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Pollution

Mercury levels in Arctic birds found increasing over the past 130 years
April 10, 2015 09:08 AM - Population Matters

Alarm bells are ringing for Arctic wildlife with the discovery that mercury levels in the feathers of ivory gulls have increased almost 50-fold. 

University of Saskatchewan biologists studied the feathers of museum specimens spanning a 130-year period. Lead researcher Dr Alex Bond told BBC News, “We’re concerned because the mercury’s going up but their diet hasn’t changed over the 130 years we’ve studied. It’s gone up 45 times, which is twice the average for an animal species in the Arctic.”

Neonicotinoids Responsible for Pollinator Declines Worldwide
April 9, 2015 02:46 PM - Jonathan Latham, The Ecologist

Monarch caterpillars are vulnerable to neonicotinoid toxicity at concentrations as low as 1 part per billion, writes Jonathan Latham, and that makes them vulnerable to residues from commercial crops - and even more so from horticultural use in plant nurseries!

Fracking appears to be linked to rise in radon levels in Pennsylvania homes
April 9, 2015 06:35 AM - JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY BLOOMBERG SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH, via EurekAlert.

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health researchers say that levels of radon in Pennsylvania homes - where 42 percent of readings surpass what the U.S. government considers safe - have been on the rise since 2004, around the time that the fracking industry began drilling natural gas wells in the state.

The researchers, publishing online April 9 in Environmental Health Perspectives, also found that buildings located in the counties where natural gas is most actively being extracted out of Marcellus shale have in the past decade seen significantly higher readings of radon compared with buildings in low-activity areas. There were no such county differences prior to 2004. Radon, an odorless radioactive gas, is considered the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the world after smoking. 

What is the source of mysterious methane emissions at Four Corners?
April 8, 2015 08:20 AM - University of Colorado Boulder

A team of scientific investigators is now in the Four Corners region of the U.S. Southwest, aiming to uncover reasons for a mysterious methane hotspot detected from space by a European satellite. The joint project is working to solve the mystery from the air, on the ground, and with mobile laboratories. 

“If we can verify the methane emissions found by the satellite, and identify the various sources, then decision makers will have critical information for any actions they are considering,” says Gabrielle Pétron, a scientist from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder, working in NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) and one of the mission’s investigators. Part of President Obama’s recent Climate Action Plan calls for reductions in U.S. methane emissions. NOAA is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Early warning system to detect algal blooms being launched by EPA
April 7, 2015 03:24 PM - US EPA Newsroom

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that it is developing an early warning indicator system using historical and current satellite data to detect algal blooms. EPA researchers will develop a mobile app to inform water quality managers of changes in water quality using satellite data on cyanobacteria algal blooms from three partnering agencies-- NASA, NOAA, and the U.S. Geological Survey. 

The multi-agency project will create a reliable, standard method for identifying cyanobacteria blooms in U.S. freshwater lakes and reservoirs using ocean color satellite data. Several satellite data sets will be evaluated against environmental data collected from these water bodies, which allows for more frequent observations over broader areas than can be achieved by taking traditional water samples.
 

EPA Moves to Restrict Bee-killing Pesticides
April 7, 2015 01:45 PM - Alicia Graef, Care2

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finally taken some action to restrict the use of pesticides that are believed to be causing serious declines in pollinators, but environmentalists are arguing the agency still needs to do more.

Lifecycle of Today's Cell Phone
April 7, 2015 08:57 AM - ClickGreen Staff, ClickGreen

It is estimated that in 2014 over two billion mobile phones were sold worldwide. Of these, over one billion were estimated to be smartphones. It is also estimated that a massive 87% of the world’s population now use mobile phones. These are staggering figures, but how many of us have ever stopped to think of where our precious mobile phones came from and what happens to them once we discard them for a newer model?

Each year millions of mobile phones are produced in the world and an equal number are disposed of. In the vast majority of cases these discarded phones work perfectly well. However, like all technological products these days, phones have a built-in technological obsolescence (we demand the latest model or the latest upgrade) as well as a built in aesthetic obsolescence (we demand the latest style or design).

In spite of their extremely small size and simplicity of look, mobile phones are immensely complex pieces of technology with many, many components. If we stop to think about it for a moment all of these products need sourcing: the raw materials needed to produce them need extracting from the ground, these need to manufactured into working parts which are then assembled into the final phone.

President Obama approves Arctic drilling
April 5, 2015 08:01 AM - Kevin Mathews, Care2

President Barack Obama has seemingly spent a lot of his second term trying to cement his reputation as one of the United States’s most environmentally conscious leaders. However, his most recent decision to approve controversial oil and gas drilling in the Arctic is certain to lose him favor within the environmental community. How can he preach about the consequences of global warming and carbon emissions and simultaneously give corporations permission to drill in a vulnerable region for decades to come?

As Scientific American reminds us, although we tend to romanticize some of Obama’s environmental policy, his decision to give Arctic drilling a thumbs-up is not incongruent with his overall scheme to have America reliant on multiple sources of energy, including both renewable options, as well as gas and oil.

Carbon storage in world's biomass is increasing
April 2, 2015 02:08 PM - Steve Williams, Care2

The threat of deforestation is understood as one of the major problems in the world today, but a new study suggests that the total amount of vegetation in the world appears to have increased in the past decade, suggesting a rare ray of light in conservation and climate change news.

The study, which was published late last month in the journal Nature Climate Change, saw researchers from Australia assess the amount of carbon stored in living plant mass, also known as biomass, stored above ground. This is one established way that we can measure not just how much carbon is stored but also the density of biomass in any given area and so provides us with an interesting way of assessing regional and global forest densities.

Agricultural contaminant impacts fish reproductive behavior
April 1, 2015 09:40 AM - Monash University

A common growth-promoting hormone used worldwide in the cattle industry has been found to affect the sexual behaviours of fish at a very low concentration in waterways – with potentially serious ecological and evolutionary consequences. Researchers from Monash University, in collaboration with researchers from Åbo Akademi University in Finland,  have found that the steroid 17β-trenbolone – used on livestock to increase muscle growth – alters male reproductive behaviour in guppy fish (Poecilia reticulata).

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