Animals are becoming nocturnal to avoid humans

June 15, 2018 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Researchers have learned that dozens of species of animals have reacted to increased contact with human beings by shifting their internal clocks to become more nocturnal. “It suggests that animals might be playing it safe around people,” study leader Kaitlyn Gaynor told Phys.org . “We may think that we leave no trace when we’re just hiking in the woods , but our mere presence can have lasting consequences.” In a new study published in the journal Science , Gaynor and her team analyzed data from 76 previous studies on 62 different animal species spread out over six continents and concluded that even relatively low-impact activities can affect animal behavior. Animals featured in this study, many of whom were mammals, include coyotes in California, wild boars in Poland, lions in Tanzania, tigers in Nepal, and otters in Brazil . To determine the effect of human behavior on sleeping patterns, researchers determined how long animals were active at night when affected by different kinds of human activities, such as hunting, hiking , and farming. The team concluded that human presence correlated with a 20 percent increase on average of nocturnal activity among the animals studied. Related: Dutch town helps out rare bat species by installing “bat-friendly” streetlights This research is among the first to explore and quantify how human behavior impacts animal activity and sleep patterns on a broad scale.  “No one else has compiled all this information and analyzed it in such a … robust way,” researcher Ana Benitez Lopez, who reviewed the study, told Phys.org. The study is a reminder that simply being in a wild space can fundamentally change it. “It’s a little bit scary,” ecologist Marlee Tucker, who did not participate in the study, told Phys.org. “Even if people think that we’re not deliberately trying to impact animals, we probably are without knowing it.” While some animals will struggle with adapting to night life, the shift may also provide benefits to animals who hope to share space with humans without ever dealing with them. Armed with new knowledge, I will nonetheless continue to hike and camp , because it helps me sleep. Via Phys.org Images via Depositphotos

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Animals are becoming nocturnal to avoid humans

SeagrassSpotter app empowers ocean lovers to become citizen scientists

June 15, 2018 by  
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Bet you don’t often think about seagrass , but this powerhouse plant supports thousands of marine creatures, sequesters carbon, cleans water, and generates oxygen — and it’s in trouble. Earth loses around two football pitches of seagrass every single hour, according to Wales-based charity Project Seagrass , and co-founder Richard Unsworth told Mongabay  that irregular mapping of seagrass meadows has hindered work to protect the plants. So Project Seagrass released their SeagrassSpotter app, with the hope that instead of a handful of researchers, thousands of citizen scientists will get on board with the conservation effort. “Saving seagrass means saving our seas,” Project Seagrass says on its website . Seagrasses, not to be confused with seaweed, take up just 0.1 percent of the seafloor but “are responsible for 11 percent of the organic carbon buried in the ocean .” Millions of people depend on seagrass for livelihoods and food. But seagrass meadows “are being lost at the same rate as rainforests and coral reefs ,” according to the SeagrassSpotter website . Overfishing, bad water quality, increased sedimentation, trampling, and boating threaten the plants. Related: New SubCAS technology enables scientists to better study deep-sea ecosystems Project Seagrass aims to build a more comprehensive picture of seagrass meadows to inspire scientific research and conservation measures with the SeagrassSpotter app, created in association with Swansea University and Cardiff University . People from beachgoers to SCUBA divers to fishers can get in on the action by submitting seagrass sightings. Unsworth told Mongabay, “We’re asking people visiting the coast or going out to sea — for diving, fishing, kayaking — to keep their eyes out for seagrass so that they can take a picture [to] upload to our website. The more people that get involved the more likely we are to develop a better understanding of the world’s seagrass.” Ready to help save seagrass? Download the app for iOS or Android . You can also submit seagrass sightings on the SeagrassSpotter website. Project Seagrass is shooting for at least 100,000 records; collected data will be freely available. + Project Seagrass + SeagrassSpotter Via Mongabay Image via Depositphotos

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SeagrassSpotter app empowers ocean lovers to become citizen scientists

Michigan adopts most robust lead water rules in US

June 15, 2018 by  
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In the wake of the Flint crisis, Michigan is adopting new lead water rules — the strictest in the U.S., according to Reuters . Lead service lines will have to be replaced, and the lead concentrations allowed in drinking water will be lower than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s standard. Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Michigan Senior Policy Advocate Cyndi Roper said in a statement , “There is no safe level of lead in drinking water, so despite some troubling loopholes, these rules set an example other states and the Environmental Protection Agency could follow to address an issue plaguing water systems across the country.” More than 18 million Americans received water through systems with lead violations in 2015, the NRDC said . Lead contamination of drinking water still troubles people across the U.S., and Michigan is taking some action. Their new Lead and Copper Rule, as laid out in a statement from Governor Rick Snyder, lowers the level of allowable lead to 12 parts per billion (ppb) in 2025. The EPA’s Lead Action Level is 15 ppb . Related: Flint activist and stay-at-home mom wins the Goldman Environmental Prize All public water systems will be required to replace lead service lines at a rate averaging 5 percent a year starting in 2021 during a 20-year period. The rules also require a second sample collection at locations that obtain water from lead service lines and the creation of a statewide water system advisory council. All public water systems will have to conduct asset inventory under the new rules as well. “The new Michigan Lead and Copper Rule is the most stringent in the world when applied to cities with lead pipes, yet it strikes a reasonable balance between cost and benefit,” Virginia Tech University engineering professor Marc Edwards said in the governor’s statement. “It provides the EPA  with a good exemplar to follow, if they ever begin to wage their long-promised war on lead in water.” + Office of Governor Rick Snyder + Natural Resources Defense Council (1 , 2) Via Reuters Images via Depositphotos (1 , 2)

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Michigan adopts most robust lead water rules in US

Toxic chemicals found in small, furry animals decades after mine closure

June 15, 2018 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

The environmental impact of large-scale industrial activity can be felt long after the activity stops. A new study published in the journal ScienceDirect found that decades after the closure of the Giant Mine — located on the outskirts of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories province of Canada  — small animals still carried significant amounts of toxic chemicals, such as arsenic, in their fur. While high levels of arsenic had been documented in the soil, plants and fish near the Giant Mine, scientists had not previously documented the impact on small  mammals . Understanding the potential toxicity of these animals is important, as these creatures are still hunted for their furs and food, through which humans could also absorb the dangerous chemicals. The Giant Mine near Yellowknife contributed to the arsenic contamination of the surrounding area through its 55 years as an active gold mine. To extract gold from ore, it must be heated at extremely high temperatures. This process creates a toxic compound called arsenic trioxide, about 237,000 tons of which is buried underground near the mine site. Arsenic is naturally found within the Earth, often in gold-holding rocks. While arsenic usually seeps slowly into the environment through steady erosion of the rock, gold mining accelerates that process. Related: This moss can naturally eliminate arsenic from water Small mammals like the snowshoe hare often serve as early warning signs of an environment’s contamination . Because of the animal’s limited habitat range and diet of ground plants, the contaminant levels are often higher than other organisms. When snowshoe hares who lived near Giant Mine were tested for levels of arsenic, researchers found that their arsenic levels were 20 to 50 times higher than hares who lived elsewhere. Arsenic-contaminated wildlife often suffer from osteoporosis, neurological damage, reproductive issues and chronic metabolic disease. Scientists are most concerned that the arsenic contamination will find its way up the food chain, harming larger mammals, including humans. + ScienceDirect Via EcoWatch Images via Denali National Park and Preserve (1, 2)

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Toxic chemicals found in small, furry animals decades after mine closure

New study shows some LED lights can harm wildlife

June 13, 2018 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Researchers have concluded that certain types of LED lights can be harmful toward a wide variety of wildlife, calling attention to the potential hazards of the rapid expansion of LED light usage. Though LEDs made up only 9 percent of the global market in 2011, that number is expected to rise to 69 percent by 2020. In a study published in the Journal of Experimental Zoology Part A: Ecological and Integrative Physiology , researchers concluded that blue and white LED lighting is the most harmful to wildlife , particularly animals such as sea turtles and insects, while green, amber and yellow are more favorable. As the urbanization of our planet continues, it is essential that policymakers and scientists understand the potential outcomes of altering a space so drastically from its natural state. “Outdoor environments are changing rapidly and in ways that can impact wildlife species,” study leader author Travis Longcore told Phys.org . The researchers incorporated existing ecological data into the study as the team examined the impacts of different kinds of LED lights on animals such as insects, sea turtles, salmon and Newell’s shearwater seabird. Related: New research links LED streetlights to increased risk of cancer LED lights seem to adversely affect species in different ways. Loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings can be lured inland by artificial light rather than into the ocean , while migrating juvenile salmon’s attraction to light may leave them vulnerable to predators. To better inform the public regarding the risks of LED, the study includes the first publicly available database that documents how about 24 different kinds of light can impact wildlife. “If we don’t provide advice and information to decision-makers, they will go with the cheapest lighting or lighting that serves only one interest and does not balance other interests,” Longcore said. “We provide a method to assess the probable consequences of new light sources to keep up with the changing technology and wildlife concerns.” + Journal of Experimental Zoology Via Phys.org Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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New study suggests that plastic waste may be transformed into usable energy

June 12, 2018 by  
Filed under Green, Recycle

A new study from the Earth Engineering Center (EEC|CCNY) at the Grove School of Engineering of the City College of New York suggests that plastic waste can effectively be converted into usable fuel and energy rather than being dumped in a landfill or polluting the ocean. Researchers found that the addition of non-recycled plastics (NRPs) to a chemical recycling process known as gasification results in the production of crude oil -based fuel. It also reduces pollution, both plastic and emissions, in contrast to traditional methods of disposing of plastic waste, such as incineration or dumping. Plastic is a product derived from crude oil and, as such, contains significant latent energy that can be harnessed using the right technology and technique. “This study demonstrates that because carbon- and hydrogen -rich plastics have high energy content, there is tremendous potential to use technologies like gasification to convert these materials into fuels, chemicals and other products,” study co-author Marco J. Castaldi told Phys.org . As concerns rise over plastic pollution, scientists are looking to reframe plastic as a resource rather than waste . “Plastics have an end-of-life use that will be turning waste into energy, which is something we all need and use,” study co-author Demetra Tsiamis told Phys.org. Related: UN releases first “state of plastics” report on World Environment Day Gasification uses air or steam to heat plastic waste. This results in the creation of industrial gas mixtures called synthesis gas, or syngas. This syngas can either be converted into diesel and petrol or burned directly to generate electricity . This process is preferable to incineration of plastic waste because it allows for the storage of potentially usable energy that otherwise would be wasted through incineration. Gasification is also better for air quality, producing much lower levels of sulfur and nitrogen oxide emissions. + Earth Engineering Center Via Phys.org Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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Some of the oldest and largest baobab trees are dying

June 12, 2018 by  
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A new survey of baobab trees throughout southern Africa has shown that most of the two dozen largest and oldest trees in the region have died in the past decade or are currently very ill. While human-caused physical damage to individual trees may explain specific die-offs, researchers believe that climate change, which is occurring faster in southern Africa than many places on Earth, may be the most significant factor in the trees’ poor health. “Such a disastrous decline is very unexpected,” chemist and survey organizer Adrian Patrut told NPR . “It’s a strange feeling, because these are trees which may live for 2,000 years or more, and we see that they’re dying one after another during our lifetime. It’s statistically very unlikely.” The iconic baobab are culturally important for many communities. A common myth explains the baobab’s unique shape as a result of gods punishing the tree for its vanity in its extraordinary size, with the baobab being uprooted and flipped upside down with its “roots” facing upwards. Baobabs can be cultivated for their nutritious leaves and fruit and may prove to be a source of economic development . The trees are also ecologically significant, providing habitat and food for a wide variety of mammals, birds, insects and reptiles. Related: Can this tree provide financial security for 10 million people in Africa? Because of their unique shape and growth patterns that distort their tree rings, accurate dating of a baobab is difficult. Despite some questioning of Patrut’s methods, researchers nonetheless recognize that baobab die-offs is an unsettling trend that deserves more study. As southern Africa likely faces intense temperature increases and drought , the urgency to understand and better protect the baobabs is clear. “The decline and death of so many large baobabs in recent years is so tragic,” ecologist David Baum told NPR . “It is heartbreaking that any should die — but even worse that we might be seeing the beginning of the end of all the giant baobabs on the planet.” Via NPR Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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Some of the oldest and largest baobab trees are dying

Carbon Engineering cuts cost of carbon capture to less than $100 per ton

June 8, 2018 by  
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Carbon Engineering, a British Columbia -based company that has the financial backing of Bill Gates, has released a peer-reviewed study that demonstrates how the company’s technology is capable of capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at a cost of less than $100 per ton. This price represents a significant drop from current costs, which can run as high as $600 per ton. “This is a real step forward, and it’s not just our company saying it,” Carbon Engineering co-founder David Keith told BBC News . “I hope this changes views about this technology from being this thing which people think is a magic saviour which it isn’t, or that it is absurdly expensive which it isn’t, to an industrial technology that is do-able and can be developed in a useful way.” Rather than storing the captured carbon, Carbon Engineering uses it to create a synthetic fuel with hydrogen , which is pulled from water using renewable energy. “What Carbon Engineering is taking to market is first of all carbon neutral fuels, in that sense we are just another emissions-cutting technology, there is no net removal from the atmosphere,” said Keith. The company claims that its fuel has a major advantage over traditional sources of biofuel due to its far less intensive water and land production requirements. Related: Bio-inspired membrane captures 90% of CO2 in power plant emissions While Keith has admitted that there are “hundreds of ways in which we can fail,” the technology developments at Carbon Engineering are promising. “Although direct air capture cost of around $100 per ton is still somewhat steep, in our current situation where sticks and carrots for similar technologies are sorely lacking, the cost can only be brought down through further development and streamlining of individual technologies and conjugated processes,” Edda Sif Aradóttir, who has worked on a project in Iceland that turns captured carbon into rock, told BBC News . Carbon Engineering’s latest announcement is a reminder that the biggest obstacle to taking serious action against climate change is political. “The biggest challenge we are facing is, however, that the words agreed on in the Paris agreement must be followed by actions,” said Edda. The technical solutions to climate change are already available but national legislations do not provide enough incentive or obligations for them to be applied at a large scale. This must change quickly if we are to [fulfill] the Paris agreement.” Via BBC News Images via Depositphotos

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Carbon Engineering cuts cost of carbon capture to less than $100 per ton

Uranium-contaminated groundwater found throughout India

June 8, 2018 by  
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A new study from Duke University reports that uranium contamination in groundwater from aquifers is common in 16  Indian states. While much of the uranium contamination is natural in its origin, groundwater-table decline and nitrate pollution from agriculture also contribute to the widespread public health problem; high levels of uranium in drinking water have been linked to chronic kidney disease. “The results of this study strongly suggest there is a need to revise current water-quality monitoring programs in India and re-evaluate human health risks in areas of high uranium prevalence,” study co-author Avner Vengosh told Phys.org . “Developing effective remediation technologies and preventive management practices should also be a priority.” The research team gathered its data from 324 wells in the states of Rajasthan and Gujarat, as well as 68 previous studies on groundwater geochemistry in the same areas. Uranium is often found naturally in rocks , which, under varying environmental conditions, allows it to more easily seep into surrounding water. Much of the gravel, clay and silt that are found in India’s aquifers were brought there through the weathering of the Himalayan mountains, the rocks of which contain high levels of uranium. As India’s aquifers are over-harvested to support agricultural industry, oxidation of these rocks enable uranium to escape and contaminate its surrounding environment. Related: 26,000 tons of radioactive waste sits at the bottom of Lake Powell Although the World Health Organization has established an interim safety standard for uranium content in drinking water , a similar regulation has not been adopted by the Bureau of Indian Standards’ Drinking Water Specifications. “One of the takeaways of this study is that human activities can make a bad situation worse, but we could also make it better,” Vengosh said.”Including a uranium standard in the Bureau of Indian Standards’ Drinking Water Specification based on uranium’s kidney-harming effects, establishing monitoring systems to identify at-risk areas and exploring new ways to prevent or treat uranium contamination will help ensure access to safe drinking water for tens of millions in India.” + Duke University Via Phys.org Images via Nithi Anand (1, 2)

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Uranium-contaminated groundwater found throughout India

Olafur Eliasson unveils his first building, a sculptural stunner in Denmark

June 8, 2018 by  
Filed under Green

The prolific Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson has unveiled his first building—a sculptural castle-like mass that rises from the waters in Vejle, Denmark. Dubbed Fjordenhus (Fjord House), the solar-powered structure was created as the new headquarters for holding and investment company KIRK KAPITAL and features both green roofs and solar panels. The project was created under Studio Olafur Eliasson’s new international office for art and architecture, Studio Other Spaces, which was founded in collaboration with architect Sebastian Behmann and will execute similar large-scale experimental architectural and public space projects in the future. Located next to the man-made Havneøen (The Harbour Island), Fjordenhus comprises four intersecting cylinders that rise to a height of 28 meters. The historic harbor warehouses and silos in the area inspired Fjordenhus’ curved facade and brick cladding. Inside, the building is organized around circles and ellipses, from the curved windows and furnishings to the round vestibules and spiral staircase. The double-height ground floor will be open to the public and partly flooded by water. The KIRK KAPITAL offices are located in the upper three floors, while the top of the building is decked out with a green roof and solar panels. “In the design team, we experimented from early on with how to create an organic building that would respond to the ebb and flow of the tides , to the shimmering surface of the water, changing at different times of the day and of the year,” said Olafur Eliasson in a statement. “The curving walls of the building transform our perception of it as we move through its spaces. I hope the residents of Vejle will embrace Fjordenhus and identify with it as a new landmark for the harbour and their city.” Related: Olafur Eliasson launches a gorgeous and affordable handheld solar phone charger In addition to custom furniture and lighting, the contemporary building also incorporates site-specific artworks by Eliasson. The Fjordenhus officially opens to the public on June 9, 2018. + Olafur Eliasson Images by Anders Sune Berg

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Olafur Eliasson unveils his first building, a sculptural stunner in Denmark

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