Top Stories

Hope for the Wild Yak

Unlike Asia's largest animal (the elephant) and its second largest (the rhino), the wild yak—the third largest animal on the world's biggest continent—rarely makes headlines and is never paraded by conservation groups to garner donations. Surviving on the top of the world, in the Tibetan-Qinghai Plateau, the wild yak (Bos mutus) lives it's life out in such obscurity that even scientists know almost nothing about it. However, a recent count by American and Chinese conservations with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the University of Montana implies that the wild yak may be recovering after a close brush with extinction. >> Read the Full Article

Plans for a Green Inauguration

With the US Presidential inauguration ceremonies around the corner (kicking off on Monday, January 21), the nation is getting ready for a week of festivities, balls and galas honoring our newly elected officials. This year's official theme is "Faith in America's Future." Inaugurations aren't particularly known for being green, but in an attempt to jump on the eco-friendly bandwagon, sustainable efforts are being made. TriplePundit reports on the "greening" of this year's ceremonies. >> Read the Full Article

Aerosols vs GreenHouse Gases

There’s a tricky chemical trade-off at work in our skies. As greenhouse gases provide their famous warming effect to Earth’s surface, aerosol pollution in the atmosphere actually partly counteracts it. Aerosols are tiny particles suspended in the air, both natural and industrial, including sea salt, mineral dust, ash, soot, sulphates, nitrates, and black carbon. They hang around in the air for around 10 days, scattering and absorbing radiation from the sun. Aerosols also provide nuclei for water droplets, boosting cloud formation, thus decreasing the amount of energy reaching the ground and providing a net cooling force. In short, greenhouse gases warm the surface; aerosols cool the surface. >> Read the Full Article

Honeybees at Risk From Pesticide says EU Watchdog

Three widely-used pesticides made by Switzerland's Syngenta and Germany's Bayer pose an acute risk to honeybees, the European Union's food safety watchdog said on Wednesday (16 January), but stopped short of linking them to bee colony collapse. Fears over the effects on bees of neonicotinoid insecticides - among the most commonly used crop pesticides in the world - led France to withdraw approval in June last year for Syngenta's Cruiser OSR, used to treat rapeseed crops. Responding to the opinion by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the European Commission said it was ready to take the necessary steps if its findings are confirmed, raising the prospect of EU-wide restrictions on the use of the products. >> Read the Full Article

Invading Plants

We have heard about invasive animal species like Boas introduced into Florida from Africa and Asia. How about invading plant life? Ecologists at the University of Toronto and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich) have found that, given time, invading exotic plants will likely eliminate native plants growing in the wild. A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) reports that recent statements that invasive plants are not problematic are often based on incomplete information, with insufficient time having passed to observe the full effect of invasions on native biodiversity. Invasive plant life simply may take longer to "take over" than invasive animals. >> Read the Full Article

NASA Satellite Images Reveal Dramatic Increase in Air Pollution Over China

NASA's Terra satellite acquired natural-color images of northeastern China on January 3 and January 14, highlighting a drastic shift in air quality for the region. According to the images, the opaque, gray areas tend to be clouds or fog, which are saturated with a gray or yellow tint as a result from the air pollution. Areas that are cloud-free appear gray and brown as a result from the smog that hides the cities below. Residual snow is also noted in the images. >> Read the Full Article

There is an Upside to the Devastating Pine Beetle Outbreak

Pine beetles have been ravaging forests in the American West for years now, and there is very little that can be done to stop them. However, not all is lost for the ecosystems of the Rocky Mountains. A new study from the University of Colorado (CU), Boulder shows that the beetles go for the older mature pine trees, leaving the younger pines and lower vegetation to grow. When this occurs near a stream or water body, the smaller pines more successfully extract nitrates from the water and sediments. They buffer watersheds from nitrate pollution, a common pollutant typically caused by logging or damaging storms. >> Read the Full Article

Desertification solution? Olive Trees.

The planting of ten of thousands of olive trees in arid areas in Israel have proved highly beneficial, according to a study which said the trees provide shade for animals, purge the air and even produce excellent olive oil. The study was conducted by the Faculty of Agriculture at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, with the help of the Agricultural Research Organization. Dr. Zohar Kerem, head of the olive oil research lab in the faculty's biochemistry institute, who participated in the study, explained that they followed tree-plantings in Israel's desert areas. >> Read the Full Article

BMI Magic

The body mass index (BMI) is a heuristic proxy for estimating human body fat based on an individual's weight and height. BMI does not actually measure the percentage of body fat. It was devised between 1830 and 1850 by the Belgian polymath Adolphe Quetelet during the course of developing social physics. It has been for awhile as an indicator of "how fat am I". What if it is wrong? BMI divides a person's weight in kilograms by their height in meters squared to arrive at an estimate of an individual's body fat.The problem lies with the height/weight ratio. >> Read the Full Article

World’s Greenest Building, Bullitt Center, Opens Earth Day in Seattle

Nestled between downtown Seattle and the Capitol Hill district, the Bullitt Center will open on Earth Day, April 22. Builders of the six-story, 50,000 square-foot building claim it will be the "greenest" office building on the planet. Ground broke in August 2011, and since then few green building details have been left unturned, from water efficiency, renewable energy and choice of construction materials. If anything close to a zero-impact office building exists, the Bullitt Center is it. >> Read the Full Article