Environmental Science News -- ScienceDaily
Environmental science news. Learn about current research into rainforest deforestation, sustainable development, energy use, air quality monitoring, mining processes and hazardous waste disposal. Updated daily.
01/19/2018 07:11 PM
Radioactivity from oil and gas wastewater persists in Pennsylvania stream sediments
More than seven years after Pennsylvania officials requested that the disposal of radium-laden fracking wastewater into surface waters be restricted, a new study finds that high levels of radioactivity persist in stream sediments at three disposal sites. Radioactivity at these sites is 650 times higher than at unaffected sites upstream. The contamination comes from conventional, or non-fracked, oil and gas wastewater, which, under current state regulations, can still be treated and discharged into streams.
01/19/2018 05:58 PM
City lights setting traps for migrating birds
A new study has examined how light pollution lures birds into urban areas during fall migration, a trend that poses risk for the fowl that often fly into buildings and has increased with the addition of brighter LED lights. The researchers were interested in seeing what factors shape the birds' distributions and why they occur in certain areas.
01/19/2018 01:59 PM
Animal carnivores could be our powerful allies
Animal carnivores living in and around human habitation are declining at an unprecedented rate -- but they may provide crucial benefits to human societies. Researchers have revealed that predators and scavengers ranging from bats to leopards and vultures are valuable to human health and well-being.
01/18/2018 10:37 PM
Long-term warming trend continued in 2017: NASA, NOAA
Continuing the planet's long-term warming trend, globally averaged temperatures in 2017 were 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit (0.90 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 1951 to 1980 mean, according to scientists.
01/18/2018 09:24 PM
Using data mining to make sense of climate change
Experts have developed a new way of mining data from climate data sets that is more self-contained than traditional tools. The methodology brings out commonalities of data sets without as much expertise from the user, allowing scientists to trust the data and get more robust -- and transparent -- results.
01/18/2018 07:19 PM
Recent advances in understanding coral resilience are essential to safeguard coral reefs
The most urgent course of action to safeguard coral reefs is to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, but concurrently there is also a need to consider novel management techniques and previously over-looked reef areas for protective actions under predicted climate change impacts. The conclusions were reached following a comprehensive review of the literature on the mechanisms of potential coral resistance and recovery across scales from global reef areas to the microbial level within individual corals.
01/18/2018 04:41 PM
Post-fire logging harms Spotted owls
Post-fire logging, rather than the wildfires themselves, is responsible for the steep decline in territory occupancy of the rare Spotted owls living in the forests of California. The study's results coincide with the strong consensus among hundreds of US scientists opposing post-fire logging operations due to a wide range of ecological harms.
01/18/2018 03:54 AM
Microwaves could be as bad for the environment as cars, suggests new research
Microwaves usage across the EU alone emits as much carbon dioxide as nearly seven million cars according to a new study. Researchers have carried out the first ever comprehensive study of the environmental impacts of microwaves, considering their whole life cycle, from 'cradle to grave.'
01/17/2018 09:40 PM
Release of ancient methane due to changing climate kept in check by ocean waters
Ocean sediments are a massive storehouse for the potent greenhouse gas methane. But methane only acts as a greenhouse gas if and when it reaches the atmosphere. Environmental scientists recently set out to discover whether or not this ancient-sourced methane, which is released due to warming ocean waters, survives the journey from the seafloor and reaches the atmosphere.
01/17/2018 09:40 PM
Researchers explore psychological effects of climate change
While some people have little anxiety about the Earth's changing climate, others are experiencing high levels of stress, and even depression, based on their perception of the threat of global climate change, researchers found. Psychological responses to climate change seem to vary based on what type of concern people show for the environment, with those highly concerned about the planet's animals and plants experiencing the most stress.
01/17/2018 05:16 PM
Coping with climate stress in Antarctica
Some Antarctic fish living in the planet's coldest waters are able to cope with the stress of rising carbon dioxide levels the ocean. They can even tolerate slightly warmer waters. But they can't deal with both climate change stressors at the same time, according to a new study.
01/17/2018 04:50 PM
California sea lion population rebounded to new highs
California sea lions have fully rebounded under the protection of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, with their population on the West Coast reaching carrying capacity in 2008 before unusually warm ocean conditions reduced their numbers, according to the first comprehensive population assessment of the species.
01/17/2018 03:26 PM
Ultrathin black phosphorus for solar-driven hydrogen economy
Researchers combined two different types of 2-D materials -- black phosphorus and bismuth vanadate -- to form a biologically inspired water-splitting catalyst. Normal sunlight could drive the reactions and careful design of the catalyst enabled the expected ratio of hydrogen and oxygen production.
01/17/2018 03:25 AM
Weather anomalies accelerate the melting of sea ice
Researchers reveal why Arctic sea ice began to melt in the middle of winter two years ago -- and that the increased melting of ice in summer is linked to recurring periods of fair weather.
01/16/2018 02:36 PM
Magnetic liquids improve energy efficiency of buildings
Climate protection and the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions have been on top of global development agendas. Accordingly, research and development projects have been conducted on national and international levels, which aim for the improvement of the CO2-footprint in diverse processes. Apart from particularly energy-intensive sectors of the industry, the building sector in particular is among the biggest CO2-emmitters: from residential homes, manufacturing facilities and storage depots to big commercial buildings, about 40 percent of the energy consumption within the EU are due to the heating, cooling, air conditioning and lighting of buildings.
01/16/2018 01:50 PM
Slow 'hot electrons' could improve solar cell efficiency
Photons with energy higher than the 'band gap' of the semiconductor absorbing them give rise to what are known as hot electrons. The extra energy is lost very fast, as it is converted into heat so it does not contribute to the voltage. Researchers have now found a material in which these hot electrons retain their high energy levels for much longer.
01/15/2018 05:16 PM
Solar fuels: better efficiency using microwires
Researchers have made significant efficiency improvements to the technology used to generate solar fuels. This involves the direct conversion of energy from sunlight into a usable fuel (in this case, hydrogen). Using only earth-abundant materials, they developed the most efficient conversion method to date. The trick was to decouple the site where sunlight is captured from the site where the conversion reaction takes place.
01/15/2018 05:16 PM
Insulating bricks with microscopic bubbles
The calculation is simple: the better a building is insulated, the less heat is lost in winter - and the less energy is needed to achieve a comfortable room temperature.
01/15/2018 05:05 PM
Unexpected environmental source of methane discovered
Roughly 10 percent of nitrogen-fixing microorganisms contain the genetic code for manufacturing a back-up enzyme, called iron iron-only nitrogenase, to do their job. New research reveals that this enzyme allows these microorganisms to convert nitrogen gas to ammonia and carbon dioxide into methane at the same time. This enzymatic pathway is a previously unknown route for the natural biological production of methane.
01/13/2018 02:37 PM
Sanchi oil spill contamination could take three months to reach mainland
Water contaminated by the oil currently leaking into the ocean from the Sanchi tanker collision is likely to take at least three months to reach land, and if it does the Korean coast is the most likely location. However, the oil's fate is highly uncertain, as it may burn, evaporate, or mix into the surface ocean and contaminate the environment for an extended duration.
01/12/2018 03:39 AM
All in the family: Focused genomic comparisons
Aspergillus fungi are pathogens, decomposers, and important sources of biotechnologically-important enzymes. Scientists now report the first outcome from the large-scale sequencing of 300+ Aspergillus species. These findings are a proof of concept of novel methods to functionally annotate genomes to more quickly identify genes of interest.
01/11/2018 07:16 PM
Marijuana farms expose spotted owls to rat poison in northwest California
Spotted owls and barred owls are being exposed to high levels of rat poison in northwest California, with illegal marijuana farms the most likely source point, according to a new study. Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana in the state, went into effect this month and is expected to intensify the issue.
01/11/2018 07:09 PM
Babies stir up clouds of bio-gunk when they crawl
When babies crawl, their movement across floors, especially carpeted surfaces, kicks up high levels of dirt, skin cells, bacteria, pollen, and fungal spores, a new study has found. The infants inhale a dose of bio bits in their lungs that is four times (per kilogram of body mass) what an adult would breathe walking across the same floor.
01/11/2018 04:53 PM
Students more engaged and attentive following outdoor lesson in nature
A study has found that children are significantly more attentive and engaged with their schoolwork following an outdoor lesson in nature. Teachers could teach uninterrupted for almost twice as long during a subsequent indoor lesson. Outdoor lessons may be an inexpensive and convenient way to improve student engagement.
01/11/2018 04:53 PM
Climate impacts of deforestation
Deforestation is likely to warm the climate even more than originally thought, scientists warn. Research has found reactive gases emitted by trees and vegetation have an overall cooling effect on our climate, meaning deforestation would lead to higher temperatures than previously anticipated as less of the gases would be created.
01/11/2018 03:14 PM
Protecting corridors is critical to preserving genetic diversity in tigers, and mizimising extinction, study finds
Tigers have lost 95% of their historical range, and what remains is highly fragmented. According to a new study, high traffic roads and densely populated urban areas are a severe impediment to tiger movement between fragments. Unplanned development in the future will result in loss of connectivity and an increased possibility of extinction for several tiger populations. To ensure future persistence, tiger populations need to be managed as a network of protected areas connected by corridors.
01/11/2018 01:49 PM
Hiding from a warmer climate in the forest
Global warming threatens forest plants adapted to cooler temperatures. An international team of scientists have unraveled where these species could survive within colder spots in the same forest. The findings can help to understand the effect of climate change on forest biodiversity and what we can do to protect it.
01/10/2018 07:13 PM
Ingredients for life revealed in meteorites that fell to Earth
A detailed study of blue salt crystals found in two meteorites that crashed to Earth -- which included X-ray experiments found that they contain both liquid water and a mix of complex organic compounds including hydrocarbons and amino acids.
01/10/2018 06:23 PM
Body size of marine plankton, currents keys to dispersal in ocean
A new international study found that the size of plankton, and the strength and direction of currents, are key to how they are dispersed in the ocean -- much more so than physical conditions including differences in temperature, salinity and nutrient availability.
01/10/2018 04:30 PM
Changing how we view chlorine in soil
Researchers have studied how combinations of different environmental factors affect the chlorination of organic matter in soils. The results show that the supply of fresh organic compounds, which promote the growth of the microorganisms, increases chlorination. The discovery could mean that chlorine in ecosystems has a different significance than previously believed.
01/10/2018 03:10 PM
Combined effects of climate change and forest fires
A new study has tracked the ebb and flow of ecosystem changes over the last 10,000 years, showing patterns that could shed light on current climate change and its role in shaping the world's forests.
01/10/2018 03:10 PM
Strong support for ocean protection: Study
People around the world strongly support ocean conservation measures, according to a new study of public perceptions of marine threats and protection.
01/10/2018 03:09 PM
New tipping point prediction model offers insights to diminishing bee colonies
A new method to predict tipping points -- the moment at which sudden change occurs in complex networked systems -- may offer insights that prevent colony collapse disorder (CCD), a phenomenon in which the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear, threatening the agricultural economy at a global level.
01/10/2018 02:49 AM
Life on land and tropical overheating 250 million years ago
One of the key effects of the end-Permian mass extinction, 252 million years ago, was rapid heating of tropical waters and atmospheres. How this affected life on land has been uncertain until now. New research shows how early reptiles were expelled from the tropics.