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We want to make cutting edge research in the environmental sciences accessible to all by highlighting recent studies and explaining how these advances shape the understanding of our world.

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Can New Jersey Marshes just “Fuhgettabout” Superstorm Sandy?

After a storm that left 149 people dead and thousands without homes, how could New Jersey coastal wetlands have possibly survived Hurricane Sandy basically unscathed? To find out how these protective ecosystems made it through the storm, we may need to look a little bit below the surface. Most of us know about “Jersey Tough”, but how many knew that applied to the salt marshes, too?

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What’s a Forest Without Trees?

Trees are one of the most important natural resources: they consume carbon dioxide and provide us with oxygen, building materials, and fuel. However, global forest degradation exceeds the total CO2 emissions in the US for both highway vehicles (1.7 Gt CO2e/year) and power generation (1.9 Gt CO2e/year)! A new study discusses the difference between deforestation and forest degradation and why it’s essential to account for both in greenhouse gas emissions management.

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Red Deer Takeover!

Most people would not think of red deer as powerful enough to take over farmers’ land. However, a recent increase of red deer population has devastated land in Slovakia and other European countries. A recent study determined the amount of forage red deer consume per season and the key elements affecting forage availability that determine the boom or bust of red deer.

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Out to lunch or sticking with the worm diet? Food decisions of the Australian ibis

If you’ve been to a busy park during lunch hour, surely, you’ve noticed that many birds are on the prowl for some of your delicious lunch crumbs! Recently, urban ecologists have been interested in learning how much human food animals eat, and how it might affect them. Read on to learn more about how the Australian ibis decides whether to grab some human grub or stick to its natural diet.

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Please romaine calm- there might be cancer-causing compounds in your lettuce

Washing fruits and vegetables before eating is standard practice- a good scrub removes dirt as well as bacteria that can make us sick. However, there’s more to this story- researchers at Georgia Tech found cancer-causing compounds inside the produce, as a result of industrial washing. In a recently published paper, they took the first step, looking at the leftover water used to wash the produce. Chlorinated wash water plays an important role in making sure produce is safe to eat, by eliminating harmful bacteria, but at what cost?

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Conserve the Lobster

Caught between a rock and a hard place. The American lobster has become the largest fishery in the United States. American lobster populations are increasing in the Gulf of Maine. However, pressures of climate change and harvest have virtually eliminated the fishery from Southern New England. Work done by Le Bris et al uncover the differences between the two locations and determine that active conservation efforts in the Gulf of Maine have permitted the crustacean to remain even with increased water temperatures and fishing.

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Mismatches between biodiversity research and policy needs – how can anyone compete with climate change?

If you would conduct a quick poll among the next twenty people you meet and ask them what they think the most important cause of global biodiversity loss is, there’s a good chance you would get a lot of the same two-word answer: climate change. In the English-speaking world today, there are few anthropogenic threats that appear in the news as often as often as climate change. While climate change is undeniably an important driver of biodiversity changes worldwide, there’s a risk that other equally important drivers have ended up too far from the scientific spotlight.

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Possible link between oil spill clean ups and harmful algal blooms

Oil spills are damaging the marine environment. One method for cleanup is applying dispersants to break up oil slicks on the water surface, making oil easier to decompose. Unfortunately, researchers started to observe harmful algal blooms after the application of these dispersants. The scientists in this study wanted to understand what was causing these blooms.

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The Fate of Our Microplastics

Microplastics, or plastics smaller than a sesame seed, have become a growing concern for marine environments. A majority of facial cleaners contain microplastics, such as microbeads or micro exfoliates, which get washed down the sink drain and end up in our oceans. A research team in Auckland, New Zealand investigated four local brands, and determined all four brands contained about 150 microplastics per 1.5 grams of cleanser. Most were around the size of a grain of sand, and some were irregularly shaped and susceptible to breaking down into smaller pieces. The apprehension of these findings is that small plastic particles could be confused for food by microscopic marine life, and the plastic could accumulate up the food chain and harm marine life. Furthermore, microplastics can also accumulate chemical toxins in the ocean, and their environmentally persistent nature allows for them to become more toxic as they age. Therefore, simple measures such as using organic facial cleansers, and becoming more aware of our daily habits and products use, are essential to reducing ocean pollution.

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