Some Amazon rainforest regions more resistant to climate change than previously thought

Forests can help mitigate climate change, by taking in carbon dioxide during photosynthesis and storing it in their biomass (tree trunks, roots, etc.). In fact, forests currently take in around 25-30% of our human-generated carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Certain rainforest regions, such as the Amazon, store more carbon in their biomass than any other ecosystem or forest but when forests become water-stressed (not enough water in the soil, and/or air is extremely dry), forests will slow down or stop photosynthesis. This leaves more CO2 in the atmosphere, and can also lead to tree mortality.

A long distance connection: Polar climate affects trade wind strength in tropics

The impact of sea surface temperature variations in the tropical Pacific on global climate has long been recognized. For instance, the episodic warming of the tropical Pacific during El Niño events causes melt of sea ice in far-reaching parts of the Southern Ocean via its effect on the global atmospheric circulation. A new study, published this week in the journal Science Advances by an international team, demonstrates that the opposite pathway exists as well.

There are microplastics near the top of Mount Everest too

Researchers analyzing snow and stream samples from the National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Everest Expedition have found evidence of microplastic pollution on Mount Everest. While the highest concentrations of microplastics were around Base Camp where hikers and trekkers spend the most time, the team also found microplastics as high up as 8,440 meters above sea level, just below the summit. The findings appear November 20 in the journal One Earth.

Could kelp help relieve ocean acidification?

Ethereal, swaying pillars of brown kelp along California’s coasts grow up through the water column, culminating in a dense surface canopy of thick fronds that provide homes and refuge for numerous marine creatures. There’s speculation that these giant algae may protect coastal ecosystems by helping alleviate acidification caused by too much atmospheric carbon being absorbed by the seas.

Some glaciers in the Tetons found to have survived the early Holocene warming

A trio of researchers, two with Occidental College, the other with the University of Colorado, has found evidence that some of the glaciers in the Tetons survived the early Holocene warming. In their paper published in the journal Science Advances, Darren Larsen, Sarah Crump and Aria Blumm describe their study of ice core samples taken from two sites in the Tetons.

Synthesis study demonstrates phytoplankton can bloom below Arctic sea ice

Small photosynthetic marine algae are a key component of the Arctic marine ecosystem but their role for the ecology of the Arctic Ocean have been underestimated for decades. That’s the conclusion of a team of scientists who synthesized more than half a century of research about the occurrence, magnitude and composition of phytoplankton blooms under Arctic sea ice. The results were published in a special issue of Frontiers in Marine Science devoted to Arctic Ocean research.

Study confirms contribution of bioenergy to climate change mitigation

That biofuels can contribute to a cleaner global energy mix is widely accepted, but the net benefits of bioenergy in terms of mitigating greenhouse gases (GHG) are moot. Some argue, for example, that biofuels are not sustainable because the conversion of non-agricultural land to grow energy crops could lead to a significant initial decrease in carbon storage, creating what is known as a “biofuel carbon debt”.

Microbial remedies target chemical threats in the environment

Across America, hazardous waste sites pose an ongoing threat to human and environmental health. The most severe cases are known as Superfund sites, of which over a thousand currently exist. Some 50 million Americans live within three miles of one of these zones, potentially placing them at increased risk for cancer and other serious diseases.

Could key gene system discovery be suffocating corals’ last gasp?

Oxygen is life, in or out of the water, raising concerns that declining ocean oxygen stores are adding an additional environmental stress to already highly vulnerable coral reef ecosystems. While the twin effects of ocean warming and acidification are well studied, until now there has been limited understanding of how the growing threat of ocean deoxygenation may impact the ability of corals to function and ultimately form reefs.

Farms, tables and vast impacts between and beyond

Bountiful harvests in one location can mean empty water reservoirs and environmental woes far from farmlands. A unique study in this week’s Nature Communications examines how food, energy, water and greenhouse gases create a vast front in the battle to feed the planet.

Plastic pollution is everywhere. Study reveals how it travels

Plastic pollution is ubiquitous today, with microplastic particles from disposable goods found in natural environments throughout the globe, including Antarctica. But how those particles move through and accumulate in the environment is poorly understood. Now a Princeton University study has revealed the mechanism by which microplastics, like Styrofoam, and particulate pollutants are carried long distances through soil and other porous media, with implications for preventing the spread and accumulation of contaminants in food and water sources.

Study reconstructs ancient storms to help predict changes in tropical cyclone hotspot

Intense tropical cyclones are expected to become more frequent as climate change increases temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. But not every area will experience storms of the same magnitude. New research from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) published in Nature Geoscience reveals that tropical cyclones were actually more frequent in the southern Marshall Islands during the Little Ice Age, when temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere were cooler than they are today.