Ecosystems and Biodiversity

The local food renaissance has made people more aware of where their food comes from, but new research from the University of Pittsburgh suggests it may be just as important to follow their food’s food sources.  A class of synthetic flame retardants, banned in America and Europe in 2004 because of its effects on children, has turned up in farmed salmon. How? The most likely source is fish food purchased from parts of south and east Asia that process electronic waste. Via Science Daily

Paradoxically, rising sea levels are bad news for salt marshes. A study of soil cores in Britain’s coastal wetlands reveals that marshes died during high sea level periods, when the roots of salt-tolerant plants became waterlogged. Many species of birds, fish, crustacea, and insects depend on coastal wetlans, which also provide a buffer against storms. The researchers say that the same impact is likely playing out in the mangroves of south-east Asia. Via Phys.Org

Female Hawaiian monk seals, one of the rarest pinnipeds, seem to be dying from so-called kitty litter disease. Toxoplasmosis is caused by a tough, single-celled parasite, spread by the feces of feral. It’s incurable and widespread in sea and river otter populations and has been observed in manatees and some whales. Via National Geographic

Pollution in the Delaware estuary has been recorded for more than 200 years, but the US Geological Survey reports that contaminant levels have fallen to the point where they no longer threaten the resident ospreys. Contamination by flame retardants and pesticides was making eggs more fragile, and the predatory bird population was falling, but no shell-thinning was observed this year. Via USGS

Water & Food

A view of Vancouver’s False Creek, which has failed safe-swimming standards this summer.

A year after Vancouver city council passed a motion to make False Creek swimmable by this summer, fecal contamination levels at the east end of False Creek are almost quadruple safe levels. False Creek isn’t flushed out by tides, so reducing pollution is the only viable solution. City officials are a loss as to why contamination levels continued to rise, and blamed run-off from heavy rainfalls or possibly raw sewage illegally dumped by yacht owners. However, all of Vancouver’s other favourite beaches are safe to swim in, if a little chilly.  Via Vancouver Sun

Want to mop up oil spills? The “Oleo Sponge” just passed a real-world field trial off the coast of California.  Made of the same polyurethane foam used in furniture cushions, coated with a fine layer of metallic oxides that attract oils and other contaminants, its method is simple and familiar to homeowners. Simply dip sponge into oil-covered water and wring out, releasing the oil into containers for potential reuse or safe disposal. And it’s reusable!  Via

Green Revolution rice was bred to produce small plants with high yields and is commonly used throughout Asia. But the rice had a surprise for us: the dwarfism gene can detect ethylene caused by submersion and releases gibberellins, a hormone that triggers rapid growth in the plant. The result is that when flooding occurs, the plants revert to their normal tall profile and continue to produce harvestable rice. Via Phys.Org

Government Initiatives

 Canada has gone from 1% marine-protected areas to 8% very quickly, so what’s the catch?

Eight years ago, the Canadian government committed to protect 10% of its marine and coastal areas by 2020.  Very little happened until last year, when protected areas suddenly rose from less than 1% to nearly 8%. But journalists are now questioning whether that rise is real.  Of the 51 marine refuges designated in the 2017 surge, 29 were existing fisheries closures that were renamed as “marine refuges” without the stringent rules on other activities that characterise marine parks.  Via Hakai Magazine

State officials in California know that the climate is changing, but they don’t know how.  The current climate trend is towards drier weather with infrequent, but extremely heavy rains, like the ones faced last year that led to near disaster at the Oroville Dam.  California is responding by replacing levees with 2,100 acres of forested areas that will hold, or at least slow, floodwaters. Money has been allocated to the project and other areas are planned. As well as reducing the danger to towns downstream, the new woodlands will provide habitats for endangered birds and animals  Via New York Times

Way to go, Sweden! The country will reach its 2030 target of 18 million megawatt-hours (18 TWh) from renewable sources by next year! This is on top of a target of 28 TWh already reached through collaboration with Norway.  This means that 50% of Sweden’s energy needs will be met from renewables and it is well on track to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2040. Via World Economic Forum




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