Sustainability

Tropical sea urchins caught between a rock and a hot place
August 15, 2016 09:48 AM - Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute via EurekAlert!

The balmy waters of the Caribbean could turn into a deadly heat trap for countless tiny creatures. Authors of a new study conducted at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama discovered that microscopic sea urchin eggs and larvae may suffer stunting or death when the water temperature spikes just a couple of degrees above normal, adding to the impact of climate change in already warm tropical oceans.

Sea urchins, pincushion-shaped relatives of the starfish, graze the sea floor from shallow coastal areas to deep ocean vents from pole to pole. Their young look nothing like them. Adults release millions of eggs and sperm into the water, which develop into pinprick-sized free-swimming larvae. Only a minute fraction will survive and metamorphose into adults. Scientists think the developmental stages from egg to larvae are extra sensitive to temperature changes, but very few studies compare the vulnerability of the offspring to that of the adults.

Threat of wildfires expected to increase as global temperatures rise
August 12, 2016 04:01 PM - United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) has warned that wildfires could become more frequent and more destructive as global temperatures rise and drought conditions plague many regions of the world.

“Last year was the hottest year on record and was above average for the number of reported major droughts and heatwaves. This year we are seeing a similar pattern with new temperature records being set on a monthly basis,” UNISDR chief Robert Glasser said yesterday in a news release issued by the Office.

The Colony-Killing Mistake Backyard Beekeepers Are Making
August 12, 2016 03:31 PM - Dan Gunderson via National Public Radio

Jonathan Garaas has learned a few things in three seasons of backyard beekeeping: Bees are fascinating. They're complicated. And keeping them alive is not easy.

Every two weeks, the Fargo attorney opens the hives to check the bees and search for varroa mites, pests that suck the bees' blood and can transmit disease. If he sees too many of the pinhead-sized parasites, he applies a chemical treatment.

July Electric Car Sales in China Rose by 188 Percent Over Last Year
August 12, 2016 01:59 PM - Yale Environment 360

Chinese consumers bought 34,000 new electric cars in July, a 188 percent jump over the same period last year, according to CleanTechnica, an energy and technology news organization. The monthly total puts China on track to sell 400,000 electrical vehicles in 2016, accounting for 1.5 percent of the total auto sales market — larger than annual EV sales in Europe, or the U.S., Canada, and Mexico combined. 

Let's roll: Material for polymer solar cells may lend itself to large-area processing
August 12, 2016 01:48 PM - National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) via EurekAlert!

For all the promise they have shown in the lab, polymer solar cells still need to "get on a roll" like the ones employed in printing newspapers so that large sheets of acceptably efficient photovoltaic devices can be manufactured continuously and economically. Polymer solar cells offer advantages over their traditional silicon-based counterparts in numerous ways, including lower cost, potentially smaller carbon footprint and a greater variety of uses.

Global warming's next surprise: Saltier beaches
August 12, 2016 10:41 AM - New Jersey Institute of Technology via ScienceDaily

Batches of sand from a beach on the Delaware Bay are yielding insights into the powerful impact of temperature rise and evaporation along the shore that are in turn challenging long-held assumptions about what causes beach salinity to fluctuate in coastal zones that support a rich network of sea creatures and plants.

The findings have implications for the migration and survival of invertebrates such as mussels and crabs as global warming drives temperatures higher.

A first major study of the effects of evaporation on the flow of subsurface water and salinity, or salt content, in the beach intertidal zone -- the section of the beach between the low and high tide marks -- is being published today in Scientific Reports, an online affiliate of Nature.

Where Lead Lurks And Why Even Small Amounts Matter
August 12, 2016 10:29 AM - Jessica Pupovac via National Public Radio

Lead problems with the water in Flint, Mich., have prompted people across the country to ask whether they or their families have been exposed to the toxic metal in their drinking water, too.

When it comes to assessing the risk, it's important to look in the right places.

Even when municipal water systems' lead levels are considered perfectly fine by federal standards, the metal can leach into tap water from lead plumbing.

Feds Say California's Endangered Channel Islands Foxes Are Recovered
August 11, 2016 03:48 PM - Center for Biological Diversity

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced the successful recovery of three out of four unique subspecies ofisland fox on San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz islands, removing them from the endangered species list. The agency also upgraded the protection status of the Santa Catalina Island fox — the fourth subspecies — from “endangered” to “threatened” to reflect its status improvement.

"Because they evolved separately on the islands for 16,000 years, these adorable little foxes are some of the only carnivores endemic to California,” said Jeff Miller with the Center. “They were on the brink of extinction just 12 years ago when they were protected under the Endangered Species Act. Now, thanks to successful reintroduction and recovery efforts, numbers of foxes are way up and threats have been reduced."

Discovery of sunlight-driven organic chemistry on water surfaces
August 11, 2016 03:41 PM - American Association for The Advancement of Science via EurekAlert!

Fatty acids found on the surface of water droplets react with sunlight to form organic molecules, a new study reports, essentially uncovering a previously unknown form of photolysis.

The results could affect models that account for aerosol particles, including models related to climate. Conventional wisdom holds that carboxylic acids and saturated fatty acids, which are abundant throughout the environment, only react with hydroxyl radicals and are not affected by sunlight.

Virus attracts bumblebees to infected plants by changing scent
August 11, 2016 03:18 PM - University of Cambridge via EurekAlert!

Plant scientists at the University of Cambridge have found that the cucumber mosaic virus (CMV) alters gene expression in the tomato plants it infects, causing changes to air-borne chemicals - the scent - emitted by the plants. Bees can smell these subtle changes, and glasshouse experiments have shown that bumblebees prefer infected plants over healthy ones.

Scientists say that by indirectly manipulating bee behaviour to improve pollination of infected plants by changing their scent, the virus is effectively paying its host back. This may also benefit the virus: helping to spread the pollen of plants susceptible to infection and, in doing so, inhibiting the chance of virus-resistant plant strains emerging.

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