Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Tag Archive: pollution

  1. Offshore Drilling Plan Under Fire: Law may have been violated, Senator says

    Leave a Comment
    • The administration plan calls for opening 90 percent of the U.S. coasts to oil and gas drilling, and scheduling 47 lease sales between 2019 and 2024. With states opposed and potential legal challenges, can it succeed?
  2. Marine organisms can shred a plastic bag into 1.75 million pieces, study shows

    Leave a Comment
    • The type of plastic (conventional, degradable and biodegradable) had no effect on the rate of ingestion, however the presence of a biofilm meant the shredding took place around four times as quickly.

    December 8, 2017 University of Plymouth read full ScienceDaily article here

    A single plastic grocery bag could be shredded by marine organisms into 1.75 million microscopic fragments, according to new research.

    Marine scientists at the University of Plymouth examined the rate at which bags were broken down by the amphipod Orchestia gammarellus, which inhabits coastal areas in northern and western Europe.

    They believe the results are an example of marine wildlife actually contributing to the spread of microplastics within the marine environment, rather than them simply being emitted from the water supply or forming through the physical and chemical break down of larger items.

    The type of plastic (conventional, degradable and biodegradable) had no effect on the rate of ingestion, however the presence of a biofilm meant the shredding took place around four times as quickly.

    This, the researchers say, is consistent with recent studies into the feeding behaviour of seabirds and suggests marine life might be increasingly attracted to marine debris as a source of food regardless of the potential harm caused…..

    D.J. Hodgson, A.L. Bréchon, R.C. Thompson. Ingestion and fragmentation of plastic carrier bags by the amphipod Orchestia gammarellus Effects of plastic type and fouling load. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 2018; 127: 154 DOI: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2017.11.057

  3. ‘Zero tolerance’ plan for plastic pollution considered by UN environment ministers

    Leave a Comment
    • Governments are being asked to move towards a legal treaty banning plastic waste from entering the sea.
    • At the moment ships are prohibited from dumping plastic overboard but there’s no international law against plastics flooding into the sea from the land.

    A plan for zero tolerance of plastic pollution of the oceans may be agreed by nations at a UN environment summit…..

    Experts say ocean plastics are an obvious subject for a global treaty: plastics present a large-scale threat….Plastic pollution doesn’t recognise international borders. Delegates in Nairobi preparing the way for the UN’s environment ministers meeting next week are said to be in broad agreement on the need for tougher action to combat the plastics crisis.

    Plastic on a beach

    …China – the world’s biggest plastics polluter – is said to be cautious about being bound by global rules. Other big polluters like India and Indonesia are said to be generally supportive about the resolutions….

    India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently applauded the clean-up of plastic from a beach in Mumbai, saying: “It is our duty to protect the environment for our future generations.”

    Eirik Lindebjerg from WWF said the Nairobi meeting could prove a turning point in the plastics crisis. He told BBC News: “The treaties on climate change and biodiversity were initiated in this forum – so it has a track record of making things happen.”….

    …The meeting will also discuss pollution of the air and water. A global ban on lead in paints may be approved.

  4. After the Napa Fires, a Disaster-in-Waiting: Toxic Ash

    Leave a Comment

    by Adam Rogers October 29 2017 read full Wired article here

    By any measure, the fires that tore through Northern California were a major disaster. Forty-two people are dead, and 100,000 are displaced. More than 8,400 homes and other buildings were destroyed, more than 160,000 acres burned—and the fires aren’t all out yet.

    That devastation leaves behind another potential disaster: ash. No one knows how much. It’ll be full of heavy metals and toxins—no one knows exactly how much, and it depends on what burned and at what temperature. The ash will infiltrate soils, but no one’s really sure how or whether that’ll be a problem. And eventually some of it—maybe a lot—will flow into the regional aquatic ecosystem and ultimately the San Francisco Bay….

    …”Naturally occurring, lower-severity fires can have positive impacts,” says Kevin Bladon, a forest ecohydrologist at Oregon State University. The fires free up organic carbon and put nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous into play. “But the really large, high-severity megafires that we’ve started to observe push the systems in a lot of cases too far.”

    That means dangerously large algal blooms, so-called eutrophication that can eat all the dissolved oxygen out of a waterway, making it unlivable for everything else….’

    …What makes these latest Northern California fires unique, though, is that they burned not just forest wildland but also cities. And the built environment burns differently. It gets hotter, and it leaves behind different remains. “All of a sudden you’ve got a lot of impervious surfaces,” Bladon says. “Water hits it and flows over. If there are burned materials sitting on the roads, that’s going to move very rapidly into waterways. We have no handle on that at all.” Ash science isn’t much more than a decade old; understanding urban ash science has never really been a necessity—but now megafires are coming to cities….

    …The Regional Monitoring Program for Water Quality already watches what’s in the San Francisco Bay besides water. Some of its scientists now have a proposal to monitor the Napa River for what water watchdogs call “contaminants of emerging concern.” The field is new enough that they’re not even sure what they’re looking for yet—they’re going to use “non-targeted analysis” to look for anything unexpected. The San Francisco Estuary Institute already monitors dioxins, PAHs, metals, and other stuff in the bay, but only annually or semiannually.

    That’s probably not fast enough….

  5. Prozac in ocean water a possible threat to sea life

    Leave a Comment
    • crabs living in harbors and estuaries contaminated with fluoxetine are at greater risk of predation and mortality.

    Posted: 20 Oct 2017 09:58 AM PDT  Read full ScienceDaily article here

    Oregon shore crabs exhibit risky behavior when they’re exposed to the antidepressant Prozac, making it easier for predators to catch them, according to a new study.

    …For years, tests of seawater near areas of human habitation have shown trace levels of everything from caffeine to prescription medicines. The chemicals are flushed from homes or medical facilities, go into the sewage system, and eventually make their way to the ocean...

    …”The changes we observed in their behaviors may mean that crabs living in harbors and estuaries contaminated with fluoxetine are at greater risk of predation and mortality…”

    Joseph R. Peters, Elise F. Granek, Catherine E. de Rivera, Matthew Rollins. Prozac in the water: Chronic fluoxetine exposure and predation risk interact to shape behaviors in an estuarine crab. Ecology and Evolution, 2017; DOI: 10.1002/ece3.3453

  6. Better managing plastic waste in 10 rivers could stem ~90% of plastics in the ocean

    Leave a Comment
    • Scientists have found that 10 rivers around the world where plastic waste is mismanaged contribute 88-95% of global load of plastics in the ocean.
    • Halving plastic pollution in these 10 waterways — eight of which are in Asia — could potentially reduce the total contribution by all rivers by 45 percent.

    October 11, 2017 American Chemical Society see full ScienceDaily article here

    Massive amounts of plastic bits that are dangerous to aquatic life are washing into the oceans and into even the most pristine waters. But how it all gets there from inland cities has not been fully understood. Now scientists have found that 10 rivers around the world where plastic waste is mismanaged contribute to most of the oceans’ total loads that come from rivers.

    ..the amount of plastic in rivers was related to the mismanagement of plastic waste in their watersheds. Additionally, the top 10 rivers carrying the highest amounts accounted for 88 to 95 percent of the total global load of plastics in the oceans, according to the researcher’s calculations.

    The researchers say halving plastic pollution in these 10 waterways — eight of which are in Asia — could potentially reduce the total contribution by all rivers by 45 percent.

    Christian Schmidt, Tobias Krauth, Stephan Wagner. Export of Plastic Debris by Rivers into the Sea. Environmental Science & Technology, 2017; DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.7b02368

  7. Strips of prairie plants slow loss of soil, nutrients and water from ag fields, double biodiversit

    Leave a Comment
    • Converting as little as 10 percent of the cropped area to prairie strips reduced soil loss by 95 percent, phosphorus losses in surface runoff by 77 percent, nitrate concentrations in groundwater by 72 percent and total nitrogen losses in surface runoff by 70 percent, compared with all-crop watersheds. Pollinator and bird abundance more than doubled

    October 2, 2017 USDA Forest Service – Northern Research Station read full ScienceDaily article here

    Prairie strips integrated in row crops reduce soil and nutrient loss from steep ground, provide habitat for wildlife, and improve water infiltration, a decade of research is demonstrating….

    ….Research suggests that prairie strips reduce soil and nutrient loss from steep ground, provide habitat for wildlife and improve water infiltration. According to the study published by PNAS, converting as little as 10 percent of the cropped area to prairie strips reduced soil loss by 95 percent, phosphorus losses in surface runoff by 77 percent, nitrate concentrations in groundwater by 72 percent and total nitrogen losses in surface runoff by 70 percent, compared with all-crop watersheds. Pollinator and bird abundance more than doubled….

    …”The strips are designed to act as a speed bump to slow water down and give it time to infiltrate the soil,” said Lisa Schulte Moore, the study’s lead author and a professor at Iowa State University. Researchers estimate that prairie strips could be used to improve biodiversity and ecosystem services across 3.9 million hectares of cropland in Iowa and a large portion of the 69 million hectares planted in rowcrops in the United States, much of it in the Midwest.

    Lisa A. Schulte, Jarad Niemi, Matthew J. Helmers, Matt Liebman, J. Gordon Arbuckle, David E. James, Randall K. Kolka, Matthew E. O’Neal, Mark D. Tomer, John C. Tyndall, Heidi Asbjornsen, Pauline Drobney, Jeri Neal, Gary Van Ryswyk, Chris Witte. Prairie strips improve biodiversity and the delivery of multiple ecosystem services from corn–soybean croplands. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2017; 201620229 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1620229114

  8. House sparrow decline linked to air pollution and poor diet

    Leave a Comment
    • City sparrows suffer from more stress than their country cousins, find Spanish researchers, especially during breeding season

    October 3, 2017 Frontiers  read full ScienceDaily article here

    House sparrows are well-adapted to living in urban areas, so it is surprising their numbers have fallen significantly over the past decades. An investigation into this worrying trend finds that sparrows living in urban areas are adversely affected by pollution and poor nutrition. The study also finds the birds suffer more during the breeding season, when resources are needed to produce healthy eggs….

    …if our cities are unhealthy for birds, which is what our study is suggesting, then as their neighbors we should be concerned because we are exposed to the same environmental stressors as house sparrows.”

    …”We took a small blood sample from each bird, according to its weight and physical condition, and released them unharmed,” she explains. The samples were analyzed for signs of oxidative stress, which can be used to measure how much an environmental stressor, such as pollution, is weakening the bird’s natural defenses….

    …”We need to work hard to improve the quality of the urban environment, for example, air quality and the design of green areas. Even the leftovers that we throw in the bin at the park should encourage us to reflect on ourselves: more nuts and fruit and fewer chips and cookies would be better for humans as well as for birds,” Herrera-Dueñas advises.

    Amparo Herrera-Dueñas, Javier Pineda-Pampliega, María T. Antonio-García, José I. Aguirre. The Influence of Urban Environments on Oxidative Stress Balance: A Case Study on the House Sparrow in the Iberian Peninsula. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 2017; 5 DOI: 10.3389/fevo.2017.00106

  9. Plastics in soil: municipal compost possible major entry path

    Leave a Comment
    • At least 300 million tons of plastic are produced annually, from which large parts end up in the environment, where it persists over decades, harms biota and enters the food chain. Yet, almost nothing is known about plastic pollution of soil.
    • Soils may receive plastic inputs via plastic mulching or the application of plastic containing soil amendments.
    • In compost up to 2.38–1200 mg plastic kg−1 have been found so far. Compost, especially of municipal origin, must be considered as a serious entry path of plastic in soil.

    Highlights

    •Analytical methods and possible input pathways of plastic in soil were discussed.
    •Organic matter challenges plastic quantification in soil.
    •Soil amendments and irrigation are likely major plastic sources in agricultural soils.
    •Flooding, atmospheric input and littering can potentially pollute even remote soil.
    •Leaching of small plastics from soil into groundwater cannot be excluded

    Abstract

    At least 300 Mio t of plastic are produced annually, from which large parts end up in the environment, where it persists over decades, harms biota and enters the food chain. Yet, almost nothing is known about plastic pollution of soil; hence, the aims of this work are to review current knowledge on i) available methods for the quantification and identification of plastic in soil, ii) the quantity and possible input pathways of plastic into soil, (including first preliminary screening of plastic in compost), and iii) its fate in soil. Methods for plastic analyses in sediments can potentially be adjusted for application to soil; yet, the applicability of these methods for soil needs to be tested. Consequently, the current data base on soil pollution with plastic is still poor. Soils may receive plastic inputs via plastic mulching or the application of plastic containing soil amendments. In compost up to 2.38–1200 mg plastic kg− 1 have been found so far; the plastic concentration of sewage sludge varies between 1000 and 24,000 plastic items kg− 1. Also irrigation with untreated and treated wastewater (1000–627,000 and 0–125,000 plastic items m− 3, respectively) as well as flooding with lake water (0.82–4.42 plastic items m− 3) or river water (0–13,751 items km− 2) can provide major input pathways for plastic into soil. Additional sources comprise littering along roads and trails, illegal waste dumping, road runoff as well as atmospheric input. With these input pathways, plastic concentrations in soil might reach the per mill range of soil organic carbon. Most of plastic (especially > 1 μm) will presumably be retained in soil, where it persists for decades or longer. Accordingly, further research on the prevalence and fate of such synthetic polymers in soils is urgently warranted.

    Melanie Bläsing and Wulf Amelung. Plastics in soil: Analytical methods and possible sources. Science of The Total Environment Volume 612, 15 January 2018, Pages 422-435

  10. Sea salt around the world is contaminated by plastic, studies show

    Leave a Comment
    • New studies find microplastics in salt from the US, Europe and China, adding to evidence that plastic pollution is pervasive in the environment
    • Researchers believe the majority of the contamination comes from microfibres and single-use plastics such as water bottles, items that comprise the majority of plastic waste.
      1. Stop using bottled water – In most cases it is no safer than tap water and costs 3 times as much gasoline and 1,ooo times as much as tap water.
      2. Bring your own reusable grocery bags with you when you go to the store.

    Jessica Glenza September 8, 2017 read full article in the GuardianUK

    Sea salt around the world has been contaminated by plastic pollution, adding to experts’ fears that microplastics are becoming ubiquitous in the environment and finding their way into the food chain via the salt in our diets. Following this week’s revelations in the Guardian about levels of plastic contamination in tap water, new studies have shown that tiny particles have been found in sea salt in the UK, France and Spain, as well as China and now the US.

    Researchers believe the majority of the contamination comes from microfibres and single-use plastics such as water bottles, items that comprise the majority of plastic waste. Up to 12.7m tonnes of plastic enters the world’s oceans every year, equivalent to dumping one garbage truck of plastic per minute into the world’s oceans, according to the United Nations.

    “Not only are plastics pervasive in our society in terms of daily use, but they are pervasive in the environment,” said Sherri Mason, a professor at the State University of New York at Fredonia, who led the latest research into plastic contamination in salt. Plastics are “ubiquitous, in the air, water, the seafood we eat, the beer we drink, the salt we use – plastics are just everywhere”….