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Study finds serious pollution in seabottom sediments of Guánica Bay, Puerto Rico

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Trouble at the bottom of the Caribbean, as researchers document high concentrations of toxics in sediments.

Toxins may be harming coral reef ecosystems

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Standing along the shore of Guánica Bay, Puerto Rico, the dazzling aquamarine Caribbean waters look normal. But deep below the surface, there may be trouble brewing, according to researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Pollutants measured in the sediments of the bay are among the highest ever measured by NOAA’s National Status & Trends, a nationwide contaminant monitoring program that began in 1986. The pollutants include PCBs, chlordane, chromium and nickel, according to the new NOAA study. Continue reading

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Environment: Exposure to herbicides makes amphibians more susceptible to chytrid fungus

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Amphibians are in big trouble, and exposure to environmental pollution is a least partly to blame.

As of December 2012, there were 29 amphibian species classified as endangered or threatened and 5 species waiting to be listed. Overall frog and salamander numbers are declining and the cause, or causes, have not been determined ~ U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

FRISCO — Early life exposure to the herbicide atrazine makes frogs much more susceptible to the chytrid fungus that has been implicated a global wave of amphibian die-offs.

Experiments by scientists at the university of South Florida showed that a six-day exposure to environmentally relevant concentrations of the most common herbicides in the world increased frog mortality 46 days after the atrazine exposure, but only when frogs were challenged with the chytrid fungus. This increase in mortality was driven by a reduction in the frogs’ tolerance of the infection.

Other research results have also suggested that exposure to pesticides suppresses the immune response in a variety of species, making them more susceptible to fungal infections and parasitic organisms. More information on the impact of environmental contaminants to amphibians is available at this USFWS web page. Continue reading

Environment: Study suggests diesel fumes may prevent honey bees from finding flowers

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A Colorado bumblebee searches wild fireweed for pollen or nectar. bberwyn photo.

Reactive exhaust gases change or destroy odor profiles of flowers

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Researchers tracking the decline of honey bees have discovered another clue, as a new study suggesta that diesel exhaust fumes may hinder the insects from finding flowers.

Bees use floral odors to help locate, identify and recognize the flowers from which they forage, but diesel fumes are highly reactive and can change the profile of floral smells, according to University of Southhampton researchers Dr. Tracey Newman and Professor Guy Poppy.

For the study (published Oct. 3 in Scientific Reports), the scientists mixed eight chemicals found in the odor of oil rapeseed flowers with clean air, and with air containing diesel exhaust. Six of the eight chemicals reduced (in volume) when mixed with the diesel exhaust air and two of them disappeared completely within a minute. The odour that was mixed with the clean air was unaffected. Continue reading

Study eyes selenium impacts to honey bees

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Bees gather on wildflowers in Breckenridge, Colorado.

Exposure can lead to mortality, California researchers say

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Along with pesticides, heavy metals may also be contributing to the decline of honey bees in some regions, according to entomologists at the University of California, Riverside.

Their research found that four main forms of selenium found in plants cause mortality and delays in development in the honey bee. Study results appear in the Oct. 2013 issue of the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.

“Metal pollutants like selenium contaminate soil, water, can be accumulated in plants, and can even be atmospherically deposited on the hive itself,” said Kristen Hladun, the lead author of the study and a postdoctoral entomologist. “Our study examined the toxic effects of selenium at multiple life stages of the honey bee in order to mimic the chronic exposure this insect may face when foraging in a contaminated area.” Continue reading

Historic Alpine glacier decline linked with soot

Study shows pollution melted glaciers even as temperatures cooled

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Atmospheric pollution in the form of soot from fossil fuel combustion, apparently caused a rapid retreat of Alpine glacers even as regional temperatures cooled at the start of the Industrial age. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Matching climate records with ice core samples, scientists say the rapid retreat of Alpine Glaciers in Europe at the end of the Little Ice Age was probably linked with the sudden accumulation of soot particles associated with the beginning of the industrial Age.

Soot from industrial sources and even from wildfires has recently been implicated in the darkening of the Greenland ice sheet, leading to increased surface melt.

The new study helps resolve what had been a puzzle, as the sudden glacier decline coincided with a period of cooling regional temperatures. Between 1860 and 1930, temperatures in Europe cooled by nearly two degrees, yet at the same time, any large valley glaciers retreated by an average of about 0.6 miles (1kilometer).

“Something was missing from the equation,” said lead author Tom Painter, a snow and ice scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The study was published Sept. 2 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Continue reading

Environment: Frogs up and down the Sierra Nevada are tainted with pesticides from the Central Valley

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USGS sampling found that Pacific chorus frogs in many remote Sierra Nevada locations are contaminated by pesticides and fungicides used in agricultural production in California’s Central Valley. Photo courtesy USGS.

Study even finds trace remnants of DDT, banned 40 years ago

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Frogs in remote Sierra Nevada backcountry ponds are contaminated with traces of pesticides, including a byproduct of DDT, which was banned more than 40 years ago, showing how long some pollutants can persist in the environment.

The chemicals are heavily used in California’s Central Valley, one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world, and transported via wind, dust and precipitation to the High Sierra. Continue reading

USGS study finds widespread stream degradation

Streamflow modifications, pollution impacts affect majority of waterways in urban and agricultural areas

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Pristine streams like Meadow Creek, which flows out of a wilderness area, are hard to find.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — More than 80 percent of streams in urban and agricultural areas show signs of reduced stream health, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. A new report from the agency documents how stream health is being degraded by streamflow modifications and elevated levels of nutrients and pesticides.

The national assessment of stream health was unprecedented. Instead of just measuring chemical or physical properties of water, the study took a more comprehensive look at entire biological communities, as well as measurements of more than 100 chemical constituents in water and streambed sediments. Continue reading

Environment: Annual beach report card from NRDC highlights need to better manage stormwater runoff

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More work is needed to clean up polluted beaches.

Pollution still causing significant beach closures

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — There’s still plenty of room for improvement when it comes to cleaning up coastal waters, where stormwater runoff and untreated sewage are still causing problems for beach-goers. Last year, there were more than 20,000 beach closings and advisories, confirming that serious water pollution persists at many U.S. shores, according to the annual beach report card from the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“Sewage and contaminated runoff in the water can spoil a family vacation real fast, turning a day of lounging at the beach into a day at the doctor’s office with a sick child,” said NRDC senior attorney Jon Devine. “It’s no surprise that pollution in the waves is bad for business in beach communities. Our government leaders can help support local economies and salvage countless summer getaways nationwide by tackling … stormwater runoff.” Continue reading

Colorado: State, industry and federal officials tracing underground pollution plume near Parachute

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Officials say a “hydrocarbon” plume of underground pollution hasn’t yet threatened Parachute Creek, four miles north of Parachute, in western Colorado.

Possible oil spill may be getting close to groundwater in the area

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — State, local and federal officials are tracking a mysterious underground plume of what they are calling “hydrocarbon” pollution near Parachute, Colorado.

The pollution was first reported March 6 during construction activities in the area and confirmed March 16 by the West Slope Colorado Oil & Gas Association, which said in a prepared release that Parachute Creek has not been impacted and that there are no known threats to health and safety.

The construction activities involved locating underground pipelines – a standard safety practice prior to construction. Continue reading

Antarctica: Disturbing signs of human impacts

Study scrutinizes Fildes Peninsula, on King George Island

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Parts of the greater Antarctic ecoregion may not be as pristine as they should.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A high concentration of research stations and the associated intense human activity is compromising the integrity ecosystems on parts of South Georgia island, according to a team of German researchers who have been gathering data in the area for several decades.

Along with land-based impacts like tire tracks and discarded industrial waste, leakage from port facilities and ships is also affecting marine ecosystems, said University of Jena professor Dr. Hans-Ulrich Peter, head author of a report authored for the German federal environmental agency.

The report recommends designating the Fildes Peninsula, part of King George Island, as a formally managed area under the Antarctic Treaty, which would include legally binding standards for the use of the region. The proposed measure could reduce the conflicting interests between science, tourism and the protection of geological and historical sites as well as keeping its environment intact. Continue reading

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