Environment

A research team has provided ground-truth for a method of measuring plant photosynthesis on a global scale: from low-Earth orbit.


Metformin, a medication commonly taken for Type II diabetes, is being found in freshwater systems worldwide, and a new study says that it causes physical changes in male fish exposed to doses similar to the amount in wastewater effluent. It causes intersex in fish - male fish that produce eggs - according to the study in Chemosphere.

Because intersex fish occur more often downstream from wastewater treatment plants, studies have investigated the effect of hormones from birth control pills, but metformin is not a hormone and it targets blood sugar regulation so the correlation is surprising.


Spring is here and that means fewer airplanes need to be de-iced. That may be good, according to a new study which finds that de-icing agents accumulated during the winter, which end up on unpaved areas and infiltrate into the soils during snowmelt, could end up in groundwater.


Agriculture is a breathtaking achievement of modern science. We are on the path to being able to feed the world for the first time in history and the upward trend in obesity is due to the fact that more food has been produced at lower cost with less environmental strain than ever believed realistic.

But it still has a price. There are claims that approximately 35% of global greenhouse gases come from agriculture.

A new paper argues that regenerative, organic farming, ranching and land use could lead to sequestering several hundred billion tons of excess CO2. Increasing the soil's organic content will not only fix carbon and reduce emissions, it will also improve the soil's ability to retain water and nutrients and resist pests and droughts. 


Climate change may have been be responsible for the abrupt collapse of civilization on the fringes of the Tibetan Plateau around 2,000 B.C. - but it wasn't the modern political connotation of climate change, with man-made carbon dioxide causing warming, it was global cooling.

Many scientists assume that the growing level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will accelerate plant growth but a new study suggests much of this growth will be curtailed by limited soil nutrients so that by the end of the century, there may be more 10 percent more CO2 in the atmosphere, which would accelerate climate change.  

Cory Cleveland, a University of Montana associate professor of biogeochemistry, and co-authors looked at 11 leading climate models to examine changes in nitrogen and phosphorous. They found that nitrogen limitation actually will reduce plant uptake of CO2 by 19 percent, while a combined nitrogen and phosphorous limitation will reduce plant uptake by 25 percent. 


Since the Cambrian Explosion, ecosystems have suffered repeated mass extinctions, 5 of which wiped out half of all species: The Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction, the Triassic–Jurassic extinction, the Permian–Triassic extinction, the Late Devonian extinction and the Ordovician–Silurian extinction.

20 years ago, a sixth major extinction was put forth in the Middle Permian (262 million years ago) in China. This Capitanian extinction was known only from equatorial settings and it was not recognized as an actual global crisis and was instead considered just one of many lesser mass extinctions. David P.G. Bond and colleagues provide the first evidence for severe Middle Permian losses amongst brachiopods in northern paleolatitudes (Spitsbergen).

Soil is considered e a semi-permanent storehouse for ancient carbon but it may instead be releasing carbon dioxide to the atmosphere faster than thought, which means that the carbon bomb not happening in one study could be happening in this other one published in Nature Climate Change.

In the paper, researchers showed that chemicals emitted by plant roots act on carbon that is bonded to minerals in the soil, breaking the bonds and exposing previously protected carbon to decomposition by microbes.


Clearing grasslands to make way for biofuels may seem counterproductive, but University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers show in a study today (April 2, 2015) that crops, including the corn and soy commonly used for biofuels, expanded onto 7 million acres of new land in the U.S. over a recent four-year period, replacing millions of acres of grasslands.


It is raining in California as I write this but most of it will do little good. The rain is going to go to a gutter and the gutter will go to a stream and that will go to an ocean.

Yes, much of the fresh water that California has runs into the Pacific Ocean. You might wonder why the Pacific Ocean needs so much, since 96 percent of Earth's water is already in oceans, but the oceans are not asking for it. Instead, it is due to anti-science policies lobbied for by well-heeled California environmentalists.