Ecosystems

New data show iron rain fell on early Earth
March 18, 2015 08:52 AM - Sandia National Laboratories

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories’ Z machine have helped untangle a long-standing mystery of astrophysics: why iron is found spattered throughout Earth’s mantle, the roughly 2,000-mile thick region between Earth’s core and its crust.

When whales roamed in what is now Africa
March 17, 2015 04:30 PM - Southern Methodist University

Uplift associated with the Great Rift Valley of East Africa and the environmental changes it produced have puzzled scientists for decades because the timing and starting elevation have been poorly constrained.”

Now paleontologists have tapped a fossil from the most precisely dated beaked whale in the world - and the only stranded whale ever found so far inland on the African continent - to pinpoint for the first time a date when East Africa's mysterious elevation began.

The 17 million-year-old fossil is from the beaked Ziphiidae whale family. It was discovered 740 kilometers inland at an elevation of 620 meters in modern Kenya's harsh desert region, said vertebrate paleontologist Louis L. Jacobs, Southern Methodist University, Dallas.

Urban expansion could greatly increase flood risks
March 5, 2015 02:07 PM - Texas A&M University

A heads-up to New York, Baltimore, Houston and Miami: a new study suggests that these metropolitan areas and others will increase their exposure to floods even in the absence of climate change, according to researchers from Texas A&M University. The study presents first-ever global forecasts of how the exposure of urban land to floods and droughts may change due to urban expansion in the near future. In 2000, about 30 percent of the global urban land (over 75,000 square miles) was located in the high-frequency flood zones; by 2030, this will reach nearly 40 percent (280,000 square miles) as the global urban land grows from 250,000 square miles to 720,000 square miles, the authors say.

Amazon deforestation 'threshold' causes species loss to accelerate
March 4, 2015 03:32 PM - University of Cambridge

One of the largest area studies of forest loss impacting biodiversity shows that a third of the Amazon is headed toward or has just past a threshold of forest cover below which species loss is faster and more damaging. Researchers call for conservation policy to switch from targeting individual landowners to entire regions.

In California, Beavers are essential to recovering wild salmon
March 1, 2015 04:35 PM - Miria Finn / onEarth, The Ecologist

With California's wild Coho salmon populations down to 1% of their former numbers, there's growing evidence that beavers - long reviled as a pest of the waterways - are essential to restore the species, writes Maria Finn. In the process, they raise water tables, recharge aquifers and improve water quality. What's not to love?

Beavers are the single most important factor in determining whether Coho salmon persist in California. They work night and day, don't need to be paid, and are incredible engineers.

Using satellites to monitor forest health
February 28, 2015 07:12 AM - Oregon State University

Scientists for the first time have simultaneously compared widespread impacts from two of the most common forest insects in the West – mountain pine beetle and western spruce budworm – an advance that could lead to more effective management policies.

By combining data from satellites, airplanes and ground-based crews, the researchers have shown in unprecedented detail how insects affect Western forests over decades.

In the past, forest managers relied on airplane surveys to evaluate insect damage over broad areas.

Why the sun impacts climate more during cooler periods
February 27, 2015 04:08 PM - Aarhus University via EurekAlert!

The activity of the Sun is an important factor in the complex interaction that controls our climate. New research now shows that the impact of the Sun is not constant over time, but has greater significance when the Earth is cooler. There has been much discussion as to whether variations in the strength of the Sun have played a role in triggering climate change in the past, but more and more research results clearly indicate that solar activity - i.e. the amount of radiation coming from the Sun - has an impact on how the climate varies over time.

ENN Releases App for Android Users
February 23, 2015 09:14 AM - ENN Editor

Last month ENN launched a new mobile app available at the iTunes store making it easier for you to connect with us and stay up to date with groundbreaking environmental news. Now, ENN releases the mobile app at Google Play, making it compatible for Android users.

ENN is more than just a gatherer of environmental news but rather a unique set of resources, archives, tools, and experts for the increasingly complex field of environmental science attracting readers from all levels of government, business and academia.

We also encourage you to join the conversation by checking out our Community Blog and by connecting with us on Facebook.

Apple users can download the app at the iTunes store.

Android users can download the app at Google Play.

Make sure you click on the app with the logo shown here.

Study finds atmosphere will adapt to hotter, wetter climate
January 29, 2015 04:17 PM - University of Toronto via EurekAlert!

A study led by atmospheric physicists at the University of Toronto finds that global warming will not lead to an overall increasingly stormy atmosphere, a topic debated by scientists for decades. Instead, strong storms will become stronger while weak storms become weaker, and the cumulative result of the number of storms will remain unchanged. "We know that with global warming we'll get more evaporation of the oceans," said Frederic Laliberte, a research associate at U of T's physics department and lead author of a study published this week in Science. "But circulation in the atmosphere is like a heat engine that requires fuel to do work, just like any combustion engine or a convection engine."

Why Certification is Critical for the Industrialization of Bamboo
January 19, 2015 12:35 PM - Contributing editor

We’ve been down this path before; a new species, a new crop, a new product. A silver bullet plant that can be grown on degraded land and provide exactly what industry needs. And yet typically such plants go one of two ways; the way of Jatropha, which after a few years of being touted as the miracle plant of the biofuel industry, simply faded into nothingness; or the way of oil palm, where industrialization boomed, and with it came a mile wide trench of environmental devastation.

No plant is inherently green. And bamboo is no different. It can be grown well, and sustainably. Or it can be the cause of deforestation, conversion of natural ecosystems, and subsequent environmental and social degradation.

So why is bamboo forging a path that is likely to be different? Simply, the foremost player currently responsible for the plant’s industrialization at a global and commercial scale is setting a benchmark of sustainability in front as they pioneer and grow the plant at scale, rather than in their wake as an after thought.

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