A new study concludes that fossil fuel emissions are likely contributors to a substantial amount of organic carbon found on glaciers in Alaska.
Fossil fuel emissions, which contain organic carbon, can speed up the rate of glacier melt when deposited on glacier surfaces. In addition, the organic molecules associated with these deposits can be transported in rivers and streams, affecting downstream aquatic ecosystems. Knowledge of the source and age of organic carbon in glaciers allows for a better understanding of these and other impacts.
Prior research suggested that the main sources of organic carbon in Alaska's glaciers were from forests and peatlands overrun by glaciers as far back as ten thousand years ago. While old soil and plant material are still possible sources of glacial organic carbon, new research indicates that human-created, or anthropogenic, sources are also important.
"We knew the organic carbon present in Alaska's glaciers was old, but identifying the sources of this material has been difficult due to the lack of chemical data,"ˇ said U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientist George Aiken.
While extensive burning of fossil fuels is, geologically speaking, a relatively modern practice, the fuels themselves and the resulting carbon emissions are ancient. This is because the fuels are formed from plants and microorganisms that lived millions of years ago.
"Now we know that a substantial amount of ancient organic matter associated with these and other glaciers is of anthropogenic origin," said Aiken.
Why Study Carbon Levels?
When organic matter and other materials from the atmosphere are deposited on the surface of a glacier, less sunlight can be reflected and, therefore, more radiation and heat are absorbed. Having these materials on snow and ice surfaces causes them to melt faster.
Another concern is impacts to ecosystems and species habitats. As an example, organic matter exported to coastal areas is a potential nutrient or food source for aquatic bacteria, phytoplankton, and small grazing zooplankton. Climate warming or other factors may change the amount and quality of organic carbon available to these organisms. These aquatic organisms are also the base of the food web for all aquatic communities.
"When trying to understand climate change and decipher the carbon cycle puzzle, we need to make sure that we are using all of the right pieces," said USGS scientist Rob Striegl. "As part of that puzzle, we are studying the source and amount of carbon flowing into the Arctic Ocean. An understanding of the complete picture allows for the most informed decisions to protect our environment."
"The Arctic is of special interest because what happens there, such as extensive glacier melt, has impacts on the rest of the world," said Striegl. "Glacier environments, especially those in the high latitudes of the Arctic, are also among the most sensitive to climate warming."
New Twist to Understanding Carbon in Glaciers
"Our new paper describes, for the first time, the detailed chemical composition of dissolved organic matter associated with glaciers and glacial meltwater in coastal Alaska and in Wyoming," said Aiken.
"This study adds a twist to previous understandings, showing there is another source of organic carbon out there that needs to be considered," said Striegl.
This study, published in the journal Nature Geosciences, was a collaborative effort of many institutions led primarily by the University of Alaska Southeast, Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, Woods Hole Research Center, and the USGS.
The Role of USGS Science
Earlier studies by the USGS, in collaboration with university researchers, found the presence of ancient organic carbon in the Yukon River and traced it back to meltwater from glaciers. For further analyses, USGS scientists continued those collaborations to sample meltwater from Mendenhall Glacier and Herbert Glacier in southeastern Alaska. The samples were then analyzed at USGS and university laboratories to develop the conclusions outlined in this new study.
"This truly is a collaborative effort, taking the expertise of many scientists to put the story together on the source of the carbon,"ˇ said Striegl. "The original work of the USGS in the Yukon basin helped form the questions and lab results contributed to answering the questions; but it took specialized instrumentation and scientific expertise from several other organizations to determine the final answer."
Additional samples used for age dating and for other chemical characterization of the organic carbon of glaciers from other locations came from Gulkana Glacier in Alaska and from Fremont Glacier in Wyoming.
The Big Picture of Aquatic Carbon
The USGS has a long term goal of determining the source and fate of organic and inorganic carbon transported to coastal areas and oceans across the entire Nation. USGS research on the Yukon and other Arctic rivers is particularly focused on climate warming effects on mobilizing ancient carbon from permafrost to coastal regions and the Arctic Ocean. The USGS participates in the Arctic Great Rivers Observatory project, which is an international effort to study the six largest rivers, including the Yukon, which flow into the Arctic Ocean.
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By Gwen Ranniger
In the midst of a pandemic, sales of cleaning products have skyrocketed, and many feel a need to clean more often. Knowing what to look for when purchasing cleaning supplies can help prevent unwanted and dangerous toxics from entering your home.
1. Fragrance – Avoid It<p>One of the fastest ways to narrow down your product options is immediately eliminating any product that promotes a fragrance, or parfum. That scent of "fresh breeze" or lemon might initially smell good, but the fragrance does not last. What does last? The concoction of various undisclosed and unregulated chemicals that created that fragrance.</p><p>Many fragrances contain phthalates, which are linked to many health risks including reproductive problems and cancer.</p>
2. With Bleach? Do Without<p>Going scent-free should have narrowed down your options substantially – now, check the front of the remaining packaging. Any that include ammonia or chlorine bleach ought to go, as these substances are irritating and corrosive to your body. While bleach is commonly known as a powerful disinfectant, there are safer alternatives that you can use in your home, such as sodium borate or hydrogen peroxide.</p><p>While you're at it, check if there are any warnings on the label – "flammable," "use in ventilated area," etc. – if the product is hazardous, that's a red flag and should be avoided.</p>
3. Check the Back Label<p>Flip to the back of the remaining contenders and check out that ingredient list. Less is more, here. Opt for a shorter ingredient list with words you recognize and/or can pronounce.</p><p>You may notice many products do not have ingredient lists – while this doesn't necessarily mean they contain toxic ingredients, transparency is key. Feel free to look up a list online, or stick to products that are open about their ingredients.</p>
4. Ingredients to Avoid<p>We already mentioned that cleaners containing fragrance or parfum, and bleach or ammonia should be avoided, but there are other ingredients to look out for as well.</p><ul><li>Quaternary ammonium "quats" – lung irritants that contribute to asthma and other breathing problems. Also linger on surfaces long after they've been cleaned.</li><li>Parabens – Known hormone disruptor; can contribute to ailments such as cancer</li><li>Triclosan – triclosan and other antibacterial chemicals are registered with the EPA as pesticides. Triclosan is a known hormone disruptor and can also impact your immune system.</li><li>Formaldehyde – Causes irritation of eyes, nose, and throat; studies suggest formaldehyde exposure is linked with certain varieties of cancer. Can be found in products or become a byproduct of chemical reactions in the air.</li></ul>
Cleaning Products and Toxics: The Bottom Line<p>Do your research. There are many cleaning products available, but taking these steps will drastically reduce your options and help keep your home toxic-free. Protecting your home from bacteria and viruses is important, but make sure you do so in a way that doesn't introduce other health risks into the home.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank">Environmental Health News</a>. </em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649054624#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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Twenty-five years ago, a food called Tofurky made its debut on grocery store shelves. Since then, the tofu-based roast has become a beloved part of many vegetarians' holiday feasts.
By Jessica Corbett
A leading environmental advocacy group marked Native American Heritage Month on Wednesday by urging President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Kamala Harris, and the entire incoming administration "to honor Indigenous sovereignty and immediately halt the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and Line 3 pipelines."
- Climate Crisis: What We Can Learn From Indigenous Traditions ... ›
- 10 Organizations Honoring Native People on Thanksgiving ... ›
- Biden Vows to Ax Keystone XL if Elected - EcoWatch ›
Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
By Jake Johnson
Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.