The Eco News Roundup brings stories and commentary about issues related to climate change, renewable energy and the environment.
Tens of thousands of dead bees and other insects were found in a Target parking lot in Oregon earlier this week in what is being called one of the largest mass deaths of bumblebees in the western U.S., a local environmental organization says.
The dead bumblebees, reported to be around 25,000 number, were found by shoppers under blooming European linden trees in Wilsonville, Ore., according to the Xerces Society, a Portland-based nonprofit that studies bees and other invertebrates. Xerces was the first to document Monday’s mass death.
Some homeowners living near shale gas wells appear to be at higher risk of drinking water contamination from stray gases, according to a new Duke University-led study. The scientists analyzed 141 drinking water samples from private water wells across northeastern Pennsylvania’s gas-rich Marcellus Shale basin.
They found that, on average, methane concentrations were six times higher and ethane concentrations were 23 times higher at homes within a kilometer of a shale gas well.Propane was detected in 10 samples, all of them from homes within a kilometer of drilling.
The Colorado River provides water for more than 30 million people, including those in the fast-growing cities of Las Vegas, Phoenix and Los Angeles. Increasing demand for that water combined with reduced flow and the looming threat of climate change have prompted concern about how to manage the basin’s water in coming decades. In the past five years, scientific studies estimated declines of future flows ranging from 6 percent to 45 percent by 2050. A paper by University of Washington researchers and co-authors at eight institutions across the West aims to explain this wide range, and provide policymakers and the public with a framework for comparison. The study is published this week in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.
A new report on sea level rise recommends that the State of Maryland should plan for a rise in sea level of as much as 2 feet by 2050. Led by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, the report was prepared by a panel of scientific experts in response to Governor Martin O’Malley’s Executive Order on Climate Change and “Coast Smart” Construction. The projections are based on an assessment of the latest climate change science and federal guidelines.
Arizona State University researchers have discovered for the first time that temperature determines where key soil microbes can thrive — microbes that are critical to forming topsoil crusts in arid lands. And of concern, the scientists predict that in as little as 50 years, global warming may push some of these microbes out of their present stronghold in colder U.S. deserts, with unknown consequences to soil fertility and erosion. The findings are featured as the cover story of the June 28 edition of the journal Science.
Predicted increases in temperature and drought in the coming century may make it more difficult for conifers such as ponderosa pine to regenerate after major forest fires on dry, low-elevation sites, in some cases leading to conversion of forests to grass or shrub lands, a report suggests. Researchers from Oregon State University concluded that moisture stress is a key limitation for conifer regeneration following stand-replacing wildfire, which will likely increase with climate change. This will make post-fire recovery on dry sites slow and uncertain. If forests are desired in these locations, more aggressive attempts at reforestation may be needed, they said.
An exotic tree species that changed from prized possession to forest management nightmare serves as a lesson in the unpredictability of non-native species mixing with human interactions, according to researchers. “There are other invasive tree species in Pennsylvania, but the ailanthus, by far, has been here longer and does more damage than any other invasive tree,” said Matthew Kasson, who received his doctorate in plant pathology and environmental microbiology from Penn State. “It’s the number one cause of native regeneration failure in clearcuts in Pennsylvania.”
Contrary to popular belief, crabgrass does not thrive in lawns, gardens and farm fields by simply crowding out other plants. A new study in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry has found that the much-despised weed actually produces its own herbicides that kill nearby plants.
Researchers conclude in a new report that a global push for small hydropower projects, supported by various nations and also the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, may cause unanticipated and potentially significant losses of habitat and biodiversity. An underlying assumption that small hydropower systems pose fewer ecological concerns than large dams is not universally valid, scientists said in the report. A five-year study, one of the first of its type, concluded that for certain environmental impacts the cumulative damage caused by small dams is worse than their larger counterparts.
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