Sustainability

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 Other trees and shrubs, such as wax myrtle, had long been replaced by more salt-tolerant black needlerush marsh grass.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.

The buzz about edible bugs: Can they replace beef?
October 27, 2016 07:16 AM - American Chemical Society

The idea of eating bugs has created a buzz lately in both foodie and international development circles as a more sustainable alternative to consuming meat and fish. Now a report appearing in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry examines how the nutrients — particularly iron — provided by grasshoppers, crickets and other insects really measures up to beef. It finds that insects could indeed fill that dietary need.

Molecular signature shows plants are adapting to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide
October 26, 2016 09:53 AM - University of Southampton

Plants are adapting to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide according to a new study from the University of Southampton

The research, published in the journal Global Change Biology, provides insight into the long-term impacts of rising CO2 and the implications for global food security and nature conservation.

Lead author Professor Gail Taylor, from Biological Sciences at the University of Southampton, said: “Atmospheric CO2 is rising – emissions grew faster in the 2000s than the 1990s and the concentration of CO2 reached 400 ppm for the first time in recorded history in 2013.

How Pollution Is Devastating an Indonesian Lake
October 26, 2016 08:59 AM - Binsar Bakkara via Yale Environment 360

Uncontrolled fish farming, population growth, and logging have all taken a toll on Indonesia’s Lake Toba. Photographer Binsar Bakkara returns to his home region to chronicle the environmental destruction. 

More than 1,500 tons of fish suddenly turned up dead in Indonesia’s largest lake earlier this year, a mass asphyxiation from a lack of oxygen in the water caused by high pollution levels. The event threatened the livelihoods of hundreds of fish farmers and the drinking water for thousands of people, and it shed light on the rapidly declining conditions in Lake Toba, the largest volcanic lake in the world. 

UCI and NASA document accelerated glacier melting in West Antarctica
October 25, 2016 02:12 PM - University of California - Irvine

Two new studies by researchers at the University of California, Irvine and NASA have found the fastest ongoing rates of glacier retreat ever observed in West Antarctica and offer an unprecedented look at ice melting on the floating undersides of glaciers. The results highlight how the interaction between ocean conditions and the bedrock beneath a glacier can influence the frozen mass, helping scientists better predict future Antarctica ice loss and global sea level rise.

The studies examined three neighboring glaciers that are melting and retreating at different rates. The Smith, Pope and Kohler glaciers flow into the Dotson and Crosson ice shelves in the Amundsen Sea embayment in West Antarctica, the part of the continent with the largest decline in ice.

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