Sustainability

Impact of sea smell overestimated by present climate models
November 4, 2016 04:42 PM - Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research

The formation of sulfur dioxide from the oxidation of dimethyl sulfide (DMS) and, thus, of cooling clouds over the oceans seems to be overvalued in current climate models. This concludes scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research (TROPOS) from a model study on the effects of DMS on atmospheric chemistry. Until now, models considering only the oxidation in the gas phase describe merely the oxidation pathway and neglect important pathways in the aqueous phase of the atmosphere, writes the team in the journal PNAS. This publication contains until now the most comprehensive mechanistic study on the multiphase oxidation of this compound. The results have shown that in order to improve the understanding of the atmospheric chemistry and its climate effects over the oceans, a more detailed knowledge about the multiphase oxidation of DMS and its oxidation products is necessary. Furthermore, it is also needed to increase the accuracy of climate prediction.

Biodiversity needs citizen scientists
November 3, 2016 07:49 PM - Linda See, IIASA

Could birdwatching or monitoring tree blossoms in your community make a difference in global environmental research? A new study says yes: citizen scientists have a vital role to play.

Citizen scientists are already providing large amounts of data for monitoring biodiversity, but they could do much more, according to a new study published in the journal Biological Conservation, which suggests that citizen science has the potential to contribute much more to regional and global assessments of biodiversity. Citizen scientists are regular people who provide data or input to science, for example by monitoring species in their community or examining satellite imagery for evidence of deforestation or land use change. 

“Citizen scientists are already contributing enormously to environmental science,” says IIASA researcher Linda See. “For example, a huge amount of species occurrence data is provided by members of the interested public. The question we addressed was, where are citizens contributing and where are they not, and how can we draw on this phenomenon to help fill the gaps in science?”

Solar-panel picnic tables and bus stops? Students starting a 'solar-cell revolution'
November 3, 2016 05:01 PM - Todd Hollingshead via Brigham Young University

A group of BYU engineering students wants to start a solar-cell revolution.

Led by mechanical engineering professor John Salmon, the students hope to trigger energy change by installing solar cells in public locations you wouldn’t think of, such as:

  • Bus stops
  • Park picnic tables and benches
  • Cafeterias and restaurants
  • Car window shades
  • Stadium Seats
  • Blinds

Study highlights a new threat to bees worldwide
November 2, 2016 11:39 AM - Earlham Institute

Particularly under threat are honey bees, which are as vital to our food systems as the crops they pollinate, and which are prone to a range of emergent diseases including Moku and Deformed wing virus (DWV).

The Moku virus was identified through a collaboration of institutes with complementary expertise.

Purnima Pachori of the Platforms & Pipelines Group at the Earlham Institute (EI) carried out the bioinformatics work of separating out host and viral genetic material, which allowed for the analysis and identification of the novel Moku virus led by Gideon Mordecai (based at the time at the Marine Biological Association (MBA), Plymouth).

Controlling plant regeneration systems may drive the future of agriculture
November 2, 2016 10:50 AM - Vlaams Instituut voor Biotechnologie

The ability to self-repair damaged tissue is one of the key features that define living organisms. Plants in particular are regeneration champions, a quality that has been used for centuries in horticultural techniques such as grafting. Belgian scientists from VIB and Ghent University have now discovered a key protein complex that controls plant tissue repair. Understanding this mechanism is of great agricultural importance: crops and edible plants might be cultivated more efficiently and made more resistant to parasitic plants. The results are published in the leading journal Nature Plants. 

 

Ghost Forests: How Rising Seas Are Killing Southern U.S. Woodlands
November 1, 2016 09:42 AM - Roger Drouin via Yale Environment 360

On a recent afternoon, University of Florida watershed ecologist David Kaplan and Ph.D. candidate Katie Glodzik hiked through the Withlacoochee Gulf Preserve, on the Big Bend coast of northwestern Florida. Not long ago, red cedar, live oaks, and cabbage palms grew in profusion on the raised “hammock island” forests set amid the preserve’s wetlands. But as the researchers walked through thigh-high marsh grass, the barren trunks of dead cedars were silhouetted against passing clouds. Dead snag cabbage palms stood like toothpicks snapped at the top. Other trees and shrubs, such as wax myrtle, had long been replaced by more salt-tolerant black needlerush marsh grass. 

West Coast record low snowpack in 2015 influenced by high temperatures
October 31, 2016 01:18 PM - Oregon State University

The western-most region of the continental United States set records for low snowpack levels in 2015 and scientists, through a new study, point the finger at high temperatures, not the low precipitation characteristic of past “snow drought” years.

The study suggests greenhouse gases were a major contributor to the high temperatures, which doesn’t bode well for the future, according to authors of a new study published today in the journal Geophysical Research Letters

Species speed up adaptation to beat effects of warmer oceans
October 31, 2016 09:19 AM - University of East Anglia

Such changes mean species threatened by climate change may find ways to adapt far quicker than through changes in DNA, which come with evolution.

Researchers studied the Winter Skate (Leucoraja ocellata), in waters that are around 7000 years old and significantly warmer than those where the rest of the species range is found. They observed many physical and functional adaptations which allow the species to cope with the significantly different set of environmental conditions observed in this shallow, warm habitat.

New biochar model scrubs CO2 from the atmosphere
October 28, 2016 02:08 PM - Melissa Osgood via Cornell University

New Cornell University research suggests an economically viable model to scrub carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to thwart global warming.

The researchers propose using a “bioenergy-biochar system” that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in an environmental pinch, until other removal methods become economically feasible and in regions where other methods are impractical. Their work appeared in the Oct. 21 edition of Nature Communications.

On College Campuses, Signs of Progress on Renewable Energy
October 27, 2016 09:32 AM - Ben Goldfarb via Yale Environment 360

U.S. colleges and universities are increasingly deploying solar arrays and other forms of renewable energy. Yet most institutions have a long way to go if they are to meet their goal of being carbon neutral in the coming decades.

The soul of Arizona State University is Memorial Union, a hulking brick-and-glass community center that opens onto a sprawling pedestrian mall. Although the building sits at the heart of campus, its outdoor plaza was once virtually uninhabitable for four months each year, when summer temperatures in scorching Tempe often hover over 100 degrees. So in 2014, the university – Arizona’s leading energy consumer – completed construction on a PowerParasol, a 25-foot-tall shade canopy composed of 1,380 photovoltaic solar panels capable of producing 397 kilowatts of electricity.

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