• Redfield's Ratio Refuted

    The Redfield ratio has been a fundamental feature in understanding the biogeochemical cycles of the oceans and has been used since 1934 when oceanographer Alfred Redfield found that the elemental composition of marine organic matter is constant across all regions. By analyzing samples of marine biomass, Redfield found that the stoichiometric ratios of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus remain consistent with a ratio of 106:16:1 in ocean regions. However, according to new work by UC Irvine and other researchers, models of carbon dioxide in the world's oceans need to be revised. >> Read the Full Article
  • German Research Institute Drops Canadian Tar Sands Project

    The Helmholtz-Association of German Research Centres has just backed out of a CAN$25 million research project funded by the Canadian government that would study sustainable solutions for tar sands pollution. Canada is home to the world's third largest crude reserves in the form of tar sands. Tar sands are a type of unconventional petroleum deposit and are considered part of the world's oil reserves as new technology can extract oil from these sands. >> Read the Full Article
  • The Looming Threat of Water Scarcity

    Some 1.2 billion people—almost a fifth of the world—live in areas of physical water scarcity, while another 1.6 billion face what can be called economic water shortage. The situation is only expected to worsen as population growth, climate change, investment and management shortfalls, and inefficient use of existing resources restrict the amount of water available to people, according to Worldwatch Institute’s Vital Signs Online service (www.worldwatch.org). It is estimated that by 2025, 1.8 billion people will live in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, with almost half of the world living in conditions of water stress. Water scarcity has several definitions. Physical scarcity occurs when there is not enough water to meet demand; its symptoms include severe environmental degradation, declining groundwater, and unequal water distribution. Economic water scarcity occurs when there is a lack of investment and proper management to meet the demand of people who do not have the financial means to use existing water sources; the symptoms in this case normally include poor infrastructure.Large parts of Africa suffer from economic water scarcity. >> Read the Full Article
  • The Red-Dead water conveyer can avoid a dead end

    The Red-Dead canal could take a small step forward in light of projected environmental impacts and other constraints, says Batir Wardam. After a delay of more than six months, the World Bank has finally released the final drafts of the feasibility and environmental assessment studies for the controversial Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance project, designed to channel some 1.2 billion cubic metres of water 180 kilometres from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. >> Read the Full Article
  • The First Oxygen Poor World Ocean

    A research team led by biogeochemists at the University of California, Riverside has filled in a billion-year gap in our understanding of conditions in the early ocean during a critical time in the history of life on Earth. Over time, the planet cooled and formed a solid crust, allowing liquid water to exist on the surface. The first life forms appeared between 3.8 and 3.5 billion years ago. Photosynthetic life appeared around 2 billion years ago, enriching the atmosphere with oxygen. Life remained mostly small and microscopic until about 580 million years ago, when complex multicellular life arose. It is now well accepted that appreciable oxygen first accumulated in the atmosphere about 2.4 to 2.3 billion years ago. It is equally well accepted that the build-up of oxygen in the ocean may have lagged the atmospheric increase by well over a billion years, but the details of those conditions have long been elusive because of the patchiness of the ancient rock record. >> Read the Full Article
  • Genetic Study of Brown Bear Population Reveals Remarkable Similarities to Polar Bears

    A new genetic study of polar bears and brown bears led by researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz has overturned prevailing ideas about the evolutionary history of the two species. Brown bears and polar bears are closely related and known to produce fertile ursid hybrids. Previous studies suggested that past hybridization had resulted in all polar bears having genes that came from brown bears. But new research indicates that episodes of gene flow between the two species occurred only in isolated populations and did not affect the larger polar bear population, which remains free of brown bear genes. >> Read the Full Article
  • Red Tide in Oman

    The United Arab Emirates Ministry of Environment and Water indicates that red tide may be present in the waters of the Gulf of Oman. As a precautionary measure, Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (SEWA) shut down some desalinization plants in Kalba. Red tide is caused by a population explosion in certain species of plankton. The poison these microorganisms produce is usually reddish or brown in color and is toxic to the nervous system of fish and many other vertebrates. Red tide outbreaks can cause large fish die-offs and impact other animals. A red tide in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico recently killed at least 174 endangered Florida Manatees by weakening their muscles so they could no longer lift their heads to breath. Red tide does not necessarily kill shrimp and other shellfish, but its toxin is concentrated in these animals and can be passed on to humans who consume them. >> Read the Full Article
  • Salt Marshes are great Carbon Sinks

    Allowing farmland that's been reclaimed from the sea to flood and turn back into salt marsh could make it absorb lots of carbon from the atmosphere, a new study suggests, though the transformation will take many years to complete. Scientists looked at one of the oldest such places in the UK, Tollesbury in Essex. Originally a salt marsh, the site was claimed for farming in the late 18th century, but eventually relinquished in 1995 when the bank separating it from the sea was deliberately breached. Since then it's been reverting to its natural state, though this is very slow process. 'People want quick results, but these things take time,' says lead author Annette Burden, a wetland biogeochemist based at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology in Bangor. 'You can't expect a piece of land that's been farmed for a century to turn overnight into something like a saltmarsh that has been there for thousands of years. But the evidence is that this will eventually happen, and this study suggests that the land starts absorbing carbon very quickly after its flood defences are breached.' >> Read the Full Article
  • Swarms

    There is something quite alien when imagining a swarm type intelligence. A bunch of little creatures who act as if directed by one being. Swarming is the spontaneous organized motion of a large number of individuals. It is observed at all scales, from bacterial colonies, slime molds and groups of insects to shoals of fish, flocks of birds and animal herds. Now physicists Maksym Romenskyy and Vladimir Lobaskin from university College Dublin, Ireland, have uncovered new collective properties of swarm dynamics in a study just published in EPJ B. Ultimately, this could be used to control swarms of animals, robots, or human crowds by applying signals capable of emulating the underlying interaction of individuals within the swarm, which could lead to predicted motion patterns elucidated through modelling. >> Read the Full Article
  • Disease threatens aquaculture in developing world

    Disease may challenge the ability of fish farming to feed the growing human population even as wild fish stocks decline and climate change hampers food production from other sources, a study shows. Aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector in the world, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, with 90 per cent of production coming from the developing world, where it makes a significant contribution to many nations' economies. >> Read the Full Article