Sustainability

New study casts light on climate change and oceanic oxygen levels
August 10, 2014 09:55 AM - University of South Carolina via ScienceDaily

A commonly held belief that global warming will diminish oxygen concentrations in the ocean looks like it may not be entirely true. According to new research published in Science magazine, just the opposite is likely the case in the northern Pacific Ocean, with its anoxic zone expected to shrink in coming decades because of climate change. An international team of scientists came to that surprising conclusion after completing a detailed assessment of changes since 1850 in the eastern tropical northern Pacific's oxygen minimum zone (OMZ). An ocean layer beginning typically a few hundred to a thousand meters below the surface, an OMZ is by definition the zone with the lowest oxygen saturation in the water column. OMZs are a consequence of microbial respiration and can be hostile environments for marine life.

Paint dust pollutes the oceans
August 8, 2014 09:51 AM - Erik Stokstad, Science

Even when the sea looks clean, its surface can be flecked with tiny fragments of paint and fiberglass. That's the finding from a study that looked for plastic pollution in the uppermost millimeter of ocean. The microscopic fragments come from the decks and hulls of boats, and they could pose a threat to tiny creatures called zooplankton, which are an important part of the marine food web. The discovery is "continuing to open our eyes to how many small synthetic particles are in the environment," says Kara Law, an oceanographer who studies plastic pollution at the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and wasn’t involved in the study.

Are humans impacting the deep Earth?
August 7, 2014 09:31 AM - Alex Peel, Planet Earth Online

Human forays deep underground, such as boreholes, mines and nuclear bomb tests, are leaving a mark on the planet's geology that will last for hundreds of millions of years, say scientists. In a new report, published in the journal Anthropocene, they say we are altering Earth's rocks in a way that's unique in the planet's 4.6 billion-year history.

Mercury in the oceans increasing
August 6, 2014 05:29 PM - Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Although the days of odd behavior among hat makers are a thing of the past, the dangers mercury poses to humans and the environment persist today. Mercury is a naturally occurring element as well as a by-product of such distinctly human enterprises as burning coal and making cement. Estimates of "bioavailable" mercury—forms of the element that can be taken up by animals and humans—play an important role in everything from drafting an international treaty designed to protect humans and the environment from mercury emissions, to establishing public policies behind warnings about seafood consumption.

New Jersey bans Ivory sales
August 6, 2014 07:34 AM - Wildlife Conservation Society

The state of New Jersey has enacted a statewide ban on sales of Ivory. The following statement was issued by John Calvelli, Wildlife Conservation Society Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Director of the 96 Elephants Campaign: "Today is an historic day for elephants and conservation. The Wildlife Conservation Society and the 96 Elephants campaign praises N.J. Governor Chris Christie for signing into law a statewide ban on ivory sales."

Spray-on Solar Panels?
August 4, 2014 03:33 PM - ClickGreen Staff, ClickGreen

A team of scientists at the University of Sheffield are the first to fabricate perovskite solar cells using a spray-painting process — a discovery that could help cut the cost of solar electricity. Experts from the University's Department of Physics and Astronomy and Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering have previously used the spray-painting method to produce solar cells using organic semiconductors - but using perovskite is a major step forward.

Study predicts climate change and pollution will combine to impact food production
August 2, 2014 09:50 AM - EcoRI News staff

Many studies have shown the potential for global climate change to cut food supplies. But these studies have, for the most part, ignored the interactions between increasing temperature and air pollution -- specifically ozone pollution, which is known to damage crops. A new study involving researchers at MIT shows that these interactions can be quite significant, suggesting that policymakers need to take both warming and air pollution into account in addressing food security.

Surf's Up for Clean Technology
August 1, 2014 11:45 AM - Leon Kaye, Triple Pundit

Unless your skin is about a foot thick, swimming and surfing in the Pacific Ocean for hours at a time requires a wetsuit to stay warm and comfortable. That comfort, however, comes at a price as the vast majority of wetsuits are made from petroleum-based neoprene. The material is durable and does the job, but its manufacture is a carbon-intensive and toxic process. Now Patagonia is aggressively promoting its plant-based wetsuit technology with the goal to have it become a game-changer in the surf industry.

Underestimating the Impacts of Old-Growth Logging
August 1, 2014 09:28 AM - Rhett A. Butler, MONGABAY.COM

Ecologists may be underestimating the impact of logging in old-growth tropical forests by failing to account for subtleties in how different animal groups respond to the intensity of timber extraction, argues a paper published today in the journal Current Biology. The study, led by Zuzana Burivalova of ETH Zurich, is based on a meta-analysis of 48 studies that evaluated the impact of selective logging on mammals, birds, amphibians, and invertebrates in tropical forests. Burivalova, together with co-authors Cagan Sekercioglu and Lian Pin Koh, found that biodiversity is inversely proportional to logging intensity.

Drilling in the Dark
August 1, 2014 08:54 AM - University of Wisconsin-Madison

As production of shale gas soars, the industry's effects on nature and wildlife remain largely unexplored, according to a study by a group of conservation biologists published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment on August 1. The report emphasizes the need to determine the environmental impact of chemical contamination from spills, well-casing failure, and other accidents. "We know very little about how shale gas production is affecting plants and wildlife," says author Sara Souther, a conservation fellow in the Department of Botany at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "And in particular, there is a lack of accessible and reliable information on spills, wastewater disposal and the chemistry of fracturing fluids. Of the 24 U.S. states with active shale gas reservoirs, only five maintain public records of spills and accidents." The 800 percent increase in U.S. shale gas production between 2007 and 2012 is largely due to the use of hydraulic fracturing. Also called fracking, the process uses high-pressure injection of water, laden with sand and a variety of chemicals, to open cracks in the gas reservoir so natural gas can flow to the well.

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