Earth news stories

Plants sacrifice ‘daughters’ to survive chilly weather
27th June 2017 | Earth

Plants adopt different strategies to survive the changing temperatures of their natural environments. This is most evident in temperate regions where forest trees shed their leaves to conserve energy during the cold season. In a new study, a team of plant biologists from the National University of Singapore (NUS) found that some plants may selectively kill part of their roots to survive under cold weather conditions.

Amazon Rain Forest May Have Once Been a Giant Marine Lake
26th June 2017 | | Ancient, Earth

For decades scientists have grappled with one of our planet’s greatest biogeographical mysteries: how the geologic history of the Amazon River basin has shaped its magnificent ecosystem. Now new research describes sedimentary evidence from eastern Colombia and northwestern Brazil that suggests the enormous basin was covered by ocean water at least twice in the past.

The Gulf of Mexico’s ‘Dead Zone’ Could Nearly Double in Size This Year
26th June 2017 | | Earth

T he oxygen-poor “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico may be the biggest on record this year, nearly doubling in size to cover an area of ocean as large as Vermont, scientists at Louisiana State University estimate.

Solar heating could cover more than 80 percent of domestic heating requirements in Nordic countries
26th June 2017 | Earth

According to researchers at Aalto University, by using suitable systems, more than 80 percent of heating energy for Finnish households could be produced using solar energy. As the price of heating energy obtained from solar heating systems needed to be competitive with the currently used heating alternatives, calculations made by researchers showed that renewable energy could be used to cover 53 to 81 percent of annual domestic heating energy consumption depending on the technical implementation method.

Why are countries laying claim to the deep-sea floor?
26th June 2017 | | Earth

Around the world, countries are claiming obscure and difficult-to-reach tracts of the deep-sea floor, far from the surface and further still from land. Why?

There is a long history of claiming newly discovered territories, of planting the flag at far outposts of the known world.

Corn better used as food than biofuel, study finds
26th June 2017 | Earth, Tech

Corn is grown not only for food, it is also an important renewable energy source. Renewable biofuels can come with hidden economic and environmental issues, and the question of whether corn is better utilized as food or as a biofuel has persisted since ethanol came into use. For the first time, researchers at the University of Illinois have quantified and compared these issues in terms of economics of the entire production system to determine if the benefits of biofuel corn outweigh the costs.

By 2100, Deadly Heat May Threaten Majority of Humankind
24th June 2017 | Earth

A new study has found that 30 percent of the world’s population is currently exposed to potentially deadly heat for 20 days per year or more—and like a growing forest fire, climate change is spreading this extreme heat.

Rivers Get Human Rights: They Can Sue to Protect Themselves
24th June 2017 | | Earth

In the early 2000s, the idea of giving legal rights to nature was on the fringes of environmental legal theory and public consciousness.

Today, New Zealand’s Whanganui River is a person under domestic law, and India’s Ganges River was recently granted human rights. In Ecuador, the Constitution enshrines nature’s “right to integral respect”. What on earth does this all mean?

Could ‘saline agriculture’ be the future of coastal farming?
24th June 2017 | Earth

‘Saline agriculture’ – the process of adapting farming techniques to salted soils – which could prove key for coastal farms at risk of flooding, and is a new area of focus for researchers at the University of Lincoln.

Clean-up removes 1.86m cigarette butts, 56 toilets and a piano from beaches and waterways around the world
24th June 2017 | | Earth

A global effort to clean up some of the most litter-strewn beaches recovered a mind-boggling 1,863,838 cigarettes – plus 56 toilets and even a piano.

Ocean Conservancy, a U.S.-based non-profit that organises a mammoth coastal litter-pick every year, found that cigarettes were the worst offender in 2016 when it came to water waste, followed by plastic bottles.

Plastic pollution in the Antarctic worse than expected
24th June 2017 | Earth

The levels of microplastic particles accumulating in the Antarctic are much worse than expected, a team of experts has warned.

The continent is considered to be a pristine wilderness compared to other regions and was thought to be relatively free from plastic pollution.

Renewables provide more than half UK electricity for first time
23rd June 2017 | | Earth

Renewable sources of energy have generated more electricity than coal and gas in Great Britain for the first time.

National Grid reported that, on Wednesday lunchtime, power from wind, solar, hydro and wood pellet burning supplied 50.7% of UK energy.

U.S. Reports a Major Milestone in Wind and Solar Power
23rd June 2017 | | Earth

Ten percent of all of the electricity generated in the U.S. in March came from wind and solar power, marking the first such milestone in U.S. history, according to a new U.S. Energy Information Administration report.

It’s Not Romantic Anymore to Say That Plants Have Brain-like Systems
21st June 2017 | Earth

Science also has a romanticizing problem—with plants. Viewed under a romantic light, they appear less like passive biological mechanisms than like active, discerning beings. The nadir of this perspective came in 1973, with The Secret Life of Plants, a book that, most memorably, encouraged the idea that plants are almost telepathic. “This might seem harmless enough,” Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, wrote a few years ago in an article for The New Yorker, titled “The Intelligent Plant.” “There will probably always be a strain of romanticism running through our thinking about plants.

Plant Seeds Use “Mini Brains” to Decide When to Sprout
21st June 2017 | | Earth

Have you ever seen a plant seed look like it’s thinking? Researchers have found two small groups of cells inside plant embryos that operate in a similar way to the human brain, and help decide when the plant should start sprouting.

Fractal planting patterns yield optimal harvests, without central control
21st June 2017 | Earth

Bali’s famous rice terraces, when seen from above, look like colorful mosaics because some farmers plant synchronously, while others plant at different times. The resulting fractal patterns are rare for man-made systems and lead to optimal harvests without global planning.

News stories covering the environment, plant life, and the Earth itself.