1. Due to the environmental disaster’s unprecedented scope, assessing the damage caused by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been a challenge. One unsolved puzzle is the location of 2 million barrels of submerged oil thought to be trapped in the deep ocean. Scientists from the University of California, Santa Barbara and from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and University of California, Irvine have been able to describe the path the oil followed to create a footprint on the deep ocean floor. The findings appeared on 27 October 2014 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. For this study, the scientists used data from the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The United States government estimates the Macondo well’s total discharge — from the spill in April 2010 until the well was capped that July — to be 5 million barrels. By analyzing data from more than 3,000 samples collected at 534 locations over 12 expeditions, they identified a 1,250-square-mile patch of the deep sea floor upon which 2 to 16 percent of the discharged oil was deposited. The fallout of oil to the sea floor created thin deposits most intensive to the southwest of the Macondo well. The oil was most concentrated within the top half inch of the sea floor and was patchy even at the scale of a few feet.

  2. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical that is used in a variety of consumer products, such as water bottles, dental composites and resins used to line metal food and beverage containers, and also is used in thermal paper cash register receipts. Now, research conducted at the University of Missouri is providing the first data that BPA from thermal paper used in cash register receipts accounts for high levels of BPA in humans. Subjects studied showed a rapid increase of BPA in their blood after using a skin care product and then touching a store receipt with BPA. “BPA first was developed by a biochemist and tested as an artificial estrogen supplement,” said Frederick vom Saal, Curators Professor of Biological Sciences in the College of Arts and Science at MU. “As an endocrine disrupting chemical, BPA has been demonstrated to alter signaling mechanisms involving estrogen and other hormones. Store and fast food receipts, airline tickets, ATM receipts and other thermal papers all use massive amounts of BPA on the surface of the paper as a print developer. The problem is, we as consumers have hand sanitizers, hand creams, soaps and sunscreens on our hands that drastically alter the absorption rate of the BPA found on these receipts.” In the study, researchers tested human subjects who cleaned their hands with hand sanitizer and then held thermal paper receipts. As an added step, subjects who had handled the thermal paper then ate French fries with their hands. The result was that BPA was absorbed very rapidly, vom Saal said. The study, “Holding thermal receipt paper and eating food after using hand sanitizer results in high blood bioactive and urine total levels of bisphenol A (BPA)” was published online in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE on October 22 2014.

  3. The area of sea ice in the Arctic fell to a summer minimum of around 5.0 million square kilometres in the first half of September 2014, which is about 1.6 million square kilometres more than the record low in 2012. However, according to sea ice physicist Marcel Nicolaus from the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) and Lars Kaleschke from the Hamburg Cluster of Excellence for Climate Research (CliSAP) this confirms the long-term downward trend in the Arctic. On the other hand, the winter ice sheet in the South Polar Ocean has expanded to an area of 20.0 million square kilometres, as the researchers report, which exceeds the 30-year-maximum from the previous year.

  4. The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for September 2014 was the highest on record for September, at 0.72°C above the 20th century average of 15.0°C. The global land surface temperature was 0.89°C above the 20th century average of 12.0°C, the sixth highest for September on record. For the ocean, the September global sea surface temperature was 0.66°C above the 20th century average of 16.2°C, the highest on record for September and also the highest on record for any month.

  5. During an expedition with the German research vessel Polarstern off the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia, an international team of scientists discovered more than 130 active methane seeps at the seafloor. This is the first report of greenhouse gases seeping out of the seabed in the Southern Ocean. Continental and marine seepage of methane is a research issue of global importance. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change methane is about 21 times more powerful in warming the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. However, it is uncertain how much methane is emitted at the seafloor and whether it could eventually reach the atmosphere. To answer these and other questions, German, British, and US-American scientists embarked with the German RV Polarstern in the spring of 2013 in search of the Antarctic pieces of the global methane puzzle.

  6. Researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), have for the first time extensively mapped Greenland’s and Antarctica’s ice sheets with the help of the ESA satellite CryoSat-2 and have thus been able to prove that the ice crusts of both regions momentarily decline at an unprecedented rate. In total the ice sheets are losing around 500 cubic kilometres of ice per year. This ice mass corresponds to a layer that is about 600 metres thick and would stretch out over the entire metropolitan area of Hamburg, Germany's second largest city. The maps and results of this study were published on 20 August 2014 in The Cryosphere, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).

  7. Summer 2014 marked another milestone for the Aral Sea, the once-extensive lake in Central Asia that has been shrinking markedly since the 1960s. For the first time in modern history, the eastern basin of the South Aral Sea has completely dried. An image pair from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Terra satellite shows the sea without its eastern lobe on August 19, 2014 (top). "This is the first time the eastern basin has completely dried in modern times," said Philip Micklin, a geographer emeritus from Western Michigan University and an Aral Sea expert. "And it is likely the first time it has completely dried in 600 years, since Medieval desiccation associated with diversion of Amu Darya to the Caspian Sea."

  8. August 19 is Earth Overshoot Day 2014, marking the date when humanity exhausted nature’s budget for the year.

  9. August 2014 was the warmest on record for the Earth, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. The combined average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces for August 2014 was record high for the month, at 0.75°C (1.35°F) above the 20th century average of 15.6°C (60.1°F), topping the previous record set in 1998. Records date back to 1880.

  10. More than 350 newly recognised bird species have been assessed by BirdLife International for the first time on behalf of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. Worryingly, more than 25% of these newly recognised birds have been listed as threatened on The IUCN Red List - compared with 13% of all birds - making them urgent priorities for conservation action. The first of a two-part comprehensive taxonomic review has focussed on non-passerine birds – such as birds of prey, seabirds, waterbirds and owls – and has led to the recognition of 361 new species, that were previously treated as ‘races’ of other forms. The new total of 4,472 non-passerines implies that previous classifications have undersold avian diversity at the species level by more than 10%.

  11. The Chinese Pangolin (Manis pentadactyla), one of eight extant pangolins or scaly anteaters as they are also known, was once abundant in China. However, as a result of overexploitation for consumption of its meat and scales, this species is now moving closer to extinction, which is having a devastating impact on the world’s remaining pangolins. This was one of the findings from the first-ever global conference on the conservation of pangolins held by the International Union for Conservation of Nature - Species Survival Commission (IUCN SSC) Pangolin Specialist Group and co-organized and hosted by Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

  12. Since the last glacial period so-called thermokarst lakes in Arctic permafrost areas have sequestered more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere than they ever previously emitted during their formation. On 16 July 2014, an international team of scientists presents this surprising research result today in an online publication by the journal Nature. The researchers had examined up to 10,000-year-old soil deposits from northern Siberian lakes and calculated for the first time the total carbon balance for several hundred thousand bodies of water. Their conclusion was that the melt water lakes that came into being due to climate warming after the last glacial period emitted large amounts of methane for a short period. In the long run, however, they cooled the climate in the Arctic by absorbing and storing 1.6 times more carbon than they ever released. An increasingly warmer Arctic could reverse this process within a short time, however.

  13. Long-term studies conducted by scientists at the institute “Senckenberg am Meer” and the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt have revealed obvious changes in the North Sea’s biota. Studies during the past twenty years indicate that southern species increasingly expand northward. Surrounded by a team of scientists, the marine biologist from Frankfurt has studied the fauna at the bottom of the central North Sea for more than 20 years. Using Senckenberg’s own research cutter, samples are taken at approximately 40 stations at the same time each year and analyzed in detail. Long-term studies in the Helgoland Trench (“Tiefe Rinne”) south of the North Sea island in the German Bight confirm this trend. Since 2000, the ratio of warm-water species there has steadily increased and is becoming more stable. Overall, 41 species were collected in the Helgoland Trench in the course of Senckenberg’s long-term study.

  14. The German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation has commissioned, along with the Environment Agency Austria and the Federal Office for the Environment of Switzerland, a literature study with the aim to find out how the cultivation of herbicide-resistant, genetically modified (GM) crops has affected the environment. The results have been published in a joint report. As part of the study, the farming practices of GM crop production overseas and effects of GM crop management on associated field flora and biodiversity have been analysed. Intensive farming methods, which go hand in hand with the application of large quantities of plant protection products, are a major trigger of biodiversity losses. In North and South America genetically modified crops that are resistant to a variety of total herbicides (e.g. glyphosate) have been grown on a large scale for almost 20 years. The study shows that herbicide consumption has been rising steadily over this period. As a result, the biodiversity of arable land and adjacent areas has declined considerably.

  15. The current study, however, reveals for the first time on a large scale the ecological risks emanating from chemical toxicants for several thousands of European aquatic systems. Chemical toxicity represents an ecological threat to almost half of all European bodies of water, and in approximately 15% of cases, the biota in freshwater systems may even be subject to acute mortality. Together with their French and Swiss fellow researchers the scientists from Landau and Leipzig have investigated the exceedance of risk thresholds in the river basin of major stream networks, such as the Danube and the Rhine River at a pan-European level. For the first time, the extent to which risk thresholds were exceeded for three groups of organisms, namely fish, invertebrates and algae / primary producers, was estimated for these major river basins. The data used originated from official water monitoring activities of recent years. The primary factors contributing to chemical contamination of aquatic ecosystems are the discharge from agricultural activities, urban areas and municipal sewage treatment plants. Pesticides were by far the major toxicants of freshwater systems, although, organotin compounds, brominated flame retardants and combustion-derived polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, also occurred at critical levels of concentration.

  16. Researchers have documented the longest-known terrestrial migration of wildlife in Africa – up to several thousand zebra covering a distance of 500km - according to World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Using GPS collars on eight adult Plains zebra (Equus quagga), WWF and Namibia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism, in collaboration with Elephants Without Borders (EWB) and Botswana’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks, tracked two consecutive years of movement back and forth between the Chobe River in Namibia and Botswana’s Nxai Pan National Park, a straight-line distance of 250km (500km round-trip). The findings are detailed in the study, A newly discovered wildlife migration in Namibia and Botswana is the longest in Africa, published on 27 May 2014 in the journal, Oryx.

  17. A 33 kilometers long and 20 kilometers wide iceberg that broke off Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier in early November 2013 is headed for the open ocean, scientists said on 23 April 2014. A time lapse video that was released this week shows how the ice island, named B31, was calving from the Pine Island Glacier, in western Antarctica.

  18. An international team of researchers headed by Potsdam scientist Dr. Markus Rex from the Alfred Wegener Institute has discovered a previously unknown atmospheric phenomenon over the South Seas. Over the tropical West Pacific there is a natural, invisible hole extending over several thousand kilometres in a layer that prevents transport of most of the natural and manmade substances into the stratosphere by virtue of its chemical composition. Like in a giant elevator, many chemical compounds emitted at the ground pass thus unfiltered through this so-called “detergent layer” of the atmosphere. Scientists call it the “OH shield”. The newly discovered phenomenon over the South Seas boosts ozone depletion in the polar regions and could have a significant influence on the future climate of the Earth – also because of rising air pollution in South East Asia.

  19. On 17 March 2014 Paris instituted a one-day car ban. By government decree, half the cars in the city were not allowed to hit the streets, lest their owner be hit with a €22 fine.

  20. In a study published in PLOS ONE on 22 Janaury 2014, researchers announced the discovery of a new species of river dolphin in Brazil. The marine mammal is the first river dolphin to be described since 1918, the authors noted in the research.

  21. Long term exposure to particulate matter in outdoor air is strongly linked to heart attacks and angina, and this association persists at levels of exposure below the current European limits, suggests research conducted at the Department of Epidemiology in Rome, Italy and published on bmj.com on 21 January 2014.

  22. The West African lion once ranged continuously from Senegal to Nigeria, but a new study reveals there are now only an estimated 250 adult lions restricted to four isolated and severely imperiled populations. Only one of those populations contains more than 50 lions. Led by Panthera’s Lion Program Survey Coordinator, Dr. Philipp Henschel, and co-authored by a team from West Africa, the UK, Canada and the United States, the paper The lion in West Africa is critically endangered was published on 8 January 2014 in the scientific journal PLOS ONE. The lion's historic range in West Africa was drastically reduced by large-scale land use changes, Henschel said. As people planted farms, cut down trees, and hunted wildlife, the big cats had few places to go. The small islands of protected parks became their only hope. But in the past few years, lions in those parks have been killed by local people in retaliation for killing some of their livestock. An even bigger problem, Henschel said, is poaching of the lions' prey to supply local bushmeat markets. With the economy in the region depressed and fish stocks off the coast depleted, hungry people have increasingly turned to hunting animals in protected areas.

  23. Weather observers at the School of Geography and Environment confirmed that January 2014 being the wettest since records began in the 1760s. The heavy rain meant that the total recorded at the University's Radcliffe Meteorological Station overtook the previous record in January 1852 of 138.7mm. January 2014's rainfall of 146.9mm is almost three times the average for the month of 52.5mm.

  24. More than 20,000 seabirds died during the storms that hit France's west coast in January and February, according to the French society for the protection of birds. So many avain deaths have not been since 1900, the organisation says. A total of 21,341 dead birds were found in western France by 500 volunteers working on three weekends in January and February, the French League for the Protection of Birds (LPO) said on 26 February 2014. A further 2,784 were taken to sanctuaries. The worst-affected species were the Atlantic puffin and the guillemot with the razor-billed auk also suffering badly.

  25. A record 1,215 rhinos were poached in South Africa in 2014, a 21 percent increase from the previous year, environmental authorities said 22 January 2015 in Pretoria.