Science in the Wild: The Legacy <br />Of the U.S. National Park System

Science in the Wild: The Legacy
Of the U.S. National Park System

by jim robbins
As the National Park Service marks its centennial this month, the parks are being celebrated for their natural beauty and priceless recreational opportunities. But they also provide a less recognized benefit: the parks serve as a living laboratory for critical scientific research.
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The Dungeness Crab Faces <br />Uncertain Future on West Coast

E360 Video Contest Award Winner — First Place

The Dungeness Crab Faces
Uncertain Future on West Coast

The winner of the 2016 Yale Environment 360 Video Contest explores how ocean acidification may be putting at risk a prized crustacean that is vital to the fishing industry and the marine ecosystem on the U.S. Pacific Coast.
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Rocky Flats: A Wildlife Refuge <br />Confronts Its Radioactive Past


Rocky Flats: A Wildlife Refuge
Confronts Its Radioactive Past

by fred pearce
The Rocky Flats Plant outside Denver was a key U.S. nuclear facility during the Cold War. Now, following a $7 billion cleanup, the government is preparing to open a wildlife refuge on the site to the public, amid warnings from some scientists that residual plutonium may still pose serious health risks.
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Pressure Mounts to Reform Our <br />Throwaway Clothing Culture


Pressure Mounts to Reform Our
Throwaway Clothing Culture

by marc gunther
Americans dispose of about 12.8 million tons of textiles annually — 80 pounds for each man, woman, and child. In the U.S. and around the world, a growing number of environmentalists and clothing industry executives say it’s time to end the wasteful clothing culture and begin making new apparel out of old items on a large scale.
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The New Green Grid: Utilities <br />Deploy ‘Virtual Power Plants’


The New Green Grid: Utilities
Deploy ‘Virtual Power Plants’

by maria gallucci
By linking together networks of energy-efficient buildings, solar installations, and batteries, a growing number of companies in the U.S. and Europe are helping utilities reduce energy demand at peak hours and supply targeted areas with renewably generated electricity.
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Sticker Shock: The Soaring Costs <br />Of Germany’s Nuclear Shutdown


Sticker Shock: The Soaring Costs
Of Germany’s Nuclear Shutdown

by joel stonington
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 2011 decision to rapidly phase out the country’s 17 nuclear power reactors has left the government and utilities with a massive problem: How to clean up and store large amounts of nuclear waste and other radioactive material.
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How to Restore an Urban River? <br />Los Angeles Looks to Find Out


How to Restore an Urban River?
Los Angeles Looks to Find Out

by jim robbins
Officials are moving ahead with a major revitalization of the Los Angeles River – removing miles of concrete along its banks and re-greening areas now covered with pavement. But the project raises an intriguing question: Just how much of an urban river can be returned to nature?
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Vanishing Act: What’s Causing Sharp <br />Decline in Insects and Why It Matters

Vanishing Act: What’s Causing Sharp
Decline in Insects and Why It Matters

by christian schwägerl
The dramatic decline in global bee populations has gained wide attention, but recent studies show that insects of all types are in trouble in much of the world. Many factors — including monoculture farming, pesticide use, and habitat loss — are to blame for the plight of insects, which are essential to agriculture and functioning ecosystems.
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How Growing Sea Plants Can<br /> Help Slow Ocean Acidification


How Growing Sea Plants Can
Help Slow Ocean Acidification

by nicola jones
Researchers are finding that kelp, eelgrass, and other vegetation can effectively absorb CO2 and reduce acidity in the ocean. Growing these plants in local waters, scientists say, could help mitigate the damaging impacts of acidification on marine life.
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Can Virtual Reality Emerge <br />As a Tool for Conservation?


Can Virtual Reality Emerge
As a Tool for Conservation?

by heather millar
New advances in technology are sparking efforts to use virtual reality to help people gain a deeper appreciation of environmental challenges. VR experiences, researchers say, can be especially useful in conveying key issues that are slow to develop, such as climate change and extinction.
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e360 digest

Thousands of Homes Keep Flooding,
Yet They Keep Being Rebuilt Again

More than 2,100 properties across the U.S. enrolled in the National Flood Insurance Program have flooded and been rebuilt more than 10 times since 1978, according to a

Flooding in Denham Springs, Louisiana.
new analysis of insurance data by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). One home in Batchelor, Louisiana has flooded 40 times over the past four decades, receiving $428,379 in insurance payments. More than 30,000 properties in the program, run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, have flooded multiple times over the years. Those homes, known as “severe repetitive loss properties,” make up just 0.6 percent of federal flood insurance policies. But they account for 10.6 percent of the program’s claims — totaling $5.5 billion in payments.
Read more.

26 Aug 2016: Ragweed Allergies Could Double
In Europe as Global Temperatures Rise

The number of people suffering from ragweed allergies in Europe could more than double by mid-century due to climate change, according to a new study published in the journal

Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia)
Environmental Health Prospectives. Warming global temperatures, the research found, will help increase the distribution of ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) by making more areas of the continent suitable for its growth. Higher temperatures will also make growing seasons longer and increase pollen concentration in the air. Ragweed allergies, popularly known as hay fever, could impact 77 million people in Europe by 2041 to 2060, up from 33 million today, said the new study, led by scientists at the University of East Anglia. Allergies cost Europe $62 billion a year in lost productivity and are responsible for four million sick days worldwide, according to the news site Quartz.


For China’s Massive Data Centers,
A Push to Cut Energy and Water Use

China’s 1.37 billion people, many of them fully connected to the Internet, use an enormous amount of energy as they email, search the Web, or stream video.

Solar panels atop a green data center in Hangzhou.
Indeed, the Chinese government estimates that the country’s data centers alone consume more electricity than all of Hungary and Greece combined. But as Chinese technology and internet businesses look to burnish their environmental credentials and lower costs of operation, many are working to run their massive computing facilities more sustainably. Globally, tech giants such as Microsoft, Google, and Amazon are making rapid progress in this field, as they boost energy efficiency at data centers and seek to completely power their operations using renewable energy.
Read more.

25 Aug 2016: Scientists Find New Way
To Convert Carbon Dioxide into Energy

Scientists have discovered a way to convert greenhouse gas emissions into a fuel in a single step using a light-driven bacterium, according to new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. A team of U.S. scientists, led by biochemists at Utah State University, used a modified version of the phototrophic bacterium Rhodopseudomonas palustris as a catalyst to break apart carbon dioxide and turn it into hydrogen and methane, the latter of which can be burned to generate electricity. "It's a baby step, but it's also a big step," said Utah State biochemist Lance Seefeldt, a co-author of the study. "Imagine the far-reaching benefits of large-scale capture of environmentally damaging byproducts from burning fossils fuels and converting them to alternative fuels using light, which is abundant and clean."


24 Aug 2016: How Elephant Seals Are
Helping Scientists Study Climate Change

A group of southern elephant seals is helping scientists monitor how climate change is impacting Antarctica by tracking water temperature, depth, and salinity as they swim and dive around the frozen continent.

An elephant seal wearing a data tracker.
Most recently, data from the seals — which routinely dive to depths of 1,000 to 2,000 feet — showed that water melting off the Antarctic ice sheet is causing the surrounding seas to become less salty, disrupting a conveyor belt-like system that transfers heat and nutrients around the globe. The new findings were published this week in the journal Nature Communications. The elephant seal data, as well as records from monitoring devices on other marine mammals, have generated more than 500,000 vertical profiles of temperature and salinity in the world’s oceans and helped inform nearly 100 scientific studies. “"At the moment it's all about filling gaps” in the environmental records, lead author Guy Williams of the University of Tasmania told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “The [seals] have gone to areas where we've never had an observation before."


23 Aug 2016: Study Shows Humans Learning
To Use Natural Resources More Efficiently

Humanity’s influence on the natural world is widespread, but a new study published in the journal Nature Communications finds promising signs that we are slowly learning to live in a more sustainable way. The study found that between 1993 and 2009, the global population grew 23 percent and the global economy grew 153 percent. Meanwhile, the global human footprint grew only 9 percent over the same period. "Seeing that our impacts have expanded at a rate that is slower than the rate of economic and population growth is encouraging," said lead author Oscar Venter, an ecologist at the University of Northern British Columbia. "It means we are becoming more efficient in how we use natural resources." The study authors warned, however, that even with the good news, human activity affects 75 percent of the planet’s surface and remains “perversely intense, widespread, and rapidly intensifying in places with high biodiversity.”

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