ESA Policy News April 13: Senate reviews USGS FY 2017 budget request, faith groups support climate fund, feds revise sea turtle protections
Apr13

ESA Policy News April 13: Senate reviews USGS FY 2017 budget request, faith groups support climate fund, feds revise sea turtle protections

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  SENATE: LAWMAKERS REVIEW USGS PROPOSED FY 2017 BUDGET REQUEST The US Geological Survey (USGS) received bipartisan praise for its nonpartisan scientific research during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the agency’s $1.2 billion Fiscal Year 2017 budget request. “I am among those who appreciate both the work of the USGS and the spirit in which it is typically undertaken,” said Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in her opening statement. “The agency is known for being non-partisan, and for seeking out concrete scientific evidence. And let me tell you, it’s quite refreshing to have an agency come before our Committee that does not have a significant regulatory agenda moving full speed ahead.” She also praised the agency’s work to understand the nation’s water resources. Murkowski did press USGS Director Suzette Kimball on critical minerals research, urging the agency to give greater priority towards funding its energy and minerals division. Kimball noted that the USGS has an open a call to hire a new associate director for its energy and mineral resources program that would help advance and prioritize the mission area’s budget. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) commended USGS’s climate change research and noted the importance of its satellite imagery in collecting climate data. Observing that Kimball refers to the USGS as “the CDC [Centers for Disease Control] of wildlife,” he also highlighted the importance of tracking and monitoring the spread of zoonotic diseases, including Ebola and Zika. Click here to view the hearing. Click here to read more about the USGS budget request. USGS: STUDY AFFIRMS ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION PROMOTES ECONOMIC GROWTH On April 6, the US Geological Survey (USGS) published a report finding that various ecosystem restoration efforts create jobs and benefit local, state, and national economies. The study, examining 21 US Department of Interior (DOI) restoration projects, finds that for each dollar invested in ecosystem restoration, there is between double and triple the return in economic growth. The report quantified economic impact analysis by focusing on the jobs and business activity generated through money spent on ecosystem restoration activities. The report was a collaborative effort between the USGS, the DOI Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program, the DOI Office of Policy Analysis and the Bureau of Land Management Socioeconomics Program. Click here to view the individual restoration projects. Click here to review the report. WHITE HOUSE: REPORT HIGHLIGHTS CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS ON HUMAN HEALTH On April 4, the US Global Change Research Program released a three-year study that articulates global climate change health impacts. Most of...

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Saliva from moth larva increases potato crop yields in Colombia

Many farmers throughout Latin America and around the world rely on pesticides to control pest invasions; in the case of Andean potato crops, this method is not only costly but has been shown to cause adverse health effects as well. Due to the risks involved in pesticide usage, and the ever-increasing demand for high-yield crops, new methods of controlling pest invasions are being explored by researchers regularly. And as counterintuitive as these new findings sound, ecological scientists have discovered that, in the case of Colombian potato farms in the Andes, the pests themselves could actually increase productivity.

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Pollutants melting out of glaciers, into lakes

A mountain lake in Glacier National Park, Montana. Organic pollutants have been on the decline in most natural areas in recent years, due to stricter regulations and improvements to products including the contaminants, such as certain pesticides. But a new study in the journal Environmental Science and Technology shows that these pollutants are showing a spike in some natural lakes, regardless of their tighter restrictions in the marketplace. The answer to this mysterious reappearance, says first author Christian Bogdal of ETH Zurich, is the melting of glaciers that feed into these lakes.  He and his coauthors studied Lake Oberaar, a glacier-fed lake in the Bernese Alps of Switzerland. They found that contamination was low in the 1980s and 1990s, but since the late 1990s, flow of pollutants into the lake has increased drastically. Levels of organochlorines — commonly found in pesticides and PVC piping — flowing into the lake at present are similar to or higher than peak levels in the 1960s and 1970s, before regulations took effect.  The pollutants are preserved in the glaciers over time and redeposited upon melting. The authors state that the 1500 glaciers in the Swiss Alps have reduced by 12 percent since 1999. If this decrease continues, they write, there could be “dire environmental impacts” to mountainous areas. Bogdal, C., Schmid, P., Zennegg, M., Anselmetti, F., Scheringer, M., & Hungerbühler, K. (2009). Blast from the Past: Melting Glaciers as a Relevant Source for Persistent Organic Pollutants Environmental Science & Technology DOI:...

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Plant hormone helps metabolize pesticides

A new study out in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry suggests a natural remedy to the negative effects of pesticides to plants.  A group of plant hormones called brassinosteroids have been shown to reduce the toxicity of crops, if they’re doused with it before pesticide application. Jing Quan Yu of Zhejiang University and his colleagues treated cucumber plants with one type of brassinosteroid, then sprayed them with various pesticides. The hormone application sped up the plants’ metabolism, causing them to rid themselves of the pesticides’ toxins more quickly. One insecticide was found to reduce the plants’ photosynthetic rate, so application of this hormone could contribute to faster growth than yielded by the application of pesticides alone. And, the hormone appears to be environmentally friendly. As the authors write: The results suggest that BRs may be promising, environmentally friendly, natural substances suitable for wide application to reduce the risks of human and environment exposure to pesticides. Xia, X., Zhang, Y., Wu, J., Wang, J., Zhou, Y., Shi, K., Yu, Y., & Yu, J. (2009). Brassinosteroids Promote Metabolism of Pesticides in Cucumber Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 57 (18), 8406-8413 DOI:...

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