Judging whether to replace a hazardous conventional chemical in a product with a nanomaterial — i.e. to assess which is the safer alternative — is challenging for many reasons. A new study suggests that chemical-alternative assessment frameworks could be adapted to better assess engineered nanomaterials with the help of new tools which provide data on hazards of, and exposure to, nanomaterials.
The factors enabling eco-innovation have been analysed across 19 European countries in a new study. Regulations and environmental subsidies were found to be more important factors in Eastern Europe than in wealthier Western European countries. External research and development (R&D) was also more relevant in Eastern Europe, demonstrating the need for specific technology transfers from other countries and competitors.
Researchers have developed a new indicator for policymakers, which shows the strength of renewable-energy technologies for electricity production in a country’s energy security. They compare their Renewable Energy Security Index (RESI) to the carbon footprint, in that it is easy to report and practical to use in energy policy.
Researchers have examined environmental and economic impacts of supermarket food waste in a new study. Bread and meat products made the largest contribution to the environmental footprint of the supermarket assessed. Alternative waste strategies, such as using bread waste as animal feed, have the potential to reduce these impacts.
Natura 2000 sites have, on average, 10% more carbon in their topsoil than non-protected areas, according to new research. They also generally have lower economic value for agriculture. The results suggest that there is significant potential to develop win-win biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation efforts within the EU.
European Atlantic countries are, in general, at higher risk of being affected by oil spills than Mediterranean and Baltic countries, with the United Kingdom most affected, according to new research. The study developed a new risk index for analysing the potential vulnerability of coastal regions to oil spills at sea.
Can supermarkets encourage customers to cut food waste through social media? Analysis of UK campaign shows mixed results
A study has evaluated three types of media campaign conducted by a large UK supermarket to encourage shoppers to reduce their food waste. These used social media, an e-newsletter and a print/digital magazine, respectively. Although they all appeared to lead to reductions in food waste to some extent, similar behavioural changes were also seen for customers who had not participated in any of the campaigns.
A recent study has evaluated frameworks and tools used in Europe to assess the potential health and environmental risks of manufactured nanomaterials. The study identifies a trend towards tools that provide protocols for conducting experiments, which enable more flexible and efficient hazard testing. Among its conclusions, however, it notes that no existing frameworks meet all the study’s evaluation criteria and calls for a new, more comprehensive framework.
BirdLife International’s ‘Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas’ well covered by Natura 2000 in Europe but potential to extend network
The coverage of ‘Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas’ (IBAs) in relation to Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for birds in the EU has been assessed in a new study. Overall, 66% of the IBA network is covered by SPAs. SPAs were found to cover 23% of the distributions of 435 EU bird species as well as 25% of the distributions of mammals, reptiles and amphibians.
Landfill leachate is the liquid that seeps through or out of waste deposits in landfill sites. EU regulations, such as the Landfill Directive1, have significantly reduced the volume of leachate produced, a study on leachate management in Ireland has found. Leachate, mainly from younger landfills in Ireland is, however, stronger since implementation of the legislation, and the researchers say the future treatment of leachate under stricter environmental protection regulations will continue to be a long-term concern for landfill operators and regulators.
A range of legislation, including the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), is designed to ensure the ‘Good Environmental Status’ (GES) of EU seas by 2020. Researchers have assessed the MSFD in relation to existing maritime policies, concluding that coordination between directives is important to achieve GES.
The effects of market regulation and environmental policy on eight types of renewable energy in the EU are identified in a study which examines nearly three decades’ worth of data. The researchers found that reducing entry barriers is a major driver of renewable energy innovation and that the ability of environmental policy to promote renewable energy innovation depends on the technology; for example, quota systems appear to work better with older technologies.
Straw from previous harvests can be used to help increase crop yields and improve the efficiency of water use in arid regions, finds a new study from China. By testing different techniques to improve water efficiency, the researchers found that the most effective method involved using straw to cover the soil when growing maize and wheat together in the same growing season.
Non-conservative tillage techniques, such as milling and harrowing, are the most common way to manage soil in Mediterranean olive orchards. A new study confirms the value of alternative methods based on the use of spontaneous cover crops which can significantly improve soil structure and reduce erosion whilst maintaining yields.
A reforestation project has revitalised its surroundings just 80 years after its inception. In the late 1920s, the Saldaña badlands in northern Spain were a barren region, with a thin layer of intensely weathered soil, and only 5% vegetation cover. Now that cover has increased dramatically to 87%, the soil quality is improving, and the water flow in the area has stabilised, bringing greater environmental security to the local community.
Water scarcity is an important cause of low crop yields worldwide. Yields could be significantly improved by focusing attention on unproductive water losses and improving retention of plant-available water in soils, and particularly the largely unexplored interactions between soils and roots. A new review of scientific literature sets out key soil management measures for crops under drought conditions.
Comprehensive data analysed in a new study show how extensive rainfall can erode soils across the EU and Switzerland, revealing that Mediterranean regions have the highest risk for erosive events and floods. The resulting dataset can also be used for disaster planning and relief.
Nutrient leaching, the movement of plant nutrients from soil to water, can have negative effects on aquatic ecosystems due to eutrophication, which reduces the oxygen available in water, causing species and habitat loss. Ecological Recycling Agriculture (ERA), which is based on ecological principles and integrates crop production and animal husbandry, may limit this effect. This study investigated the impact of ERA on agricultural fields in Finland, showing that the practice can reduce nitrogen leaching and may help to achieve agricultural nitrogen-reduction targets.
Worsening soil erosion in north-western Europe may be the result of a switch from traditional dairy farming to cash crops. However, even if all dairy farming ceased, reductions in runoff of up to 76% could be achieved if best agricultural practices are employed, at a cost of approximately €45 per hectare for the first three years, new research from the Austreberthe watershed in France suggests.
An extensive field investigation discovered that 38% of soils in southwest England show signs of enhanced surface water runoff due to soil degradation. The study also revealed which types of fields and soils are linked to the most or least degradation.