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Environmental News Network -- Know Your Environment



Enn Original News

Algal Blooms in the Arctic
March 4, 2011 09:23 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

An algal bloom is an explosion of growth and population of algae, which typically consist of one or a small number of phytoplankton, the foundation of the food chain. These blooms occur all over the world, even in the icy waters of the Arctic Ocean. They normally occur for a reason such as an overabundance of nutrients in the water from natural or man-made sources, or naturally with rising spring temperatures. In the Arctic, higher temperatures and melting ice have caused a shift in the region's natural bloom cycle. They are progressively coming earlier, and the shift has great importance to the entire food chain and global carbon cycle.

Deep Sea Mining
March 4, 2011 07:57 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Deep sea mining is a relatively new mineral retrieval process that takes place on the ocean floor. Ocean mining sites are usually around large areas of polymetallic nodules or active and extinct hydrothermal vents at about 1,400 - 3,700 meters below the ocean’s surface. The vents create sulfide deposits, which contain precious metals such as silver, gold, copper, manganese, cobalt, and zinc. The deposits are mined using either hydraulic pumps or bucket systems that take ore to the surface to be processed. As with all mining operations, deep sea mining raises questions about environmental damages to the surrounding areas. As undersea mining grows ever more likely, one major question looms: Can these valuable minerals be extracted on a large scale without causing significant environmental damage, particularly to the unique ecosystems near the deep hydrothermal vents where the minerals accumula

Vitamin D and Cancer
March 3, 2011 12:52 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Vitamin D is essential for the formation, growth, and repair of bones and for normal calcium absorption and immune function. It is obtained primarily through exposure of the skin to ultraviolet radiation in sunlight, but it can also be obtained from some foods and dietary supplements. Some recent research suggests vitamin D may be able to stop or prevent cancer. Now, a new study finds an enzyme that plays a role in metabolizing vitamin D can predict lung cancer survival. The study, from researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, suggests that this enzyme stops the anti-cancer effects of vitamin D. Levels of the enzyme, called CYP24A1, were elevated as much as 50 times in lung adenocarcinoma compared with normal lung tissue. The higher the level of CYP24A1, the more likely tumors were to be aggressive. About a third of lung cancer patients had high levels of the enzyme. After five years, those patients had nearly half the survival rate as patients with low levels of the enzyme.

Butanol as Gasoline Substitute from Bacteria
March 2, 2011 08:52 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Butanol may be used as a fuel in an internal combustion engine. Because its longer hydrocarbon chain causes it to be fairly non-polar, it is more similar to gasoline than it is to ethanol. Butanol has been demonstrated to work in vehicles designed for use with gasoline without modification. University of California, Berkeley, chemists have engineered bacteria to churn out a gasoline-like biofuel (butanol) at about 10 times the rate of competing microbes, a breakthrough that could soon provide an affordable transportation fuel. The potential feedstocks are the same as for ethanol: energy crops such as sugar beets, sugar cane, corn grain, wheat and cassava, prospective non-food energy crops such as switchgrass and even guayule in North America, as well as agricultural byproducts such as straw and corn stalks.

Brazilian Belo Monte Dam Halted on Judge's Orders
March 1, 2011 09:27 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

In another twist of the Belo Monte Dam saga, a Brazilian judge has ordered that work be suspended on the massive construction project. About one month ago, construction of the dam had been approved by the Brazilian environmental agency, IBAMA. The federal judge, Ronaldo Desterro, said that IBAMA had granted approval for the Belo Monte project under pressure from Norte Energia (a.k.a. NESA), the dam's contractor. The judge also cited concerns over the dam's impact on indigenous tribes and the environment.

When and Where Life Began
March 1, 2011 08:14 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Almost 600 million years ago, before the rapid evolution of life forms known as the Cambrian explosion, a community of seaweeds and worm-like animals lived in a quiet deep-water niche near what is now Lantian, a small village in south China. Then they simply died, leaving some 3,000 nearly pristine fossils preserved between beds of black shale deposited in oxygen-free and unbreathable waters. Scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Virginia Tech in the United States and Northwest University in Xi'an, China report the discovery of the fossils in this week's issue of the journal Nature. The long-running puzzlement about the appearance of the Cambrian fauna, seemingly abruptly and from nowhere, centers on three key points: whether there really was a mass diversification of complex organisms over a relatively short period of time during the early Cambrian; what might have caused such rapid change; and what it would imply about the origin and evolution of animals. Interpretation is difficult due to a limited supply of evidence, based mainly on an incomplete fossil record and chemical signatures left in Cambrian rocks. The Lantia discovery suggests a much part of the picture.

Risk Management Rules and Farms
February 28, 2011 08:00 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Farms do not have highly hazardous chemicals? It is not just factories that use such chemicals but so do farms. ADI Agronomy, Inc., which owns a group of farm supply facilities in southeast Missouri and northeast Arkansas, has agreed to pay a $54,922 civil penalty to the United States for chemical Risk Management Program violations at its Ag Distributors retail facility at Kennett, Mo., which sells liquid fertilizer made with anhydrous ammonia. EPA Region 7 issued an administrative compliance order to the Kennett facility in July 2010, after an inspection noted eight violations of the chemical Risk Management Program regulations contained in the federal Clean Air Act. Specifically, Ag Distributors failed to establish and implement maintenance procedures to ensure the ongoing integrity of its anhydrous ammonia process equipment, and failed to document that the equipment complied with recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices, among other violations.

The Gerat Northern Lights
February 25, 2011 11:43 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

An aurora is a natural light display in the sky, particularly in the polar regions, caused by the collision of charged particles directed by the Earth's magnetic field. An aurora is usually observed at night and typically occurs in the ionosphere. It is also referred to as a polar aurora or, collectively, as polar lights. These phenomena are commonly visible between 60 and 72 degrees north and south latitudes, which place them in a ring just within the Arctic and Antarctic polar circles. Recent increases in solar activity, including the largest solar flare in four years, may lead to hopes of seeing the aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights, in the United Kingdom and other relatively more southern locales. In the United Kingdom, for example, the chances of seeing the aurora increase the further north you go — ranging from one or two displays every 10 years in the south of England to one or two displays a week in the far northern Shetland Islands. Solar variation is the change in the amount of radiation emitted by the Sun and in its spectral distribution over years to millennia. These variations have periodic components, the main one being the approximately 11-year solar cycle (or sunspot cycle). This variation causes the northern lights to vary in location and magnitude.

Islamic Leaders Preach Conservation in Sumatra, Indonesia (updated)
February 25, 2011 07:24 AM - Melanie Jae Martin

Do religious texts mandate respect for the earth and other species? Some Islamic leaders in Sumatra believe the Koran does. In Indonesia, the country with the highest rate of deforestation and some of the most diverse habitat in the world, many Islamic leaders believe religion is the key to conservation. In Sumatra, habitat is disappearing fast, mainly due to oil palm plantations, and populations of animals like the Sumatran orangutan and tiger are dwindling. Education is key to solving the region’s environmental problems, the leaders believe, and religion has the potential to spark wide public interest in environmental awareness. Called FORDALING (the Islamic Leader Forum for Environmental Care), the group believes the Koran directly addresses the need for protecting the natural world. They explain this in their newly released book Ayat-Ayat Konservasi (Islamic Verses for Conservation). Through this book and other projects, these religious leaders have set out to show Indonesian Muslims why conservation should be important to them and the world.

New England Beaches Erosion
February 24, 2011 03:16 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Beach erosion is a chronic problem along many open ocean shores of the United States. As coastal populations continue to grow and community infrastructures are threatened by erosion, there is an increased demand for accurate information regarding past and present trends and rates of shoreline movement. There is also a need for a comprehensive analysis of shoreline movement that is consistent from one coastal region to another. An assessment of coastal change over the past 150 years has found 68 percent of beaches in the New England and Mid-Atlantic region are eroding, according to a U.S. Geological Survey report just released. Scientists studied more than 650 miles of the New England and Mid-Atlantic coasts and found the average rate of coastal change — taking into account beaches that are both eroding and prograding -- was a negative 1.6 feet per year. Of those beaches eroding, the most extreme case exceeded 60 feet per year. The past 25 to 30 years saw a small reduction in the percentage of beaches eroding — dropping to 60 percent, possibly as a result of beach restoration activities such as adding sand to beaches.

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