Environmental Policy

What can we learn from the California Rim Fire?
August 14, 2014 06:42 AM - Crystal Shepeard, Care2

August 17, 2014 will mark the one year anniversary of the Rim Fire in the California Sierra Nevadas. It was dubbed the Rim Fire due to its proximity to the Rim of the World scenic lookout. The third largest wildfire in California’s history, it burned 257,000 acres of land in Stanislaus National Forest and the western edge of Yosemite National Park, in addition to private land in neighboring counties. It cost more than $127 million to contain, and included more than $50 million in property damage. In the early hours of the fire, a deer hunter was rescued. After the hunter was taken to safety by helicopter, investigators interviewed him to see if he witnessed anything. He told them that he had slipped and caused a rock slide that may have ignited the dry vegetation. As time went on, his story changed several times, even blaming it on marijuana growers. Finally, as the fire had been raging for several weeks, he finally told the real story.

The cost of marine debris
August 12, 2014 03:53 PM - NOAA

Marine debris has many impacts on the ocean, wildlife, and coastal communities. A NOAA Marine Debris Program economic study released today shows that it can also have considerable economic costs to residents who use their local beaches. The study found that Orange County, California residents lose millions of dollars each year avoiding littered, local beaches in favor of choosing cleaner beaches that are farther away and may cost more to reach. Reducing marine debris even by 25 percent at beaches in and near Orange County could save residents roughly $32 million during three months in the summer.

The importance of maintaining seagrass
August 12, 2014 07:05 AM - Harriet Jarlett, Planet Earth Online

Seagrass meadows provide the ideal place for young fish to thrive, say NERC-funded scientists researching the importance of these habitats for commercial fishing. Globally seagrasses are being lost at the same rate as Amazonian rainforests, and little is being done to conserve these habitats as their importance isn't fully understood. But scientists at Swansea University have just published two studies in the journals Marine Pollution Bulletin and Marine Biodiversity showing these areas are vital to the wellbeing of juvenile fish, and consequently the fishing industry.

New study casts light on climate change and oceanic oxygen levels
August 10, 2014 09:55 AM - University of South Carolina via ScienceDaily

A commonly held belief that global warming will diminish oxygen concentrations in the ocean looks like it may not be entirely true. According to new research published in Science magazine, just the opposite is likely the case in the northern Pacific Ocean, with its anoxic zone expected to shrink in coming decades because of climate change. An international team of scientists came to that surprising conclusion after completing a detailed assessment of changes since 1850 in the eastern tropical northern Pacific's oxygen minimum zone (OMZ). An ocean layer beginning typically a few hundred to a thousand meters below the surface, an OMZ is by definition the zone with the lowest oxygen saturation in the water column. OMZs are a consequence of microbial respiration and can be hostile environments for marine life.

What happens immediately after an oil spill?
August 9, 2014 08:51 AM - Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, via EurekAlert

The fate of oil during the first day after an accidental oil spill is still poorly understood, with researchers often arriving on the scene only after several days. New findings from a field experiment carried out in the North Sea provide valuable insight The immediate aftermath of an oil spill The fate of oil during the first day after an accidental oil spill is still poorly understood, with researchers often arriving on the scene only after several days. New findings from a field experiment carried out in the North Sea provide valuable insight that could help shape the emergency response in the immediate wake of disasters.

Paint dust pollutes the oceans
August 8, 2014 09:51 AM - Erik Stokstad, Science

Even when the sea looks clean, its surface can be flecked with tiny fragments of paint and fiberglass. That's the finding from a study that looked for plastic pollution in the uppermost millimeter of ocean. The microscopic fragments come from the decks and hulls of boats, and they could pose a threat to tiny creatures called zooplankton, which are an important part of the marine food web. The discovery is "continuing to open our eyes to how many small synthetic particles are in the environment," says Kara Law, an oceanographer who studies plastic pollution at the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and wasn’t involved in the study.

Are humans impacting the deep Earth?
August 7, 2014 09:31 AM - Alex Peel, Planet Earth Online

Human forays deep underground, such as boreholes, mines and nuclear bomb tests, are leaving a mark on the planet's geology that will last for hundreds of millions of years, say scientists. In a new report, published in the journal Anthropocene, they say we are altering Earth's rocks in a way that's unique in the planet's 4.6 billion-year history.

Marine noise impacts eels too!
August 7, 2014 08:45 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Marine noise has been studied for it's impact on whales, dolphins and other marine animals. Might it also impact smaller creatures too? Eels, for example. Despite their reputation as slippery customers, a new study has shown that eels are losing the fight to survive when faced with marine noise pollution such as that of passing ships. Scientists from the Universities of Exeter and Bristol found that fish exposed to playback of ship noise lose crucial responses to predator threats. The study, published today in the journal Global Change Biology, found European eels were 50 per cent less likely to respond to an ambush from a predator, while those that did had 25 per cent slower reaction times. Those that were pursued by a predator were caught more than twice as quickly when exposed to the noise.

Mercury in the oceans increasing
August 6, 2014 05:29 PM - Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Although the days of odd behavior among hat makers are a thing of the past, the dangers mercury poses to humans and the environment persist today. Mercury is a naturally occurring element as well as a by-product of such distinctly human enterprises as burning coal and making cement. Estimates of "bioavailable" mercury—forms of the element that can be taken up by animals and humans—play an important role in everything from drafting an international treaty designed to protect humans and the environment from mercury emissions, to establishing public policies behind warnings about seafood consumption.

New Jersey bans Ivory sales
August 6, 2014 07:34 AM - Wildlife Conservation Society

The state of New Jersey has enacted a statewide ban on sales of Ivory. The following statement was issued by John Calvelli, Wildlife Conservation Society Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Director of the 96 Elephants Campaign: "Today is an historic day for elephants and conservation. The Wildlife Conservation Society and the 96 Elephants campaign praises N.J. Governor Chris Christie for signing into law a statewide ban on ivory sales."

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