When you take a sip of tea, you’re drinking a beverage that is grounded in a particular time and place. In Yunnan province, southwestern China, which is the source of a highly prized tea known as pu-erh, summer brings monsoon rains, whereas spring is comparatively dry. Tea leaves that are harvested in spring therefore have different qualities to those collected in summer: each tea contains around 50 chemicals that are unique to its season of harvest, says Albert Robbat. The sensitivity of tea plants to the environment makes the crop vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Variations in temperature and precipitation are known to affect tea yield, as well as alter the complex balance of chemicals that gives tea its flavour and potential health benefits.
It was an avoidable massacre. Beekeepers in Dorchester County, South Carolina, saw 48 of their hives killed off on 28 August. The culprit was a pesticide, sprayed from a plane with the aim of killing mosquitoes that can carry the Zika virus. But South Carolina’s mosquito population isn’t yet known to carry Zika – and even if the virus is present, there are ways to kill the mosquitoes without killing bees.
This summer Biosphere 2, the glassed-in ecosystem in the Arizona desert, will go with the flow. The largest-ever experiment to study how water moves through the landscape is set to start there next month.
“Chemical weathering is the first thing you need in order to form a habitable planet,” says Jean Dixon, a geomorphologist at Montana State University in Bozeman. But the process is still not well understood.
Vultures are in trouble. Worldwide, 73 percent of vulture species are endangered or near threatened with extinction; only six of 22 species aren’t threatened. The problem is particularly bad in Africa and on the Indian subcontinent, where the birds are mostly killed by poisons and a veterinary anti-inflammatory drug used on livestock, finds a new study in the journal Biological Conservation by Evan Buechley and Çağan Şekercioğlu of the University of Utah.
The prospect of losing the unattractive, bald-headed carrion-eaters may not seem alarming for humans, but it is.
Solar project shows way forward for MIT as lab for sustainability innovation
MIT professor Tonio Buonassisi has seen a lot of students tackle project-based learning, and it’s almost always intimidating. “It is kind of that moment of courage for them, when they’re at the edge of the pool looking into the water, trying to decide whether they jump in or not,” he says. “This group was in the water before I even said go.”
Read the full article at the MIT Office of Sustainability.