Environmental Impacts of Utility-Scale Solar Energy

 

by Jincy Varughese

With utility-scale solar energy (USSE) systems growing in number internationally, many have researched the environmental impacts of such systems. Hernandez et al. (2014) reviews studies examining the environmental impacts of USSE on biodiversity, water, human health, and potential solutions to mitigate impact. Continue reading

Measuring Carbon Changes and Future Deforestation

by Maithili Joshi

It is important to maintain tropical forests because of their role as carbon sinks, its vast biodiversity, and vital resources that we commonly use. These important features drive many United Nations policies that protect forests and their abundance of tree species. However, quantifying the usefulness of these polices is difficult. Gonzalez et al.(2014) aimed to quantify tree biodiversity, historical land cover and carbon changes and uncertainties, and lastly project potential future forest carbon changes and uncertainties. This study was conducted in Selva Central, Peru at the western end of the Amazon Basin. Continue reading

Renewable Energy and Endangered Species

by Alexander Birk

As climate change continues to draw more attention, so does renewable energy. Creating completely clean energy to avoid emitting greenhouse gases seems like an unbeatable solution. However renewable energy projects often run into problems with the Endangered Species Act. Robbins (2014) claims that all renewable energy projects have one thing in common, they all destroy natural habitats and play a part in killing wildlife. (Robbins 2014) Continue reading

Shale Gas Development Poses Threats to Regional Biodiversity

by Shannon Julius

Shale gas development physically and chemically alters the surrounding landscape, and native plants and animals can be particularly susceptible to these changes. In the Marcellus and Utica shale region—a largely forested area that encompasses the states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia—shale gas wells are being drilled with increasing density. A shale gas installation, including the well pad, compressor station, and storage areas, requires 3.56 ha on average. If an edge effect is considered, installations can affect approximately 15 ha of forest per site. Kiviat (2013) reviewed the potential ways that shale gas development can impact biodiversity. The most serious threats are physical alteration of terrestrial landscapes, chemical contamination of water and soil, and alteration of regional hydrology. Terrestrial alterations include construction of well installations, which cause deforestation and habitat loss, and construction of roads and pipelines, which create forest fragmentation. Chemical contaminants come from fracturing fluid and recovered wastewater. Hydrologic alterations are caused by water withdrawals and an increase in impermeable surfaces. Minor impacts on plant and animal health can come from noise, light, and air quality. Certain species are particularly at risk from shale gas development activities and some are able to thrive in the altered conditions. Continue reading

Restoring Floral and Pollinator Populations at Remediated Landfill Sites

by Hilary Haskell

Post-closure, landfills require after-care and remediation. Additional after-care may involve restoring landfills into semi-natural habitats for flowering plants and insect pollinators. Tarrant et al. (2013) compared the floral characteristics, species richness and abundance, and pollinator assemblages at reference sites of ecological value and restored landfill sites. Pollinator populations were similar across the reference and restored sites. The authors found no differences in floral species richness or abundance between reference sites and restored sites. Some seasonal differences in species richness and abundance occurred at restored landfill sites. There are over 28,000 ha of landfills in England and Wales, and habitats are rapidly declining due to agricultural practices. Landfill restoration may provide a means to both remediate landfills and mitigate habitat loss. Continue reading