Weathered Oil From Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill May Threaten Fish Embryos and Larvae Development

Read the full story from the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

A research team led by scientists at the University of California, Riverside and the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science have found that ultraviolet light is changing the structure of the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil components into something more toxic, further threatening numerous commercially and ecologically important fishes. The DWH oil spill, in which more than three million barrels of crude oil got released in 2010 into the northern Gulf of Mexico, is the worst oil disaster in US history, contaminating the spawning habitats for many fishes.

“Ours is the first experiment evaluating the effects of DWH oil on the genetic responses of mahi-mahi embryos and larvae,” said Daniel Schlenk, a professor of aquatic ecotoxicology, who led the study published in Environmental Science and Technology.  “It is also the first experiment of this nature on a lifestage and species that was likely exposed to the oil.  We found that the weathering of oil had more significant changes in gene expression related to critical functions in the embryos and larvae than the un-weathered oil. Our results predict that there are multiple targets of oil for toxicity to this species at the embryonic life stage.”

Religiosity diminishes conservative opposition to environmentally friendly consumer decisions

Read the full story at Phys.org.

Some people have perceived that the combination of religion and political conservatism exacerbates environmental concerns in the United States. But researchers from Rice University and Baruch College have found evidence that religious identification and belief in a god dampen the otherwise strong negative effect that political conservatism typically has on whether people make purchasing decisions with concern for the environment in mind.

At first glance, the researchers’ data show that political liberals are 8 percentage points more likely to say they identify as pro-environment consumers when compared with political conservatives. However, a closer look across levels of religiosity shows that this political gap is larger among the nonreligious (a difference of 12 percentage points between extreme political conservatives and extreme political liberals) and smaller among the very religious (a difference of 3 percentage points). The researchers said this suggests that religion can mute political differences when someone is being identified as a pro-environment consumer.

Estimating the carbon footprint of crime

Read the full story at Phys.org.

Policy makers currently examine the economic and social impacts of crime, but the environmental impacts have not, to date, been included. A new study, published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology, estimates the carbon footprint of crime. The study was conducted by a UK-based research team led by an engineering doctorate student, Helen Skudder, in the Centre for Environmental Strategy at the University of Surrey.

Longest study of Great Lakes region birds finds populations holding steady

Read the full story from the National Forest Service.

A new USDA Forest Service report documenting an unprecedented effort to inventory birds in the western Great Lakes region and analyze changes in bird populations over the past quarter of a century found that across a trio of national forests, most birds are doing well in terms of both species diversity and population.

Climate tipping points: What do they mean for society?

Read the full story at Phys.org.

The phrase “tipping point” passed its own tipping point and caught fire after author Malcolm Gladwell’s so-named 2000 book. It’s now frequently used in discussions about climate change, but what are “climate tipping points”? And what do they mean for society and the economy?

Scientists at Rutgers University and Harvard University tackle the terminology and outline a strategy for investigating the consequences of climate tipping points in a study published online today in the journal Earth’s Future.

When it comes to saving energy, it’s really not all about the money

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

recent psychological study has provided suggestive evidence that when people decide to take steps to use less energy at home, and so to protect the environment, they don’t merely do so because they want to save a little bit of cash on their electricity bills. If anything, it suggests, some forms of materialistic or competitive thinking may inhibit deep or long-lasting conservation attitudes.

 

Gauging the impact of climate change on U.S. agriculture

Read the full story from MIT.

To assess the likely impact of climate change on U.S. agriculture, researchers typically run a combination of climate and crop models that project how yields of maize, wheat, and other key crops will change over time. But the suite of models commonly used in these simulations, which account for a wide range of uncertainty, produces outcomes that can range from substantial crop losses to bountiful harvests. These mixed results often leave farmers and other agricultural stakeholders perplexed as to how best to adapt to climate change.

Now, in a study published in Environmental Research Letters, a research team at MIT and the University of California at Davis, has devised a way to provide these stakeholders with the additional information they need to make more informed decisions. In a nutshell, the researchers complement the results of climate/crop model runs with projections of five useful indices of agriculture/climate interaction — dry days, plant heat stress, frost days, growing season length and start of field operations — that clarify what’s driving projected yields up or down.