learned a dirty little secret: The ground will absorb far less atmospheric carbon dioxide this century than previously thought.

Researchers used carbon-14 data from 157 sample sites around the world to determine that current soil carbon is about 3,100 years old -- rather than the 450 years stipulated by many Earth system models.

"This work indicates that soils have a weaker capacity to soak up carbon than we have been assuming over the past few decades," said UCI Chancellor's Professor of Earth system science James Randerson, senior author of a new study on the subject to be published in the journal Science. "It means we have to be even more proactive in finding ways to cut emissions of fossil fuels to limit the magnitude and impacts of climate warming."

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