• Happy Pollution Prevention Week!

    Hey everybody! Know what week it is? It's Pollution Prevention Week! Launched by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), this week September 15-21, is dedicated to preventing and reducing pollution. According to the EPA, the US annually produces millions of tons of pollution and spends tens of billions of dollars per year controlling it in the form of clean ups, stormwater management, and education to name a few. >> Read the Full Article
  • Indigenous people of Honduras granted one million hectares of rainforest

    One-hundred and fifty years after a treaty with England granted the Miskito people rights over their land--a treaty which was never fully respected--the government of Honduras has officially handed over nearly a million hectares (970,000 hectares) of tropical forest along the Caribbean Coast to the indigenous people. The Miskito are found along the eastern coast of both Honduras and Nicaragua and number around 200,000. "This is an unprecedented and historic moment for our peoples," said Norvin Goff, chairman of Miskitu Asla Takanka (MASTA), a Honduras group representing the tribes."The entire region is at risk from illegal hunting, logging and clearing of land to graze cattle. The Miskito people can protect it, but only if we have title to those lands." >> Read the Full Article
  • Start-up promises to revolutionise shrimp farming

    A UK start-up says it has developed a low-cost, ecological alternative to traditional shrimp farming by using bacteria as both a water filter and food for its shrimp. IKEA-like portable units using microbes and solar power to cheaply grow shrimp indoors could transform the booming aquaculture sector and prevent further environmental degradation, according to its inventors. >> Read the Full Article
  • New insight on how tropical forests capture carbon

    Tropical forests are important globally in removing carbon from the atmosphere. It has been assumed that the tress were the mechanism that made this work. New research from Princeton University has shed insight on the importance of bacteria that co-exist with the trees have in absorbing atmospheric carbon. A unique housing arrangement between a specific group of tree species and a carbo-loading bacteria may determine how well tropical forests can absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, according to a Princeton University-based study. The findings suggest that the role of tropical forests in offsetting the atmospheric buildup of carbon from fossil fuels depends on tree diversity, particularly in forests recovering from exploitation. Tropical forests thrive on natural nitrogen fertilizer pumped into the soil by trees in the legume family, a diverse group that includes beans and peas, the researchers report in the journal Nature. The researchers studied second-growth forests in Panama that had been used for agriculture five to 300 years ago. The presence of legume trees ensured rapid forest growth in the first 12 years of recovery and thus a substantial carbon "sink," or carbon-storage capacity. Tracts of land that were pasture only 12 years before had already accumulated as much as 40 percent of the carbon found in fully mature forests. Legumes contributed more than half of the nitrogen needed to make that happen, the researchers reported. >> Read the Full Article
  • Blobfish claims landslide victory as world's ugliest animal

    Its grouchy face and slimy, gelatinous body have won the blobfish the honour of becoming the official mascot of the Ugly Animal Preservation Society, as well as the unofficial title of world's ugliest animal. First taking form as a science-themed comedy night, the society launched a campaign urging members of the public to vote for its mascot from a pool of 'aesthetically challenged' threatened species. The main aim of the campaign, which was run in conjunction with the National Science and Engineering Competition, was to draw attention to the threats facing these bizarre and often ignored creatures. >> Read the Full Article
  • Global warming may 'flatten' rainforests

    Climate change may push canopy-dwelling plants and animals out of the tree-tops due to rising temperatures and drier conditions, argues a new study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The development may be akin to "flattening" the tiered vegetation structure that characterizes the rainforest ecosystem. The conclusion is based on surveys of frogs and other canopy-dwelling animals in Singapore and the mountains of the Philippines. Brett Scheffers of James Cook University and colleagues found that the "rainforest's vertical strata provide climatic gradients much steeper than those offered by elevation and latitude, and biodiversity of arboreal species is organized along this gradient." >> Read the Full Article
  • Groundwater Reserves Discovered in Kenya

    It has long been known that Africa has been facing a water crisis. Not only is the continent stressed because of erratic rainfall patterns, arid climates, and hot temperatures, but access to clean, safe drinking water is depriving much of the population of a basic human necessity. Specifically in Kenya, 17 million people lack access to safe drinking water. However, this all could change as an exploration of groundwater resources in northern Kenya has identified two aquifers in the Turkana and Lotikip Basins. >> Read the Full Article
  • New study of the Arctic Ocean finds alarming increase in acidity

    If you ever had a marine aquarium (or a swimming pool) you know that it is very important to keep the level of acidity (ph) within a narrow range for optimum results. In the case of the pool, to minimize corrosion of the metal parts in a heater and to reduce damage to the pool lining or paint. In the case of the aquarium, the ph is directly related to the health of coral and fish. The ocean is no different. Acidity is an important parameter that relates to many other parameters including the health of marine animals and the rates at which corals and rocks grow or are dissolved. Globally, oceans are getting more acidic from CO2 emissions. Acidification of the Arctic Ocean is occurring faster than projected according to new findings published in the journal PLOS ONE. The increase in rate is being blamed on rapidly melting sea ice, a process that may have important consequences for health of the Arctic ecosystem. Ocean acidification is the process by which pH levels of seawater decrease due to greater amounts of carbon dioxide being absorbed by the oceans from the atmosphere. Currently oceans absorb about one-fourth of the greenhouse gas. Lower pH levels make water more acidic and lab studies have shown that more acidic water decrease calcification rates in many calcifying organisms, reducing their ability to build shells or skeletons. These changes, in species ranging from corals to shrimp, have the potential to impact species up and down the food web. The team of federal and university researchers found that the decline of sea ice in the Arctic summer has important consequences for the surface layer of the Arctic Ocean. As sea ice cover recedes to record lows, as it did late in the summer of 2012, the seawater beneath is exposed to carbon dioxide, which is the main driver of ocean acidification. >> Read the Full Article
  • Tigers vs. Leopards: Who are you more afraid of?

    Besides the obvious stripes vs. spots, tigers and leopards are very similar – two top predatory cats that have the power and stealth to capture just about any prey. And if you were to find yourself face-to-face with one in the wild, the average person would probably be equally scared of both. But this is not necessarily the case for the other members of our animal kingdom. According to a new research study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Davis, Wild Asian elephants fear the tiger more, as the study shows that the elephants slinks quietly away at the sound of a growling tiger, but trumpet and growl before retreating from leopard growls. >> Read the Full Article
  • Organic September

    The Soil Association's Emma Heesom talks to the Ecologist about what this year's Organic September campaign is all about and how everyone can make a small change and a big difference... There are lots of different reasons why people choose to buy Organic produce - from reduced chemicals and pesticides to concerns about animal welfare - but there are also lots of reasons and misconceptions that stop people from buying organic too. It is for this reason that this year's annual month-long focus on organic is a little bit of a break. The Small Changes, Big Difference campaign is asking people to make a small change to their shopping habits by switching one household item to organic, to create a big difference to our planet. For example, if just 12 families with an average bread consumption made the small change to swap their bread to organic, an area of land quarter of the size of the Wembley Stadium football pitch would become a pesticide-free haven for wildlife. What this campaign shows is how a small change will also make a big difference to the lives of farm animals. No other system of farming has higher animal welfare standards. Organic is free-range and encourages the animals' natural behavior. >> Read the Full Article