Category: Discoveries


LiveScience

Unusual Bacteria Gobbles Up Carbon in the Ocean

Debris in the Pacific Ocean, ocean currents

 

Underneath the floating debris in the Pacific Ocean.

Credit: NOAA – Marine Debris Program.

 

The finding may help researchers better understand how carbon cycling works in marine ecosystems.

“We found that an individual bacterial strain was capable of consuming the same amount of carbon in the ocean as diverse [bacterial] communities,” said study author Byron E. Pedler at the University of California, San Diego.

The researchers found the results surprising because of the immense diversity of molecules that constitute dissolved carbon in one form or another in the ocean, Pedler told Live Science.

Those molecules include both “young” carbon recently produced by phytoplankton — the tiny organisms that are the foundation of the marine food web, and really old carbon that is hundreds of years old. Some of this carbon consists of carbohydrates, but a significant portion of it “is simply uncharacterizable, in that even modern chemical techniques cannot determine what it is,” Pedler said.

 

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Earth Watch Report  -  Hazmat

"James

James Holland, hydrologist/geologist with the Kanab Field Office of the United States Bureau of Land Management, examines an oil-covered rock with the Forest Service’s Joe Harris and BLM’s Sarah Schlanger in Little Valley Wash in the Upper Valley region of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

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April 01 2014 07:40 AM Environment Pollution USA State of Utah, [Little Valley Wash, Grand Staircase National Monument] Damage level Details

 

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Environment Pollution in USA on Tuesday, 01 April, 2014 at 07:40 (07:40 AM) UTC.

Description
Hikers exploring the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Southern Utah last week happened upon an oil spill over four miles in length in an area known as Little Valley Wash. The spill is thought to be old, based on the dense, asphalt-like consistency of the oil, said Larry Crutchfield, Bureau of Land Management public affairs specialist. And it’s a good thing the oil is so thick, he added, because that means the spill will stay put for a while. “The good news is that there is no oil actively moving in the wash,” Crutchfield said. Because the oil in the wash is nearly as thick as asphalt, he added, it is not posing an immediate threat to surrounding areas. However, he said there is evidence suggesting it did move last September when massive monsoon rains created a violent flash flood in the wash. The area typically does receive some rain in the springtime, he said, but not nearly enough to fill the part of the wash where the oil is, which is far upstream. The BLM isn’t taking any chances, however, and plans to secure the area with booms and other equipment to help protect monument resources and water sources. Although preliminary reports last week suggested the spill may have originated from a leak that occurred last month in a nearby pipeline operated by Citation Oil, Crutchfield said the oil found in the wash is very unlikely to have come from a recent leakage.”The Citation oil line did spring a pinhole-sized leak,” Crutchfield said. That leak spilled about 10 barrels of oil before it was discovered and patched last month. The oil that flows through the pipeline has a low viscosity and would be very fluid, he said �” not the thick, viscous, asphalt-like substance found in the wash. The oil in the wash appears to have been there for some time, he said. In fact, investigators currently suspect the spill had been buried beneath the wash until it was exposed by a violent flash flood last fall, which explains why the spill hadn’t been reported in previous years. When asked who might have buried the spill, Crutchfield said it’s quite possible that it was covered by sediment deposited by an earlier flood. There is no way of knowing for sure before BLM investigators complete their assessment of the incident. “We have an idea of where the oil may have come from, but it would be entirely inappropriate for me to speculate at this point,” Crutchfield said. The first priority, he said, is to assess the danger that the oil poses to the surrounding environment. “The important thing at this stage is that we are taking action,” he said. “Citation Oil is taking action. We are working together to figure out what exactly happened.”

 

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Sun Independent.com

Massive oil spill discovered at Grand Staircase National Monument

 

Monday, 03-31-2014, 08:30 PM
Written by Michael Flynn

Hikers exploring the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Southern Utah last week happened upon an oil spill over four miles in length in an area known as Little Valley Wash.

The spill is thought to be old, based on the dense, asphalt-like consistency of the oil, said Larry Crutchfield, Bureau of Land Management public affairs specialist. And it’s a good thing the oil is so thick, he added, because that means the spill will stay put for a while.

“The good news is that there is no oil actively moving in the wash,” Crutchfield said. Because the oil in the wash is nearly as thick as asphalt, he added, it is not posing an immediate threat to surrounding areas. However, he said there is evidence suggesting it did move last September when massive monsoon rains created a violent flash flood in the wash.

The area typically does receive some rain in the springtime, he said, but not nearly enough to fill the part of the wash where the oil is, which is far upstream. The BLM isn’t taking any chances, however, and plans to secure the area with booms and other equipment to help protect monument resources and water sources.

 

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Published: Friday, April 4 2014 7:46 p.m. MDT

James Holland, hydrologist/geologist with the Kanab Field Office of the federal Bureau of Land Management, left, points to asphalt-like patches of oil in Little Valley Wash in the Upper Valley region of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument near Escalante on Friday, April 4, 2014. Holland, along with Joe Harris of the Forest Service, Mark Bing, central regional manager of Citation Oil and Gas Corp., Terry Tolbert, wildlife biologist, and Julie Sueker of Arcadis Environmental Consulting Group, hiked the 4-mile stretch of the wash where the oil was discovered.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

 

ESCALANTE, Garfield County — Remnants from at least one large oil spill found by hikers on March 23 in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument has officials wondering how and when the damage occurred.

As many as 4 miles in the Little Valley Wash now contain the aftermath of the spill, with about 1.5 miles of 6-inch thick oil flows contained in the mostly dry stream bed. Bureau of Land Management officials who manage the monument say it’s likely the leak happened decades ago.

BLM officials hypothesize that the spill became encased in sediment deposits over time, making it difficult or impossible to see in most areas. Last September, intense floods washed down the drainage, possibly unburying the oil deposit and carrying parts of it downstream for 2.5 miles.

Boulders and tree trunks in the drainage now demonstrate the depth of the initial oil flows, with steady black lines as many as 2 feet above the stream bed. Black splotches are found in other areas, with vegetation collecting the oil as it flowed along with the flood waters.

Long stretches of oil patches not mixed with sediment have liquified in regions exposed to the sun.

“It’s not what we want to see here,” associate monument manager Sarah Schlanger said during an examination of the area Friday.

 

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Did the Government Give Industrial Hemp a Pass to Clean Up Radiation in the States?

Christina Sarich

NationofChange / News Analysis

Published: Friday 14 February 2014

Hemp has numerous uses and could replace many crops that require heavy irrigation and pesticides, but the most interesting fact about hemp is that it “eats” radiation.

Article image

Activists have been shouting they want an end to GMO foods for more than a decade now, and Cannabis Sattiva L. supporters have been at it for even longer, so why has the US government finally given farmers the right to legally grow industrial hemp, the non-hallucinatory, sister plant of medical marijuana?

It is safe to say that industrialized hemp should have been legalized years ago. With THC levels so low, you would have to smoke more of it than Snoop Dogg to get ‘high’ – and that’s a lot of Cannabis, it is ridiculous that it was classified as a drug at all. It has numerous uses and could replace many crops that require heavy irrigation and pesticides, like cotton, for example. Here’s the most interesting fact though – hemp plants ‘eat’ radiation.

When the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant Reactor 4 accident caused severe radioactive contamination in 1986, families within a 30-kilometer area of the site had to be evacuated. Radioactive contamination was later found at 100 kilometers from the accident site, and Fukushima radiation levels are still to be determined, with the Japanese government planning on dumping their overflowing radiated water tanks into the Pacific as we speak.

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Left Side Male, Right Side Female: Extremely Strange Creatures

By , Epoch Times | February 23, 2014

 

This lobster is half female, half male—split right down the middle, as seen by the two-toned coloring. It was caught by a fisherman off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, last year and the photo was posted on Reddit by his nephew.

The chances of catching such a two-toned lobster are 1 in 50 million to 100 million, staff at the Mount Desert Oceanarium said when a similar lobster was caught in Bar Harbor, Maine, in 2006.

It may be rare to catch such a lobster, but this phenomenon is found not only in lobsters. It is also found in butterflies and numerous other organisms.

According to ancient Taoist beliefs, the human body is divided into two genders corresponding to yin and yang. The left side is male, associated with yang chi, and the right side is female, associated with yin chi.

Not all two-toned lobsters are part male and part female (gynandromorphs).

 

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File:Boomstronken.jpg

Description  :  Boomstronken; foto door Fruggo, juni 2003.

Attribution: Fruggo from nl

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

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New Research Shows Tree Roots Regulate CO2, Keep Climate Stable

Climate News Network | February 19, 2014 8:30 am

The argument, put forward by a team from Oxford and Sheffield Universities in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, begins with temperature. Warmer climates mean more vigorous tree growth and more leaf litter, and more organic content in the soil. So the tree’s roots grow more vigorously, said Dr. Christopher Doughty of Oxford and colleagues.

They get into the bedrock, and break up the rock into its constituent minerals. Once that happens, the rock starts to weather, combining with carbon dioxide. This weathering draws carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, and in the process cools the planet down a little. So mountain ecosystems—mountain forests are usually wet and on conspicuous layers of rock—are in effect part of the global thermostat, preventing catastrophic overheating.

The tree is more than just a sink for carbon, it is an agency for chemical weathering that removes carbon from the air and locks it up in carbonate rock.

That mountain weathering and forest growth are part of the climate system has never been in much doubt: the questions have always been about how big a forest’s role might be, and how to calculate its contribution.

Keeping climate stable

U.S. scientists recently studied the rainy slopes of New Zealand’s Southern Alps to begin to put a value on mountain ecosystem processes. Dr. Doughty and his colleagues measured tree roots at varying altitudes in the tropical rain forests of Peru, from the Amazon lowlands to 3,000 meters of altitude in the higher Andes.

They measured the growth to 30 cm below the surface every three months and did so for a period of years. They recorded the thickness of the soil’s organic layer, and they matched their observations with local temperatures, and began to calculate the rate at which tree roots might turn Andean granite into soil.

Then they scaled up the process, and extended it through long periods of time. Their conclusion: that forests served to moderate temperatures in a much hotter world 65 million years ago.

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New maps show how habitats may shift with climate change

This map shows how marine habitat ranges will shift likely in a segment of the Northern Hemisphere. The length of the black arrows indicates the velocity of temperature change, and the color schemes correspond with the nature of the habitat migration, as follows. SINK: Migrations terminate due to some barrier, such as coastlines. SOURCE: Migrations do not terminate. CORRIDOR: Many migrations passing through. DIVERGENCE: Fewer migrations end than start. CONVERGENCE: More migrations start than end. Credit: Michael Burrows and Jorge Garcia Molinosor (Credit: Michael Burrows and Jorge Garcia Molinosor)

This map shows how marine habitat ranges will shift likely in a segment of the Northern Hemisphere. The length of the black arrows indicates the velocity of temperature change, and the color schemes correspond with the nature of the habitat migration, as follows. SINK: Migrations terminate due to some barrier, such as coastlines. SOURCE: Migrations do not terminate. CORRIDOR: Many migrations passing through. DIVERGENCE: Fewer migrations end than start. CONVERGENCE: More migrations start than end. Credit: Michael Burrows and Jorge Garcia Molinosor

As regional temperatures shift with climate change, many plants and animals will need to relocate to make sure they stay in the range of temperatures they’re used to.

For some species, this shift will mean a fairly direct adjustment toward higher latitudes to stay with cooler temperatures, but for many others, the path will take twists and turns due to differences in the rate at which temperatures change around the world, scientists say.

Now, a team of 21 international researchers has identified potential paths of these twists and turns by mapping out climate velocities— the speed and intensity with which climate change occurs in a given region — averaged from 50 years of satellite data from 1960 through 2009, and projected for the duration of the 21st century.

MSN Weather: What causes global warming?
MSN Weather: How global warming can make cold snaps even worse

“We are taking physical data that we have had for a long time and representing them in a way that is more relevant to other disciplines, like ecology,” said co-author Michael Burrows, a researcher at the Scottish Marine Institute. “This is a relatively simple approach to understanding how climate is going to influence ocean and land systems.”

Where species come and go

The resulting maps indicate regions likely to experience an influx or exodus of new species, or behave as a corridor or, conversely, a barrier, to migration. Barriers, such as coastlines or mountain ranges, could cause local extinctions if they prevent species from relocating, the team says.  [Maps: Habitat Shifts Due to Climate Change]

“For example, because those environments are not adjacent to or directly connected to a warmer place, those species from warmer places won’t be able to get there very easily,” Burrows told Live Science. “They might still get there in other ways, like on the bottoms of ships, but they won’t get there as easily.”

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LiveScience

Greenland’s First Coral Reef Found

Greenland coral reef
A piece of the first cold-water coral reef discovered offshore of Greenland.
Credit: Technical University of Denmark

A Canadian research ship sampling water near southwest Greenland’s Cape Desolation discovered the Greenland coral reef in 2012, when its equipment came back to the surface with pieces of coral attached.

“At first, the researchers were swearing and cursing at the smashed equipment, and were just about to throw the pieces of coral back into the sea, when luckily, they realized what they were holding,” Helle Jørgensbye, a doctoral student at the Technical University of Denmark who is studying the reef, said in a statement.

Cold-water corals have been found off of Greenland’s west coast before, but never the stone coral Lophelia pertusa, and never as a reef, according to a report by the researchers published in the journal ICES Insight.

Scientists snapped pictures of the reef and collected coral samples on a return trip, also in 2012, led by the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Nova Scotia.

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Bit chilly for snorkelling! Living coral reef is discovered off the coast of GREENLAND

  • ‘Cold-water’ coral discovered in Cape Desolation, south of Ivittuut
  • It is the first time an entire reef has been discovered in Greenland
  • It was discovered by Canadian researchers purely by accident

By Sam Webb

|

Coral reefs are often associated with tropical climates and enjoyed by snorkellers for their multi-coloured beauty.

But it would take a brave holidaymaker indeed to brave the one recently discovered by Canadian researchers – it’s in the freezing waters of southern Greenland.

The reef is comprised of what are called living cold-water corals and while there are several species of coral in Greenland, this is the first time that an actual reef has been found.

Vibrant: Cold water coral from the newly discovered reef off the coast of Greenland

Vibrant: Cold water coral from the newly discovered reef off the coast of Greenland

The beauty of the depths: This picture of the reef almost cost the research team their camera

The beauty of the depths: This picture of the reef almost cost the research team their camera

The newly discovered living reef is located off Cape Desolation, south of Ivittuut, and lies at a depth of 984 yards (900 metres) in a spot with very strong currents, making it difficult to reach.

This also means that so far little is known about the reef itself and what lives on it.

 The reef was discovered by accident when a Canadian research vessel needed to take some water samples. When the ship sent the measuring instruments down to the depths, they came back up completely smashed.

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LiveScience

Woolly Mammoths and Rhinos Ate Flowers

arctic
The Arctic had much more diverse flora than previously thought during the Pleistocene Era
Credit: Mauricio Anton

Woolly mammoths, rhinos and other ice age beasts may have munched on high-protein wildflowers called forbs, new research suggests.

And far from living in a monotonous grassland, the mega-beasts inhabited a colorful Arctic landscape filled with flowering plants and diverse vegetation, the study researchers found.

The new research “paints a different picture of the Arctic,” thousands of years ago, said study co-author Joseph Craine, an ecosystem ecologist at Kansas State University. “It makes us rethink how the vegetation looked and how those animals thrived on the landscape.”

The ancient ecosystem was detailed today (Feb. 5) in the journal Nature.

Pretty landscape

In the past, scientists imagined that the now-vast Arctic tundra was once a brown grassland steppe that teemed with wooly mammoths, rhinos and bison. But recreations of the ancient Arctic vegetation relied on fossilized pollen found in permafrost, or frozen soil. Because grasses and sedges tend to produce more pollen than other plants, those analyses produced a biased picture of the landscape. [Image Gallery: Ancient Beasts Roam an Arctic Landscape]

To understand the ancient landscape better, researchers analyzed the plant genetic material found in 242 samples of permafrost from across Siberia, Northern Europe and Alaska that dated as far back as 50,000 years ago.

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Greenland glacier hits record speed

Ilulissat Icefjord Jakobshavn is located at the eastern end of the Ilulissat Icefjord (seen here), Greenland

In summer, the Jakobshavn Glacier – widely thought to have spawned the iceberg that sank the Titanic – is moving about four times faster than it was in the 1990s.

The Greenland Ice Sheet has seen record melting in recent years and would raise sea levels 6m were it all to vanish.

Details of the research are published in The Cryosphere journal.

Ian Joughin and Ben Smith of the University of Washington’s Polar Science Center in Seattle analysed pictures from the German TerraSAR-X satellites to measure the speed of the glacier.

“As the glacier moves we can track changes between images to produce maps of the ice flow velocity,” said Dr Joughin, the study’s lead author.

In the summer of 2012, the glacier reached a record speed of more than 17km per year – more than 46m per day.

“We are now seeing summer speeds more than four times what they were in the 1990s on a glacier which at that time was believed to be one of the fastest, if not the fastest, glacier in Greenland,” Ian Joughin explained.

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National Geographic

A photo of the Jakobshavn Glacier.

Chunks of ice litter the ocean in front of Greenland’s Jakobshavn glacier.

PHOTOGRAPH BY PAUL SOUDERS

Jane J. Lee

National Geographic

Published February 4, 2014

A Greenland glacier named Jakobshavn Isbrae, which many believe spawned the iceberg that sank the Titanic, has hit record speeds in its race to the ocean. Some may be tempted to call it the king of the glacier world, but this speedy river of ice is nothing to crow about.

A new study published February 3 in the journal Cryosphere finds that Jakobshavn’s averaged annual speed in 2012 and 2013 was nearly three times its rate in the 1990s. Its flow rate during the summer months was even faster.

“We are now seeing summer speeds more than four times what they were in the 1990s on a glacier which at that time was believed to be one of the fastest, if not the fastest, glaciers in Greenland,” Ian Joughin, a researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle, told the BBC.

In summer 2012, Jakobshavn reached speeds of about 150 feet (46 meters) per day.

Other glaciers may periodically flow faster than Jakobshavn, but Greenland’s most well known glacier is the bellwether of climate change in the region and likely contributes more to sea-level rise than any other glacier in the Northern Hemisphere—as much as 4 percent of the global total, Joughin and his colleagues found in an earlier study. (Read about glacial meltdown in National Geographic magazine.)

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European Geosciences Union (EGU)

23 January 2014

Mineral weathering by fungi
Mineral weathering by fungi (Credit: Joe Quirk)

UK researchers have identified a biological mechanism that could explain how the Earth’s atmospheric carbon dioxide and climate were stabilised over the past 24 million years. When CO2 levels became too low for plants to grow properly, forests appear to have kept the climate in check by slowing down the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The results are now published in Biogeosciences, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).

“As CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere fall, the Earth loses its greenhouse effect, which can lead to glacial conditions,” explains lead-author Joe Quirk from the University of Sheffield. “Over the last 24 million years, the geologic conditions were such that atmospheric CO2 could have fallen to very low levels – but it did not drop below a minimum concentration of about 180 to 200 parts per million. Why?”

Before fossil fuels, natural processes kept atmospheric carbon dioxide in check. Volcanic eruptions, for example, release CO2, while weathering on the continents removes it from the atmosphere over millions of years. Weathering is the breakdown of minerals within rocks and soils, many of which include silicates. Silicate minerals weather in contact with carbonic acid (rain and atmospheric CO2) in a process that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Further, the products of these reactions are transported to the oceans in rivers where they ultimately form carbonate rocks like limestone that lock away carbon on the seafloor for millions of years, preventing it from forming carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Forests increase weathering rates because trees, and the fungi associated with their roots, break down rocks and minerals in the soil to get nutrients for growth. The Sheffield team found that when the CO2 concentration was low – at about 200 parts per million (ppm) – trees and fungi were far less effective at breaking down silicate minerals, which could have reduced the rate of CO2 removal from the atmosphere.

“We recreated past environmental conditions by growing trees at low, present-day and high levels of CO2 in controlled-environment growth chambers,” says Quirk. “We used high-resolution digital imaging techniques to map the surfaces of mineral grains and assess how they were broken down and weathered by the fungi associated with the roots of the trees.”

As reported in Biogeosciences, the researchers found that low atmospheric CO2 acts as a ‘carbon starvation’ brake. When the concentration of carbon dioxide falls from 1500 ppm to 200 ppm, weathering rates drop by a third, diminishing the capacity of forests to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

The weathering rates by trees and fungi drop because low CO2 reduces plants’ ability to perform photosynthesis, meaning less carbon-energy is supplied to the roots and their fungi. This, in turn, means there is less nutrient uptake from minerals in the soil, which slows down weathering rates over millions of years.

“The last 24 million years saw significant mountain building in the Andes and Himalayas, which increased the amount of silicate rocks and minerals on the land that could be weathered over time. This increased weathering of silicate rocks in certain parts of the world is likely to have caused global CO2 levels to fall,” Quirk explains. But the concentration of CO2 never fell below 180-200 ppm because trees and fungi broke down minerals at low rates at those concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

“It is important that we understand the processes that affect and regulate climates of the past and our study makes an important step forward in understanding how Earth’s complex plant life has regulated and modified the climate we know on Earth today,” concludes Quirk.

Press Release Page Link

More information

This research is presented in the paper ‘Weathering by tree root-associating fungi diminishes under simulated Cenozoic atmospheric CO2 decline’ published in the EGU open access journal Biogeosciences on 23 January 2014.

Full citation: Quirk, J., Leake, J. R., Banwart, S. A., Taylor, L. L., and Beerling, D. J.: Weathering by tree-root-associating fungi diminishes under simulated Cenozoic atmospheric CO2 decline, Biogeosciences, 11, 321-331, doi:10.5194/bg-11-321-2014, 2014.

The team is composed of J. Quirk, J. R. Leake, S. A. Banwart, L. L. Taylor and D. J. Beerling, from the University of Sheffield, UK.

Dr. Joe Quirk
Post Doctoral Research Associate
Department of Animal and Plant Sciences
University of Sheffield, UK
Tel: +44 (0)114 22 20093
Email: j.quirk@sheffield.ac.uk

Prof. David Beerling (Principal Investigator)
Department of Animal and Plant Sciences
University of Sheffield, UK
Tel: +44 (0)114 22 24359
Email: d.j.beerling@sheffield.ac.uk

Bárbara Ferreira
EGU Media and Communications Manager
Munich, Germany
Tel: +49-89-2180-6703
Email: media@egu.eu

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