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Environmental Policy

Global Population Keeps on Increasing
July 13, 2013 07:47 AM - Population Matters from Portland Press Herald

The African population could increase fourfold by 2100, making poverty and hunger issues more severe. In advance of World Population Day, United Nations demographers have once again revised official projections — upward. This meticulous band of number crunchers doesn’t mean to be alarmist, but its statistics can be startling: ”¢ Nigeria, the West African nation slightly larger than Texas, is on track to surpass the United States as the world’s third-most populous country by 2050. The size of its population may rival that of China by the end of the century, unless something dramatic happens.

Huge Marine Preservation Area Being Considered for Antarctica
July 12, 2013 06:24 AM - Richard Harris, NPR

The area of ocean set aside as a nature preserve could double or triple in the coming days, depending on the outcome of a meeting in Germany. Representatives from 24 countries and the European Union are considering setting aside large portions of ocean around Antarctica as a protected area. And the deal may hinge on preserving some fishing rights. There are two proposals on the table: One would set aside huge parts of the Southern Ocean around East Antarctica; the other would focus on the Ross Sea, south of New Zealand. "The total size of the marine protected area we are proposing is roughly 3 1/2 times the size of Texas," says Ambassador Mike Moore, the former prime minister of New Zealand, who was talking up the joint U.S.-New Zealand proposal in Washington this spring. "So to misquote the vice president of the United States, 'this is a big deal.' "

Smooth Dogfish need protection too!
July 11, 2013 06:46 AM - WCS

It may have happened to you. You're out for a sail and you spot a fin in the water. Someone begins his best impression of the familiar pulsating cello line as another person jokes, "We gotta get a bigger boat," and talk turns to the film whose release one weekend 38 years ago forever changed our nation's relationship to sharks. Now, after studying sharks and their conservation for more than two decades, I assert that these fascinating predators suffer from an identity crisis: Sharks are greatly maligned for their fierce reputation yet, in reality, are among the most vulnerable animals on the planet. Nearly four decades after the release of Jaws, it remains difficult to convince the average beach-goer and even some of my friends and relatives that sharks in fact have much more to fear from us than we do from them. Yet it is true. Overfishing of sharks and their close relatives skates and rays across the globe has in recent decades led to sharp declines in shark numbers. Some species have been reduced by more than 80 percent. Much of that reduction is tied to the international trade in shark fins. The fins of as many as 70 million sharks end up in the coveted Asian delicacy shark fin soup each year. At the same time, some of the most heavily fished sharks and closely related skates and rays are prized primarily for their meat.

How can glaciers calving make so much noise?
July 11, 2013 06:36 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Icebergs in situ make little noise, right? What about when the calve? There is growing concern about how much noise humans generate in marine environments through shipping, oil exploration and other developments, but a new study has found that naturally occurring phenomena could potentially affect some ocean dwellers. Nowhere is this concern greater than in the polar regions, where the effects of global warming often first manifest themselves. The breakup of ice sheets and the calving and grounding of icebergs can create enormous sound energy, scientists say. Now a new study has found that the mere drifting of an iceberg from near Antarctica to warmer ocean waters produces startling levels of noise. Results of the study are being published this month in Oceanography. A team led by Oregon State University researchers used an array of hydrophones to track the sound produced by an iceberg through its life cycle, from its origin in the Weddell Sea to its eventual demise in the open ocean. The goal of the project was to measure baseline levels of this kind of naturally occurring sound in the ocean, so it can be compared to anthropogenic noises.

The Sea could provide much of Scotland's power!
July 10, 2013 06:02 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

What is one of the greenest ways to generate lots of electricity? What if we could harness the immense energy in ocean currents? Tidal power has been developing rapidly as a viable means of generating electricity. Scotland is nearly surrounded by ocean and strong currents are common. A new study, led by Oxford University researchers, provides the first reliable estimate of the maximum energy that could be generated from Pentland Firth. The 1.9GW figure is considerably lower than some early estimates as it takes into account factors such as how many tidal turbines it would be feasible to build, how a series of turbines would interact with each other, and averages out variations caused by the fortnightly and seasonal cycle of the tides. Tidal turbines stretched across Pentland Firth, which separates the Orkney Islands from mainland Scotland, could generate up to 1.9 gigawatts (GW) of power — equivalent to almost half of Scotland's electricity needs.

New conservation complex will protect critically endangered gorillas
July 9, 2013 03:07 PM - ClickGreen Staff, ClickGreen

In Cameroon, populations of Cross River gorillas can be found in the Lebialem Highlands: a biodiversity hotspot in one of the wettest places on earth. A new cluster of protected areas will protect Cross River Gorillas and an important watershed for the benefit of all Cameroonians. Estimates on the number of Cross River gorillas (Gorilla gorilla diehli) remaining is 250—300 in the wild. Their range is very fragmented. Due to human population growth and agricultural encroachment, the gorillas are being forced into higher altitudes with steep slopes, unsuitable for farming.

Chesapeake Bay "Dead Zones" Reduce Diversity and Abundance of Near-bottom Species
July 9, 2013 01:37 PM - Allison Winter, ENN

The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States and even though President Obama has declared it a "national treasure" in 2009, this watershed is becoming emptier with fewer shellfish and fish populations mainly due to upstream pollution. Consequently, a 10-year research study conducted by researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) indicates that low oxygen levels reduce diversity and catch rates of species that live and feed near the Bay bottom.

Global Warming Down Under
July 9, 2013 05:39 AM - ScienceDaily

Green spaces, trees and bodies of water are must-have design features for future development in Sydney's suburbs after researchers found that by 2050 global warming combined with Sydney's urban heat island effect could increase temperatures by up to 3.7°C. The researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science found new urban developments, such as the multitude of new estates on Sydney edges expected to house more than 100,000 residents, were prone to the greatest temperature increases.

Mercury in the Environment: Legacy levels can persist for decades
July 8, 2013 02:07 PM - Allison Winter, ENN

Most of us are aware of the high levels of mercury found in fish. But where does this mercury come from? Humans have been using mercury since before the Industrial Revolution, but it is currently being emitted by coal-fired power plants and artisanal gold mining. And according to researchers at Harvard University, significant reductions in mercury emissions will be necessary because of the element’s persistence in surface reservoirs from past pollution.

Conifers threatened globally
July 8, 2013 10:36 AM - Population Matters

A third of the world's conifers, the biggest and longest-lived organisms on the planet, are at risk of extinction, with logging and disease the main threats, scientists said. The study of more than 600 types of conifers — trees and shrubs including cedars, cypresses and firs — updates a "Red List" on which almost 21,000 of 70,000 species of animals and plants assessed in recent years are under threat.

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