Wolves, solar process, Great Lakes and native fish comeback: This week in environmental news

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA highlights recent environmental news stories from around the state and country. Here are five articles you might’ve missed this week:

Western gray wolf. Photo courtesy of Michigan DNR.

A western gray wolf. Photo courtesy of Michigan DNR.

Wolf hunting weighed in Michigan (Great Lakes Echo): Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill to allow Michigan to create a wolf-hunting season after Michigan wolves were taken off the state’s endangered species list in December. Conservation groups and Michigan’s Natural Resources Commission are now debating how a wolf hunt will affect the health of the wolves, ecosystem and people. One of the main reasons for establishing a wolf-hunting season would be to control wolves that threaten people and livestock. The Michigan DNR is surveying the wolf population and will recommend to the Natural Resources Commission if a hunting season is needed to control them. Survey results will be released in late April.

New solar process gets more out of natural gas (New York Times): The Energy Department is preparing to test a new way for solar power to make energy by using the sun’s heat to increase the energy content of natural gas. The new system uses the sun’s heat to break open the natural gas and water molecules and reassembles them into carbon monoxide and pure hydrogen, two chemicals that burn better. The mixture, called synthesis gas, requires energy that is usually captured by burning natural gas, but this new process takes that energy from the sun. This process, which researchers hope to test by this summer, could cut the amount of natural gas used (and greenhouse gasses emitted) by 20 percent.

Obama budget seeks $300M for Great Lakes cleanup (Pioneer Press/Associated Press): President Obama’s proposed budget for the 2014 fiscal year includes $300 million for the Lakes Restoration Initiative, a program that supports research and cleanup projects for the Great Lakes. On Wednesday, Obama asked Congress to continue this program, which has spent more than $1 billion addressing some of the lakes’ longest-running environmental problems. The program has provided more than 1,500 grants to university scientists, government agencies and nonprofit organizations in eight states and has supported efforts to prevent Asian carp from invading the lakes.

Ocean nutrients a key component of future change, say scientists (Science Daily): According to a multi-author review paper involving the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOCS), variations in the availability of nutrients in the world’s oceans may important to future environmental change. Marine algae need certain resources to grow and reproduce—including nutrients—and the growth of these tiny plants can become restricted if there are not enough nutrients available. Marine algae and other microorganisms support most marine ecosystems and play a big role in cycling nutrients and carbon throughout the ocean system, so understanding nutrient cycling is important for predicting environmental change.

A surprising comeback for Lake Huron’s native fish (Michigan Radio): Some of Lake Huron’s native fish are recovering after the food web collapsed a few years ago. These fish—including bloater, slimy sculpin and Lake trout—are experiencing changes so dramatic that some scientists wonder if Lake Huron’s ecosystem is experiencing some kind of permanent change, which biologists call a regime shift. There are no signs of a dramatic recovery in Lake Michigan—the same body of water as Lake Huron—so it’s unclear why fish are doing well on one side but not the other.

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