All the latest in environmental concerns
Keep up to date with our earth’s environmental concerns, find out how they may affect you and how you can help!
Varroa mites are the prime threat to honeybee survival worldwide. Originating in Asia, the mites have spread to all continents except Australia and Antarctica. The mites reproduce in the cells of bee larvae and bring with them viruses that can be damaging to the colony. European honeybees have not evolved resistance to the mites, but some honeybees engage in “Varroa-specific hygiene” (VSH), involving expelling infested larvae. In fact, some bees of all types will engage in this behaviour. For the last 20 years, researchers have been selectively breeding bees to choose VSH behaviour. They have found that colonies that engage in this mite-resistant behaviour have a 60 per cent survival rate during winter compared to 26 per cent in colonies that do not. This is a natural and sustainable solution to the threat proposed by varroa mites, and it requires neither chemical nor further human intervention.
Source: Scientific Reports
To analyse the effects of different dog diets, researchers analysed survey data from the owners of more than 2500 dogs. The dogs were fed either conventional meat, raw meat or a vegan diet. The survey included questions about the dog’s health, number of veterinary visits, use of medications and specific dog health disorders. Statistical analysis of the data revealed that overall dogs on conventional meat diets were less healthy than those on raw meat or vegan diets. Dogs on raw meat appeared at first to be healthier than vegan dogs, but the researchers noted that owners feeding raw meat have been shown to be less likely to seek vet advice. Additionally, raw meat has been linked to an increased risk of pathogens and nutrient deficiencies. In light of all of this, the researchers concluded that a nutritionally sound vegan diet might be the healthiest and least hazardous for dogs.
Source: PLOS One
Microplastics in mussels
Trillions of microplastic particles exist in the world’s oceans, and efforts are underway worldwide to examine how widely distributed they are. For the first time, researchers from Flinders University, South Australia, have measured microplastic levels on popular beaches on the SA coastline, including Coffin Bay and Port Lincoln in the west, Adelaide metropolitan beaches, Whyalla and Kangaroo Island. Levels of microplastics of less than 5mm were measured in the common blue mussel, a filter feeder that is affected by local conditions. Significant levels of microplastics were found, with single-use plastic being the main offender. The fact that plastic has made its way into these once pristine environments sounds alarm bells. The researchers say that aside from the impact on blue mussels, some of the areas impacted are biodiversity hotspots. Additionally, microplastic particles are entering the human food chain. For the sake of fragile ecosystems and human health, there is an urgent need to prevent microplastic pollution.
Source: Science of the Total Environment
Green hydrogen breakthrough
Renewable (green) hydrogen is critical to the decarbonisation of sectors that are difficult to abate such as steel manufacture, long-haul transport, shipping and aviation. However, at the moment green hydrogen is much more expensive than fossil fuels. Green hydrogen is produced by water electrolysis, which requires renewable electricity generated by solar or wind. The cost of green hydrogen arises because of the high cost of water electrolysers, which decompose water into oxygen and hydrogen. Additionally, the large amounts of renewable energy required to produce green hydrogen have prevented large-scale uptake. Now, however, researchers at the University of Wollongong have developed an electrolyser that delivers 95 per cent overall system efficiency compared to 75 per cent or less for existing technology. This will reduce both the capital and operational costs to produce green hydrogen, enabling a production cost well below A$2 per kilogram, making it cost-competitive and accelerating global decarbonisation.
Source: Nature Communications