This new solar farm combines clean energy and beehives

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Using the space around the solar panels as sites for 48 hives, the Eagle Point solar farm is using its land to save pollinators and help local agriculture.

At a solar farm surrounded by orchards near Medford, Oregon, native flowers are beginning to bloom between the solar panels, and 48 beehives sit at the edge of the field. The solar farm, called Eagle Point, is now the largest “solar apiary”–a solar energy project designed to benefit pollinators–in the country.

“For me, it comes from a place of wanting to change the culture of solar and really taking into consideration more than just the panels,” says Julianne Wooten, environmental manager for Pine Gate Renewables, the North Carolina-based solar power company that developed the site.

In 2017, the company began working on a new project to keep land productive at its solar farms, reintroducing native plants, and, in some cases, working with farmers or ranchers to plant crops or graze animals around the panels. A nonprofit called Fresh Energy helped connect the company with a local beekeeper who happened to be looking for a new home for some of his hives. (This isn’t the only smart combination of clean energy and agriculture: a solar farm in Japan is growing mushrooms under the panels.)

For pollinators, sprawling solar plants can provide space for much-needed habitat. (By the spring of 2019, when the new native plants are more established, the Eagle Point solar farm will offer 41 acres of new habitat.) For nearby farms growing crops that rely on pollinators–at a time when thousands of wild pollinators are at risk of extinction, and beekeepers are still struggling to maintain their populations of honeybees–this type of project can also play a role in supporting the food supply.

For the owner of a solar farm, seeding fields with native flowers and grasses has a higher upfront cost than at a typical installation; Pine Gate also worked with experts in restoration to ensure that they were making changes that were ecologically sound. But roughly a third of the maintenance costs of a solar farm can come from managing vegetation. Depending on the location, grass growing under panels might need to be mowed eight times a year. Shifting to natural vegetation can reduce that to one or two times a year, and should save the company money over time.

Continue onto Fast Company to read the complete article.

GM just secured enough cathode material for 5 million electric vehicles
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GM garage filled with white vans

By Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge

General Motors needs a lot of cathode active materials (CAM) if it’s to reach its goal of making enough electric vehicles to become a completely carbon neutral company by 2040. How much is enough? How about 950,000 tons of the stuff.

GM now says it’s reached a deal with LG Chem, one of South Korea’s premier battery making firms, to lock down a supply of CAM starting later this year. CAM is basically what makes a battery a battery, consisting of components like processed nickel, lithium and other materials, and representing about 40 percent of the total cost of a battery cell.

The majority of EV battery cathodes are made with NCM — nickel, cobalt, and magnesium. Cobalt is a key component in this mix, but it’s also the most expensive material in the battery and mined under conditions that often violate human rights, leading it to be called the “blood diamond of batteries.” As a result, GM and other companies like Tesla, are rushing to create a cobalt-free battery. GM’s Ultium batteries, for example, will add aluminum — making the mix NCMA — and reduce the cobalt content by 70 percent.

LG Chem will begin supplying CAM to the automaker starting in the latter half of 2022 and lasting until 2030. GM says this will be enough battery material to power approximately 5 million electric vehicles, which should help the company in its quest to catch up to Tesla.

GM has said it plans to spend $30 billion by 2025 on the creation of 30 new plug-in models in its bid to overtake Elon Musk’s company as the leading EV company in the world. Tesla still dominates the relatively small EV market in the US, with around 66 percent market share, while GM only has around 6 percent. This year, the company was even outsold by legacy auto rivals like Ford and Hyundai, according to CNBC.

In a furious bid to catch up and become more vertically integrated, GM is trying to get a stronger grasp on its supply chain, which includes battery manufacturing. The company has said it will spend over $4 billion on the construction of two battery factories in North America in partnership with South Korea’s LG Chem.

GM said today that it will also explore localizing a CAM production facility with LG Chem by the end of 2025. Previously, the company announced that it will construct a new cathode factory in North America in a joint venture with South Korea’s Posco Chemical.

Click here to read the full article on The Verg.

Terrence Howard Claims He Invented ‘New Hydrogen Technology’ To Defend Uganda
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Terrence Howard on the red carpet for

By BET

Former Empire actor and red carpet scientist Terrence Howard is currently visiting Uganda as part of a government effort to draw investors from the African diaspora to the nation. He is claiming he has what it needs to change the world.

According to Vice, Howard made a lofty presentation on Wednesday, July 13, addressing officials and claiming to have developed a “new hydrogen technology.”

Famously, Howard argued in Rolling Stone that one times one equals two, and now he says his new system, The Lynchpin, would be able to clean the ocean and defend Uganda from exploitation via cutting-edge drone technology. The proprietary technology he announced in a 2021 press release is said to hold 86 patents.

“I was able to identify the grand unified field equation they’ve been looking for and put it into geometry,” he shared in front of an audience of Ugandan dignitaries. “We’re talking about unlimited bonding, unlimited predictable structures, supersymmetry.”

“The Lynchpins are now able to behave as a swarm, as a colony, that can defend a nation, that can harvest food, that can remove plastics from the ocean, that can give the children of Uganda and the people of Uganda an opportunity to spread this and sell these products throughout the world,” he added.

Howard, who briefly quit acting in 2019 only to come out of retirement in 2020, has seemingly made rewriting history a personal side hustle. According to Vice, he made nebulous claims that rapidly went viral on social media, saying, “I’ve made some discoveries in my own personal life with the science that, y’know, Pythagoras was searching for. I was able to open up the flower of life properly and find the real wave conjugations we’ve been looking for 10,000 years.”

While his latest claims have yet to be clarified, Howard was invited to speak by Frank Tumwebaze, the minister of agriculture, animal industries, and fishery.

Click here to read the full article on BET.

Looking at Environmental Protection Through the Lens of Disability
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By Alliah Czarielle, Hemophilia News Today

Climate change has been a hot topic in our circles lately. We feel it very much in the Philippines, where hot summers in the months of April and May have quickly turned into a season of strong typhoons and dangerous floods. Recently, a major typhoon hit the province of Leyte, causing a tragic landslide.

Individuals can only do so much to “save” our planet (and humanity) from the drastic effects of climate change. But we can make a difference by doing little things. We can boycott single-use plastics if we’re in a position to do so, lower our energy consumption, and deal with waste appropriately through proper separation and recycling.

Of course, having a disability factors into the equation about how much one can do to help the earth. Many people with disabilities must resort to less eco-friendly practices in order to address health issues and to thrive, although that’s not to say disabled people can’t take steps to be eco-friendly.

For instance, my husband, Jared, infuses factor products to treat his hemophilia. This procedure involves single-use plastic tubes, metal needles, and glass bottles.

According to a 2019 National Geographic article, one expert estimated that 25% of the waste generated by U.S. healthcare facilities is plastic. This is because the equipment used to treat patients needs to be sterile, and plastic serves that need well.

When my mom was ill with cancer, she needed to drink from plastic straws due to the limitations she had. And by the time she was bedridden, she needed to use disposable adult diapers.

In Japan, a country with a rapidly aging population, adult diaper waste is a growing concern, as The New York Times reported last year. Used diapers are likely to end up in incinerators, like most of the country’s waste. Compared with other types of waste, diapers require more fuel to burn, leading to costly waste management bills and high carbon emissions.

To help alleviate this problem, the Japanese town of Houki converted one of the town’s incinerators into a diaper recycling plant, which in turn produces fuel for a public bathhouse, the Times reported. This, in turn, helps to lower natural gas costs. Japan is fortunate to have the resources to come up with this creative solution.

Since there are limitations to taking steps to protect the environment when accessing or providing healthcare by people with disabilities or those who work at treatment centers, I offer the following suggestions.

If you can afford to, avoid single-use plastics.
If using single-use plastics cannot be avoided, be mindful of how often you use them and how you dispose of them. Seek out alternatives to the plastic bags you use for shopping or carrying things. At home, stock up with multiple-use, high-quality storage containers.

Leave single-use plastic products to the ones who really need them to live. This includes people with disabilities, older people, and babies, for example.

Avoid fast fashion.
I am guilty of patronizing fast fashion — which refers to the mass production of high-fashion clothing trends — because I like dressing up. My clothing budget is quite low, hence the temptation for cheap clothes from chain retailers.

According to a 2019 article by Insider’s Morgan McFall-Johnsen, the fashion industry is responsible for producing 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions, is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply, and pollutes the oceans with microplastics.

What percentage of clothing in your closet do you actually wear? Think about it, and try not to buy more than you would actually use. Instead of shopping for new clothes, why not shop at secondhand stores or learn to rework old clothing into more modern styles?

Jared’s entire collection of clothes fits into just one drawer. This makes his wardrobe easier to organize. He wears a “uniform” of plain, minimalist T-shirts with classic denim jeans or shorts. When I first met him in college, he still wore clothes from as early as sixth grade! He only updated his wardrobe when he built up muscle as an adult and needed to switch to clothing a few sizes bigger.

Jared doesn’t go out as often as I do, and bleeding episodes occasionally force him to stay at home. He also considers himself more of an indoor type. So he doesn’t think he needs many clothes.

But even if one’s lifestyle is active or outgoing, we can find some perspective from people like Jared. After all, how many clothes do we really need? As my drawers are now filled to the brim with clothes, I actively try to avoid buying new ones. Furthermore, I now support a local seamstress instead of buying from retail chains. The sewing takes time, but the outcome is often top quality and looks great. It’s also more eco-friendly, and I get to support someone’s livelihood.

Click here to read the full article on Hemophilia News Today.

Apple expands the use of recycled materials across its products
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Daisy can disassemble up to 1.2 million phones each year, helping Apple recover more valuable materials for recycling. The company has offered to license the patents related to Daisy for researchers and other electronics manufacturers developing their own disassembly processes.

By Apple

Apple today released new details on the increased use of recycled content across its products. For the first time, the company introduced certified recycled gold, and more than doubled the use of recycled tungsten, rare earth elements, and cobalt. Nearly 20 percent of all material used in Apple products in 2021 was recycled, the highest-ever use of recycled content.

Apple released new details on this progress, its recycling innovation efforts, and clean energy in its 2022 Environmental Progress Report.
The company also shared new ways customers can celebrate Earth Day, including supporting World Wildlife Fund by using Apple Pay. With educational resources, curated content, and engaging activities across platforms, Apple customers can take opportunities to appreciate the beauty of nature from wherever they are, learn about key issues like climate change, and support causes and communities working to protect the planet.
“As people around the world join in celebrating Earth Day, we are making real progress in our work to address the climate crisis and to one day make our products without taking anything from the earth,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives. “Our rapid pace of innovation is already helping our teams use today’s products to build tomorrow’s, and as our global supply chain transitions to clean power, we are charting a path for other companies to follow.”

More Recycled and Responsibly Sourced Materials Across Apple Products

Apple has pioneered innovations in the recycling and sourcing of materials to spur industrywide change. To help its recycling partners build on this momentum worldwide, Apple today announced its newest recycling innovation, Taz, a machine that uses a groundbreaking approach to improve material recovery from traditional electronics recycling.
In 2021, 59 percent of all the aluminum Apple shipped in its products came from recycled sources, with many products featuring 100 percent recycled aluminum in the enclosure. Apple has also made significant progress toward the company’s goal to eliminate plastics from its packaging by 2025, with plastics accounting for just 4 percent of packaging in 2021. Since 2015, Apple has reduced plastic in its packaging by 75 percent.
Additionally, Apple products in 2021 included:
  • 45 percent certified recycled rare earth elements, a significant increase since Apple introduced recycled rare earth elements in its devices.
  • 30 percent certified recycled tin, with all new iPhone, iPad, AirPods, and Mac devices featuring 100 percent recycled tin in the solder of their main logic boards.
  • 13 percent certified recycled cobalt, used in iPhone batteries that can be disassembled by Apple’s recycling robot Daisy and returned to market.
  • Certified recycled gold, featured — for the first time in any Apple product — in the plating of the main logic board and wire in the front camera and the rear cameras of iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro. To achieve this milestone, Apple pioneered industry-leading levels of traceability to build a gold supply chain of exclusively recycled content.

Click here to read the full article on Apple.

The Key Takeaways From The SpaceX Starship Event
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elon Musk is pictured speaking to an audience using a microphone. SpaceX recently had their Starship event

By , Clean Technica

SpaceX founder Elon Musk took stage on Thursday night to deliver new information about the company’s Mars rocket, Starship. For the first time since 2019, SpaceX updated the public on Starship development in an official event. The presentation was notably light on new information, but rather served as an aggregate of progress made over the past two years.

Why Mars?
The SpaceX presentation started with an interesting question: why pursue multi-planetary space missions? Musk defended the concept by talking about the long-term and short-term dangers facing human life on Earth. Once humans are able to establish a self-sustaining settlement on Mars, it would drastically decrease risk of human extinction due to human-induced catastrophe (i.e., nuclear war) or mass-scale natural disasters (i.e., asteroid impact or supervolcano eruption). Then there are also the climate-related risks. Even if none of these events end up posing a threat, Earth-based life seems to have a hard deadline at 1 billion years from now.

Establishing a Permanent Settlement on Mars
Much of the information presented about Starship centered around the goal of creating a permanent settlement on Mars. Musk estimated that it would take roughly 1,000,000 tonnes of supplies and materials to establish a self-sustaining city on the Red Planet. Over time, in order to meet this goal, the rocket will likely undergo changes such as length and better engines, but not a diameter increase.

New Engines
The new V2 Raptor engines took center stage at the presentation as well, both metaphorically and physically. Workers set up a single V2 Raptor engine next to an older V1 engine to allow the media to observe the visual differences between the two (pictured above). The newer engine is noticeably much less complicated, with fewer pipes snaking across the top section. The engine nozzle appears to be visually unchanged, however. This makes these engines not only much easier to manufacture, but as revealed by the presentation, almost half as expensive to produce. The V2 engines are also more effective than the older ones, with more thrust possible.

Click here to read the full article on Clean Technica.

99 million-year-old flowers found perfectly preserved in amber bloomed at the feet of dinosaurs
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Eophylica priscatellata, one of two flowers discovered perfectly preserved in amber.

By Katie Hunt, CNN

Flowers discovered perfectly preserved in globs of amber bloomed at the feet of dinosaurs, suggesting that some flowering plants in South Africa today have remained unchanged for 99 million years, a new study reveals.

The two flowers once bloomed in what is now Myanmar and may shed light on how flowering plants evolved — a major episode in the history of life that was once described by Charles Darwin as an “abominable mystery.”
Flowers are ephemeral: They bloom, transform into a fruit and then disappear. As such, ancient flowers aren’t well represented in the fossil record, making these ancient blooms — and the history they carry with them — particularly precious.
“Leaves are generally produced in larger numbers than flowers and are much more robust — they have a higher preservation potential. A leaf is discarded ‘as is’ at the end of its useful life, while a flower transforms into a fruit, which then gets eaten or disintegrates as part of the seed dispersal process,” said study author Robert Spicer, a professor emeritus in the School of Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences at The Open University in the United Kingdom.

“These particular flowers are almost identical to their modern relatives. There really are no major differences,” added Spicer, who is also a visiting professor at Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden in China.

The evolution and spread of flowering plants (angiosperms) is thought to have played a key role in shaping much of life as we know it today. It brought about the diversification of insects, amphibians, mammals and birds and ultimately marking the the first time when life on land became more diverse than in the sea, according to the study, which published in the journal Nature Plants on Monday.

“Flowering plants reproduce more quickly than other plants, have more complex breeding mechanisms — a wide variety of flower forms, for example, often in close ‘collaboration’ with pollinators. This drives mutual coevolution of many lineages of plants and animals, shaping ecosystems,” Spicer said.

Phylica pubescens, seen here at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, in Cape Town, South Africa, is from the same genus as a 99 million-year-old flower.

One of the flowers preserved in amber was named by researchers Eophylica priscatellata and the other Phylica piloburmensis, the same genus as the Phylica flowers that are native to South Africa today.

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

Microbes in The Ocean Depths Can Make Oxygen Without Sun. This Discovery Could Be Huge
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Microbes in The Ocean Depths Can Make Oxygen Without Sun. This Discovery Could Be Huge. Octopus floating in the ocean

By DAVID NIELD, Science Alert

For most of life on Earth, oxygen is essential, and sunlight is usually needed to produce that oxygen. But in an exciting twist, researchers have caught a common, ocean-dwelling microbe breaking all the rules.

Scientists have found that a microbe called Nitrosopumilus maritimus and several of its cousins, called ammonia oxidizing archaea (AOA), are able to survive in dark, oxygen-depleted environments by producing oxygen on their own. They do so using a biological process that hasn’t been seen before.

While it’s previously been established that these microbes can live in environments where oxygen is scarce, what hasn’t been clear is what they get up to there – and how they’re staying alive for as long as they do. That was the inspiration behind this new research.

“These guys are really abundant in the oceans, where they play an important role in the nitrogen cycle,” says microbiologist Beate Kraft, from the University of Southern Denmark.

“For this they need oxygen, so it has been a long-standing puzzle why they are also very abundant in waters where there is no oxygen. We thought, do they just hang out there with no function? Are they some kind of ghost cells?”

Collect a bucket of seawater out of the ocean, and every fifth cell will be one of these organisms – that’s how common they are. Here, the researchers removed the microbes from their natural habitat and transferred them to the lab.

The team wanted to take a closer look at what would happen when all the available oxygen was gone, and there was no sunlight to produce new oxygen. The same scenario happens when N. maritimus moves from oxygen-rich to oxygen-depleted waters.

What they found was something unexpected: the microorganisms produced their own oxygen to create nitrite, with nitrogen gas (dinitrogen) as a by-product.

“We saw how they used up all the oxygen in the water, and then to our surprise, within minutes, oxygen levels started increasing again,” says geobiologist Don Canfield, from the University of Southern Denmark. “That was very exciting.”

At the moment, the researchers aren’t certain how the microbes are pulling off this trick, and the amount of oxygen produced appears to be relatively small (just enough for their own survival) – but it does look to be different to the few oxygen-without-sunlight processes that we already know about.

What the new pathway does show is that the oxygen production from N. maritimus gets linked to its production of gaseous nitrogen. The microbes are somehow converting ammonia (NH3) into nitrite (NO2-) – a process they use to metabolize energy – in an oxygen-depleted environment.

In turn, this requires them to make their own oxygen, which the team detected traces of, along with the byproduct of nitrogen gas (N2).

Click here to read the full article on Science Alert.

Study Confirms Southern Ocean Is Absorbing Carbon – Important Buffer for Greenhouse Gas Emissions
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map of earth showing c2 and green house gas levels

By Sofie Bates, SciTech Daily

New observations from research aircraft indicate that the Southern Ocean absorbs more carbon from the atmosphere than it releases, confirming that it is a strong carbon sink and an important buffer for the effects of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. Previous research and modeling had left researchers uncertain about how much atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) gets absorbed by the chilly waters circling the Antarctic continent.

In a NASA-supported study published in Science in December 2021, scientists used aircraft observations of atmospheric carbon dioxide to “show that the annual net flux of carbon into the ocean south of 45°S is large, with stronger summertime uptake and less wintertime outgassing than other recent observations have indicated.” They found that the waters in the region absorbed roughly 0.53 more petagrams (530 million metric tons) of carbon than they released each year.

“Airborne measurements show a drawdown of carbon dioxide in the lower atmosphere over the Southern Ocean surface in summer, indicating carbon uptake by the ocean,” explained Matthew Long, lead author of the study and a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Aircraft observations were collected from 2009 to 2018 during three field experiments, including NASA’s Atmospheric Tomography Mission (ATom) in 2016.

The animation and still image on this page show areas where carbon dioxide was absorbed (blue) and emitted (red) by the global ocean in 2012. (Jump to 1:00 to focus on the Southern Hemisphere.) The data come from the ECCO-Darwin Global Ocean Biogeochemistry Model. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

When human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide enter the atmosphere, some of the gas is absorbed by the ocean, a process that can slightly slow carbon accumulation in the atmosphere and the global temperature increases that go with it. Part of this is due to upwelling of cold water from the deep ocean. Once at the surface, colder, nutrient-rich water absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere—usually with the help of photosynthesizing organisms called phytoplankton—before sinking again.

Computer models suggest that 40 percent of the human-produced CO2 in the ocean worldwide was originally absorbed from the atmosphere into the Southern Ocean, making it one of the most important carbon sinks on our planet. But measuring the flux, or exchange, of CO2 from the air to the sea has been challenging.

Many previous studies of Southern Ocean carbon flux relied heavily on measurements of ocean acidity—which increases when seawater absorbs CO2—taken by floating, drifting instruments. The new research used aircraft to measure changes in the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere over the ocean.

“You can’t fool the atmosphere,” Long said. “While measurements taken from the ocean surface and from land are important, they are too sparse to provide a reliable picture of air-sea carbon flux. The atmosphere, however, can integrate fluxes over large expanses.”

Click here to read the full article on SciTech Daily.

The woman saving seahorses from ‘annihilation fishing’
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red seahorse floating in ocean

By Hazel Pfeifer, CNN

Every day, thousands of fishing boats around the world drag huge weighted nets across the seafloor, ensnaring everything in their wake and destroying marine habitats.

Almost one quarter of the world’s annual catch is from this bottom trawling — a process that has been described by scientists as “bulldozing” the ocean floor. The method can be traced back to the 14th century but technological advances in the latter half of the 20th century have allowed it to extend its reach from shallow waters to the deep sea.

Amanda Vincent, a professor at the Institute of Oceans and Fisheries at the University of British Columbia, in Canada, has witnessed the destruction of bottom trawling over three decades researching seahorses across the world.

“Consider your favorite forest or hillside and imagine helicopters dropping heavily weighted wires and clear cutting everything in their path, plowing into the soil, but also taking out every bee, butterfly, bird, bush and bear,” she says. “We wouldn’t allow that on land, not for a minute, but this is what’s happening in the ocean all day, every day.”

“It’s just devastating and it wreaks ecological havoc,” Vincent says. “It’s annihilation fishing, pure and simple, and it has to stop.”

Project Seahorse, a non-profit founded by Vincent in 1996, contributed to getting marine fish recognized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature — a major milestone in protecting seahorses and other marine life. Vincent was also instrumental in uncovering a huge global trade in seahorses — a popular ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine — and her campaigning led to global restrictions on the seahorse trade. Her next crusade is bottom trawling.

More than 70 million seahorses are caught every year by bottom trawling or other fishing methods, according to Project Seahorse, making fishing the biggest threat to the species.

“Most trawl boats only catch one or two seahorses per boat per night (as bycatch). It sounds like nothing,” she says, but continues “countries like Thailand or India export five million seahorses a year, (so) it tells you something about the scale of those bottom trawl operations, because that’s the main way they catch seahorses.”

Impact on the oceans
A 2018 study estimated that around 19 million tons of fish and invertebrates end up in the nets of tens of thousands of bottom trawlers worldwide every year. Other research has found that bottom trawling accounts for nearly 60% of fisheries discards, with unwanted catch thrown back into the ocean.

For the past seven decades, bottom trawling has wasted 437 million tons of fish, leading to an estimated loss of revenue of $560 billion, according to another study.

“It has made a tremendous impact on the world’s oceans,” says Juan Mayorga, a marine scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “For each kilogram of shrimp, you could get up to 25 kilograms of incidental catch … There’s no such thing as a selective bottom trawl.”

As well as threatening fish stocks, a recent paper Mayorga co-authored studied the movements of over 20,000 bottom trawling vessels worldwide and found that by dredging the carbon-rich sediment on the ocean floor, they had a carbon footprint comparable to that of global aviation.

The ocean absorbs a third of the carbon emissions in the atmosphere, making the seafloor the largest carbon repository on the planet.

“The first meter of the sea floor stores twice as much carbon as all of the terrestrial soils combined.” says Mayorga. “So it’s a huge, huge, huge reservoir of carbon.”

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

Striking NASA Animation Reveals the Dirty Truth About Ocean Plastic
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ocean plastic. A wave carrying plastic waste and other rubbish washes up on a beach in Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand.Photo: Mladen Antonov/AFP (Getty Images)

By Molly Taft, Gizmodo

The world dumps some 17.6 billion pounds (8 billion kilograms) of plastic into the ocean every year—and now, you can check out how all that trash moves around. NASA released an animation showing shifting plastic concentrations in the world’s oceans over an 18-month period, the first research of its kind to map plastics on such a global scale for such a long time.

Once plastic gets into the ocean, it doesn’t just float around uniformly. (That’s part of what makes cleanup so difficult.) A lot of plastic gathers in concentrations in the North Atlantic and North Pacific garbage gyres—commonly referred to as garbage patches. These places are relatively easy to measure plastic concentrations, which are performed by dragging a plankton net behind a boat. But these garbage gyres aren’t representative of plastic concentrations in much of the rest of the world’s oceans, and the manual net-based technique to measure plastic isn’t exactly realistic for taking concentrations in the rest of the world.

The NASA animation and images are based on a new method of tracking and mapping plastics’ journey through the worlds’ oceans, developed by researchers at the University of Michigan. The technique uses measurements of how rough the ocean surface is taken with eight microsatellites, which allows scientists to calculate wind speeds in the ocean. Normally a very useful tool for measuring hurricanes and monitoring weather, it turns out that these wind measurements also can help measure plastic. When plastic is close to the surface of the ocean, waters tend to be calmer with fewer waves.

“In cleaner waters, there’s a high degree of agreement between ocean roughness and wind speed,” Chris Ruf, one of the authors of the research, told NASA Earth Observatory. “But as you head into the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, you see a bigger discrepancy between wind speed measurements and the roughness of the surface.”

To figure out where calmer spots in the ocean might be associated with the presence of plastic, University of Michigan researchers cross-referenced the space radar measurements of surface roughness with wind speed measurements from other sources on the ground (or seas, as the case may be) to spot places in the ocean where waters were calmer but wind speeds might still have been strong—suggesting the presence of plastic. They then compared those with other models of ocean plastics, looking at locations between 38 degrees north and south of the equator. (Hence the sharp cutoff line in the animation above.)

The researchers monitored these various data sources around the world for almost a year and a half, between April 2017 all the way through September 2018, making them the first to monitor ocean plastics over such a big scale and long time period. That allowed them to notice some interesting changes, including how garbage concentrations in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch are higher in the summer and lower in the winter. That’s possibly due to how the colder water encourages vertical mixing, which could cause trash to travel to deeper levels of the water.

Click here to read the full article on Gizmodo.

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