Ecosystems

California Wildfires Destroy Animal Habitats : USFWS
October 29, 2007 10:00 AM - Reuters

Los Angeles - Wildfires that began last week and continue to burn in southern California have destroyed thousands of acres of vegetation and habitat on Hopper Mountain and San Diego National Wildlife Refuges, forced the temporary closure of the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, and spurred deployment of more than 40 Service firefighters to the region.

As of Wednesday, more than 1,500 homes have been destroyed by wildfires in five southern California counties. Property damage is estimated at $1 Billion in San Diego County alone. All Service employees in the affected areas are accounted for and no employees' homes have been damaged by fire.

Australian country life riven by drought, isolation
October 28, 2007 11:19 PM - Michael Byrnes, Reuters

CARAGABAL, Australia (Reuters) - In drought-hit lands of eastern Australia, the population of Caragabal is just 38, every shop is closed, water is trucked in, and a synthetic lawn at a bowling club is the last hope of survival for a dying town.

The town dam, which can store two years' supply, dried up years ago with the return of drought. As crops die for hundreds of miles around, the town's fate also seems doomed.

Last remaining locals have started to speak of the patch of plastic bowling green in reverential tones.

Canada sets largest freshwater conservation area
October 25, 2007 07:55 PM -

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The largest freshwater marine protected area in the world is being set up off the northern shores of Lake Superior, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced on Thursday.

The national marine conservation area will encompass more than 10,000 sq. km (3,900 sq. miles) of Lake Superior, the biggest of the Great Lakes, including lake bed, islands and north shorelands.

Agricultural soil erosion not adding to global warming
October 25, 2007 06:45 PM - University of California, Davis

Davis, California - Agricultural soil erosion is not a source of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, according to research published online today (October 25) in the journal Science. The study was carried out by an international team of researchers from UC Davis, the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, and the University of Exeter in the U.K.  Carbon emissions are of great concern worldwide because they, and other greenhouse gases, trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere and are a major cause of global climate change.

 

Study: Mercury Pollution Threatens Idaho Children
October 25, 2007 03:37 PM -

Reno, Nevada - New emissions data, obtained from the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection (NDEP), show that northern Nevada gold mines are still under-reporting substantial amounts of mercury air pollution. It also reveals that a number of mines that were previously considered small sources of mercury air pollution are actually very large sources, yet these mines have few pollution controls in place. Until 2006, mines were not required to actually measure mercury releases, only estimate mercury emissions.

Mercury exposure is a serious pubic health concern, particularly for children. Exposure to mercury can cause significant neurological and developmental problems such as attention and language deficits, impaired memory and impaired vision and motor function.

 

GE hopes to cut mercury in "green" light bulbs
October 24, 2007 05:22 PM - Timothy Gardner,

NISKAYUNA, New York (Reuters) - General Electric Co is working to cut the amount of mercury in energy-saving fluorescent lightbulbs which have soared in popularity.

Residents and businesses are buying up compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) because they reduce power bills as well as emissions of carbon dioxide, the main gas blamed for global warming. CFLs use only one-fourth to one-fifth the energy of incandescent bulbs producing the same light and can last 10 years.

The corkscrew-shaped devices are made by many companies and on average contain about 5 milligrams of mercury, a toxic metallic element, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Five milligrams is tiny amount, about the size of the tip of a ballpoint pen, and much less than the amount that was held in old thermometers. But with sales of CFLs hitting 150 million units last year, and more expected this year, some scientists and environmentalists are worried that most of the bulbs are ending up in landfills instead of being recycled.

Conoco unit pleads guilty to hiding Alaska spill
October 24, 2007 04:48 PM -

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - A shipping company owned by ConocoPhillips' pleaded guilty to concealing a 2004 oil spill in the ocean off Alaska and was ordered to pay $2.5 million for the offense, officials said.

Polar Tankers Inc. entered its guilty plea in U.S. District Court on Tuesday and was ordered to pay a $500,000 fine and a $2 million community-service payment to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the U.S. Attorney's office said.

Australian farmers face bankruptcy from drought
October 24, 2007 04:41 PM - Michael Byrnes

WEST WYALONG, Australia (Reuters) - Farmer John Ridley won't be harvesting so much as a bag of wheat this season from fields that stretch to the horizon as Australia's worst drought in 100 years takes its toll on the country's grain belt.

Beneath a cloudless sky, 60-year-old Ridley, a descendant of one of Australia's pioneering farming families, pulls a clump of brittle stubble from the dusty earth.

"It should be this high, waving green in the breeze," he says. "Farmers are in a stunned state at the moment. In a state of disbelief, shock, helplessness."

Ridley's farm is in the epicenter of devastation from the drought, about 500 kilometers (310 miles) west of Sydney. Prime wheat growing territory, the district normally grows much of the wheat that makes Australia the world's second-biggest exporter. Yet this year the district will produce almost nothing.

Fires create electricity 'island' in San Diego
October 24, 2007 04:01 PM - Bernie Woodall

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California wildfires created an electricity "island" of San Diego County on Wednesday as one major power transmission link to the U.S. West grid was shut and the other flickering on and off, said San Diego Gas & Electric Co.

This makes the San Diego area susceptible to major blackouts unless customers conserve power, said Michael Niggli, chief operating officer of SDG&E.

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders implored residents to cut power use.

"You've got to conserve today. You have no choice," Sanders said.

About 20,000 homes and businesses were without power late Wednesday morning, down from 33,000 on Tuesday, SDG&E spokeswoman Rachel Laing said.

2000 Year Old California Redwood's Fate In Mediators Hands
October 24, 2007 10:05 AM - Erwin Seba, Reuters

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (Reuters) - A U.S. bankruptcy judge in Texas said on Tuesday he would appoint a mediator to try to hammer out a deal on the fate of 29,000 acres of giant, 2,000-year-old California redwood trees, which environmentalists and loggers battled over in the 1990s.

U.S. Judge Richard Schmidt expressed frustration at the slow pace Maxxam Inc. subsidiary Pacific Lumber Co. was moving since filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January.

Schmidt issued his decision on Tuesday night in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Southern District of Texas at Corpus Christi after a daylong hearing.

"I'm going to put this on short-fuse mediation," Schmidt said.

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