Welcome three new National Monuments

Using his authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906, President Obama announced last week that he was creating three new national monuments. The President designated scenic mountains in California as Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument, pristine wilderness landscapes in Nevada as Basin and Range National Monument, and a fossil-rich site in Texas as Waco Mammoth National Monument.Together, the new monuments protect more than one million acres of public lands. National monuments are similar to national parks, except that they can be created from any land owned or controlled by the federal government via a presidential proclamation. With these new designations, Obama will have used the Antiquities Act to establish or expand 19 national monuments in the United States in total. Altogether, he has protected more than 260 million acres of public lands and waters.

Acidic Arctic Ocean Threatens Food Web

One byproduct of rising carbon-dioxide levels is increasing ocean acidity — a phenomenon that scientists have termed an existential threat to marine life. The waters of the Arctic and the far-north Pacific are particularly prone to acidification as a result of several natural factors, so scientists regard the region as the proverbial canary in the coal mine for the rest of the world's oceans. A new study shows that within just fifteen years these waters may be too acidic for a range of marine animals to build and maintain their shells year round. 

France estimates the economic costs of air pollution

The French Senate has called for new efforts to tackle air pollution, arguing it inflates healthcare costs, reduces economic productivity and agricultural yields, and has put Paris in the EU's bad books.A Committee of Inquiry in the French Senate has described air pollution as an "economic aberration". The committee's proposals to reduce the phenomenon, which costs France over €100 billion every year, include raising the tax on diesel and taxing emissions of the worst polluting substances.In the report entitled "Air pollution: the cost of inaction", published on Wednesday 15 July, the Senate committee estimated the annual cost of air Pollution in France at €101.3 billion.

Going to the beach may require hand sanitizer in addition to sunscreen

“No swimming” signs have already popped up this summer along coastlines where fecal bacteria have invaded otherwise inviting waters. Some vacationers ignore the signs while others resign themselves to tanning and playing on the beach. But should those avoiding the water be wary of the sand, too? New research in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology investigates reasons why the answer could be “yes.” Sewage-contaminated coastal waters can lead to stomach aches, diarrhea and rashes for those who accidentally swallow harmful microbes or come into contact with them. But over the past decade, scientists have been finding fecal bacteria in beach sand at levels 10 to 100 times higher than in nearby seawater.

Turtle Hotspots Identified Around the World Contain Diverse Species and Richness

Global biodiversity is becoming more threatened as the human population continues to grow and use the world’s resources. Turtles have the misfortune of being on the leading edge of biodiversity decline and serve as an indicator of ecosystem degradation.Researchers have identified 16 turtle “hotspots” around the world. These regions host the many native species of tortoises and freshwater turtles. By focusing on such areas, conservationists can target preservation efforts where the greatest effects can be achieved.Scientists from the Chelonian Research Foundation, Conservation International, and State University of New York at Stony Brook recently published an article in the journal Chelonian Conservation and Biology that names three types of hotspots—biodiversity hotspots, high-biodiversity wilderness areas, and turtle priority areas. Taxon richness and endemism values are offered for the 16 identified hotspots, which host 262 species, or 83 percent of all turtle species.

Seaweed that tastes like bacon? Sign me up!

Oregon State University researchers have patented a new strain of a succulent red marine algae called dulse that grows extraordinarily quickly, is packed full of protein and has an unusual trait when it is cooked.This seaweed tastes like bacon.

As species adapt to a warming climate, ecosystems change

If it seems like you're pulling more bass than trout out of Ontario's lakes this summer, you probably are.Blame it on the ripple effect of climate change and warming temperatures. Birds migrate earlier, flowers bloom faster, and fish move to newly warmed waters putting local species at risk.To mitigate the trend and support conservation efforts, scientists at the University of Toronto (U of T) are sharing a way to predict which plants or animals may be vulnerable to the arrival of a new species.

Wildfires ravage Canada and Alaska causing mass evacuations

"Extreme." "Unprecedented." "Historic." Those are just a few of the words being used to describe the start of this year's fire season in North America. The wildfires are centered in the northwest of the continent, but their consequences are far-reaching. Thick smoke has blanketed parts of Wisconsin and North Dakota. It's triggered air alerts in Minnesota and Montana and muddied skies as far south as Tennessee and Colorado.

Another reason the West Antarctic ice sheet is melting

The amount of heat flowing toward the base of the West Antarctic ice sheet from geothermal sources deep within Earth is surprisingly high, according to a new study led by UC Santa Cruz researchers. The results, published July 10 in Science Advances, provide important data for researchers trying to predict the fate of the ice sheet, which has experienced rapid melting over the past decade.Lead author Andrew Fisher, professor of Earth and planetary sciences at UC Santa Cruz, emphasized that the geothermal heating reported in this study does not explain the alarming loss of ice from West Antarctica that has been documented by other researchers. "The ice sheet developed and evolved with the geothermal heat flux coming up from below--it's part of the system. But this could help explain why the ice sheet is so unstable. When you add the effects of global warming, things can start to change quickly," he said.

How microbes are cleaning up the BP oil spill

Microbes, primarily bacteria and fungi, get a bad rap in today’s society. However they’ve long played an incredible role within the Earth’s ecosystem. And one of the most important places microbes are transforming the earth is in the Gulf of Mexico, where a number of strains are busy munching up the oil still left over from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster.The Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which took place just over five years ago caused a massive ecological disaster in and around the Gulf of Mexico. This is partially because the spill took so long to quell, with oil companies scrambling (and often failing) to stem the flow of oil from the seabed.