Environment

Five environmental groups are alleging that NASA could be about to break the commitments it made in a 2010 agreement to clean up all the detectable contamination at its former Santa Susana Field Lab (SSFL) rocket testing site in the Simi Hills of California.

They claim that NASA may be laying the groundwork for a breach by falsely claiming that commenters on its draft Environmental Impact Study (EIS) on the cleanup were evenly divided on whether NASA should live up to its obligations in the cleanup agreements. When pressed by environmental groups to provide actual data to backup such a claim, they say NASA refused, and one of the groups, Consumer Watchdog, submitted a Freedom of Information Act request, obtaining all submitted comments.
When Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" was taking the country by storm 50 years ago, it was a puzzle to scientists and farmers who did not see the cultural future looming in front of them. Scientists dismissed it as anecdotal evidence while farmers recognized that if you don't use a pesticide according to instructions, bad things happen. Both knew that without pesticides, yields would be devastated.

Consuming foods grown in urban gardens has become a big fad, and those foods might even offer health benefits, unless a lack of knowledge about the soil used for planting poses a health threat to both consumers and gardeners. 

A new paper the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF), researchers identifies a range of factors and challenges related to the perceived risk of soil contamination among urban community gardeners and found a need for clear and concise information on how best to prevent and manage soil contamination. 


Greenhouse gas emissions from food production may threaten the UN climate target of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, according to a paper from Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden. What is the data? No data needed.


Every dark cloud has a silver lining and the silver lining for a thawing permafrost is...still a dark cloud.

The climate is warming in the Arctic at twice the rate of the rest of the globe. That has led to a longer growing season and increased plant growth, which captures atmospheric carbon - that is good - but it is thawing the permafrost, which releases carbon into the atmosphere. Permafrost contains three to seven times the amount of carbon sequestered in tropical forests. A thawing permafrost which will result in the release of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere creating feedbacks to climate change – more warming and greater permafrost thaw.  


Radiological damage at Chernobyl doesn't just keep plant life from growing, it even keeps plant life from decomposing.

A paper in the journal Oecologia finds that microbes near the site of the Chernobyl disaster has slowed the decomposition of fallen leaves and other plant matter in the area. The resulting buildup of dry, loose detritus is a wildfire hazard that poses the threat of spreading radioactivity from the Chernobyl area.


A team of agronomists, entomologists, agroecologists, horticulturists and biogeochemists have determined that planting cover crops in rotation between cash crops - widely agreed to be ecologically beneficial - is even more valuable than previously thought. 

Writing in Agricultural Systems, the Penn State researchers quantified the benefits offered by cover crops across more than 10 ecosystem services. Benefits included increased carbon and nitrogen in soils, erosion prevention, more mycorrhizal colonization -- beneficial soil fungus that helps plants absorb nutrients -- and weed suppression.


Life is just packed full of surprises.

You just never know when you'll get stuck in an elevator with the finalists for the new Victoria's Secret Catalog (all of whom just happen to be in estrus). 

You never know when you open your door if Ed McMahon will be standing there with a $1 million check from Publishers Clearing House.  (OK, this one you do know, since he's somewhat dead). Or a paroled member of the Manson Family. Or Paris Hilton with a parakeet on her head. 

So,  just when you think you've already seen the worst possible science paper in the entire history of multicellular life, life pulls the rug out from under you.

What do people living in Boston, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles have in common? From coast to coast, prairie to desert, people love their lawns.  


If only there was a study that dug deeper, like examining differences in fertilization and irrigation practices.  

Don't scoff, the authors of a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences assure us that with 80 percent of Americans living in urban or suburban neighborhoods, understanding urban lawn care is vital to sustainability planning.


  How did small bands of nomadic Mongol horsemen unite to conquer much of the world within a span of decades? A whole book could be written on that, and it probably will be, if a new "Indiana Jones" movie gets made using Genghis Khan.

The reasons are numerous and involve many different things but climate change is a less-considered one. Yet researchers studying the rings of ancient trees in mountainous central Mongolia say his conquest was likely due to nice weather.