Cover Crops: Good for Water Quality?

Cover crops have been a popular management strategy to reduce nutrient runoff from agriculture. However, evidence suggests that some cover crops may in fact release nutrients, instead of keeping them out of the water. One study explores whether five types of cover crops release phosphorus, and how that may impact water quality in the important Great Lakes region.

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Evidence from the sediment: Lake Baikal diatom community changes in response to shifting environmental conditions

Located in Siberia, Russia, Lake Baikal is the deepest lake in the world (Figure 1). Similar to other waterbodies around the world, both big and small, Lake Baikal is exhibiting changes in the community composition of its primary producers in response to climate change induced changes in surface temperatures and nutrient inputs. In this study, scientists examine community composition shifts in a group of primary producers known as diatoms and examine the influence of climate change on this shift.

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Making Amends with Wetland Soils

Wetlands provide ecosystem services, which are services that are free to humans and extremely valuable to the environment. In particular, wetlands can improve water quality through denitrification. Denitrification eliminates nitrate, a nitrogenous compound often found in pollutants, by converting it into gaseous forms of nitrogen and emitting these gases into the atmosphere. Because of the wetland losses happening largely due to human activity, efforts are being made to restore wetlands in an attempt to recapture the ecosystem services they provide. Recent research has investigated the capacity of restored wetland soils to perform denitrification compared to that of natural wetland soils.

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Nature vs. Nature or Engineering? The Case of Coastal Resilience

Coastal flooding has been a problem for as long as civilization has settled along the coast. During that same time civilization has been impacting natural features that would otherwise help mitigate this problem. There are two schools of thought in combating coastal flooding today: installing conventional engineering solutions and bringing back natural barriers. There are pros and cons to both strategies, but it really boils down to cost, space, and unintended consequences. In our opinion, nature should be used to fight nature. Read the article and decide for yourself!

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Going, going, gone! Living shorelines send nitrogen packin’!

Coastal wetlands provide critical ecological services, but are rapidly disappearing from the planet. Salt marshes are a type of coastal wetland that provides habitat, food, and shelter, while preventing erosion, and protecting our water quality. Researchers are investigating how well reduce nutrient pollution, specifically nitrogen, from terrestrial and aquatic environments. A recent study discovered that living shorelines such as salt marshes are quite effective at removing nitrogen, especially in the first seven years after construction. These findings indicate that living shorelines are an effective solution to coastal pollution challenges.

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Something to chew on: the environmental impacts of our food choices

Hamburger or fish sandwich? Which lunch option has the lowest environmental impact? Consumers and policy makers aiming to make informed choices about what animal protein food sources to support have a new resource available this month, thanks to a review led by University of Washington researchers.

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Cropland nitrogen allocation – A deeper dive into the stressors impacting the oceans

Around the globe, 40-50% of the nitrogen applied to cropland in fertilizers remains in the environment. Excess nitrogen is an important environmental stressor that degrades water, air and soil quality and enhances coastal eutrophication. Efficiently allocating nitrogen across space both maximizes crop yields and minimizes excess nitrogen losses to the environment.

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Under a wave of global change, lakes remain placid

Swimmers, boaters, and fishing enthusiasts care about keeping our lakes healthy. As climate and patterns of land development change, scientists are diving into the challenge of understanding how these interacting forces impact water quality. In a recently published paper, researchers assembled a database of thousands of lakes across the northeastern United States to address this question. They found that water quality has remained surprisingly stable over the past twenty years.

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