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.

07/27/2017 03:29 PM
Biochar could clear the air in more ways than one
Biochar could reduce local air pollution from agriculture by reducing emissions of nitric oxide from soil. Researchers argue that a better understanding of nitric oxide response to biochar will save lives and money, especially on farms near urban areas where agricultural emissions contribute to ozone and particulate matter formation.

07/27/2017 03:29 PM
Project to save the Belize coast provides valuable framework
A coastal zone management plan designed to safeguard Belize's natural assets has produced a win-win opportunity for people and the environment, providing a valuable framework for other coastal nations around the world where overfishing, development, and habitat degradation are increasingly serious problems.

07/27/2017 03:29 PM
Model developed to predict, prevent power outages using big data
High-speed winds during a thunderstorm may cause trees around an electric grid to crash into the distribution system feeders causing an outage in that area. Currently, most utility companies diminish such accidents by scheduling regular tree-trimming operations. This effort is costly and is based on a rotational approach to different service areas, which may take months and sometimes years before all trees are trimmed.

07/27/2017 03:29 PM
Scientists identify optimal areas for conservation and agriculture in the tropics
A team of researchers has recently completed a global study on the trade-offs between the benefits provided by tropical forests and its conversion for agricultural use. The team examined deforestation activities of more than 50 countries in the tropics between 2000 to 2012, and identified regions where deforestation is most and least beneficial.

07/27/2017 01:31 PM
Heavy metals in water meet their match
A high school student's project removes more than 99 percent of heavy metal toxins from water. A new article demonstrates its potential for water remediation in developing nations around the world.

07/26/2017 03:30 PM
Lake Baikal: Protection of a unique ecosystem
Researchers are studying the impact of climate change and environmental toxins on the lake's fauna. They addressed the question of how Baikal amphipods that fulfill important ecological functions in the lake react to pollutants in the water.

07/26/2017 03:29 PM
Solar scientists rough up silicon panels to boost light capture
Scientists enhance conversion efficiency of crystalline Si solar cells by effectively preventing reflection loss, passivating a submicron silicon structure, and adding a rough nanoscale surface texture using simple and inexpensive processes.

07/26/2017 03:29 PM
Humans identify emotions in the voices of all air-breathing vertebrates
Amphibians, reptiles, mammals -- all of them communicate via acoustic signals. And humans are able to assess the emotional value of these signals. The authors interpreted their findings as evidence that there might be a universal code for the vocal expression and perception of emotions in the animal kingdom.

07/26/2017 02:20 PM
Turning dirty tinfoil into biofuel catalyst
A researcher has discovered a way to convert dirty aluminium foil into a biofuel catalyst, which could help to solve global waste and energy problems.

07/26/2017 02:20 PM
New membranes help reduce carbon dioxide emission
Scientists are developing membranes for an efficient separation of gasses, to use for the production of oxygen or hydrogen, for example.

07/26/2017 02:15 PM
Trees can make or break city weather
Even a single urban tree can help moderate wind speeds and keep pedestrians comfortable as they walk down the street, according to a new study that also found losing a single tree can increase wind pressure on nearby buildings and drive up heating costs.

07/26/2017 01:41 AM
Fungal spores harness physics to launch themselves
More than a century ago, Reginald Buller discovered that a spherical drop of water that forms close to a spore is crucial to the spore's dispersal. Now, using an ink jet printer and high speed cameras, researchers have uncovered the detailed mechanics of the way fungal spores have evolved to harness the power of merging water droplets to launch in a uniform manner.

07/25/2017 08:42 PM
Could spraying particles into marine clouds help cool the planet?
A first test of humans' ability to modify clouds would help explain the behavior of clouds and aerosols, while also testing a possible future climate emergency measure.

07/25/2017 08:41 PM
Coral gardening is benefiting Caribbean reefs, study finds
A new study found that Caribbean staghorn corals (Acropora cervicornis) are benefiting from 'coral gardening,' the process of restoring coral populations by planting laboratory-raised coral fragments on reefs.

07/25/2017 03:06 PM
Symbiosis: Butter for my honey
Textbooks tell us that, in arbuscular mycorrhizal symbioses, the host plant supplies its fungal symbionts solely with sugars, in return for inorganic nutrients. New findings now show that lipids are also on the menu.

07/25/2017 02:01 PM
Climate change poses threat to European electricity production
The vulnerability of the European electricity sector to changes in water resources is set to worsen by 2030 as a consequence of climate change, conclude researchers.

07/24/2017 08:56 PM
Greatest threat to Eastern forest birds is habitat loss on wintering grounds
Human-caused habitat loss looms as the greatest threat to some North American breeding birds. The problem will be most severe on their wintering grounds, according to a new study.

07/24/2017 07:20 PM
Algae cultivation technique could advance biofuels
Washington State University researchers have developed a way to grow algae more efficiently -- in days instead of weeks -- and make the algae more viable for several industries, including biofuels.

07/24/2017 06:31 PM
Seawalls: Ecological effects of coastal armoring in soft sediment environments
For nearly a century, the O'Shaughnessy seawall has held back the sand and seas of San Francisco's Ocean Beach. At work even longer: the Galveston seawall, built after America's deadliest hurricane in 1900 killed thousands in Texas.

07/24/2017 06:31 PM
Summer sea ice melt in the Arctic
Earlier this year Arctic sea ice sank to a record low wintertime extent for the third straight year. Now NASA is flying a set of instruments north of Greenland to observe the impact of the melt season on the Arctic's oldest and thickest sea ice.

07/24/2017 04:41 PM
Allowable 'carbon budget' most likely overestimated
While most climate scientists, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, implicitly define 'pre-industrial' to be in the late 1800s, a true non-industrially influenced baseline is probably further in the past, according to an international team of researchers who are concerned because it affects the available carbon budget for meeting the 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) warming limit agreed to in the Paris Conference of 2015.

07/24/2017 04:35 PM
Fungi that evolved to eat wood offer new biomass conversion tool
Twenty years ago, a microbiologist and colleagues discovered a unique system that some microorganisms use to digest and recycle wood. Three orders of 'brown rot fungi' have now been identified that can break down biomass, but details of the mechanism were not known. Now, using several complementary research tools, these researchers report new details of an unexpected mechanism at work, one that surprisingly does not involve enzymes, the usual accelerators of chemical reactions.

07/24/2017 03:50 PM
Could 'cocktail geoengineering' save the climate?
Geoengineering is a catch-all term that refers to various theoretical ideas for altering Earth's energy balance to combat climate change. New research from an international team of atmospheric scientists investigates for the first time the possibility of using a 'cocktail' of geoengineering tools to reduce changes in both temperature and precipitation caused by atmospheric greenhouse gases.

07/24/2017 01:30 PM
'Hindcasting' study investigates the extreme 2013 Colorado flood
Using a publicly available climate model, researchers 'hindcast' the conditions that led to the Sept. 9-16, 2013 flooding around Boulder, Colo. and found that climate change attributed to human activity made the storm much more severe than would otherwise have occurred.

07/21/2017 06:53 PM
Rush hour pollution may be more dangerous than you think
Everyone knows that exposure to pollution during rush hour traffic can be hazardous to your health, but it's even worse than previously thought. In-car measurements of pollutants that cause oxidative stress found exposure levels for drivers to be twice as high as previously believed.

07/21/2017 02:54 PM
Mountain glaciers recharge vital aquifers
Small mountain glaciers play a big role in recharging vital aquifers and in keeping rivers flowing during the winter, according to a new study. The study also suggests that the accelerated melting of mountain glaciers in recent decades may explain a phenomenon that has long puzzled scientists -- why Arctic and sub-Arctic rivers have increased their water flow during the winter even without a correlative increase in rain or snowfall.

07/21/2017 02:54 PM
Sparkling springs aid quest for underground heat energy sources
Studies of naturally carbonated mineral water have given scientists insight on how to locate hot water springs -- potential sources of sustainable geothermal energy.

07/21/2017 12:32 AM
North American monsoon storms fewer but more extreme
The North American Monsoon now brings more extreme wind and rain to central and southwestern Arizona than in the past. Although there are now fewer storms, the largest monsoon thunderstorms bring heavier rain and stronger winds than did the monsoon storms of 60 years ago, according to new research. The dust storms, wind, flash flooding and microbursts that accompany monsoon storms can be a severe threat to people and property in Arizona.

07/20/2017 08:53 PM
Sunny, rainy, or cloudy: New study shows how weather impacts response to mobile ads
Among the many factors that impact digital marketing and online advertising strategy, a new study provides insight to a growing trend among firms and big brands: weather-based advertising. According to the study, certain weather conditions are more amenable for consumer responses to mobile marketing efforts, while the tone of your ad content can either help or hurt such response depending on the current local weather.

07/20/2017 07:23 PM
Paying people to protect forests is worth it
A new study suggests that paying people to conserve their trees could be a highly cost-effective way to reduce deforestation and carbon emissions and should be a key part of the global strategy to fight climate change. The study sought to evaluate how effective 'Payments for Ecosystems' (PES) is at reducing deforestation.

07/20/2017 07:22 PM
Climate change and sugarcane expansion expected to boost hantavirus cases
Rising global temperatures and changes to land use have both been shown to have profound impacts on human health. Now researchers have found one more infectious disease that's expected to be affected. By 2050, the number of people in risk of hantavirus in the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo, they found, will increase by more than 20 percent due to climate change and land use changes.

07/20/2017 03:06 PM
Coral reefs in the Gulf of Aqaba may survive global warming, new study finds
Coral reefs in the Red Sea’s Gulf of Aqaba can resist rising water temperatures, suggests new research. If they survive local pollution, these corals may one day be used to re-seed parts of the world where reefs are dying. The scientists urge governments to protect the Gulf of Aqaba Reefs.

07/20/2017 03:05 PM
Hot dogs: Is climate change impacting populations of African wild dogs?
Climate change may be harming the future of African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) by impacting the survival rates of pups, according to one of the first studies on how shifting temperatures are impacting tropical species.

07/20/2017 02:51 PM
A super-algae to save our seas? Genetic engineering species to save corals
Solutions to climate change, and particularly its effects on the ocean, are needed now more than ever. Coral bleaching caused by climate change is a huge threat to coral reefs. Recent extreme bleaching events have already killed corals worldwide and permanent destruction of reefs is projected within the century if immediate action is not taken. However, genetically engineering a group of microalgae found in corals may enhance their stress tolerance to ocean warming and save coral reefs.

07/20/2017 02:51 PM
Shifting storms to bring extreme waves, seaside damage to once placid areas
The world's most extensive study of a major stormfront striking the coast has revealed a previously unrecognised danger from climate change: as storm patterns fluctuate, waterfront areas once thought safe are likely to be hammered and damaged as never before.

07/20/2017 02:50 PM
The way rivers function reflects their ecological status and is rarely explored
A research project proposes going beyond the study of river ecosystems and incorporating into the studies routinely carried out a set of processes that regulate not only the fluxes of matter but also the fluxes of energy within an ecosystem. In a recently published paper, the group is proposing a new working framework to study the status of rivers.

07/19/2017 07:09 PM
More than 8. 3 billion tons of plastics made: Most has now been discarded
Humans have created 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics since large-scale production of the synthetic materials began in the early 1950s, and most of it now resides in landfills or the natural environment, according to a study.

07/19/2017 06:22 PM
Conserve intact forest landscapes to maximize biodiversity, reduce extinction risk
A new global analysis of forest habitat loss and wildlife extinction risk shows that species most at risk live in areas just beginning to see the impacts of human activities such as hunting, mining, logging and ranching.

07/19/2017 06:22 PM
Heat tweet: Users flock to Twitter when temperatures rise
Researchers have examined the impact rising temperatures have on Twitter activity, and how government officials use the social media tool to warn the general public of heatwave conditions.

07/19/2017 04:33 PM
Despite a great grip, geckos sometimes slip
A new theoretical study examines for the first time the limits of geckos' gripping ability in natural contexts.

07/19/2017 04:33 PM
Soil filters out some emerging contaminants before reaching groundwater
There is considerable uncertainty surrounding emerging contaminants in aquatic ecosystems and groundwater, and a recent study of compounds from pharmaceuticals and personal care products didn't add much clarity. But it did provide insight into the transport of the chemicals, according to researchers.

07/19/2017 03:05 PM
Birds avoid crossing roads to prevent predation
It was once believed that roads posed no problem to birds because of their ability to fly. A new study finds that they can find these human-made structures problematic, especially small, forest-dwelling species. Their hesitance to cross roads could restrict their positive effects on the natural environment, such as seed dispersal, pollination and insect control.

07/19/2017 03:05 PM
Enhanced oil recovery method developed
A new class of materials which are suitable agents for oil displacing in enhanced oil recovery have been developed.

07/19/2017 02:21 PM
3-D-printed water quality sensor tested
Researchers have designed a tiny device -- built using a 3-D printer -- that can monitor drinking water quality in real time and help protect against waterborne illness.

07/19/2017 01:48 PM
Thawing permafrost releases old greenhouse gas
The thawing permafrost soils in the Arctic regions might contribute to the greenhouse effect in two respects: on the one hand rising temperatures lead to higher microbial methane production close to the surface. On the other hand thawing subsurface opens increasingly pathways for old, geologic methane.

07/19/2017 01:46 PM
Destruction of wetlands linked to algal blooms in Great Lakes
Canada's current wetland protection efforts have overlooked how the environment naturally protects fresh-water resources from agricultural fertilizer contaminants.

07/18/2017 07:29 PM
Did life begin on land rather than in the sea?
A new discovery pushes back the time for the emergence of microbial life on land by 580 million years and also bolsters a paradigm-shifting hypothesis that life began, not in the sea, but on land.

07/18/2017 06:10 PM
Titan simulations show importance of close two-way coupling between human and Earth systems
By using supercomputers such as the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility's Titan, a large multidisciplinary team of scientists developed a new integrated climate model designed to reduce uncertainties in future climate predictions as it bridges Earth systems with energy and economic models and large-scale human impact data.

07/18/2017 06:10 PM
3-D models help scientists gauge flood impact
Using one of the world's most powerful supercomputers, a research team performed one of the first highly resolved, 3-D, volume-of-fluid Reynolds-averaged Navier-Stokes (RANS) simulations of a dam break in a natural environment. The simulation allowed the team to map precise water levels for actual flood events over time.

07/18/2017 05:47 PM
Human-made aerosols identified as driver in shifting global rainfall patterns
Scientists found that aerosol particles released into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels are a primary driver of changes in rainfall patterns across the globe.

07/18/2017 05:47 PM
Bornean orangutans' canopy movements flag conservation targets
Bornean orangutans living in forests impacted by human commerce seek areas of denser canopy enclosure, taller trees, and sections with trees of uniform height, according to new research. These orangutans are critically endangered, and despite intense conservation efforts, their numbers continue to decline. Additional habitat management strategies that account for their presence in forests affected by logging and other human activity are needed to ensure the species' survival.

07/18/2017 04:37 PM
Removing CO2 from the air required to safeguard children's future
Reducing greenhouse-gas emissions is not enough to limit global warming to a level that wouldn't risk young people's future, according to a new study by scientists who say we need negative emissions. Measures such as reforestation could accomplish much of the needed CO2 removal from the atmosphere, but continued high fossil fuel emissions would demand expensive technological solutions to extract CO2 and prevent dangerous warming.

07/18/2017 04:37 PM
Non-toxic alternative for next-generation solar cells
Researchers have demonstrated how a non-toxic alternative to lead could form the basis of next-generation solar cells.

07/18/2017 04:35 PM
Environmental pollution exposure during pregnancy increases asthma risk for three generations
Exposure to environmental pollutants during pregnancy may increase the risk of asthma for as many as three consecutive generations, according to new research.

07/18/2017 01:46 PM
Helping EU cities and regions cut carbon emissions
A series of first-ever maps shows regional-scale differences in carbon footprints in the EU. The maps can help guide local and regional policies designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

07/17/2017 08:08 PM
Hundred-year-old law on fluid flow overturned by research
Engineers have dispelled a 100-year-old scientific law used to describe how fluid flows through rocks. The discovery could lead to a range of improvements including advances in Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). This is where industrial emissions will be captured by CCS technology, before reaching the atmosphere, and safely stored in rock deep underground.

07/17/2017 08:08 PM
What makes red algae so different and why should we care?
The red algae called Porphyra and its ancestors have thrived for millions of years in the harsh habitat of the intertidal zone -- exposed to fluctuating temperatures, high UV radiation, severe salt stress, and desiccation. Despite Porphyra's ecological, evolutionary, and commercial importance, there is still relatively little known about its molecular genetics and physiology.

07/17/2017 05:57 PM
Rooftop concentrating photovoltaics win big over silicon in outdoor testing
A concentrating photovoltaic system with embedded microtracking can produce over 50 percent more energy per day than standard silicon solar cells in a head-to-head competition, according to a team of engineers who field tested a prototype unit over two sunny days last fall.

07/17/2017 04:57 PM
Nanomaterial helps store solar energy: Efficiently and inexpensively
Since solar and wind energy is not always available, it will only contribute significantly to meeting energy demands once a reliable storage method has been developed. Now a new catalyst material for electrolysers is proving to be reliable, shows new field trials.

07/17/2017 04:56 PM
Why Tyrannosaurus was a slow runner and why the largest are not always the fastest
No other animal on land is faster than a cheetah -- the elephant is indeed larger, but slower. For small to medium-sized animals, larger also means faster, but for really large animals, when it comes to speed, everything goes downhill again. For the first time, it is now possible to describe how this parabola-like relationship between body size and speed comes about.