Palm Oil’s Inconvenient Truth

Palm oil is quickly growing to be one of the most economically lucrative crops, at a huge expense to the environment. With weak political clout by environmental groups in western nations and high demand for palm oil products in India and China, there is little that can be done to curb rainforest habitat loss as the market for palm oil continues to soar.

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Summertime Sadness: Hurricanes and Water Quality

Hurricanes are natural disasters that can turn water quality nasty! Just how nasty depends on what’s on the land that’s being flooded. Hurricane Fran (1996) struck the Cape Fear region in southeastern North Carolina, and researchers from the University of North Carolina Wilmington noticed dissolved oxygen plummeted as a result of swamp water and swine farm waste flooding. The lack of oxygen in the water caused widespread death of fish and critters living in the bottom of the rivers, not to mention all that sewage introduced bacteria and disease into the environment! Swamp water flooding may be a natural, unavoidable consequence of hurricanes, but we must have policies and practices in place to reduce further degrading water quality from human activities.

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Why coastal flood maps are wrong: the tale of compound hazards

Coastal flooding is expected to increase in frequency due to future sea level rise and more extreme weather, but most coastal flood hazards maps do not portray the increase risk. We dive deeper into how these maps are made and uncover why the current flood hazard maps may be misleading.

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Endangered Species Act: Headed for Extinction?

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is a law designed to protect and recover endangered species of plants, animals, and ecosystems, and in turn, preserve our nation’s ecological history and functionality. However, there has been a recent push to overhaul the ESA in favor of economic opportunities. This would relieve the burden carried by landowners and industries who have been hampered by ESA restrictions, but would strip protections on species already listed on the ESA and make it more difficult to add species to the list. Left unprotected, those endangered species would be left to go extinct, and the ecological functions they serve within their ecosystem could collapse or irreversibly shift their biomes. With human activity responsible for current accelerated extinction rates, this is the time for urgent action on conservation, not a time to overhaul the law designed to protect our nation’s species and ecosystems.

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The hidden value of coral reefs

Coral reefs act as natural breakwaters reducing wave energy along coasts and, thus, can mitigate flooding. Reef structures currently avert more than $4 billion of flood damage annually. The viability of coral reefs is threatened by rising ocean temperatures, changing seawater chemistry, and physical anthropogenic disturbances. The expected damages to coastal infrastructure from flooding would at least double if reef height is reduced by only one meter. The reduction in flood protection services underscores the importance of investments in reef management, protection, and restoration.

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Reducing Plastic Pollution through Economic Incentives

Strolling along the beach, especially during peak tourist season anywhere and you will inevitably stumble upon someone’s cast away plastic bottle. Whether left by a beach-goer or washed onto the sand from upland, plastic litter can cost you the enjoyment of your beach day. Not only that, but collectively this nuisance plastic waste costs lost revenue from decreased tourism as well as harm to public, wildlife, and overall ecosystem health.

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