On The Radio- Chimpanzees feel anxiety too


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(flickr/Aaron Logan)

Kasey Dresser| July 14, 2019

This weeks segment looks at how social stress manifests in chimpanzees. 

Transcript: 

Chimpanzees react to social stress, just like humans.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Behavioral dominance is the hierarchical relationship between members of a community established through force, aggression or even submission. In many animal species, dominant individuals have health and fitness benefits, more than their peers. However, a new study from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology uses chimpanzees to study some costs of behavioral dominance. 

In a community of chimpanzees, there are periods where the social dominance hierarchy shifts and there is competition among the males. Surprisingly, a majority of chimpanzees become less aggressive during that time due to stress. The senior author for the study, Roman Wittig, explained that chimpanzees are territorial but employ conflict management to diminish the risk of injuries. 

This reaction is not only behavioral. The authors collected urine samples and discovered high cortisol levels, indicating high stress, during such periods. The study showed that aggression alone is not a good indicator of competition between chimps.

For more information, visit iowa-environmental-focus-dot-org.

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

 

 

 

 

On The Radio- Carbon dioxide’s effect on record high temperatures


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Sunrise (flickr/uditha wickramanayaka)

Kasey Dresser| July 8, 2019

This week’s segment looks at the influence of carbon dioxide on the record high-temperature levels this year. 

Transcript: 

Ocean carbon dioxide levels hit a new record early this month, as it was 84 degrees near the Arctic Ocean.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus. 

Temperatures rose to 84 degrees in the northwest of Russian near the entrance of the Arctic Ocean, a rural area in eastern Russia where the average high temperature is around 54 degrees this time of year. 

Many locations around Russia set record high temperatures. This particular heat wave, a manifestation of the arrangement of weather systems and fluctuations in the jet stream, fits into what has been an unusually warm year across the Arctic and most of the mid-latitudes.

In the meantime, the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere surpassed 415 parts per million for the first time in recorded history — the highest in at least 800,000 years, and possibly the highest levels in over 3 million years. Carbon dioxide levels have risen by nearly 50 percent since the Industrial Revolution.

These numbers altogether serve as indicators of the damages done by modern civilization to the environment and the contributions humans have made towards climate change.

For more information, visit Iowa-environmental-focus-dot-org. 

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

Farms no longer have to report air emissions caused by animal waste


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By Julia Shanahan | July 5th, 2019

The Environmental Protection Agency finalized a rule that will exempt farms from reporting air emissions caused by animal waste. 

Reporting will still be required for the release of animal waste into water. This exemption is in the form of an amendment to EPCRA section 304, where its main purpose is to alert emergency responders of dangerous emissions, like chemical leaks, so they can potentially evacuate a community or alert locals to seek shelter. In a news release, the EPA said this final rule will ensure that “emergency planners and local responders receive reports that focus on these kinds of emergencies.”

This new rule also applies to decomposing animal waste. All other hazardous emissions above a recommended threshold will still need to be reported. 

Animal waste emissions into the air can increase the risk for respiratory health issues like asthma, and also contribute to climate change. A 2013 report from the UN Food and Agriculture Association said that 7.1 gigatons of CO2 emissions can be attributed to the global livestock sector annually.

Iowa is the country’s leading producer of animal and human waste. The Iowa Environmental Focus reported on research engineer Chris Jones’ March study that calculated how many people each livestock group accounted for in terms of the amount of waste it produces, and called it Iowa’s “real population.”

While Iowa has a population of just over 3 million people, this is what Jones found in his March study and lists in his blog:

  • Iowa hogs: equivalent to 83.7 million people
  • Dairy cattle: 8.6 million people
  • Beef cattle: 25 million people
  • Laying chickens: 15 million people
  • Turkeys: 900,000 people

Iowa DNR warns to protect those sensitive to firework smoke; dispose safely


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By Julia Shanahan | June 28th, 2019

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources EcoNewsWire warns that drifting smoke from fireworks this Fourth of July can cause breathing problems for some individuals, and that people should be sure to dispose of fireworks safely.

The news release said that when the air is stagnant, fine particles get trapped near the ground and can build to unhealthy levels if there is no breeze. 

“If your family or friends suffer from asthma or respiratory difficulties, it’s important for them to stay upwind, a safe distance from fireworks smoke,” says Brian Hutchins, DNR air quality supervisor, in the news release. “The elderly and children are also vulnerable to higher levels of smoke.”

In 2017, the Fourth of July fire-work show in Des Moines exceeded the EPA’s national standards for fine particle levels. Black powder and metals used to create a firework’s color produce the fine particles after a firework explodes.

The Iowa DNR also warns to never put unsoaked fireworks in the garbage, as they pose a fire/explosion hazard. The DNR recommends to completely submerge fireworks in a bucket of water to soak overnight, and then to wrap the soaked fireworks in plastic wrap or two plastic bags. Dispose of the wrapped fireworks in a household trash or landfill, or contact a local fire department or landfill for additional disposal options.

Additionally, fireworks contain metals that can contaminate water. The Iowa DNR says fireworks should never be detonated near water, because it’s illegal, but also because the impact can kill fish and other surrounding aquatic life. 

On The Radio- Increasing Mass Extinctions


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The Iberian Lynx: a cat species from Spain. There are only a few hundred left in the world. (flickr/Mario Nonaka)

Kasey Dresser| June 24, 2019

This weeks segment looks at how human beings are causing mass extinction of over one million species

Transcript: 

Earths landscapes are changing and about one million species are in danger.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

With the human population passing seven billion, homo sapiens are pushing animals out of the picture in need for more space.

The sharp decline in species is likely to occur by 2050, and it will affect biodiversity. Humans are not the only problem that animals have to face, but global warming as well, a natural result of human treatment towards the environment. 

Nature provides trillions in non-monetized saving that benefits human beings every year. If wildlife and tropical rain forests cease to exist, our medicine would change drastically. Over 23 percent of the planets land area is being harmed because humans are producing more food than ever, causing land degradation. 

Our previous miniscule efforts of creating wild life refuges and efforts to protect individual species will no longer be sufficient.  Scientists have stated that nations need to step up in their efforts to protect natural habitats.  

For more information, visit Iowa environmental focus dot org.

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

 

 

Climate Change puts dogs at a greater risk for diseases


By Julia Shanahan | June 21st, 2019

While there have been reports that climate change puts humans at a greater risk for contracting infectious diseases, some experts say climate change has contributed to the spread of diseases that can sicken or sometimes kill dogs, according to a report from USA Today.

The report highlighted illnesses in dogs such as vomiting, joint pain, fever, Heartworm disease, and tick-borne illnesses. Lyme disease has also affected dogs all the way through Canada.

These diseases can also be contracted by humans, but dogs and other animals are put at a greater risk because they spend more time outside. Also, because the average global temperature has increased by 1.4 degrees fahrenheit, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, animals are at risk for diseases not only in the summer months, but also in the fall and spring.  

In the USA Today report, Ram Raghavan, a professor of spatial epidemiology at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University who studies tick-borne illnesses and populations in the Midwest, said he believes ticks are expanding their habitats to places where they were never typically found. The changing amounts of rainfall and humidity levels contribute to the expansion of diseases, and in the Midwest, increasing rainfall and flooding have been evident.

The report says the shift in dogs being at risk for disease will be “fast and ugly.” It says that ticks can often carry new viruses and diseases, and with the population expansion, experts are not certain as to exactly what other diseases could potentially spread.


The Center for Disease Control encourages dog owners to do routine veterinary exams, and to make sure children are washing their hands after petting or playing with dogs.

Nitrate levels in drinking water linked to increase risks for cancers


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By Julia Shanahan | June 20th, 2019

The Environmental Working Group released a study outlining a link between the amount of nitrates someone consumes through tap water to a higher risk of cancer. Nitrate pollution in U.S. drinking water potentially caused 12,594 cases of cancer in a year, according to the study.

The study attributed the large amount of nitrates in drinking water to agricultural runoff that contains fertilizer and manure. The EWG estimates it would cost about $1.5 billion a year in medical costs to treat those cases. Of those 12,594 cases, 54-82 percent are colorectal cancer cases. Additionally, the risk for bladder and ovarian cancers are increased in postmenapausal women.   

The current federal limit for the amount of nitrates legally allowed in drinking water is 10 parts per million, but as outlined in the study, other serious health risks have been linked to nitrate-polluted water that is only one-tenth under the federal limit. Scientists from the EWG estimate that in order for there to be no adverse health risks, the nitrate level in drinking water should be 0.14 milligrams, which is 70 times lower than the EPA’s legal limit.

In Iowa, nitrate pollution remains a threat to tap water and well water in rural and urban cities across the farm state. The Iowa Department of Public Health tested 1,700 private wells and found 19 percent of them were at or above the legal limit for nitrates. In 2014 and 2015, the average nitrate levels in 45 Iowa public water systems were at least 5 milligrams – enough to increase someone’s risk of cancer.

More recently in 2018, the Des Moines River and combined Cedar-Iowa Rivers produced the nitrate equivalent of 56 million people. The total amount of nitrates in Iowa rivers in 2018 was 626 million pounds, and treated in sewer discharge amounted to 123 million people, or as blogger and IIHR Research Engineer Chris Jones compares to the population of Japan.