Sustainability

Marine ecosystems shifting in response to warming climate
August 6, 2013 06:19 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

The climate is getting warmer, and terrestrial ecosystems are responding. Species move up mountain slopes to remain in the temperature regimes they prefer (if there is a mountain slope to move up!). What is happening in the oceans? The warming climate is affecting ocean temperatures too, thought the oceans have vast thermal mass, so changes might be expected to be occurring more slowly than on land. Oceans cover 71 percent of the Earth's surface, yet our knowledge of the impact of climate change on marine habitats is a mere drop in the proverbial ocean compared to terrestrial systems. An international team of scientists set out to change that by conducting a global meta-analysis of climate change impacts on marine systems. Counter to previous thinking, marine species are shifting their geographic distribution toward the poles and doing so much faster than their land-based counterparts. The findings were published in Nature Climate Change.

Increased grazing helps improve soil
August 5, 2013 06:18 AM - Luke Runion, NPR

The world's soil is in trouble. Ecologists say without dramatic changes to how we manage land, vast swathes of grassland are at risk of turning into hard-packed desert. To make sure that doesn't happen, researchers are testing out innovative ways to keep moisture in the soil. In eastern Colorado, one way could be in the plodding hooves of cattle. Conventional wisdom tells you that if ranchland ground has less grass, the problem is too many cows. But that's not always the case. It depends on how you manage them, if you make sure they keep moving.

The American Chestnut is being restored
August 4, 2013 07:48 AM - KEVIN PROFT/ecoMass News staff

Gary Jacob planted his Chestnut orchard in 2004 in association with the local chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF). The foundation has worked at a national level since 1983 to develop an American chestnut resistant to chestnut blight, an Asian fungus introduced in the early 20th century that nearly eliminated the chestnut from American forests. Before the blight, the American chestnut made up one out of every four trees within its range. Its plentiful nuts provided food for humans and animals alike, while its giant stature, fast growth, and strong, rot resistant wood made it ideal for building barns or holding telephone wires. According to Jacob, some poles from before the blight still exist today.

Fuel from water advances
August 3, 2013 07:23 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Fuel from water? A form of Alchemy? Researchers have been trying for years to find a limitless, environmentally benign source of fuel. Now a University of Colorado Boulder team has developed a radically new technique that uses the power of sunlight to efficiently split water into its components of hydrogen and oxygen, paving the way for the broad use of hydrogen as a clean, green fuel. The CU-Boulder team has devised a solar-thermal system in which sunlight could be concentrated by a vast array of mirrors onto a single point atop a central tower up to several hundred feet tall. The tower would gather heat generated by the mirror system to roughly 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,350 Celsius), then deliver it into a reactor containing chemical compounds known as metal oxides, said CU-Boulder Professor Alan Weimer, research group leader.

Two more species declared extinct in Florida
August 2, 2013 06:13 AM - Alexander Holmgren, MONGABAY.COM

Conservationist's faced a crushing blow last month as two butterfly species native to Florida were declared extinct. "Occasionally, these types of butterflies disappear for long periods of time but are rediscovered in another location," said Larry Williams, U.S. Fish and Wildlife state supervisor for ecological services. We think it's apparent now these two species are extinct." Neither species has been seen in any environment for at least nine years, the latter of the two not being seen since 2000.

Growth of Global Solar and Wind Energy Continues to Outpace Other Technologies
August 1, 2013 04:47 PM - Matt Lucky and Michelle Ray, Worldwatch Institute

Solar and wind continue to dominate investment in new renewable capacity. Global use of solar and wind energy grew significantly in 2012. Solar power consumption increased by 58 percent, to 93 terrawatt-hours (TWh), while wind power increased by 18.1 percent, to 521.3 TWh. Global investment in solar energy in 2012 was $140.4 billion, an 11 percent decline from 2011, and wind investment was down 10.1 percent, to $80.3 billion. Due to lower costs for both technologies, however, total installed capacities still grew sharply.

How Women Can Help Lower Food Losses
August 1, 2013 09:07 AM - Henrietta Miers, SciDevNet

Further investment in agricultural research is essential if we are to avert a global famine caused by inadequate crop yields and a growing population in the coming decades, according to the director of the Global Wheat Program at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center. Women have a key role to play in reducing food loss at the production, post-harvest and processing stages, but face many barriers in doing so. Such research could help bring these issues to the forefront.

Is Carbon-Free Shipping possible?
August 1, 2013 06:03 AM - MAT MCDERMOTT, Yale Environment360

This week a new sailing barge was launched on Lake Champlain that its backers hope will soon be in the vanguard of a new carbon-neutral shipping alternative. The 39-foot Ceres — built by volunteers from the Vermont Sail Freight Project and farmer Erik Andrus — is an update on the type of cargo vessels that once plied the inland waterways throughout the northeastern U.S. Like them, the Ceres will sail without any sort of motorized assistance. With the Ceres, the Vermont Sail Freight Project, which is supported by the nonprofit Willowell Foundation, hopes to prove that carbon-neutral boats can be a viable shipping method for the 21st century, connecting small-scale farmers in Vermont and upstate New York with customers along the Hudson River south to New York City — all while reducing the substantial greenhouse gas emissions that come from conventional shipping of produce, which is dominated in the region by trucks.

Wolves and Grizzly Bears, perfect together in Yellowstone!
July 30, 2013 04:16 PM - Roger Greenway, ENN

When the National Park Service re-introduced Wolves to Yellowstone National Park, there was no way to know what this would mean to the ecology and in particular to the Grizzly bears. It turns out the the Wolves have been helpful to the bears! A new study by Oregon State University and Washington State University suggests that the return of wolves to Yellowstone National Park is beginning to bring back a key part of the diet of grizzly bears that has been missing for much of the past century — berries that help bears put on fat before going into hibernation. It's one of the first reports to identify the interactions between these large, important predators, based on complex ecological processes. It was published today in the Journal of Animal Ecology.

China's aggressive Electric Vehicle program not meeting goals
July 30, 2013 06:27 AM - ERIC YUE, Worldwatch Institute

Over the past 30 years, China's rapid economic growth and industry development have been driven in large part by specific national plans that set very ambitious targets for certain industries. The electric vehicle (EV) industry is no exception. Yet even with prioritization by the central government, the EV industry does not seem to be on track to meet its targets." According to the Ministry of Science and Technology’s (MOST) 12th Five-Year Plan for Electric Vehicles and the State Council's Energy-saving and New Energy Automotive Industry Development Plan released in 2012, 500,000 EVs and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) are to be deployed by 2015, along with 400,000 charging piles and 2,000 charging or battery-switching stations. The nation is targeting 5 million EVs and PHEVs on the road by 2020.

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