Christmas trees, global warming and tar sands: this week in environmental news

By Sally Zimmerman, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA shares recent environmental news stories from around the state and country. Here’s some of what happened this week in environmental and nature news:

A Christmas tree farm in Iowa. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A Christmas tree farm in Iowa. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

For U.S. Christmas trees, a festival of blights (Mother Nature Network): Christmas trees across the U.S. are suffering from a deadly soil disease, flooding, heat waves and other severe weather caused by climate change. North Carolina, the number 2 Christmas tree state, is losing $6 million every year because of a deadly water mold called Phytophthora root rot. Plant pathologist Gary A. Chastagner calls it a “national problem.” Oregon could lost $304 million due to the outbreak.

Panel says global warming carries risk of deep changes (New York Times): A scientific panel said continued global warming may lead to the possible collapse of polar sea ice, mass extinction of plants and animals, and vast dead zones in oceans. The panel wants to create an early warning system because they believe people have done little to prepare for the changing climate. James W.C. White, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Colorado Boulder, said the change is inevitable and the hope is that the change will happen gradually so society has time to adapt.

Report: Great Lakes ill-equipped to ship tar sands safely (WKAR): The Alliance for the Great Lakes released a report that said there are gaps in Enbridge’s oil spill response and prevention methods. The group is concerned because tar sands crude oil is extremely difficult to clean up, according to Lyman Welch, the water quality program director at the Alliance for the Great Lakes. Enbridge is still trying to clean up the tar sands crude oil in the Kalamazoo watershed from three years ago.

Study identifies obstacles to aquaculture expansion (Great Lakes Echo): According to the Michigan Sea Grant, fish farms could bring in $1 billion a year with better sustainability. Michigan’s abundant lakes and fresh groundwater give it the potential for growth in the industry. Dan Vogler, the president of Michigan Aquaculture Association, said we could see a $1 billion industry by 2025. Fish farms are still relatively new, making them mismatched with Michigan’s environmental regulations.

Rising ocean acidification leads to anxiety in fish (Science Daily): Researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego and MacEwan University have shown that the rising acidity levels in the ocean are causing anxiety among rockfish. This species is an important commercial species in California. Martin Tresguerres, a Scripps marine biologist, said the anxious behavior is a concern because rockfish will not be able to adapt to their dynamic environment and will spend less time foraging for food.

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