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Study: Human activities having a big impact on Pacific Ocean nitrogen cycle

At home in the ocean.

Along with changes to the carbon cycle, human activities are changing the net nitrogen balance of the Pacific Ocean.

‘The North Pacific is so vast it is hard to imagine that humans could impact the natural nitrogen cycle’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists studying the North Pacific Ocean said this week they were surprised to find a significant human impact to the upper ocean nitrogen cycle, primarily resulting from industrial and agricultural emissions.

The rate of deposition of reactive nitrogen (i.e., nitrogen oxides from fossil fuel burning and ammonia compounds from fertilizer use) from the atmosphere to the open ocean has more than doubled globally over the last 100 years. Continue reading

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Environment: More than 100 scientists call on President Obama to protect bees from pesticide threats

A widely used class of pesticides is probably responsible for a massive honeybee die-off.

Scientists call on President Obama to directly address neonicotinoids pesticide impacts to bees. bberwyn photo.

‘Body of science’ shows harmful impacts

Staff Report

FRISCO — Environmental activists and scientists are convinced that neonicotinoid and other systemic pesticides are the main cause of rapidly declining bee populations across the U.S. and this week, they directly asked President Obama to address the pesticide threat.

More than 100 scientists from different fields signed on to a new letter calling on leaders of President Barack Obama’s Pollinator Health Task Force to take action on pesticides to protect and promote healthy populations of bees and other pollinators.   Continue reading

Is the fight over organic foods an ideological battle?

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European farmers have been much quicker to embrace organic standards, resulting in a positive response from consumers.

New study looks closely at ingrained belief systems

Staff Report

FRISCO — Some farmers may be resisting the trend toward organic agriculture simply because of a deeply held set of beliefs that aren’t necessarily based in fact. Making the switch to organic farming may make some farmers feel like they’re switching belief systems, which isn’t easy for anyone.

“The ideological map of American agriculture reveals an unfolding drama between chemical and organic farming,”an international group of researchers wrote in a new article in the  Journal of Marketing. “Chemical farmers argue that to make money, one must follow chemical traditions; when organic farmers make more money, it seems “wrong.” Continue reading

Report: U.S. water use drops 13 percent

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An irrigated hay field in western Colorado.

Per capita water usage drops 11 percent from 2005-2010

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new study by the U.S. Geological Survey shows that overall water use in the U.S. dropped to its lowest level in 45 years. The USGS has tracked national water use since 1950.

The new report shows that total daily withdrawals dropped about 13 percent, from about 410 billion gallons per day in 2005, to 355 billion gallons per day in 2010, mainly from improvements in water-use technologies and management.

“Even as the U.S. population continues to grow, people are learning to be more water conscious and do their part to help sustain the limited freshwater resources in the country,” said Mike Connor, deputy secretary of the Interior.  Continue reading

Climate: Is drought relief in sight for California?

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The southern U.S., including parts of drought-hit Arizona, may see above-average precipitation this winter.

Climate experts say there’s good chance of average precipitation in California, but recovery will take a while

Staff Report

FRISCO — There may be some drought relief for California this winter, but the state won’t make up a huge moisture deficit in just one rainy season, federal climate scientists said this week, releasing their winter season outlook.

“Complete drought recovery in California this winter is highly unlikely,” said Mike Halpert, acting director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.”While we’re predicting at least a 2 in 3 chance that winter precipitation will be near or above normal throughout the state, with such widespread, extreme deficits, recovery will be slow,” Halpert added. Continue reading

Environment: Pesticide pollution rising in urban streams

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About half the nation’s streams are polluted by pesticides at a level of concern for aquatic life.

90 percent of urban streams show signs of contamination

Staff Report

FRISCO — A huge number of rivers and streams around the country are still polluted with pesticides that can kill bugs and other aquatic organisms at the base of the food chain.

Streams in agricultural areas are polluted at about the same level as they were 1990s, but pesticide pollution is increasing in urban streams, according to a U.S. Geological Survey study spanning about 20 years. Continue reading

Colorado farming, ranching water ‘in the crosshairs’ as big reservoirs dwindle

Water experts to discuss role of agriculture in Colorado River puzzle

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Can ag water save the Colorado River?

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new $11 million effort to keep water flowing in the Colorado River to Lake Powell could up the pressure on Colorado farmers and ranchers to sell or lease their water.

In fact, agriculture is in the crosshairs in Colorado, according to the Colorado River Water Conservation District, which represents western Colorado water interests. Low water levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead — the key storage buckets on the Colorado — have prompted measures to put more water in the river.

The CRWCD’s annual water seminar (Sept. 19, Grand Junction) will focus on what that means for western Colorado, with panel discussions and presentations on ag efficiency, the worth of ag efficiency and how ag efficiency works with the chief goal of sustaining ag as a viable industry. Continue reading

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