Valuable wetlands are disappearing 3 times faster than forests, new study warns

September 28, 2018 by  
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Wetlands around the world are disappearing at an alarming rate. New research shows that these valuable ecosystems are vanishing at a rate three times that of forests . Unless significant changes are made, the disappearance of wetlands could cause severe damage around the globe. The Global Wetland Outlook , which was completed by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, found that more than a third of the wetlands on Earth have disappeared over a 45-year period. The pace that wetlands are vanishing jumped significantly after the year 2000, and regions all over the planet were impacted equally. Unfortunately, there is a handful of reasons why wetlands are diminishing around the world. This includes climate change , urbanization, human population growth and variable consumption patterns, all of which have contributed to the way land is used. Related: Natural wetland in India filters 198 million gallons of wastewater a day with zero chemicals There are several different types of wetlands found on Earth, including marshes, lakes, peatlands and rivers. Lagoons, coral reefs , mangroves and estuaries also fall into the wetland category. In total, wetlands take up more than 12.1 million square kilometers, an area larger than Greenland. Wetlands are crucial, because they provide almost all of the world’s access to freshwater — something that is key to survival. Humans also use wetlands for hydropower and medicines. From an environmental perspective, wetlands help retain carbon and regulate global warming . They also serve as the ecosystems for 40 percent of living species on Earth, providing food, water, breeding spaces and raw materials for these animals to live. If the wetlands keep vanishing at the current rate, many species will go as well. “The Global Wetland Outlook is a wake-up call — not only on the steep rate of loss of the world’s wetlands but also on the critical services they provide. Without them, the global agenda on sustainable development will not be achieved,” said Martha Rojas Urrego, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. “We need urgent collective action to reverse trends on wetland loss and degradation and secure both the future of wetlands and our own survival at the same time.” With wetlands in danger of disappearing, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands has pledged to make saving these regions a top priority. The parties involved with the group have targeted 2,300 sites for protection and hope to expand that to include more wetlands around the globe. + Ramsar Convention on Wetlands Image via Jeanethe Falvey / EPA

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Valuable wetlands are disappearing 3 times faster than forests, new study warns

Flood frequency of the Amazon River has increased fivefold

September 21, 2018 by  
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New data suggest that flooding in the Amazon River has dramatically increased by as much as five times in both intensity and frequency in the last 100 years. Scientists analyzed data points from the past century and believe the increase in flooding is linked to global warming. Scientists have measured the river’s water levels for 113 years at the Port of Manaus in Brazil . Over time, they found that large flooding events and extreme droughts have gone up over the past 20 to 30 years. In the early part of the century, massive floods only happened about once in every 20-year period. That number has increased to one major flood every four years. Related: High tide coastal flooding in US has doubled in the past 30 years The researchers believe the uptick is related to an oceanic system called Walker circulation, which describes air currents created by temperature fluctuations and pressure changes in the ocean , specifically in tropical locations. The Pacific Ocean has been cooling while the Atlantic Ocean has been getting warmer, which creates these circulating air currents. These changes are affecting the surrounding environment, including precipitation in the Amazon basin. Scientists are not sure why the Atlantic Ocean has been warming up. They do, however, believe that global warming is contributing to the temperature changes, but in a more indirect way. They theorize that global warming has shifted wind belts farther south, which pushes warm water from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic. This creates an opposite effect of El Niño and results in more rainfall in the Amazon. Flooding along the Amazon River lasts weeks on end. Not only does it spread disease and contaminate water supplies, but it also destroys farms and homes. Right now, there is no indication that the flooding will decrease. This past year, water levels rose above the flood range, and scientists believe the water levels will only get higher as the years progress. Via EurekAlert! Images via Dave Lonsdale and NASA

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Flood frequency of the Amazon River has increased fivefold

Charming home uses local, natural materials to pay homage to a chestnut tree

September 21, 2018 by  
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Young Czech architecture firm Valarch Studio has completed a modest yet elegant family house built largely of timber to reference the property’s old chestnut tree in the garden. Named the Chestnut House, the home spans a compact footprint of just 840 square feet and comprises two sections: a larger living area and a smaller, green-roofed technical area united via a multifunctional vestibule. All building materials were locally sourced whenever possible with an emphasis on natural materials. When Valarch Studio was tapped with turning the small site, a former recreation area, into a place for a family home, the team’s attention was captured by the large chestnut tree growing in an overrun field. The architects decided to use that tree as a focal point for the property and allowed it to dictate the orientation and overall atmosphere of the home. “The dark brown house surrounded by the lush green landscape mirrors a chestnut breaking out of its thorny green shell,” the architects said. “It is built of raw, untreated wood with burnt lining to complement the solid chestnut tree.” Timber also lines the minimally detailed interiors, which are fitted with large windows that flood the rooms with natural light and frame views of the lush outdoors. The interior layout is split into two sections joined together with a vestibule that includes wood storage and extends into an outdoor covered terrace with seating. The living areas, located at the heart of the home, are housed in a double-height space with a small loft guestroom above. The master suite and kid’s bedroom are located on the north side of the house. Related: Compact Karst House offers a contemporary twist on classic countryside living in Slovenia Completed for a cost of approximately $160,000 USD, the Chestnut House was built with wood framing and a steel skeleton and elevated on iron and concrete supports. + Valarch Studio Photography by Jakub Skokan and Martin T?ma / BoysPlayNice

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Charming home uses local, natural materials to pay homage to a chestnut tree

Hurricane Florence could cause dangerous floods of toxic sludge and animal waste

September 12, 2018 by  
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Torrential rains are not the only thing Hurricane Florence will bring once it hits landfall. The massive storm is expected to dump record amounts of rain in the southeastern United States — rain that could overflow toxic chemical waste and animal manure sites along the coast, increasing danger to both public health and the environment. One toxic waste site in North Carolina is particularly vulnerable to the incoming storm. Two years ago, the state tasked Duke Energy Corp. with cleaning up coal-ash ponds in the area following a major spill, because the ponds posed serious hazards to nearby communities. Close to 40,000 tons of toxic waste was dumped near the town of Eden, North Carolina. State officials ordered the company to clean up the ponds by the summer of 2019. Although Duke Energy Corp. has started the cleanup process, it is nowhere near the finish line. The company is currently in the middle of cleaning up the sites and will not be finished by the time Hurricane Florence rolls in. Given the condition of the ponds, excess rain from the hurricane could lead to overflow, dumping the waste into the surrounding environment. Related: Climate change is expected to bring more intense storms like Hurricane Florence North Carolina is also home to lagoons that contain manure from the state’s hog and poultry industries. Hurricane Florence could overwhelm these lagoons with massive amounts of rain, which would dump the animal waste into surrounding waterways. If that happens, the state would be facing a major environmental disaster. That is, of course, if Florence stays on its current path and hits North Carolina. Hurricane Florence is growing in both strength and size as it prepares to make landfall. If the storm continues at its current pace, it could be the strongest hurricane to reach the Carolinas in the last 30 years. With Florence getting closer every day, about 1 million residents have already evacuated. Via Bloomberg Images via NASA and NOAA

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Climate change is expected to bring more intense storms like Hurricane Florence

September 11, 2018 by  
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Hurricane Florence is on a collision course with the southeastern United States. The immense and powerful storm will create high winds and surges along coastal towns and cities, but scientists are more concerned about how much rain Florence might produce — and the increased frequency of similar storms as a result of climate change . James Kossin, a climate scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration , said flooding is the biggest risk with the incoming hurricane. Florence is moving so slow across the ocean that it might come to a near standstill once it hits land, moving somewhere around two to three miles per hour. If that happens, Florence could hit cities on the East Coast with record rainfall. Related: 2018 hurricane season may be worse than last year A similar situation occurred last year when Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas. The massive storm slowed almost to a halt in the Houston area, dumping more than 60 inches of rain in some locations. The excess rain led to 93 deaths and completely shut down certain areas. With Hurricane Florence set to repeat history, scientists believe slow moving storms may become the new norm — and it is all thanks to climate change. Kossin and his team published a study this year that showed cyclones are moving slower on average. In fact, hurricanes have undergone a decrease in speed by about 10 percent over the past 70 years. Kossin believes climate change is slowing down wind currents, which hurricanes use to travel across the ocean. Once the storms stall over land, they continuously dump rain and produce record flooding. The only exception to this trend is in the Indian Ocean, where wind currents have remained strong. Along with slowing down hurricanes, climate change is creating larger and more intense storms as ocean waters warm. The added warmth creates more fuel for the storms as the water evaporates. Harvey and Florence are two examples of this, and scientists believe that trend will continue until we begin to cut down greenhouse gases. + NOAA Via NPR Image via NOAA

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Pipeline leaks 8,000 gallons of jet fuel into Indiana river

September 10, 2018 by  
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An oil company based out of Texas has confessed to a faulty pipeline leaking 8,000 gallons of jet fuel into an Indiana river. Buckeye Pipe Line, based out of Houston, admitted that it detected a pressure loss in its fuel line last week. A break in the line poured thousands of gallons of fuel into a river near Decatur, Indiana, a town with slightly less than 10,000 people. Buckeye Pipe Line closed its line as soon as it detected the leak. Unfortunately, the leak still dumped thousands of gallons of jet fuel into St. Marys River, which runs about 100 miles northeast of Indianapolis. Officials in Decatur installed booms in the river to help stop the spread of the fuel while workers skimmed it from the surface of the water with vacuums. Related: TransCanada natural gas pipeline explodes in West Virginia The mayor of Decatur, Kenneth L. Meyer, believes removing the fuel will take weeks. The Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ) is monitoring the situation and checking fuel levels in businesses and homes close to the spill site. The EPA is also checking the quality of water at different spots further downstream to determine how far the spill has traveled. Residents of Decatur first learned about the spill late Friday night after the local police issued a warning. The Decatur Police Department told citizens to stay away from the river until the cleanup was over. Buckeye Pipe Line is not planning on re-opening the line until the pressure issue is dealt with and everything is safe to run. Although 8,000 gallons of jet fuel ended up in the river, the EPA does not believe the town’s water supply will be affected by the spill. Residents might, however, notice a change in air quality . Meanwhile, this spill offers environmentalists further evidence of the dangers of new oil and gas pipelines. Via Associated Press and EcoWatch Image via  Ray Bodden

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Pipeline leaks 8,000 gallons of jet fuel into Indiana river

Former businessman bicycles down the Thames River to stop plastic pollution

July 31, 2018 by  
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Dhruv Boruah, a former management consultant turned environmental hero is cleaning up the Thames River in London on a floating bicycle. The endeavor, named The Thames Project , is more about striking up conversations with passersby and raising awareness than it is about removing all of the plastic waste from the canals — an impossible feat for the one man show that is Boruah. The self-constructed rig, made up of a bamboo bicycle with yellow floats on either side, a rudder and a pedal-powered propeller in the front, has retrieved thousands of kilograms of plastic waste since beginning the project in 2017. “It’s a great conversation starter, and then I can tell them about my work, the plastic and how it all starts here in the canals,” he told CNN while on one of his “off-road cycling” missions. Related: A massive five-ton plastic waste whale breaches in a Bruges canal The 35-year-old philanthropist was impassioned by a yacht racing expedition from London to Rio de Janiero that left him thinking a lot about the dangers of plastic pollution . It was on this undertaking that Boruah had learned of the fortunate rescue of two turtles who were tangled in plastic in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. “Plastic is now in the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat,” he explained. “You have to care because it’s about you, your health and the health of your children. Why are we destroying this planet for them?” Boruah’s bicycle nets are often filled with single-use plastic items such as styrofoam containers and water bottles. These get broken down into tiny microplastics over time that not only pollute the oceans, but also affect our air and food. When he is not striking up conversations with curious onlookers, Boruah is working with councils, businesses and communities to educate and encourage them to take action against plastic pollution. + The Thames Project Via CNN Images and video via Dhruv Boruah

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Krill fishers partner with Greenpeace to protect Antarctic wildlife

July 10, 2018 by  
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An unlikely alliance has formed between krill fishing companies and environmental protection groups over a common cause: protecting the Antarctic Ocean and its marine life. Greenpeace is teaming with members of the Association for Responsible Krill Harvesting (ARK) to ensure wildlife sustainability of the southern ice cap. The agreement was announced during the Greenpeace Antarctic 360° event in Cambridge. The individual fishing companies honoring the agreement are all ARK members, representing 85 percent of the Antarctic krill harvesting industry. Related: The world’s largest wildlife sanctuary proposed for Antarctica Under the pact, the fisherman will honor “buffer zones” in known penguin breeding grounds in order to protect the wildlife. In addition, major portions of the Antarctic Peninsula will be out-of-bounds for the ARK membership. The partnership will also see ARK support scientific endeavors to study the area’s natural inhabitants. Working with scientists and environmental organizations, the groups will end fishing operations in environmentally sensitive areas, permanently closing these locations to fishing in 2020. The prohibition is part of a plan to create permanent protection zones throughout the Antarctic and reduce the potential for wildlife damage . The movement to protect Antarctic wildlife has grown in popularity in the last decade. According to Greenpeace, more than 1.7 million people worldwide have signed the organization’s petition to create stricter protections and maintain wildlife conservation in the southernmost waters. Krill is an important part of the Antarctic ecosystem . The shrimp-like crustacean is a food source for many of the South Pole’s animals, including whales, penguins and seals. By creating the wide protection zones, both Greenpeace and ARK hope to ensure long-term sustainability for animals. “Through our commitment we are showing that it is possible for no-fish zones and sustainable fisheries to co-exist,” Kristine Hartmann, executive vice president at krill fishing company Aker BioMarine, said in a statement. “We are positive that ARK’S commitment will help ensure krill as a sustainable and stable source of healthy omega-3s for the future.” The ARK-Greenpeace partnership is one part of a global plan to help preserve marine life. The multi-nation Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources will meet in October to decide on sanctuary status for parts of the ocean. + Greenpeace Via  The Guardian Image of krill via Uwe Kils

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Krill fishers partner with Greenpeace to protect Antarctic wildlife

Krill fishers partner with Greenpeace to protect Antarctic wildlife

July 10, 2018 by  
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An unlikely alliance has formed between krill fishing companies and environmental protection groups over a common cause: protecting the Antarctic Ocean and its marine life. Greenpeace is teaming with members of the Association for Responsible Krill Harvesting (ARK) to ensure wildlife sustainability of the southern ice cap. The agreement was announced during the Greenpeace Antarctic 360° event in Cambridge. The individual fishing companies honoring the agreement are all ARK members, representing 85 percent of the Antarctic krill harvesting industry. Related: The world’s largest wildlife sanctuary proposed for Antarctica Under the pact, the fisherman will honor “buffer zones” in known penguin breeding grounds in order to protect the wildlife. In addition, major portions of the Antarctic Peninsula will be out-of-bounds for the ARK membership. The partnership will also see ARK support scientific endeavors to study the area’s natural inhabitants. Working with scientists and environmental organizations, the groups will end fishing operations in environmentally sensitive areas, permanently closing these locations to fishing in 2020. The prohibition is part of a plan to create permanent protection zones throughout the Antarctic and reduce the potential for wildlife damage . The movement to protect Antarctic wildlife has grown in popularity in the last decade. According to Greenpeace, more than 1.7 million people worldwide have signed the organization’s petition to create stricter protections and maintain wildlife conservation in the southernmost waters. Krill is an important part of the Antarctic ecosystem . The shrimp-like crustacean is a food source for many of the South Pole’s animals, including whales, penguins and seals. By creating the wide protection zones, both Greenpeace and ARK hope to ensure long-term sustainability for animals. “Through our commitment we are showing that it is possible for no-fish zones and sustainable fisheries to co-exist,” Kristine Hartmann, executive vice president at krill fishing company Aker BioMarine, said in a statement. “We are positive that ARK’S commitment will help ensure krill as a sustainable and stable source of healthy omega-3s for the future.” The ARK-Greenpeace partnership is one part of a global plan to help preserve marine life. The multi-nation Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources will meet in October to decide on sanctuary status for parts of the ocean. + Greenpeace Via  The Guardian Image of krill via Uwe Kils

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Krill fishers partner with Greenpeace to protect Antarctic wildlife

US Forest Service allows Nestl to continue taking water from California national forest

June 29, 2018 by  
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The U.S. Forest Service has offered Nestlé Waters North America a three-year permit on water rights in the San Bernardino National Forest , allowing the company to continue to take millions of gallons of water from the site. Under the proposed agreement, Nestlé would draw from the Strawberry Creek watershed “when there is water available consistent with the forest’s Land Management Plan” for its various bottled water brands, including Arrowhead. If California returns to severe drought conditions, the Forest Service could further limit natural resource access. The Forest Service says it will work with the Swiss company to study the watershed and determine future management plans. The watershed is currently rated as Class Three “Impaired Function,” the worst watershed functionality class. An “impaired” watershed exceeds “physical, hydrological or biological thresholds,” with major changes needed to restore the watershed to functioning status. Related: The growing wine industry is threatening California’s Napa Valley “[The decision ensures] the water withdrawal and conveyance infrastructure is under a current permit,” U.S. Forest Service District Ranger Joe Rechsteiner explained to the Associated Press. “And it provides for protection of forest resources.” In 2015, the Center for Biological Diversity in Oakland, Calif. sued the Forest Service to block Nestlé from using the watershed, arguing the conglomerate was operating without a valid permit. A federal judge allowed continued water collection for bottling , while regulators considered a new permit. In its permit renewal application, the company cited 70 environmental studies to support its continued watershed usage. Arrowhead’s use of the Strawberry Creek watershed dates back to 1909, when the Arrowhead Springs Company was formed. Nestlé must accept the agreement within 60 days. In a statement to the AP, Nestlé noted they would “carefully review the specifics of the decision.” Via  Associated Press Images via John Heil (1, 2)

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