SETAC MultiBrief
Mar. 20, 2014

Great Barrier Reef damage 'irreversible' unless radical action taken
The Guardian
The Great Barrier Reef will suffer "irreversible" damage by 2030 unless radical action is taken to lower carbon emissions, a stark new report has warned. Unless temperatures are kept below the internationally agreed limit of 2C warming on pre-industrial levels, the reef will cease to be a coral-dominated ecosystem, the report warns.More

Clemson researchers: Road salt runoff raises concern for streams
The Edgefield Advertiser
Clemson University environmental researchers raise concerns that the record amounts of salt crystals and brine used on icy roads this winter will wash into the freshwater and affect the food chain. Too much salt becomes an environmental stress and can be deadly to aquatic animals.More

Can methane leaks from fracking be turned into valuable gasoline?
Scientific American
If the conversion in a New Jersey test machine made by Primus Green Energy proves to be as efficient as early results indicate, methane embedded in shale deep below ground — which oil companies often burn off or simply release into the atmosphere, worsening global warming — could become an even more valuable resource: liquid fuel. Chemical engineers and biologists are making progress at this and other test facilities and labs, yet it remains unclear if the processes they are trying won't generate substantial emissions of their own or require more energy than they're worth.More

Roundup in 75 percent of air? What the report actually says
Biology Fortified
Writes Kevin Folta: "Recently the anti-biotech websites exploded with the news: "Roundup Weedkiller Found in 75 percent of Air and Rain Samples, Gov. Study Finds" and more scary-sounding titles like that. I contacted one of the original paper's authors, Dr. Paul Capel, and asked for a copy and got one. Apparently I was the first. Seems like those coming to the conclusions of the websites above were acting true to form — skimming an abstract and drawing a conclusion that best fits their desires."More

Dolphins, orcas delight watchers in Vancouver, Squamish
CBC News
VideoBrief Visitors who kept a close eye on the waters near Vancouver and Squamish recently may have seen the dolphins and even some orcas. At least two pods of Pacific white-sided dolphins were spotted by paddlers, boaters and seawall walkers off Vancouver's West End, in the False Creek area and off Kitsilano.More

Critics: Alberta's plan for Athabasca River 'pathetic,' not science-based
The Canadian Press via CTV News
Alberta, Canada's plan to protect the Athabasca River from the escalating pressure of oilsands development reveals how little the government understands about the environment it claims to protect, say prominent scientists and critics. Government officials say the draft plan, obtained by The Canadian Press, is the best they can do with what they have.More

Were volcanoes ice age refuges for life?
National Geographic
A new study bolsters the idea that volcanoes can also be havens for life, as refuges for plants and animals during ice ages. Scientists have long wondered how diverse life-forms survived those periods of extreme cold and ice, the last of which peaked about 20,000 years ago.More

Scientists fear ecological disaster in Nicaragua's planned canal
NPR
Scientists are raising the alarm about the possible environmental consequences of a huge shipping canal that could cut across Nicaragua, from the Pacific to the Atlantic. The government of the Central American nation has signed a deal with a Chinese company that is planning to build a maritime shortcut that would compete with the Panama Canal. Construction could begin next year — yet there's no official route for the canal and no assessment of its potential impacts on the environment.More

Mysterious new man-made gases pose threat to ozone layer
BBC News
Scientists have identified four new man-made gases that are contributing to the depletion of the ozone layer. Two of the gases are accumulating at a rate that is causing concern among researchers. The precise origin of these new, similar substances remains a mystery, say scientists. More

How the Exxon Valdez spill gave birth to modern oil spill prevention plans
Alaska Dispatch
Over the past 25 years much has been written about the Exxon Valdez grounding on Bligh Reef. But little has been written about how this accident changed the way we look at oil spill prevention and response today. The hard facts are that neither the Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., nor the federal and state governments were prepared to deal with such a disaster. More

Virtual fish will save the lives of millions of lab animals
Plymouth Herald
A virtual fish being developed at Plymouth University could dramatically cut the need for testing on live animals. The virtual fish could be useful in studying the risks posed by man-made chemicals in the environment.More

Discovery could yield more efficient plants for biofuels
Purdue University
Genetically modifying a key protein complex in plants could lead to improved crops for the production of cellulosic biofuels, a Purdue University study says. Clint Chapple, distinguished professor of biochemistry, and fellow researchers generated a mutant Arabidopsis plant whose cell walls can be converted easily into fermentable sugars but does not display the stunted growth patterns of similar mutants. The finding could maintain yield while reducing the need for costly pretreatment processes that make cellulosic biofuels more inefficient to produce than corn ethanol.More