Lake Erie Needs Benefits of Green Infrastructure Overhaul—Now
Since 2004, studies have shown that the algae problem in Lake Erie has been slowly getting worse with last year being the worst year on record. The algae, which usually stayed in Maumee Bay and the Western Basin of Lake Erie had now spread into the Central Basin and past Cleveland.
People who live and work along the shores of Lake Erie see this as a serious threat to their livelihood. We are seeing a major decline in tourism and charter boat rentals because of this green mess on the Lake—it's hard to miss.
Last month, I participated in a workshop addressing the issues causing the harmful algal blooms and what solutions are best to combat them. My focus was on urban stormwater and how best management practices can help reduce phosphorus and other pollutants entering rivers and streams, which add to the algae problem.
Polluted runoff was the primary source of pollution for 13 percent of rivers, 18 percent of lakes, 32 percent of estuaries, and 55 percent of ocean shorelines across the country under the U.S. Environmental Protectin Agency's (EPA) list of impaired waters.
Every year, up to 3.5 million people become sick from contact with water contaminated by sewage. For two beaches in California alone, illness associated with swimming in water contaminated by polluted runoff at those beaches cost the public more than $3 million every year.
Polluted runoff not only has a significant public health impact, but can have an economic one as well when beaches are forced to close and fisheries are shut down due to pollution.
Green infrastructure practices can offer a cost-effective alternative to managing polluted runoff by capturing and treating rainwater where it falls. Reducing the polluted runoff that goes into our rivers, lakes and streams protects clean water and public health, and can even save money in avoided healthcare and economic costs—going green to save green.
Reducing pollutants like excess nutrients that enter the Great Lakes and other waters by capturing rainwater where it falls to reduce polluted runoff is a critical tool to protect public health. Green infrastructure practices also have the added benefit of creating more green space and providing air quality benefits.
Green roofs can help to reduce urban heat islands, keeping temperatures cooler and improving air quality. A 2006 study of Philadelphia found that 196 heat-related fatalities could be avoided over a 40-year period using green infrastructure, which could save the city over $1.45 billion. One 40,000 square foot roof in Portland removes 1,600 pounds of particulate matter from the air every year, yielding $3,024 annually in avoided healthcare costs.
Not only can green infrastructure practices protect public health, they can also help communities save on energy costs and reduce flooding. Check out our recent report, Banking On Green where we examine the cost-effectiveness of green infrastructure practices and the benefits they can provide to communities beyond clean water.
For more information, click here.
Sweden's reindeer have a problem. In winter, they feed on lichens buried beneath the snow. But the climate crisis is making this difficult. Warmer temperatures mean moisture sometimes falls as rain instead of snow. When the air refreezes, a layer of ice forms between the reindeer and their meal, forcing them to wander further in search of ideal conditions. And sometimes, this means crossing busy roads.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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