Sustainability

The girth of a tree
January 15, 2014 04:54 PM - Robin Blackstone, ENN

Thank goodness human growth rates don't match that of trees. For if it did then we would tip the scales of well over a ton by the time we reach retirement! Consider this new research from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) recently published in the journal Nature. According to the new study, trees put on weight faster and faster as they grow older. Because most trees' growth accelerates as they age this suggests that large, old trees may play an unexpectedly dynamic role in removing carbon from the atmosphere.

From Waste to Food to Fuel: Rice Production and Green Charcoal in Senegal
January 15, 2014 12:54 PM - Andrew Alesbury, Worldwatch Institute

Inadequate management of human waste is a dire problem in much of the developing world. Swelling urban populations can make matters worse by exposing increasingly dense populations to illnesses carried by human waste.

The problem with older thermostats - Mercury
January 15, 2014 07:51 AM - NRDC

NRDC Study Shows More Than 1.8 Million Thermostats Containing 8 Tons of Mercury Need Safe Recycling In Illinois. The state should raise collection goals for mercury-laden thermostats to avoid contaminating the environment. There are more than 1.8 million thermostats containing eight tons of mercury in Illinois homes and buildings, according to a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Clean Water Fund, which are calling for stronger state rules this year to speed up safe recycling of these thermostats.

Economic benefits of reducing nitrogen pollution
January 14, 2014 08:14 AM - Tom Marshall, Planet Earth Online

Falling levels of nitrogen in the atmosphere across Europe may be much more economically beneficial than previously believed, according to a recent study. Indeed, scientists think the UK alone benefits by around £65 million a year. Levels of atmospheric nitrogen have fallen by around a quarter in Europe since 1990, mostly because of tighter rules on emissions from engines and industry. Scientists are still working to understand the consequences. This is difficult, because excess nitrogen affects the benefits that nature gives us (known as 'ecosystem services') in many different ways — some positive and some harmful. For example, nitrogen is an important plant nutrient, which means services that depend on plant growth, such as crops and timber from woodlands, will benefit from more of it in the atmosphere. Conversely, falling nitrogen levels will harm these services - so cutting pollution costs the economy money.

Popularity of plug-in vehicles on the rise
January 13, 2014 09:30 AM - Eric Justian, Triple Pundit

Good news for those living at the intersection of manufacturing and environmentalism. Here in the U.S., sales of plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles almost doubled between 2012 and 2013 with an 84 percent jump to 96,600 of the vehicles sold. That’s 49,000 plug-in hybrids (like the Volt) and 47,600 pure battery powered plug-in vehicles sold.

How plants respond to climate change
January 12, 2014 08:24 AM - ScienceDaily

Swiss plants, butterflies and birds have moved 8 to 42 meters uphill between 2003 and 2010, as scientists from the University of Basel write in the online journal PLoS One. Climate warming is changing the distribution of plants and animals worldwide. Recently it was shown that in the past two decades, European bird and butterfly communities have moved on average 37 and 114 kilometers to the north, respectively.

Tree Island restoration
January 10, 2014 09:06 AM - Liz Kimbrough, MONGABAY.COM

Worldwide, large swaths of land lay barren in the wake of agricultural expansion, and as global forest cover continues to decline, carbon and water cycles, biodiversity, and human health are impacted. But efforts to restore abandoned pastures and agricultural plots back into functioning forest ecosystems are often hindered by high costs and time requirements. Fortunately, scientists have developed a new method for a more cost effective solution to forest restoration, the establishment of "tree islands."

Spitting Sulfates!
January 9, 2014 10:41 AM - Nicole Jones, Yale 360

In 1991, Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines erupted in one of the largest volcanic blasts of the 20th century. It spat up to 20 million tons of sulfur into the upper atmosphere, shielding the earth from the sun's rays and causing global temperatures to drop by nearly half a degree Celsius in a single year. That's more than half of the amount the planet has warmed due to climate change in 130 years.

Increase in Tourism Impacts Seashell Loss
January 9, 2014 09:32 AM - Allison Winter, ENN

Walking down the beach you see the perfect shell. You pick it up, put it in your pocket and decide to keep it to remind you of your trip to paradise. While different agencies, states, and countries have specific regulations on taking shells, vials of sand, or any other object from its natural environment, you are generally not allowed to bring these souvenirs home with you, especially to another country. Why? Mainly because if everyone did it, there would be none left. But despite airports seizing tons of shells each week, seashells are still disappearing at various tourist locations and according to a new study, as global tourism increases, human-induced seashell loss may harm natural habitats worldwide.

Giant wave of understanding in South China Sea
January 8, 2014 03:43 PM - David L. Chandler, MIT

Their effect on the surface of the ocean is negligible, producing a rise of just inches that is virtually imperceptible on a turbulent sea. But internal waves, which are hidden entirely within the ocean, can tower hundreds of feet, with profound effects on the Earth's climate and on ocean ecosystems. Now new research, both in the ocean and in the largest-ever laboratory experiments to investigate internal waves, has solved a longstanding mystery about exactly how the largest known internal waves, in the South China Sea, are produced. The new findings come from a team effort involving MIT and several other institutions, and coordinated by the Office of Naval Research (ONR).

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