US EPA proposes regulations to reduce methane emissions from landfills

As part of the Administration's Climate Action Plan – Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued two proposals to further reduce emissions of methane-rich gas from municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills. Under today’s proposals, new, modified and existing landfills would begin collecting and controlling landfill gas at emission levels nearly a third lower than current requirements. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas with a global warming potential more than 25 times that of carbon dioxide. Climate change threatens the health and welfare of current and future generations. Children, older adults, people with heart or lung disease and people living in poverty may be most at risk from the health impacts of climate change. In addition to methane, landfills also emit other pollutants, including the air toxics benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and vinyl chloride. 

Which food wastes have greater environmental impacts?

Approximately 31 percent of food produced in the U.S., or 133 billion pounds of food worth $162 billion, was wasted in 2011 according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Now, University of Missouri researchers have found that the type of food wasted has a significant impact on the environment. Although less meat is wasted (on average) compared to fruits and vegetables, the researchers found that significantly more energy is used in the production of meat compared to the production of vegetables. This wasted energy is usually in the form of resources that can have negative impacts on the surrounding environment, such as diesel fuel or fertilizer being released into the environment.

Long-term Protection Achieved for the Sumatran Forest

One of the last places on Earth where Sumatran elephants, tigers and orangutans coexist in the wild has received long-term protection. The Indonesian Ministry of Forestry approved a conservation concession – a lease of the land – covering 40,000 hectares of forest on the island of Sumatra.

Apes show abilities related to speech

Koko the gorilla is best known for a lifelong study to teach her a silent form of communication, American Sign Language. But some of the simple sounds she has learned may change the perception that humans are the only primates with the capacity for speech.In 2010, Marcus Perlman started research work at The Gorilla Foundation in California, where Koko has spent more than 40 years living immersed with humans — interacting for many hours each day with psychologist Penny Patterson and biologist Ron Cohn."I went there with the idea of studying Koko's gestures, but as I got into watching videos of her, I saw her performing all these amazing vocal behaviors," says Perlman, now a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of University of Wisconsin-Madison psychology Professor Gary Lupyan.

Toxic blue-green algae pose increasing threat to nation's drinking, recreational water

A report concludes that blooms of toxic cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, are a poorly monitored and underappreciated risk to recreational and drinking water quality in the United States, and may increasingly pose a global health threat.

Greenland ice sheet's winds driving tundra soil erosion

Strong winds blowing off the Greenland Ice Sheet are eroding soil and vegetation in the surrounding tundra, making it less productive for caribou and other grazing animals, carbon storage and nutrient cycling, a Dartmouth College study finds.

Men's and women's brains do work differently

Male and female brains operate differently at a molecular level, a Northwestern University research team reports in a new study of a brain region involved in learning and memory, responses to stress and epilepsy.Many brain disorders vary between the sexes, but how biology and culture contribute to these differences has been unclear. Now Northwestern neuroscientists have found an intrinsic biological difference between males and females in the molecular regulation of synapses in the hippocampus. This provides a scientific reason to believe that female and male brains may respond differently to drugs targeting certain synaptic pathways. 

Happy World Elephant Day!

On Wednesday, August 12, animal lovers around the world will be coming together to celebrate elephants and support a future where they’re respected and protected for the fourth annual World Elephant Day.

Unraveling the Secrets of a Whale Song

Whale songs are some of the most hauntingly beautiful and bizarre noises in the world. But if it hadn’t been for acoustic biologist Katy Payne, we’d probably still be dismissing them as mere sounds — like the noises our own cats and dogs make when they’re hungry, frightened, interested, or affectionate. Payne, however, realized that whales are actually composing songs, not just making noise under the sea, and moreover, she found that over time, whales change their tune. These majestic marine mammals interact with each other to create songs of escalating length and complexity over the years, in what one might compare to jazz riffing or Indigenous Australian songlines, the cultural, social, and physical maps passed down through generations.

Could eating meat speed-up worldwide species extinction?

Diets rich in beef and other red meat can be bad for a person’s health. And the practice is equally bad for Earth’s biodiversity, according to a team of scientists who have fingered human carnivory—and its impact on land use—as the single biggest threat to much of the world’s flora and fauna. Already a major cause of extinction, our meat habit will take a growing toll as people clear more land for livestock and crops to feed these animals, a study in the current issue of Science of the Total Environment predicts.