Ecosystems

Which fossil fuels must remain in the ground to limit global warming?
January 8, 2015 08:58 AM - University College London

A third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves and over 80% of current coal reserves globally should remain in the ground and not be used before 2050 if global warming is to stay below the 2°C target agreed by policy makers, according to new research by the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources. The study funded by the UK Energy Research Centre and published in Nature today, also identifies the geographic location of existing reserves that should remain unused and so sets out the regions that stand to lose most from achieving the 2°C goal.

Study reveals new method to estimate the global impacts of dams
January 7, 2015 04:08 PM - McGill University

When dams are built they have an impact not only on the flow of water in the river, but also on the people who live downstream and on the surrounding ecosystems. By placing data from close to 6,500 existing large dams on a highly precise map of the world’s rivers, an international team led by McGill University researchers has created a new method to estimate the global impacts of dams on river flow and fragmentation.

Global Warming History Repeats Itself
January 5, 2015 02:21 PM - David Bond, The Ecologist

The Earth's current warming is looking similar to what took place 55 million years ago, writes David Bond. And if it works out that way, the news is good: we may avoid a mass extinction. On the other hand, the poles will melt away completely, and it will take hundreds of thousands of years for Earth to get back to 'normal'. It is often said that humans have caused the Earth to warm at an unprecedented rate. However researchers have discovered another period, some 55m years ago, when massive volcanic eruptions pumped so much carbon into the atmosphere that the planet warmed at what geologists would think of as breakneck speed. The good news is that most plants and animals survived the warm spell. The planet has experienced several mass extinctions - and this wasn't one of them. But there's a catch: even after carbon levels returned to their previous levels, the climate took 200,000 years to return to normal.

First 2 Fugitives from Interpol's Most Wanted Environmental List Nabbed
January 5, 2015 01:54 PM - Tex Dworkin, Care2

Launched in October 2014, Infra (which stands for “International Fugitive Round Up and Arrest”) Terra focuses on 139 fugitives altogether wanted by 36 member countries for crimes including illegal fishing, wildlife trafficking, trade and disposal of waste, logging and trading in illicit ivory.
 

California drought hard on Chinook salmon
January 5, 2015 09:14 AM - Alastair Bland, Yale Environment360

Gushing downpours finally arrived in California last month, when December rains brought some relief to a landscape parched after three years of severe drought. 

But the rain came too late for thousands of Chinook salmon that spawned this summer and fall in the northern Central Valley. The Sacramento River, running lower than usual under the scorching sun, warmed into the low 60s — a temperature range that can be lethal to fertilized 

Chinook, the largest species of Pacific salmon, need cool waters to reproduce. 

Tropical forests may reduce global warming rate
December 30, 2014 02:02 PM - UCAR AtmosNews

A new study led by NASA and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) shows that tropical forests may be absorbing far more human-emitted carbon dioxide than many scientists thought. The study estimates that tropical forests absorb 1.4 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide out of a total global absorption of 2.5 billion, in response to rising atmospheric levels of the greenhouse gas. This means, if left undisturbed, the tropical trees should be able to continue reducing the rate of global warming.

Flavor and quality of wine impacted by Climate Change
December 30, 2014 09:07 AM - RP Siegel, Triple Pundit

It has been a challenge at times to get well-heeled and sometimes highly influential people to care about climate change. After all, having a great deal of money can serve to insulate someone from problems that afflict those less fortunate. Food prices going up, for example, not that big a deal. Coastal areas flooding out, go somewhere else for vacation. Many of those at the top of the heap are finding that business-as-usual is working very well for them, thank you very much. Besides, they might have significant investments in industries that could be threatened by changing to a more sustainable model. Perhaps, what is needed to get their attention is something that hits closer to home. Here is an item in England’s The Telegraph that might fit the bill: Apparently, rising temperatures in areas like France, Italy and Spain are affecting the flavor of certain wines. 

Trawling makes for skinny fish
December 29, 2014 02:05 PM - Tom Marshall, Planet Earth Online

Trawling the seabed doesn't just remove some of the fishes living there; it also makes some of the survivors thinner and less healthy by forcing them to use more energy finding less nutritious food. That's the conclusion of a new paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, based on the work Dr Andrew Frederick Johnson undertook while studying for his PhD at Bangor University.

Penguins Affected by Tourism in Antarctica
December 29, 2014 09:16 AM - Alicia Graef, Care2

A trip to Antarctica might not be a dream vacation for everyone, but it’s on the list for many who are clearly willing to trek to there. While tourists are busy exploring the scenery and greeting the penguins who live there, scientists are raising concerns about how exposure to us could increase their risk of contracting infectious diseases. Scientists and disease experts believe the immune systems of penguins, and other species in the region, are less able to deal with pathogens that are commonplace in the rest of the world because they’ve been isolated for so long with few visitors.

The mystery of the disappearing plastic trash in the oceans solved!
December 27, 2014 08:49 AM - Lizabeth Paulat, Care2

Many of us have seen the photos of plastic refuse in the ocean, the large islands of bags and waste that collect at tidal crossroads. Yet when scientists took a survey of the ocean earlier this year, they found a suspicious amount had disappeared. Was it just our good luck that pollution was decreasing? Hardly. It had simply been sinking, breaking apart and embedding itself in the sediment.

Fibers of microplastic, which are similar in diameter to a human hair, have sunk into deep water reserves across the world. For every bag floating across the ocean’s surface, there’s much more of the stuff laying in the ocean floor underneath. How much plastic is there? Well, according to the research, it’s so widespread that they’ve estimated microplastic is on every kilometer of the sea floor across the globe.

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