How orange peels helped barren land in Costa Rica spring back to life

August 23, 2017 by  
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There’s more to oranges than juice! Back in the 1990’s, two ecologists suggested orange juice manufacturer Del Oro donate some of their land near a national park in Costa Rica ; in exchange, they’d be able to deposit agricultural waste for free on degraded land inside the park. Del Oro agreed and dumped 1,000 truckloads of orange pulp and peels on the land. Today, that area is a thriving forest . A Princeton University -led team of researchers journeyed to the forest to discover just how much that food trash transformed the forest – and how other businesses might do the same. Del Oro donated land to Área de Conservación Guanacaste at the suggestion of husband and wife ecologist team Daniel Janzen and Winnie Hallwachs, who’d worked as advisors at the park. The company unloaded around 12,000 metric tons of orange waste for biodegradation until rival company TicoFruit sued, saying Del Oro had defiled the park. TicoFruit won and the land went largely overlooked for over a decade. Related: 16-year-old South African girl invents drought-fighting super material from orange peels Years later, environmental researchers decided to evaluate the site. They discovered a lush forest that had a 176 percent increase in aboveground biomass – what Princeton described as the trees’ wood – in the seven acres they studied. They also found a difference between areas where orange peels hadn’t been dumped and where they had – according to Princeton, the latter showed richer soil, greater tree-species richness, and more closure in the forest canopy. The researchers think regenerating forests with agricultural waste could help us sequester carbon . Princeton graduate student Timothy Treuer said in a statement, “This is one of the only instances I’ve ever heard of where you can have cost-negative carbon sequestration. It’s not just a win-win between the company and the local park – it’s a win for everyone.” Princeton University ecologist David Wilcove thinks more businesses could help the environment in similar ways. He said while companies do generate environmental problems, “…an awful lot of those problems can be alleviated if the private sector and the environmental community work together. I’m confident we’ll find many more opportunities to use the leftovers from industrial food production to bring back tropical forests. That’s recycling at its best.” University of Pennsylvania , Beloit College , and University of Minnesota scientists joined the Princeton researchers to write a study published by the journal Restoration Ecology this week. Via Princeton Environmental Institute Images via Pixabay and Princeton University

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How orange peels helped barren land in Costa Rica spring back to life

Oldest ice core ever dated reveals hidden clues to ancient Earth’s atmosphere

August 21, 2017 by  
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Ice cores hold secrets of what our planet was like millions of years ago, in bubbles preserving greenhouse gases from that time. A Princeton University -led team just revealed the date of ice from the oldest ice core we’ve ever dated, and it’s 2.7 million years old. Breaking the previous record by around 1.7 million years, the ice core could potentially help scientists determine what set off the ice ages . The ice core could help scientists understand more about our planet’s atmosphere millions of years ago. University of California, Berkeley geochemist David Shuster, who wasn’t part of the research, told Science Magazine, “This is the only sample of ancient Earth’s atmosphere that we have access to.” And the levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the planet’s atmosphere, according to research on the ice core, may surprise some: they didn’t exceed 300 parts per million. Related: Why scientists are transporting ice from a mountain in Bolivia to Antarctica There are models of our planet’s ancient climate which hinted there would need to be low levels of CO2 to trigger ice ages. But according to Science Magazine, proxies that came from the fossils of animals who dwelt in shallow oceans had hinted at higher CO2 levels. The proxies may need to be re-calibrated if the new ice core dating holds up. Researchers unearthed the ice core from what’s called blue ice in East Antarctica. Science Magazine explained that in blue ice areas, glacial flow has allowed some ancient ice to come up to the surface. As a result, scientists don’t need to drill as deep to obtain old ice core samples in blue ice. The Princeton team hopes to extract still more ice cores from there and geochemist Ed Brook of Oregon State University , who was part of the team, said they could potentially find ice that dates back five million years. Princeton University graduate student Yuzhen Yan presented the research at the Goldschmidt Conference in Paris earlier this month. Scientists from institutions in California and Maine also made contributions. Via Science Magazine Images via Yuzhen Yan, Department of Geosciences

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Oldest ice core ever dated reveals hidden clues to ancient Earth’s atmosphere

Self-taught designer builds a secret studio under a bridge in Valencia

August 21, 2017 by  
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Self-taught designer Fernando Abellanas built a studio bedroom in a very unusual place – the underside of a bridge in Valencia, Spain . This tiny moveable workspace has everything he needs – including shelves, a chair and a desk – bolted into the concrete wall of a bridge. The designer built the workspace entirely himself. He installed a hand crank and rails, along which the metal base can move from one side of the bridge to the other. From this hidden space, he can live and work while enjoying complete privacy. Seen from underneath the bridge , the room looks like a small box with foldable sides. Related: You can build one of these tiny backyard offices in less than a week for under $7000 Abellanas hasn’t revealed the actual location of the “cabin”. “The project is an ephemeral intervention, [it will remain] until someone finds it and decides to steal the materials, or the authorities remove it,” he said. Hidden away from passing cars and trains, the space provides the designer with a sense of peace and brings back childhood memories of hiding under a table. + Lebrel | Future Positive Via Archinect

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Self-taught designer builds a secret studio under a bridge in Valencia

Earth’s oxygen levels are declining – and scientists aren’t sure why

September 30, 2016 by  
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Scientists led by Daniel Stolper at Princeton University studied samples of ancient air trapped in ice in Antarctica and Greenland and made a startling discovery – for the past 800,000 years, the Earth’s oxygen levels have steadily decreased. So far no one knows exactly why oxygen levels are declining, but there are a few prominent hypotheses. The ancient ice-trapped air reveals oxygen levels in Earth’s atmosphere have gone down by 0.7 percent over 800,000 years, which fortunately isn’t dire. That decrease is about the amount of decrease experienced when someone moves from sea level up to 100 meters, or around 328 feet, higher than sea level. But oxygen levels are still going down – and scientists aren’t sure why. Related: The world will run out of breathable air unless carbon emissions are cut One hypothesis is that erosion rates have increased globally, and rocks that are being weathered pull oxygen out of the atmosphere, much like iron binds to oxygen as it rusts. Carbon and pyrite are two substances that may be behind oxygen levels declining. Scientists think that fluctuations in the Earth’s temperature could lead to retreating and growing ice, spurring increased rates of global erosion. A second hypothesis is that over the last 56 million years, Earth has generally experienced global cooling, which has cooled the oceans. Colder oceans can hold more dissolved gases, including dissolved oxygen. Writing for Forbes, geologist Trevor Nace compared the phenomenon to the amount of carbonation in a soda. When soda goes flat it gets warmer, as dissolved carbon dioxide escapes. Colder soda contains that carbon dioxide, and perhaps the cool oceans are now holding more dissolved oxygen in a similar manner. It’s difficult for scientists to know just which hypothesis is correct, since oxygen levels are connected to other processes such as volcanic activity and even the biodiversity present on Earth. The study was published this month in the journal Science . + Science Via Forbes Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Earth’s oxygen levels are declining – and scientists aren’t sure why

Tropical forests may become an unlikely contributor to global warming soon

December 18, 2015 by  
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Make a list, in your mind, of all the things that contribute to global warming. Go ahead and take your time. If you’re like most people, that list probably looks something like: burning fossil fuels, deforestation, emissions from cars and other transportation, livestock, and chemicals used in agriculture. That’s a pretty good roundup of the leading causes – at least, so far. Scientists have just penned a study that points to a contributing factor that has evaded detection , until now. When it comes to our planet’s ability to ‘trap’ carbon and prevent it from further harming the atmosphere, the biggest problem is likely to be the rapid rate of increase of nighttime temperatures in tropical climes. Read the rest of Tropical forests may become an unlikely contributor to global warming soon

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Tropical forests may become an unlikely contributor to global warming soon

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