Sustainability

Fertilizer Threatens Grasslands Globally
July 15, 2014 05:10 PM - Paul Sutherland, MONGABAY.COM

The world's grasslands are being destabilized by fertilization, according to a paper recently published in the journal Nature. In a study of 41 grassland communities on five continents, researchers found that the presence of fertilizer weakened grassland species diversity. The researchers surveyed grasslands in countries around the world, such as China, the U.S., Switzerland, Tanzania and Germany, and discovered that grassland communities that had not been managed by humans contained more species. They also had greater species asynchrony, which means that different species thrive at different times so that the grassland produces more consistently over time, resulting in more stable biomass production.

Sand Power: A Better Battery
July 15, 2014 11:32 AM - Winfield Winter, ENN

Technology of the future is hard to see coming — sometimes because you can't see it. Advances in nanotechnology are the driving force behind longer lasting Lithium-ion batteries. Currently, Lithium-ion batteries are used to power every-day technologies like cell phones, computers, cameras and cars. Their energy source is a carbon-based graphite anode, which is nothing short of polarizing. Battery life has always been a major concern with Li-ion batteries. The solution is the most abundant compound in the earth's crust: SiO2, - or — more commonly — sand. The next generation of battery technology is using sand as a source for the production of nano-silicon, an anode material for Li-ion batteries.

Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks officially endangered, and that is not good news!
July 14, 2014 04:49 PM - s.e. smith, Care2, Care2

It’s not really the kind of "first" you want to be: The peculiar-looking but oddly beautiful scalloped hammerhead shark has just become the first shark species to be added to the US Endangered Species List. Sphyrna lewini, as they're known, are coastal to semi-oceanic sharks with a number of extremely vulnerable subpopulations. The move to classify them as endangered is in response to lobbying from several animal welfare groups who hoped to secure additional protections for these amazing creatures before it's too late.

Light rail systems DO improve air pollution in cities
July 13, 2014 08:59 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Have you ever wondered if the cute light rail systems some large cities are installing actually get people out of their cars and have a positive environmental impact? For the first time, researchers have shown that installing light rail on an existing traffic corridor not only gets people out of their cars, but reduces congestion and air pollution. In the study, planners at the University of Utah measured impacts of a new light rail line in Salt Lake City (University Line) on an existing major thoroughfare (400/500 South). Their analysis showed that traffic near the University has fallen to levels not seen since the 1980s, even as the number of students, faculty and staff at the U has increased, and the commercial district along the corridor has expanded.

Arctic sea ice trends confirmed by Whalers' logs
July 11, 2014 10:14 AM - Tim Radford, The Ecologist

Log books from British whaling ships more than 200 years ago have given new insights into the history of the Arctic sea ice, reports Tim Radford. A new study reveals that the scale of ice melt in the Arctic over the last few decades is new and unprecedented. The retreat of the ice in the last 30 years is part of a more recent and new pattern of climate change. British whaling ships from Tyneside in the north-east of England made 458 trips to the edge of the Arctic ice between 1750 and 1850.

Cell Phone Conservation
July 9, 2014 10:35 AM - Alex Kirby, The Ecologist

Some of the world's most endangered forests may soon benefit from better protection, thanks to discarded treasures from the consumer society - mobile phones. A Californian technology startup, Rainforest Connection (RFCx), has developed a tool - made from recycled smartphones - that it says will pilot new ways to monitor and stop illegal logging and animal poaching throughout Africa's equatorial forests. RFCx has formed a partnership with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), an international scientific charity that works for the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats. The two organisations are planning to install the anti-deforestation, anti-poaching technology in Cameroon this year.

Oceanic litter is widespread
July 8, 2014 08:18 AM - Harriet Jarlett, Planet Earth Online

Litter is now found in even the most remote areas of the oceans, say scientists trying to understand how much rubbish is lying at the bottom of Europe's seas. The new study, published in Plos One, shows for the first time that there seems to be no area of the ocean left untouched by human litter. Using 588 video clips collected by unmanned submarine vehicles for geological mapping and marine biology studies, the team found that plastics waste like shopping bags is the most prevalent.

Conserving water and climate change
July 6, 2014 06:47 AM - Springer Science+Business Media, via ScienceDaily

There's more to trying to slow down climate change than just cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Technology, policies or plans that aim to do so should also take environmental factors such as water usage into account. A more integrated approach might make some options considerably more attractive than others, especially when implemented in arid countries such as Australia, advise Philip Wallis of Monash University in Australia and colleagues, in an article in Springer's journal Climatic Change. The researchers considered the example of Australia to show how water usage influences the appeal of certain preferred mitigation options. They analyzed 74 options that were ranked in the influential "Low Carbon Growth Plan for Australia" in 2010, and together could help Australia cut its 2000 emission levels by 25 percent by 2020.

Sea Grass in coastal New England waters under attack by Nitrogen
July 5, 2014 08:29 AM - ecoRI News staff

A federally funded scientific study on regional seagrass health recently released by The Nature Conservancy points to nitrogen pollution — from sewage and fertilizers — and warmer water temperatures as the killer threats to seagrasses throughout the coastal waters of southern New England. Seagrass is vital habitat for fish and shellfish and is important for water quality.

Ocean health depends more on whales than we thought
July 4, 2014 06:51 AM - University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Baleen and sperm whales, known collectively as the great whales, include the largest animals in the history of life on Earth. Though large in size, whales have long been considered too rare to make much of a difference in the ocean, and the focus of much marine ecological research has been on smaller organisms, such as algae and planktonic animals. While these small organisms are essential to life in the sea, they are not the whole story. As great whales recover from centuries of overhunting, scientists are beginning to appreciate their roles as ecosystem engineers of the ocean.

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