Bioreactors ready for the big time

Last summer, the Gulf of Mexico’s “dead zone” spanned more than 6,400 square miles, more than three times the size it should have been, according to the Gulf Hypoxia Task Force. Nitrogen runoff from farms along the Mississippi River winds up in the Gulf, feeding algae but depriving other marine life of oxygen when the algae decomposes. The 12 states that border the Mississippi have been mandated to develop nutrient reduction strategies, but one especially effective strategy has not been adopted widely: bioreactors. …read more

Citizen scientists collected rare ice data, confirm warming since industrial revolution

In 1442, Shinto priests in Japan began keeping records of the freeze dates of a nearby lake, while in 1693 Finnish merchants started recording breakup dates on a local river. Together they create the oldest inland water ice records in human history and mark the first inklings of climate change, says a new report published today out of York University and the University of Wisconsin. …read more

Rainbow-coloured hydrothermal systems show spectrum of extreme life on Earth

The Danakil Depression in Ethiopia is one of the most inhospitable places on Earth. Water at near-boiling temperatures bubbles up from underground, high salt concentrations create multi-coloured structures, and chlorine and sulphur vapour fogs the air. This month, researchers from the Europlanet 2020 Research Infrastructure, carrying out the first investigation into the site’s geology, mineralogy and biology, have found that the Danakil Depression hosts at least three extreme ecosystems that have the potential to help us understand how life might arise on other planets and moons. …read more

Forget Fukushima—Chernobyl still holds record as worst nuclear accident for public health

The 1986 Chernobyl and 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant accidents both share the notorious distinction of attaining the highest accident rating on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) scale of nuclear accidents. No other reactor incident has ever received this Level 7 “major accident” designation in the history of nuclear power. Chernobyl and Fukushima earned it because both involved core meltdowns that released significant amounts of radioactivity to their surroundings. …read more

Monitoring toxic chemicals in coastal waters to protect wildlife

More investment is needed to develop better analytical tests to measure, and therefore help control, the amount of toxic chemicals called organotins that enter the environment, according to a review published in Trends in Environmental Analytical Chemistry. The authors of the review found that tough regulations have inspired the development of new technologies to monitor organotins. However, they further work is needed to meet international targets. …read more