How the seafloor of the Antarctic Ocean is changing – and the climate is following suit

Read the full story from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research.

Experts have reconstructed the depth of the Southern Ocean at key phases in the last 34 million years of the Antarctic’s climate history.

Associated journal article: K. Hochmuth, K. Gohl, G. Leitchenkov, I. Sauermilch, J. M. Whittaker, G. Uenzelmann‐Neben, B. Davy, L. De Santis (2020). “The Evolving Paleobathymetry of the Circum‐Antarctic Southern Ocean Since 34 Ma: A Key to Understanding Past Cryosphere‐Ocean Developments.” Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems 21 (8) DOI: 10.1029/2020GC009122

Chemists make tough plastics recyclable

Read the full story in Recycling Today.

Thermoset plastics, which include epoxies, polyurethanes and rubber used for tires, are found in many products that have to be durable and heat-resistant, such as cars or electrical appliances. One drawback to these materials is that they typically cannot be easily recycled or broken down after use because the chemical bonds holding them together are stronger than those found in other materials, such as thermoplastics.

MIT chemists have now developed a way to modify thermoset plastics with a chemical linker that makes the materials much easier to break down, but still allows them to retain the mechanical strength that makes them so useful.

In a study appearing July 22 in Nature, the researchers showed that they could produce a degradable version of a thermoset plastic called pDCPD, break it down into a powder and use the powder to create more pDCPD. They also proposed a theoretical model suggesting that their approach could be applicable to a wide range of plastics and other polymers, such as rubber.

Associated journal article: Shieh, P., Zhang, W., Husted, K.E.L. et al. Cleavable comonomers enable degradable, recyclable thermoset plastics. Nature 583, 542–547 (2020).

Webinar: Reducing the Impacts of Extreme Heat: A Global Perspective

Thu, Aug 27, 2020 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM CDT
Register here.

Extreme heat has wide-ranging impacts on health, occupations, energy use, and the economy. Current and future conditions of extreme heat affect the livelihoods of communities and people globally, yet the impacts are unevenly distributed and novel strategies are needed to push beyond one-size-fits-all approaches to protect the most vulnerable in a sustainable way.

In this second SSF Extreme Heat webinar of the summer, international experts will explore the understanding of urban and personal heat mitigation strategies to lessen impacts, providing global viewpoints and best-practices, with an emphasis on the use of new knowledge and preparations to reduce future life and economic losses. Join Panelists Ollie Jay, Shubhayu Saha, Arunima Malik and Moderator Jennifer Vanos for this timely session.

Studies shed new light on how biodiversity influences plant decay

Read the full story from eLife.

Scientists have provided new insights on the relationship between plant diversity in forests and the diversity of organisms involved in their decay, such as bacteria and fungi.

Associated journal articles: Léa Beaumelle, Frederik De Laender, Nico Eisenhauer (2020). Biodiversity mediates the effects of stressors but not nutrients on litter decompositioneLife 9 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.55659

Liang Kou, Lei Jiang, Stephan Hättenschwiler, Miaomiao Zhang, Shuli Niu, Xiaoli Fu, Xiaoqin Dai, Han Yan, Shenggong Li, Huimin Wang (2020). Diversity-decomposition relationships in forests worldwideeLife 9 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.55813

What switching to satellite offices could mean for sustainability

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

In June, a San Franciscan tweeted a photo of three moving trucks on the edge of the city’s financial district near Chinatown and commented that he has seen over 30 in the area. At least anecdotally, both people and companies are leaving town. They are moving out of office buildings because they don’t need them. 

But even if remote work becomes the long-term norm for every company post-pandemic, humans still like to work together. There’s still a part of us that wants to physically come together to collaborate and connect. So real estate strategies may turn towards smaller neighborhood satellite offices in multiple suburban locations, instead of one massive complex that serves an entire region or, in some cases, an entire state. 

New science behind algae-based flip-flops

Read the full story from the University of California San Diego.

Sustainable flip-flops: A team of researchers has formulated polyurethane foams made from algae oil to meet commercial specifications for midsole shoes and the foot-bed of flip-flops.

Landmarks Facing Climate Threats Could ‘Transform,’ Expert Says

Read the full story from North Carolina State University.

How much effort should be spent trying to keep Venice looking like Venice – even as it faces rising sea levels that threaten the city with more frequent extreme flooding?

As climate change threatens cultural sites, preservationists and researchers are asking whether these iconic locations should be meticulously restored or should be allowed to adapt and “transform.”

Associated journal article: Erin Seekamp and Eugene Jo (2020). “Resilience and transformation of heritage sites to accommodate for loss and learning in a changing climate.” Climatic Change [open access]

Lessons for electronics recyclers from Morgan Stanley data breach

Read the full story in Recycling Today.

During the second week of July, Morgan Stanley, which is a multinational investment bank and financial services company based in New York, notified customers and brokers of a potential data compromise.

According to a report from AdvisorHub, a news outlet for financial advisors, Morgan Stanley had hired a vendor to scrub devices from two data centers that closed in 2016, but the vendor had left some client data on the devices. Morgan Stanley has not disclosed the name of the vendor. Some of those servers and hardware were then sold to recyclers, and one recycler had notified Morgan Stanley of the data breach more than a year ago. 

Changes in farming urgent to rescue biodiversity

Read the full story from the University of Göttingen.

Humans depend on farming for their survival but this activity takes up more than one-third of the world’s landmass and endangers 62% of all threatened species. However, agricultural landscapes can support biodiversity. Scientists argue that agroecological principles should be integrated in the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework to be decided at the 15th Convention of the Parties (COP15).

Associated journal article: Thomas C. Wanger, Fabrice DeClerck, Lucas A. Garibaldi, Jaboury Ghazoul, David Kleijn, Alexandra-Maria Klein, Claire Kremen, Harold Mooney, Ivette Perfecto, Luke L. Powell, Josef Settele, Mirco Solé, Teja Tscharntke, Wolfgang Weisser (2020). “Integrating agroecological production in a robust post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.” Nature Ecology & Evolution DOI: 10.1038/s41559-020-1262-y

Oh, No, Not Knotweed!

Read the full story in Slate.

It grows rapidly. It’s nearly impossible to kill. It’s terrorized England. And now it’s all over my American backyard.