Woodpecker Species Benefit from Emerald Ash Borer

Many of us have heard of the Emerald ash borer (EAB) – a highly invasive beetle known for it's destruction of ash trees. After being discovered in the United States in 2002, this pesky little beetle has killed tens of millions of ash trees in Michigan alone. In addition to the tens of millions of ash trees also affected in the Midwest and East Coast of the United States, the invasive species has cost millions of dollars worth of damages for property owners and nurseries across the country. For us, this pest has a notable bad rap, but for four species of birds in the Detroit area, the emerald ash borer is in fact the cause for their recent success.

Old-growth trees store half rainforest carbon

Large trees store up to half the above-ground biomass in tropical forests, reiterating their importance in buffering against climate change, finds a study published in Global Ecology and Biogeography. The research, which involved dozens of scientists from more than 40 institutions, is based on data from nearly 200,000 individual trees across 120 lowland rainforest sites in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. It found that carbon storage by big trees varies across tropical forest regions, but is substantial in all natural forests.

The Controversy Surrounding Fracking

The father of fracking, George Mitchell, passed away July 26, leaving many to think about the legacy he leaves behind. Though he didn't exactly invent fracking, the Houston native revolutionized the process by introducing horizontal drilling in the 1990s. Even more than two decades later, Mitchell's process of fracking is still a touchy subject. Though many are thrilled by the natural gas goldmine his drilling taps into, a lot of controversy surrounds the process, especially where the environment is concerned. What is fracking? For millions of years, organisms found in rock formations buried deep under the ground have decomposed, creating natural gases. However, because the formations are so deep under Earth's surface, the gas deposits were trapped in pockets and not easily accessible. It didn't take long to discover that drilling into rock formations could break them, making it easy to extract the resources inside...

New York City Turns to Composting

In 2011, the United States produced 250 million tons of municipal solid waste, 56% of which was compostable materials. In New York City alone, more than 10,000 tons of trash is collected every day and shipped to landfills where organic materials decompose. Methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, is produced as a result of the decomposition. Behind industry and agriculture, landfills are the third-largest source of methane in the United States. New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg recognized this major environmental concern in his State of the City address, and called for food waste recycling, the city’s “final recycling frontier". Of course New York City isn’t the first to come up with such an ambitious plan. Cities such as San Francisco, Seattle, San Antonio, and Portland, Oregon have been composting as early as 2009. Today, San Francisco mandates that all residents separate organic material, adding a third bin to trash and recycling. The compost bins can include all food scraps, along with vegetation and solid paper products such as coffee cups and milk cartons. Overall, 78% of San Francisco’s waste is now diverted from landfills.

Kill a Rat, Save an Ecosystem

Worldwide, invasive alien species are second only to habitat destruction in reducing the planet's biodiversity. Their effect is especially potent on islands. Cats, rats, weasels and stoats wreak havoc on native faunas which evolved in the absence of predatory mammals.

Saudi Arabia to Launch Online Atlas of Renewable Resources

Saudi Arabia is launching an online atlas of renewable resources as part of a wider project to identify the potential renewable energy sources and where best to deploy technology to tap into those resources. The atlas data will be available in late 2013, published online through the Renewable Resource Monitoring and Mapping programme.

EPA looking at contaminated sites for renewable energy

There are a lot of contaminated sites in the US. Many are former landfills that are urban mounds of varying size, and they are often devoid of trees. This makes them good candidate sites for solar power or other forms of renewable energy. This is a win-win opportunity in many instances! The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently updated its RE-Powering Mapping and Screening Tool, which will now provide preliminary screening results for renewable energy potential at 66,000, up from 24,000, contaminated lands, landfills, and mine sites across the country. The RE-Powering America's Land Initiative, started by EPA in 2008, encourages development of renewable energy on potentially contaminated land, landfills and mine sites when it is aligned with the community’s vision for the site. "We see responsible renewable energy development on contaminated lands and landfills as a win-win-win for the nation, local communities, and the environment," said Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. "In President Obama's Climate Action Plan, the administration set a goal to double renewable electricity generation by 2020. By identifying the renewable energy potential of contaminated sites across the country, these screening results are a good step toward meeting national renewable energy goals in order to address climate change, while also cleaning up and revitalizing contaminated lands in our communities."

Rice gene digs deep to triple yields in drought

A gene that gives rice plants deeper roots can triple yields during droughts, according to Japanese researchers writing in Nature Genetics this week (4 August). Rice is a staple food for nearly half of the world's population, but is also particularly susceptible to drought owing to its shallow roots, researchers say. The new study shows that by pointing roots down instead of sideways, the Deeper Rooting 1 (DRO1) gene results in roots that are nearly twice as deep as those of standard rice varieties.

Jumbo problems for the Indian railways

Running late that morning, the Kanchankanya Express train zipped past Gulma and entered the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary in northern West Bengal, India. Till a few minutes ago, impatience was writ large on every face. Now with the fog having finally lifted and the green forest cover glistening under the sun, things were finally looking up. But before my co-passengers could sigh with relief, the train came to a screeching halt, right in the middle of the forest. I looked out the door of my compartment. A group of passengers had already detrained and gathered by the railway track, speculating what was wrong. "Not to worry", one of them shouted back to us in Bengali, "The train just hit a grazing cow. We will be on our way soon." What he perhaps did not say, was that it could easily have been an elephant.

What does the future hold for GM cotton?

Two decades into cotton's genetic modification (GM) revolution, J. Berrye Worsham, President and CEO of the U.S. industry association Cotton Incorporated, exudes complete confidence in the GM route. "Employing biotechnology to its fullest extent, now and far into the future," he says, "we anticipate dramatically increasing our yields of cotton fiber and using cottonseed as a food source for humans. We fully expect that this expanded use of the cotton plant will require less water and soil, greatly reducing strain on the environment."