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

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

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Life cycle assessment (LCA) was applied to hydrometallurgical treatments carried out using a new portable prototype plant for the recovery of valuable metals from waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). The plant was fed with the WEEE residues from physical processes for the recycling of fluorescent lamps, cathode ray tubes (CRTs), Li-ion accumulators and printed circuit boards (PCBs). Leaching with sulfuric acid was carried out, followed by metal recovery by selective precipitation. A final step of wastewater treatment with lime was performed. The recovered metals included yttrium, zinc, cobalt, lithium, copper, gold and silver. The category of global warming potential was the most critical one considering the specifications for southern European territories, with 13.3 kg CO2/kg recovered metal from the powders/residues from fluorescent lamps, 19.2 kg CO2/kg from CRTs, 27.0 kg CO2/kg from Li-ion accumulators and 25.9 kg CO2/kg from PCBs. Data also show that metal extraction steps have the highest load for the environment. In general, these processes appear beneficial for the environment in terms of CO2 emissions, especially for metal recovery from WEEE residues from fluorescent lamps and CRTs.

Concepts: Zinc, Impact assessment, Electronic waste, Copper, Global warming, Printed circuit board, Carbon dioxide, Cathode ray tube

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Risk assessment (RA) and life cycle assessment (LCA) are two analytical tools used to support decision making in environmental management. This study reviewed 30 environmental assessment case studies that claimed an integration, combination, hybridization, or complementary use of RA and LCA. The focus of the analysis was on how the respective case studies evaluated emissions of chemical pollutants and pathogens. The analysis revealed three clusters of similar case studies. Yet, there seemed to be little consensus as to what should be referred to as RA and LCA, and when to speak of combination, integration, hybridization, or complementary use of RA and LCA. This paper provides clear recommendations toward a more stringent and consistent use of terminology. Blending elements of RA and LCA offers multifaceted opportunities to adapt a given environmental assessment case study to a specific decision making context, but also requires awareness of several implications and potential pitfalls, of which six are discussed in this paper. To facilitate a better understanding and more transparent communication of the nature of a given case study, this paper proposes a “design space” (i.e., identification framework) for environmental assessment case studies blending elements of RA and LCA. Thinking in terms of a common design space, we postulate, can increase clarity and transparency when communicating the design and results of a given assessment together with its potential strengths and weaknesses.

Concepts: Qualitative research, Scientific method, ISO 14000, Impact assessment, Life cycle assessment, Case study, Evaluation methods, Risk

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A new approach for quantifying the net environmental impact of a ‘community’ of interrelated products is demonstrated for consumer electronics owned by an average U.S. household over a 15-year period (1992-2007). This consumption-weighted life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology accounts for both product consumption (number of products per household) and impact (cumulative energy demand (MJ) per product), as analyzed using a hybrid LCA framework. While many individual devices have reduced impacts over time (on a ‘per product’ basis), increased usage, introduction of new technologies, and growing product consumption creates a net increase on a ‘per community’ basis. The net energy impact of the U.S. community of household electronics is significant, nearly 30% of the average annual fuel consumed by a passenger vehicle in 2007. The analysis points to a large contribution by legacy products (cathode ray tube televisions and desktop computers), due to historically high consumption rates, although impacts have begun to shift to smaller mobile devices. This method is also applied to evaluate prospective intervention strategies, indicating that environmental impact reduction can be achieved by strategies like lifespan extension or energy efficiency, but only when applied to all products owned, or by transforming consumption trends towards fewer, highly multi-functional products.

Concepts: Diode, Electronic engineering, Industrial ecology, Impact assessment, Electronics, Life cycle assessment, Vacuum tube, Cathode ray tube

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

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The interest and activity in measuring and reporting the impact of publicly funded health and medical research has grown rapidly in recent years. Research evaluation typically relies on researchers for much of the information for an impact assessment. However, the acceptability and feasibility of this activity among health researchers is unknown. The aim of this study was to understand the role and opinions of cancer researchers in the growing area of impact evaluation activity, to inform the logistics of a sustainable program of impact evaluation.

Concepts: Impact assessment, Research, Educational assessment and evaluation, Social research, Academic publishing, Program evaluation, Evaluation methods, Evaluation

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The earliest microbiological studies on hot springs in India date from 2003, a much later date compared to global attention in this striking field of study. As of today, 28 out of 400 geothermal springs have been explored following both culturable and non-culturable approaches. The temperatures and pH of the springs are 37-99 °C and 6.8-10, respectively. Several studies have been performed on the description of novel genera and species, characterization of different bio-resources, metagenomics of hot spring microbiome and whole genome analysis of few isolates. 17 strains representing novel species and many thermostable enzymes, including lipase, protease, chitinase, amylase, etc. with potential biotechnological applications have been reported by several authors. Influence of physico-chemical conditions, especially that of temperature, on shaping the hot spring microbiome has been established by metagenomic investigations. Bacteria are the predominant life forms in all the springs with an abundance of phyla Firmicutes, Proteobacteria, Actinobacteria, Thermi, Bacteroidetes, Deinococcus-Thermus and Chloroflexi. In this review, we have discussed the findings on all microbiological studies that have been carried out to date, on the 28 hot springs. Further, the possibilities of extrapolating these studies for practical applications and environmental impact assessment towards protection of natural ecosystem of hot springs have also been discussed.

Concepts: Impact assessment, Environmental impact assessment, Life, Archaea, Hot spring, Enzyme, Microbiology, Bacteria

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Few ecotoxicological studies exist for rare earth elements (REEs), particularly field-based studies on their bioaccumulation and food web dynamics. REE mining has led to significant environmental impacts in several countries (China, Brazil, U.S.), yet little is known about the fate and transport of these contaminants of emerging concern. Northern ecosystems are potentially vulnerable to REE enrichment from prospective mining projects at high latitudes. To understand how REEs behave in remote northern food webs, we measured REE concentrations and carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratios (∂(15)N, ∂(13)C) in biota from marine, freshwater, and terrestrial ecosystems of the eastern Canadian Arctic (N = 339). Wildlife harvesting and tissue sampling was partly conducted by local hunters through a community-based monitoring project. Results show that REEs generally follow a coherent bioaccumulation pattern for sample tissues, with some anomalies for redox-sensitive elements (Ce, Eu). Highest REE concentrations were found at low trophic levels, especially in vegetation and aquatic invertebrates. Terrestrial herbivores, ringed seal, and fish had low total REE levels in muscle tissue (∑REE for 15 elements <0.1 nmol g(-1)), yet accumulation was an order of magnitude higher in liver tissues. Age- and length-dependent REE accumulation also suggest that REE uptake is faster than elimination for some species. Overall, REE bioaccumulation patterns appear to be species- and tissue-specific, with limited potential for biomagnification. This study provides novel data on the behaviour of REEs in ecosystems and will be useful for environmental impact assessment of REE enrichment in northern regions.

Concepts: Impact assessment, Ecosystem, Rare earth element, Earth, Apex predator, Environmental impact assessment, Trophic level, Food chain

0

For tidal range power plants to be sustainable, the environmental impacts caused by the implement of various tidal barrage schemes must be assessed before construction. However, several problems exist in the current researches: firstly, evaluation criteria of the tidal barrage schemes environmental impact assessment (EIA) are not adequate; secondly, uncertainty of criteria information fails to be processed properly; thirdly, correlation among criteria is unreasonably measured. Hence the contributions of this paper are as follows: firstly, an evaluation criteria system is established from three dimensions of hydrodynamic, biological and morphological aspects. Secondly, cloud model is applied to describe the uncertainty of criteria information. Thirdly, Choquet integral with respect to λ-fuzzy measure is introduced to measure the correlation among criteria. On the above bases, a multi-criteria decision-making decision framework for tidal barrage scheme EIA is established to select the optimal scheme. Finally, a case study demonstrates the effectiveness of the proposed framework.

Concepts: Evaluation, Tide, Impact assessment, Assessment, Measurement, Evaluation methods, Decision theory, Environmental impact assessment