Environmental Policy

Monarch butterflies disappearing from western North America
September 7, 2017 03:15 PM - Washington State University

Monarch butterfly populations from western North America have declined far more dramatically than was previously known and face a greater risk of extinction than eastern monarchs, according to a new study in the journal Biological Conservation.

“Western monarchs are faring worse than their eastern counterparts,” said Cheryl Schultz, an associate professor at Washington State University Vancouver and lead author of the study. “In the 1980s, 10 million monarchs spent the winter in coastal California. Today there are barely 300,000.”

Unnatural Surveillance: How Online Data Is Putting Species at Risk
September 6, 2017 10:59 AM - Yale Environment 360

In the arid far-western region of South Africa is a vast flatland covered with white quartzite gravel known as the Knersvlakte – Afrikaans for “Gnashing Plain” – because it sounds like grinding teeth when you walk across it. It’s a good place to watch unpeopled horizons vanish into ripples of heat haze, but to appreciate its real value you must get down on your knees. The Knersvlakte holds about 1,500 species of plants, including 190 species found nowhere else on earth and 155 that are Red-Listed by conservation biologists as threatened with extinction. To protect them, 211,000 acres have been set aside as the Knersvlakte Nature Reserve.

No ice to break
September 6, 2017 08:08 AM - NOAA

Our research cruise is being conducted this year from the Coast Guard Cutter Healy, the newest and most technologically advanced icebreaker in the U.S. fleet.  The Healy was built down around the humid bayous of New Orleans, but was designed to conquer Arctic sea ice.  The boat is a behemoth at 420 feet long and has made its way to the North Pole on several occasions, taking thousands of scientists into the Arctic to collect data that has transformed our understanding of the region.

URI researcher says invasive plants change ecosystems from the bottom up
September 5, 2017 02:00 PM - University of Rhode Island

In a common garden at the University of Rhode Island, Laura Meyerson has been growing specimens of Phragmites – also known as the common reed – that she has collected from around the world. And while they are all the same species, each plant lineage exhibits unique traits.

Now Meyerson, a professor of natural resources sciences, and Northeastern University Professor Jennifer Bowen have revealed that even when two different lineages grow side-by-side in the same ecosystem, the bacterial communities in the soil differ dramatically. It’s a discovery that will aid in understanding how plant invasions succeed and the conditions necessary for their success.

Could switchgrass help China's air quality?
September 5, 2017 12:08 PM - UIUC College of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences

Researchers from the United States and China have proposed an idea that could improve China’s air quality, but they’re not atmospheric scientists. They’re agronomists.

“China’s poor air quality is caused by a combination of coal burning and particulates from soil erosion. The Loess Plateau is the major source of erosion in China, and air quality there is just terrible. If erosion in the Loess Plateau can be improved, air quality will improve,” says D.K. Lee, an agronomist in the Department of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois.

Study negates concerns regarding radioactivity in migratory seafood
August 30, 2017 04:23 PM - Virginia Institute of Marine Science

When the Fukushima power plant released large quantities of radioactive materials into nearby coastal waters following Japan’s massive 2011 earthquake and tsunami, it raised concerns as to whether eating contaminated seafood might impair human health—not just locally but across the Pacific.

A new study by an international research team shows that those concerns can now be laid to rest, at least for consumption of meat from migratory marine predators such as tuna, swordfish, and sharks.

Study negates concerns regarding radioactivity in migratory seafood
August 30, 2017 04:23 PM - Virginia Institute of Marine Science

When the Fukushima power plant released large quantities of radioactive materials into nearby coastal waters following Japan’s massive 2011 earthquake and tsunami, it raised concerns as to whether eating contaminated seafood might impair human health—not just locally but across the Pacific.

A new study by an international research team shows that those concerns can now be laid to rest, at least for consumption of meat from migratory marine predators such as tuna, swordfish, and sharks.

Researchers Raise Public Health Concerns About Off-Road Vehicles and Inhalation of Asbestos
August 30, 2017 11:46 AM - Cincinnati Childrens Hospital Medical Center

Preventing injuries may not be the only reason children shouldn’t use off-road vehicles (ORVs).

In a new study, public health scientists raise concerns that people who use ORVs in many regions of the country may face exposure to hazardous mineral fibers. These include naturally occurring asbestos and erionite – an asbestos-like material that occurs in sedimentary rocks of the western United States.

Most of the deposits are located along the Appalachian Mountains and ranges in the West and Southwest, especially California.

Climate Change Could Cause Fish to Shrink in Size
August 29, 2017 01:55 PM - Yale Environment 360

In the coming decades, warming ocean temperatures could stunt the growth of fish by as much as 30 percent, according to a new study in the journal Global Change Biology.

The main driver behind this decline in size is that warmer water contains less oxygen. As Nexus Media explains, fish are cold-blooded animals and therefore cannot regulate their own body temperatures. So as oceans heat up, a fish’s metabolism accelerates to cope with the rising temperatures and they need more oxygen to sustain their body functions. But fish gills do not grow at the same pace as the rest of their body, resulting in a decline of oxygen supply and in growth.

Record-low salmon monitoring
August 29, 2017 08:19 AM - Simon Fraser University

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is not monitoring enough spawning streams to accurately assess the health of Pacific salmon, according to a new study led by Simon Fraser University researchers Michael Price and John Reynolds.

The study, published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, reveals that the DFO does not have enough data to determine the status of 50 per cent of all managed salmon populations along B.C.’s north and central coasts.

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