Environmental

Environmental News

Environmental News

Environmental News

Agriculture & Biofuel

  • Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, nations pledged to keep the average global temperature rise to below 2C above pre-industrial levels and to take efforts to narrow that increase to 1.5C. To meet those goals we must not only stop the increase in our greenhouse gas emissions, we must also draw large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere.The simplest, most cost effective and environmentally beneficial way to do this is right under our feet. We can farm carbon by storing it in our agricultural soils.

  • A recent paper by scientists from Wits University in South Africa shows how creative fire management can increase habitat for wildebeest and other grazing animals in national parks.

  • When you think of automation, you probably think of the assembly line, a dramatic dance of robot arms with nary a human laborer in sight. But that’s child’s play. The grandest, most disruptive automation revolution has played out in agriculture. First with horses and plows, and eventually with burly combines—technologies that have made farming exponentially cheaper and more productive. Just consider that in 1790, farmers made up 90 percent of the US workforce. In 2012, it was 1.5 percent, yet America still eats.

  • The top leaves of crops absorb far more light than they can use, starving lower leaves of light. Scientists designed plants with light green leaves with hopes of allowing more light to penetrate the crop canopy and increase overall light use efficiency and yield. This strategy was tested in a recent modeling study that found leaves with reduced chlorophyll content do not actually improve canopy-level photosynthesis, but instead, conserve a significant amount of nitrogen that the plant might be able to reinvest to improve light use efficiency and increase yield.  

  • New research demonstrates that seagrass meadows are important fishing grounds all around the globe. The work highlights that there is an urgent need to start appreciating and understanding this role to be able to build more sustainable fisheries. A study led by Dr Lina Mtwana Nordlund at Stockholm University, published in the scientific journal Fish & Fisheries, examines the global extent to which these underwater meadows support fishing activity.

  • As invasive and indigenous insect pests continue to wreak havoc on crops across Africa, a Virginia Tech-led project is intensifying its work to coordinate a response that looks beyond geographic and financial barriers.Stopping crop losses requires working across borders, said Muni Muniappan, director of the Virginia Tech-led Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management. “Fighting these pests in just a few of these countries is futile, because it will continue to thrive in the countries where we are not working,” he said.

  • Humans may be adding large amounts of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by using groundwater faster than it is replenished, according to new research. This process, known as groundwater depletion, releases a significant amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that has until now been overlooked by scientists in calculating carbon sources, according to the new study.

Ecosystems

  • A new NASA tool links changes in sea level in 293 global port cities to specific regions of melting land ice, such as southern Greenland and the Antarctic Peninsula. It is intended to help coastal planners prepare for rising seas in the decades to come.

  • A steady increase in ocean temperatures — nearly 3 degrees Fahrenheit in recent decades — was all it took to doom the once-luxuriant giant kelp forests of eastern Australia and Tasmania: Thick canopies that once covered much of the region’s coastal sea surface have wilted in intolerably warm and nutrient-poor water. Then, a warm-water sea urchin species moved in. Voracious grazers, the invaders have mowed down much of the remaining vegetation and, over vast areas, have formed what scientists call urchin barrens, bleak marine environments largely devoid of life.

  • UBC research is paving the way for a route that will serve as a pilot project to protect green space and allow wildlife to move throughout the Okanagan Valley.Kelowna was identified in the 2016 Stats Canada census as one of the fastest-growing cities in Canada. With growth comes development and UBC Professor Lael Parrott says the region is in danger of fragmenting low-elevation ecosystems and losing the habitat and movement routes needed by wildlife, especially on the east side of Okanagan Lake.

  • Nebraska regulators have given the final approval for the Keystone XL pipeline to run through their state, eliminating the last major regulatory obstacle preventing the completion of the 1,179-mile pipeline system that would help carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to refineries in Texas.

  • A new study co-authored by WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) addresses concerns over the many Arctic shorebird populations in precipitous decline. Evident from the study is that monitoring and protection of habitat where the birds breed, winter, and stopover is critical to their survival and to that of a global migration spectacle.

  • A study of a Lake Erie wetland suggests that scientists have vastly underestimated the number of places methane-producing microbes can survive—and, as a result, today’s global climate models may be misjudging the amount of methane being released into the atmosphere.

  • A recent paper by scientists from Wits University in South Africa shows how creative fire management can increase habitat for wildebeest and other grazing animals in national parks.