Aquifers in US Depleting, Contributing to Sea-Level Rise
May 21, 2013 10:24 AM - Allison Winter, ENN
The High Plains (also known as Ogallala) aquifer underlies more than 170,000 square miles of the United States. Aquifers are water storage areas that are made up of bodies of permeable rock that contain and transmit groundwater. The High Plains aquifer serves as the principal source of water for irrigation and drinking in the Great Plains, serving over two million people. However, substantial pumping of the aquifer for irrigation since the 1940s has resulted in large water-table declines. Depleting aquifers of groundwater can lead to serious consequences as pumping water out of the ground faster than it can be replenished can permanently dry up wells, reduce water in lakes and streams, and deteriorate water quality.
Fishing the Gulf of Maine: Tradition at a Crossroads
May 20, 2013 11:41 AM - Michael Sanders, The Ecologist
Lobster fishing remains big business off the coast of Maine but even with new regulations and new gadgets can it ever be sustainable? Michael Sanders investigates the real costs of the crustacean on your plate... When most of us go down to the coast, whether to walk or swim or fish or sail, we take for granted what we see before us. We see the lobster boats and the colorful buoys marking the strings of traps, the bobbing green and red cans marking safe passage, the gulls and other seabirds. In the larger working harbors like Portland and Stonington and Port Clyde, there might be draggers tied up, unloading fish they've caught far out in the Gulf of Maine and on Georges Bank. What we don't realize is that this seemingly unchanging marine world is in fact always changing in ways both large and small. What we think of as "the coast of Maine" - those 3,000 vaunted miles of rocky shoreline punctuated by seaside villages and docks and lobster pounds and fishing fleets - was largely built on the backs of the fishermen and lobstermen who are there, however picturesque or authentic to the eye, for a single purpose: to harvest the sea in order to feed us.
Want to benefit wildlife? Let land go untended.
May 20, 2013 06:02 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN
Which environment would wildlife prefer, actively farmed and managed land, or untended natural land that to us might appear unkempt? Turns out that parts of the farm landscape that look overgrown and 'scruffy' are more important in supporting wildlife than they first appear, according to new research published today in Ecology Letters. The findings stem from an intensive study of an organic farm in Somerset by a team of scientists focussing on the complex ways in which animals and plants interact. First, the team of researchers from the University of Hull, the University of Bristol and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, created one of the world's largest terrestrial food-webs — a what-eats-what guide to the food-chain, and then developed a method of predicting what would happen to the whole food-web when habitats were lost.
Drought and Desertification - Global Response
May 19, 2013 09:11 AM - ANDREW BURGER, Global Warming is Real
Land degradation — more specifically drought and desertification — have become increasingly pressing problems for a growing number of countries around the world, threatening efforts to alleviate poverty, improve basic health and sanitation and address socioeconomic inequality, as well as spur agricultural and sustainable economic development. The only multilateral, international agreement linking development and environment to sustainable land management (SLM), high-level representatives from 195 nations will be gathering in Windhoek, Namibia from September 16-27 for the 11th bi-annual Conference of Parties (COP) to review implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Meeting for the first time in southern Africa, UNCCD delegates will review implementation of the convention to date and plan for the ensuing two years of programs and actions.
Effects of a Warming Planet on Tropical Lizards May Not be Significant
May 18, 2013 07:50 AM - Dartmouth University via ScienceDaily
A new Dartmouth College study finds human-caused climate change may have little impact on many species of tropical lizards, contradicting a host of recent studies that predict their widespread extinction in a rapidly warming planet. Most predictions that tropical cold-blooded animals, especially forest lizards, will be hard hit by climate change are based on global-scale measurements of environmental temperatures, which miss much of the fine-scale variation in temperature that individual animals experience on the ground, said the article's lead author, Michael Logan, a Ph.D. student in ecology and evolutionary biology.
Ice Age Climate Changed Quickly
May 17, 2013 06:24 AM - Alex Peel, Planet Earth Online
Short, sharp fluctuations in the Earth's climate throughout the last ice age may have stopped trees from getting a foothold in Europe and northern Asia, scientists say. According to a new study, warm spells were so brief that trees were unable to establish themselves before the temperature shot back down again. 'The warm events were so short-lived that ecosystems weren't able to respond in full,' says Professor Brian Huntley, of Durham University, who led the study.
Study Shows Scientists Agree on Anthropogenic Climate Change
May 16, 2013 06:02 AM - ScienceDaily
A comprehensive analysis of peer-reviewed articles on the topic of global warming and climate change has revealed an overwhelming consensus among scientists that recent warming is human-caused. The study is the most comprehensive yet and identified 4000 summaries, otherwise known as abstracts, from papers published in the past 21 years that stated a position on the cause of recent global warming -- 97 per cent of these endorsed the consensus that we are seeing human-made, or anthropogenic, global warming (AGW) Led by John Cook at the University of Queensland, the study has been published 16 May, in IOP Publishing's journal Environmental Research Letters.
What Do You Think About Geo-engineering?
May 15, 2013 07:16 AM - Harriet Jarlett, Planet Earth Online
Few members of the UK public are comfortable with the idea of injecting aerosols high into the atmosphere to help slow down climate change, a study has found. People voiced concerns that this type of approach fails to address the basic problem of increasing greenhouse gas emissions. They are also nervous about any unintended consequences of such an action. But most significantly, they say that injecting aerosols into the Earth's atmosphere raises problems of international governance and control: who would ultimately be responsible?
Nature is Good for your Health!
May 14, 2013 06:31 AM - Richard J Dolesh, The Ecologist
A walk in the park can calm and restore you. This is something we take for granted in parks and recreation, because we have known it to be true ever since we started spending time in nature. But new research reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine now provides scientific proof that walking in nature and spending time under leafy shade trees causes electrochemical changes in the brain that can lead people to enter a highly beneficial state of "effortless attention." The UK researchers state with some justifiable academic stuffiness that "..happiness, or the presence of positive emotional mindsets, broadens an individual's thought-action repertoire with positive benefits to physical and intellectual activities, and to social and psychological resources."
What is Really Pristine Wilderness Really?
May 13, 2013 08:20 PM - Fred Pearce, Yale Environment360
New research shows that humans have been transforming the earth and its ecosystems for millenniums — far longer than previously believed. These findings call into question our notions about what is unspoiled nature and what should be preserved. Are there any pristine ecosystems out there? The evidence is growing that our ideas about virgin nature are often faulty. In fact, the lush rainforest or wind-blown moorland we think is natural may be a human creation, with alien creatures from distant lands living beside native species. Realizing this will change our ideas about how ecosystems work and how we should do conservation. We like to think that most nature was pristine and largely untouched until recent times. But two major studies in recent weeks say we are deluded. In one, Erle Ellis, a geographer at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and colleagues have calculated that at least a fifth of the land across most of the world had been transformed by humans as early as 5,000 years ago — a proportion that past studies of historical land use had assumed was only reached in the past 100 years or so.