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Volume 8, January

Environments, Volume 8, Issue 2 (February 2021) – 10 articles

Cover Story (view full-size image): Farm-scale anaerobic digestion (AD) can play a considerable role in reducing the negative environmental impacts associated with agriculture enterprises. To provide a greater understanding of the technology’s potential, this study investigated Irish cattle farmers’ motivations, perspectives, and preferred business models in adopting AD plants. This research revealed a relativity high willingness to implement or supply feedstock to AD plants with “Likely Adopters” generally characterised as having a higher level of educational attainment. High investment costs and a lack of information were found to be the leading barriers to implementation, while its potential to improve farm profitability was the greatest perceived benefit. View this paper
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Review
Microbial Communities in Methane Cycle: Modern Molecular Methods Gain Insights into Their Global Ecology
Environments 2021, 8(2), 16; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/environments8020016 - 22 Feb 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1336
Abstract
The role of methane as a greenhouse gas in the concept of global climate changes is well known. Methanogens and methanotrophs are two microbial groups which contribute to the biogeochemical methane cycle in soil, so that the total emission of CH4 is [...] Read more.
The role of methane as a greenhouse gas in the concept of global climate changes is well known. Methanogens and methanotrophs are two microbial groups which contribute to the biogeochemical methane cycle in soil, so that the total emission of CH4 is the balance between its production and oxidation by microbial communities. Traditional identification techniques, such as selective enrichment and pure-culture isolation, have been used for a long time to study diversity of methanogens and methanotrophs. However, these techniques are characterized by significant limitations, since only a relatively small fraction of the microbial community could be cultured. Modern molecular methods for quantitative analysis of the microbial community such as real-time PCR (Polymerase chain reaction), DNA fingerprints and methods based on high-throughput sequencing together with different “omics” techniques overcome the limitations imposed by culture-dependent approaches and provide new insights into the diversity and ecology of microbial communities in the methane cycle. Here, we review available knowledge concerning the abundances, composition, and activity of methanogenic and methanotrophic communities in a wide range of natural and anthropogenic environments. We suggest that incorporation of microbial data could fill the existing microbiological gaps in methane flux modeling, and significantly increase the predictive power of models for different environments. Full article
Article
Discontinuous Geochemical Monitoring of the Galleria Italia Circumneutral Waters (Former Hg-Mining Area of Abbadia San Salvatore, Tuscany, Central Italy) Feeding the Fosso Della Chiusa Creek
Environments 2021, 8(2), 15; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/environments8020015 - 20 Feb 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1114
Abstract
The Galleria Italia waters drain the complex tunnel system of the former Hg-mining area of Abbadia San Salvatore (Tuscany, central Italia) and feed the 2.5 km-long Fosso della Chiusa creek. The mining exploitation was active for more than one century and more than [...] Read more.
The Galleria Italia waters drain the complex tunnel system of the former Hg-mining area of Abbadia San Salvatore (Tuscany, central Italia) and feed the 2.5 km-long Fosso della Chiusa creek. The mining exploitation was active for more than one century and more than 100,000 tons of liquid mercury were produced by roasting processes of cinnabar (HgS). In this work, a discontinuous geochemical monitoring of the Galleria Italia circumneutral waters was carried out from February 2009 to October 2020, during which the main physicochemical parameters, main and minor dissolved species and trace elements (including Hg) were determined. In the observation period, significant variations in the water chemistry were recorded, particularly when flooding waves, due to intense precipitations, occurred, with the two main events being recorded in February 2009 and January 2010. The chemical composition of the Galleria Italia waters was Ca(Mg)-SO4 and related to congruent dissolution of gypsum/anhydrite at which a contribution from carbonatic and silicatic minerals and partial solubilization of CO2 and and H2S oxidation is to be added. Regarding the trace elements, Al, Mn and Fe were up to 1500, 768 and 39520 μg L−1, with these elements also showing high contents in the sediment precipitating by the Galleria Italia waters. In most cases, dissolved mercury was below the instrumental detection limit (<0.1 μg L−1), although occasionally it reached >1 μg L−1. Considering a mean flow rate of 40 L s−1 of the discharged water, the amount of dissolved mercury released from Galleria Italia was computed, although most mercury was occurring in the sediment (1.2 mg kg−1). A more realistic computation of mercury released from Galleria Italia should involve a sampling network along the Fosso della Chiusa before entering the riverine system of the Tiber basin, into which dissolved and suspended mercury are to be determined along with that occurring in the sediments. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mercury in Fluvial Systems: Distribution and Cycling Processes)
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Article
Potential Influence of Sewage Phosphorus and Wet and Dry Deposition Detected in Fish Collected in the Athabasca River North of Fort McMurray
Environments 2021, 8(2), 14; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/environments8020014 - 15 Feb 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1085
Abstract
The health of fish is a primary indicator of ecosystem response in the Oil Sands Region of northeastern Alberta. However, industrial activity is accompanied by other stressors, such as the discharge of sewage, municipal activity, forest fires, and natural weathering and erosion of [...] Read more.
The health of fish is a primary indicator of ecosystem response in the Oil Sands Region of northeastern Alberta. However, industrial activity is accompanied by other stressors, such as the discharge of sewage, municipal activity, forest fires, and natural weathering and erosion of bitumen. To combat the spatial confounding influences, we examined white sucker (Catostomus commersonii) captured in the Athabasca River at sites over time (2011–2019) and included covariates to account for the possible sources of influence. The analyses suggest spatially heterogeneous influences of natural factors on fish, such as discharge and air temperature, but also the influence of sewage phosphorus and precipitation. Among the stressors examined here, precipitation may be the most complex and may include a mixture of sources including inputs from tributaries, urban activity, industrial development, and forest fires. Although suggestive, the attribution of variance and detection of changes are affected by sample sizes in some years; these analyses may have missed effects or misspecified important relationships, especially in males. Despite these limitations, the analyses suggest potential differences may be associated with precipitation and highlight the need to integrate robust information on known and suspected stressors in future monitoring of aquatic ecosystems in the oil sands region and beyond. Full article
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Article
Assessment of the Levels of Pollution and of Their Risks by Radioactivity and Trace Metals on Marine Edible Fish and Crustaceans at the Bay of Bengal (Chattogram, Bangladesh)
Environments 2021, 8(2), 13; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/environments8020013 - 11 Feb 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1184
Abstract
Marine environmental pollution is a longstanding global problem and has a particular impact on the Bay of Bengal. Effluent from different sources directly enters rivers of the region and eventually flows into the Bay of Bengal. This effluent may contain radioactive materials and [...] Read more.
Marine environmental pollution is a longstanding global problem and has a particular impact on the Bay of Bengal. Effluent from different sources directly enters rivers of the region and eventually flows into the Bay of Bengal. This effluent may contain radioactive materials and trace metals and pose a serious threat to the coastal environment, in addition to aquatic ecosystems. Using gamma spectrometry and atomic absorption spectrometry, a comprehensive study was carried out on the radioactivity (226Ra, 232Th, 40K, and 137Cs) and trace metal (Cd, Pb, Zn, Cu, Ni, Fe, Mn, and Cr) concentrations, respectively, in fish and crustacean species collected from the coastal belt of the Bay of Bengal (Chattogram, Bangladesh). The analysis showed a noticeable increment in the levels of different radioactive pollutants in the marine samples, although the consumption of the studied fish and crustacean species should be considered safe for human health. Anthropogenic radionuclide (137Cs) was not detected in any sample. Furthermore, the metal concentrations of a small number of trace elements (Pb, Cd, Cr) were found to be higher in most of the samples, which indicates aquatic fauna are subject to pollution. The estimated daily intake (EDI), target hazard quotient (THQ), hazard index (HI), and target cancer risk (TR) were calculated and compared with the permissible safety limits. It was found that consuming the seafood from the Bay of Bengal may cause adverse health impacts if consumption and/or means of pollution are not controlled. Full article
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Article
Classification of Noise Sources for Port Area Noise Mapping
Environments 2021, 8(2), 12; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/environments8020012 - 09 Feb 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1669
Abstract
Maritime transportation is recognized to have advantages in terms of environmental impact compared to other forms of transportation. However, an increment in traffic volumes will also produce an increase in noise emissions in the surroundings for a greener source, as ports are frequently [...] Read more.
Maritime transportation is recognized to have advantages in terms of environmental impact compared to other forms of transportation. However, an increment in traffic volumes will also produce an increase in noise emissions in the surroundings for a greener source, as ports are frequently surrounded by urban areas. When more sources or higher noise emissions are introduced, the noise exposure of citizens increases, and the likelihood of official complaints rises. As a consequence, among the most demanding aspects of port management is effective noise management aimed at a reduction in the exposure of citizens while ensuring the growth of maritime traffic. At the same time, the topic has not been thoroughly studied by the scientific community, mostly because port areas are challenging from a noise management point of view; they are often characterized by a high degree of complexity, both in terms of the number of different noise sources and their interaction with the other main transportation infrastructure. Therefore, an effective methodology of noise modeling of the port area is currently missing. With regard to the INTERREG Maritime Program, the present paper reports a first attempt to define noise mapping guidelines. On the basis of the current state-of-the-art and the authors’ experiences, noise sources inside port areas can be divided into several different categories: road sources, railway sources, ship sources, port sources, and industrial sources. A further subdivision can be achieved according to the working operation mode and position of the sources. This classification simplifies actions of identification of the responsible source from control bodies, in the case that noise limits are exceeded or citizen complaints arise. It also represents a necessary tool to identify the best placing of medium/long-term noise monitoring stations. The results also act as a base for a future definition of specific and targeted procedures for the acoustic characterization of port noise sources. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Feature Papers in Environments in 2020)
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Article
Influence of Biochar Derived Nitrogen on Cadmium Removal by Ryegrass in a Contaminated Soil
Environments 2021, 8(2), 11; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/environments8020011 - 08 Feb 2021
Viewed by 1141
Abstract
Little is known about the effect of nitrogen (N) application via biochar on the removal of trace elements by crops, and the effects with chemical fertilizers are inconsistent. We determined, from a previous study, the influence of increased N addition via biochars produced [...] Read more.
Little is known about the effect of nitrogen (N) application via biochar on the removal of trace elements by crops, and the effects with chemical fertilizers are inconsistent. We determined, from a previous study, the influence of increased N addition via biochars produced from switchgrass (SGB) and poultry litter (PLB) on cadmium (Cd) removal by ryegrass. The biochar rates of 0, 0.5, 1, 2, and 4% w/w were applied to a Cd-contaminated soil before seeding in a potting experiment with a complete randomized block design (CRBD). Ryegrass yield and N and Cd removed by harvest were strongly related (p < 0.05). The ryegrass yields increased up to 1% of PLB, and Cd removal was also the highest at 1% of PLB. The biomass of ryegrass roots increased with Cd accumulation (p < 0.05). Overall, the Cd transfer factor (TF) from ryegrass roots to shoots increased when up to 206 ± 38 kg N ha−1 was removed in ryegrass shoots (p < 0.0001). The application of PLB up to 1% might be a viable option since it is a practical rate for handling operations requiring less volume of material than SGB. Additionally, the Cd concentration in the aboveground forage remained acceptable for grazing cattle. Future studies are encouraged to evaluate different sources of N fertilizers affecting Cd uptake on cash crops. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Contamination by Heavy Metals and Metalloids)
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Review
Status of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) in Africa
Environments 2021, 8(2), 10; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/environments8020010 - 05 Feb 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2135
Abstract
Life cycle assessment (LCA) has received attention as a tool to evaluate the environmental impacts of products and services. In the last 20 years, research on the topic has increased, and now more than 25,000 articles are related to LCA in scientific journals [...] Read more.
Life cycle assessment (LCA) has received attention as a tool to evaluate the environmental impacts of products and services. In the last 20 years, research on the topic has increased, and now more than 25,000 articles are related to LCA in scientific journals databases such as the Scopus database; however, the concept is relatively new in Africa, where the number of networks has been highlighted to be very low when compared to the other regions. This paper focuses on a review of life cycle assessments conducted in Africa over the last 20 years. It aims at highlighting the current research gap for African LCA. A total of 199 papers were found for the whole continent; this number is lower than that for both Japan and Germany (more than 400 articles each) and nearly equal to developing countries such as Thailand. Agriculture is the sector which received the most attention, representing 53 articles, followed by electricity and energy (60 articles for the two sectors). South Africa (43), Egypt (23), and Tunisia (19) were the countries where most of the research was conducted. Even if the number of articles related to LCA have increased in recent years, many steps still remain. For example, establishing a specific life cycle inventory (LCI) database for African countries or a targeted ideal life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) method. Several African key sectors could also be assessed further. Full article
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Article
Relating Hydro-Meteorological Variables to Water Table in an Unconfined Aquifer via Fuzzy Linear Regression
Environments 2021, 8(2), 9; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/environments8020009 - 31 Jan 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1416
Abstract
This study aims to assess the short-term response of groundwater to the main hydro-meteorological variables of drought in a coastal unconfined aquifer. For this purpose, a multiple fuzzy linear regression-based methodology is implemented in order to relate rainfall, streamflow and the potential evapotranspiration [...] Read more.
This study aims to assess the short-term response of groundwater to the main hydro-meteorological variables of drought in a coastal unconfined aquifer. For this purpose, a multiple fuzzy linear regression-based methodology is implemented in order to relate rainfall, streamflow and the potential evapotranspiration to groundwater. Fuzzy regression analysis is recommended when there is a lack of data. The uncertainty of the system is incorporated into the regression coefficients which, in this study, are considered to be fuzzy symmetrical triangular numbers. Two objective functions are used producing a fuzzy band in which all the observed data must be included. The first objective function, based on Tanaka’s model, minimizes the total width of the produced fuzzy band. The second one includes the first while additionally minimizing the distance between the central value of the fuzzy output of the model and the observed value. Validity of the model is checked through suitability measures. The present methodology is applied at the east part of the Nestos River Delta in the Prefecture of Xanthi (Greece), where the observed values of the depth of groundwater level of four wells are examined. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Groundwater Quality and Groundwater Vulnerability Assessment)
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Article
An Investigation of the Potential Adoption of Anaerobic Digestion for Energy Production in Irish Farms
Environments 2021, 8(2), 8; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/environments8020008 - 27 Jan 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1529
Abstract
Anaerobic digestion (AD) has been recognised as an effective means of simultaneously producing energy while reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Despite having a large agriculture sector, Ireland has experienced little uptake of the technology, ranking 20th within the EU-28. It is, therefore, necessary [...] Read more.
Anaerobic digestion (AD) has been recognised as an effective means of simultaneously producing energy while reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Despite having a large agriculture sector, Ireland has experienced little uptake of the technology, ranking 20th within the EU-28. It is, therefore, necessary to understand the general opinions, willingness to adopt, and perceived obstacles of potential adopters of the technology. As likely primary users of this technology, a survey of Irish cattle farmers was conducted to assess the potential of on-farm AD for energy production in Ireland. The study seeks to understand farmers’ motivations, perceived barriers, and preferred business model. The study found that approximately 41% of the 91 respondents were interested in installing AD on their farming enterprise within the next five years. These Likely Adopters tended to have a higher level of education attainment, and together, currently hold 4379 cattle, potentially providing 37,122 t year−1 of wastes as feedstock, resulting in a potential CO2 reduction of 800.65 t CO2-eq. year−1. Moreover, the results indicated that the primary consideration preventing the implementation of AD is a lack of information regarding the technology and high investment costs. Of the Likely Adopters and Possible Adopters, a self-owned and operated plant was the preferred ownership structure, while 58% expressed an interest in joining a co-operative scheme. The findings generated provide valuable insights into the willingness of farmers to implement AD and guidance for its potential widespread adoption. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Small-Scale Anaerobic Digestion for Biogas Production)
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Article
Mercury Bioavailability in Fluvial Sediments Estimated Using Chironomus riparius and Diffusive Gradients in Thin-Films (DGT)
Environments 2021, 8(2), 7; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/environments8020007 - 25 Jan 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1249
Abstract
Mercury bioavailability was assessed by exposing the dipteran Chironomus riparius for the whole life cycle to legacy-contaminated fluvial sediments (0.038–0.285 mg Hg kg−1 d.w.) and analyzing tissue concentrations in larvae at different exposure times (7, 11, and 16 days) and in adults. [...] Read more.
Mercury bioavailability was assessed by exposing the dipteran Chironomus riparius for the whole life cycle to legacy-contaminated fluvial sediments (0.038–0.285 mg Hg kg−1 d.w.) and analyzing tissue concentrations in larvae at different exposure times (7, 11, and 16 days) and in adults. In the same experiment, diffusive gradients in thin-film passive samplers (DGTs), both piston- and probe-shaped, were co-deployed in the same sediments and retrieved at the same times as the organisms. To compare the two approaches, results showed a good agreement between accumulation kinetics of C. riparius and DGTs, both approximating an apparent steady-state. A strong correlation was found between values in tissues and in both types of DGTs (r between 0.74 and 0.99). Concentrations in mature larvae (19–140 µg kg−1 w.w.), which may represent a basal level of the aquatic food web, exceeded the European Environmental Quality Standard for biota (20 µg kg−1 w.w.), which aims at protecting the top predators from secondary poisoning. Body burdens in larvae and in adults were similar, showing negligible decontamination during metamorphosis and proving an efficient mercury transfer from sediments to terrestrial food webs. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mercury in Fluvial Systems: Distribution and Cycling Processes)
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