Raising Saltwater Fish Far from Oceans
Two of the ocean’s tastiest saltwater fishes, cobia and pompano, may be raised hundreds of miles away from the ocean, thanks to improved aquaculture systems that clean and recirculate water. U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers have demonstrated the effectiveness of RAS (recirculating aquaculture system) tanks for raising the saltwater fish. The reused water has salinity levels of just five parts per thousand, compared with 35 parts per thousand in ocean water. Further development of the RAS tanks could produce a highly desirable source of fish while reducing fish-farm effluent; fish wastes and unused food could be recycled as compost.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, www.ars.usda.gov .
Word Watch: Ecoflation
Coined by the World Resources Institute, ecoflation refers to a future scenario in which resource scarcity dramatically raises the prices of vital commodities.
These forces add environmental costs to other costs of doing business. The report warns that companies could see their earnings drop by up to 31% by 2013 and by 47% by 2018 if they fail to develop strategies to mitigate these risks.
“We believe that in order to adapt to these challenges, companies will need to implement real structural changes, such as product innovation and restructured value chains, which will affect both the company and millions of existing and new customers,” the report concludes.
Source: World Resources Institute, www.wri.org .
Saving South America’s Vicuña
A traditional, capture-and-release approach to managing wildlife may have helped bring the South American Vicuña back from the brink of extinction. A relative of the llama, Vicuña were once abundant in the Andes. Rising global demand for their high-quality fleece led to sharply dropping numbers in the 1960s; a 1969 moratorium on sales helped populations begin recovering. In 1987, community-based conservation policies were enacted, reinstating ancient Incan methods of “capture-shear-release” of wild populations that are now credited for saving the species. Australian researcher Iain Gordon believes the Vicuña’s success story provides lessons for wildlife management in Australia, where nearly half of the world’s mammal extinctions of the last two centuries have occurred.
Source: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, www.csiro.au . See also The Vicuña: The Theory and Practice of Community Based Wildlife Management by Iain Gordon (Springer, 2008).
Producing Artificial Skin, Factory-Style
A factory-like approach to tissue engineering may help produce artificial skin, cartilage, and other body parts quickly and in large quantities, thanks to research at Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biology. The team aims to break down and automate many of the labor-intensive procedures, such working with biopsied material, preparing cells for stimulating growth, and cryopreserving or packaging the new tissue for shipment. The result could mean improved treatment for burn victims using skin grown in laboratories, as well as the creation of tissue that is suitable for chemical testing, thus avoiding experiments on animals.
Source: Fraunhofer Institute for Facial Engineering and Biotechnology, IGB, www.igb.fraunhofer.de.
Nano-sized Additive Strengthens Concrete
A nanomaterial additive for concrete could slow down the deterioration of roads and bridges, thus reducing maintenance costs as well as the possibility of catastrophic failures. Engineers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology have developed a nano-sized additive that thwarts the penetration of chloride and sulfate ions from road salt, seawater, and soils into concrete. The engineers were reportedly inspired by additives in food processing that thicken foods like salad dressings and give ice cream its texture. Their additive for concrete increases the viscosity, so the damaging chemicals that the concrete is exposed to cannot penetrate it so quickly.
Source: National Institute of Standards and Technology, www.nist.gov .