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Is your Easter egg bad for the environment?

Is your Easter egg bad for the environment?

A recent study by researchers at The University of Manchester and published in the journal Food Research International has looked at the carbon footprint of chocolate and its other environmental impacts. It has done this by assessing the impacts of ingredients, manufacturing processes, packaging and waste.

The study estimates that the UK chocolate industry produces about 2.1m tonnes of greenhouse gases (GHG) a year. This is equivalent to the annual emissions of the whole population of a city as large as Belfast. It also found that it takes around 1000 litres of water to produce just one chocolate bar.

Island of plastic debris in Pacific far bigger than previous estimates, study says

Island of plastic debris in Pacific far bigger than previous estimates, study says

A giant island of plastic floating in the Pacific Ocean holds as much as 16 times more debris than was previously thought, posing a significant threat to the food chain, scientists said on Thursday (22nd March 2018).

The so-called garbage patch in waters between California and Hawaii consists of fishing nets, plastic containers, packaging and ropes, said the Ocean Cleanup Foundation, which headed up a study published in Scientific Reports, an online journal.

Millions more hungry in 2017 amid famine and conflict, with numbers rising

Millions more hungry in 2017 amid famine and conflict, with numbers rising

Conflicts and climate disasters, particularly drought, drove the number of people facing crisis levels of hunger up by about 15 percent last year and the situation is getting worse, a new report said on Thursday (22nd March 2018).

Last year 124 million people in 51 countries faced crisis levels of hunger compared to 108 million people in 48 countries in 2016 and 80 million in 2015, according to the Food Security Information Network (FSIN).

Communicating why pollinators matter could help save them and ensure food security worldwide, researchers say

Communicating why pollinators matter could help save them and ensure food security worldwide, researchers say

International researchers met in Leiden (Netherlands) in early March, to discuss the latest research on pollinators and stress the need to communicate their value more actively to citizens and policy advisors. Better science communication, backed by more research funding, could help ensure sustainable pollination worldwide.

Mountains become islands: ecological dangers of increasing land use in East Africa

Mountains become islands: ecological dangers of increasing land use in East Africa

The mountains of East Africa are a treasure trove of biodiversity. However, their ecosystems may be at a higher risk than previously realized. Dr. Andreas Hemp and Dr. Claudia Hemp have discovered that Mount Kilimanjaro is turning into an “ecological island”. Agriculture and housing construction have eliminated the natural vegetation that used to serve as a bridge to the surrounding area, enabling the diversity of species to develop to its current levels.

Scientists engineer crops to conserve water, resist drought

Scientists engineer crops to conserve water, resist drought

Agriculture already monopolizes 90 percent of global freshwater—yet production still needs to dramatically increase to feed and fuel this century’s growing population. For the first time, scientists have improved how a crop uses water by 25 percent without compromising yield by altering the expression of one gene that is found in all plants, as reported in Nature Communications.

Reducing the impact of fishing fleets on the most threatened marine birds

Reducing the impact of fishing fleets on the most threatened marine birds

Accidental by-catch –which affects around 5,000 birds stuck in longlines every year- is the most severe effect on marine birds by the fishing activity in the Mediterranean. The exploitation of fishing resources is threatening more and more the future of many marine birds with regression populations, such as Cory’s shearwater or the Balearic shearwater.

Biochar could replace unsustainable peat moss in greenhouse industry

Biochar could replace unsustainable peat moss in greenhouse industry

Plant lovers are familiar with peat moss as the major component of potting mix, but harvest of the material is becoming unsustainable. Not only is peat being removed faster than it can re-form, its use in potting mix contributes to the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

In a recent study, researchers in the US investigated a material called biochar as an alternative to peat moss in potting mix. Similar to charcoal, biochar is produced through a process called pyrolysis, or heating to high temperatures in the absence of oxygen. And like charcoal, it can be derived from virtually any organic substance.

Not just bees: new research highlights importance of vertebrate pollinators

Not just bees: new research highlights importance of vertebrate pollinators

The importance of birds, mammals and reptiles pollinating plants around the world is the subject of a major new study led by the University of Southampton.

In the first global assessment of the importance of vertebrate pollinators to plant reproduction, scientists found that preventing vertebrates – predominantly bats and birds – from visiting flowers to feed can reduce the amount of fruits and/or seeds produced by the plants they feed on by an average of 63 per cent.

Growing tomatoes of the same quality as normal, but using only half the water

Growing tomatoes of the same quality as normal, but using only half the water

Experts from the Pharmacy Faculty and the Higher Technical School of Agricultural Engineering (Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingeniería Agronómica – ETSIA) of the University of Seville have published a study that shows that when reducing the water used to water cherry tomato crops by more than 50%, the product not only maintains its quality, both commercially and nutritionally, but it also even increases the level of carotenoids, compounds of great interest in the food-processing industry. In addition to being natural colourings, some are Vitamin-A precursors, which are beneficial for the health and have cosmetic uses.

Farming crops with rocks to reduce CO2 and improve global food security

Farming crops with rocks to reduce CO2 and improve global food security

Farming crops with crushed rocks could help to improve global food security and reduce the amount of CO2 entering the atmosphere, a new study has found.

The pioneering research by scientists at the University of Sheffield together with international colleagues suggests that adding fast-reacting silicate rocks to croplands could capture CO2 and give increased protection from pests and diseases while restoring soil structure and fertility.

New study finds nitrogen fertilizer is a major contributor to smog in California

A new study led by researchers at the University of California, Davis, finds that agriculture is one of the leading cause of smog formation in the state. When nitrogen fertilizer is applied to soil, excess nitrogen is volatilized or leached out and forms nitrogen oxides (NOx), a primary component of smog. Researchers found that nitrogen application, primarily in the Central Valley, is likely contributing 25 percent or more to state-wide NOx pollution levels.