California approves vehicle pollution rules in rebuke to Trump

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (Reuters) – California on Friday challenged the Trump administration’s approach to car pollution, approving standards that the White House said still need review and setting up a potential face-off between federal and state regulators.

Reuters: Environment

World Bank claims ‘sovereign immunity’ to escape liability for its crimes against humanity

World Bank projects have left a worldwide trail of evictions, displacements, rapes, murders, forest destruction, greenhouse-gas-belching fossil fuel projects, and destruction of farmland and water sources, writes Pete Dolack. But even as internal reports admit the Bank’s wrongdoing, it is asserting its immunity from legal action as terrorised communities seek redress in the courts.
Environment news & analysis, climate change reports –
The Ecologist

Trump greenlights Keystone XL pipeline, but other obstacles loom

WASHINGTON/CALGARY (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration approved TransCanada Corp’s Keystone XL pipeline on Friday, cheering the oil industry and angering environmentalists who had sought for years to block it.

Reuters: Environment

War, human rights and biodiversity: turning conflict into conservation

Over 90% of major armed conflicts between 1950-2000 occurred in countries containing biodiversity hotspots,writes Alex Reid, and more than 80% of these took place in the hotspot areas themselves. This poses a major challenge to the conservation community: to work in combat zones to strengthen environmental protection before, during and after conflicts. Or better still, to defuse incipient conflicts and resolve those under way, to reduce their toll on people, and nature.
Environment news & analysis, climate change reports –
The Ecologist

State Department to approve Keystone pipeline permit on Friday: sources

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. State Department plans to approve on Friday the permit needed to proceed with construction of the Canada-to-United States Keystone XL oil pipeline, a project blocked by former President Barack Obama, according to two government sources familiar with the process.

Reuters: Environment

Study Finds That Coastal Wetlands Excel at Storing Carbon

Ocean Leadership ~

(Click to enlarge) A new study shows coastal wetlands are important marine ecosystems for carbon storage.

(Click to enlarge) A new study shows coastal wetlands are important marine ecosystems for carbon storage.

As humans continually add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, getting rid of the excess greenhouse gas has become a priority. Scientists are searching for new ways to remove carbon from the atmosphere and put it into long-term lockdown.

(From EOS / By Sarah Derouin)– The ocean’s ability to soak up carbon like a sponge is well known, but researchers are now taking a fresh look at ocean shores. Our planet has about 620,000 kilometers (372,000 miles) of coastline, long enough to wrap around Earth almost 15 times.

In a recent paper in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, researchers analyzed multiple ways in which nature captures carbon in marine ecosystems, a reservoir known as blue carbon. They found that coastal mangroves, seagrasses, and tidal marshes, or coastal blue carbon, provided particularly effective and long-lasting carbon storage.

The 2016 Paris Agreement has intensified pressure on nations that signed the pact to meet carbon goals and find better ways to sequester carbon. There are many solutions, but deciding which is most effective—oceans, forests, mangroves, or kelp farming, for example—can be daunting. In addition, many studies use different timescales or measurements, further muddying carbon storage comparisons.

“The goal of the paper was to try and compare apples to apples,” said Jennifer Howard, lead author of the paper and marine climate change director at Conservation International in Arlington, Va. On 1 February, she and her colleagues published their detailed report online, which compares carbon storage by coastal blue carbon ecosystems to storage by algae and marine animals.

Plants take carbon out of the atmosphere, storing it in leaves, roots, and branches. On land, when vegetation falls to the ground, the bits break down quickly, releasing carbon back into the atmosphere. Not so in coastal wetlands. There, Howard explained, tidally driven salt water saturates soil twice a day in mangrove forests and tidal marshes and continuously in seagrass ecosystems, which are perpetually submerged. Saltwater inundation inhibits the microbial breakdown of plant debris, trapping it in the soil. The authors note that 50% to 90% of coastal blue carbon storage occurs in the soil, not the plants. “You can still see intact leaves 3 meters down,” said Howard. “The carbon is stable.”

Vegetation trapped in coastal blue carbon soils can be hundreds of years old and meters thick. By contrast, kelp, which also grows in coastal forests, lacks the extensive root systems that collect debris and sediment that become carbon-rich soils typical of coastal wetlands and traps carbon only a short time in living kelp plants because of their relatively short life spans.

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Consortium for Ocean Leadership

Sea Ice Extent Sinks to Record Lows at Both Poles

Arctic sea ice appears to have reached on March 7 a record low wintertime maximum extent, according to scientists at NASA and the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado. And on the opposite side of the planet, on March 3 sea ice around Antarctica hit its lowest extent ever recorded by satellites at the end of summer in the Southern Hemisphere, a surprising turn of events after decades of moderate sea ice expansion.

On Feb. 13, the combined Arctic and Antarctic sea ice numbers were at their lowest point since satellites began to continuously measure sea ice in 1979. Total polar sea ice covered 6.26 million square miles (16.21 million square kilometers), which is 790,000 square miles (2 million square kilometers) less than the average global minimum extent for 1981-2010 – the equivalent of having lost a chunk of sea ice larger than Mexico.

ENN: Top Stories

Rice U. refines filters for greener natural gas

Natural gas producers want to draw all the methane they can from a well while sequestering as much carbon dioxide as possible, and could use filters that optimize either carbon capture or methane flow. No single filter will do both, but thanks to Rice University scientists, they now know how to fine-tune sorbents for their needs.

Subtle adjustments in the manufacture of a polymer-based carbon sorbent make it the best-known material either for capturing the greenhouse gas or balancing carbon capture with methane selectivity, according to Rice chemist Andrew Barron. 

ENN: Top Stories

“State of the South Coast” Report Tallies Marine Life

Ocean Leadership ~

A new study shows the state of marine protected areas in the Southern California South Coast. (Creative Commons)

(Click to enlarge) A new study shows the state of marine protected areas in the Southern California South Coast. (Creative Commons)

Researchers this week issued a sort of almanac of the ocean off Southern California in wide-ranging report on the the region’s marine protected areas established in 2012.

(From The San Diego Union Tribune / By Deborah Brennan)– San Diego’s coast includes 11 of those marine protected areas, from Batiquitos Lagoon in North County to the Tijuana River Mouth.

The report — “State of the Southern California South Coast” — cataloged the species found in habitats from sandy beaches and intertidal zones to deep water canyon, tallying both the diversity of marine creatures and their abundance.

Among the findings: sea stars may be slowly bouncing back from a catastrophic die-off several years ago, and marine life appears to be increasing in older protected areas around the Channel Islands.

“It’s really giving a deeper understanding of this wonderful asset that we all identify with as Californians, which is our ocean,” said Tom Maloney, executive director of the California Ocean Science Trust. “MPAs and monitoring of MPAs represent a globally important commitment to our ocean.”

The report examined ocean areas in and around marine protected areas, and measured baseline levels for the types and numbers of sea creatures in those waters. They’ll check those in future years to see if the new protections are working to boost populations of fish and other species.

Researchers used various methods ranging from tagging and recapturing lobsters, to aerial surveys and scuba dives, to observe and count species.

In La Jolla Canyon, researchers conducted special “elevator” transects straight up the canyon walls, where they identified 37 fish species including 15 rockfish species. The more rugged the canyon walls, the more life there was. But the deepest portions of the canyon, below 650 feet, had the most diverse species.

It’s too early to know how well the protected areas are working, but figures from the Channel Islands showed that older MPAs had increased density and biomass — the total mass of living organisms — compared to surrounding areas. In those areas, most of which were established in 2003, the biomass of targeted species increased by more than twice the rate that it did outside the MPA boundaries.

In another hopeful sign the report noted that sea stars, which perished from a wasting syndrome across the West Coast in 2013 and 2014, may be starting to recover. Scientists identified a virus as the likely culprit in the sea star die-off, but believe that exceptionally warm water that persisted until last year may have also contributed to the deaths.

Since then, researchers have found an abundance of baby sea stars in the waters where the species collapsed, said Pete Raimondi, a marine ecologist from UC Santa Cruz. Researchers will follow whether those juvenile sea stars make it to maturity, or succumb to the same disease that wiped out the previous generation.

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The post “State of the South Coast” Report Tallies Marine Life appeared on Consortium for Ocean Leadership.

Consortium for Ocean Leadership

Arctic’s Winter Sea Ice Drops to Its Lowest Recorded Level

Much of the ice also appears to be thinner than normal — further signs of climate change’s effects on the region.