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Canada’s renowned freshwater research site to close

Budget fall-out hits environmental research stations The Canadian government has cancelled its funding for the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA), a research site in northwestern Ontario that has led to the re-shaping of international policies. It is the latest target in a string of research programmes to have been scaled back, shut down or left in limbo in the wake of massive cuts to this year’s federal budget. Fisheries and Oceans Canada — the government department that runs the site —  told its staff on 17 May that the ELA, a collection of 58 remote lakes and a laboratory complex, would be … Read more…

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Canadian biofuel plans derailed

Iogen cancels a pioneering facility to turn crop waste into ethanol. A leading biofuels company whose products have powered Formula 1 racing cars has hit a major bump in the road. Canadian company Iogen Energy in Ottawa announced on 30 April that it has shelved plans to build a large-scale facility in Manitoba to produce fuel ethanol from cellulose, the long molecular chain of sugars that forms the fibrous material in plants. Instead, the company will “refocus its strategy and activities”, leading to a smaller development programme and the loss of 150 jobs, its joint owners Royal Dutch Shell and … Read more…

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Scientists call for no-fishing zone in Arctic

Nature Thousands of scientists from 67 countries have called for an international agreement to close the Arctic high seas to commercial fishing until research reveals more about the freshly exposed waters. Recent Arctic sea-ice retreat during the summer months has opened up some of the waters that fall outside of the exclusive economic zones of the nations that circle the polar ocean. In all, more than 2.8 million square kilometres make up these international waters, which some scientists say could be ice free during summer months within 10–15 years. Although industrial fishing hasn’t yet occurred in the northernmost part of … Read more…

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Regime Change: Q&A with John Smol

Nature A freshwater ecologist at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, Smol studies lake sediments to understand climatic and environmental change. Nature Outlook asks him to share his experience. What can we learn from lake sediments? One of the biggest challenges in environmental science is the lack of long-term data, so we have to use indirect proxies. All over the planet, lakes act as passive samplers of the environment, recording information 24 hours a day. They contain biological, chemical and physical information. The deeper you go in the sediment, the older it gets. Typically, in North America you can go back … Read more…

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Acidic oceans threaten fish

Stocks could suffer as seas soak up more carbon dioxide.  Ocean acidification looks likely to damage crucial fish stocks. Two studies published today in Nature Climate Change reveal that high carbon dioxide concentrations can cause death and organ damage in very young fish. The work challenges the belief that fish, unlike organisms with shells or exoskeletons made of calcium carbonate, will be safe as marine CO2 levels rise. Fish could be most susceptible to carbon dioxide when in the egg, or just hatched. Oceans act like carbon sponges, drawing CO2 from the atmosphere into the water. As the CO2 mixes … Read more…