Environmental Sciences

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

Amphibians living in an old mine tailings site near Upper Seal Harbour, NS, exhibit high levels of inorganic arsenic from the contaminated area yet appear quite healthy.
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Amphibians living in an old mine tailings site near Upper Seal Harbour, NS, exhibit high levels of inorganic arsenic from the contaminated area yet appear quite healthy.

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.

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X-rays Track Tree-Ring Growth Anomalies

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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.

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Volcanoes can damage the ozone layer

The Apoyo Caldera in Nicaragua was the site of a gigantic volcanic eruption 24 500 years ago. New research suggests that this and other eruptions could have released gases that temporarily depleted the ozone layer considerably.
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The Apoyo Caldera in Nicaragua was the site of a gigantic volcanic eruption 24 500 years ago. New research suggests that this and other eruptions could have released gases that temporarily depleted the ozone layer considerably.

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.

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