SciCombinator

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

Journal: The Science of the total environment

30

Urban wastewater treatment plants (UWTPs) are among the main sources of antibiotics' release into the environment. The occurrence of antibiotics may promote the selection of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) and antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB), which shade health risks to humans and animals. In this paper the fate of ARB and ARGs in UWTPs, focusing on different processes/technologies (i.e., biological processes, advanced treatment technologies and disinfection), was critically reviewed. The mechanisms by which biological processes influence the development/selection of ARB and ARGs transfer are still poorly understood. Advanced treatment technologies and disinfection process are regarded as a major tool to control the spread of ARB into the environment. In spite of intense efforts made over the last years to bring solutions to control antibiotic resistance spread in the environment, there are still important gaps to fill in. In particular, it is important to: (i) improve risk assessment studies in order to allow accurate estimates about the maximal abundance of ARB in UWTPs effluents that would not pose risks for human and environmental health; (ii) understand the factors and mechanisms that drive antibiotic resistance maintenance and selection in wastewater habitats. The final objective is to implement wastewater treatment technologies capable of assuring the production of UWTPs effluents with an acceptable level of ARB.

Concepts: Natural selection, Gene, Evolution, Penicillin, Microorganism, Sewage treatment, Bacteria, Antibiotic resistance

30

Tritium concentrations in Japanese precipitation samples collected after the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant (FNPP1) were measured. Values exceeding the pre-accident background were detected at three out of seven localities (Tsukuba, Kashiwa and Hongo) southwest of the FNPP1 at distances varying between 170 and 220km from the source. The highest tritium content was found in the first rainfall in Tsukuba after the accident; however concentrations were 500 times less than the regulatory limit for tritium in drinking water. Tritium concentrations decreased steadily and rapidly with time, becoming indistinguishable from the pre-accident values within five weeks. The atmospheric tritium activities in the vicinity of the FNPP1 during the earliest stage of the accident was estimated to be 1.5×10(3)Bq/m(3), which is potentially capable of producing rainwater exceeding the regulatory limit, but only in the immediate vicinity of the source.

Concepts: Sustainable energy, Precipitation, Tritium, Nuclear fission, Desalination, Nuclear power, Water

28

Potential for habitat restoration is increasingly used as an argument for reintroducing ecosystem engineers. Beaver have well known effects on hydromorphology through dam construction, but their scope to restore wetland biodiversity in areas degraded by agriculture is largely inferred. Our study presents the first formal monitoring of a planned beaver-assisted restoration, focussing on changes in vegetation over 12years within an agriculturally-degraded fen following beaver release, based on repeated sampling of fixed plots. Effects are compared to ungrazed exclosures which allowed the wider influence of waterlogging to be separated from disturbance through tree felling and herbivory. After 12years of beaver presence mean plant species richness had increased on average by 46% per plot, whilst the cumulative number of species recorded increased on average by 148%. Heterogeneity, measured by dissimilarity of plot composition, increased on average by 71%. Plants associated with high moisture and light conditions increased significantly in coverage, whereas species indicative of high nitrogen decreased. Areas exposed to both grazing and waterlogging generally showed the most pronounced change in composition, with effects of grazing seemingly additive, but secondary, to those of waterlogging. Our study illustrates that a well-known ecosystem engineer, the beaver, can with time transform agricultural land into a comparatively species-rich and heterogeneous wetland environment, thus meeting common restoration objectives. This offers a passive but innovative solution to the problems of wetland habitat loss that complements the value of beavers for water or sediment storage and flow attenuation. The role of larger herbivores has been significantly overlooked in our understanding of freshwater ecosystem function; the use of such species may yet emerge as the missing ingredient in successful restoration.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Beaver, Biome, Herbivore, Plant, Ecosystem, Agriculture, Wetland

28

Estimation of time changes in radiocaesium in foodstuffs is key to predicting the long term impact of the Fukushima accident on the Japanese diet. We have modelled >4000 measurements, spanning 50 years, of (137)Cs in foodstuffs and whole diet in Japan after nuclear weapons testing (NWT) and the Chernobyl accident. Broadly consistent long term trends in (137)Cs activity concentrations are seen between different agricultural foodstuffs; whole diet follows this general trend with remarkably little variation between averages for different regions of Japan. Model blind tests against post-NWT data for the Fukushima Prefecture showed good predictions for radiocaesium in whole diet, spinach and Japanese radish (for which good long term test data were available). For the post-Fukushima period to 2015, radiocaesium in the average diet followed a declining time trend consistent with that seen after NWT and Chernobyl. Data for different regions post-Fukushima show a high degree of mixing of dietary foodstuffs between regions: significant over-estimates of average dietary (137)Cs were made when it was assumed that only regionally-produced food was consumed. Predictions of mean committed effective internal doses from dietary (137)Cs (2011 to 2061) in non-evacuated parts of the Fukushima Prefecture show that average internal dose is relatively low. This study focused on average regional ingestion dose rates and does not attempt to make site specific predictions. However, temporal trends identified could form a basis for site specific predictions of long term activity concentrations in agricultural products and diet both outside and (to assess potential re-use) inside currently evacuated areas.

Concepts: Fukushima Prefecture, Prefectures of Japan, Tōhoku region, Time, Nuclear weapon, Honshū, Radioactive contamination, Japan

28

Anthropogenic activity is affecting the global climate through the release of greenhouse gases (GHGs) e.g. CO2 and CH4. About a third of anthropogenic GHGs are produced from agriculture, including livestock farming and horticulture. A large proportion of the UK’s horticultural farming takes place on drained lowland peatlands, which are a source of significant amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. This study set out to establish whether raising the water table from the currently used -50cm to -30cm could reduce GHGs emissions from agricultural peatlands, while simultaneously maintaining the current levels of horticultural productivity. A factorial design experiment used agricultural peat soil collected from the Norfolk Fens (among the largest of the UK’s lowland peatlands under intensive cultivation) to assess the effects of water table levels, elevated CO2, and agricultural production on GHG fluxes and crop productivity of radish, one of the most economically important fenland crops. The results of this study show that a water table of -30cm can increase the productivity of the radish crop while also reducing soil CO2 emissions but without a resultant loss of CH4 to the atmosphere, under both ambient and elevated CO2 concentrations. Elevated CO2 increased dry shoot biomass, but not bulb biomass nor root biomass, suggesting no immediate advantage of future CO2 levels to horticultural farming on peat soils. Overall, increasing the water table could make an important contribution to global warming mitigation while not having a detrimental impact on crop yield.

Concepts: Irrigation, Coal, Fossil fuel, Soil, Greenhouse gas, Carbon dioxide, Global warming, Agriculture

28

Accurate estimates of chlorophyll-a concentration (Chl-a) from remotely sensed data for inland waters are challenging due to their optical complexity. In this study, a framework of Chl-a estimation is established for optically complex inland waters based on combination of water optical classification and two semi-empirical algorithms. Three spectrally distinct water types (Type I to Type III) are first identified using a clustering method performed on remote sensing reflectance (R(rs)) from datasets containing 231 samples from Lake Taihu, Lake Chaohu, Lake Dianchi, and Three Gorges Reservoir. The classification criteria for each optical water type are subsequently defined for MERIS images based on the spectral characteristics of the three water types. The criteria cluster every R(rs) spectrum into one of the three water types by comparing the values from band 7 (central band: 665nm), band 8 (central band: 681.25nm), and band 9 (central band: 708.75nm) of MERIS images. Based on the water classification, the type-specific three-band algorithms (TBA) and type-specific advanced three-band algorithm (ATBA) are developed for each water type using the same datasets. By pre-classifying, errors are decreased for the two algorithms, with the mean absolute percent error (MAPE) of TBA decreasing from 36.5% to 23% for the calibration datasets, and from 40% to 28% for ATBA. The accuracy of the two algorithms for validation data indicates that optical classification eliminates the need to adjust the optimal locations of the three bands or to re-parameterize to estimate Chl-a for other waters. The classification criteria and the type-specific ATBA are additionally validated by two MERIS images. The framework of first classifying optical water types based on reflectance characteristics and subsequently developing type-specific algorithms for different water types is a valid scheme for reducing errors in Chl-a estimation for optically complex inland waters.

Concepts: Type, The Band, Spectrum, Optics, Estimator, Mean absolute percentage error, Water

28

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

28

Airborne biological particles containing viruses, bacteria, and/or fungi can be toxic and cause infections and allergy symptoms. Recently, natural materials such as tea tree oil and Sophora flavescens have shown promising antimicrobial activity when applied as air filter media. Although many of these studies demonstrated excellent antimicrobial efficacy, only a few of them considered external environmental effects such as the surrounding humidity, temperature, and natural degradation of chemicals, all of which can affect the antimicrobial performance of these natural materials. In this study, we investigated the antimicrobial durability of air filters containing airborne nanoparticles from S. flavescens for 5months. Antimicrobial tests and quantitative chemical analyses were performed every 30days. Morphological changes in the nanoparticles were also evaluated by scanning electron microscopy. The major antimicrobial compounds remained stable and active for ~90days at room temperature. After about 90days, the quantities of major antimicrobial compounds decreased noticeably with a consequent decrease in antimicrobial activity. These results are promising for the implementation of new technologies using natural antimicrobial products and provide useful information regarding the average life expectancy of antimicrobial filters using nanoparticles of S. flavescens.

Concepts: Chemistry, Scanning electron microscope, Air filter, Chemical substance, Filters, Antimicrobial, Life expectancy, Tea tree oil

28

Medium pressure UV is used for controlling the concentration of combined chlorine (chloramines) in many public swimming pools. Little is known about the fate of other disinfection by-products (DBPs) in UV treatment. Photolysis by medium pressure UV treatment was investigated for 12 DBPs reported to be found in swimming pool water: chloroform, bromodichloromethane, dibromochloromethane, bromoform, dichloroacetonitrile, bromochloroacetonitrile, dibromoacetronitrile, trichloroacetonitrile, trichloronitromethane, dichloropropanone, trichloropropanone, and chloral hydrate. First order photolysis constants ranged 26-fold from 0.020min(-1) for chloroform to 0.523min(-1) for trichloronitromethane. The rate constants generally increased with bromine substitution. Using the UV removal of combined chlorine as an actinometer, the rate constants were recalculated to actual treatment doses of UV applied in a swimming pool. In an investigated public pool the UV dose was equivalent to an applied electrical energy of 1.34kWhm(-3)d(-1) and the UV dose required to removed 90% of trichloronitromethane was 0.4kWhm(-3)d(-1), while 2.6kWhm(-3)d(-1) was required for chloral hydrate and the bromine containing haloacetonitriles and trihalomethanes ranged from 0.6 to 3.1kWhm(-3)d(-1). It was predicted thus that a beneficial side-effect of applying UV for removing combined chlorine from the pool water could be a significant removal of trichloronitromethane, chloral hydrate and the bromine containing haloacetonitriles and trihalomethanes.

Concepts: Chlorination, Pool, Chloroform, Trihalomethane, Swimming pool, Chlorine

28

Dune slacks are a seasonal coastal wetland habitat, whose plant assemblages and soil properties are strongly linked to a fluctuating water table. Climate change is predicted to cause major shifts in sand dune hydrological regimes, yet we know remarkably little about the tolerance of these communities to change, and their precise hydrological requirements are poorly quantified. Dune slack vegetation and soils were sampled within five vegetation types across four west coast UK sites. Relationships between vegetation assemblages, and parameters of soil development (moisture, loss on ignition, pH, KCl extractable ions) and groundwater hydrological regime (annual maximum and minimum water levels and range, duration of flooding) were established to define the environmental tolerances of different communities. In multivariate analysis of the vegetation, the dominant gradient was hydrological: dry to wet, followed by a secondary soil development gradient: young calcareous organic-poor soils to acidic/neutral soils with greater organic matter contents. Most measured hydrological and soil variables explained a significant proportion of observed variation in species composition when tested individually, with the exception of soil nitrate and soil calcium concentrations. Maximum water level was the key hydrological variable, and soil moisture and soil pH were the key soil variables. All hydrological and soil parameters together explained 22.5% of the total species variation. There were significant differences in hydrological and soil parameters between community types, with only 40cm difference in mean annual minimum water levels (averaged over 4years) separating the wettest and the driest dune slack communities. Therefore, predicted declines in water level exceeding 100cm by 2080 are likely to have a major impact on the vegetation of these priority conservation habitats.

Concepts: Level, Surface runoff, Aquifer, Maxima and minima, Potassium, Sand, Hydrology, Soil