Environment

Almost every study of food production over the last decade has claimed it has implications for global warming, but in reality the resources required to grow food and raise livestock and grains vary dramatically depending on the animal, the type of food it provides, the kind of feed it consumes and where it lives.


New series of webinars on Earth observations and the water cycle – Check details at the end of this article.

Children's congenital heart defects may be associated with their mothers' exposure to specific mixtures of environmental toxins during pregnancy, according to research presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2013.

Congenital heart defects occur when the heart or blood vessels near the heart don't develop normally before birth. Defects may be caused by chromosomal abnormalities, but the cause is unknown in most cases.


The mountain pine beetle is killing lodgepole pine and jack pine forests in the Western United States, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories, Alberta and could spread east to the Maritimes. 


Yes, beetles are natural, but before you start waving Sierra Club brochures and yelling about scary science, keep in mind that nature is out to kill us all. She is, basically, a real bitch.

Researchers have been investigating pheromones emitted by the pest in North America's lodgepole and jack pine forests and
tree chemical compounds that play critical roles in the beetle's pheromone production and attraction in both their established lodgepole pine host and in the newer jack pine host.
 

The idea is to produce scientific bait.  


People who live in regions where there is a real change of seasons know that plants go 'dormant' in the winter and then spring to life again as the weather warms.

But a new study found a counter-intuitive effect; instead of a colder winter causing trees to hold off growth for a longer period of time, that happens during a warmer winter, according to an examination of 36 tree and shrub species. The colder the winter, the earlier native plants begin to grow again.

If global warming occurs and we get warmer winters, the spring development phase for typical forest trees might start later and later, which gives an advantage to shrubs and invasive trees that aren't as impacted by the cold.


Protecting carbon-storing forests in the developing world may be easier than mobilizing government bureaucracies; a recent paper finds that local communities, using simple tools like ropes and sticks, can produce forest carbon data on par with results by government employees using high-tech devices.  


Green roofs, well-established in Europe, are becoming a growing trend in North America.

Some benefits are tangible, like conserving energy and managing storm water runoff, while others are more speculative, such as improving air quality or having a positive psychological impact on communities. Green roofs are loosely defined as "landscapes over structure," and the methodology and vocabulary of green roofs are imported from Europe, especially from Germany, where green roofs have been required on most structures for over 20 years.  


A dry spring has meant a rampant wildfire season already for Australia.

Hold those fires back? Arguably the largest volunteer fire department in the world.  New South Wales uses volunteer fire services, even newly-elected Prime Minister Tony Abbott is a member. 

"The tragedy is that many of them have lost their own homes while they've been out saving those of others," says Kingston University academic Dr. Neil Thomas, an expert in environmental hazards.

There was once a perception that nature was somehow unspoiled and humans changed that. It was never really true, it was just an arbitrary naturalistic fallacy, but it caught on among environmentalists who began lobbying for a return to this historical ecosystem.

Actual conservation efforts have to be a little more practical - after all, if keeping things untouched is the goal, environmentalists would be voting for the Tea Party Republicans who kept the US government shut down. Since the president wouldn't let anyone into National Parks, the animals and plants were left alone.


Since 1996, corn containing a gene that allows it to create a protein that is toxic to certain insects yet is safe for human consumption has been grown in the United States.

Most of this genetically modified "Bt corn" has been used for animal feed or processed into corn meal, starch, or other products. Varieties of sweet corn (corn on the cob) have existed since the late 1990s, though relatively few acres have been planted related to the impact of marketing campaigns against it by activist groups. 

A new study doesn't rehash the well-documented safety issue and instead deals with the environmental aspects. It suggests that Bt sweet corn is better for the environment because it requires fewer pesticide applications than conventional corn.