Top Stories

Surf's Up for Clean Technology

Unless your skin is about a foot thick, swimming and surfing in the Pacific Ocean for hours at a time requires a wetsuit to stay warm and comfortable. That comfort, however, comes at a price as the vast majority of wetsuits are made from petroleum-based neoprene. The material is durable and does the job, but its manufacture is a carbon-intensive and toxic process. Now Patagonia is aggressively promoting its plant-based wetsuit technology with the goal to have it become a game-changer in the surf industry. >> Read the Full Article

Underestimating the Impacts of Old-Growth Logging

Ecologists may be underestimating the impact of logging in old-growth tropical forests by failing to account for subtleties in how different animal groups respond to the intensity of timber extraction, argues a paper published today in the journal Current Biology. The study, led by Zuzana Burivalova of ETH Zurich, is based on a meta-analysis of 48 studies that evaluated the impact of selective logging on mammals, birds, amphibians, and invertebrates in tropical forests. Burivalova, together with co-authors Cagan Sekercioglu and Lian Pin Koh, found that biodiversity is inversely proportional to logging intensity. >> Read the Full Article

Defending against sea level rise could make the problem worse

A combination of coastal defences and rising sea levels could change typical UK tidal ranges, potentially leading to a higher risk of flooding, say scientists. The researchers wanted to find out how tides around the UK might respond to changes in sea level over the next century depending on the level of coastal defences in place. >> Read the Full Article

Drilling in the Dark

As production of shale gas soars, the industry's effects on nature and wildlife remain largely unexplored, according to a study by a group of conservation biologists published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment on August 1. The report emphasizes the need to determine the environmental impact of chemical contamination from spills, well-casing failure, and other accidents. "We know very little about how shale gas production is affecting plants and wildlife," says author Sara Souther, a conservation fellow in the Department of Botany at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "And in particular, there is a lack of accessible and reliable information on spills, wastewater disposal and the chemistry of fracturing fluids. Of the 24 U.S. states with active shale gas reservoirs, only five maintain public records of spills and accidents." The 800 percent increase in U.S. shale gas production between 2007 and 2012 is largely due to the use of hydraulic fracturing. Also called fracking, the process uses high-pressure injection of water, laden with sand and a variety of chemicals, to open cracks in the gas reservoir so natural gas can flow to the well. >> Read the Full Article

Nesting Implications for the Northern Gulf Loggerhead

After the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, a massive response to protect beaches, wetlands, and wildlife occurred. Nonetheless, because of the spill, extensive damage to marine and wildlife habitats were reported and many studies have been conducted to quantify the affects of the oil spill on specific species. One study in particular which started in the wake of the spill looks at the nesting of loggerhead sea turtles in the northern Gulf and how their feeding areas have been not only affected by the Deepwater Horizon spill, but by commercial fishing operations, and areas used for oil and gas extraction. >> Read the Full Article

Boat noise impacts development and survival of marine invertebrates

The development and survival of an important group of marine invertebrates known as sea hares is under threat from increasing boat noise in the world's oceans, according to a new study by researchers from the UK and France. While previous studies have shown that marine noise can affect animal movement and communication, with unknown ecological consequences, scientists from the Universities of Bristol and Exeter and the École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE) CRIOBE in France have demonstrated that boat noise stops embryonic development and increases larval mortality in sea hares. >> Read the Full Article

CO2 decrease cause of Antarctic ice sheet growth in ice age

Climate modelers from the University of New Hampshire have shown that the most likely explanation for the initiation of Antarctic glaciation during a major climate shift 34 million years ago was decreased carbon dioxide (CO2) levels. The finding counters a 40-year-old theory suggesting massive rearrangements of Earth's continents caused global cooling and the abrupt formation of the Antarctic ice sheet. It will provide scientists insight into the climate change implications of current rising global CO2 levels. In a paper published today in Nature, Matthew Huber of the UNH Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space and department of Earth sciences provides evidence that the long-held, prevailing theory known as "Southern Ocean gateway opening" is not the best explanation for the climate shift that occurred during the Eocene-Oligocene transition when Earth's polar regions were ice-free. >> Read the Full Article

Importance of Air Quality and Employee Productivity

A number of credible studies have shown that indoor air quality can have a significant effect on employee productivity. And we're not just talking about air that's so bad that you can't see or breathe. Generally speaking, OSHA takes cares of those (though I could tell you a story about an agricultural processing job I once worked in Arkansas). What we're talking about here is much more subtle than that. >> Read the Full Article

Deep-Sea Octopus' Egg-Brooding Period Breaks Record!

Robins sit on their eggs for about two weeks after they are laid. Male seahorses usually carry eggs for 9 to 45 days. Deep-sea octopuses? Four and a half years! Researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) have observed this unique brooding phenomenon and have declares this species to have a longer brooding time than any other known animal. Egg brooding happens after the parent species lays the eggs. The parents then do everything in their power to protect those eggs so that offspring can develop. This includes cleaning the eggs and guarding them from predators, which evidently risks the parents' own ability to survive. In May 2007, during a deep-sea survey, researchers from MBARI, led by Bruce Robison, discovered a female octopus (Graneledone boreopacifica), clinging to a rocky ledge just above the floor of the canyon, about 1,400 meters (4,600 feet) below the ocean surface. Over the next four and one-half years, the researchers dove at this same site 18 times. >> Read the Full Article

Catching Waves in the Arctic

As the climate warms and sea ice retreats, the North is changing. An ice-covered expanse now has a season of increasingly open water that is predicted to extend across the whole Arctic Ocean before the middle of this century. Storms thus have the potential to create Arctic swell – huge waves that could add a new and unpredictable element to the region. A University of Washington researcher made the first study of waves in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, and detected house-sized waves during a September 2012 storm. The results were recently published in Geophysical Research Letters. >> Read the Full Article