DG ENV

Subscribe to DG ENV feed DG ENV
Science for Environment Policy Latest Alert news feed
Updated: 1 hour 56 min ago

How big a threat do invasive alien species pose to European biodiversity? A ranking of species for urgent risk assessment

Wed, 03/10/2018 - 15:31
Invasive alien species (IAS) pose a threat to native European biodiversity and cost the EU annual damages worth EUR 12 billion as a result of IAS effects on human health, damaged infrastructure, and agricultural losses. IAS are the focus of Target 9 of the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) and Target 5 of the EU Biodiversity Strategy: ‘By 2020, IAS and their pathways are identified and prioritised… pathways are managed to prevent the introduction and establishment of new IAS.’ The EU framework for action against IAS is set out in a Regulation adopted in 2014. This provides for the adoption of a list of IAS of Union concern that will be subject to restrictions across the EU. The first step in order to consider a species for listing is to undertake a risk assessment.
Categories: Environment news

Knowledge alone is ‘not enough’ to prepare for future climate risks: the case of Swedish forestry

Wed, 03/10/2018 - 15:31
Understanding the social context of Swedish forestry is key to understanding how the sector could be persuaded to move beyond ‘business-as-usual’ practices, to prepare for future climate risks, argues a new study. Using an approach that provides insights for future behavioural change more widely, the researchers explore the influences on forest managers’ behaviour, and highlight certification schemes as one important driver of actions which make forests better adapted to climate change. Knowledge on climate change risks and actions in itself is not enough to change behaviour, the study finds. For many environmentalists it may seem ‘logical’ for forestry to adapt now to future climate change: it epitomises an industry where actions taken today will determine long-term development, given that trees will not be harvested until 70–90 years after planting. However, the sector has taken limited actions to adapt, despite an abundance of available information on the impacts of climate change — such as storms, drought and changes in insect population.
Categories: Environment news

How can risks from nanotechnology be managed? Researchers recommend global framework

Wed, 03/10/2018 - 15:31
Currently laws and regulations governing nanotechnology are fragmented and do not take account of the unique properties of nanomaterials, the effect of which on humans and the environment are not yet fully understood, argue researchers in a new study. In the study, a network of European researchers propose a new universal regulatory framework that deals specifically with nanomaterials. The framework should help policymakers, organisations and researchers evaluate the risks of any existing materials and new nanomaterials entering the market. It should also help SMEs and large companies use safer products and processes, limit the potential adverse effects of nanomaterials on workers and consumers, reduce the cost of insurance and reduce the risk of governments having to pay out money in the future due to unforeseen accidents or diseases.
Categories: Environment news

Identifying valid surrogates for amphibians and reptiles in pesticide toxicity assessment

Wed, 03/10/2018 - 15:31
Environmental pollution is putting amphibians and reptiles at risk, yet these animals are not included in regulations regarding the environmental risk assessment (ERA) of pesticides. The extent to which other species already used in pesticide toxicity assessment (including fish, birds and mammals) can serve as effective surrogates is currently under debate. This study conducts a systematic review of the available literature. The results reveal a positive correlation between toxicity recorded on fish and aquatic amphibians, but indicate that birds and mammals are generally not good surrogates for reptiles and terrestrial amphibians. Moreover, some chemical-dependent trends were detected, with a number of insecticides found to be more toxic to amphibians or reptiles than to potential surrogates. These findings highlight an urgent need for further research to reduce uncertainties and contribute to future policymaking regarding the protection of amphibians and reptiles from potentially harmful pesticides.
Categories: Environment news

Disinfection by-products in drinking water: new detector may meet need for monitoring and detection of broader range of DBP classes, Sweden

Wed, 03/10/2018 - 15:31
The presence of disinfection by-products (DBPs) in drinking water is an emerging health concern. DBPs come in many classes and are chemically diverse, making them challenging to monitor. Swedish researchers have evaluated a new method for the simultaneous determination of a broader range of DBPs than typically possible using other available techniques. The method uses gas chromatography (a laboratory technique that separates and analyses vaporisable compounds in a mixture), together with a halogen-specific detector (XSD). Having been tested in real water samples from two municipal waterworks in Sweden, the method has been optimised for the simultaneous determination of a wide range of neutral DBPs.
Categories: Environment news

Towards the Battery of the Future

Fri, 28/09/2018 - 12:22
High-quality and innovative batteries are imperative for the EU in the context of its move towards a low-carbon, climate-friendly and more circular economy. However, manufacturing and using batteries, as well as the way they are treated at the end of their life, also has environmental impacts. This Future Brief from Science for Environment Policy provides an overview of technical aspects of battery design and production which enable the environmental footprint of batteries to be lowered. It also highlights how battery technologies are evolving to deliver better performance.
Categories: Environment news

How to prevent alien plant invasions in the global ornamental horticulture trade?

Wed, 12/09/2018 - 14:49
Alien plant invasions can have significant environmental, ecosystem and economic implications. Since ornamental horticulture is the primary pathway for invasive alien plant introductions, it is a suitable focus for prevention policies. A recent review of published evidence has examined the effectiveness of four major instruments: pre-border import restrictions, post-border sales bans, industry codes of conduct, and consumer education. The study highlights that, while each instrument has the potential to contribute to a reduction in plant invasion risk, none is sufficient to achieve this goal alone. The researchers, therefore, describe how the four instruments can be integrated along the ornamental horticulture industry supply chain to reduce risk more effectively, and outlines the role that government, industry and other stakeholders must play to achieve this goal.
Categories: Environment news

How to control and mitigate the effects of pollution on public health: Six Lancet Commission recommendations

Wed, 12/09/2018 - 14:49
Pollution is the world’s largest environmental cause of disease and premature death. The Lancet Commission on pollution and health brought together leaders, researchers and practitioners from the fields of pollution management, environmental health and sustainable development to elucidate the full health and economic costs of air, water, chemical and soil pollution worldwide. By analysing existing and emerging data, the Commission reveals that pollution makes a significant and underreported contribution to the global burden of disease, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. The Commission also provides six recommendations to policymakers and other stakeholders looking for efficient, cost-effective and actionable approaches to pollution mitigation and prevention.
Categories: Environment news

Vertebrate population losses and declines: Earth’s ongoing mass extinction may be more severe than previously estimated

Wed, 12/09/2018 - 14:49
A new study suggests that Earth’s ongoing mass extinction episode is more severe than generally perceived. Rather than focusing on the complete extinction of entire species, researchers analysed the losses and declines of populations in a sample of 27 600 vertebrate species. Population declines and losses are often a prelude to species extinctions. Researchers also conducted a more in-depth analysis of population losses between 1900–2015 in 177 mammal species. The results reveal that rates of population loss and decline in vertebrates are extremely high, even in common “species of low concern”. The data indicates that, in addition to significant species extinction rates, the Earth is experiencing a huge episode of population decline and loss, which will have a significant effect on ecosystem functioning and services. The researchers warn that the window for effective action is closing rapidly and emphasise the need for an urgent response.
Categories: Environment news

How to prevent alien plant invasions in the global ornamental horticulture trade?

Fri, 07/09/2018 - 18:31
Alien plant invasions can have significant environmental, ecosystem and economic implications. Since ornamental horticulture is the primary pathway for invasive alien plant introductions, it is a suitable focus for prevention policies. A recent review of published evidence has examined the effectiveness of four major instruments: pre-border import restrictions, post-border sales bans, industry codes of conduct, and consumer education. The study highlights that, while each instrument has the potential to contribute to a reduction in plant invasion risk, none is sufficient to achieve this goal alone. The researchers, therefore, describe how the four instruments can be integrated along the ornamental horticulture industry supply chain to reduce risk more effectively, and outlines the role that government, industry and other stakeholders must play to achieve this goal.
Categories: Environment news

New treatment system able to remove at least 95% of pharmaceuticals from waste water

Fri, 07/09/2018 - 18:31
The release of pharmaceutically active compounds (PhACs) in waste water from treatment plants (WWTPs) is currently not regulated anywhere in the world, with the exception of a few plants in Switzerland. Yet thousands of PhACs or their by-products — excreted by humans — can be found in waste water and some of these may harm biodiversity when released into waterways. For example diclofenac and oxazepam may have negative effects on aquatic species.
Categories: Environment news

How to control and mitigate the effects of pollution on public health: Six Lancet Commission recommendations

Fri, 07/09/2018 - 18:31
Pollution is the world’s largest environmental cause of disease and premature death. The Lancet Commission on pollution and health brought together leaders, researchers and practitioners from the fields of pollution management, environmental health and sustainable development to elucidate the full health and economic costs of air, water, chemical and soil pollution worldwide. By analysing existing and emerging data, the Commission reveals that pollution makes a significant and underreported contribution to the global burden of disease, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. The Commission also provides six recommendations to policymakers and other stakeholders looking for efficient, cost-effective and actionable approaches to pollution mitigation and prevention.
Categories: Environment news

Vertebrate population losses and declines: Earth’s ongoing mass extinction may be more severe than previously estimated

Fri, 07/09/2018 - 18:31
A new study suggests that Earth’s ongoing mass extinction episode is more severe than generally perceived. Rather than focusing on the complete extinction of entire species, researchers analysed the losses and declines of populations in a sample of 27 600 vertebrate species. Population declines and losses are often a prelude to species extinctions. Researchers also conducted a more in-depth analysis of population losses between 1900–2015 in 177 mammal species. The results reveal that rates of population loss and decline in vertebrates are extremely high, even in common “species of low concern”. The data indicates that, in addition to significant species extinction rates, the Earth is experiencing a huge episode of population decline and loss, which will have a significant effect on ecosystem functioning and services. The researchers warn that the window for effective action is closing rapidly and emphasise the need for an urgent response.
Categories: Environment news

New soil-sensing method enables more detailed, rapid and efficient environmental monitoring of soil carbon stocks and condition

Fri, 07/09/2018 - 18:31
In-depth soil information is increasingly required to achieve an array of environmental and economic goals. In particular, accurate estimates of soil carbon stocks are necessary to guide land-management practices and climate- related policymaking. To help meet this need, Australian scientists have developed a new sensing method to analyse cylindrical soil samples (soil cores), known as the Soil Condition ANalysis System (SCANS). By integrating a novel automated soil- core sensing system (CSS) with advanced statistical analytics and modelling, the SCANS provides a level of detail that is difficult to achieve with existing alternatives. SCANS is not only rapid, accurate and inexpensive1, but is likely to be a useful tool for farmers, land managers and policymakers, as the improved assessment of soil functions, structures and carbon stocks will facilitate more informed, sustainable decision-making.
Categories: Environment news

Link between total cost of ownership and market share of hybrid and electric vehicles

Fri, 07/09/2018 - 18:31
Hybrid and electric vehicles emit lower levels of carbon dioxide and air pollutants than conventional petrol and diesel vehicles, yet their market uptake in the EU remains limited. New research provides an assessment of the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) — which combines purchase and operating expenses — of different vehicle types. By comparing historical data on hybrid, petrol and diesel vehicles in three countries (Japan, the UK and the USA), researchers found a strong link between TCO and market share of those vehicles. They also identified a number of ways in which policymakers may promote the adoption of cleaner vehicles through the provision of financial incentives.
Categories: Environment news

Household energy policies promote energy-efficient innovation in industry

Fri, 07/09/2018 - 18:31
In addition to reducing carbon emissions, policies promoting efficient energy use can encourage innovation in the manufacturing sector. This study evaluated the innovation effect of household energy policies using a comprehensive dataset of 21 European countries. The results show that policies such as financial subsidies and product labels can promote the development of sustainable-energy technologies.
Categories: Environment news

Managing flood risk: more realistic models need to take account of spatial differences

Fri, 07/09/2018 - 18:31
Effective flood-risk management requires accurate risk-analysis models. Conventional analysis approaches, however, are based on the evaluation of spatially homogenous scenarios, which do not account for variation in flooding across a river reach/ region. Since flood events are often spatially heterogeneous (i.e. unevenly distributed), this paves the way for error. Now, scientists have developed a novel framework for risk analysis that accounts for their heterogeneity, and successfully demonstrated the accuracy of the approach by applying it in a proof-of-concept exercise in Vorarlberg, Austria. By facilitating improved prediction and quantification of flood events, this model is likely to inform future flood-risk management and related decision-making.
Categories: Environment news

Clarity needed on environmental impact of plastic waste for evidence-based policy

Fri, 07/09/2018 - 18:31
Plastic waste in the environment presents cause for concern, but scientific understanding of its exact impacts is still in its infancy. A team of Dutch scientists has presented recommendations on how to develop a new assessment method which provides clear, specific evidence on the risks of plastic waste. Once developed, this method could inform scientifically sound policies for managing plastic waste.
Categories: Environment news

Radiation processing may be faster, cleaner and more efficient at removing pollutants from drinking and waste water than conventional techniques

Fri, 07/09/2018 - 18:31
The presence of organic pollutants in waste water and drinking water can have alarming environmental and public health implications. Current water treatment methods have limitations: they can only remove certain contaminants, to certain extents, and also produce harmful by-products. New and improved methods are required. A recent review paper presents radiation processing as a promising approach, providing strong evidence of its efficacy, efficiency, safety, and feasibility. Focusing particularly on the use of electron-beam processing for the removal of organic pollutants from waste water and drinking water, the researchers present a compelling picture, relevant to stakeholders involved in water treatment and management.
Categories: Environment news

Antibiotic resistance in struvite fertiliser from waste water could enter the food chain

Fri, 07/09/2018 - 18:31
The application to crops of struvite (magnesium ammonium phosphate) recovered from waste water may cause antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) present in this fertiliser to enter the food chain. Chinese researchers who conducted this study on Brassica plants suggest that ARGs in struvite pass from the soil into the roots of the plant, and from the roots to the leaves, via the bacterial community already present. The results of this research highlight the need for struvite production methods and agricultural practices that minimise the risk of antibiotic-resistance transmission from struvite to humans or animals via the environment.
Categories: Environment news

Pages