Environmental Policy

Is plant virus linked to honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)?
January 21, 2014 08:27 AM - Jim Sliwa, American Society for Microbiology

A viral pathogen that typically infects plants has been found in honeybees and could help explain their decline. Researchers working in the U.S. and Beijing, China report their findings in mBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology. The routine screening of bees for frequent and rare viruses "resulted in the serendipitous detection of Tobacco Ringspot Virus, or TRSV, and prompted an investigation into whether this plant-infecting virus could also cause systemic infection in the bees," says Yan Ping Chen from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, an author on the study.

Should activities in public space be limited? The UK approach.
January 21, 2014 07:02 AM - Josie Appleton, The Ecologist

Laws handing sweeping new powers to police and private security to restrict access to Britain's public space will extinguish the diversity of civic life, writes Josie Appleton. Time for us to rediscover and defend our freedoms! Councils and the police will have an almost free hand to determine the use of all public spaces from civic squares to rural footpaths. The idea of public space, as it developed in the modern period, was space for the free use and enjoyment of the citizenry. The temper and character of public space should be determined not by any private or public authority, but by the ways in which people choose to use it. A bill currently passing through the UK Parliament will mean the death-knell of this principle.

Beaver, Dam it!
January 20, 2014 09:32 AM - Enn Staff, The Ecologist

As climate change brings more rain, there will be more catastrophic flooding; flooding of crops, homes and businesses, particularly in urban areas where there is simply no place for the water to go. One British writer has identified the beaver as the would-be hero to restore hydrological normalcy. Louise Ramsey writes about the beaver in Britain where reintroductions of the rodent have shown the vital role they once had in reducing flooding and how they could take up that mantle once more.

Coastal erosion concerns in Southern New England
January 19, 2014 10:10 AM - FRANK CARINI/ecoRI News staff

Southern New England’s coastline — the region's economic engine — is under siege, and this relentless enemy is gaining force. It can't be subdued by 20-foot-high seawalls or controlled by old-school hay bales. It’'s allies include parking lots, beachfront development and climate change. Coastal communities here are increasingly experiencing the impacts of an encroaching ocean. Storm waves are eroding beaches and flooding developed areas. Rising sea levels are taking land. The ocean’s power even when it's seemingly tranquil is unmatched, but when it's angry our continued disrespect proves costly.

Wastewater to power project planned in DC
January 18, 2014 09:13 AM - Joanna M. Foster, Think Progress via Care2

When the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority was first planning to build its Blue Plains wastewater treatment facility back in the 1930s, it seemed logical to choose a site that would minimize the cost of pumping water uphill. That's why the facility, which today serves over 2 million people in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia and treats around 370 million gallons of wastewater a day, is located at the lowest point in all of the District of Columbia. But the 150-acre facility, on the banks of the Potomac River, is now confronting the downside of what was once a strategic siting decision — the entire facility is extremely vulnerable to the flooding predicted by future sea level rise.

Finding Arctic Cyclones
January 17, 2014 12:18 PM - Pam Frost Gorder, Ohio State University

From 2000 to 2010, about 1,900 cyclones churned across the top of the world each year, leaving warm water and air in their wakes – and melting sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. That's about 40 percent more of these Arctic storms than previously thought, according to a new study of vast troves of weather data that previously were synthesized at the Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC). A 40 percent difference in the number of cyclones could be important to anyone who lives north of 55 degrees latitude – the area of the study, which includes the northern reaches of Canada, Scandinavia and Russia, along with the state of Alaska.

Washington DC leaking all over
January 17, 2014 09:56 AM - Tim Lucas, Duke University

More than 5,893 leaks from aging natural gas pipelines have been found under the streets of Washington, D.C., by a research team from Duke University and Boston University. A dozen of the leaks could have posed explosion risks, the researchers said. Some manholes had methane concentrations as high as 500,000 parts per million of natural gas -- about 10 times greater than the threshold at which explosions can occur.

Chemicals of Emerging Concern (CECs) identified in sewage sludge
January 16, 2014 04:17 PM - Richard Harth, Arizona State University

Thousands of chemicals serving a variety of human needs flood into sewage treatment plants once their use life has ended. Many belong to a class of chemicals known as CECs (for chemicals of emerging concern), which may pose risks to both human and environmental health. Arjun Venkatesan and Rolf Halden of Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute have been tracking many of these chemicals outlining a new approach to the identification of potentially harmful, mass-produced chemicals, describing the accumulation in sludge of 123 distinct CECs.

The girth of a tree
January 15, 2014 04:54 PM - Robin Blackstone, ENN

Thank goodness human growth rates don't match that of trees. For if it did then we would tip the scales of well over a ton by the time we reach retirement! Consider this new research from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) recently published in the journal Nature. According to the new study, trees put on weight faster and faster as they grow older. Because most trees' growth accelerates as they age this suggests that large, old trees may play an unexpectedly dynamic role in removing carbon from the atmosphere.

Waste Facility to Triple the Amount of Trash Recycled
January 15, 2014 01:28 PM - Paul Batistelli, Guest Contributor

A new plant in Glendale, Arizona promises to triple the amount of trash the city recycles each year when it begins operations in April. The facility, which is being built by Chicago-based company, Vieste, will be located on 6 acres of Glendale's landfill, just a few miles west of the University of Phoenix stadium. About two-thirds of the city's waste will be diverted to Vieste's facility where it will be sorted to find recyclables. The company's 40 to 50 employees will help sift through the piles of trash to find small recyclables such as plastic or glass. A large magnet will help pull metal objects from the garbage and screens will help sort through paper products. The building, which spans the size of three basketball courts, will also have ample room to sort through large recyclables and cardboard. Through its efforts, Vieste expects to recover 26,000 tons of recyclable products each year, which is more than double what the city recycles. Currently, Glendale only recycles items that residents place in recycling bins, which amounts to about 12,000 tons of materials each year.

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