Possible plastic replacement.


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Plastic Bags are out and science is making plant based plastic (flickr.com)

Ayotoluwafunmi Ogunwusi | May 24th, 2019

Plastic have been known to have a severely dangerous effect on our environment. Countries like the UK, Germany, France and now Tanzania have been involved in reducing the use of plastic bags within their countries, so that they could affect their environment in a positive way.

Ohio State university, has done some research that found that combining natural rubber with bio-plastic in a novel way results in a much stronger replacement for plastic. Plastics are typically 90 percent petroleum based, and therefore not environmentally friendly.

In a new study published by polymers, it involved melting rubber into a plant-based thermoplastic called PHBV. This has proven to be very costly, but may prove necessary in the near future as we slowly move out of using plastic bags.

The end product, of melting rubber and combining it with a bio-plastic, was 75 percent  increase in toughness and 100 percent more flexibility than PHBV. Increasing the toughness of this material will go a long way into helping the food packaging industry.

A bioplastic alone isn’t strong enough to do the necessary work needed for the meat packaging industry.

This new plastic will be plant based and more helpful to our environment. Saving our environment can help impact change in the climate. Research is still ongoing and scientists are working hard to help reduce the use of plastic.

 

 

 

 

 

Changes in sea level could be more significant than ever before


Accelerated melting ice and changes in the global temperatures could cause the sea levels to rise| Photo by Jaymantri on Pexels.com

Sthefany Nóbriga| May 23, 2019

Due to the accelerated melting ice in Greenland and Antarctica, researchers believe that worldwide sea levels could increase much more than anticipated. 

On 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that, global waters would rise by between 52cm and 98cm by 2100. However, a new study confirms that changes in the global temperatures could cause the sea levels to double or triple that amount.  

The IPCC report in 2013 only considered a 17-83% of the possibilities of sea level rising, where areas, this new study covers 5-95% estimates—which means this study looks at a broader range of results, according to BBC news. 

Researchers believe that if there are no significant reductions in emissions, we would see global waters rising between 62cm and 238cm by 2100. According to these studies, the earth could lose an equivalent area of land to 1.79 million square kilometers—approximately the size of Libya.

 If this becomes a reality, this could have severe implications to the planet, and hundreds of millions of people could be displaced. Many of the affected areas would be major cities such as London, New York, and Shanghai as well as large swathes of Bangladesh, where it will be nearly impossible for people to live in. 

Researchers remain hopeful and believe that there is still time to prevent these scenarios from occuring. The governments around the world must take action to inform the people and bring awareness to the rising levels of emissions. 

The dangers of coal ash


black charcoals
Coal ash is a byproduct that can have very harmful effects on the world around it | Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu | May 22nd, 2018

Coal ash–a byproduct of burning coal–is a form of pollution often not talked about, but its effects cut deep, especially for families living in ash-contaminated areas.

One such family is paying the price for a deal signed over fifty years ago. The Peelers, who run a ranch in the heart of rural Texas, agreed to sell part of their land to San Miguel Electric Cooperative, a company that proposed a coal mine in the area–an attempt to bring proper electricity to the state’s non-urban population.

Now, years later, heaps of coal ash that have been dumped near their ranch contaminate the Peeler’s land and water, leaving many of their fields barren.

Coal ash has been found to contain many harmful elements, including so-called “heavy metals” like arsenic and mercury. These elements damage wildlife, the natural environment, and humans, leeching into soil and groundwater if not properly taken care of. A new bill in Illinois is urging forward a bill that would require coal plants to better seal off their ash deposits.

The bill may not come to pass. But the threat that coal ash poses to the environment is well-documented–and currently being lived out–by one Southern family fighting for their ranch.

 

The delicate balance between carbon and Earthworms


worms eye view of grass
Worms help keep our soil fertile, but they play a much bigger part in our environment | Photo by Christina Pirker on Pexels.com

Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu | May 21th, 2019

Earthworms are essential to the health of our soil, fertilizing gardens and fields. But their relationship with the earth is complicated–and the link between earthworms and carbon is being continuously investigated by scientists.

North America used to have earthworms; its native species was wiped out thousands of years ago during an ice age. European settlers brought their own variety to their new home, and the continent has been populated ever since.

Earthworms are simple organisms, but they greatly affect the health of our soil. Some feed on topsoil, while others burrow down, coming up to eat dead leaves on the surface. All varieties help fertilize the ground–but sometimes, if the location isn’t right, earthworm activity does more harm than good.

This is especially true for earthworm activity in North American boreal forests, a network of coniferous (evergreen) trees that normally don’t house these small creatures. As the worms dig down through the soil, they release carbon that’s been packed into the forest floor. Boreal forest floors are essentially carbon sponges, and the spread of earthworms to these previously worm-less regions threatens to release all of that stored carbon, further accelerating our current climate change.

Exactly how these earthworms have spread from their more natural habitat to the evergreen forests of North America is a bit of a mystery, with multiple factors–warmer weather, invasive plants, agricultural practices–at play.

Even as these tiny organisms increase in all the wrong places on our side of the pond, in the UK, topsoil feeders are beginning to disappear, threatening the island’s agriculture. Worms, carbon, and our global food supply are all part of a delicate ecosystem that may slowly be unraveling if we don’t step up to figure out why.

On The Radio- Decreasing fish populations


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(flickr/nanarab)

Kasey Dresser| May 20, 2019

This weeks segment looks at how fish populations are decreasing as ocean temperatures continue to increase. 

Transcript: 

Overfishing is not the only factor decreasing fish populations.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

A study published in the journal, Science, tracked the changes of 235 fish and shellfish populations from 1930 to 2010. Throughout that time, the Earth’s ocean temperatures have increased on average by half a degree Celcius.

Eight percent of the fish and shellfish in the study showed depleting populations. Four percent of the populations increased however, since fish like black sea bass thrive in warm water. As water temperatures continue to increase, those gains will not be sustained.

Christopher Free, a quantitative ecologist at the University of California Santa Barbara, referred to this trend as the fish and shellfish reaching their heat thresholds. Currently,124 species of fish and shellfish are on route to becoming an unstable food source.

3.2 billion people worldwide rely on seafood as their primary source of protein. These findings are meant to inform local fisheries of the changing populations so they can begin to take these findings into account.

For more information, visit Iowa environmental focus dot org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Sara E. Mason.

 

University of Iowa flood Recovery


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University of Iowa campus flooded (flickr.)

Ayotoluwafunmi Ogunwusi | May 17th, 2019

Flash back to the 2008 flood that caused so much damage to the University of Iowa, here we are almost 11 years later and it looks like global warming is forcing us to get prepared for whatever may come our way.

Back in 1905, the university had been warned by landscape architects, not to build so close to the water, as it could cause problems, but the university was struggling to find land. Due to the flooding, over 20 building were affected on the university of Iowa campus. The flood made costly calls for change, causing the university to spend millions for the damages.

The flood of 2008 may not be the worst we have seen just yet, around the United States, floods, wild fires, hurricanes and other natural disasters have gradually become worse and caused mass devastation in different areas.

University of Iowa’s Don Guckert has been keeping the university safe and travelling the country to inform or educate other institutions about the disasters that occurred at the University of Iowa and how to be prepare for a natural disaster. He has gotten busier over the last five years as global warming has become a bigger issue as time passes.

We all know that its not easy to avoid but preparing for it can help save countless lives and heavy costs. University of Iowa is still rebuilding from the flooding that occurred.

American Bumblebee at Risk of Extinction


Bumblebees declining number are worrying scientist (Flickr)

Sthefany Nóbriga| May 16, 2019

 A new research study from the University of Vermont and York University found that the lack of plant diversity, climate change, and agricultural expansion could harm the American bumblebee, bringing them to extinction. 

Scientists found that Bombus pensylvanicus, commonly known as the American bumblebee, is rapidly declining in the northern part of the continent.

Moreover, this is due to accelerating threats from agricultural expansion, such as widely used insecticides, and the danger of harsh winters throughout the northern region. 

According to the study the number of areas where bumblebees can be found decreased by 70% from historical rates. In Canada, the bumblebee population has dropped approximately 89%

American bumblebees are a keystone species and are vital for the function of ecosystems where they reside, and if they go extinct, the plant reproduction and plant yield could plummet significantly, according to CNN.

Bumblebees use their jaws to rattle flowers until pollen is released, and this process is vital for food crops such as tomatoes, blueberries, strawberries, peppers, and potatoes, and so much more.  

However, already one bumblebee species is on the list of endangered species for unnatural extinction. Also, considered for stated listing are four additional species native to California.