Archive for ‘Water Quality’

Fungi Expert’s Solution for Oil Spill

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Now the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been contained, few in the media are delving into the severity of its continued impact on the planetary ecosphere. But mushroom expert, author and Bioneer, Paul Stamets, has a viable solution for the long-term clean-up procedure. Recently named as one of the ‘50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World’, he has made extraordinary discoveries about how the humble mushroom could be the key.

Fungi were the first life forms to inhabit the land 1.3 billion years ago; 600 million years before plants evolved. After asteroid impacts darkened the skies, de-greened the Earth and caused mass extinctions 65 million years back, the only organisms to survive were the ones that ‘paired up’ with fungi and learnt how to
be co-dependent.

“It’s time for another re-greening,” Paul thinks, “as Earth recoils from the on-going catastrophes inflicted by our species.” And cleaning up after oil spills, pollution, storm damage, floods and volcanic clouds is just another day at the office for fungi. It’s a process he has called mycoremediation and here’s how it works.

Beneath the fruit – or mushroom as we call it – fungal roots, known as Mycelia, spread outwards to create a vast mat of underground cells that permeate the soil. Now known to be the largest biological entities on the planet, a single colony can cover an area equal to 1,665 football fields and travel several inches a day. A massive network of whispering spaghetti, these ‘neurological’ tendrils intersect with neighbouring colonies and even fuse with the roots of other species to share water, food and communicate vital information.

Paul explains:

“Mycelia are the Earth’s natural internet – the essential wiring of the Gaian consciousness. The creation of the computer internet is merely an extension of a successful biological model that has evolved over billions of years.”

Once the Mycelium has taken root, it gets to work as a super-filter, producing enzymes and acids that break down the components of woody plants. But importantly, these same enzymes are excellent at disintegrating hydrocarbons – the base structure of all oils, petroleum products, pesticides and pollutants.

Through a series of trials, Paul’s team at Battelle Laboratories, in the US, made some astonishing findings. Soil that had been heavily contaminated with oil and hydrocarbons was inoculated with Oyster mushroom spawn. After four weeks, it was bursting with fruit, while 99% of the hydrocarbons had been destroyed. Only non-toxic components remained and even the mushrooms themselves revealed no traces
of petroleum.

“And then came another startling revelation,” Paul says. “As the mushrooms rotted, flies arrived. The flies laid eggs, which became larvae. The larvae, in turn, attracted birds, who apparently brought in seeds. Soon it was an oasis, teeming with life!”

Amazingly, Paul’s team also found that Oyster mushrooms are tolerant to salt water. Mixed with straw, which will also absorb oil, and encased in biodegradable hemp-socks that are called MycoBooms, the Mycelium is able to colonize and get to work underwater. Myceliated straw and woodchip tubes could also be placed at the shoreline to capture and break down the incoming hydrocarbons. Meanwhile, the mushrooms sprout to create floating gardens; gnats and flies gather, and fish, birds, bats and insects benefit from the emerging food source.

Ahead of the game, back in 1994, Paul proposed that world governments set up Mycological Response Teams who could be deployed after events, such as hurricanes and oil spills.

Mycoremediation centres could be hubs of learning; places to cross-educate others and build central bodies of knowledge for our future generations. In time, world leaders, policy makers, scientists, students and citizens would have all of the Mycoremediation tools necessary to address every single environmental event.

During his 30 years working with fungi, Paul has also made other significant discoveries. Mycelium can protect human blood cells from major infections, such as smallpox, hepatitis B, influenza, HIV and various strains of cancer. Another type of fungi consumes and effectively eliminates the bacteria E. coli, while one species – and the research is currently classified by the Department of Defence – will destroy biological and chemical warfare agents; especially VX, the same deadly nerve gas that Saddam Hussein was accused of using in the Gulf War.

“The time to act is now,” Paul says. “Waiting for science and society to wake up to the importance of these ancient old growth fungi is perilously slow and also narrow in vision… But an unfortunate circumstance we face,” he continues, “is that mycology is poorly funded in a time of intense need. We need to educate our friends, family and policy makers about these solutions and bring local leaders up to speed.”

In order to appreciate the many benefits of mycotechnology, including the ones not yet discovered, Paul believes we need to adopt a ‘mycelial perspective’ of the world and wholly understand how it is  interconnected with every living being on the planet.

“Your job,” he tells us, “is to become embedded into the mind-set of Mycelium and to run with it… Earth is calling out to us, and we need to listen.”

Source: Positive News UK

Date: 14 September 2010

Cleaner Water Mitigates Climate Change Effects on Florida Keys Coral Reefs, Study Shows

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Improving the quality of local water increases the resistance of coral reefs to global climate change, according to a study published in June in Marine Ecology Progress Series.

Florida Institute of Technology coral reef ecologist Robert van Woesik and his student Dan Wagner led the study, which provides concrete evidence for a link between environmental health and the prospects for reefs in a rapidly changing world.

  • When waters in the Florida Keys warmed over the last few summers, corals living in cleaner water with fewer nutrients did well. On the other hand, corals in dirtier water became sick and bleached.
  • In the face of climate change and ocean warming, this study gives managers hope that maintaining high water quality can spare corals.
  • Regulating wastewater discharge from the land will help coral reefs resist climate change.

Source: Cleaner Water Mitigates Climate Change Effects on Florida Keys Coral Reefs, Study Shows - sciencedaily

Date: 07 July 2010

Report offers first worldwide estimate of investments in combating water pollution

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

An innovative market in water quality is rapidly emerging worldwide, as cash-strapped governments in countries as diverse as China, the United States, Brazil and Australia invest billions of public and private dollars in schemes that reward people who protect water resources, according to a new report that is the first to quantify payments for watershed services that could help avert a looming global water quality crisis. Calling the water crisis a threat to humanity that exceeds global warming, the authors of the study released today at the global Katoomba conference in Hanoi said that a number of regions of the globe seem to be responding to such frightening indicators as the steady proliferation of “dead zones” in waterways around the world.

In the United States, for example, years of unchecked fertilizer run-off along the Mississippi River have generated algae blooms that have created massive oxygen-starved dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico the size of a small US state.

“Our findings suggest growing awareness by the public and private sectors worldwide of the water quality crisis, and acknowledgement that the problem is too big to be solved by traditional approaches alone,” said Michael Jenkins, Forest Trends President and CEO.

“But the billions of dollars that are being spent on strategies aimed at protecting water resources represent only a snapshot of the potential for using market-based incentives to reduce threats to water.”

In the report, State of Watershed Payments: An Emerging Marketplace, experts at Forest Trends’ Ecosystem Marketplace, a non-profit organization dedicated to developing markets for “ecosystem services,” identified roughly 288 programs yielding an estimated US$9.3 billion in payments for watershed protection in 2008. These include payments for watershed services (PWS), in which “land managers” such as farmers and forest communities are paid to maintain water quality, and water quality trading programs (WQT), in which industry and other polluters meet quality standards by buying and selling pollution reduction credits.

Over the last few decades, the total investment was about US$50 billion and affected about 3.24 billion hectares of watershed, which is land that funnels water into major waterways like the Chesapeake Bay in the US and the Yangtze River in China.

“Clearly, a global movement is building that could be rapidly scaled-up to reduce water pollution much the same way carbon markets are intended to reduce greenhouse gases,” Jenkins said.

Marta Echavarria, one of the report co-authors, said that their analysis of payments for water services, as well as for water trading schemes, revealed that many programs around the world are focused on more effective management of forests. Thus, she said it makes sense to link water quality issues to the climate change discussion regarding the use of payments and trading exchanges to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, or REDD.

“The same activities in forests that can affect climate change influence water quality and biodiversity, as well,” she said.

“We need to broaden the lens and look at how payments for environmental services can purchase multiple benefits, from clean air to clean water to biodiversity. Then, we can design programs that allow markets to put a value on all of these benefits.”

Trading in Credits for Water Pollution

Water quality trading programs totaled only about US$11 million in 2008, but the authors believe this sector could grow rapidly, much in the way carbon trading has skyrocketed from relatively small investments early in the decade to become a market worth US$144 billion in 2009.

The report highlights the potential for attracting private sector participation by setting up exchanges that would facilitate trading in water pollution credits. Like carbon trading, water trading allows polluters to meet a mandated limit, either by reducing their discharges or by purchasing a credit tied to a reduction achieved elsewhere in the watershed, such as by a farmer, forest owner, or wastewater treatment plant.

“Water trading is poised to expand rapidly as a way to protect water quality,” said Tracy Stanton, Water Program Manager for Ecosystem Marketplace and lead author of the report.

“We found a number of programs already well-established, but to see wider adoption, we need governments to stimulate the markets by setting clear water quality standards that will drive greater demand for pollution credits. Likewise, government is uniquely positioned to help lower the barriers to private sector investors by lowering the perceived risks.”

Most of the 72 trading programs studied in the report are located in the US, but they also can be found in Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

For example, in New South Wales, Australia, the Hunter River Salinity Trade Scheme allocates salinity credits that can be traded among 23 coal mining and power generation facilities as a way to meet government-mandated caps on pollution discharge.

The report finds evidence that trading schemes could greatly expand in the US, especially now that the Department of Agriculture has established an Office of Environmental Markets. Already, efforts are underway to develop ecosystem markets in the Chesapeake Bay, the Florida Everglades, the salmon habitat in the Pacific Northwest, the forests in the Northeast and in the Ohio River Basin. In addition, China has been conducting water trading pilot programs since the early 1980s and appears to be laying the groundwork around the country for establishing large trading exchanges in ecosystem services, and Europe has been developing a trading scheme to combat declining water quality along the Danube.

Payments for Water Services

The authors note that government funds still make up the bulk of payments for water quality, but there are indications of interest from major players in the private sector. Global beverage companies such as Coca-Cola and SAB Miller have been engaged in watershed protection programs for the past several years. And in France, since the mid 1990s, Nestlé has paid farmers to manage animal waste and reforest sensitive areas to protect the mineral water used in its Vittel line of bottled water.

“While this type of payment may seem quite small at the moment, this is an area in which we are most likely to see tremendous growth,” said Jenkins.

“After all, if the private sector does not start paying for watershed services, then we are missing an important potential solution to this problem. “

For now, the public sector is funding most of the programs of “payments for watershed services,” and the greatest number of programs are in China and the United States.

In China, for example, where 700 million people lack access to safe water, payments in exchange for watershed protection increased from US$1 billion in 2000 to US$7.8 billion in 2008, and the number of programs expanded from 8 to 47. Thus far, these initiatives have protected or restored 270 million hectares. A significant portion of the payments are subsidies for farmers to reduce their pollution in and around forested areas. And in the United States, payments for watershed services have grown from US$629 million in 2002 to US$1.35 billion in 2008, and could expand rapidly, as the federal government has recently taken unprecedented actions to address critical gaps in watershed restoration polices across the country.

But the authors argue that China and the United States could learn much from innovations introduced in the nations of Latin America, where governments are experimenting with new ways of making payments and new methods for measuring and monitoring their impact.

Latin America has emerged as the global leader in innovative market-based clean water programs. Today, there is a range of local, state, and national initiatives underway in ten countries, led by Costa Rica and Mexico, but also including Colombia, Guatemala, and Brazil. In 2009, for example, the Brazilian state of Espirito Santo established a new program that encourages dairy farmers in three river basins to close off pastures in order to improve water quality and flow. Farmers are paid for each liter of milk lost due to the closures, with much of the money coming from water tariffs as well as royalties from oil and gas exploration and hydropower production.

In the nations of Africa, the report identified 20 programs totaling about US$62.7 million, though the authors suggest that the number could grow as new initiatives are underway, including programs supported by the World Wildlife Fund in South Africa and Kenya.

“We now know that payments for watershed services are no longer a series of isolated incidents,” said Stanton.

“Though much remains to be done, we have documented the beginning of a global movement; an emerging marketplace in the protection of water resources.

Source: Report offers first worldwide estimate of investments in combating water pollution – esciencenews

Date: 23 June 2010

Billions spent to protect world water: study

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Billions of dollars — mainly from China — are being poured into a fast-growing global system of rewards for people who protect endangered water resources, according to a study released Wednesday.

The programmes, implemented by governments as well as the private sector and community groups,

“could help avert a looming global water quality crisis,” according to the report by Ecosystem Marketplace, a project of US-based non-profit organisation Forest Trends.

It said the “emerging marketplace” of watershed payments and trading in pollution reduction credits was still dwarfed by the system of carbon trading aimed at limiting damaging greenhouse gases, but was expected to rise.

The study focused on two main instruments, Payments for Watershed Services (PWS), in which farmers and forest communities are compensated for maintaining water quality, and Water Quality Trading (WQT) where industry buys and sells pollution reduction “credits”.

Transactions support a range of activities including adjusting land management practices, technical assistance, and improving water quality, according to the report funded by the United States and The Netherlands.

The report conservatively estimated the total transaction value of active PWS and WQT initiatives at 9.3 billion dollars worldwide in 2008.

This included about 7.8 billion dollars, all of it in PWS schemes, from China where the central government has called for development of “eco-compensation mechanisms”.

Much of these Chinese payments — which compare with a figure of just over one billion dollars in 2000 — go to farmers to reduce their pollution around forested areas, the report added.

“The number and variety of PWS schemes in China have escalated in recent years, from around eight in 1999 to more than 47 in 2008… impacting some 290 million hectares (716 million acres),” it said.

“The picture in the rest of Asia is much less robust,” it added.

In the United States, PWS payments doubled to 1.35 billion dollars in 2008 from 629 million dollars in 2002, said Ecosystem Marketplace.

After China, Latin America had the largest number of active PWS programmes in 2008, with 36, it said.

Water Quality Trading is found mostly in the United States, and accounted for less than 11 million dollars globally in 2008, it added.

Among the threats to global water supply are years of unchecked fertilizer runoff that have led to oxygen-starved “dead zones” in the Gulf of Mexico, the researchers said in a statement.

Source: Billions spent to protect world water: study - france24

Date: 23 June 2010

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