SciCombinator

Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Journal: Journal of environmental management

266

In the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI)-funded Africa Indoor Residual Spraying Project (AIRS), end-of-day clean-up operations require the safe disposal of wash water resulting from washing the exterior of spray tanks and spray operators' personal protective equipment. Indoor residual spraying (IRS) programs typically use soak pits - large, in-ground filters - to adsorb, filter and then safely degrade the traces of insecticide found in the wash water. Usually these soak pits are permanent installations serving 30 or more operators, located in a central area that is accessible to multiple spray teams at the end of their workday. However, in remote areas, it is often impractical for teams to return to a central soak pit location for cleanup. To increase operational efficiency and improve environmental compliance, the PMI AIRS Project developed and tested mobile soak pits (MSP) in the laboratory and in field applications in Madagascar, Mali, Senegal, and Ethiopia where the distance between villages can be substantial and the road conditions poor. Laboratory testing confirmed the ability of the easily-assembled MSP to reduce effluent concentrations of two insecticides (Actellic 300-CS and Ficam VC) used by the PMI AIRS Project, and to generate the minimal practicable environmental “footprint” in these remote areas. Field testing in the Mali 2014 IRS campaign demonstrated ease of installation and use, resulted in improved and more consistent standards of clean-up, decreased transportation requirements, improved spray team working conditions, and reduced potential for operator exposure to insecticide.

Concepts: Malaria, Africa, Personal protective equipment, Protection, Occupational safety and health, Pesticide application, DDT, Spray

151

Globally, the historic and recent exploitation of peatlands through management practices such as agricultural reclamation, peat harvesting or forestry, have caused extensive damage to these ecosystems. Their value is now increasingly recognised, and restoration and rehabilitation programmes are underway to improve some of the ecosystem services provided by peatlands: blocking drainage ditches in deep peat has been shown to improve the storage of water, decrease carbon losses in the long-term, and improve biodiversity. However, whilst the restoration process has benefitted from experience and technical advice gained from restoration of deep peatlands, shallow peatlands have received less attention in the literature, despite being extensive in both uplands and lowlands. Using the experience gained from the restoration of the shallow peatlands of Exmoor National Park (UK), and two test catchments in particular, this paper provides technical guidance which can be applied to the restoration of other shallow peatlands worldwide. Experience showed that integrating knowledge of the historical environment at the planning stage of restoration was essential, as it enabled the effective mitigation of any threat to archaeological features and sites. The use of bales, commonly employed in other upland ecosystems, was found to be problematic. Instead, ‘leaky dams’ or wood and peat combination dams were used, which are both more efficient at reducing and diverting the flow, and longer lasting than bale dams. Finally, an average restoration cost (£306 ha(-1)) for Exmoor, below the median national value across the whole of the UK, demonstrates the cost-effectiveness of these techniques. However, local differences in peat depth and ditch characteristics (i.e. length, depth and width) between sites affect both the feasibility and the cost of restoration. Overall, the restoration of shallow peatlands is shown to be technically viable; this paper provides a template for such process over analogous landscapes.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Soil, Ecosystem, Ireland, Drainage, Ditch, Moorland, Exmoor

46

Organic farming practices have been promoted as, inter alia, reducing the environmental impacts of agriculture. This meta-analysis systematically analyses published studies that compare environmental impacts of organic and conventional farming in Europe. The results show that organic farming practices generally have positive impacts on the environment per unit of area, but not necessarily per product unit. Organic farms tend to have higher soil organic matter content and lower nutrient losses (nitrogen leaching, nitrous oxide emissions and ammonia emissions) per unit of field area. However, ammonia emissions, nitrogen leaching and nitrous oxide emissions per product unit were higher from organic systems. Organic systems had lower energy requirements, but higher land use, eutrophication potential and acidification potential per product unit. The variation within the results across different studies was wide due to differences in the systems compared and research methods used. The only impacts that were found to differ significantly between the systems were soil organic matter content, nitrogen leaching, nitrous oxide emissions per unit of field area, energy use and land use. Most of the studies that compared biodiversity in organic and conventional farming demonstrated lower environmental impacts from organic farming. The key challenges in conventional farming are to improve soil quality (by versatile crop rotations and additions of organic material), recycle nutrients and enhance and protect biodiversity. In organic farming, the main challenges are to improve the nutrient management and increase yields. In order to reduce the environmental impacts of farming in Europe, research efforts and policies should be targeted to developing farming systems that produce high yields with low negative environmental impacts drawing on techniques from both organic and conventional systems.

Concepts: Agriculture, Soil, Nitrogen, Organic farming, Sustainable agriculture, Humus, Crop rotation, Industrial agriculture

35

Effective conservation requires knowledge exchange among scientists and decision-makers to enable learning and support evidence-based decision-making. Efforts to improve knowledge exchange have been hindered by a paucity of empirically-grounded guidance to help scientists and practitioners design and implement research programs that actively facilitate knowledge exchange. To address this, we evaluated the Ningaloo Research Program (NRP), which was designed to generate new scientific knowledge to support evidence-based decisions about the management of the Ningaloo Marine Park in north-western Australia. Specifically, we evaluated (1) outcomes of the NRP, including the extent to which new knowledge informed management decisions; (2) the barriers that prevented knowledge exchange among scientists and managers; (3) the key requirements for improving knowledge exchange processes in the future; and (4) the core capacities that are required to support knowledge exchange processes. While the NRP generated expansive and multidisciplinary science outputs directly relevant to the management of the Ningaloo Marine Park, decision-makers are largely unaware of this knowledge and little has been integrated into decision-making processes. A range of barriers prevented efficient and effective knowledge exchange among scientists and decision-makers including cultural differences among the groups, institutional barriers within decision-making agencies, scientific outputs that were not translated for decision-makers and poor alignment between research design and actual knowledge needs. We identify a set of principles to be implemented routinely as part of any applied research program, including; (i) stakeholder mapping prior to the commencement of research programs to identify all stakeholders, (ii) research questions to be co-developed with stakeholders, (iii) implementation of participatory research approaches, (iv) use of a knowledge broker, and (v) tailored knowledge management systems. Finally, we articulate the individual, institutional and financial capacities that must be developed to underpin successful knowledge exchange strategies.

Concepts: Scientific method, Decision making, Science, Research, Management, Knowledge, Knowledge management, Stakeholder analysis

29

Light pollution is a worldwide problem that has a range of adverse effects on human health and natural ecosystems. Using data from the New World Atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness, VIIRS-recorded radiance and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) data, we compared light pollution levels, and the light flux to the population size and GDP at the State and County levels in the USA and at Regional (NUTS2) and Province (NUTS3) levels in Europe. We found 6800-fold differences between the most and least polluted regions in Europe, 120-fold differences in their light flux per capita, and 267-fold differences in flux per GDP unit. Yet, we found even greater differences between US counties: 200,000-fold differences in sky pollution, 16,000-fold differences in light flux per capita, and 40,000-fold differences in light flux per GDP unit. These findings may inform policy-makers, helping to reduce energy waste and adverse environmental, cultural and health consequences associated with light pollution.

28

Over recent decades, Land Use and Cover Change (LUCC) trends in many regions of Europe have reconfigured the landscape structures around many urban areas. In these areas, the proximity to landscape elements with high forest fuels has increased the fire risk to people and property. These Wildland-Urban Interface areas (WUI) can be defined as landscapes where anthropogenic urban land use and forest fuel mass come into contact. Mapping their extent is needed to prioritize fire risk control and inform local forest fire risk management strategies. This study proposes a method to map the extent and spatial patterns of the European WUI areas at continental scale. Using the European map of WUI areas, the hypothesis is tested that the distance from the nearest WUI area is related to the forest fire probability. Statistical relationships between the distance from the nearest WUI area, and large forest fire incidents from satellite remote sensing were subsequently modelled by logistic regression analysis. The first European scale map of the WUI extent and locations is presented. Country-specific positive and negative relationships of large fires and the proximity to the nearest WUI area are found. A regional-scale analysis shows a strong influence of the WUI zones on large fires in parts of the Mediterranean regions. Results indicate that the probability of large burned surfaces increases with diminishing WUI distance in touristic regions like Sardinia, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, or in regions with a strong peri-urban component as Catalunya, Comunidad de Madrid, Comunidad Valenciana. For the above regions, probability curves of large burned surfaces show statistical relationships (ROC value > 0.5) inside a 5000 m buffer of the nearest WUI. Wise land management can provide a valuable ecosystem service of fire risk reduction that is currently not explicitly included in ecosystem service valuations. The results re-emphasise the importance of including this ecosystem service in landscape valuations to account for the significant landscape function of reducing the risk of catastrophic large fires.

Concepts: Regression analysis, Logistic regression, Ecosystem, Management, Risk management, Remote sensing, Landscape, Wildfire

28

The genus Populus, which includes poplars, cottonwoods and aspen trees, represents a huge natural source of fibers with exceptional physical properties. In this study, the oil absorption properties of poplar seed hair fibers obtained from Populus nigra italica when tested with high-density motor oil and diesel fuel are reported. Poplar seed hair fibers are hollow hydrophobic microtubes with an external diameter between 3 and 12μm, an average length of 4±1mm and average tube wall thickness of 400±100nm. The solid skeleton of the hollow fibers consists of lignocellulosic material coated by a hydrophobic waxy coating. The exceptional chemical, physical and microstructural properties of poplar seed hair fibers enable super-absorbent behavior with high absorption capacity for heavy motor oil and diesel fuel. The absorption values of 182-211g heavy oil/g fiber and 55-60g heavy oil/g fiber for packing densities of 0.005g/cm(3) and 0.02g/cm(3), respectively, surpass all known natural absorbents. Thus, poplar seed hair fibers obtained from Populus nigra italica and other trees of the genus Populus are an extremely promising natural source for the production of oil super absorbents.

Concepts: Petroleum, Aspen, Populus, Populus tremula, Trees, Populus alba, Populus tremuloides, Populus grandidentata

28

The 2010 British Petroleum (BP) Deepwater Horizon oil spill highlighted long-standing questions about energy exploration and its social and environmental implications. Sociologists studying environmental disasters have documented the social impacts resulting from these events and dissatisfaction with government and industry responses. In this paper, we use data from a survey conducted during the Gulf of Mexico oil spill to examine how Louisiana and Florida residents' social backgrounds, experiences with the spill, and trust in information sources predict their perceptions of governmental and BP response efforts. We find that direct personal impacts and compensation strongly influence the evaluations of responding organizations. Age and place of residence also predict such assessments. Finally, levels of confidence in television news and BP as sources of information appear to shape Gulf Coast residents' opinions about the work of organizations responding to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Concepts: Petroleum, Mexico, Government, Louisiana, Gulf of Mexico, Mississippi River, Gulf Coast of the United States, Galveston, Texas

28

This study was conducted at a centralized wastewater treatment plant that receives discharges from nearly 160 industries. The chemical oxygen demand (COD) was fractionated for two objectives: delineation of the limits of the activated sludge process being used at the plant, and evaluation of the potential environmental impact of the treated effluent. Physico-chemical analyses, respirometric and biodegradation tests, as well as COD fractionation were carried out. Molasses-wastewaters were determined to be the major contribution to the plant. The influent was dark brown in color, with a relatively high content of both organics (2503 mg/L COD) and salts (5459 μS/cm conductivity), but a low biochemical oxygen demand (568 mg/L BOD(5)) and BOD(5)/COD ratio (0.24). The degradability of the organics was limited by the high content of inert soluble COD (S(I)). The COD fractionation pattern was 40-20-40% for S(I), X(I) (inerts) and S(H) (soluble hydrolyzable), respectively. More than 90% BOD(5) removal was obtained, which was sufficient for the plant to meet the national Standards. However, the effluent discharged into the river was intensely colored and polluted (>1000 mg/L COD, >5000 μS/cm), emphasizing the need for legislation regulating COD, color and salinity, and for upgraded treatment methods worldwide for molasses wastewaters.

Concepts: Water pollution, Sewage treatment, Anaerobic digestion, Wastewater, Chemical oxygen demand, Activated sludge, Environmental engineering, Biochemical oxygen demand

28

As a result of the huge economic and environmental destruction from oil spills, studies have been directed at improving and deploying natural sorbents which are not only the least expensive but also the safest means of spill control. This research reviews the limitations and environmental impact of existing cleanup methods. It also justifies the need for concerted research effort on oil spill control using natural and sustainable technology concepts. The article proposes future guidelines for the development of a sustainable cleanup technology. Finally, guidelines for the development of a new technology for the Middle East are proposed, which is the use of an abundant resource-date palm fibers-for such techniques.

Concepts: Petroleum, Natural environment, Middle East, Asia, Environmental science, Exxon Valdez oil spill, Oil spill, Near East