Good news for European rivers

From Britain to the Czech Republic, European nations have been restoring rivers to their natural state — taking down dams, removing levees, and reviving floodplains. For a continent that long viewed rivers as little more than shipping canals and sewers, it is a striking change. From the industrial cities of Britain to the forests of Sweden, from the plains of Spain to the shores of the Black Sea, Europe is restoring its rivers to their natural glory. The most densely populated continent on earth is finding space for nature to return along its river banks.

Tesla and SolarCity Partner to Provide Energy Storage for Commercial Buildings

It looks like Elon Musk and his friends at Solar City are at it again. First, there was the Tesla electric car. Then came solar energy provider Solar City. Then came the financial innovation of bonds backed by solar power. Now they appear to be combining all of these, with Solar City offering commercial energy storage systems based on batteries produced by Tesla Motors.

NASA dating rocks on Mars

How old is Mars? The relative ages of Mars and Earth is of great interest to astronomers. Did the planets in our solar system originate at the same time, or did they form at different times? Although researchers have determined the ages of rocks from other planetary bodies, the actual experiments—like analyzing meteorites and moon rocks—have always been done on Earth. Now, for the first time, researchers have successfully determined the age of a Martian rock—with experiments performed on Mars. The work, led by geochemist Ken Farley of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), could not only help in understanding the geologic history of Mars but also aid in the search for evidence of ancient life on the planet. Many of the experiments carried out by the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission's Curiosity rover were painstakingly planned by NASA scientists more than a decade ago. However, shortly before the rover left Earth in 2011, NASA's participating scientist program asked researchers from all over the world to submit new ideas for experiments that could be performed with the MSL's already-designed instruments. Farley, W.M. Keck Foundation Professor of Geochemistry and one of the 29 selected participating scientists, submitted a proposal that outlined a set of techniques similar to those already used for dating rocks on Earth, to determine the age of rocks on Mars. Findings from the first such experiment on the Red Planet—published by Farley and coworkers this week in a collection of Curiosity papers in the journal Science Express—provide the first age determinations performed on another planet.

Mapping Antarctica

Described as being the coldest, driest, and windiest continent, it's no wonder why there are so many unknown mysteries of Antarctica. But now, for the first time scientists have begun mapping one of the "last frontiers" of the continent. The area, called the Recovery Catchment, sits around 400 km inland from the British Antarctic Survey's Halley VI Research Station in northeast Antarctica. It is important because it the vast area contains enough ice to raise sea-levels by up to 3 meters and the bedrock on which it sits is poorly understood. Another important aspect is that the rock hidden by the ice could hold the key to understanding how Antarctica was formed from the break-up of the supercontinents hundreds of millions of years ago.

Renewable energy is young generation’s top investment choice

A nationwide survey has found that renewable energy is the British public’s top investment choice after property but is the number one alternative for 18 to 24-year-olds. The findings show the country’s investment preferences reflect fast growing public support for clean power.

Shanghai air quality crisis

Shanghai is experiencing unprecedented levels of pollution. Last week fine particulate levels reached almost 20 times WHO guidelines, and they are still at dangerous levels. Matthew Currell reports on China's pollution crisis. The huge economic and health costs of pollution are estimated to consume approximately 5% of China's gross domestic product. The current "airpocalypse" emergency in Shanghai - which has seen schoolchildren ordered indoors to protect them from the polluted air, flights grounded and companies ordered to cut production - comes at the end of a year in which China's environmental crisis reached a tipping point.

Rodent Study Questions Common Understanding of Evolution

According to new research, studying the rodent family tree can shed some light on how species evolve after they move into a new area. Conducted in part by researchers at Florida State University, the study of the evolutionary history of rodents calls into doubt a generally held understanding that when a species colonizes a new region, evolution leads to a dramatic increase in the number and variety of species.

Land Use Decisions Impact Forest Benefits

A new study by Harvard University's Harvard Forest and the Smithsonian Institution reveals that, if left unchecked, recent trends in the loss of forests to development will undermine significant land conservation gains in Massachusetts, jeopardize water quality and limit the natural landscape's ability to protect against climate change.

Environment and genetics

Interplay between genes and the environment has been pondered at least since the phrase "nature versus nurture" was coined in the mid-1800s. But until the arrival of modern genomic sequencing tools, it was hard to measure the extent that the environment had on a species' genetic makeup. Now, researchers with the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech studying fruit flies that live on opposite slopes of a unique natural environment known as "Evolution Canyon" show that even with migration, cross-breeding, and sometimes the obliteration of the populations, the driving force in the gene pool is largely the environment.

The Unintended Consequences of Reflective Pavements

Among the most interesting exhibitors at the recent Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in Philadelphia may have been the Asphalt Pavement Alliance challenging what we thought we knew about urban heat island effect with new research from Arizona State University.