New study of the Arctic Ocean finds alarming increase in acidity
September 12, 2013 06:35 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN
If you ever had a marine aquarium (or a swimming pool) you know that it is very important to keep the level of acidity (ph) within a narrow range for optimum results. In the case of the pool, to minimize corrosion of the metal parts in a heater and to reduce damage to the pool lining or paint. In the case of the aquarium, the ph is directly related to the health of coral and fish. The ocean is no different. Acidity is an important parameter that relates to many other parameters including the health of marine animals and the rates at which corals and rocks grow or are dissolved. Globally, oceans are getting more acidic from CO2 emissions. Acidification of the Arctic Ocean is occurring faster than projected according to new findings published in the journal PLOS ONE. The increase in rate is being blamed on rapidly melting sea ice, a process that may have important consequences for health of the Arctic ecosystem. Ocean acidification is the process by which pH levels of seawater decrease due to greater amounts of carbon dioxide being absorbed by the oceans from the atmosphere. Currently oceans absorb about one-fourth of the greenhouse gas. Lower pH levels make water more acidic and lab studies have shown that more acidic water decrease calcification rates in many calcifying organisms, reducing their ability to build shells or skeletons. These changes, in species ranging from corals to shrimp, have the potential to impact species up and down the food web. The team of federal and university researchers found that the decline of sea ice in the Arctic summer has important consequences for the surface layer of the Arctic Ocean. As sea ice cover recedes to record lows, as it did late in the summer of 2012, the seawater beneath is exposed to carbon dioxide, which is the main driver of ocean acidification.
September 11, 2013 03:59 PM - Emma Heesom, The Ecologist
The Soil Association's Emma Heesom talks to the Ecologist about what this year's Organic September campaign is all about and how everyone can make a small change and a big difference... There are lots of different reasons why people choose to buy Organic produce - from reduced chemicals and pesticides to concerns about animal welfare - but there are also lots of reasons and misconceptions that stop people from buying organic too. It is for this reason that this year's annual month-long focus on organic is a little bit of a break. The Small Changes, Big Difference campaign is asking people to make a small change to their shopping habits by switching one household item to organic, to create a big difference to our planet. For example, if just 12 families with an average bread consumption made the small change to swap their bread to organic, an area of land quarter of the size of the Wembley Stadium football pitch would become a pesticide-free haven for wildlife. What this campaign shows is how a small change will also make a big difference to the lives of farm animals. No other system of farming has higher animal welfare standards. Organic is free-range and encourages the animals' natural behavior.
US Forest Service Launches Fall Colors 2013 Campaign
September 11, 2013 10:04 AM - Allison Winter, ENN
Let's face it- summer is over. While we still might have one or two days over 80 degrees, there's no denying that fall is coming. And the number one way we can tell that fall is coming is by that colorful foliage. In an effort to get people outdoors and enjoy nature's most colorful season, the U.S. Forest Service has launched its Fall Colors 2013 campaign. "America's public lands, particularly our national forests, are among the most spectacular venues to view the changes in fall colors," said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. "The Forest Service offers numerous resources to help you plan your experience. Nature is closer than you may think." The Forest Service has introduced an online map to help visitors see if and when trees are peaking in their state. The map is shaded in green (not peaking) to bright red (peaking) to brown (past peak).
Loose laws threaten Australia's wildlife
September 11, 2013 09:29 AM - Liz Kimbrough, MONGABAY.COM
Kookaburras, koalas and kangaroos—Australia is well known for its charismatic animals and vast, seemingly untamable, wild spaces. But throughout the country, the national parks and reserves that protect these unique animals and ecosystems have come under increasing threat. New rules and relaxed regulations, which bolster immediate economic growth, are putting pressure on Australia's already-threatened biodiversity. Legislation allowing recreational shooting has been introduced in New South Wales. In Victoria, developers will be allowed to build hotels in national parks. New laws have been passed by the Queensland government to allow the feeding of livestock in national parks during droughts, and a scientific trial of grazing in several national parks and reserves has been re-instated after previous unsuccessful attempts. According to some, these examples point to a disturbing trend towards ecological irresponsibility within state legislature.
U.S. to Crush 6 Tons of Ivory
September 10, 2013 02:16 PM - Allison Winter, ENN
Ivory poaching and trafficking crimes continue to be a major problem not only in the United States, but around the world. So much so that in July of this year, President Barack Obama issued an order to combat the killing of protected wildlife, stop the trafficking, and reduce demand for illegal rhino horns and ivory. In an effort to deal with this issue, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is lining up a public event that will crush nearly 6 tons of ivory which is currently being stored in a Denver, Colorado warehouse.
Fracking fight heats up in Ohio
September 8, 2013 07:21 AM - Nick Cunningham, Duncan Gromko, DC Beureau
What could make a former Marine, retired cop, and self-described "ultra-conservative" oppose fracking in his home state of Ohio? At a diner off of Route 22 near Steubenville, OH, Ed Hashberger had the answer. Dressed in a red polo shirt emblazoned with the U.S. Marine Corps logo and carrying a Marine Corps notebook, Hashberger first described his bona fides. He served three years in Panama. He recited half a dozen close relatives who served in World War II, the Vietnam War, Afghanistan, and Iraq. His son was badly injured from an improvised explosive device (IED) in Afghanistan and remains confined to a wheel chair as a result.
NASA study supports soot as cause of glacier retreat in late 1880's
September 7, 2013 06:02 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN
Several other studies have pointe to the role that soot plays in altering the earth's albedo, its ability to absorb or reflect sunlight, and its role in causing glaciers to retreat. Now a new study by NASA provides crucial evidence supporting these theories. A NASA-led team of scientists has uncovered strong evidence that soot from a rapidly industrializing Europe caused the abrupt retreat of mountain glaciers in the European Alps that began in the 1860s, a period often thought of as the end of the Little Ice Age. The research, published Sept. 3 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may help resolve a longstanding scientific debate.
Is War becoming less frequent?
September 6, 2013 06:27 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN
Nations have been going to war against other nations since before recorded history. There have been periods of peace, and then periods of war. As our societies become more advanced, do they become more civilized, does war decrease as less destructive ways are found to settle differences? Interesting research by Ohio State University sheds light on this. While some researchers have claimed that war between nations is in decline, a new analysis by Bear Braumoeller, associate professor of political science at The Ohio State University suggests we shouldn't be too quick to celebrate a more peaceful world. The study finds that there is no clear trend indicating that nations are less eager to wage war. Conflict does appear to be less common than it had been in the past, he said. But that's due more to an inability to fight than to an unwillingness to do so.
Train or Pipeline, the Answer is the Same
September 5, 2013 08:46 AM - Addison Del Mastro, Worldwatch Institute
The catastrophic crash of an oil-carrying train in the province of Quebec last month, which devastated the town of Lac-Mégantic and killed dozens, has brought the Keystone XL pipeline into the headlines again. For many environmentalists, the train crash is just one more reminder of the risks of fossil fuel production — that the train was carrying tar sands oil was, as it were, the icing on the cake. Conversely, for many supporters of the pipeline, the train crash proves that we need Keystone. But first a word on tar sands and the other unconventional oil sources now being extracted such as shale oil. Unlike conventional oil wells, shale and tar sands do not contain liquid oil. Oil must be extracted from them in a process that is quite similar to mining. The development of Canadian tar sands requires vast deforestation in order to dig up and process the sands, and shale oil extraction requires that massive amounts of rocks be mined and processed.
Wheat production would be reduced by rising temperatures
September 5, 2013 06:04 AM - ScienceDaily
Any producer will tell you, growing a healthy, high-yielding wheat crop takes skill and hard work. Quality drought-tolerant varieties that are resistant to pests and disease are important. And cooperation from Mother Nature in terms of temperature and precipitation doesn't hurt, either. To quantify the impact of genetic improvement in wheat, disease and climate change over a 26-year period, a team of researchers at Kansas State University examined wheat variety yield data from Kansas performance tests, along with location-specific weather and disease data. Their results showed that from 1985 through 2011, wheat breeding programs boosted average wheat yields by 13 bushels per acre, or 0.51 bushel each year, for a total increase of 26 percent.