Alaskan Yellow Cedar

Yellow-cedar, a culturally and economically valuable tree in southeastern Alaska and adjacent parts of British Columbia, has been dying off across large expanses of these areas for the past 100 years. But no one could say why. "The cause of tree death, called yellow-cedar decline, is now known to be a form of root freezing that occurs during cold weather in late winter and early spring, but only when snow is not present on the ground," explains Pacific Northwest Research Station scientist Paul Hennon, co-lead of a synthesis paper recently published in the February issue of the journal BioScience. "When present, snow protects the fine, shallow roots from extreme soil temperatures. The shallow rooting of yellow-cedar, early spring growth, and its unique vulnerability to freezing injury also contribute to this problem."

The Super Green Bowl

For the past 18 years, the NFL has been working to decrease the environmental footprint of the largest annual sporting event in the U.S. – the Super Bowl. Two years ago, we wrote about several initiatives aimed at reducing the events’ impacts. Last year, we covered how Super Bowl XLV was slated to be the greenest NFL championship game in history. This year, the NFL is trying to outdo itself yet again by working with the Green Mountain Energy Company and the Indianapolis community to make Super Bowl XLVI the greenest yet. I talked with Jack Groh, Director of the NFL’s Environmental Program, to get the details on this year’s efforts.

Nano Improved Transformer Oil

Rice University scientists have created a nano-infused oil that could greatly enhance the ability of devices as large as electrical transformers and as small as microelectronic components to shed excess heat. Research in the lab of Rice materials scientist Pulickel Ajayan, which appears in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano, could raise the efficiency of such transformer oils by as much as 80 percent in a way that is both cost-effective and environmentally friendly. The Rice team focused their efforts on transformers for energy systems. Transformers are filled with mineral oils that cool and insulate the windings inside, which must remain separated from each other to keep voltage from leaking or shorting.

Study Reveals Impacts of Environmental Changes on Southern Ocean Food Web

In January of this year, a comprehensive study of animals in the Southern Ocean was completed, showing that the region is under threat from climate change. The scientific journal Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography featured the findings of an international group of researchers who wrote over 20 papers about the effects on the Scotia Sea food web by above average water temperatures.

Why Biodiversity Loss Deserves as Much Attention as Climate Change

Biodiversity loss is probably a challenge that is often ignored as climate change looms. Currently the world is losing species at a rate that is 100 to 1000 times faster than the natural extinction rate, further, it is currently seeing the sixth mass extinction. The previous mass extinction occured 65 million years ago, and was caused by ecosystem changes, changes in atmospheric chemistry, impacts of asteroids and volcanoes. For the first time in history, the current extinction is caused by the competition for resources between a single species Homo sapiens and all others. A recent conference arranged by the Danish Ministry of Environment in the University of Copenhagen, provided an opportunity to influence the process of organizing a UN Biodiversity Panel. More than 100 scientists and decision makers from the EU countries gathered and came to the conclusion that drastic measures should be taken to decelerate current loss of biodiversity.

Nanotechnology Safety Strategies Need Improvement

According to a report released by the National Research Council (NRC), human and environmental safeties of nanomaterials remain uncertain despite the spending of billions of dollars in nanotechnology research and development over the past ten years.

Headed for Surgery? Hold the Protein

Fast before surgery. That's a common recommendation doctors give patients to ensure a safe procedure. Now a new study in mice suggests that the advice may have benefits beyond the operation itself: Extensive presurgical fasting appears to protect organs from postsurgical damage. Although preliminary, the finding builds on evidence that short-term starvation helps the body guard against stress and may be a useful medical tool.

Scientists reveal how females store sperm for decades

Scientists have discovered that all sorts of females – from birds to reptiles to insects – have a nifty trick to prolong the lifespan of sperm, letting them store it for weeks, months or even years on end. They found that females do this by lowering the metabolic rate of sperm, so it can survive in their bodies almost indefinitely.

Fructose Effects

Fructose, or fruit sugar, is a simple monosaccharide found in many plants. It is one of the three dietary monosaccharides, along with glucose and galactose, that are absorbed directly into the bloodstream during digestion. Fructose is generally regarded as being 1.73 times as sweet as sucrose. Fructose is a common sweetener used in many products such as soda as a result. There is now some new research evidence of cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk is present in the blood of adolescents who consume a lot of fructose, a scenario that worsens in the face of excess belly fat.

The Era Of Cheap Water Is Over: Deloitte

Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (DTTL) today launched the Water Tight 2012 report, which explores the future of the global water sector in the year ahead. The report examines how major global trends such as population growth, increasing economic development, and urbanization, coupled with the changes in climate patterns, underscore the importance of effective public policy and private sector water stewardship in managing this finite and shared resource. The growing demand for water is making conservation and efficient use central issues, particularly as governments, utilities, and the private sector come under increasing pressure to be stewards of this precious and shared resource. The report states that a clearer water pricing will play an important role in how customers better manage their water usage. "There is a compelling case for utilities either to increase water prices or create a better pricing system that addresses scarcity issues, allows them to invest in the replacement of ageing infrastructure, and provides them with a satisfactory financial return," says James Leigh, Global Leader for Water, DTTL. "Increasing water prices, however, is a difficult political decision, as domestic water usage is considered a basic human right. As such, raising awareness of water related issues and educating the public about the necessity of more effective water pricing is crucial."