The Eco News Roundup brings stories and commentary about issues related to climate change, renewable energy and the environment.



Mine landslide triggered quakes

Last year’s gigantic landslide at a Utah copper mine probably was the biggest nonvolcanic slide in North America’s modern history, and included two rock avalanches that happened 90 minutes apart and surprisingly triggered 16 small earthquakes, University of Utah scientists discovered. The landslide — which moved at an average of almost 70 mph and reached estimated speeds of at least 100 mph — left a deposit so large it “would cover New York’s Central Park with about 20 meters (66 feet) of debris,” the researchers report in the January 2014 cover study in the Geological Society of America magazine GSA Today.

Atlas Mountains in Morocco are buoyed up by superhot rock, study finds

The Atlas Mountains defy the standard model for mountain structure in which high topography must have deep roots for support, according to a new study from Earth scientists at USC. In a new model, the researchers show that the mountains are floating on a layer of hot molten rock that flows beneath the region’s lithosphere, perhaps all the way from the volcanic Canary Islands, just offshore northwestern Africa.


Suburban sprawl cancels carbon footprint savings of dense urban cores

According to a new study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, population-dense cities contribute less greenhouse gas emissions per person than other areas of the country, but these cities’ extensive suburbs essentially wipe out the climate benefits. Dominated by emissions from cars, trucks and other forms of transportation, suburbs account for about 50 percent of all household emissions — largely carbon dioxide — in United States.


Temperature found to be most significant driver of the world’s tallest trees

Understanding forest biodiversity and how carbon dioxide is stored within trees is an important area of ecological research. The bigger the tree, the more carbon it stores and a study in New Phytologist explores global variance in tree height, identifying temperature as the most important factor behind the tallest species. Height gives canopy trees, the focus of much forest carbon research, a competitive advantage as they can place leaves at higher light levels while suppressing their competitors. Height also allows for wind-dispersed pollen and fruits to travel further.

The new study explores the role of temperature in driving tree height, a study which may allow us to forecast how forests adapt to climate change. The research examined the temperature-driven physiological model of tree height in order to explain the thermal climates in which the tallest individuals of the tallest tree species grow.

New research study: The snowball effect of overfishing

Florida State University researchers have spearheaded a major review of fisheries research that examines the domino effect that occurs when too many fish are harvested from one habitat. The loss of a major species from an ecosystem can have unintended consequences because of the connections between that species and others in the system. Moreover, these changes often occur rapidly and unexpectedly, and are difficult to reverse.

“You don’t realize how interdependent species are until it all unravels,” said Felicia Coleman, director of the Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory and a co-author on the study.

Climate change: How does soil store CO2?

Previous studies have established that carbon binds to tiny mineral particles. In this latest study, published in Nature Communications, researchers of the Technische Universität München (TUM) and the Helmholtz Zentrum München have shown that the surface of the minerals plays just as important a role as their size. “The carbon binds to minerals that are just a few thousandths of a millimeter in size — and it accumulates there almost exclusively on rough and angular surfaces,” explains Prof. Ingrid Kögel-Knabner, TUM Chair of Soil Science.


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1. People matter more than profits.
2. The earth is our home, not our trash can.
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