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Concept: Environmental impact assessment

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Indian Himalayan basins are earmarked for widespread dam building, but aggregate effects of these dams on terrestrial ecosystems are unknown. We mapped distribution of 292 dams (under construction and proposed) and projected effects of these dams on terrestrial ecosystems under different scenarios of land-cover loss. We analyzed land-cover data of the Himalayan valleys, where dams are located. We estimated dam density on fifth- through seventh-order rivers and compared these estimates with current global figures. We used a species-area relation model (SAR) to predict short- and long-term species extinctions driven by deforestation. We used scatter plots and correlation studies to analyze distribution patterns of species and dams and to reveal potential overlap between species-rich areas and dam sites. We investigated effects of disturbance on community structure of undisturbed forests. Nearly 90% of Indian Himalayan valleys would be affected by dam building and 27% of these dams would affect dense forests. Our model projected that 54,117 ha of forests would be submerged and 114,361 ha would be damaged by dam-related activities. A dam density of 0.3247/1000 km(2) would be nearly 62 times greater than current average global figures; the average of 1 dam for every 32 km of river channel would be 1.5 times higher than figures reported for U.S. rivers. Our results show that most dams would be located in species-rich areas of the Himalaya. The SAR model projected that by 2025, deforestation due to dam building would likely result in extinction of 22 angiosperm and 7 vertebrate taxa. Disturbance due to dam building would likely reduce tree species richness by 35%, tree density by 42%, and tree basal cover by 30% in dense forests. These results, combined with relatively weak national environmental impact assessment and implementation, point toward significant loss of species if all proposed dams in the Indian Himalaya are constructed. Efectos Potenciales del Desarrollo Hidroeléctrico Actual y Propuesto sobre la Diversidad Biológica Terrestre en el Himalaya Hindú

Concepts: Biodiversity, River, Extinction, Dam, Impact assessment, Hydroelectricity, Himalayas, Environmental impact assessment

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The persistence of chemicals is a key parameter for their environmental risk assessment. Extrapolating their biodegradability potential in aqueous systems to soil systems would improve the environmental impact assessment. This study compares the fate of (14/13)C-labelled 2,4-D (2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid) and ibuprofen in OECD tests 301 (ready biodegradability in aqueous systems) and 307 (soil). 85% of 2,4-D and 68% of ibuprofen were mineralised in aqueous systems, indicating ready biodegradability, but only 57% and 45% in soil. Parent compounds and metabolites decreased to <2% of the spiked amounts in both systems. In soil, 36% of 2,4-D and 30% of ibuprofen were bound in non-extractable residues (NER). NER formation in the abiotic controls was half as high as in the biotic treatments. However, mineralisation, biodegradation and abiotic residue formation are competing processes. Assuming the same extent of abiotic NER formation in abiotic and biotic systems may therefore overestimate the abiotic contribution in the biotic systems. Mineralisation was described by a logistic model for the aquatic systems and by a two-pool first order degradation model for the soil systems. This agrees with the different abundance of microorganisms in the two systems, but precludes direct comparison of the fitted parameters. Nevertheless, the maximum mineralisable amounts determined by the models were similar in both systems, although the maximum mineralisation rate was about 3.5 times higher in the aqueous systems than in the soil system for both compounds; these parameters may thus be extrapolated from aqueous to soil systems. However, the maximum mineralisable amount is calculated by extrapolation to infinite times and includes intermediately formed biomass derived from the labelled carbon. The amount of labelled carbon within microbial biomass residues is higher in the soil system, resulting in lower degradation rates. Further evaluation of these relationships requires comparison data on more chemicals and from different soils.

Concepts: Evaluation, Soil, Environmental remediation, C, Bioremediation, Impact assessment, Extrapolation, Environmental impact assessment

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As part of global efforts to reduce dependence on carbon-based energy sources there has been a rapid increase in the installation of renewable energy devices. The installation and operation of these devices can result in conflicts with wildlife. In the marine environment, mammals may avoid wind farms that are under construction or operating. Such avoidance may lead to more time spent travelling or displacement from key habitats. A paucity of data on at-sea movements of marine mammals around wind farms limits our understanding of the nature of their potential impacts.Here, we present the results of a telemetry study on harbour seals Phoca vitulina in The Wash, south-east England, an area where wind farms are being constructed using impact pile driving. We investigated whether seals avoid wind farms during operation, construction in its entirety, or during piling activity. The study was carried out using historical telemetry data collected prior to any wind farm development and telemetry data collected in 2012 during the construction of one wind farm and the operation of another.Within an operational wind farm, there was a close-to-significant increase in seal usage compared to prior to wind farm development. However, the wind farm was at the edge of a large area of increased usage, so the presence of the wind farm was unlikely to be the cause.There was no significant displacement during construction as a whole. However, during piling, seal usage (abundance) was significantly reduced up to 25 km from the piling activity; within 25 km of the centre of the wind farm, there was a 19 to 83% (95% confidence intervals) decrease in usage compared to during breaks in piling, equating to a mean estimated displacement of 440 individuals. This amounts to significant displacement starting from predicted received levels of between 166 and 178 dB re 1 μPa(p-p). Displacement was limited to piling activity; within 2 h of cessation of pile driving, seals were distributed as per the non-piling scenario. Synthesis and applications. Our spatial and temporal quantification of avoidance of wind farms by harbour seals is critical to reduce uncertainty and increase robustness in environmental impact assessments of future developments. Specifically, the results will allow policymakers to produce industry guidance on the likelihood of displacement of seals in response to pile driving; the relationship between sound levels and avoidance rates; and the duration of any avoidance, thus allowing far more accurate environmental assessments to be carried out during the consenting process. Further, our results can be used to inform mitigation strategies in terms of both the sound levels likely to cause displacement and what temporal patterns of piling would minimize the magnitude of the energetic impacts of displacement.

Concepts: Pinniped, Wind power, Wind farm, Floating wind turbine, Wind power in Denmark, Environmental impact assessment, Wind power in the United States, Pile driver

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Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has been used extensively in the US and Canada since the 1950s and offers the potential for significant new sources of oil and gas supply. Numerous other countries around the world (including the UK, Germany, China, South Africa, Australia and Argentina) are now giving serious consideration to sanctioning the technique to provide additional security over the future supply of domestic energy. However, relatively high population densities in many countries and the potential negative environmental impacts that may be associated with fracking operations has stimulated controversy and significant public debate regarding if and where fracking should be permitted. Road traffic generated by fracking operations is one possible source of environmental impact whose significance has, until now, been largely neglected in the available literature. This paper therefore presents a scoping-level environmental assessment for individual and groups of fracking sites using a newly-created Traffic Impacts Model (TIM). The model produces estimates of the traffic-related impacts of fracking on greenhouse gas emissions, local air quality emissions, noise and road pavement wear, using a range of hypothetical fracking scenarios to quantify changes in impacts against baseline levels. Results suggest that the local impacts of a single well pad may be short duration but large magnitude. That is, whilst single digit percentile increases in emissions of CO2, NOx and PM are estimated for the period from start of construction to pad completion (potentially several months or years), excess emissions of NOx on individual days of peak activity can reach 30% over baseline. Likewise, excess noise emissions appear negligible (<1dBA) when normalised over the completion period, but may be considerable (+3.4dBA) in particular hours, especially in night-time periods. Larger, regional scale modelling of pad development scenarios over a multi-decade time horizon give modest CO2 emissions that vary between 2.5 and 160.4kT, dependent on the number of wells, and individual well fracking water and flowback waste requirements. The TIM model is designed to be adaptable to any geographic area where the required input data are available (such as fleet characteristics, road type and quality), and we suggest could be deployed as a tool to help reach more informed decisions regarding where and how fracking might take place taking into account the likely scale of traffic-related environmental impacts.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Population density, Natural gas, Greenhouse gas, Emission standard, Kyoto Protocol, Environmental impact assessment, Hydraulic fracturing

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ABSTRACT Seeking economic growth and job creation to tackle the nation’s extreme poverty, the Nicaraguan government awarded a concession to build an inter-oceanic canal and associated projects to a recently formed Hong Kong based company with no track record or related expertise. This concession was awarded without a bidding process and in advance of any feasibility, socio-economic or environmental impact assessments; construction has begun without this information. The 278-km long inter-oceanic canal project may result in significant environmental and social impairments. Of particular concern are: damage to Lake Cocibolca, a unique freshwater tropical lake and Central America’s main freshwater reservoir; damage to regional biodiversity and ecosystems; and socio-economic impacts. Concerned about the possibly irreparable damage to the environment and to native communities, conservationists and the scientific community at large are urging the Nicaraguan government to devise and reveal an action plan to address and mitigate the possible negative repercussions of this inter-oceanic canal and associated projects. Critical research needs are herein identified to inform a comprehensive benefit-cost assessment for this megaproject. Keywords: Nicaragua, interoceanic canal, HKND, environmental impacts, social impacts.

Concepts: Natural environment, Environmentalism, Central America, Nicaragua, Environmental impact assessment, Lake Nicaragua, Ometepe, Managua

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Assessing and managing the cumulative impacts of human activities on the environment remains a major challenge to sustainable development. This challenge is highlighted by the worldwide expansion of marine renewable energy developments (MREDs) in areas already subject to multiple activities and climate change. Cumulative effects assessments in theory provide decision makers with adequate information about how the environment will respond to the incremental effects of licensed activities and are a legal requirement in many nations. In practise, however, such assessments are beset by uncertainties resulting in substantial delays during the licensing process that reduce MRED investor confidence and limit progress towards meeting climate change targets. In light of these targets and ambitions to manage the marine environment sustainably, reducing the uncertainty surrounding MRED effects and cumulative effects assessment are timely and vital. This review investigates the origins and evolution of cumulative effects assessment to identify why the multitude of approaches and pertinent research have emerged, and discusses key considerations and challenges relevant to assessing the cumulative effects of MREDs and other activities on ecosystems. The review recommends a shift away from the current reliance on disparate environmental impact assessments and limited strategic environmental assessments, and a move towards establishing a common system of coordinated data and research relative to ecologically meaningful areas, focussed on the needs of decision makers tasked with protecting and conserving marine ecosystems and services.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Ecology, Natural environment, Sustainability, Impact assessment, Environmental impact assessment, Strategic Environmental Assessment, Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context

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Beetles are the most diverse group of animals, and are crucial for ecosystem functioning. In many countries, they are heavily used for environmental impact assessment, but even in the well-studied Central European fauna, species identification can be very difficult. A comprehensive and taxonomically well curated DNA barcode library could remedy this deficit and also could link hundreds of years of traditional knowledge with next generation sequencing technology. However, such a beetle library is missing to date. This study provides the globally largest DNA barcode reference library for Coleoptera for 15,948 individuals belonging to 3,514 well-identified species (53% of the German fauna) with representatives from 97 of 103 families (94%). This study is the first comprehensive regional test of the efficiency of DNA barcoding for beetles with a focus on Germany. Sequences >500bp were recovered from 63% of the specimens analyzed (15,948 of 25,294) with short sequences from another 997 specimens. Whereas mostspecimens (92.2%) could be unambiguously assigned to a single known species by sequence diversity at CO1, 1089 specimens (6.8%) were assigned to more than one Barcode Index Number (BIN), creating 395 BINs which need further study to ascertain if they represent cryptic species, mitochondrial introgression, or simply regional variation in widespread species. We found 409 specimens (2.6%) that shared a BIN assignment with another species, most involving a pair of closely allied species as 43 BINs were involved. Most of these taxa were separated by barcodes although sequence divergences were low. Only 155 specimens (0.97%) show identical or overlapping clusters. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Species, Germany, Beetle, DNA barcoding, Barcode, Cryptic species complex, Identification, Environmental impact assessment

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Dust pollution is a complex problem of growing interest because of its environmental, health, economic and political impact. Environmental impact assessment methods for dust pollution management are often based on the simulation of dust dispersion, which requires a precise characterization of the source term and of the source parameters. The source term model should be as simple and as accurate as possible and requires low time consumption in order to be easily connected to a more complex algorithm for the dispersion calculations. This work focuses on dust emissions from mineral storage piles, which are usually modelled as source terms by means of the algorithm proposed in the AP-42 US EPA standard. Unfortunately, this algorithm tends to overestimate emissions, and when coupled with a Gaussian dispersion model, it leads to inaccurate results in terms of estimation of both concentration and spatial distribution. This paper proposes a new methodology drawn from the original standard US EPA AP-42 https://www3.epa.gov/ttnchie1/ap42/ch13/ scheme with the purpose to account for the actual dynamics of erosion and to enhance the accuracy of the concentration and the pollutant spatial distribution assessment, thereby considering the effects of the wind interactions. The standard EPA methodology and the new one were compared by means of the AERMOD and CALPUFF dispersion models. Results are superimposable in terms of concentration values, leading to a quantification of the same order of magnitude, although with a different and more variable spatial distribution.

Concepts: Mathematics, Accuracy and precision, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Air pollution, Impact assessment, Environmental impact assessment, Air dispersion modeling, Atmospheric dispersion modeling

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The livestock sector is one of the fastest growing subsectors of the agricultural economy and, while it makes a major contribution to global food supply and economic development, it also consumes significant amounts of natural resources and alters the environment. In order to improve our understanding of the global environmental impact of livestock supply chains, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has developed the Global Livestock Environmental Assessment Model (GLEAM). The purpose of this paper is to provide a review of GLEAM. Specifically, it explains the model architecture, methods and functionality, that is the types of analysis that the model can perform. The model focuses primarily on the quantification of greenhouse gases emissions arising from the production of the 11 main livestock commodities. The model inputs and outputs are managed and produced as raster data sets, with spatial resolution of 0.05 decimal degrees. The Global Livestock Environmental Assessment Model v1.0 consists of five distinct modules: (a) the Herd Module; (b) the Manure Module; © the Feed Module; (d) the System Module; (e) the Allocation Module. In terms of the modelling approach, GLEAM has several advantages. For example spatial information on livestock distributions and crops yields enables rations to be derived that reflect the local availability of feed resources in developing countries. The Global Livestock Environmental Assessment Model also contains a herd model that enables livestock statistics to be disaggregated and variation in livestock performance and management to be captured. Priorities for future development of GLEAM include: improving data quality and the methods used to perform emissions calculations; extending the scope of the model to include selected additional environmental impacts and to enable predictive modelling; and improving the utility of GLEAM output.

Concepts: Agriculture, Mathematics, Natural environment, United Nations, Input, Output, Environmental impact assessment, Food and Agriculture Organization

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Pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) are being increasingly included in Life Cycle Assessment studies (LCAs) since they have brought into evidence both human and ecological adverse effects due to their presence in different environmental compartments, wastewater facilities and industry. Therefore, the main goal of this research was to estimate the characterization factors (CFs) of 27 PPCPs widely used worldwide in order to incorporate their values into Life Cycle Impact Assessment studies (LCIA) or to generate a toxicity impact score ranking. Physicochemical properties, degradation rates, bioaccumulation, ecotoxicity and human health effects were collected from experimental data, recognized databases or estimated using EPI Suite™ and the USEtox™ software, and were subsequently used for estimating CFs. In addition, a Spanish toxicity impact score ranking was carried out for 49 PPCPs using the 27 newly calculated CFs, and 22 CFs already available in the literature, besides the data related to the occurrence of PPCPs in the environment in Spain. It has been highlighted that emissions into the continental freshwater compartment showed the highest CFs values for human effects (ranging from 10(-9) to 10(-3)Cases·kg(-1)), followed by emissions into the air (10(-9) to 10(-5)Cases·kg(-1)), soil (10(-11) to 10(5)Cases·kg(-1)) and seawater (10(-12) to 10(-4)Cases·kg(-1)). CFs regarding the affectation of freshwater aquatic environments were the highest of those proceeding from emissions into continental freshwater (between 1 to 10(4)PAF·m(3)·day·kgemission(-1)) due to the direct contact between the source of emission and the compartment affected, followed by soil (among 10(-1) to 10(4)PAF·m(3)·day·kgemission(-1)), and air (among 10(-2) to 10(4)PAF·m(3)·day·kgemission(-1)) while the lowest were the CFs of continental seawater (among 10(-28) to 10(-3)PAF·m(3)·day·kgemission(-1)). Freshwater aquatic ecotoxicological CFs are much higher than human toxicity CFs, demonstrating that the ecological impact of PPCPs in aquatic environments must be a matter of urgent attention. According to the Spanish toxicity impact score calculated, the PPCPs with the highest impact are hormones, antidepressants, fragrances, antibiotics, angiotensin receptor blockers and blood lipid regulators, which have already been found in other kinds of score rankings. These results, which were not available until now, will be useful in order to perform better LCIA studies, incorporating the micro-pollutants whose CFs have been estimated, or in order to carry out single hazard/risk environmental impact assessments.

Concepts: Natural environment, Angiotensin, Angiotensin II receptor antagonist, Estimation, Angiotensin receptor, Impact assessment, Life cycle assessment, Environmental impact assessment