Raja Ampat survey reveals new species and key manta ray data

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2018/04/09 - 10:00pm

Raja Ampat is the global epicentre of marine biodiversity – and the species count is still rising, thanks in large part to two scientists ...

I’m at five metres, clutching a rock outcrop on the seabed when the manta ray fixes me with its gaze. I’m free diving so there are no distracting bubbles - just the undulation of wings – four metres from tip to tip – as it passes close enough to touch, with a look that feels…nuanced. We stare at each other for a couple of moments before it wheels round, showing me a white belly scattered with dark spots and a couple of remora fish hitching a ride. Being that close to a manta is thrilling – but it’s the look that stays with me.

An archipelago of 1500 odd islands scattered over 40,000 square kilometres off the coast of West Papua, Indonesia, Raja Ampat is a great place to see manta rays – and indeed sea creatures in general. For one, these waters are home to more marine species than anywhere else on the planet: there are single reefs in Raja Ampat that contain more species than the entire Caribbean. And then there’s the fact that the entire region was declared a sanctuary for sharks and rays back in 2010 – a move that four years later led to the whole of Indonesia becoming a manta ray sanctuary – easily the world’s largest.

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Categories: Environment

Iceland to be first UK supermarket to cut palm oil from own-brand products

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2018/04/09 - 9:01pm

Frozen food specialist will reformulate own-label range to be free of controversial ingredient which drives deforestation by the end of 2018

Iceland is to become the first major UK supermarket to pledge to remove palm oil from all its own-brand foods, in a bid to halt the ongoing destruction of tropical rainforests in south-east Asia.

The frozen food specialist will reveal on Tuesday that the controversial ingredient has already been taken out half of its own-label range, with the rest being reformulated by the end of 2018.

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Categories: Environment

Weatherwatch: overheating cities take steps to cool down

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2018/04/09 - 1:30pm

Light-coloured roads and rooftop gardens are planning measures being employed to combat rising urban temperatures

With summer still apparently a long way off, it seems premature to be worrying about heatwaves but they are becoming as great a threat to life as winter cold. Predictions are that, in summer, most European cities could become as much as 10C hotter by the end of this century, testing the old and very young who both have trouble regulating body temperature.

Related: Urban heat islands: cooling things down with trees, green roads and fewer cars

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Categories: Environment

A Grass-Roots Movement For Healthy Soil Spreads Among Farmers

NPR News - Environment - Mon, 2018/04/09 - 12:16pm

America's farmers are digging soil like never before. A movement for "regenerative agriculture" is dedicated to building healthier soil and could even lead to a new eco-label on food.

(Image credit: Dan Charles)

Categories: Environment

'It's our lifeblood': the Murray-Darling and the fight for Indigenous water rights

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2018/04/09 - 11:00am

Securing rights to cultural flows would provide employment and skills for Indigenous communities along river system

Murray-Darling: when the river runs dry

When the water levels of the Darling river fall, local elders in Wilcannia, New South Wales, say, the crime rate spikes, particularly juvenile crime.

It seems like an odd correlation until the elders explain just how important the river is to their everyday lives.

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Categories: Environment

Tree clearing, not urban sprawl, wiping out koalas in Queensland, WWF says

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2018/04/09 - 11:00am

Analysis shows 94% of the 5,000 estimated koala deaths due to habitat loss from 2012 to 2016 occurred outside the state’s heavily developed south-east

Environmentalists estimate that tree clearing in regional and rural Queensland is now 15 times more destructive to the state’s koala populations than urban sprawl.

Development, and the loss of koala habitat for housing and infrastructure, was considered a key reason why the koala was added to the “vulnerable” species list in 2012.

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Categories: Environment

‘Our territory is our life’: one struggle against mining in Ecuador

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2018/04/09 - 8:20am

The A’I Cofan in the Amazon fight back against small-scale gold-miners invading their land and new, large-scale concessions upriver

Three A’I Cofan men were staring down at a pit of rocks, dead foliage and filthy water where two gold-panners were working. Beyond was a sluice and hoses running down to the rushing, green waters of the River Aguarico. To the right, there was mud, more rocks, more equipment, a makeshift tent and camp. Behind, to the left, a Hyundai excavator and a track running downriver.

No more than two weeks before, no track had existed and all this had been primary forest. Now that was gone. Only an area about 110 x 50 metres, you might say, but this is how gold rushes start.

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Categories: Environment

Heathrow third runway noise would affect 2.2m people, analysis finds

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2018/04/09 - 7:51am

Official files show government expects 973,000 households to face increased daytime noise

More than 2 million people would be exposed to additional aircraft noise if Heathrow builds a third runway, according to a government analysis.

Ministers have argued that Britain’s biggest airport will affect fewer people with noise in future, due to quieter planes. But government calculations suggest a new runway would still have a negative impact on nearly a million households, or 2.2 million people.

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Categories: Environment

BBC Radio 4 broke accuracy rules in Nigel Lawson climate change interview

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2018/04/09 - 7:40am

Ofcom says controversial claims, including on the frequency of extreme weather events, went unchallenged

BBC Radio 4 broke accuracy rules by failing to sufficiently challenge the climate change denier Nigel Lawson’s controversial claims in an interview, the broadcasting watchdog has ruled.

Lord Lawson appeared on a Radio 4 programme last summer denying the concept of climate change, which prompted complaints from the Green party and the prominent scientists Brian Cox and Jim Al-Khalili, who said it was “irresponsible and highly misleading” to imply there was still a debate around the science supporting it.

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Categories: Environment

What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger: Why Scott Pruitt May Be Here To Stay

NPR News - Environment - Mon, 2018/04/09 - 6:55am

If Pruitt's slavish devotion to deregulation has boosted his stock with Trump, it has also endeared him to an array of conservative activists and organizations who have been looking for heroes.

(Image credit: Pool/Getty Images)

Categories: Environment

Plans for Welsh nuclear power plant delayed by concerns over seabirds

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2018/04/09 - 5:57am

Next stage of planning process for Anglesey site postponed as effect on tern colonies is assessed

Plans for a nuclear power station on the Welsh island of Anglesey have been delayed by concerns over the plant’s impact on colonies of protected seabirds.

The proposed twin reactors at Wylfa were given the green light by the UK’s nuclear regulator in December, with backers hoping to win financial support from the government.

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Categories: Environment

Trump Touts Pruitt's 'Great Job,' But EPA Rollbacks Have A Long Road Ahead

NPR News - Environment - Mon, 2018/04/09 - 2:00am

Embattled EPA chief Scott Pruitt has moved to reverse or weaken dozens of environmental measures. But many face a slow regulatory process, and may yet be undone.

(Image credit: George Frey/Getty Images)

Categories: Environment

Caught in the crossfire: little dodo nears extinction

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2018/04/09 - 12:40am

Illegal pigeon hunting across Samoa is risking the extinction of the country’s national bird: the little dodo or manumea. Will this little-known island pigeon suffer the same fate as its namesake?

Nearly two hundred years after the extinction of the dodo, Sir William Jardin – a Scottish naturalist and bird-aficionado – described another odd, bulky, island pigeon. From the island of Samoa, this one was distinguished by a massive, curving bill that sported tooth-like serrations on its lower mandible. Given the strangeness of the creature, Jardine set it in its own genus and dubbed it Didunculus – the little dodo. Genetic evidence has since confirmed that the tooth-billed pigeon – or little dodo – is one of the closest living relatives of its long-deceased namesake. Today, the little dodo is at the very precipice of extinction, but it remains nearly as cryptic and little known as it did when Jardin gave it a scientific name in 1845.

The little dodo “is the last surviving species in its genus,” Rebecca Stirnemann said. “The Fijian and Tongan species [of the little dodo] are both extinct. It is the national bird of Samoa and appears in many of the stories often in association with chiefs.”

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Categories: Environment

The edible solutions to the plastic-packaging crisis

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2018/04/08 - 10:00pm

A UK startup making water containers from seaweed is one of many businesses thinking of food-based answers to the global problem of plastic. Can they catch on?

Who hasn’t occasionally considered whether you could just chomp on your water bottle once you have finished drinking from it? That is a reality with Ooho water pouches – from Skipping Rocks Lab, a UK-based “sustainable packaging” startup – made from seaweed for an esoteric post-beverage snack.

Of course, eating them is not really the point – the reason they received the thumbs up from French president Emmanuel Macron in December is that they offer a glimpse of a plastic-free future. With the tide turning against plastics and everyone from David Attenborough to the Queen seeking bans, these containers could help save the oceans. Ooho pouches encase a serving of water in a thin membrane made from brown algae. They were developed in London by Pierre-Yves Paslier and Rodrigo García González, who claim seaweed is safe to eat and regrows quickly, too.

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Categories: Environment

Linc Energy guilty of causing serious environmental harm

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2018/04/08 - 8:19pm

Water in Queensland’s Darling Downs was polluted so much it was unfit for stock, court hears

A failed Queensland energy company has been found guilty of causing serious environmental harm by polluting the Darling Downs with hazardous contaminants despite warnings from scientists.

Linc Energy has been on trial for weeks at Brisbane district court, where the jury was told that toxic gas leaked from its operations between 2007 and 2013.

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Categories: Environment

The Impact Of Pruitt's EPA Rollback

NPR News - Environment - Sun, 2018/04/08 - 2:12pm

NPR's Michel Martin asks former EPA official Lisa Heinzerling whether EPA administrator Scott Pruitt's moves to roll back regulations are actually making an impact on the agency and the environment.

Categories: Environment

One of Queensland's largest irrigators expected to be charged with fraud

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2018/04/08 - 11:00am

Expected charges against Norman Farming likely to throw spotlight on poor federal and state administration of Murray-Darling funds

Fraud charges are expected to be laid against one of Queensland’s biggest cotton irrigators, John Norman, within a matter of weeks.

If the trial of the owner-operator of Norman Farming, and former cotton farmer of the year goes ahead, it is likely to draw attention to the links between the irrigator’s family and that of the federal minister for agriculture and water resources, David Littleproud.

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Categories: Environment

One man’s plan to let wolves roam free in the Highlands

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2018/04/07 - 10:00pm
The ‘custodian’ of the Alladale estate wants to turn it into a fenced-off wildlife reserve

The echoes of Scotland’s predator prince faded into silence three centuries ago. The wolf was once lord of these Sutherland slopes and the forest floors beneath and now a voice in the wilderness is calling him home.

Paul Lister acquired the Alladale estate, 50 miles north of Inverness, in 2003 and immediately set about creating a wilderness reserve according to his perception of what these wild and beautiful places ought to look like. He can’t imagine them without the packs of wolves that once roamed free here.

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Categories: Environment

US gene-editing ruling delights plant scientists

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2018/04/07 - 4:05pm
Ruling paves way for creation of new genetically altered crops

Researchers in the US have been given the go-ahead to use gene-editing techniques to alter crops and plants. The decision opens the door for scientists to create a new generation of genetically altered crops without serious restriction and paves the way for approvals for similar work in Britain and the rest of Europe.

The decision – by the US Department of Agriculture – has delighted scientists who had feared that limitations on the creation and growing of genetically modified crops would also be imposed on crops created using far simpler gene-editing techniques.

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Categories: Environment

Abandoned collieries could hold key to heating UK homes

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2018/04/07 - 4:04pm
Geologists aim to tap reservoir in tunnels under Glasgow

Scientists are finalising plans to exploit the vast reservoir of warm water that fills a labyrinth of disused mines and porous rock layers underneath Glasgow. They believe this subterranean store of naturally heated water could be used to warm homes in the city. If the system proves successful, such water could then be exploited in other cities and towns across Britain, they say.

The £9m project will initially involve drilling narrow boreholes filled with instruments to survey temperature, seismic activity, water flow, acidity and other variables to establish the state of the water in the rocks below the city. The aim will be to establish whether this warm water can be extracted for long periods to heat Glaswegian homes.

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Categories: Environment
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