Environment

The "wheat belt" and "gold fields" of southern Western Australia are associated with a regional acid saline groundwater system. Groundwaters hosted in the Yilgarn Craton there have pH levels as low as 2.4 and salinities as high as 28%, which have greatly affected bedrock and subsurface sediments. This is manifested above ground as hundreds of shallow, ephemeral acid saline lakes.

In the June issue of GSA Today, Kathleen Benison of West Virginia University and Brenda Bowen of the University of Utah write that the limited volume of groundwater, in combination with its acidity, salinity, and high concentrations of some metals, make southern Western Australia a difficult place for human habitation.

Tropical rainforests have long been considered the Earth's lungs, sequestering large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and thereby slowing down the increasing greenhouse effect and associated human-made climate change. Scientists in a global research project now show that the vast extensions of semi-arid landscapes occupying the transition zone between rainforest and desert dominate the ongoing increase in carbon sequestration by ecosystems globally, as well as large fluctuations between wet and dry years. This is a major rearrangement of planetary functions.

A new study shows that semi-arid ecosystems, savannahs and shrublands, play an extremely important role in controlling carbon sinks and the climate-mitigating ecosystem service they represent.


It is somehow ingrained in my body, I think. The appreciation of biodiversity. I know I love wetlands, growing up by a lake (mostly in it as a child) as I did. It turns out that parts of that lake are so-called Ramsar wetlands of international importance. Little did I know, growing up to be an astrophysicist that these sites existed and that it would once become part of my professional life. Here. On my home planet. bliksvaer
Bliksvaer Ramsar site, Norway. Photo: Bente Lilja Bye
Serengeti  means means “endless plains” in the Maasai language, but Tanzania's Serengeti National Park, which extends into Kenya towards the Mau Forest, the largest virgin montane forests of Africa, faces huge pressures from population growth.

It's easy for western elites who already have homes and educations to lament encroachment of nature by humans living in remote areas without either, but the real world needs more practical solutions. A new EU program is attempting to help.
A new simulation modeled the effects of land use changes on the species diversity in rivers and streams and estimates that the loss of biodiversity will caused by changes in land use practices far more than by climate change.

Despite that, climate change gets all of the attention and changing land use practices, such as clear-cutting of forests for agricultural use, are frequently neglected in the development of conservation concepts.

Grape vineyards experimenting with sustainable pest management systems are seeing an unexpected benefit: an increase in butterflies. This method of conservation is easier in Washington, since vineyards in this state already face fewer pests and use fewer chemicals than vineyards in states like California.

"We're fortunate here to have the perfect place to be able to have this sustainable option," said  David James, an associate professor in Washington State University's Department of Entomology.


A numerical model estimates the  potential impact of environmental processes on contaminant fate of growth-promoting hormones used in beef production and leads the authors to believe they may persist in the environment at higher concentrations and for longer durations than previously thought - and they also believe their model illustrates potential weaknesses in the U.S. system of regulating hazardous substances, which focuses on individual compounds and but cannot always account for complex and sometimes surprising chemical reactions that occur in the environment


Before 2009, nearly 4 in 10 cattle ranchers and slaughterhouse in Brazil reported recent deforestation but by 2013, this number dropped to 4 in 100, a 10-fold decrease.

What changed? Policies that were not simply advocated by first world elites that told people in Brazil they couldn't have an economy. Brazil is home to the world’s largest commercial herd of cattle, and its cattle ranchers were once linked to the destruction of huge swaths of rainforest. “Zero-deforestation agreements” put into place in 2009 use market-based strategies to reduce the impact of the beef industry on the environment, a much different methodology than in the past where some would follow guidelines and be penalized economically.

Edamame - vegetable soybean - is not widely grown in the United States, but it is growing in popularity. Part of the reason only about 85 million acres of grain-type soybean were grown in the U.S. in 2014 is because Asia can do it cheaply and there has been little research on the cultivars that could be used here and how to grow the crop sustainably.

Edamame seeds contain all the essential amino acids, which is unique to a vegetable crop, it is high in dietary fiber and most of the fats in edamame are unsaturated. Often marketed as a healthy snack food, edamame requires minimal processing and preparation. 


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