Scientists warn Amazon jungle faces death spiral

March 14, 2017 by  
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A new study reveals that the Amazon rainforest may face a “death spiral” of deforestation and drought over the next century. The data comes from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, and while the entire forest is unlikely to disappear from the face of the Earth, large parts of the region are currently considered to be at risk. The study explores what might happen as climate change causes the region to experience more frequent and more intense dry seasons. While it may seem obvious that reduced rainfall causes trees to die off and forests to shrink, it’s also been shown that forest loss intensified regional droughts as well. When these two factors occur together, it can cause a self-reinforcing feedback loop that could wipe out large portions of forest. Related: A student-designed drone is hunting illegal loggers in the Amazon Rainforest It’s unclear exactly how much of the Amazon is at risk – computer models show this type of forest dieback could threaten up to 38 percent of the Amazon basin. However, researchers stress that eventually most of the Amazon forest could potentially be at risk. The future isn’t completely without hope, however: the study also found that the more diverse an area’s vegetation is, the less susceptible it is to the effects of the feedback loop. So increasing biodiversity could be a vital tool in protecting the Amazon – and other vulnerable regions – from the worst effects of climate change . The full study has been published in the journal Nature Communications . Via The Independent Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Scientists warn Amazon jungle faces death spiral

Amazon to install large-scale solar systems on 50 facilities by 2020

March 3, 2017 by  
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Amazon just announced plans to install 41 megawatts worth of solar power on the roofs of its US facilities this year. The project is part of amazon’s larger initiative to install solar systems on 50 of its order fulfillment facilities around the globe by 2020. “As our fulfillment network continues to expand, we want to help generate more renewable energy at both existing and new facilities around the world in partnership with community and business leaders,” said Dave Clark, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Operations. “We are putting our scale and inventive culture to work on sustainability—this is good for the environment, our business and our customers. By diversifying our energy portfolio, we can keep business costs low and pass along further savings to customers. It’s a win-win.” The solar projects planned for this year will see a total of 41 megawatts installed on the rooftops of Amazon facilities in California, New Jersey, Maryland, Nevada and Delaware. Depending on various factors, the solar installations could provide the facilities with up to 80% of the energy needed to run. Related: Amazon’s new Prime Air delivery drone is part helicopter, part airplane https://youtu.be/R7tMiQcF9tY According to Amazon, the company is also working on other clean energy projects – including a wind farm in Texas and a network of wind and solar farms in Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia. It’s also possible some of this power could be used to energize other initiatives Amazon is working on – such as the eventual delivery of orders by drones , and the company’s plans to build a giant floating warehouse in the sky from which the drones would work. Via Businesswire Images via Amazon/Businesswire

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Amazon to install large-scale solar systems on 50 facilities by 2020

Hot moments you missed at GreenBiz 17 in Phoenix

February 21, 2017 by  
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Nearly 1,000 souls — including executives from Amazon and Greenpeace — shared their sustainability visions in the Arizona desert at our annual namesake event.

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Hot moments you missed at GreenBiz 17 in Phoenix

GM, Steelcase see a web of opportunity in the circular economy

February 21, 2017 by  
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The manufacturing giants talked creating jobs and cutting supply chain waste at the GreenBiz 17 conference in Phoenix.

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GM, Steelcase see a web of opportunity in the circular economy

Uber nabs NASA flying car guru; from St. Regis to green building

February 10, 2017 by  
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In this month’s Names in the News roundup of green business career moves: New hires at the ridesharing giant, Amazon and the Southface Energy Institute.

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Hundreds of ancient earthworks similar to Stonehenge found in the Amazon

February 7, 2017 by  
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For hundreds of years, the Amazon rainforest concealed over 450 massive, mysterious earthworks similar to those in Stonehenge . As a result of deforestation , researchers were able to catch a glimpse of the baffling geometrical geoglyphs in Brazil’s Acre state. The 2,000-year-old earthworks reveal a wealth of information we didn’t know before about how ancient people managed the rainforest . Many people used to think the Amazon rainforest ecosystem remained largely untouched by humans in the past, an idea challenged by the recent discovery of these huge earthworks. Led by Jennifer Watling of the University of São Paulo and the University of Exeter , a team reconstructed fire and vegetation history over 6,000 years near two of the geoglyphs, and found humans actually changed the bamboo forests heavily for millennia. They temporarily cleared areas to build the earthworks. Related: Archaeologists reveal fresh details about 4,500-year-old “New Stonehenge” As researchers didn’t find many artifacts around the earthworks, the sites probably weren’t villages, and their layout prompts researchers to think they weren’t used for defense. Instead, the ancient geoglyphs may have been utilized only once in a while for ritual gatherings. Watling cautions against excusing rampant deforestation based on this new information. Her team’s research shows while ancient people altered the rainforest, they did not employ long term, large-scale deforestation as happens today, or burn swaths of forest. Instead they employed ancient agroforestry practices and focused on economically valuable trees like palms to create what the University of Exeter describes as a prehistoric supermarket of products from the forest. Watling said, “Our evidence that Amazonian forests have been managed by indigenous peoples long before European Contact should not be cited as justification for the destructive, unsustainable land-use practiced today. It should instead serve to highlight the ingenuity of past subsistence regimes that did not lead to forest degradation, and the importance of indigenous knowledge for finding more sustainable land use alternatives.” Nine other researchers from institutions in Brazil, the United Kingdom, and Canada joined Watling in the research; the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published their study online this month. Via Phys.org Images via Jenny Watling/Phys.org

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Hundreds of ancient earthworks similar to Stonehenge found in the Amazon

INFOGRAPHIC: NASA’s top houseplants for improving your wellbeing and removing air pollution

November 15, 2016 by  
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Next time you’re cruising Amazon for an air purifier, consider heading to your local nursery instead. Thirty years ago, NASA studied houseplants as a way to help clean the air on the space station. Since then, study after study has proven that plants can clean the air in your home, too. Not only that, but plants have been proven to increase positivity, calmness and creativity and to help you sleep better. This infographic  breaks down the best plants for your home to remove those deadly toxins and increase your wellbeing – click on to get all the deets. + Chadwicks

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INFOGRAPHIC: NASA’s top houseplants for improving your wellbeing and removing air pollution

Tenth of world’s wilderness destroyed in last 20 years, study finds

September 9, 2016 by  
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A tenth of the world’s wilderness has been lost since the early 1990s and if trends continue there could be no wilderness left on the planet by 2100, according to new study published in the journal Current Biology. The researchers found that an area twice the size of Alaska and half the size of the Amazon — 3.3 million square kilometres — has been destroyed by human activities such as large-scale land conversion, industrial activity and infrastructure development. That equals to approximately 9.6 percent of the world’s wilderness. The most losses have occurred in South America (29.6 percent loss) and Africa (14 percent loss). The researchers discovered that 30.1 million square kilometres (23.2 percent of the world’s terrestrial areas) now remains as wilderness.

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Tenth of world’s wilderness destroyed in last 20 years, study finds

Amazon dam opposed by local tribes halted by Brazil environmental agency

August 8, 2016 by  
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Plans for an 8,000 megawatt hydroelectric dam in the heart of the Brazilian rainforest have been halted after backers failed to supply the necessary environmental impact study. The proposed São Luiz do Tapajós (SLT) dam, fiercely opposed by local tribes, would have flooded 145 square miles of land currently occupied by 12,000 Manduruku Indians. Brazil’s environmental protection agency, IBAMA , cancelled development plans on Thursday, citing the absence of required reports on the social and environmental impact of the massive hydroelectric project. The dam ’s backers are comprised of a number of Brazilian, European, and other companies, and locals have long been wary of the impact such a huge project would have. Human rights groups and environmental activists had previously spoken out against the project, claiming that backers had failed to take into account the full impact of the dam, including its effects on biodiversity, aquatic ecosystems, and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the impact on communities that exist downstream from the planned site. Related: Peru plans to dam Amazon River’s main source and displace thousands For the natives who live in the area that the dam would have flooded , the environmental agency’s decision was a welcome one but it does not mean that tribal people are ensured safety. “We Munduruku people are very happy with the news. This is very important for us. Now we will continue to fight against other dams in our river,” said Arnaldo Kabá Munduruku, general chief Munduruku. Although the backers can submit another application for an environmental permit, it is more likely the project is dead in the water. A new environmental impact study would be costly, and the prevailing public opposition to the dam makes it less likely that the consortium will attempt to move forward. In an interview with Valor newspaper, Brazil’s environment minister José Sarney Filho said the SLT dam was “entirely dispensable,” adding that the same amount of energy could be derived from smaller power generators and other renewable sources. Had it been built, the SLT dam would have been the world’s sixth largest hydroelectric dam, spanning the river’s five-mile width. Via The Guardian Images via Bruno Kelly/Greenpeace Brazil and Nelson Pretto/Flickr

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Amazon dam opposed by local tribes halted by Brazil environmental agency

Scientists reprogram E. coli bacteria to attack tumor cells

August 8, 2016 by  
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Scientists at MIT and the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) have re-engineered E. Coli bacteria to create a helpful super-microbe that attacks tumor cells. Researchers programmed human-safe  E. Coli as bombers in the war against cancer , dropping toxic cocktails in affected areas. When combined with traditional cancer treatment, the altered bacteria shrank aggressive liver tumors in mice far quicker than either treatment separately. “Tumors can be friendly environments for bacteria to grow, and we’re taking advantage of that,” says Sangeeta Bhatia, researcher at MIT and senior co-author of the recent paper that documented these findings. Boosted by a suppressed immune system, bacteria naturally gathers in areas affected by disease. Some bacteria is well adapted to a low-oxygen environment, such as that of a tumor. Harmless E. Coli fits right into this microecosystem and possesses three different mechanisms, provided by artificial genetic circuits, for attacking tumors. One circuit in the altered bacteria creates hemolysin, which damages the cell membranes of tumor cells. Another conjures a drug that tells the tumor cells to self-destruct, while the third delivers a protein which encourages the body’s immune system to attack the tumor. Related: Hacking living cells just got so much easier In addition, the altered E. Coli  possesses a genetic circuit that allows it to sense the nearby population of bacteria through a process called quorum sensing. If the population of helpful  E. Coli  exceeds a certain limit, bacteria are programmed to self-destruct until there is only a small population remaining. “That allows us to maintain the burden of the bacteria in the whole organism at a low level and to keep pumping the drugs only into the tumor,” says Bhatia. The research collaborators are now working to program bacteria to use other weapons against dangerous cells while refining their cancer hunting  E. Coli to suit different forms of cancer. Via MIT News Images via NIAID

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