Sustainability

California's Redwoods face new threat
August 23, 2013 06:27 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

California is a magnificent state, with some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. It is also home to some of the most magnificent trees in the world, the giant Redwoods. These trees have survived for millennia, fending off attacks from diseases and fire. Now they face a new threat, the combined effects of sudden oak death and fire. Usually resistant to the effects of wildfires, California's coast redwoods are now burning as fast as other trees. Why? To find answers, plant pathologist David Rizzo of the University of California at Davis (UC Davis) and colleagues monitored more than 80,000 hectares of forests near Big Sur, Calif. In their plots, tanoaks, California bay laurels and coast redwoods grow. The study began in 2006. "In 2008, almost half our plots were burned by wildfires that lasted the better part of a month," says Rizzo. That was the beginning of the end for many coast redwoods, surprising researchers who expected the trees to be fire-proof.

85% of Brazilian leather goes to markets sensitive to environmental concerns
August 22, 2013 04:48 PM - Editor, MONGABAY.COM

Around 40% of beef and 85% of leather production serve markets that are potentially sensitive to environmental concerns, providing a partial explanation as to why Brazilian producers have made recent commitments to reducing deforestation for cattle production, finds a new study published in Tropical Conservation Science. The research, conducted by Nathalie Walker and Sabrina Patel of the National Wildlife Federation and Kemel Kalif of Amigos da Terra - Amazônia Brasileira, used government data to estimate the proportion of beef and leather production that ends up in environmentally-sensitive markets. They find that the vast majority of leather exports "could be considered to be susceptible to demand for deforestation-free products."

Sea Levels dropped in 2010 -2011, why?
August 22, 2013 06:21 AM - ScienceDaily

In 2011, scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and the University of Colorado at Boulder reported that between early 2010 and summer 2011, global sea level fell sharply, by about a quarter of an inch, or half a centimeter. Using data from the NASA/German Aerospace Center's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) spacecraft, they showed that the drop was caused by the very strong La Nina that began in late 2010. That La Nina changed rainfall patterns all over our planet, moving huge amounts of Earth's water from the ocean to the continents. The phenomenon was short-lived, however. A unique and complex set of circumstances came together over Australia from 2010 to 2011 to cause Earth's smallest continent to be the biggest contributor to the observed drop in global sea level rise during that time, finds a new study co-authored and co-funded by NASA.

Pesticide Problems in the Amazon
August 21, 2013 12:48 PM - Adam Andrus, MONGABAY.COM

As the world’s population increases and agricultural frontiers expand into native tropical habitats, researchers are working furiously to understand the impacts on tropical forests and global biodiversity. But one obvious impact has been little studied in these agricultural frontiers: pesticides. However a new study in the journal Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B seeks to shine a light on the problem.

Climate change killing harp seal pups
August 20, 2013 04:55 PM - Alexander Holmgren, MONGABAY.COM

As sea ice levels continue to decline in the northern hemisphere, scientists are observing an unsettling trend in harp seal young mortalities regardless of juvenile fitness. While a recent study found that in harp seal breeding regions ice cover decreased by up to 6% a decade from 1979 on, a follow-up study in PLoS ONE compared the rate of harp seal strandings to total ice cover from 1992 to 2010. The data showed a direct relationship between the two, with seal pup strandings rising sharply as ice cover was reduced.

Warning Labels for Gasoline Pumps?
August 20, 2013 01:28 PM - Allison Winter, ENN

Tobacco packaging warning messages have recently been required on cigarettes and other tobacco products in many countries worldwide in an effort to enhance the public's awareness of the harmful effects of smoking. In a similar fashion, a Canadian campaign is calling for all gasoline pumps to have warming labels on nozzles to inform consumers on the effects fuels have on climate change. Michelle Reeves at Our Horizon, the non-profit executing the campaign, states, "It's a cheap, simple idea that has the potential to change the way we think about, and address, climate change. They are modeled after cigarette package warning labels, which have been proven to work. Some people's behavior might change, but our ultimate goal is to create a shift in the political will to demand for alternatives, and create a space in the market for affordable alternative mobility solutions."

Reducing Food Waste While Feeding the Hungry
August 20, 2013 12:40 PM - Carol Dreibelbis, Worldwatch Institute

According to a report released by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) last year, 40 percent of food in the United States goes uneaten. Americans throw away about US$165 billion worth of food each year—or about 9 kilograms of food per person each month—which then ends up in landfills, where it accounts for about a quarter of U.S. methane emissions.

Light Ordinance in France has Benefits for Wildlife
August 19, 2013 11:56 AM - Editor, ENN

Last month, France implemented one of the world's most comprehensive "lights out" ordinances. Conditions include turning off shop lights between 1 a.m. to 7 a.m., shutting off lights inside office buildings within an hour of workers leaving the premises, and waiting only until sunset before turning lights on, on building facades. Over the next two years, regulations restricting lighting on billboards will also go into effect. These rules are designed to eventually cut carbon dioxide emissions by 250,000 tons per year, conserve energy consumption, and cut the country's overall energy bill by 200 million Euros ($266 million).

How much will climate change cost coastal cities?
August 19, 2013 06:06 AM - Jörg Dietze/Sustainable sanitation, SciDevNet

Global damage from flooding could cost coastal cities as much as US$1 trillion per year — and developing countries will be hardest hit, a study warns. According to the paper published today in Nature Climate Change, a "risk sensitive planning" strategy is needed to protect coastal cities, which are increasingly at risk because of climate change, subsidence and a growing population.

Big Owls need big trees!
August 16, 2013 03:57 PM - Wildlife Conservation Society

The last great primary forests of Russia's Far East are known for their tigers and bears, but they are also the domain of giant owls. A new study finds that the health of the rare Blakiston’s fish owl is intrinsic to that of these northern forests. The birds rely on old-growth forests along streams for both breeding and to support healthy populations of their favorite prey: salmon. Large trees provide breeding cavities for the enormous bird, which has a 6-foot wingspan. When these massive trees die and topple into streams, they disrupt water flow, forcing the gushing river around, over, and under these new obstacles. The result is stream channel complexity: a combination of deep, slow-moving backwaters and shallow, fast-moving channels that provide important microhabitats critical to salmon in different developmental stages.

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