Archive for the ‘ecology’ Category

Pollution from drug manufacturing: review and perspectives

October 16, 2014 Comments off

Pollution from drug manufacturing: review and perspectives
Source: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society

As long ago as the sixteenth century, Paracelsus recognized that ‘the dose makes the poison’. Indeed, environmental concentrations of pharmaceuticals excreted by humans are limited, most importantly because a defined dose is given to just a fraction of the population. By contrast, recent studies have identified direct emission from drug manufacturing as a source of much higher environmental discharges that, in some cases, greatly exceed toxic threshold concentrations. Because production is concentrated in specific locations, the risks are not linked to usage patterns. Furthermore, as the drugs are not consumed, metabolism in the human body does not reduce concentrations. The environmental risks associated with manufacturing therefore comprise a different, wider set of pharmaceuticals compared with those associated with risks from excretion. Although pollution from manufacturing is less widespread, discharges that promote the development of drug-resistant microorganisms can still have global consequences. Risk management also differs between production and excretion in terms of accountability, incentive creation, legal opportunities, substitution possibilities and costs. Herein, I review studies about industrial emissions of pharmaceuticals and the effects associated with exposure to such effluents. I contrast environmental pollution due to manufacturing with that due to excretion in terms of their risks and management and highlight some recent initiatives.

See also:
+ Detection and drivers of exposure and effects of pharmaceuticals in higher vertebrates
+ Risks of hormonally active pharmaceuticals to amphibians: a growing concern regarding progestagens
+ Putting pharmaceuticals into the wider context of challenges to fish populations in rivers

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Casting the Net: A More Efficient Approach to U.S. Fisheries Management

October 6, 2014 Comments off

Casting the Net: A More Efficient Approach to U.S. Fisheries Management
Source: Hamilton Project (Brookings Institution)

The fishing industry contributes about $90 billion annually to the U.S. economy, through commercial fishing, charter boat companies, manufacturers of fishing equipment, and more. This translates into over one and a half million jobs for American workers. In many cases, however, current management practices lead to inefficient fishing practices that threaten both the ecological and economic sustainability of U.S. fisheries.

On September 10th, The Hamilton Project hosted a forum to discuss new opportunities for improving the economic prosperity and long-term sustainability of the U.S. fishing industry. The forum opened with remarks by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin.

The Project released an economic overview of the U.S. fishing industry, and a new paper by economist Christopher Costello of UC Santa Barbara proposing amendments to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act requiring that fisheries meeting certain criteria be required to undertake a comparison of the economic, social, and ecological trade-offs between status quo management and alternative management structures, including catch shares.

Living Planet Report 2014

October 2, 2014 Comments off

Living Planet Report 2014
Source: World Wildlife Fund

The Living Planet Report documents the state of the planet—including biodiversity, ecosystems, and demand on natural resources—and what this means for humans and wildlife. Published by WWF every two years, the report brings together a variety of research to provide a comprehensive view of the health of the earth.

Population sizes of vertebrate species—mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish—have declined by 52 percent over the last 40 years. In other words, those populations around the globe have dropped by more than half in fewer than two human generations.

At the same time, our own demands on nature are unsustainable and increasing. We need 1.5 Earths to regenerate the natural resources we currently use; we cut trees faster than they mature, harvest more fish than oceans replenish, and emit more carbon into the atmosphere than forests and oceans can absorb.

A Century of Ocean Warming on Florida Keys Coral Reefs: Historic In Situ Observations

October 1, 2014 Comments off

A Century of Ocean Warming on Florida Keys Coral Reefs: Historic In Situ Observations
Source: Estuaries and Coasts

There is strong evidence that global climate change over the last several decades has caused shifts in species distributions, species extinctions, and alterations in the functioning of ecosystems. However, because of high variability on short (i.e., diurnal, seasonal, and annual) timescales as well as the recency of a comprehensive instrumental record, it is difficult to detect or provide evidence for long-term, site-specific trends in ocean temperature. Here we analyze five in situ datasets from Florida Keys coral reef habitats, including historic measurements taken by lighthouse keepers, to provide three independent lines of evidence supporting approximately 0.8 °C of warming in sea surface temperature (SST) over the last century. Results indicate that the warming observed in the records between 1878 and 2012 can be fully accounted for by the warming observed in recent decades (from 1975 to 2007), documented using in situ thermographs on a mid-shore patch reef. The magnitude of warming revealed here is similar to that found in other SST datasets from the region and to that observed in global mean surface temperature. The geologic context and significance of recent ocean warming to coral growth and population dynamics are discussed, as is the future prognosis for the Florida reef tract.

Pesticides in U.S. Streams and Rivers: Occurrence and Trends during 1992–2011

September 12, 2014 Comments off

Pesticides in U.S. Streams and Rivers: Occurrence and Trends during 1992–2011
Source: Environmental Science & Technology

During the 20 years from 1992 to 2011, pesticides were found at concentrations that exceeded aquatic-life benchmarks in many rivers and streams that drain agricultural, urban, and mixed-land use watersheds. Overall, the proportions of assessed streams with one or more pesticides that exceeded an aquatic-life benchmark were very similar between the two decades for agricultural (69% during 1992−2001 compared to 61% during 2002−2011) and mixed-land-use streams (45% compared to 46%). Urban streams, in contrast, increased from 53% during 1992−2011 to 90% during 2002−2011, largely because of fipronil and dichlorvos. The potential for adverse effects on aquatic life is likely greater than these results indicate because potentially important pesticide compounds were not included in the assessment. Human-health benchmarks were much less frequently exceeded, and during 2002−2011, only one agricultural stream and no urban or mixed-land-use streams exceeded human-health benchmarks for any of the measured pesticides. Widespread trends in pesticide concentrations, some downward and some upward, occurred in response to shifts in use patterns primarily driven by regulatory changes and introductions of new pesticides.

Urbanisation at Multiple Scales Is Associated with Larger Size and Higher Fecundity of an Orb-Weaving Spider

September 11, 2014 Comments off

Urbanisation at Multiple Scales Is Associated with Larger Size and Higher Fecundity of an Orb-Weaving Spider
Source: PLoS ONE

Urbanisation modifies landscapes at multiple scales, impacting the local climate and changing the extent and quality of natural habitats. These habitat modifications significantly alter species distributions and can result in increased abundance of select species which are able to exploit novel ecosystems. We examined the effect of urbanisation at local and landscape scales on the body size, lipid reserves and ovary weight of Nephila plumipes, an orb weaving spider commonly found in both urban and natural landscapes. Habitat variables at landscape, local and microhabitat scales were integrated to create a series of indexes that quantified the degree of urbanisation at each site. Spider size was negatively associated with vegetation cover at a landscape scale, and positively associated with hard surfaces and anthropogenic disturbance on a local and microhabitat scale. Ovary weight increased in higher socioeconomic areas and was positively associated with hard surfaces and leaf litter at a local scale. The larger size and increased reproductive capacity of N.plumipes in urban areas show that some species benefit from the habitat changes associated with urbanisation. Our results also highlight the importance of incorporating environmental variables from multiple scales when quantifying species responses to landscape modification.

See: The Urban Environment Is Creating Super-Sized Spiders (The Atlantic)

Categories: ecology, PLoS ONE, urban issues

314 North American Bird Species Threatened by Global Warming, Audubon Scientists Reveal in New Study

September 10, 2014 Comments off

314 North American Bird Species Threatened by Global Warming, Audubon Scientists Reveal in New Study
Source: National Audubon Society

Climate change threatens nearly half the bird species in the continental United States and Canada, including the Bald Eagle and dozens of iconic birds like the Common Loon, Baltimore Oriole and Brown Pelican, according to a new study published today by National Audubon Society (

The study identifies 126 species that will lose more than 50 percent of their current ranges – in some cases up to 100 percent – by 2050, with no possibility of moving elsewhere if global warming continues on its current trajectory. A further 188 species face more than 50 percent range loss by 2080 but may be able to make up some of this loss if they are able to colonize new areas. These 314 species include many not previously considered at risk. The report indicates that numerous extinctions are likely if global temperature increases are not stopped.


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