Synchrotron based techniques have made a major impact in the field of environmental science in the last ten years. High resolution allows the study of ultra-dilute substances, the identification of species and the ability to track pollutants as they move through the environment. Synchrotrons are playing an important role in monitoring and predicting the effects of human activities on local and global environments. This knowledge will enable the development of strategies to reduce our overall environmental impact.
What amphibians tell us about arsenic levels in the environment
- Photo courtesy of Mike Parsons, Geological Survey of Canada.
Canadian Light Source, Saskatoon, Canada
Amphibians living in an old mine tailings site near Upper Seal Harbour, Nova Scotia, show high levels of arsenic after being tested using synchrotron light, leading scientists to believe these animals could be the canary in the coal mine for monitoring fresh water sites and understanding health concerns with arsenic in the environment.
Groundwater arsenic contamination is an international health concern. Many countries including Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and China are dealing with widespread contamination issues in their population.
In this study, samples were collected from two different species of frogs and toads, as well as water samples from the Nova Scotia site, to find out how arsenic is absorbed in the environment.
X-rays Track Tree-Ring Growth Anomalies
- © Diamond Light Source
CHESS, Cornell University, USA
Experts Charlotte Pearson and Sturt Manning, from the Cornell Tree-Ring Laboratory, worked with CHESS staff using X-ray fluorescence to record the chemical composition of individual tree-rings for historical data. Samples of Juniper wood were borrowed from the Aegean Dendrochronology Project archives to study the growth anomalies seen at relative ring 854. X-ray maps of sulfur and zinc concentrations provide direct evidence, for the first time, that the growth anomaly might be caused by volcanic activities attributed to the Minoan eruption of Thera mid-late 17th century BC. The timing of this eruption is important because it is believed to be a key event leading to the rise of ancient Greece.
Volcanoes can damage the ozone layer
- Photo: S. Kutterolf, GEOMAR
DORIS, DESY, Hamburg, Germany
In the 1980s, atmosphere researchers discovered that the ozone layer in the stratosphere was very thin in some areas. The cause for this “ozone hole” was ozone depleting hydrochlorofluorocarbons manufactured in large amounts for several industrial products, and released into the atmosphere. However, there are ozone killing sources also in nature. Scientists from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel and DESY in Hamburg found that giant volcanic eruptions may have large amounts of ozone depleting gases.