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Banking on biodiversity

The diversity of life on Earth gives ecosystems the resilience they need to thrive. Yet every day scores of plants and animals go extinct, victims of activities we humans undertake to feed, clothe, house and trans­port ourselves. How can we meet our own needs without destroying that which sustains us? The west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, has a rugged, involuted shoreline, etched by fjords, sand dunes and shel­tered coves. It is sandwiched between two biospheres, the dark swelling sea and the emerald temperate rain forest, and it attracts all sorts—from salmon to surfers. As idyllic as … Read more…

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Cold cash for cold science

The recent funding wrap-up from the international polar year (IPY) has left many Canadian researchers scratching their heads, trying to find a way to continue their arctic science projects. A new grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada may help close that research-funding gap. In its announcement yesterday, NSERC opened a competition to fund large-scale research with a focus—for this round of funding—on northern earth systems. The Discovery Frontiers initiative will heft Can$4 million over five years on the successful research team to study the physical, chemical, biological and social factors that affect the North and its … Read more…

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River metals linked to tar sand extraction

Researchers find that pollutants in Canada’s Athabasca River are not from natural sources. Oil-mining operations in Canada’s main tar sands region are releasing a range of heavy and toxic metals — including mercury, arsenic and lead — into a nearby river and its watershed, according to a new study. Research published online yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that 13 elements classified as priority pollutants (PPEs) by the US Environmental Protection Agency were found in the Athabasca River in the province of Alberta1. Seven of these were present at high enough concentrations to put aquatic … Read more…

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Canada picks site for Arctic Research Station

Cambridge Bay location offers a wealth of opportunities for studying the far north. After months of deliberation, the Canadian government has chosen Cambridge Bay — a hamlet midway along the Northwest Passage in the country’s far north — as the site for a world-class Arctic research station. Once built, the station will house scientists all year round, giving them a modern space to study Arctic issues, including climate change and natural resources. It will host conference facilities and laboratories for research on marine biology and geophysics, provide ecologists with the space to do long-term ecological monitoring in aquaria and greenhouses, … Read more…

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Arctic Ocean full up with carbon dioxide

Loss of sea ice is unlikely to enable Arctic waters to mop up more carbon dioxide from the air. As climate scientists watched the Arctic’s sea-ice cover shrink year after year, they thought there might be a silver lining: an ice-free Arctic Ocean could soak up large amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere, slowing down the accumulation of greenhouse gases and climate change. But research published in Science today suggests that part of the Arctic Ocean has already mopped up so much CO2 that it could have almost reached its limit1. Wei-Jun Cai, a biogeochemist at the University of Georgia … Read more…