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15 Most Surprising Trends for 2017

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6. Sand Trap

Sand is mined for a wide range of uses, from making concrete, glass, asphalt and electronics to reclaiming land and aiding in the extraction of fossil fuels. And with sand mining comes disruption and loss of habitat in sand sources such as quarries, rivers, lakes and oceans. As demand for sand grows, efforts are underway to develop strategies for restoring areas from which sand has been removed and to advance the use of alternative materials such as mud or recycled construction material where possible to reduce stress on existing stocks.

Sand mining is growing rapidly around the world, with big consequences for creatures that inhabit shorelines, rivers, lakes and the land overlying terrestrial sources. iStock

7. Trends in Fences

Fences are notorious for challenging wildlife by restricting migrations and limiting contact among populations. As political leaders in the U.S. and Europe make plans to build more border fences to limit movement of our own species across national boundaries, scientists are assessing implications for wolves, sheep, bears, birds and more.

8. Downside of Cleanups

Landfills have altered animal behavior, distribution and abundance around the world in a variety of ways, from increasing abundance of storks to fragmenting populations of bears. As changes in regulations cause landfills to be cleaned up, covered and closed, scientists expect the behavior of scavenging animals to change—with potential consequences for other species, ecosystems and human-animal interactions.

Well-intentioned efforts to clean up waste dumps are having unintended consequences for animal scavengers.iStock

9. Ocean Air on Overdrive

Things can be rough on the open ocean—and they appear to be getting rougher, with increased average air speed, wave height, and frequency of strong winds and large waves over the past two decades. Implications for ecosystems and the species that inhabit them include disruptions to beaches, coastal vegetation and reefs; ocean-going birds and transoceanic migrants also could be affected.

10. Floating Wind Farms

Floating turbines hold huge promise for capturing wind energy over Earth's oceans. With the first large floating wind farm—off the coast of Scotland—approved for development in 2016 and some 40 more in planning, it's high time to take a look at potential implications for conservation. Possibilities include the creation of de facto marine reserves as fish cluster under the fields of floating turbines, loss of birds that fly into the turbines, entanglement of sea creatures in cables used to tether the turbines to the seafloor, and disruption of movement patterns of underwater animals.

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