Ecosystems

Storms in Mexico Kill Millions of Monarchs
August 29, 2016 07:06 AM - Alicia Graef, Care2

While international efforts are under way to help keep dwindling populations of monarch butterflies from disappearing, scientists are raising concerns about how severe weather and a loss of forest habitat at their wintering grounds in Mexico are affecting them.

Every year, monarchs embark on an epic multigenerational migration that takes them thousands of miles from Canada and the U.S. in search of sites in California and in Mexico. The fir trees in the southern regions offer the shelter and warmth they need to survive the winter.

Unfortunately, these vital forests in Mexico have been threatened by illegal logging, and now storms have destroyed hundreds of acres of habitat, while severe weather is believed to have killed an estimated 6.2 million of these iconic butterflies.

Ecological consequences of amphetamine pollution in urban streams
August 25, 2016 03:32 PM - Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies via EurekAlert!

Pharmaceutical and illicit drugs are present in streams in Baltimore, Maryland. At some sites, amphetamine concentrations are high enough to alter the base of the aquatic food web. So reports a new study released today in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, which is one of the first to explore the ecological consequences of stimulant pollution in urban streams.

Lead author Sylvia S. Lee conducted the work as a postdoctoral researcher at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. Lee, now with the Environmental Protection Agency, comments, "Around the world, treated and untreated wastewater entering surface waters contains pharmaceuticals and illicit drugs that originate from human consumption and excretion, manufacturing processes, or improper disposal. We were interested in revealing how amphetamine exposure influences the small plants and animals that play a large role in regulating the health of streams."

Perfluorinated compounds found in African crocodiles, American alligators
August 25, 2016 11:12 AM - National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) via EurekAlert!

American alligators and South African crocodiles populate waterways a third of the globe apart, and yet both have detectable levels of long-lived industrial and household compounds for nonstick coatings in their blood, according to two studies from researchers at the Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston, South Carolina, and its affiliated institutions, which include the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Production of some compounds in this family of environmentally persistent chemicals--associated with liver toxicity, reduced fertility and a variety of other health problems in studies of people and animals--has been phased out in the United States and many other nations. Yet all blood plasma samples drawn from 125 American alligators across 12 sites in Florida and South Carolina contained at least six of the 15 perfluorinated alkyl acids (PFAAs) that were tracked in the alligator study.

Smoke Waves Are the Next Climate Change Problem
August 24, 2016 07:25 AM - s.e. smith, Care2

In the hills near Los Angeles, the Blue Cut Fire just ripped through 36,000 acres, taking dozens of homes along with it, spurring a major evacuation, and even requiring temporary highway closures. But the merciless flames of the Blue Cut Fire almost pale in comparison with the flood of wildfires across the Golden State, and the West at large, in an era when the wildfire season is growing longer and more aggressive every year. Climate change is the reason why, and researchers are discovering that the cost of wildfires may be bigger than we imagined: They’re tracking deadly “smoke waves” that sweep the landscape, causing serious respiratory health problems.

Nanofur for oil spill cleanup
August 23, 2016 10:51 AM - Karlsruher Institut Für Technologie (KIT) via EurekAlert!

Some water ferns can absorb large volumes of oil within a short time, because their leaves are strongly water-repellent and, at the same time, highly oil-absorbing. Researchers of KIT, together with colleagues of Bonn University, have found that the oil-binding capacity of the water plant results from the hairy microstructure of its leaves. It is now used as a model to further develop the new Nanofur material for the environmentally friendly cleanup of oil spills. (DOI: 10.1088/1748-3190/11/5/056003)

Damaged pipelines, oil tanker disasters, and accidents on oil drilling and production platforms may result in pollutions of water with crude or mineral oil. Conventional methods to clean up the oil spill are associated with specific drawbacks. 

NASA Monitors the 'New Normal' of Sea Ice
August 23, 2016 07:33 AM - Maria-José Viñas and Kate Ramsauer, NASA

This year’s melt season in the Arctic Ocean and surrounding seas started with a bang, with a record low maximum extent in March and relatively rapid ice loss through May. The melt slowed down in June, however, making it highly unlikely that this year’s summertime sea ice minimum extent will set a new record.

Europe's oldest known living inhabitant
August 19, 2016 01:46 PM - Stockholm University via EurekAlert!

A Bosnian pine (Pinus heldreichii) growing in the highlands of northern Greece has been dendrocronologically dated to be more than 1075 years old. This makes it currently the oldest known living tree in Europe. The millenium old pine was discovered by scientists from Stockholm University (Sweden), the University of Mainz (Germany) and the University of Arizona (USA).

2014 Napa earthquake continued to creep, weeks after main shock
August 19, 2016 12:01 PM - Massachusetts Institute of Technology via EurekAlert!

Nearly two years ago, on August 24, 2014, just south of Napa, California, a fault in the Earth suddenly slipped, violently shifting and splitting huge blocks of solid rock, 6 miles below the surface. The underground upheaval generated severe shaking at the surface, lasting 10 to 20 seconds. When the shaking subsided, the magnitude 6.0 earthquake -- the largest in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1989 -- left in its wake crumpled building facades, ruptured water mains, and fractured roadways.

NASA spots strong convection in strengthening Tropical Storm Kay
August 19, 2016 11:53 AM - NASA/GODDARD Space Flight Center via EurekAlert!

NASA's Aqua satellite passed over tropical cyclone Kay as it was designated a depression in the Eastern Pacific and identified areas of strong convection. That strong uplift of air continued to generate more powerful storms in the system and on Aug. 19 it strengthened into a tropical storm.

The Atmospheric Infrared Sounder or AIRS instrument that flies aboard NASA's Aqua satellite analyzed Kay as it was classified as a depression on Aug. 18 at 4:53 p.m. EDT (2053 UTC).

Pacific sea level predicts global temperature changes
August 18, 2016 05:14 PM - University of Arizona via EurekAlert!

The amount of sea level rise in the Pacific Ocean can be used to estimate future global surface temperatures, according to a new report led by University of Arizona geoscientists.

Based on the Pacific Ocean's sea level in 2015, the team estimates by the end of 2016 the world's average surface temperature will increase up to 0.5 F (0.28 C) more than in 2014.

In 2015 alone, the average global surface temperature increased by 0.32 F (0.18 C).

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