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.

10/17/2017 08:31 PM
Amazonian hunters deplete wildlife but don't empty forests
Conservationists can be 'cautiously optimistic' about the prospect of sustainable subsistence hunting by Amazonian communities, according to new research. The research team spent over a year working with 60 Amazonian communities and hiked for miles through trackless forests to deploy nearly 400 motion-activated camera traps -- in a bid to understand which species are depleted by hunting and where.

10/17/2017 05:43 PM
Study reshapes understanding of climate change's impact on early societies
A new study linking paleoclimatology -- the reconstruction of past global climates -- with historical analysis shows a link between environmental stress and its impact on the economy, political stability, and war-fighting capacity of ancient Egypt.

10/17/2017 04:43 PM
Scientists determine source of world's largest mud eruption
More than 11 years after the Lusi mud volcano first erupted on the Indonesian island of Java, researchers may have figured out why the mudflows haven't stopped: deep underground, Lusi is connected to a nearby volcanic system.

10/17/2017 04:43 PM
Study shows how water could have flowed on 'cold and icy' ancient Mars
Research by planetary scientists finds that periodic melting of ice sheets on a cold early Mars would have created enough water to carve the ancient valleys and lakebeds seen on the planet today.

10/17/2017 04:43 PM
Tropical beetles face extinction threat
Climate change is putting many tropical high altitude beetles at risk of extinction, warn an international team of scientists.

10/17/2017 04:43 PM
A new way to harness wasted methane
Scientists have identified a process that could be used to harness methane that is now wasted by being burned off at wellheads.

10/17/2017 12:03 AM
Oysters offer hot spot for reducing nutrient pollution
Marine scientists have quantified potentially denitrifying bacteria in the oyster gut and shell, with important implications for efforts to reduce nutrient levels in coastal waters through oyster restoration.

10/16/2017 06:26 PM
Toward efficient high-pressure desalination
One of the biggest operational challenges for desalination plants is the fouling of membranes by microbes. New research suggests a novel approach to reducing the rate of fouling, and thus improving desalination plant efficiency.

10/16/2017 03:28 PM
When lemons give you life: Herpetofauna adaptation to citrus orchards in Belize
Reptile and amphibian communities exhibit a promising level of resilience to agricultural lands. In a new study, herpetologists compared forested areas to manicured citrus orchards and reclaimed orchard forests in Belize. Further intriguing discoveries were made when the Category 1 Hurricane Earl hit the study site.

10/16/2017 02:27 PM
Fanged kangaroo research could shed light on extinction
Fanged kangaroos -- an extinct family of small fanged Australian kangaroos -- might have survived at least five million years longer than previously thought. A new study has found the species might have competed for resources with ancestors of modern kangaroos.

10/16/2017 02:27 PM
Cocktail tests on toxic waste called for
Surprisingly low concentrations of toxic chemicals -- from fungicides to antidepressants -- can change the way some aquatic creatures swim and feed, according to new research. In addition, depending on the cocktail of toxins they can produce unexpected results.

10/13/2017 06:22 PM
Gutters teem with inconspicuous life
Scientists have shown that Parisian street gutters are oases of microscopic life, home to microalgae, fungi, sponges, and mollusks. Grouped into communities, these microorganisms may help clean rainwater and urban waste by decomposing solid debris and pollutants. A deeper understanding of the role and composition of these communities could help elucidate the services rendered by gutter ecosystems. The researchers' findings are the first to reveal the unsuspected biodiversity of microscopic life in Paris city streets.

10/13/2017 01:02 AM
Is it gonna blow? Measuring volcanic emissions from space
Carbon dioxide measured by a NASA satellite pinpoints sources of the gas from human and volcanic activities, which may help monitor greenhouse gases responsible for climate change.

10/13/2017 01:02 AM
Understanding rare Earth emulsions
Through a series of theoretical simulations, researchers discovered that surface polarization in mixed media increases attraction among elements.

10/13/2017 01:02 AM
Combination of El Niño and 2016 Ecuador earthquake likely worsened Zika outbreak
A Zika virus outbreak in coastal Ecuador in 2016 was likely worsened by a strong El Niño and a magnitude 7.8 earthquake that struck the region in April, according to a new study.

10/12/2017 09:40 PM
New headway in desalination technology
Engineers have taken a step forward in developing a saltwater desalination process that is potentially cheaper than reverse osmosis and borrows from battery technology. In their study, the researchers are focusing on new materials that could make desalination of brackish waters economically desirable and energy efficient.

10/12/2017 08:18 PM
Warming seas could lead to 70 percent increase in hurricane-related financial loss
Hurricane-related financial loss could increase more than 70 percent by 2100 if oceans warm at the worst-case-scenario rate predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, according to a new study. The study used a combination of hurricane modeling and information in FEMA's HAZUS database to reach its conclusions.

10/12/2017 08:17 PM
Tropical tree roots represent an underappreciated carbon pool
Estimates of the carbon stored by tropical forests rarely take tree roots into consideration. Scientists report that almost 30 percent of the total biomass of tropical trees may be in the roots.

10/12/2017 05:39 PM
Thunderstorm activity is highest at foot of the Zugspitze
Those who are afraid of thunderstorms should move to Kiel, whereas those who do not feel threatened by thunder and lightning should settle in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, because average thunderstorm activity is lowest in the city in Northern Germany and highest in the city in Bavaria, report scientists who evaluated data on thunderstorm occurrences.

10/12/2017 05:28 PM
Climate change may accelerate infectious disease outbreaks, say researchers
Aside from inflicting devastating natural disasters on often vulnerable communities, climate change can also spur outbreaks of infectious diseases like Zika , malaria and dengue fever, according to a new study.

10/12/2017 03:37 PM
Carbon dioxide levels lower than thought during super greenhouse period
Researchers adds to the understanding of Earth's historic hyperthermal events to help explain the planet's current warming trend.

10/12/2017 02:10 PM
New threat to the ozone layer
'Ozone depletion is a well-known phenomenon and, thanks to the success of the Montreal Protocol, is widely perceived as a problem solved,' say some. But an international team of researchers, has now found an unexpected, growing danger to the ozone layer from substances not regulated by the treaty.

10/11/2017 11:00 PM
Bio-methane transforms from landfill waste to energy source
Most manure just sits around. Anaerobic digesters take those piles and place them in large covered tanks and convert waste into an energy source. Chemical engineers examined the carbon footprint of anaerobic digestion.

10/11/2017 08:14 PM
New conservation method empowers indigenous peoples
Environmental social scientists worked with indigenous people in the rural Peruvian Amazon and determined that local people meet their basic needs through diverse subsistence activities, such as hunting, fishing, and farming, and over centuries they have developed sophisticated natural resource management systems that protect the robust rainforest ecosystem. Through the study, the scientists hope to overturn traditional notions about development and industrialization.

10/11/2017 08:13 PM
Doubt cast on warming implications of brown carbon aerosol from wildfires
As devastating wildfires rage in California wine country, a team of environmental engineers have made a new discovery about wildfire smoke, and its effect on the atmosphere.

10/11/2017 07:48 PM
Risk of tsunamis in Mediterranean Sea has been overstated, say experts
A review of geological evidence for tsunamis during the past 4500 years in the Mediterranean Sea has revealed that as many as 90 per cent of these inundation events may have been misinterpreted by scientists and were due to storm activity instead.

10/11/2017 05:39 PM
Tracking the viral parasites of giant viruses over time
In freshwater lakes, microbes regulate the flow of carbon and determine if the bodies of water serve as carbon sinks or carbon sources. Viruses exist amidst all bacteria, usually in a 10-fold excess and include virophages which live in giant viruses and use their machinery to replicate and spread. Researchers have effectively doubled the number of known virophages.

10/11/2017 05:38 PM
Storage is renewable energy's greatest challenge -- this low-cost sulfur battery may help
Motivated by the challenge to drastically reduce the cost of storing renewable energy on the grid while capturing more of it, a group of scientists has developed a battery powered by sulfur, air, water, and salt -- all readily available materials -- that is nearly 100 times less expensive to produce than batteries currently on the market and can store twice as much energy as a lead-acid battery. The inventors present their prototype in Joule.

10/11/2017 05:38 PM
Watching wildfires
A team of researchers is continuing an effort to research how climate influences wildfire frequency. The group developed the Physical Chemical Fire Frequency Model just a few years ago. The model focuses on two variables -- temperature and precipitation -- to understand how climate drives wildfire across the world.

10/11/2017 05:38 PM
Beyond EPA's Clean Power decision: Climate action window could close as early as 2023
As the Trump administration repeals the US Clean Power Plan, a new study underscores the urgency of reducing greenhouse gas emissions -- from both environmental and economic perspectives.

10/11/2017 02:17 PM
Better managing plastic waste in a handful of rivers could stem plastics in the ocean
Massive amounts of plastic bits that are dangerous to aquatic life are washing into the oceans and into even the most pristine waters. But how it all gets there from inland cities has not been fully understood. Now scientists have found that 10 rivers around the world where plastic waste is mismanaged contribute to most of the oceans' total loads that come from rivers.

10/11/2017 02:11 PM
One of planet's largest volcanic eruptions
Researchers have determined that the Pacific Northwest was home to one of the Earth's largest known volcanic eruptions, a millennia-long spewing of sulfuric gas that blocked out the sun and cooled the planet. Only two other eruptions -- the basalt floods of the Siberian Traps and the Deccan Traps -- were larger, and they led to two of the Earth's great extinctions.

10/11/2017 03:45 AM
Solar-powered devices made of wood could help mitigate water scarcity crisis
Energy from the sun and a block of wood smaller than an adult's hand are the only components needed to heat water to its steaming point in these purifying devices.

10/10/2017 08:29 PM
The costs of transporting petroleum products by pipelines and rail
While the policy debate surrounding crude oil transportation costs has emphasized accidents and spills, a new study indicates the debate is overlooking a far more serious external cost -- air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

10/10/2017 08:28 PM
Improving Lake Erie's water quality
The conditions in Lake Erie continue to pose several health risks to Ohioans in coastal communities, making it difficult to maintain good water quality for citizens, state and local policymakers. Researchers in the Great Lakes region are now working toward innovative solutions.

10/10/2017 05:41 PM
Marine snowfall at the equator
Animal excrements and parts of dead organisms constantly sink from the surface of the oceans towards the deep sea. This particle flow plays an important role in the global carbon cycle and consequently for the climate. Little is known so far about its distribution in the water column. An international research team has now published a detailed image of the distribution of the marine snowfall in the equatorial ocean.

10/10/2017 05:40 PM
Breeding salt-tolerant plants
The quinoa plant might serve as a model for making other crops salt-tolerant. It grows well on saline soils because the excess salt is simply dumped into special bladders on its leaves.

10/10/2017 04:46 PM
Forest grazing counteracts the effectiveness of trees to reduce flood risk
Planting trees can reduce flood risk, but a high intensity forest land use, such as grazing, can counteract the positive effect of the trees, a recently published study suggests. The study investigated the rate that water infiltrated the soil under trees at an experimental agroforestry site in Scotland.

10/10/2017 04:46 PM
Conservationists' eco-footprints suggest education alone won't change behavior
A new study shows that even those presumably best informed on the environment find it hard to consistently 'walk the walk,' prompting scientists to question whether relying solely on information campaigns will ever be enough.

10/10/2017 03:58 PM
Green gentrification can limit the favorable effects of green areas on health
A new study suggests that more socially disadvantaged neighbors do not benefit equally from the effects newly created green areas have on health. Scientists consider that greener cities are not healthier and more equal for everyone.

10/10/2017 03:57 PM
Salt marsh research warns of pumpkin-colored 'zombies'
Salt marsh research shows that growing abundance of tiny shrimp infected by a microscopic parasite may portend future threats to humankind through disease.

10/10/2017 03:57 PM
Clear lakes disguise impaired water quality
Look at a hundred lakes in the United States' agricultural heartland and you'll likely see green lakes surrounded by green fields. Agricultural fertilizers that help crops grow also fuel growth of algae and cyanobacteria that in excess can turn lakes the color of pea soup. Yet when scientists looked at 13 years of data from 139 lakes in intensively agricultural areas of Iowa they saw lakes that were surprisingly clear despite extremely high nutrient concentrations.

10/10/2017 03:56 PM
Diversity of large animals plays an important role in carbon cycle
With abundant data on plants, large animals and their activity, and carbon soil levels in the Amazon, research suggests that large animal diversity influences carbon stocks and contributes to climate change mitigation.

10/10/2017 02:13 PM
Three million francs’ worth of gold and silver going to waste
Trace elements are increasingly widely used in the high-tech and medical sectors – for example, the transition metal tantalum and the semimetal germanium in electronic components, niobium and titanium in alloys and coatings, or gadolinium as a contrast medium and in luminous paints. While the ultimate fate of the various elements has been little studied to date, a large proportion is known to enter wastewater.

10/10/2017 01:56 PM
Little growth observed in India's methane emissions
Methane is the second most powerful greenhouse gas and concentrations are rising in the atmosphere. Because of its potency and quick decay in the atmosphere, countries have recognized that reduction of methane emissions are a means toward mitigating global warming.

10/10/2017 01:55 PM
Illegal use of natural resources in the protected Brazilian Amazon mapped
New research uses law enforcement data collected from 2010 to 2015 to understand the geographical distribution of the illegal use of natural resources across the region's protected area network. In the study, a total of 4,243 reports of illegal use of natural resources were evaluated and mapped. These reports generated US $224.6 million in fines.

10/09/2017 08:50 PM
What soot-covered, hundred-year-old birds can tell us about saving the environment
Birds in museum collections from Rust Belt cities around the turn of the century are covered with black soot from air pollution at the time. Scientists have compared the amount of soot on birds through the years to track envioronmental pollution over the last 135 years.

10/09/2017 08:49 PM
Formation of coal almost turned our planet into a snowball
While burning coal today causes Earth to overheat, about 300 million years ago the formation of that same coal brought our planet close to global glaciation. For the first time, scientists show the massive effect in a new study.

10/09/2017 08:49 PM
Huge energy potential in open ocean wind farms in the North Atlantic
Because wind speeds are higher on average over ocean than over land, wind turbines in the open ocean could in theory intercept more than five times as much energy as wind turbines over land. This presents an enticing opportunity for generating renewable energy through wind turbines. But it was unknown whether the faster ocean winds could actually be converted to increased amounts of electricity.

10/09/2017 05:32 PM
Solar energy: Prototype shows how tiny photodetectors can double their efficiency
Physicists have developed a photodetector -- a device that converts light into electrons -- by combining two distinct inorganic materials and producing quantum mechanical processes that could revolutionize the way solar energy is collected. The researchers stacked two atomic layers of tungsten diselenide on a single atomic layer of molybdenum diselenide. Such stacking results in properties vastly different from those of the parent layers, allowing for customized electronic engineering at the tiniest possible scale.

10/09/2017 02:32 PM
Disease-carrying mosquitoes abound in deforested lands
UF scientists synthesized and examined data from prior studies that had looked at how many pathogen-carrying mosquito species made their homes in forested lands vs. non-forested lands in 12 countries worldwide, including the United States.

10/09/2017 01:44 PM
Global kids study: More trees, less disease
A study of 300,000 children in 35 nations says children whose watersheds have greater tree cover are less likely to experience diarrheal disease, the second leading cause of death for kids under the age of five. The study is the first to quantify the connection between watershed quality and individual health outcomes of children at the global scale. The study results from a major new database that enables 'big data' approaches.

10/06/2017 09:48 PM
DNA barcoding technology helping monitor health of all-important boreal forest
The Boreal forest is essential to Canada and the world, storing carbon, purifying water and air and regulating climate. But keeping tabs on the health of this vulnerable biome has proven to be a painstaking and time-consuming undertaking - until now. Cutting-edge DNA metabarcoding technology can help speed up and improve the monitoring process, according to a new study.

10/06/2017 07:21 PM
Deer prefer native plants leaving lasting damage on forests
When rampant white-tailed deer graze in forests, they prefer to eat native plants over certain unpalatable invasive plants, such as garlic mustard and Japanese stiltgrass. These eating habits lower native plant diversity and abundance, while increasing the proportion of plant communities made up of non-native species, according to a new study.

10/06/2017 05:40 PM
Breakthrough in direct activation of CO2 and CH4 into liquid fuels and chemicals
Researchers have made a significant breakthrough in the direct conversion of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) into liquid fuels and chemicals which could help industry to reduce greenhouse gas emissions whilst producing valuable chemical feedstocks.

10/06/2017 03:18 PM
Predicting insect feeding preferences after deforestation
Understanding how parasitoids and hosts interact, and how their interactions change with human influence, is critically important to understanding ecosystems. New research finds mathematical models can predict complex insect behavioral changes using a simple description of insect preferences.

10/06/2017 02:03 PM
Microbes dictate regime shifts causing anoxia in lakes and seas
Gradual environmental changes due to eutrophication and global warming can cause a rapid depletion of oxygen levels in lakes and coastal waters. A new study shows that microorganisms play a key role in these disastrous regime shifts.

10/06/2017 12:02 AM
Old Faithful's geological heart revealed
Scientists have mapped the near-surface geology around Old Faithful, revealing the reservoir of heated water that feeds the geyser's surface vent and how the ground shaking behaves in between eruptions.

10/05/2017 07:18 PM
Carbon feedback from forest soils to accelerate global warming
After 26 years, the world's longest-running experiment to discover how warming temperatures affect forest soils has revealed a surprising, cyclical response: Soil warming stimulates periods of abundant carbon release from the soil to the atmosphere alternating with periods of no detectable loss in soil carbon stores. The study indicates that in a warming world, a self-reinforcing and perhaps uncontrollable carbon feedback will occur between forest soils and the climate system, accelerating global warming.

10/05/2017 07:18 PM
Decision to rescind Waters of the United States rule (WOTUS) based on flawed analysis
New evidence suggests that the Trump Administration's proposal to rescind the 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule that would limit the scope of the Clean Water Act inappropriately overlooks wetlands-related values.