Day: November 12, 2012

Help make the National Environmental Methods Index better

The National Environmental Methods Index (NEMI) is being upgraded to a new operating platform and they want the opinions of users on design features and functionality they want to see. If you are interested in helping, share your opinions about NEMI here.

This survey closes on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012.

Climate change threatens sweet smell of morning coffee

Read the full story at Planet Ark.

Rising temperatures due to climate change could mean wild arabica coffee is extinct in 70 years, posing a risk to the genetic sustainability of one of the world’s basic commodities, scientists said.

Although commercial coffee growers would still be able to cultivate crops in plantations designed with the right conditions, experts say the loss of wild arabica, which has greater genetic diversity, would make it harder for plantations to survive long-term and beat threats like pests and disease.

Large-Scale Biochar Production from Crop Residue: A New Idea and the Biogas-Energy Pyrolysis System

Shenqiang Wang, Xu Zhao, Guangxi Xing, Linzhang Yang (2013). “Large-Scale Biochar Production from Crop Residue: A New Idea and the Biogas-Energy Pyrolysis System.” BioResources 8(1). Online:

Abstract: Biochar is an effective means to withdraw carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and consequently influence the trend of global climate change. However, there still are substantial knowledge gaps for this idea to be applicable. One big question is how to produce biochar from biomass on a large scale. Our idea is to use biogas produced from agricultural wastes as thermal energy for biochar production from cheap crop residues. A continuous biogas-energy pyrolysis system has been designed and successfully piloted to utilize crop residues for biochar production.

Potential Impact of Biochar Water-Extractable Substances on Environmental Sustainability

James Weifu Lee , Cameron Smith , and Eric Buzan (2012). “Potential Impact of Biochar Water-Extractable Substances on Environmental Sustainability.” ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering, online ahead of print. DOI: 10.1021/sc300063f.

Abstract: Application of biochar as a soil amendment could be a significant approach for carbon sequestration to possibly control climate change for energy and environmental sustainability. However, more studies are needed in a number of research areas, including the development of clean biochar materials free of any harmful substances, before this approach could be implemented at a global scale. In this study, biochar water-extractable substances were tested for their potential harmful effects on the growth of aquatic photosynthetic microorganisms including both blue-green alga (cyanobacteria Synechococcus) and eukaryotic green alga (Desmodesmus) that represent the primary photosynthetic producers of the aquatic environment. The water extracts from three different biomass-derived biochar materials varied widely in their dissolved organic and inorganic contents, and in their characteristics including their pH values. Bioassays with pinewood-derived biochar water extract showed significant inhibitory effect on aquatic photosynthetic microorganism growth in dose-dependent manner, while chicken litter and peanut shell-derived biochar water extracts showed no signs of growth inhibition. The pinewood-derived biochar water-extracted substances were further separated into three fractions based on their molecular sizes and electric charges through an electrodialysis separation process using a cellulose-acetate membrane with a 500-delta cutoff pore size. Our analysis showed that the active component of pinewood-derived biochar water-extracted substances that are toxic to both blue-green alga (cyanobacteria Synechococcus) and eukaryotic green alga (Desmodesmus) is likely a 500-delta (or smaller) organic chemical species that carries at least one carboxyl group. This finding is important to engineering a high-tech biochar that can be free of any undesirable substances for its soil applications towards agricultural and environmental sustainability.

Biochar in horticulture: Prospects for the use of biochar in Australian horticulture

Download the document.

Biochar in horticulture was commissioned by Horticulture Australia Ltd to help horticultural industries assess the potential of biochar for use in their crops. A team of experts have reviewed the scientific literature to provide up to date, peer- reviewed information on soil carbon science and policy, biochar production and risks, biochar’s influence on soils and plants, and economics of its use. The review concludes that biochar does have potential for use in horticultural production, but more research is needed, as biochar science is still in its infancy.

Great Lakes legacy: Old contaminants declining; newer ones on the rise

Read the full story in Great Lakes Echo.

Legacy contaminants are decreasing more quickly than previously reported in three of the Great Lakes, but have stayed virtually the same in two other lakes, according to new research.

The four studies cited in this article are:

Chang F, Pagano JJ, Crimmins BS, Milligan MS, Xia X, Hopke PK, Holsen TM (2012). “Temporal trends of polychlorinated biphenyls and organochlorine pesticides in Great Lakes fish, 1999-2009.” Science of the Total Environment 439, 284-290. DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2012.09.019.

Abstract: Temporal trend analysis of the latest Great Lake Fish Monitoring and Surveillance Program (GLFMSP) data showed statistically significant decreases in persistent bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) contaminant (polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dichloro-diphenyl-trichlorethane and its metabolites (DDTs), dieldrin, cis-chlordane, oxychlordane, cis-nonachlor) concentrations in Lakes Huron, Ontario, and Michigan lake trout over the period of 1999 to 2009. In contrast, for most contaminants, no statistically significant concentration trends were found in top predator fish in Lakes Superior and Erie during the same period. For Lakes Huron, Ontario, and Michigan 5.0±2.6% average annual concentration decreases were found for PCBs, DDTs, dieldrin, and other organochlorine pesticides (OCs) decreased at a faster rate, ranging from 10±4.3% to 20±7.1% per year. For these three lakes, with the exception of PCBs, these current decreases are greater than were shown by an earlier trend analysis that estimated an annual contaminant decrease of about 2-5% for the period of 1980 to 2003. For Lakes Superior and Erie, the finding of no statistically significant trend is in agreement with previously reported results for these lakes.

Ruiqiang Yang, Hua Wei, Jiehong Guo, and An Li (2012). “Emerging Brominated Flame Retardants in the Sediment of the Great Lakes.” Environmental Science and Technology 46 (6), 3119–3126. DOI: 10.1021/es204141p.

Abstract: The concentrations of 13 currently used brominated flame retardants (BFRs) were analyzed in 16 sediment cores collected from the North American Great Lakes. Among them, 1,2-bis(2,4,6-tribromophenoxy)ethane (BTBPE), decabromodiphenyl ethane (DBDPE), hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD), 1,2-dibromo-4-(1,2-dibromoethyl)cyclohexane (TBECH), and hexachlorocyclopentadienyl dibromocyclooctane (HCDBCO) were more frequently detected than others. In general, these emerging BFRs have much lower concentrations than polybromodiphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and dechloranes. Inventories of the five BFRs named above, given on a logarithm basis, were found to decrease linearly with the increasing latitude of the sampling locations, but with weaker statistics than those previously reported for the dechloranes. Logarithm of surface fluxes, on the other hand, was found to be a better parameter in correlating with the longitude. With regard to time trends, the exponential increases in concentrations of these BFRs, particularly DBDPE and BTBPE, in recent years are particularly disturbing. The sediment concentration of DBDPE doubles every 3–5 years in Lake Michigan, and approximately every 7 years in Lake Ontario. The corresponding doubling times for BTBPE are about 5 and 7 years in Lakes Ontario and Michigan, respectively, although declines or leveling off were observed in the top sediment layers in Lake Ontario. In contrast to PCBs, PBDEs, and most dechloranes, the correlations between the surface concentration of emerging BFRs and the latitude or longitude of the sampling sites were not strengthened by normalization of the concentration based on the organic matter content of the sediment.

Marie-Line Gentes, Robert J. Letcher, Élyse Caron-Beaudoin, and Jonathan Verreault (2012). “Novel Flame Retardants in Urban-Feeding Ring-Billed Gulls from the St. Lawrence River, Canada.” Environmental Science and Technology 46 (17), 9735–9744. DOI: 10.1021/es302099f.

Abstract: This study investigated the occurrence of a comprehensive suite of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and current-use flame retardants (FRs) in ring-billed gulls breeding in a highly industrialized section of the St. Lawrence River, downstream from Montreal (QC, Canada). Despite major point-sources and diffuse contamination by FRs, nearly no FR data have been reported in birds from this area. Bis(2-ethylhexyl)-2,3,4,5-tetrabromophthalate (BEHTBP) was detected in 89% of ring-billed gull livers (mean: 2.16 ng/g ww; max: 17.6 ng/g ww). To our knowledge, this is the highest detection frequency and highest concentrations reported thus far in any avian species or populations. Dechlorane Plus (DP) isomers were also particularly abundant (anti-DP detected in 100% and syn-DP in 93% of livers). Other detected FR compounds (3–14% detection) included 2-ethylhexyl-2,3,4,5-tetrabromobenzoate (EHTBB), hexachlorocyclopentenyl-dibromocyclooctane (HCDBCO) and β-1,2-dibromo-4-(1.2-dibromoethyl)-cyclohexane (β-TBECH). Mean BDE-209 (57.2 ± 12.2 ng/g ww) in ring-billed gull livers was unexpectedly high for this midtrophic gull species, exceeding levels reported in several apex raptors such as peregrine falcons. BDE-209’s relative contribution to ∑PBDEs was on average 25% (exceeding BDE-47 and BDE-99) and contrasted with profiles typically reported for fish-eating gull species. The present study highlighted preoccupying gaps in upcoming FR regulations and stressed the need for further investigation of the sources of FR exposure in highly urbanized areas.

Yuning Ma , Marta Venier , and Ronald A. Hites (2012). “2-Ethylhexyl Tetrabromobenzoate and Bis(2-ethylhexyl) Tetrabromophthalate Flame Retardants in the Great Lakes Atmosphere.” Environmental Science and Technology 46(1), 204–208. DOI: 10.1021/es203251f.

Abstract: Two relatively new flame retardants, 2-ethylhexyl-2,3,4,5-tetrabromobenzoate (TBB) and bis(2-ethylhexyl)-tetrabromophthalate (TBPH), were identified and quantitated in gas and particle-phase air samples collected from six sites near the shores of the Great Lakes. TBB and TBPH were detected in more than half of the samples collected from 2008 to 2010. Urban areas, such as Chicago and Cleveland, showed the highest concentrations (0.36–290 pg/m3), while remote areas, such as Eagle Harbor and Sleeping Bear Dunes, exhibited the lowest levels (0.050–32 pg/m3). The atmospheric concentrations of TBB and TBPH increased rapidly and significantly over this time period, perhaps indicating that these compounds are replacing the polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which have been removed or soon will be removed from the marketplace.