e360 digest

26 Apr 2016: Historical Citizen-Scientists’ Ice
Records Confirm Global Temperature Rise

Centuries-old records from Japanese priests and European shipping merchants are helping scientists confirm that the earth has warmed substantially — and freshwater ice formation significantly decreased — since the Industrial Revolution.

These early record keepers tracked annual freeze dates and the breakup of ice each spring on lakes and rivers for hundreds of years, beginning in the 1440s in Japan and 1690s in Finland. The data represents the oldest known inland ice records. An international team of scientists published a study this week in Nature Scientific Reports examining how ice behavior changed over the records’ years. They found that from 1443 to 1683, for example, the annual freeze date of Lake Suwa in Japan moved back 0.19 days per decade. From the start of the Industrial Revolution, however, that trend grew 24 times faster, pushing back the date of ice formation on the lake by 4.6 days per decade.


25 Apr 2016: Scientists Discover Antarctic
Lake That Could Contain Unique Life Forms

Scientists have discovered what they think is a massive, ribbon-shaped lake under the Antarctic ice sheet that could lead to the discovery of a bevy of new unique life forms.

NASA/Michael Studinger
The lake, which measures 60 miles long by 6 miles wide, was discovered using satellite imagery, and scientists plan to confirm its existence using ice-penetrating radar this spring. The lake has likely been locked under the ice for millions of years — allowing bacteria and other life forms to evolve in complete isolation from the rest of the world, according to a report released at the European Geosciences Union meeting. Unlike the continent’s largest under-ice lake, Vostok, the newly discovered waterbody — located in East Antarctica — is relatively close to a research station, making it easier to explore. “It’s the last un-researched part of Antarctica, so it’s very exciting news,” Bryn Hubbard of the University of Aberystwyth UK told the New Scientist.


22 Apr 2016: Brazilian Officials Put a
Hold on Mega-Dam Project in the Amazon

A proposed 8,000-megawatt hydroelectric dam in the Amazon was put on hold this week by Brazil’s environmental agency out of concerns over its impact on a local indigenous tribe.

The São Luiz do Tapajós project — which would be Brazil’s second-largest dam and a cornerstone of government efforts to expand hydroelectric power — would require developers to flood an area the size of New York City and home to thousands of Munduruku people. The environmental agency, Ibama, said they were suspending the project’s licensing because of “the infeasibility of the project from the prospective of indigenous issues.” Brent Millikan, the Amazon program director for International Rivers, told Reuters, "The areas that would have been flooded include sites of important religious and cultural significance. The local communities have a huge amount of knowledge about the resources where they are — if they were forced off the land and into cities they would become unskilled workers."


21 Apr 2016: A Town Made Almost Entirely Out
Of Plastic Bottles is Being Built in Panama

Construction has begun on the world’s first town made almost entirely out of recycled plastic bottles. Located on Isla Colón in Panama, the village will consist of 120 houses and a lodge on 83 acres of tropical jungle.

The first two-bedroom home was built late last year, and is made from 10,000 plastic bottles pulled from Panama trashcans, roadsides, and beaches. The walls of the homes consist of steel cages filled with bottles and then encased in a concrete mix. They are flexible enough to withstand an earthquake, and insulating enough to keep the home up to 17 degrees F cooler than the jungle outside. Because there are so many recycled bottles on the island already, homes can be built quickly and cheaply, said Robert Bezeau, founder of the Plastic Bottle Village. “We are changing the world, without changing the Earth, one home at a time,” he says on the project’s website.


20 Apr 2016: Entries Invited for Third
Annual Yale Environment 360 Video Contest

The third annual Yale Environment 360 Video Contest is now accepting entries. The contest honors the year's best environmental videos. Submissions must focus on an environmental issue or theme, have not been widely viewed online, and be a maximum of 15 minutes in length. Videos that are funded by an organization or company and are primarily about that organization or company are not eligible. The first-place winner will receive $2,000, and two runners-up will each receive $500. The winning entries will be posted on Yale Environment 360. The contest judges will be Yale Environment 360 editor Roger Cohn, New Yorker writer and e360 contributor Elizabeth Kolbert, and documentary filmmaker Thomas Lennon. Deadline for entries is June 10, 2016.
Read More.


19 Apr 2016: Thirty Years After Chernobyl,
Wildlife Thrives in the Contaminated Zone

Thirty years after the meltdown of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, humans remain relatively scarce near the accident site.

Jim Beasley/Sarah Webster
A gray wolf is caught on camera near Chernobyl.
Wildlife, however, is thriving, according to a recent study by scientists at the University of Georgia. The researchers set up cameras at 94 sites in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone—a 1,000-square-mile area where radiation levels remain high—and applied a fatty acid scent to attract animals. In total, they saw 14 mammal species in the footage, most frequently gray wolves, boars, red fox, and raccoon dogs. Since carnivores tend to accumulate radiation faster that animals further down the food chain, finding so many of them was good news. "We didn't find any evidence to support the idea that populations are suppressed in highly contaminated areas,” said James Beasley, an ecologist at the University of Georgia who helped lead the study.


18 Apr 2016: The Complicated Case of
Global Warming’s Impact on Agriculture

Scientists have long debated whether climate change could help or hurt the world’s agricultural systems. Theoretically, additional CO2 in the atmosphere should help fuel crop growth.

Ananth BS
A farmer plows his fields in southern India.
But global warming’s other impacts, such as shifting rain patterns, higher temperatures, and extreme weather, could reduce crop yields. A new study in the journal Nature Climate Change by researchers in a half-dozen countries finds the answer depends on where you live. The scientists found yields of rain-fed wheat could increase by 10 percent, while irrigated wheat, the bulk of India and China’s production, could decline by 4 percent. Maize will decrease almost everywhere, down 8.5 percent. Rice and soybean could flourish in some areas and falter in others. “Most of the discussion around climate impacts focuses only on changes in temperature and precipitation,” said Delphine Deryng, an environmental scientist at Columbia University who led the study. “To adapt adequately, we need to understand all the factors involved.”


15 Apr 2016: As Smog Continues to Worsen,
New Delhi Bans a Million Cars From the Road

For the second time this year, a million New Delhi cars will be forced to stay off the road each day for the next two weeks in an effort to reduce the city’s hazardous air pollution levels.

Mark Danielson/Flickr
Smog in New Delhi, India
The Indian capital was ranked the world’s most polluted urban center in 2014, with smog concentrations frequently reaching hazardous levels for children, the elderly, and people with heart or respiratory issues. The Delhi decision follows a similar recent driving ban in Mexico City, where heavy smog and high ozone levels have also raised health concerns. But some scientists argue that such bans are insufficient to combat escalating pollution problems in developing world megacities. “It is exactly like taking out 10 buckets of water from the ocean, the magnitude of the pollution problem is such,” Gufran Beig, the chief scientist at India’s state-run System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research, told The Guardian.


14 Apr 2016: Drought, Climate Change
Cause Rapid Plant Evolution in California

As climate change alters ecosystems and weather patterns, species across the globe are undergoing change as well. Some are dwindling in numbers and others are going extinct, but many are adapting.

The Brassica rapa plant.
A team of U.S. researchers, led by biologist Steven Franks of Fordham University, found the drought that impacted California between 1997 and 2004 changed the Brassica rapa plant, a type of field mustard, down to the genetic level. After seven years of water scarcity, the plants had shifted their flowering times forward by weeks to take advantage of early season rain. “This research shows us that contrary to the previous belief… evolutionary changes can happen extremely rapidly,” Franks wrote in the Huffington Post. “However, this does not mean that we don’t need to worry about climate change because species will just evolve. A recent analysis concluded that 1 in 6 species could face extinction if climate change continues unabated.”


12 Apr 2016: Scientists Reimagine The
Tree of Life With New Microbe Knowledge

Following years of intense exploration and research into the microbial world, scientists have reimagined the tree of life—the iconic visual representation of the living world first proposed by Charles Darwin in 1859.

Banfield/UC Berkeley
The new tree of life.
The project was led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, who over the last decade have been gathering DNA from across the globe—from everywhere from meadow soils and river mud to deep sea vents—to reconstruct genomes and describe thousands of new microbial species. Curious how their findings fit into the tree of life, the scientists used a supercomputer to visualize how more than 3,000 new and known species related to one another. They discovered that eukaryotes, the group that includes humans, exist on a thin twig compared to the microbial branch of the tree. “The tree of life as we know it has dramatically expanded due to new genomic sampling of previously enigmatic or unknown microbial lineages,” the authors wrote.


For James Hansen, the Science
Demands Activism on Climate

Climate scientist James Hansen has been a prominent figure in the global climate conversation for more than 40 years. His 1988 congressional testimony on climate change helped introduce the problem of rising greenhouse gas emissions to the American public,
James Hansen

James Hansen
and he has led study after study examining how our world will change as a result of global warming. Eight years ago, Hansen made the rare decision to begin engaging in climate activism—a move that has earned him both praise and criticism from the media and scientific community. In an interview with Yale Environment 360 last week, Hansen opened up about his unconventional career path and what he believes the world could look like a century from now. “I don't think that I have been alarmist — maybe alarming, but I don't think I'm an alarmist,” he said. “We have a society in which most people have become unable to understand or appreciate science, and partly that's a communication problem, which we need to try to alleviate.”
Read the interview.


11 Apr 2016: More Than 50 Percent of
Great Barrier Reef Affected By Bleaching

Record high ocean temperatures in the western Pacific have caused more than half of the Great Barrier Reef to undergo a mass coral bleaching event this year, according to a team of Australian scientists conducting aerial surveys.

ARC Coral Reef Studies
An aerial shot of the Great Barrier Reef in early April.
Corals thrive in a narrow temperature range, and when waters warm above normal—as they have this year from climate change and a strong El Nino—the organisms expel their symbiotic algae, leaving them without a source of food and susceptible to disease. Scientists’ next step is studying the corals up close to determine how deep the bleaching is, said Terry Hughes, a marine biologist at James Cook University and head of the Australian coral bleaching task force. “If the corals are severely bleached, then a lot will die,” Hughes said. “If they are lightly bleached, which is the case with a lot of reefs south of Townsville, then they’ll regain their color over the next couple of months and there won’t be much mortality.”


08 Apr 2016: World Bank Zeros In On
Climate Change With $16B Annual Budget

The World Bank, the biggest provider of loans to developing countries, announced it will dedicate 28 percent of its financial investments to confronting climate change.

Dave Lawrence/World Bank
A World Bank-funded solar system in Mongolia.
This amounts to approximately $16 billion a year for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and climate resiliency projects. In addition to its own financing, the World Bank said it would work to mobilize $25 billion in commercial funding for clean energy over the next five years. “If we don’t act, climate change threatens to drive 100 million more people into poverty in the next 15 years,” John Roome, senior director for climate change at the World Bank Group, said in a statement. The new spending plan “will allow us to help developing countries more quickly, and in the areas where support is most needed, such as disaster preparedness, social protection, and coastal protection.”


07 Apr 2016: How Ancient Algae Could
Help Cure Brain and Breast Cancer

One of the oldest life forms on earth may hold the key to battling hard-to-treat cancers, according to new research by scientists at Oregon State University. The compound, coibamide A, is found in blue-green algae, organisms that have existed for at least two billion years. It was found during a diving trip in Panama’s Coiba National Park eight years ago and run through the National Cancer Institute’s database of potential anti-cancer compounds. Coibamide A was tested on mice and found to be more effective at killing brain and triple negative breast cancer cells—two of the most aggressive and hard-to-treat types of the disease—than anything ever tested before. "The chemical diversity found in nature has always been a significant source of inspiration for drug design and development, but… marine environments remain relatively unexplored," said Jane Ishmael, a cellular biologist at Oregon State University and lead author of the new study.


06 Apr 2016: Half of World Heritage Sites Are
Threatened By Industrial Development

Since 1972, the United Nations has worked to protect 229 locations in 96 countries known for their “exceptional natural beauty” and “cultural significance.” These spots, known as World Heritage Sites,

Brian Kinney/Shutterstock
The Great Barrier Reef
range from Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, China’s panda sanctuaries, and the Grand Canyon in the United States. A new survey by the World Wildlife Fund, however, has found half of these sites are under threat from oil and gas development, mining, illegal logging, overfishing, or other industrial activities. Eleven million people live in or near these sites, the report says, and depend on them for their housing, food, water, jobs, or ecosystem services like flood protection and CO2 sequestration. “We are not going to develop a just and prosperous future, nor defeat poverty and improve health, in a weakened or destroyed natural environment,” the authors wrote.


05 Apr 2016: El Nino Prevents Phytoplankton
Growth, Endangering Marine Food Web

El Nino—the cyclical warming of the Pacific Ocean—has wreaked havoc on the world’s weather for the past two years, from a record-breaking number of cyclones in the North Pacific to flooding in South America.

Uz/NASA Goddard
Satellite images of phytoplankton growth.
But scientists at NASA recently discovered that the climate phenomenon also has a big impact on phytoplankton, the tiny oceanic organisms that serve as the base of the marine food chain. Normally, ocean currents drive cold, deep water to the surface near the equator, bringing with it a flood of nutrients that feed phytoplankton. El Nino’s mass of warm water stops this upwelling. The result is a marked drop in phytoplankton levels. “This decline echoes through many species,” said Stephanie Uz, an ocean scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland who led the study. “Small fish that feed on phytoplankton starve. This affects everything from penguin and iguana populations in the Galapagos to governments managing fisheries.”


04 Apr 2016: As Habitat Loss Slows Down,
Tigers Could Double In Number By 2022

With populations hovering at less than 3,500 worldwide, tigers have long been considered on the brink of extinction. But scientists finally have good news:

Mathias Appel/Flickr
Habitat loss has slowed down more than expected in recent years due to conservation efforts, and there is now enough forest for tigers to double in number by 2022. According to a new study in the journal Science Advances, less than 8 percent of global tiger habitat disappeared between 2001 and 2014, 98 percent of which happened in Indonesia and Malaysia due to the booming palm oil industry. “It is not a sign that we are in the clear yet, but it does show us that tigers can potentially recover from the edge of extinction if we make the right forest management choices,” said Anup Joshi, a conservation biologist at the University of Minnesota and lead author. Tiger populations in Nepal and India, for example, have increased 61 and 31 percent, respectively.


01 Apr 2016: Scientists Study the Skies
To Create a Map of the World’s Biomes

Curious where certain species live? Don’t look down. Rather, study the skies, according to new research published in the journal PLoS Biology. Scientists from the University of Buffalo and Yale University

Daniel Boyd/Flickr
used images from NASA satellites to build a database of cloud cover for every square kilometer of the planet from 2000 to 2014. They then used the information to map the world’s biomes. They found that cloud patterns are a much more accurate way of predicting species distribution than using extrapolated on-the-ground observations, the method most conservationists use today. “Sunlight drives almost every aspect of ecology,” Adam Wilson, an ecologist at the University of Buffalo who led the study, told New Scientist. “So when you put something in between the sun and plants, that is going to have implications on the amount of energy they are receiving, soil moisture, leaf wetness, and humidity—almost everything that is important.”


31 Mar 2016: A New, Multi-Colored Way To
Study Cell Regeneration in Zebrafish

Zebrafish have amazing healing capabilities—they can grow back missing limbs and patch an injured heart or spine—but scientists have long been in the dark as to how exactly this process works.

Chen-Hui Chen, Duke University
An engineered zebrafish with multi-colored skin.
Now, a team of scientists at Duke University engineered neurons to create a zebrafish with skin that fluoresces in thousands of colors in order to visually illustrate how cells regenerate after injury. They found there are three steps to the process: skin cells from neighboring body parts migrate in to cover the new tissue, surviving cells grow in size, and new cells are created. “It is like you have given each cell an individual barcode,” said Chen-Hui Chen, a postdoctoral fellow at Duke and lead author on the study. “You can precisely see how individual cells collectively behave during regeneration.”


Interview: How Ocean Noise
Wreaks Havoc on Marine Life

Bowing to public pressure, the Obama administration recently reversed an earlier decision to allow oil drilling off the U.S. East Coast. But the five-year moratorium on drilling does not prohibit exploratory seismic air gun surveys
Christopher Clark

Christopher Clark
used to locate oil and gas reserves under the seabed, and those surveys are expected to be authorized this spring. Cornell University marine bioacoustics expert Christopher Clark says the testing, which can go on for weeks at a time, will only add to the rising din in the oceans. “Imagine that every 10 seconds there is an explosion that is rattling grandma’s china out of the cupboard,” he says, “and it is falling on the floor.” In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Clark explains how noise, most of it from ship traffic, severely disrupts marine life, especially among whales. But the good news, he says, is that technologies are being developed to drastically reduce the noise from ships and geological surveying.
Read the interview.


30 Mar 2016: Air Pollution Linked To
Thousands of U.S. Premature Births

Air pollution may be causing thousands of premature births in the U.S. every year, particularly in urban areas like the Ohio River Valley, Southern California, New York City, and Chicago, according to a new study in the journal Environment Health Perspectives. Scientists at New York University compared levels of fine particulate matter, a type of pollution less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, to numbers of premature births, meaning a baby born more than three weeks early. They found that over three percent of all preterm births in the U.S. in 2010 can be attributed to air pollution, and that it cost the country more than $4 billion in medical expenses and lost economic productivity. The exact mechanism behind this relationship is not known, but researchers theorize that air pollution inflames the placenta during pregnancy, spurring early labor. Preterm birth is associated with a slew of medical issues, from cognitive impairment to breathing and feeding problems.


29 Mar 2016: As U.S. Oil Production Increases,
More Americans At Risk of Man-Made Quakes

As U.S.-based production of oil and gas has boomed over the last decade, millions of gallons of chemical-laden wastewater has been pumped and stored deep underground.

The risk of experiencing an earthquake in 2016.
It turns out, however, that this disposal method—popular for fracking waste—is causing a spike in the number of earthquakes across the country, according to a new set of maps from the U.S. Geological Survey. Seven million Americans are now at risk from man-made quakes, particularly in Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico and Arkansas. "My first thought was actually, ‘Holy crap, Oklahoma is redder than California,’" USGS geologist Susan Hough told The Washington Post about seeing the maps for the first time. Unlike California, however, most of these states don’t have earthquake-ready structures, experts said, so communities are having to update building codes and purchase new insurance.


28 Mar 2016: Majority of Meteorologists Now
Agree Climate Change is Happening, Manmade

Meteorologists have long lagged behind scientists and even the general public in acceptance of modern anthropogenic climate change.

Doppler radar image of Hurricane Alex in 2004.
Four years ago, only 19 percent of TV weather forecasters said they believed human actions were the primary driver of global warming. Today, however, 67 percent of TV and non-TV meteorologists agree that climate change is manmade, according to a new survey by George Mason University. An additional 14 percent said human activity and natural factors are equally responsible. Overall, 96 percent said climate change is happening, no matter the reason. The shift comes after a string of shattered monthly temperature records and wild weather, and growing international attention to the issue following the UN Paris climate conference in December. Ed Maibach, lead author of the survey and director of George Mason’s Center for Climate Change Communication, said the upswing didn't surprise him. “That is how science works. As the scientific evidence becomes more irrefutable, which is the case with harmful, human-caused climate change, more scientists of all types will become convinced,” he said.


24 Mar 2016: A Fish With a Pelvis: Another
Clue Into Our Sea-to-Land Evolution

Biologists have long wondered exactly how fish emerged from the sea and transitioned into vertebrates that could walk on land. To date, most of the information on that shift has come from fossils,

A waterfall-climbing fish.
but scientists reported Thursday they have found that a species of fish located only deep in the caves of Thailand walks the same way land vertebrates do. The blind waterfall-climbing fish, Cryptotora thamicola, first discovered in 1985, has skeletal features similar to a salamander—including a fully formed pelvis—that enable them to climb up rock walls and feed on microbes and organic matter as water comes crashing down on them, the researchers wrote in Nature Scientific Reports. “Functionally, it makes perfect sense, but to see it in a fish is incredibly wild,” said Brooke Flammang, an expert on biomechanics at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and lead author of the study. The discovery could help more fully explain how life evolved from the sea to land.


23 Mar 2016: Microbes Are Likely Speeding
Up the Melting of the Glaciers

As if soaring global temperatures weren’t bad enough, scientists reported this week that microbes are also speeding up the melting of Arctic ice.

National Parks Service
A pool of meltwater on the Root Glacier in Alaska.
The problem lies in cryoconite, the soil-like composite of dust, industrial soot and photosynthetic bacteria that darkens the surface of ice and causes it to melt, scientists from Aberystwyth University in Wales said. As it melts, ice leaves behind small water-filled holes full of bacteria. The sun-loving microbes then shape the pockmarks’ depth and size to get more light exposure, in turn melting the ice even more—a process previously unaccounted for in global climate change models. "It's only recently that we've begun to understand that these cryoconite holes are dynamic, changing in size and shape,” said biologist Arwyn Edwards, who led the study. "In the long term, this contributes to the loss of glacier habitats, and the unique microbial biodiversity living on them."


22 Mar 2016: Old Photos Used to Study
The Fate of a Swedish Seabird Colony

Nearly 100 years of old tourist photos got a second life recently when researchers used them to reconstruct the rise and fall of a colony of seabirds on the Swedish island of Stora Karlsö. The island, designated a nature preserve in 1880 and a popular tourist destination since the 1920s, hosts a large population of common guillemots, one of the biggest species of auks. Ecologists Jonas Hentati-Sundberg and Olof Olsson of Stockholm University spent five years collecting images of the island from archives, museums, and island visitors in order to count guillemot numbers decade-to-decade. They found that the colony declined in the 1960s and 70s, when contaminants like DDT and PCB were prevalent, but has since rebounded to historically high numbers today, possibly because of an increase in the numbers of forage fish consumed by guillemots. “The population is currently increasing at an unprecedented rate of about 5 percent annually," said Hentati-Sundberg. "This is interesting in that many common guillemot populations are decreasing worldwide."


21 Mar 2016: Newly Discovered Butterfly
Could Be Climate Bellwether in the Arctic

Scientists have discovered the first new butterfly species in Alaska in nearly 28 years, according to new research published in the Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera last week.

Andrew Warren/FMNH
The dorsal side of new species Oeneis tanana.
Named the Tanana Arctic, or Oeneis tanana, the species is thought to be a hybrid and the only butterfly endemic to the state. Because butterflies are so sensitive to environmental change, the Tanana Arctic could serve as an early warning signal to the impacts of climate change in the region, the scientists said. “This butterfly has apparently lived in the Tanana River valley for so long that if it ever moves out, we’ll be able to say ‘Wow, there are some changes happening,’” said Andrew Warren, the senior collections manager at the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity at the Florida Museum of Natural History who discovered the species. “This is a region where the permafrost is already melting and the climate is changing.”


18 Mar 2016: Could Bread Mold Help
Improve Rechargeable Batteries?

A type of bread mold might just be a key to creating better rechargeable batteries, scientists reported in the journal Current Biology this week.

Henry Muhlpfordt/Flickr
Researchers at the University of Dundee in Scotland discovered that the fungus Neurospora crassa—known commonly as red bread mold—can transform manganese into a mineral composite with “excellent electrochemical properties” ideal for use in supercapacitors or lithium-ion batteries, said Geoffrey Gadd, a microbiologist and lead author of the study. Those types of batteries are used to power everything from laptops to railways to solar energy systems. Scientists have long studied how to make batteries more powerful and sustainable and in an environmentally safer way, but this is the first time researchers have looked to mold as a possible solution.


17 Mar 2016: The World’s Economy Grew,
But Greenhouse Gas Emissions Didn't

Despite a 3.1 percent growth in global GDP in 2015, greenhouse gas emissions remained flat for the second year in a row, according to the International Energy Agency.

Oregon DOT
A man installs new solar panels in Oregon.
The decoupling of emissions from economic growth is “welcome news,” IEA executive director Fatih Birol said in the press statement. “Coming just a few months after the landmark COP21 agreement in Paris, this is yet another boost to the global fight against climate change.” The world’s nations released 32.1 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases last year, equal to—or perhaps even a slight downtick from—2014, the agency said. The stabilization is likely due to the booming renewable energy industry and global cutbacks on the use of coal, particularly in the U.S. and China, the two largest emitters of carbon dioxide. Chinese emissions, for example, declined 1.5 percent last year.


16 Mar 2016: Storks Stop Migrating South
In Favor of Food Waste From Landfills

White storks are no longer migrating to Africa every winter, choosing instead to stay near landfills and other garage heaps in southern Europe that provide scavenged food year round, according to new research published Wednesday in the journal Movement Ecology.

University of East Anglia
Storks feeding in a landfill.
Sticking close to uncovered trash piles in Europe means the birds no longer have to expend energy flying all the way south to Africa, and can arrive at the best northern nesting sites and breed earlier in the year. As a result, storks have been having bigger broods and higher fledging survival rates. “Portugal’s stork population has grown 10-fold over the last 20 years,” Aldina Franco, a conservation ecologist at the University of East Anglia in Britain who led the study, said in a statement. “The country is now home to around 14,000 wintering birds, and numbers continue to grow.” Franco and her colleagues’ findings build on the growing scientific understanding of how our waste is altering the world’s wildlife.




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e360 VIDEO

Tribal people and ranchers join together to stop a project that would haul coal across their Montana land.
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The latest
from Yale
Environment 360
is now available for mobile devices at e360.yale.edu/mobile.


An aerial view of why Europe’s per capita carbon emissions are less than 50 percent of those in the U.S.
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e360 VIDEO

Ugandan scientists monitor the impact of climate change on one of Africa’s most diverse forests and its extraordinary wildlife.
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e360 VIDEO

Food waste
An e360 video series looks at the staggering amount of food wasted in the U.S. – a problem with major human and environmental costs.
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e360 VIDEO

Colorado wildfires
An e360 video goes onto the front lines with Colorado firefighters confronting deadly blazes fueled by a hotter, drier climate.
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A three-part series Tainted Harvest looks at the soil pollution crisis in China, the threat it poses to the food supply, and the complexity of any cleanup.
Read the series.