Microplastic pollution a growing Great Lakes concern

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Are the Great Lakes a hotspot for microplastic pollution?

Human garbage is choking ecosystems

Staff Report

FRISCO — Microplastic pollution is showing up in alarming quantities in the Great Lakes, with concentrations in Lake Erie as high as in some of the well-documents ocean garbage patches, according to scientists, who say more research is needed to help craft rules that could address the problem.

Based on a new report from Canadian researchers, a member of Canada’s parliament is calling on the government to list microbeads as a potential toxic substance. The tiny plastic flakes are used in cosmetics, but act like sponges for certain pollutants and are easily ingested by aquatic organisms, including fish and shellfish. Continue reading

Small wetlands critical to overall ecosystem functions

‘Many people would say, what’s the big deal if we drain this small area? But these smaller wetlands are integral …’

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Colorado wetlands. @bberwyn photo

FRISCO — A new study by researchers at Waterloo University supports the EPA’s proposed new rule for protecting discontinuous wetlands by showing that those smaller marshy patches function best as a group.

Interconnected pockets of wetlands form a landscape mosaic which provide unique habitat and safe breeding grounds for species such as salamanders and migratory birds. Many traditional wetlands conservation projects tend to overlook that “edge” function and mistakenly focus on preserving only total wetland area, with no consideration of ecosystem services provided by different wetland types. Continue reading

Environment: Study shows endocrine-disrupting chemicals can affect multiple generations of fish

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New study confirms the transgenic impacts of endocrine disrupting pollutants in aquatic species.

Researchers warn of long-term impacts to aquatic ecosystems

Staff Report

FRISCO — Fish exposed to trace amounts of endocrine-disrupting chemicals like BPA  may not show any immediate ill effects, but the adverse impacts can show up three generations later, researchers said after conducting lab tests that confirm the transgenic effects of the pollutants.

The chemicals are part of a new class of pollutants that often aren’t addressed by traditional water treatment facilities, and aquatic environments are the ultimate reservoirs for many of the contaminants, some of which mimic the functions of natural hormones. Continue reading

USGS study points out huge fracking data gaps

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Fracking in western Colorado. bberwyn photo.

No way to assess water quality impacts on a regional or national level

Staff Report

FRISCO — Oil and gas companies like to present fracking as benign, and, for the most part, government regulators play along. For example, a recent oil and gas task force in Colorado barely touched on the subject of groundwater impacts from fracking. Continue reading

Environment: Nutrient pollution disrupts stream carbon cycle

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Excess nutrient pollution in streams means less organic carbon available for aquatic organicsms. bberwyn photo

Excess nitrogen and phosphorus speed breakdown of forest litter

Staff Report

FRISCO — Along with causing unwanted and potentially toxic blooms of algae, nutrient pollution also causes a significant loss of forest-derived carbon in stream ecosystems — to the detriment of aquatic life, according to a research team led by University of Georgia scientists.

Even moderate amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus in a stream cause the carbon to break down twice as fast, their research found. In Colorado, regulators have made efforts to reduce nutrient pollution in streams. Continue reading

Environment: Study shows that even ‘isolated’ wetlands are crucial to protecting water quality

Findings come as EPA edges toward final new clean water rule

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By Summit Voice

Geographically isolated wetlands like prairie potholes and desert playas in the Southwest are critical to water quality and also provide many other ecosystem services — even though they may lack the regulatory protections of other wetlands, according to Indiana University researchers.

Continued loss of such wetlands is likely “to cause serious harm to North American waters,” according to John M. Marton, a researcher with the IU Bloomington School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

“Geographically isolated wetlands provide important benefits such as sediment and carbon retention, nutrient transformation and water-quality improvement, all of which are critical for maintaining water quality,” Marton said, discussing the conclusions of a new article appearing in BioScience. Continue reading

Part of huge environmental settlement to help clean tainted coastal wetlands in North Carolina

Cape Fear, North Carolina, photographed by a NASA satellite.

Cape Fear, North Carolina, photographed by a NASA satellite.

Funding will help restoration of Cape Fear watershed after decades of industrial pollution

Staff Report

FRISCO — Tainted North Carolina wetlands and streams will be restored thanks to a $13 million in cleanup funding under federally administered environmental programs.

The payment, announced by NOAA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, in their capacity as natural resource trustees, to repair the damage from 40 years of pollution at Kerr-McGee’s wood treatment facility in Navassa, North Carolina. Another $9 million is on the table. Continue reading

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