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Ecosystems

Germany overtakes the UK in offshore wind energy
February 1, 2015 08:37 AM - Click Green Staff, ClickGreen

Germany will this year for the first time connect more new offshore wind installations than Britain after energy operators scrapped a string of projects planned for UK waters.

Despite having more installed offshore capacity than the rest of the world combined, the UK’s lack of new wind farms through 2015 means it will now be outstripped by Germany – a nation with access to territorial waters less than a tenth of the size of the UK’s.
 

Ocean acidification changes balance of biofouling communities
January 30, 2015 08:45 AM - British Antarctic Survey

A new study of marine organisms that make up the ‘biofouling community’ — tiny creatures that attach themselves to ships’ hulls and rocks in the ocean around the world — shows how they adapt to changing ocean acidification. Reporting in the journal Global Change Biology, the authors examine how these communities may respond to future change.

How did the Zebra get its stripes?
January 30, 2015 08:28 AM - UCLA

One of nature’s fascinating questions is how zebras got their stripes.

A team of life scientists led by UCLA’s Brenda Larison has found at least part of the answer: The amount and intensity of striping can be best predicted by the temperature of the environment in which zebras live.

In the January cover story of the Royal Society’s online journal, Open Science, the researchers make the case that the association between striping and temperature likely points to multiple benefits — including controlling zebras’ body temperature and protecting them from diseases carried by biting flies.

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."

Jet Fuel from Algae?
January 29, 2015 08:52 AM - Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

A common algae commercially grown to make fish food holds promise as a source for both biodiesel and jet fuel, according to a new study published in the journal Energy & Fuels. The researchers, led by Greg O’Neil of Western Washington University and Chris Reddy of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, exploited an unusual and untapped class of chemical compounds in the algae to synthesize two different fuel products, in parallel, from a single algae.

New analysis explores trends in global plastic consumption and recycling
January 28, 2015 03:35 PM - Gaelle Gourmelon, Worldwatch Institute

For more than 50 years, global production of plastic has continued to rise. Some 299 million tons of plastics were produced in 2013, representing a 4 percent increase over 2012. Recovery and recycling, however, remain insufficient, and millions of tons of plastics end up in landfills and oceans each year, writes Gaelle Gourmelon, Communications and Marketing Manager at the Worldwatch Institute, in the Institute’s latest Vital Signs Online article.

Pollution Blamed as Leading Cause of Death in Developing World
January 28, 2015 08:51 AM - Alexis Petru, Triple Pundit

In 2012, pollution – in the form of contaminated soil, water, and both indoor and outdoor air – was responsible for 8.4 million deaths in developing countries, finds Pollution: The Silent Killer of Millions in Poor Countries. That’s almost three times more deaths than those caused by malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis combined: Malaria claimed 600,000 lives in 2012, HIV/AIDS caused 1.5 million deaths and tuberculosis killed 900,000 individuals.

Study Analyzes Variability of Climate Models
January 27, 2015 03:05 PM - Duke University

A new Duke University-led study finds that most climate models likely underestimate the degree of decade-to-decade variability occurring in mean surface temperatures as Earth’s atmosphere warms. The models also provide inconsistent explanations of why this variability occurs in the first place. These discrepancies may undermine the models’ reliability for projecting the short-term pace as well as the extent of future warming, the study’s authors warn. As such, we shouldn’t over-interpret recent temperature trends.

Research shows loss of pollinators increases risk of malnutrition and disease
January 27, 2015 08:15 AM - Joshua E. Brown, University of Vermont

A new study shows that more than half the people in some developing countries could become newly at risk for malnutrition if crop-pollinating animals — like bees — continue to decline. Despite popular reports that pollinators are crucial for human nutritional health, no scientific studies have actually tested this claim — until now. The new research by scientists at the University of Vermont and Harvard University has, for the first time, connected what people actually eat in four developing countries to the pollination requirements of the crops that provide their food and nutrients.

Natural Breakdown of Petroleum May Lace Arsenic into Groundwater
January 26, 2015 04:09 PM - USGS Newsroom

In a long-term field study, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and Virginia Tech scientists have found that changes in geochemistry from the natural breakdown of petroleum hydrocarbons underground can promote the chemical release (mobilization) of naturally occurring arsenic into groundwater. This geochemical change can result in potentially significant arsenic groundwater contamination. 

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