Environmental Policy

Ghost Forests: How Rising Seas Are Killing Southern U.S. Woodlands
November 1, 2016 09:42 AM - Roger Drouin via Yale Environment 360

On a recent afternoon, University of Florida watershed ecologist David Kaplan and Ph.D. candidate Katie Glodzik hiked through the Withlacoochee Gulf Preserve, on the Big Bend coast of northwestern Florida. Not long ago, red cedar, live oaks, and cabbage palms grew in profusion on the raised “hammock island” forests set amid the preserve’s wetlands. But as the researchers walked through thigh-high marsh grass, the barren trunks of dead cedars were silhouetted against passing clouds. Dead snag cabbage palms stood like toothpicks snapped at the top. Other trees and shrubs, such as wax myrtle, had long been replaced by more salt-tolerant black needlerush marsh grass. 

In the right place at the right time
November 1, 2016 09:18 AM - Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research

Based on a unique dataset collected during a research cruise to the Irminger Sea in April 2015, a new paper reveals a strong link between atmospheric forcing, deep convection, ocean ventilation and anthropogenic carbon sequestration.

The Irminger Sea, a small ocean basin between Greenland and Iceland, is known for its harsh and extreme weather conditions during winter. Research cruises that  take measurements in the subpolar North Atlantic almost exclusively do so in summer, although the area is particularly interesting in the convectively active winter season.

See How Arctic Sea Ice Is Losing Its Bulwark Against Warming Summers
October 28, 2016 03:33 PM -

Arctic sea ice, the vast sheath of frozen seawater floating on the Arctic Ocean and its neighboring seas, has been hit with a double whammy over the past decades: as its extent shrunk, the oldest and thickest ice has either thinned or melted away, leaving the sea ice cap more vulnerable to the warming ocean and atmosphere.

“What we’ve seen over the years is that the older ice is disappearing,” said Walt Meier, a sea ice researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “This older, thicker ice is like the bulwark of sea ice: a warm summer will melt all the young, thin ice away but it can’t completely get rid of the older ice. But this older ice is becoming weaker because there’s less of it and the remaining old ice is more broken up and thinner, so that bulwark is not as good as it used to be.”

Super Emitters - are responsible for more than half of U.S. methane emissions
October 28, 2016 02:48 PM - Ker Than via Stanford School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences

The bulk of methane emissions in the United States can be traced to a small number of “super emitting” natural gas wells, according to a new study.

“We’re finding that when it comes to natural gas leaks, a 50/5 rule applies: That is, the largest 5 percent of leaks are typically responsible for more than 50 percent of the total volume of leakage,” said study co-author Adam Brandt, an assistant professor of energy resources engineering at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences.

The findings, published online in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, could lead to more efficient strategies for sampling emissions and fixing the most significant leaks, said Brandt, who is also a senior fellow at Stanford’s Precourt Institute for Energy. By focusing on finding and fixing the biggest emitters, companies can significantly reduce the amount of methane leaking into the atmosphere.

New biochar model scrubs CO2 from the atmosphere
October 28, 2016 02:08 PM - Melissa Osgood via Cornell University

New Cornell University research suggests an economically viable model to scrub carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to thwart global warming.

The researchers propose using a “bioenergy-biochar system” that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in an environmental pinch, until other removal methods become economically feasible and in regions where other methods are impractical. Their work appeared in the Oct. 21 edition of Nature Communications.

Molecular signature shows plants are adapting to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide
October 26, 2016 09:53 AM - University of Southampton

Plants are adapting to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide according to a new study from the University of Southampton

The research, published in the journal Global Change Biology, provides insight into the long-term impacts of rising CO2 and the implications for global food security and nature conservation.

Lead author Professor Gail Taylor, from Biological Sciences at the University of Southampton, said: “Atmospheric CO2 is rising – emissions grew faster in the 2000s than the 1990s and the concentration of CO2 reached 400 ppm for the first time in recorded history in 2013.

Wildlife Farming: Does It Help Or Hurt Threatened Species?
October 25, 2016 07:16 AM - Richard Conniff, Yale Environment360

More than a decade ago, looking to slow the decimation of wildlife populations for the bushmeat trade, researchers in West Africa sought to establish an alternative protein supply. Brush-tailed porcupine was one of the most popular and high-priced meats, in rural and urban areas alike. Why not farm it? It turned out that the porcupines are generally solitary, and when put together, they tended to fight and didn't have sex. In any case, moms produce only one offspring per birth, hardly a recipe for commercial success. 

Wildlife farming is like that — a tantalizing idea that is always fraught with challenges and often seriously flawed. And yet it is also growing both as a marketplace reality and in its appeal to a broad array of legitimate stakeholders as a potentially sustainable alternative to the helter-skelter exploitation of wild resources everywhere. 

Food security consultants are promoting wildlife farming as a way to boost rural incomes and supply protein to a hungry world. So are public health experts who view properly managed captive breeding as a way to prevent emerging diseases in wildlife from spilling over into the human population.

Protecting people and planet from "invisible killer" is focus of UN health campaign to tackle air pollution
October 20, 2016 04:50 PM - United Nations News Centre

The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) in partnership with the Coalition for Climate and Clean Air (CCAC) and the Government of Norway has launched a global awareness campaign on the dangers of air pollution – especially ‘invisible killers’ such as black carbon, ground-level ozone and methane – for the health of individuals and the planet.

Titled BreatheLife: Clean air. A healthy future, the campaign aims to mobilize cities and their inhabitants on issues of health and protecting the planet from the effects of air pollution. Moreover, By WHO and CCAC joining forces, ‘BreatheLife’ brings together expertise and partners that can tackle both the climate and health impacts of air pollution.

Reducing ammonia pollution from cattle
October 19, 2016 04:13 PM - Luciano Barreto Mendes via International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis

Agriculture is responsible for 90% of all ammonia pollution in Europe, a considerable part of which comes from cattle manure management: a new study shows what steps to take to reduce this pollution.

Improved barn design, cleaning processes, and manure treatment could reduce ammonia emissions from commercial dairy cattle barns by 17 to 50%, according to a new study published in the journal Science of the Total Environment. The study provides a list of techniques and technologies that could provide the greatest reductions in ammonia emissions.

Discovery of Carbon Storage Signaling Mechanism in Algae Offers New Potential for Sustainable Biofuel Production
October 19, 2016 03:44 PM - Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

James Umen, Ph.D., associate member at Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, and colleagues have discovered a way to make algae better oil producers without sacrificing growth. The findings were published September 6, in a paper titled, “Synergism between inositol polyphosphates and TOR kinase signaling in nutrient sensing, growth control and lipid metabolism in Chlamydomonas,” in The Plant Cell. Umen and his team including lead author Inmaculada Couso, Ph.D., and collaborators Bradley Evans Ph.D., director, Proteomics & Mass Spectrometry and Doug Allen, Ph.D., USDA Research Scientist at the Danforth Center identified a mutation in the green alga Chlamydomonas which substantially removes a constraint that is widely observed in micro-algae where the highest yields of oil can only be obtained from starving cultures.

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