Cognitive Daily

Here are my picks this week for the best psychology/neuroscience posts on ResearchBlogging.org.

Also, my column is up on SEEDMAGAZINE.COM. This week I’m discussing one environmental trade-off we may have to make to prevent global warming:

Each year in April and May as farmers in the central US fertilize their crops, nearly 450 thousand metric tons of nitrates and phosphates pour down the Mississippi River. When these chemicals reach the Gulf of Mexico, they cause a feeding frenzy as photosynthetic algae absorb the nutrients. It’s a boom-and-bust cycle of epic proportions: The algae populations grow explosively, then die and decompose. This process depletes the water of oxygen on a vast scale, creating a suffocating “dead zone” the size of Massachusetts where few, if any, animals can survive.

[But] a 2007 law that requires the US to annually produce 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022. Barring major biofuel production breakthroughs from sources like algae or microbes, most of this fuel will come from crops grown in the central US; the fertilizers and other agricultural waste they produce will flow straight down the Mississippi and feed the dead zone. Hite says the study, led by Christine Costello, found that meeting this goal will make it impossible for the EPA to reach its target reduction in the size of the dead zone. Even if fertilizer-intensive corn is replaced with more eco-friendly crops like switchgrass, the vast increase in agricultural production will cause the dead zone to grow unless preventive measures are taken.

There is a potential solution: strategically increasing wetlands around — but this offers its own set of problems. Read the whole article.

Comments

  1. #1 James Winters
    October 2, 2009

    Cheers for the shout out, it’s nice to see people manage to actually read the posts for something other than a cure for insomnia. Plus, I’m sure there is something I can whip up about auditory processing and the insula.

  2. #2 richard pauli
    October 30, 2009

    When you say: “…to prevent global warming”

    Sorry, but it is way too late for that. The widely accepted language now is mitigation and adaptation. Because even if we turned into Adam and Eve tomorrow, the momentum of greenhouse gas warming would continue for many decades.

    The science says that 2 degrees of warming are inevitable, with 4 degrees C possible and catastrophic warming is not at all impossible.

    An excellent site is RealClimate.org – they have one or two postings per week… like
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/04/hit-the-brakes-hard/

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