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.
03/16/2018 04:11 PM
Wandering greenhouse gas
On the seafloor of the shallow coastal regions north of Siberia, microorganisms produce methane when they break down plant remains. If this greenhouse gas finds its way into the water, it can also become trapped in the sea ice that forms in these coastal waters.
03/16/2018 02:06 PM
Menomous Solenodon, last survivor of a branch of mammals that appeared at the time of the dinosaurs, sequenced
An article presents a draft genome of a small shrew-like animal, the venomous Hispaniolan solenodon. This unusual animal is one of the only extant venomous mammals, and it is the sole remaining branch of mammals that split from other insectivores at the time of the dinosaurs. The solenodon genome sequence revealed the answer to several evolutionary questions, such as whether the solenodon species indeed survived the meteor impact that killed the dinosaurs.
03/15/2018 06:07 PM
Researchers create a protein 'mat' that can soak up pollution
In a breakthrough that could lead to a new class of materials with functions found only in living systems, scientists have figured out a way to keep certain proteins active outside of the cell. The researchers used this technology to create mats that can soak up and trap chemical pollution.
03/15/2018 06:07 PM
Topsy-turvy currents key to removing nitrate from streams
More than 500 years ago, Leonardo da Vinci sketched what he called 'la turbolenza,' comparing chaotic swirls atop flowing water to curly human hair. It turns out those patterns influence myriad phenomena, from the drag on an airplane's wings and the formation of Jupiter's red spot to the rustling of tree leaves.
03/15/2018 03:06 PM
Half a degree more global warming could flood out 5 million more people
A new study finds that by 2150, the seemingly small difference between a global temperature increase of 1.5 and 2.0 degrees Celsius would mean the permanent inundation of lands currently home to about 5 million people, including 60,000 who live on small island nations.
03/15/2018 02:17 PM
Metal-organic frameworks cut energy consumption of petrochemicals
Chemical engineers have developed a new method for making meta-organic framework membranes that can be used to considerably improve energy-expensive processes such as propylene-propane separation, which accounts for 40% of energy used in the global petrochemical industry.
03/15/2018 01:18 PM
Ultrashort laser pulses make greenhouse gas reactive
It is a long-cherished dream: Removing the inert greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and using it as a basic material for the chemical industry. This could address two major problems at once by containing climate change and at the same time reducing the dependence on oil. Physico-chemists are in the process of making significant contributions to this vision. They have discovered a new way to create a highly reactive form of carbon dioxide with the help of laser pulses.
03/14/2018 06:50 PM
Coral reef experiment shows: Acidification from carbon dioxide slows growth
Ocean acidification will severely impair coral reef growth before the end of the century if carbon dioxide emissions continue unchecked. The paper represents the first ocean acidification experiment in which seawater was made artificially acidic by the addition of carbon dioxide and then allowed to flow across a natural coral reef community. The acidity of the seawater was increased to reflect end-of-century projections if carbon dioxide from greenhouse gas emissions are not abated.
03/14/2018 03:09 PM
Researchers tap problematic e-waste surplus to recover high-quality polymers
Mixed-plastic electronics waste could be a valuable source of reusable polymers, a new study suggests. The team has developed the first energy-efficient and environmentally friendly process that separates mixed polymers so that they can be recycled into new, high-quality plastic products.
03/14/2018 02:19 PM
Growing need for urban forests as urban land expands
New research projecting urban land growth and updating urban forest values suggests that urbanization and urban forests are likely to be one the most important forest influences and influential forests of the 21st Century.
03/14/2018 01:28 PM
Mountains become islands: Ecological dangers of increasing land use in East Africa
The mountains of East Africa are a treasure trove of biodiversity. However, their ecosystems may be at a higher risk than previously realized. Scientists have discovered that Mount Kilimanjaro is turning into an "ecological island". Agriculture and housing construction have eliminated the natural vegetation that used to serve as a bridge to the surrounding area, enabling the diversity of species to develop to its current levels. Neighboring mountain regions are presumably also being isolated from their surrounding areas.
03/14/2018 01:26 PM
Global warming increases the risk of avalanches
The impacts of global warming are felt especially in mountainous regions, where the rise in temperatures is above average, affecting both glacierized landscapes and water resources. The repercussions of these changes are manifold and varied, from retreating glaciers to an increase in the frequency and intensity of snow avalanches. A team of researchers has employed dendrochronology -– the reconstruction of past disasters as recorded in growth series of trees -– to disentangle the role of global warming in the triggering avalanches.
03/13/2018 07:21 PM
Wind moves microinvertebrates across desert
Research has yielded the first evidence of how waterborne microinvertebrates move across vast expanses of arid desert. A new study details for the first time how high desert winds disperse small invertebrates and how they colonize hydrologically disconnected basins throughout the region.
03/13/2018 03:34 PM
Warm summers could weaken ocean circulation
Deep convection in the North Atlantic is one of the key components of the large-scale ocean circulation. Based on long-term observations, scientists have now demonstrated the influence of increased surface freshening in summer on convection in the following winter. Enhanced surface freshening and warmer winters have shortened the duration of ocean convection in the last decade.
03/13/2018 12:42 PM
Lack of water is key stressor for urban trees
A recent study finds that urban trees can survive increased heat and insect pests fairly well -- unless they are thirsty. Insufficient water not only harms trees, but allows other problems to have an outsized effect on trees in urban environments.
03/13/2018 12:16 AM
Ag robot speeds data collection, analyses of crops as they grow
A new lightweight, low-cost agricultural robot could transform data collection and field scouting for agronomists, seed companies and farmers. The TerraSentia crop phenotyping robot measures the traits of individual plants using a variety of sensors, including cameras, transmitting the data in real time to the operator's phone or laptop computer.
03/13/2018 12:16 AM
More homes built near wild lands leading to greater wildfire risk
New research o shows that a flurry of home-building near wild areas since 1990 has greatly increased the number of homes at risk from wildfires while increasing the costs associated with fighting those fires in increasingly dense developments.
03/12/2018 07:05 PM
Elephant declines imperil Africa's forests
Poaching and habitat loss have reduced forest elephant populations in Central Africa by 63 percent since 2001. This poses consequences not only for elephants but also for the region's forests, a new study finds. Without intervention to stop poaching, as much as 96 percent of Central Africa's forests will undergo major changes in tree-species composition and structure as local populations of elephants disappear and surviving populations are crowded into ever-smaller forest remnants.
03/12/2018 05:30 PM
The Alps are home to more than 3,000 lichens
Widely used as biomonitors of air quality, forest health and climate change, lichens play a vital role. However, no overview of their diversity across the emblematic Alps had been provided up until recently, when an international team of lichenologists concluded their 15-year study. Their annotated checklist includes more than 3,000 lichens and presents a long-missed benchmark for scientists studying mountain systems around the globe.
03/12/2018 05:29 PM
Modern humans flourished through ancient supervolcano eruption 74,000 years ago
Early modern humans living in South Africa around 74,000 years ago prospered through the cataclysmic eruption of the Toba supervolcano in Sumatra. The Toba eruption was one of the Earth's most explosive volcanic events. The environmental effects of this event have been heavily debated, with some researchers having previously proposed that the eruption led to a worldwide volcanic winter that devastated contemporaneous human populations.
03/12/2018 12:51 PM
Life in the fast flow: Tadpoles of new species rely on 'suction cups' to keep up
The young of two new species and a genus of frog found to inhabit Sumatra's rainforests have developed a unique ability to latch onto rocks in the fast-flowing rivers, using bellies crafted by evolution into 'suction cups'. Herpetologists use their remarkable discovery to highlight the unique biodiversity of the island, which is under imminent threat due to rampant habitat modification and deforestation.
03/09/2018 05:52 PM
Carbon could be locked in forests
Argonne researchers have found that in the next 100 years, already existing reforestation in the country could help topsoil absorb an additional 2 billion tons of carbon.
03/09/2018 02:55 PM
Increasing tree mortality in a warming world
A mix of factors is contributing to an increasing mortality rate of trees in the moist tropics, where trees in some areas are dying at about twice the rate that they were 35 years ago.
03/08/2018 08:32 PM
So much depends on the velocity of tiny droplets cast upward
New research describes the velocity of aerosols cast upward as bubbles on a liquid's surface burst. Above the ocean, these droplets transfer moisture, salt, and even toxins such as algae from water to air. Knowing the speed and height of aerosols applies to numerous areas of scientific and economic interest, including more accurate climate modeling or creating a perfect glass of champagne.
03/08/2018 07:30 PM
Mekong River dams could disrupt lives, environment
The Mekong River traverses six Southeast Asian countries and supports the livelihoods of millions of people. New efforts to provide hydroelectric power to a growing and modernizing population include more than eight proposed main-stem dams and 60 or more existing tributary dams in the lower Mekong basin. A new article lays out what dam construction could mean for residents and the environment in the region.
03/08/2018 06:33 PM
New 3-D measurements improve understanding of geomagnetic storm hazards
Measurements of the three-dimensional structure of Earth, as opposed to the one-dimensional models typically used, can help scientists more accurately determine which areas of the United States are most vulnerable to blackouts during hazardous geomagnetic storms.
03/08/2018 05:06 PM
Commercial pesticides: Not as safe as they seem
This is the first comprehensive review of gaps in risk assessments for adjuvants in pesticide formulations which are not currently subject to safety assessments. Ignoring the potential dangers of other ingredients in commonly used commercial pesticides leads to inaccuracies in the safety profile of the pesticide solution, as well as confusion in scientific literature on pesticide effects. The review suggests that new regulations are needed to protect people and the environment from toxic pesticide ingredients.
03/08/2018 03:51 PM
Scientists accurately model the action of aerosols on clouds
Global climate is a tremendously complex phenomenon, and researchers are making painstaking progress, year by year, to try to develop ever more accurate models. Now, an international group using the powerful K computer, have for the first time accurately calculated the effects of aerosols on clouds in a climate model.
03/08/2018 01:55 PM
Manure could heat your home
Farm manure could be a viable source of renewable energy to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.
03/07/2018 08:39 PM
Diverse tropical forests grow fast despite widespread phosphorus limitation
Ecological theory says that poor soils limit the productivity of tropical forests, but adding nutrients as fertilizer rarely increases tree growth, suggesting that productivity is not limited by nutrients after all. Researchers resolved this apparent contradiction, showing that phosphorus limits the growth of individual tree species but not entire forest communities. Their results have sweeping implications for understanding forest growth and change.
03/07/2018 07:14 PM
Sinking land will exacerbate flooding from sea level rise in Bay Area
Hazard maps use estimated sea level rise due to climate change to determine flooding risk for today's shoreline, but don't take into account that some land is sinking. A precise study of subsidence around San Francisco Bay shows that for conservative estimates of sea level rise, twice the area is in danger of flooding by 2100 than previously thought. Some landfill is sinking 10 mm per year, threatening the airport and parts of Silicon Valley.
03/07/2018 04:27 PM
With a TENG, solar cells could work come rain or shine
Despite the numerous advances in solar cells, one thing remains constant: cloudy, rainy conditions put a damper on the amount of electricity created. Now researchers have developed hybrid solar cells that can generate power from raindrops.
03/07/2018 03:06 PM
Why rare plants are rare
Rare plant species suffer more from disease than commoner species. The fact that rare species are more susceptible to attack by micro-organisms living in the soil, such as fungi and bacteria, may in fact be one of the reasons they are rare. Biologists have been trying to work out why some species are rare, while others are common, since Darwin's time and a new study provides a possible answer.
03/06/2018 07:15 PM
Current deforestation pace will intensify global warming, study alerts
Scientists affirms the prolongation of an annual deforestation of 7,000 square km can nullify the efforts for reducing GHG emissions. The study brings a new assessment on the importance of tropical forests in world climate regulation, and calculates a 0,8 °C rise on Earth's temperature in a scenario in which they are extinct.
03/06/2018 04:57 PM
Sea level rise urgently requires new forms of decision making
US cities facing sea level rise need to look beyond traditional strategies for managing issues such as critical erosion and coastal squeeze, according to new research. Civil society initiatives must now play a crucial role in adapting society to climate change, the study argues.
03/06/2018 04:55 PM
Where fresh is cool in Bay of Bengal
Each summer, the South Asian monsoon transforms parts of India from semi-arid into lush green lands able to support farming. The annual infusion of rainfall and resulting runoff into the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and other rivers in the region also has a very different, but no less dramatic, impact on the Bay of Bengal in the northeast Indian Ocean.
03/06/2018 04:54 PM
Environmental exposures more determinant of respiratory health than inherited genetics
Researchers have found strong evidence that environmental exposures, including air pollution, affect gene expressions associated with respiratory diseases much more than genetic ancestry. The study analyzed more than 1.6 million data points from biological specimens, health questionnaires and environmental datasets, making this study one of the largest ever to examine the relationship between gene expression and environmental stimuli.