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Tag Archive: pollution

  1. One of Europe’s largest lakes has wide range of toxic plastic pollution

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    • Freshwater systems have been largely overlooked with regards to the impact of plastic. The impacts of plastic-bound toxic elements on lake wildlife are currently unknown.
    • Researchers detected cadmium, mercury and lead — sometimes in very high concentrations that exceed the maximum permitted under EU law.

    April 3, 2018 Frontiers Read full ScienceDaily article here

    The first analysis of plastic litter from Lake Geneva [shared by Switzerland and France; home to Evian bottled water] finds toxic chemicals like cadmium, mercury and lead – – whose levels sometimes exceed the maximum permitted under EU law. The presence of chemicals that are now restricted or banned in plastic production reflects how old the plastic litter could be — and indicates that like oceans, freshwater habitats are also affected by plastic pollution….

    “Plastic debris in freshwater lakes are likely to pose the same problems to wildlife as marine plastics. In this respect, entanglement and ingestion are of greatest concern,” says Dr. Montserrat Filella, lead author of this research, based at the Department F.-A. Forel, University of Geneva, Switzerland.

    “The hazardous chemicals we find associated with these plastics is also worrying. When they are eaten by animals mistaking them for food, the acidic and enzyme-rich conditions in the stomach could accelerate how quickly these toxins are released into the body, affecting the animals concerned.”….

    Montserrat Filella, Andrew Turner. Observational Study Unveils the Extensive Presence of Hazardous Elements in Beached Plastics from Lake Geneva. Frontiers in Environmental Science, 2018; 6 DOI: 10.3389/fenvs.2018.00001

  2. Paul Ehrlich interview 50 years after “The Population Bomb”: Toxification of the planet with synthetic chemicals may be more dangerous to people and wildlife than climate change

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    by Damian Carrington March 22 2018 read full GuardianUK article here

    Fifty years after the publication of his controversial book The Population Bomb, biologist Paul Ehrlich warns overpopulation and overconsumption are driving us over the edge…

    A shattering collapse of civilisation is a “near certainty” in the next few decades due to humanity’s continuing destruction of the natural world that sustains all life on Earth, according to biologist Prof Paul Ehrlich.

    The toxification of the planet with synthetic chemicals may be more dangerous to people and wildlife than climate change, says Ehrlich.
    The toxification of the planet with synthetic chemicals may be more dangerous to people and wildlife than climate change, says Ehrlich. Photograph: Linh Pham/Getty Images

    In May, it will be 50 years since the eminent biologist published his most famous and controversial book, The Population Bomb. But Ehrlich remains as outspoken as ever.

    The world’s optimum population is less than two billion people – 5.6 billion fewer than on the planet today, he argues, and there is an increasing toxification of the entire planet by synthetic chemicals that may be more dangerous to people and wildlife than climate change….

     
  3. Great Pacific Garbage Patch: Sixteen times more plastic than previously estimated

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    • 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic weighing 80,000 metric tons are currently afloat in an area known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — and it is rapidly getting worse.

    March 22, 2018 The Ocean Cleanup  see ScienceDaily article here

    Video explanation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=67&v=0EyaTqezSzs

    Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxMATP5oRx4

    ….The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP), located halfway between Hawaii and California, is the largest accumulation zone for ocean plastics on Earth. Conventionally, researchers have used single, fine-meshed nets, typically less than a meter in size, in an attempt to quantify the problem. However, this method yields high uncertainty because of the small surface area that is covered.

    …The results, published today in Scientific Reports, reveal that the GPGP, defined as the area with more than 10 kg of plastic per km2, measures 1.6 million square kilometers, three times the size of continental France. Accumulated in this area are 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic, weighing 80,000 metric tons, the equivalent of 500 Jumbo Jets. These figures are four to sixteen times higher than previous estimates. 92% of the mass is represented by larger objects; while only 8% of the mass is contained in microplastics, defined as pieces smaller than 5 mm in size.

    “We were surprised by the amount of large plastic objects we encountered,” said Dr. Julia Reisser, Chief Scientist of the expeditions. “We used to think most of the debris consists of small fragments, but this new analysis shines a new light on the scope of the debris.”…

    L. Lebreton, B. Slat, F. Ferrari, B. Sainte-Rose, J. Aitken, R. Marthouse, S. Hajbane, S. Cunsolo, A. Schwarz, A. Levivier, K. Noble, P. Debeljak, H. Maral, R. Schoeneich-Argent, R. Brambini, J. Reisser. Evidence that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is rapidly accumulating plastic. Scientific Reports, 2018; 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-22939-w


    New analysis reveals the Great Pacific Garbage Patch contains as much as sixteen times more plastic than previously estimated, with pollution levels increasing exponentially.
    Credit: Image courtesy of The Ocean Cleanup
  4. Smartphones and data centers harm the environment, study shows

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    • Data centres and smartphones will be the most damaging information and communications technologies to the environment by 2040, according to new research
    • For every text message, for every phone call, every video you upload or download, there’s a data centre making this happen. Telecommunications networks and data centres consume a lot of energy to serve you and most data centres continue to be powered by electricity generated by fossil fuels. It’s the energy consumption we don’t see…

    March 1, 2018 McMaster University Read full ScienceDaily article here

    …[Scientists] studied the carbon footprint of consumer devices such as smartphones, laptops, tablets, desktops as well as data centres and communication networks as early as 2005…. Not only did they discover that software is driving the consumption of information and communications technologies (ICT), they also found that ICT has a greater impact on emissions than we thought and most emissions come from production and operation.

    ….Among all the devices, trends suggest that by 2020, the most damaging devices to the environment are smartphones. While smartphones consume little energy to operate, 85% of their emissions impact comes from production. A smartphone’s chip and motherboard require the most amount of energy to produce as they are made up of precious metals that are mined at a high cost….

    …”Communication and data centres have to go under renewable energy now. The good news is Google and Facebook data centres are going to run on renewable energy. But there needs to be a policy in place so that all data centres follow suit. Also, it’s not sustainable to have a two-year subsidized plan for smartphones.”…

    Lotfi Belkhir, Ahmed Elmeligi. Assessing ICT global emissions footprint: Trends to 2040 & recommendations. Journal of Cleaner Production, 2018; 177: 448 DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2017.12.239

  5. Microplastics — an emerging threat to terrestrial ecosystems.

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    These are polyacrylic fibers in soil. Credit: Anderson Abel de Souza Machado
    • Over 400 million tons of plastic are produced globally each year. It is estimated that one third of all plastic waste ends up in soils or freshwaters.
    • Terrestrial microplastic pollution is much higher than marine microplastic pollution — an estimate of four to 23 times more, depending on the environment.
    • When plastic particles break down, they gain new physical and chemical properties, increasing the risk that they will have a toxic effect on organisms
    • 80 to 90 per cent of the particles contained in sewage, such as from garment fibres, persist in the sludge. Sewage sludge is then often applied to fields as fertilizer, meaning that several thousand tons of microplastics end up in our soils each year.
    • The intake and uptake of small microplastics could turn out to be the new long-term stress factor for the environment.

    February 5, 2018 Forschungsverbund Berlin read full ScienceDaily article here

    Tiny plastic particles also present a threat to creatures on land and may have damaging effects similar or even more problematic than in our oceans. Researchers warn: the impact of microplastics in soils, sediments and the freshwaters could have a long-term negative effect on terrestrial ecosystems throughout the world.

    Over 400 million tons of plastic are produced globally each year. It is estimated that one third of all plastic waste ends up in soils or freshwaters. Most of this plastic disintegrates into particles smaller than five millimetres, referred to as microplastics, and breaks down further into nanoparticles, which are less than 0.1 micrometre in size.

    In fact, terrestrial microplastic pollution is much higher than marine microplastic pollution — an estimate of four to 23 times more, depending on the environment. Sewage, for example, is an important factor in the distribution of microplastics. In fact, 80 to 90 per cent of the particles contained in sewage, such as from garment fibres, persist in the sludge. Sewage sludge is then often applied to fields as fertilizer, meaning that several thousand tons of microplastics end up in our soils each year.

    Some microplastics exhibit properties that might have direct damaging effects on ecosystems. For instance, the surfaces of tiny fragments of plastic may carry disease-causing organisms and act as a vector that transmits diseases in the environment. Microplastics can also interact with soil fauna, affecting their health and soil functions. Earthworms, for example, make their burrows differently when microplastics are present in the soil, affecting the earthworm’s fitness and the soil condition.Generally speaking, when plastic particles break down, they gain new physical and chemical properties, increasing the risk that they will have a toxic effect on organisms. And the more likely it is that toxic effects will occur, the larger the number of potentially affected species and ecological functions……..Humans also ingest microplastics via food: they have already been detected not only in fish and seafood, but also in salt, sugar and beer. It could be that the accumulation of plastics in terrestrial organisms is already common everywhere, the researchers speculate, even among those that do not “ingest” their food. For example, tiny fragments of plastic can be accumulated in yeasts and filamentous fungi.The intake and uptake of small microplastics could turn out to be the new long-term stress factor for the environment.

     

    Anderson Abel de Souza Machado, Werner Kloas, Christiane Zarfl, Stefan Hempel, Matthias C. Rillig. Microplastics as an emerging threat to terrestrial ecosystems. Global Change Biology, 2018; DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14020
    These are polyacrylic fibers in soil. Credit: Anderson Abel de Souza Machado
    And another recent study:
    Melanie Bläsing, Wulf Amelung. Plastics in soil: Analytical methods and possible sources. Science of the Total Environment. 2017
    H I G H L I G H T S
    • 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.

  6. Wetlands provide landscape-scale reduction in nitrate pollution

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    • This research shows that wetland restoration could be one of the most effective methods for comprehensive improvement of water quality in the face of climate change and growing global demand for food.

    January 29, 2018 University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering read full ScienceDaily article here

    A new study provides new insights to demonstrate that multiple wetlands or ‘wetland complexes’ within a watershed are extremely effective at reducing harmful nitrate in rivers and streams. These wetlands can be up to five times more efficient per unit area at reducing nitrate than the best land-based nitrogen mitigation strategies

    …Significant research findings include:

    • When stream flows are high, wetlands are five times more efficient per unit area at reducing nitrate than the best land-based conservation practices. Other common conservation practices are effective at lower flow conditions but overwhelmed with higher stream flows.
    • The arrangement of wetlands within a watershed is a key predictor of the magnitude of nitrate reduction. If wetlands intercept 100 percent of the drainage area, they are three times more effective at nitrate removal compared to interception of 50 percent of the drainage area.
    • Nitrate reduction due to ephemeral (temporary) wetlands, such as riparian floodplains and more geographically isolated wetlands (wetlands not connected to the river network by surface water), was measurable and was highest during high stream flows, when such features are hydrologically connected to surface water.

    ….Our work shows that wetland restoration could be one of the most effective methods for comprehensive improvement of water quality in the face of climate change and growing global demand for food,” said study co-author Jacques Finlay, a professor in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior in the College of Biological Sciences….

    Amy T. Hansen, Christine L. Dolph, Efi Foufoula-Georgiou, Jacques C. Finlay. Contribution of wetlands to nitrate removal at the watershed scale. Nature Geoscience, 2018; DOI: 10.1038/s41561-017-0056-6

  7. 11 Billion Pieces of Plastic Are Smothering Reefs, Infecting Corals

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    • When plastic debris meets coral the likelihood of disease increases from 4 to 89 percent — a 20-fold change.
    • About 11.1 billion plastic items are entangled on reefs across the Asia-Pacific region, and this will likely increase 40% over the next 7 years.
    • “While we can’t stop the huge impact of global warming on coral health in the short term, this new work should drive policy toward reducing plastic pollution.”

    January 25, 2018 Cornell University read full ScienceDaily article here

    For coral reefs, the threat of climate change and bleaching are bad enough. An international research group has now found that plastic trash — ubiquitous throughout the world’s oceans — intensifies disease for coral, adding to reef peril.

    Plastic pollution carries diseases to coral reefs. Credit: © whitcomberd / Fotolia

    “Plastic debris acts like a marine motorhome for microbes,” said the study’s lead author, Joleah Lamb, a postdoctoral research fellow at Cornell. She began collecting this data as a doctoral candidate at James Cook University in Australia.

    Plastics make ideal vessels for colonizing microscopic organisms that could trigger disease if they come into contact with corals,” Lamb said. “Plastic items — commonly made of polypropylene, such as bottle caps and toothbrushes — have been shown to become heavily inhabited by bacteria. This is associated with the globally devastating group of coral diseases known as white syndromes.”

    When plastic debris meets coral, the authors say, the likelihood of disease increases from 4 to 89 percent — a 20-fold change. The scientists estimate that about 11.1 billion plastic items are entangled on reefs across the Asia-Pacific region, and that this will likely increase 40 percent over the next seven years.

    Coral are tiny animals with living tissue that cling to and build upon one another to form “apartments,” or reefs. Bacterial pathogens ride aboard the plastics, disturbing delicate coral tissues and their microbiome…..

    Joleah B. Lamb, Bette L. Willis, Evan A. Fiorenza, Courtney S. Couch, Robert Howard, Douglas N. Rader, James D. True, Lisa A. Kelly, Awaludinnoer Ahmad, Jamaluddin Jompa, C. Drew Harvell. Plastic waste associated with disease on coral reefs. Science, 2018 DOI: 10.1126/science.aar3320

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    Related story from News Deeply:

    11 Billion Pieces of Plastic Are Smothering Reefs, Infecting Corals

    Scientists surveyed nearly 125,000 coral reefs in the Asia-Pacific region, finding that 11.1 billion pieces of plastic debris are entangled in corals and are drastically increasing the likelihood that they will contract deadly diseases.

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

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    • 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?
  9. Marine organisms can shred a plastic bag into 1.75 million pieces, study shows

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    • 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

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

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    • 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.