U.S. Rivers and Streams Saturated With Carbon

Rivers and streams in the United States are releasing substantially more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than previously thought, according to researchers publishing their results in the current issue of the journal Nature Geoscience. Their findings could change the way scientists model the movement of carbon among land, water and the atmosphere. Their findings could … Continue reading

Voracious Tibetan pikas fingered for grassland loss

Caitlin Stier These cute critters are accused of having a destructive appetite. The pikas burrow through the meadows of the Tibetan plateau, feasting on grass and storing hay for the long winter. China is exterminating the creatures by throwing botulism-laced grain into pikas’ burrows in an effort to preserve what’s left of deteriorating grasslands for … Continue reading

World’s Largest River Restoration Project Begins

The removal of two dams on the Elwha River​ will help restore once abundant salmon runs. David Biello Ninety-eight years ago, engineers tamed Washington State’s Elwha River. Dams provided electricity, at the expense of runs of five types of Pacific salmon. But the fish should soon be back.  The two dams on the Elwha are … Continue reading

The evacuation of Tristan da Cunha

The 264 inhabitants of the island of Tristan da Cunha were evacuated to Cape Town on October 10th, 1961. Refugees from Tristan da Cunha at a church service in Cape Town. Getty Images/Time LifeIn 1506 a Portuguese sea-captain called Tristao da Cunha came across a group of six little islands far out in the Atlantic … Continue reading

Human Fecal Waste Kills Coral

A human fecal bacterium kills coral, new research shows, and U.S. scientists say this is a warning to Florida and the Caribbean to protect prized reefs from sewage or face a threat to a key pillar of their tourism. By Pascal Fletcher A human fecal bacterium kills coral, new research shows, and U.S. scientists say … Continue reading

Flooding of Ancient Salton Sea Linked to San Andreas Earthquakes

Southern California’s Salton Sea, once a large natural lake fed by the Colorado River, may play an important role in the earthquake cycle of the southern San Andreas Fault and may have triggered large earthquakes in the past. Researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the University … Continue reading

Air Quality Worsened by Paved Surfaces

Widespread Urban Development Alters Weather Patterns New research focusing on the Houston area suggests that widespread urban development alters weather patterns in a way that can make it easier for pollutants to accumulate during warm summer weather instead of being blown out to sea. The international study, led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research … Continue reading

King Crabs Invade Antarctica

It’s like a scene out of a sci-fi movie — thousands, possibly millions, of king crabs are marching through icy, deep-sea waters and up the Antarctic slope. "They are coming from the deep, somewhere between 6,000 to 9,000 feet down," said James McClintock, Ph.D., University of Alabama at Birmingham Endowed Professor of Polar and Marine … Continue reading

Made in China: Our Toxic, Imported Air Pollution

Mercury, sulfates, ozone, black carbon, flu-laced desert dust. Even as America tightens emission standards, the fast-growing economies of Asia are filling the air with hazardous components that circumnavigate the globe. by David Kirby iStockphoto “There is no place called away.” It is a statement worthy of Gertrude Stein, but University of Washington atmospheric chemist Dan … Continue reading

The Toxicity Panic

The contemporary fear of plastics and other household menaces can’t possibly be justified—or can it? Judith Shulevitz When, armed with an infant, you descend into the nether world of urban playgrounds and playdates and long, searching conversations about upper-middle-class parental obsessions (gluten allergies, Mandarin classes), you’re likely to find yourself wondering whether you’ve joined a … Continue reading

Fewer cylones with climate change – but why?

Wendy Zukerman, Cairns At this week’s Greenhouse 2011 conference in Cairns, a swell of researchers agreed on one conclusion. Quoting Tom Knutson, co-chairman of the World Meteorological Organisation’s expert team on climate impacts on tropical cyclones, The Australian reports: The overwhelming majority of global climate models predicted a rise in the strength of cyclones and … Continue reading

Unusual northern winter puts ozone hole above the Arctic

By John Timmer ESA/Finnish Meteorological Institute The Antarctic’s ozone hole forms in the stratosphere every winter. It’s a region of low ozone concentrations that puts the local population at risk of heightened UV exposure when the sun returns. Fortunately, the local population is tiny, and the hole dissipates considerably before reaching populated areas of the … Continue reading

One Sea Turtle’s Worth of Plastic

By Brandon Keim Joining the Laysan albatross as icons of ocean plastic pollution are sea turtles, which consume bellyfuls of debris while swimming through Earth’s five great ocean garbage patches. Pictured above are the stomach contents of a juvenile sea turtle accidentally captured off the coast of Argentina. The image echoes famous photographs taken by … Continue reading

Deepwater Horizon’s Impacts in Bacteria

By Brandon Keim Nobody’s going to shed a tear for an oiled microbe, but the Deepwater Horizon’s impacts include bacteria, underscoring just how subtle and fundamental the blowout’s ecological consequences may be. The findings, based on comparisons of microbial flux before and after oil washed ashore, are not a final analysis. It’s too soon to … Continue reading

Winter Halts Drilling Into 14-Million-Year-Old Lake

By Liat Clark, Wired UK A Russian team searching for signs of life beneath a 14-million-year-old frozen Antarctic lake has had to halt drilling just a few meters from water, potentially damaging 20 years of work in the process. The team — headed up by the Russian Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute in St. Petersburg … Continue reading

Buffalo, N.Y., bans hydraulic fracturing

The city of Buffalo, New York, banned the natural gas drilling technique of hydraulic fracturing on Tuesday, a largely symbolic vote that demonstrates concern about potential harm to groundwater from mining an abundant energy source. NEW YORK (Reuters) – The city of Buffalo, New York, banned the natural gas drilling technique of hydraulic fracturing on … Continue reading

Pollution in the Grand Canyon

By Ricardo Gonzalez Translated By Drew Machowicz  Edited by Sam Carter Spain – El Mundo – Original Article (Spanish) Without doubt, one of the greatest wonders that the United States offers to its visitors is the Grand Canyon. Few landscapes in the world can match the beauty of this of this enormous gorge carved out … Continue reading

Montrealers Are Feeding Fish Prozac

Research Shows Influence on Brain Activity While Long-Term Consequences Are Unclear Around one in four Montrealers take some kind of anti-depressant, and according to new research, the drugs are passing into the waterways and affecting fish. The findings are internationally significant as the city’s sewage treatment system is similar to that in use in other … Continue reading

The Mass Extinction of Scientists Who Study Species

By Craig McClain We are currently in a biodiversity crisis. A quarter of all mammals face extinction, and 90 percent of the largest ocean fish are gone. Species are going extinct at rates equaled only five times in the history of life. But the biodiversity crisis we are currently encountering isn’t just a loss of … Continue reading

Command economics: for China, not all it’s cracked up to be

James Bambino The drumbeat these days is that command economies, specifically China’s, are tough to beat. Beijing simply formulates and executes a plan of action, absent messy public debate. That is the narrative, for example, on carbon emissions reductions – China, it is said, is on an inexorable Big Green Push as part of a … Continue reading

Beijing Air: ‘Crazy Bad’

Christina Larson The U.S. embassy in Beijing has an air-quality monitoring station that tracks the level of certain pollutants in China’s notoriously smoggy capital — and then broadcasts results via Twitter.  Most tweets from the sober-minded scientists behind @BeijingAir look like this: 11-17-2010; 10:00; PM2.5; 154.0; 204; Very Unhealthy // Ozone; 0.2; 0 But yesterday … Continue reading

Randy Rotifers: Environmental Variation Prompts More Sex

By Katherine Harmon MORE SEX IN THE (ROTIFER) CITY: A heterogeneous environment seems to be all it takes to get rotifers to have more sex. The sexual females in this group are carrying dark eggs. Image: KUIPER/BECKS Sex can be a costly endeavor—biologically, that is. Combining genetic material can of course bring beneficial new combinations, … Continue reading

Crunch time ahead for Gulf oyster fisheries

By Sujata Gupta, Bayou La Loutre, Louisiana Healthy oysters have become a rarity following the huge oil spill (Sujata Gupta) WE HAVE been hurtling south through marshes for half an hour when Brad Robin kills the engine of his flat-bottomed oyster boat. Having already fallen off my stool once, I grab a metal rail. We’ve … Continue reading

Shellfish feel the burn: damage linked to atmospheric CO2

By John Timmer Last week, the National Academies of Science released a report on research of what has been called "the other carbon problem"—ocean acidification. Excess carbon in the atmosphere has been lowering the ocean’s pH (increasing its acidity), which has the potential to severely alter the ocean’s chemistry. The NAS report says that we’re … Continue reading

Home of "Ice Giants" thaws, shows pre-Viking hunts

Home of "Ice Giants" thaws, shows pre-Viking hunts Norwegian archaeologist Elling Utvik Wammer picks up a stick believed to be about 1,500 years old and used by ancestors of the Vikings to hunt reindeer in the Jotunheimen mountains of Norway September 9, 2010. REUTERS/Alister Doyle By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent JUVFONNA, Norway (Reuters) – Climate … Continue reading

Can conservation cut poverty?

Experts differ on the effects of biodiversity projects on improvements in living standards. By Natasha Gilbert World leaders will gather at the United Nations in New York next week to discuss progress on two goals said to be complementary: saving species and lifting people out of poverty. Conservationists often claim that efforts to preserve biodiversity … Continue reading

Oil sands release pollutants, contrary to government study

By Casey Johnston The extraction of heavy crude oil from oil sands in Canada is releasing as many as 13 kinds of pollutants into the surrounding air and water, according to a study published in PNAS this week. The independent report directly contradicts the results of the government-administered Regional Aquatic Monitoring Program (RAMP) that claimed … Continue reading

The Earth’s Busted Up, Yet Humanity’s Doing Just Fine. Why Is That?

By Bradford Plumer Here’s a paradox for you. Most ecologists would agree that we’re ravaging the Earth’s natural resources at an unsustainable rate—and pushing up against some dangerous thresholds in the biosphere. (See my old piece on planetary boundaries for the gloomy version of this tale.) Broadly speaking, the planet’s ecosystems are in terrible shape, … Continue reading

American Sublime

Judith Shulevitz Haines Falls, New York—Like every other summer resident of a rural region, I come to the Catskills to get away from my life. If winter is when we second-home owners disappear like pale ghosts into our routines and our urban surroundings, then summer is the time when nature is supposed to restore us … Continue reading

An Island’s Struggle to Save Its Soul

Crete in the Crisis By Manfred Ertel Photo Gallery: 4 Photos Judith Kessler-Ktistaki There are still pockets of Crete that have not completely given themselves over to the tourist hordes. But now that Greece is broke, one of these few spots fears it might be ruined if it is included in Athens’ plan to make … Continue reading

Ocean garbage patches are not growing, so where is all that plastic going?

By Larry Greenemeier. Researchers have been visiting locations in the western North Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea for more than two decades to better understand the large patches of plastic that have formed there. Although the mysteries surrounding exactly how the plastic gets to these locations, where it comes from and what impact it’s having … Continue reading

Audio Finds Frog Counters May Be Overestimating

Frog census volunteers misinterpreted recorded frog sounds in the field, leading researchers to suspect that frog populations may be even lower than thought. Cynthia Graber reports Declining frog populations are considered an indicator of environmental damage. But new research finds that frogs might be doing even worse than we thought. Because the volunteers who count … Continue reading

The Sand Smugglers

The Sand SmugglersSingapore’s business-friendly climate has seen the country grow by leaps and bounds — literally. But it’s all based on a murky, billion-dollar illegal trade in sand.    BY CHRIS MILTON The causeway linking Singapore to the southern tip of the Malaysian peninsula is normally clogged with cars and trucks making the short international journey, … Continue reading

Radioactive Boar on the Rise in Germany

A Quarter Century after Chernobyl By Charles Hawley. As Germany’s wild boar population has skyrocketed in recent years, so too has the number of animals contaminated by radioactivity left over from the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown. Government payments compensating hunters for lost income due to radioactive boar have quadrupled since 2007. It’s no secret that Germany … Continue reading

Plastic Surf

Small remnants of toys, bottles and packaging have an unhealthful afterlife in the ocean By Jennifer Ackerman. Plastic debris in the sea does not get digested by microbes, but it does "photodegrade": ultraviolet light and heat make it brittle and prone to cracking. Scientists fear tiny bits called microplastics could harm small creatures at the … Continue reading

Overfished ecosystem held together by a single species

By Casey Johnston. When an ecosystem becomes overfished, some species may be able to step in and fill the food chain gaps until others can recover, according to a new study published in Science. The bearded goby, a fish that lives off the coast of southwest Africa, has become the predominant prey species in the … Continue reading

Polar Rare: The Arctic’s apex predator could disappear from Hudson Bay in 10 years

By John Platt. Canada’s western Hudson Bay could lose its population of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in as little as a decade, according to new research by biologist Andrew Derocher and others from the University of Alberta (U.A.). Derocher tells Yale Environment 360 that the polar bears in western Hudson Bay have lost 25 percent … Continue reading

Acts of God

By Nick Paumgarten. Last month, after a limb fell from an elm tree near the Central Park Zoo, critically injuring a woman and killing her infant daughter, citizens wondered, as citizens will, how such a thing could be allowed to happen. When trees kill, as trees will, you blame it either on the tree pruners … Continue reading

Gulf Coast Dead Zone Set to Grow

Scientists predict a bigger than average dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico this year. David Biello reports (with narration by Christie Nicholson). There’s a dead zone forming in the Gulf of Mexico, and I’m not talking about the ongoing oil gushing from BP’s well. No, it’s the annual dead zone that forms thanks to … Continue reading

Actually, It’s Mountains

Sometimes the toughest obstacles are the naturally occurring ones. BY ROBERT D. KAPLAN. Geography, it has been famously said, is the most fundamental cause behind political fortune because it is the most unchanging. The truculent personalities of Prussia and czarist Russia, to say nothing of their successor states, had much to do with their being … Continue reading

Hard chairs drive hard bargains: Physical sensations translate to social perceptions

By Katherine Harmon. The findings, published online June 24 in Science, show that subtle differences in tactile sensations can "influence our impressions and decisions, even when the people and events those impressions and decisions concerned are entirely unrelated to what is being touched," the authors noted in their study. The work also calls attention to … Continue reading

Does the EPA know what it’s doing when it comes to dispersants?

By David Biello. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has struggled in the past two months to come to grips with dispersants, the chemical cocktails being used to break up the Gulf of Mexico oil spill into tiny droplets that are easier for microbes to eat. It now appears that the EPA failed to require … Continue reading

A 2002 Texas megaflood carved a 2.2km canyon in three days

By John Timmer. Most of the dramatic features of river basins—canyons, gorges, and so on—formed through rather mundane processes, primarily the slow erosion caused by a constant flow of water and seasonal floods. But researchers have also identified a few cases, both on Earth and Mars, where features seem to have been formed by sudden … Continue reading

A Colossal Fracking Mess

The dirty truth behind the new natural gas. By Christopher Bateman. Early on a spring morning in the town of Damascus, in northeastern Pennsylvania, the fog on the Delaware River rises to form a mist that hangs above the tree-covered hills on either side. A buzzard swoops in from the northern hills to join a … Continue reading

Is Using Dispersants on the BP Gulf Oil Spill Fighting Pollution with Pollution?

It remains unclear what impact chemical dispersants will have on sea life–and only the massive, uncontrolled experiment being run in the Gulf of Mexico will tell By David Biello. Roughly five million liters of dispersants have now been used to break up the oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico, making this the largest use … Continue reading

Echoes of Bhopal

By Charles Homans. As Congress reconvenes the most recent of the BP executives’ unenviable appointments in Washington this afternoon, a word about Tony Hayward’s current inquisitor: California Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman, chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. There’s an interesting symmetry between today’s hearing and one that Waxman held a quarter century ago, … Continue reading

Obama’s big oil test

By Steve LeVine. President Barack Obama and BP CEO Tony Hayward both face moments of truth in their meeting tomorrow. Given the brutality of American politics, Obama must take control of the runaway train of vitriol surrounding the Gulf of Mexico oil spill by showing he’s doing everything short of body-slamming Hayward. (Even that wouldn’t … Continue reading

The legacy of Ixtoc

By Joshua Keating. I wouldn’t say that Glenn Garvin’s look back at the 1979 Ixtoc 1 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico makes one more optimistic about the current prospects for recovery, but it provides some useful perspective: Soto, who followed the fish and shrimp population off Mexico closely, found to his surprise that … Continue reading