Ecosystems

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
December 3, 2014 10:18 AM - Allison Winter, ENN

The tradition of the Capitol Christmas Tree, or The People’s Tree, began in 1964 when Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John W. McCormack (D-MA) placed a live Christmas tree on the Capitol lawn. This tree lived three years before succumbing to wind and root damage. In 1970, the Capitol Architect asked the U.S. Forest Service to provide a Christmas tree. Since then, a different national forest has been chosen each year to provide The People’s Tree. This national forest also works with state forests to provide companion trees that are smaller Christmas trees for offices in Washington, D.C. 

 

This year, the 88-foot-tall white spruce tree was harvested from the Chippewa National Forest in northeastern Minnesota by Jim Scheff who won the Logger of the Year award from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Inc. (SFI). 

 

That begs the question how can a logger win an award from a sustainability group? 

Turkey might be a better choice than fish in the tropics!
November 27, 2014 07:12 AM - Katie Pitz in Oceanus: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

On a tropical island vacation, one of the last things you want to worry about is food poisoning. Yet for many, a trip to the tropics includes a painful education in a mysterious food-borne illness called Ciguatera Fish Poisoning, or CFP.

Every year, thousands of people suffer from CFP, a poisoning syndrome caused by eating toxic reef fish. CFP symptoms are both gastrointestinal and neurological, bringing on bouts of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, muscle aches, and in some cases, the reversal of hot and cold sensations. Some neurological symptoms can persist for days to months to years after exposure. There is no quick way to test for the toxins, and unless action is taken within hours of the poisoning, no cure once you’re sick.

Can Volcanic Eruptions Slow Global Warming?
November 21, 2014 02:34 PM - American Geophysical Union

Small volcanic eruptions might eject more of an atmosphere-cooling gas into Earth’s upper atmosphere than previously thought, potentially contributing to the recent slowdown in global warming, according to a new study.

Abrupt rise in greenhouse gases at end of last ice age may be because of permafrost
November 20, 2014 12:30 PM - Alfred Wegener Institute

One of the most abrupt rises in the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere at the end of the last ice age took place about 14,600 years ago. Ice core data show that the CO2 concentration at that time increased by more than 10 ppm (parts per million, unit of measure for the composition of gases) within 200 years. This CO2 increase, i.e. approx. 0.05 ppm per year, was significantly less than the current rise in atmospheric CO2 of 2-3 ppm in the last decade caused by fossil fuels. 

Gray Wolf Sighted at Grand Canyon, Offers Hope for Species
November 4, 2014 07:55 AM - Alicia Graef, Care2

Several recent sightings of what’s believed to be a gray wolf at the Grand Canyon in Arizona have wolf advocates hopeful that its presence, which marks the first time one has been seen in the state in 70 years, is yet another a sign of recovery for this iconic species. The lone wolf in question was first spotted in early October by visitors at the Kaibab National Forest north of the Grand Canyon National Park and described as a wolf-like animal, but photos made public by the Center for Biological Diversity – in an attempt to ensure it wasn’t mistaken for a coyote and killed – have led wildlife and park officials to believe it’s a gray wolf.

The complicated relationship between ice sheets and climate
November 4, 2014 05:48 AM - University of Bristol

Heinrich events, in which large masses of icebergs rapidly broke free from ice sheets during the last ice age, are thought to have influenced global climate by interrupting ocean circulation patterns with a large influx of freshwater. However, new research from the University of Bristol suggests the variations in the height of the ice sheet that happen in these events might also influence global climate. 

In a study published today in PNAS, Dr William Roberts of Bristol’s School of Geographical Sciences and colleagues use computer models to simulate a Heinrich event in Hudson Bay, Canada, adjusting the models to consider freshwater influx only, changing ice sheet height only or both factors together. 

World losing 2,000 hectares of farm soil daily to salt damage
October 28, 2014 06:25 AM - United Nations University

Salt-spoiled soils worldwide: 20% of all irrigated lands — an area equal to size of France; Extensive costs include $27 billion+ in lost crop value / year. UNU study identifies ways to reverse damage, says every hectare needed to feed world’s fast-growing population. Every day for more than 20 years, an average of 2,000 hectares of irrigated land in arid and semi-arid areas across 75 countries have been degraded by salt, according to a new study — Economics of Salt-induced Land Degradation and Restoration — published today by the UNU Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH).

Ocean Plays Important Role in Past Climate Change
October 27, 2014 08:35 AM - Rutgers University

Most of the concerns about climate change have focused on the amount of greenhouse gases that have been released into the atmosphere. But in a new study published in Science, a group of Rutgers researchers have found that circulation of the ocean plays an equally important role in regulating the earth’s climate.

Can the corridors under high-tension lines be important opportunities for conservation?
October 17, 2014 08:06 AM - richard conniff, Yale Environment360

Often mowed and doused with herbicides, power transmission lines have long been a bane for environmentalists. But that’s changing, as some utilities are starting to manage these areas as potentially valuable corridors for threatened wildlife. Nobody loves electrical power transmission lines. They typically bulldoze across the countryside like a clearcut, 150 feet wide and scores or hundreds integrated vegetation management in right-of-way scores or hundreds of miles long, in a straight line that defies everything we know about nature. They’re commonly criticized for fragmenting forests and other natural habitats and for causing collisions and electrocutions for some birds. Power lines also have raised the specter, in the minds of anxious neighbors, of illnesses induced by electromagnetic fields. So it's a little startling to hear wildlife biologists proposing that properly managed transmission lines, and even natural gas and oil pipeline rights-of-way, could be the last best hope for many birds, pollinators, and other species that are otherwise dramatically declining.

How Offshore Wind Farms Affect Marine Species
October 17, 2014 06:07 AM - University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Offshore wind power is a valuable source of renewable energy that can help reduce carbon emissions. Technological advances are allowing higher capacity turbines to be installed in deeper water, but there is still much unknown about the effects on the environment. In a recent paper, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science researcher Helen Bailey and colleagues review the potential impacts of offshore wind developments on marine species and make recommendations for future monitoring and assessment as interest in offshore wind energy grows around the world.

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