Day: April 2, 2021

Mars Wrigley and Danimer Scientific to develop biodegradable packaging for confectionery portfolio

Read the full story at Food Navigator USA.

Innovative partnership puts Mars Wrigley at forefront of sustainable packaging movement with eco-friendly technology made from nature that biodegrades in soil and oceans.

The world’s most beautiful corporate campus is about to be turned into industrial buildings

Read the full story at Fast Company.

The Weyerhaeuser campus paved the way for environmentally conscious corporate buildings. Now it’s under threat.

Billions of cicadas may be coming soon to trees near you

Periodical cicada in Washington, D.C., May 2017. Katha Schulz/Flickr, CC BY

by John Cooley and Chris Simon (University of Connecticut)

A big event in the insect world is approaching. Starting sometime in April or May, depending on latitude, one of the largest broods of 17-year cicadas will emerge from underground in a dozen states, from New York west to Illinois and south into northern Georgia. This group is known as Brood X, as in the Roman numeral for 10.

For about four weeks, wooded and suburban areas will ring with cicadas’ whistling and buzzing mating calls. After mating, each female will lay hundreds of eggs in pencil-sized tree branches.

Then the adult cicadas will die. Once the eggs hatch, new cicada nymphs fall from the trees and burrow back underground, starting the cycle again.

There are perhaps 3,000 to 4,000 species of cicadas around the world, but the 13- and 17-year periodical cicadas of the eastern U.S. appear to be unique in combining long juvenile development times with synchronized, mass adult emergences.

These events raise many questions for entomologists and the public alike. What do cicadas do underground for 13 or 17 years? What do they eat? Why are their life cycles so long? Why are they synchronized? And is climate change affecting this wonder of the insect world?

We study periodical cicadas to understand questions about biodiversity, biogeography, behavior and ecology – the evolution, natural history and geographic distribution of life. We’ve learned many surprising things about these insects: For example, they can travel through time by changing their life cycles in four-year increments. It’s no accident that the scientific name for periodical 13- and 17-year cicadas is Magicicada, shortened from “magic cicada.”

This video shows all stages in periodical cicadas’ life cycle.

Natural history

As species, periodical cicadas are older than the forests that they inhabit. Molecular analysis has shown that about 4 million years ago, the ancestor of the current Magicicada species split into two lineages. Some 1.5 million years later, one of those lineages split again. The resulting three lineages are the basis of the modern periodical cicada species groups, Decim, Cassini and Decula.

Early American colonists first encountered periodical cicadas in Massachusetts. The sudden appearance of so many insects reminded them of biblical plagues of locusts, which are a type of grasshopper. That’s how the name “locust” became incorrectly associated with cicadas in North America.

During the 19th century, notable entomologists such as Benjamin Walsh, C.V. Riley and Charles Marlatt worked out the astonishing biology of periodical cicadas. They established that unlike locusts or other grasshoppers, cicadas don’t chew leaves, decimate crops or fly in swarms.

Instead, these insects spend most of their lives out of sight, growing underground and feeding on plant roots as they pass through five juvenile stages. Their synchronized emergences are predictable, occurring on a clockwork schedule of 17 years in the North and 13 years in the South and Mississippi Valley. There are multiple, regional year classes, known as broods.

Five nymphal stages of cicada development.
The five stages of the periodical cicada underground juveniles. Between each stage the juvenile cicada molts so that it can become larger. Actual size of the fifth-stage nymph is 0.83 inches. Chris Simon, CC BY-ND

Safety in numbers

The key feature of Magicicada biology is that these insects emerge in huge numbers. This increases their chances of accomplishing their key mission aboveground: finding mates.

Dense emergences also provide what scientists call a predator-satiation defense. Any predator that feeds on cicadas, whether it’s a fox, squirrel, bat or bird, will eat its fill long before it consumes all of the insects in the area, leaving many survivors behind.

While periodical cicadas largely come out on schedule every 17 or 13 years, often a small group emerges four years early or late. Early-emerging cicadas may be faster-growing individuals who had access to abundant food, and the laggards may be individuals that subsisted with less.

If growing conditions change over time, having the ability to make this kind of life cycle switch and come out either four years early in favorable times or four years late in more difficult times becomes important. If a sudden warm or cold phase causes a large number of cicadas to make a one-time mistake and come out off-schedule by four years, the insects can emerge in sufficient numbers to satiate predators and shift to a new schedule.

Map of periodical cicada brood locations.
Broods of periodical cicadas, identified by Roman numerals, emerge on 13- or 17-year cycles across the eastern and midwestern U.S. University of Connecticut, CC BY-ND

Census time for Brood X

As glaciers retreated from what is now the U.S. some 10,000 to 20,000 years ago, periodical cicadas filled eastern forests. Temporary life cycle switching has formed a complex mosaic of broods.

Today there are 12 broods of 17-year periodical cicadas in northeastern deciduous forests, where trees drop leaves in winter. These groups are numbered sequentially and fit together like a giant jigsaw puzzle. In the Southeast and the Mississippi Valley there are three broods of 13-year cicadas.

Because periodical cicadas are sensitive to climate, the patterns of their broods and species reflect climatic shifts. For example, genetic and other data from our work indicate that the 13-year species Magicicada neotredecim, which is found in the upper Mississippi Valley, formed shortly after the last glaciation. As the environment warmed, 17-year cicadas in the area emerged successively, generation after generation, after 13 years underground until they were permanently shifted to a 13-year cycle.

Female cicada depositing eggs on a branch.
A member of Brood X laying eggs in 2004. Chris Simon, CC BY-ND

But it’s not clear whether cicadas can continue to evolve as quickly as humans alter their environment. Although periodical cicadas prefer forest edges and thrive in suburban areas, they cannot survive deforestation or reproduce in areas without trees.

Indeed, some broods have already become extinct. In the late 19th century, one brood (XXI) disappeared from north Florida and Georgia. Another (XI) has been extinct in northeast Connecticut since around 1954, and a third (VII) in upstate New York has shrunk from eight counties to one since mapping first began in the mid-1800s.

Climate change could also have far-reaching effects. As the U.S. climate warms, longer growing seasons may provide a larger food supply. This may eventually change more 17-year cicadas into 13-year cicadas, just as past warming altered Magicicada neotredecim. Large-scale early emergences occurred in 2017 in Cincinnati and the Baltimore-Washington metro area, and in 1969, 2003 and 2020 in the Chicago metro area – potential harbingers of this kind of change.

Researchers need detailed high-quality information to track cicada distributions over time. Citizen scientists play a key role in this effort because periodical cicada populations are so large and their adult emergences only last a few weeks.

Volunteers who want to help document Brood X’s emergence this spring can download the Cicada Safari mobile phone app, provide snapshots and follow our research in real time online at www.cicadas.uconn.edu. Don’t miss out – the next opportunity won’t come until Broods XIII and XIX emerge in 2024.

John Cooley, Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Connecticut and Chris Simon, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Connecticut

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Around Noon £250k investment to reduce plastic packaging use

Read the full story at Food Manufacture.

Food-to-go firm Around Noon has invested £250,000 into an in-house printing operation in a bid to save more than 60 tonnes of plastic each year.

New interactive mapping tool can pinpoint pollution hotspots in effort to improve health equity

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH), in collaboration with the University of Washington, announces new interactive mapping tools to help utilities improve environmental health equity as they transition to cleaner energy generation. These tools identify communities in Washington that are disproportionately impacted by fossil fuel pollution and vulnerable to climate change impacts so that these inequities can be addressed.

The new tools provide utilities with localized data on the environmental, health and climate risks communities face, supporting decisions that advance environmental justice in the state’s shift away from fossil fuels.     

DOH analysis shows that 54 out of 64 electrical utilities in Washington contain communities highly impacted by fossil fuel pollution and other risk factors. Utilities will use these data to address inequities as they transition to cleaner energy sources.

Communities are “highly impacted” if they rank a nine or a ten on the Environmental Health Disparities map. This map captures exposure to pollution, fossil fuels, and other environmental hazards as well as social vulnerability factors such as income and race. Added to the map are new climate projections which show distribution of risks from climate change, which will help guide utilities’ efforts.

The Clean Energy Transformation Act (CETA), passed by the Washington State Legislature in 2019, focuses on making energy cleaner and healthier. One component of that process requires DOH to identify communities that are unfairly burdened by environmental risk factors and climate change impacts. Utilities, under the guidance of the Department of Commerce (Commerce) and the Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC), will use this information to ensure the benefits of transitioning to green energy are more equitably distributed across communities.  

“Having accurate, community-level data about environmental risks is critical to inform decisions by policymakers on funding priorities, environmental policy and strategies to help communities disproportionately impacted by pollution,” said Dr. Jeremy Hess, director of the University of Washington Center for Health and the Global Environment (CHanGE). “This work is part of CHanGE’s mission to promote the health benefits of climate action and support key decisions in climate change mitigation and adaptation. We are committed to working with our partners to build on these tools going forward,” Hess said.

“This is one step toward helping our communities whose health is most impacted by environmental concerns, by focusing resources to help them with the transition to clean energy in Washington,” says Environmental Public Health Senior Epidemiologist Jennifer Sabel.

DOH will host a webinar for utilities and the interested public illustrating how to use the tools on Tuesday, March 16 from 1-2:30 PM. Click here to register.

CETA commits Washington to an electricity supply free of greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.

The climate projection data is the result of a collaboration between DOH, CHanGE, the UW Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences and the UW Climate Impacts Group.

COVID-19 Pandemic Turns Life-Science Students into “Citizen Scientists”: Data Indicate Multiple Negative Effects of Urbanization on Biota

Schirmel J. (2021). “COVID-19 Pandemic Turns Life-Science Students into “Citizen Scientists”: Data Indicate Multiple Negative Effects of Urbanization on Biota.” Sustainability 13(5), 2992. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13052992

Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic and its restrictions strongly affect the higher education community and require diverse teaching strategies. We designed a course where we combined online teaching with independently conducted ecological data collections by students using a “citizen science” approach. The aim was to analyze the impact of urbanization on biota by comparing urban and rural grasslands. Seventy-five students successfully conducted the data collections and the results provide evidence for prevailing negative effects of urbanization. Individual numbers of ground-dwelling invertebrates (−25%) and pollinating insects (−33%) were generally lower in urban sites. Moreover, animal and seed predation were reduced in urban grasslands, indicating the potential of urbanization to alter ecosystem functions. Despite the general limitations of online teaching and citizen science approaches, outcomes of this course showed this combination can be a useful teaching strategy, which is why this approach could be used to more actively involve students in scientific research. 

Etsy takes aim at shipping and packaging in setting 2030 net-zero goal

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Scope 3 emissions are the hardest emissions for companies to address when setting goals. But often, they are the most emissions to take on. For Etsy, the e-commerce marketplace known for handmade items such as jewelry, art and apparel, Scope 3 emissions make up 99 percent of the company’s carbon footprint. That’s why it’s prioritizing engagement with sellers in its marketplace to drive down emissions.

The ambition is part of the company’s net-zero carbon emissions by 2030 goal, which it set in February.

Unilever North America Invests $15 Million in Plastics Recycling

Read the full story at Environment + Energy Leader.

Unilever North America announced today a $15 million investment in Closed Loop Partners’ Leadership Fund to help recycle an estimated 60,000 metric tons of US plastic packaging waste annually by 2025, an amount equivalent to more than half of Unilever’s plastics footprint in North America. This is part of the company’s commitment to collect and process more plastic packaging than it sells by 2025.

Tide Tells Users Hot Water Just Isn’t Sustainably Cool

Read the full story at Marketing Daily.

Tide detergent’s spring campaign aims to get consumers to wash their clothes in cold water, revving up efforts to get people away from the idea that hot water and suds is the way to go.

Mondelēz cuts plastic windows from its UK Easter eggs

Read the full story at Confectionery News.

Mondelēz International is removing more than 6.4 million plastic windows from its chocolate eggs this Easter, taking 5.4 tonnes of plastic out of the environment and making the packaging easier for consumers to recycle.

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