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Environments, Volume 11, Issue 3 (March 2024) – 23 articles

Cover Story (view full-size image): Water quality monitoring programs yield a wealth of data. It is often unclear what drives the concentrations of micropollutants that occur at certain locations or at different times. A clustering analysis at monitoring locations in the river Rhine and Meuse yielded many diverse and concise clusters of micropollutants with co-varying concentrations. The presented explorative cluster analyses, along with the observed relations with micropollutant properties, local environmental conditions and overlap with lists of known micropollutants from certain emission sources, support the elucidation of emission patterns and environmental processes that determine the occurrence and concentration dynamics of micropollutants. This knowledge can support water managers in improving water quality. View this paper
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17 pages, 2430 KiB  
Article
Evaluation of the Effects of Environmental Factors on Seasonal Variations in Fish Diversity on a Coastal Island in Western Japan
by Nguyen Hong Nhat, Mitsuyo Saito, Mayuko Hamada and Shin-ichi Onodera
Environments 2024, 11(3), 60; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments11030060 - 20 Mar 2024
Viewed by 1095
Abstract
Coastal habitats are crucial for supporting ecological processes and serve as vital ecosystems for diverse fish species, providing essential functions such as feeding, nursery provision, and reproductive habitats. Fish communities are ecologically important components of coastal ecosystems and are affected by multiple environmental [...] Read more.
Coastal habitats are crucial for supporting ecological processes and serve as vital ecosystems for diverse fish species, providing essential functions such as feeding, nursery provision, and reproductive habitats. Fish communities are ecologically important components of coastal ecosystems and are affected by multiple environmental factors. Despite their importance, determining the effects of environmental factors on seasonal variations in fish species diversity and community dynamics remains a challenge. The advent of environmental DNA (eDNA) technology, an environmentally conscious approach, has resulted in considerable advancements in recent years and has been progressively adopted for marine fish population monitoring. Here, we used environmental DNA metabarcoding to study seasonal variations in fish community structure on a coastal island, and we assessed the effects of environmental factors in structuring these communities. Our findings revealed a rich diversity of 72 fish species across 40 families and 23 orders in the seawater surrounding an island of the Seto Inland Sea (SIS), Western Japan. Notably, the composition of fish communities varied significantly between seasons, with seawater temperature, salinity, and dissolved inorganic phosphorus (DIP) concentration identified as important factors correlated with fish communities’ structures. In conclusion, our study provides useful information of fish diversity, and we suggest that eDNA is a valuable technique for monitoring fish diversity in coastal areas. These findings are crucial for ecological studies and the environmental monitoring of oceanic coastal environments. Full article
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13 pages, 2800 KiB  
Article
Collaborative Monitoring of Plant Biodiversity and Research on Sweet Acorn Oaks within Paths of Knowledge and Sustainability Education
by Antonino Soddu Pirellas, Mauro Ballero, Sebastiano Porcu, Giovanna Serra, Francesco Sanna and Michele Puxeddu
Environments 2024, 11(3), 59; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments11030059 - 20 Mar 2024
Viewed by 905
Abstract
Numerous studies have shown the multiple benefits of plant biodiversity and the crucial role of residents’ awareness of conservation and land management. Plant biodiversity was investigated in an analytical monitoring report conducted jointly with the local population engaged in livestock activities and young [...] Read more.
Numerous studies have shown the multiple benefits of plant biodiversity and the crucial role of residents’ awareness of conservation and land management. Plant biodiversity was investigated in an analytical monitoring report conducted jointly with the local population engaged in livestock activities and young residents who were shifting toward hospitality and tourism. The study area, covering over 800 km2 in Sardinia, is half forested and attracts interest in its landscape. During our research, genotypes of Quercus ilex L., with sweet acorns rich in polyphenols, as the oldest ecosystem services in these rural communities, were discovered. Collaborative monitoring focused attention on the benefits of plants in different habitats as follows: 53% were known to livestock farmers as food for local breeds of goats and pigs, 15% were official, and 13% were endemic. They had also been used for human nutrition within the Mediterranean diet and attracted interest for their use in landscapes and gardens. This study analyzes numerical data from critical and educational perspectives. These data serve as indicators of ecosystem health for the purpose of sustainable management policies and attest to collaborative monitoring as a tool for analyzing human activities and the necessary balance between profit and biodiversity conservation, given the current challenging climate change conditions. Full article
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14 pages, 2015 KiB  
Article
Multi-Endpoint Analysis of Cerium and Gadolinium Effects after Long-Term Exposure to Phaeodactylum tricornutum
by Antonietta Siciliano, Marisa Spampinato, Giovanna Salbitani, Marco Guida, Simona Carfagna, Antonios Apostolos Brouziotis, Marco Trifuoggi, Rosanna Bossa, Lorenzo Saviano, Edith Guadalupe Padilla Suarez and Giovanni Libralato
Environments 2024, 11(3), 58; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments11030058 - 18 Mar 2024
Viewed by 783
Abstract
The significantly increasing levels of Rare Earth Elements (REEs) in seawater are largely due to multiple anthropogenic activities. Their effects on marine primary producers such as Phaeodactylum tricornutum have not been fully assessed. This study focused on examining the long-term impacts of these [...] Read more.
The significantly increasing levels of Rare Earth Elements (REEs) in seawater are largely due to multiple anthropogenic activities. Their effects on marine primary producers such as Phaeodactylum tricornutum have not been fully assessed. This study focused on examining the long-term impacts of these two commonly occurring REEs, cerium (Ce) and gadolinium (Gd), on marine diatoms by 28 d of exposure. The 72 h effective concentrations that inhibited the growth of 20% (EC20) and 50% (EC50) of the exposed population were used for long-term exposures. The growth, oxidative stress level, photosynthetic pigments, and chlorophyll fluorescence were assessed in the diatoms, after 7, 14, 21, and 28 d of REEs exposure. Results display a difference in the toxicity induced by the two elements. Exposure to 2.39 mg/L (EC20) and 3.13 mg/L (EC50) of Ce, and to 4.52 mg/L (EC20) and 6.02 mg/L (EC50) of Gd displayed a lower effect on the growth of algae cells, as the response remained below 20% for inhibition or stimulation. Except for GD, the ROS and the activities of SOD, and LPO showed, during the exposure, comparable levels respect to control cells. A change in chlorophyll levels was also observed especially under Ce exposure. Both elements showed changes in photosynthetic performance. This study provides new insights into the different effects of Ce and Gd on P. tricornutum, demonstrating their diverse modes of action on this important primary producer. The findings provide further evidence of the adverse effects of anthropogenic REEs pollution on marine ecosystems. Full article
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16 pages, 2504 KiB  
Article
Temporal Evolution of Vehicle Exhaust Plumes in a Congested Street Canyon Environment
by Meng-Yuan Chu, Peter Brimblecombe, Peng Wei, Chun-Ho Liu and Zhi Ning
Environments 2024, 11(3), 57; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments11030057 - 15 Mar 2024
Viewed by 831
Abstract
Air pollutants from traffic make an important contribution to human exposure, with pedestrians likely to experience rapid fluctuation and high concentrations on the pavements of busy streets. This monitoring campaign was on Hennessy Road in Hong Kong, a densely populated city with deep [...] Read more.
Air pollutants from traffic make an important contribution to human exposure, with pedestrians likely to experience rapid fluctuation and high concentrations on the pavements of busy streets. This monitoring campaign was on Hennessy Road in Hong Kong, a densely populated city with deep canyons, crowded footpaths and low wind speeds. Kerbside NOx concentrations were measured using electrochemical sensors with baseline correction and subsequently deconvoluted to determine concentrations at 1-s resolution to study the dispersion of exhaust gases within the first few metres of their on-road source. The pulses of NOx from passing vehicles were treated as segments of a Gaussian plume originating at the tailpipe. The concentration profiles in segments were fit to a simple analytical equation assuming a continuous line source with R2 > 0.92. Least squares fitting parameters could be attributed to vehicle speed and source strength, dispersion, and sensor position. The width of the plume was proportional to the inverse of vehicle speed. The source strength of NOx from passing vehicles could be interpreted in terms of individual emissions, with a median value of approximately 0.18 g/s, but this was sensitive to vehicle speed and exhaust pipe position. The current study improves understanding of rapid changes in pollutant concentration in the kerbside environment and suggests opportunities to establish the contribution from traffic flow to pedestrian exposure in a dynamic heavily occupied urban microenvironment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Urban Air Pollution)
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15 pages, 3372 KiB  
Article
Effect of Irrigation Regime and Soil Nutrients on the Growth of the Paddy Weed Heteranthera reniformis and Rice Grain Yield
by Srijana Thapa Magar, Takeshi Fujino and Thant Ko Ko Han
Environments 2024, 11(3), 56; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments11030056 - 14 Mar 2024
Viewed by 834
Abstract
The growth of Heteranthera reniformis, an invasive alien paddy weed, can be affected by cultivation practices. The experiments were conducted using herbicide-free soil to understand the effects of irrigation regimes and nutrient treatments on the growth of H. reniformis, as well [...] Read more.
The growth of Heteranthera reniformis, an invasive alien paddy weed, can be affected by cultivation practices. The experiments were conducted using herbicide-free soil to understand the effects of irrigation regimes and nutrient treatments on the growth of H. reniformis, as well as yield parameters while competing with a pre-existing seedbank. The pot experiments were conducted in a randomized complete block design (RBCD) with three replicates and twelve treatments. The four irrigation regimes (IRs): continuous irrigation (CI), soil condition at near saturation (non-puddled) (S), alternate wetting and drying (AWD) irrigation under two conditions [rewatered when the soil water potential reached −25 kPa (25P) and −35 kPa (35P)], and three nutrient treatments (NTs) of 0–0–0 NPK (NT0), 40–25–30 NPK (NT1), 80–50–60 NPK (NT2), kg ha−1 were established. The IRs had a significant effect on the growth of H. reniformis and other paddy field weeds, and the growth of H. reniformis was suppressed in the AWD regimes. NT2 resulted in more rice panicles, higher grain yield, and increased irrigation water use efficiency (IWUE). The highest grain yield and protein content were observed in S–NT2 and 25P–NT2 treatments. The IR and NT can be maintained to prevent yield penalties and reduce the invasiveness of weeds. Full article
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30 pages, 10195 KiB  
Article
Accumulative Heat Stress in Ruminants at the Regional Scale under Changing Environmental Conditions
by Jean-Philippe Aurambout, Kurt K. Benke and Garry J. O’Leary
Environments 2024, 11(3), 55; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments11030055 - 14 Mar 2024
Viewed by 855
Abstract
Environmental heat stress is implicated in various animal health issues in ruminants, including reproduction rates, mortality rates, and animal physical quality. During extremely hot weather, there is often no overnight equilibration of animal temperature with its cooling effect, and the accumulated heat load [...] Read more.
Environmental heat stress is implicated in various animal health issues in ruminants, including reproduction rates, mortality rates, and animal physical quality. During extremely hot weather, there is often no overnight equilibration of animal temperature with its cooling effect, and the accumulated heat load becomes an important factor in animal health for ruminants such as sheep. Using the heat load index (HLI), a heat load model is used as an indicator of heat stress on an hourly basis and annually, using downscaling models for temperature, humidity, solar radiation, and wind speed, in both spatial and temporal cases, across several example sites in regional Victoria. Analysis is provided on the performance of the downscaling models and various adaptation and mitigation options are discussed and tested. These options include using different tree planting patterns to modify solar radiation exposure and wind effects, with mixed results because adding shading structures may also diminish the effect of wind-based cooling. The modelling experiments indicated that (1) heat stress is likely to increase under future climate conditions and could represent a serious threat to the health of small ruminants; (2) adaptation measures by means of tree planting to provide shade may not be sufficient to alleviate projected heat stress; and (3) other adaptation measures will need to be considered. Indicative results for heat stress under potential future environments are provided for 2030, 2050, and 2070. Also discussed is the performance of wind speed modelling, and the effect of heat stress on animal growth and ram fertility. Full article
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20 pages, 1830 KiB  
Article
Inoculation with Biofilm of Bacillus subtilis Is a Safe and Sustainable Alternative to Promote Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) Growth
by Gabriela Cristina Sarti, Mirta Esther Galelli, Josefina Ana Eva Cristóbal-Miguez, Eliana Cárdenas-Aguiar, Hugo Daniel Chudil, Ana Rosa García and Antonio Paz-González
Environments 2024, 11(3), 54; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments11030054 - 11 Mar 2024
Viewed by 942
Abstract
Over-fertilization and agrochemicals adversely affect soil quality and agricultural ecosystem sustainability. Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) is ranked as an important crop due to its high profitability and nutritional value. In Argentina, tomato is mainly produced in horticultural belts at peri-urban areas, whose [...] Read more.
Over-fertilization and agrochemicals adversely affect soil quality and agricultural ecosystem sustainability. Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) is ranked as an important crop due to its high profitability and nutritional value. In Argentina, tomato is mainly produced in horticultural belts at peri-urban areas, whose soils frequently are contaminated by heavy metals and/or agrochemicals. To explore safer alternatives, we investigated the effects of seed inoculation with a common plant-growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR), i.e., Bacillus subtilis subsp. spizizenii, on development at various growth stages of two tomato varieties, “Platense” and “Río Grande”, and on production and fruit quality at harvest time of the “Río Grande” variety. The experimental design consisted of three treatments per variety: a control versus traditional planktonic or biofilm inoculation, with three replicates per treatment. Germination at 10 days and seedling agronomical parameters showed that the response to seed inoculation was superior in the “Río Grande” variety. At harvest time, and irrespective of the inoculant, several agronomical parameters of the “Río Grande” variety were significantly enhanced with respect to the control. The biofilm significantly increased tomato production, as quantified by fruit number and weight, compared to the planktonic inoculum. This case study demonstrates that the incorporation of bio-inoculants is relevant in sustainable agriculture to promote crop growth and quality. Full article
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12 pages, 1315 KiB  
Article
Investigating the Sorption/Desorption of the Cationic Herbicide Paraquat in Clay Minerals Using Batch and Electro–Ultrafiltration Techniques
by Stefano Salvestrini, Eleonora Grilli and Elio Coppola
Environments 2024, 11(3), 53; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments11030053 - 09 Mar 2024
Viewed by 859
Abstract
The sorption/desorption processes of the cationic herbicide paraquat (PQ) onto various clays, namely, kaolinite (KLN), illite (ILT), and montmorillonite (MNT), were investigated. After the attainment of sorption equilibrium, PQ was extracted from the clays by a double-stage desorption process utilizing an electro–ultrafiltration (EUF) [...] Read more.
The sorption/desorption processes of the cationic herbicide paraquat (PQ) onto various clays, namely, kaolinite (KLN), illite (ILT), and montmorillonite (MNT), were investigated. After the attainment of sorption equilibrium, PQ was extracted from the clays by a double-stage desorption process utilizing an electro–ultrafiltration (EUF) procedure. The Freundlich isotherm model and a pseudo-first kinetic release model were found to adequately fit the sorption and desorption data, respectively. The experimental maximum sorbable amounts of paraquat were 5.56, 31.88, and 91.63 mg g−1 for KLN, ILT, and MNT, respectively, consistently with the order of magnitude of the cation-exchange capacity (CEC) of the clay minerals. The desorption experiments revealed that the amounts of PQ retained by the MNT samples were significantly larger than the respective amounts retained by KLN or ILT. The EUF-PQ desorption patterns of differently cation-saturated MNT samples indicated that the presence of monovalent cations could further hamper PQ release, while the opposite seemed to be true for divalent cations. Our results clearly show that a substantial aliquot of PQ is strongly retained by montmorillonite, probably via interlayering, thus suggesting that smectitic clays could act as a stable soil sink for cationic herbicides such as paraquat, favoring soil long-term contamination. Full article
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15 pages, 1065 KiB  
Article
The Case for Carbon Capture and Storage Technologies
by Gal Hochman and Vijay Appasamy
Environments 2024, 11(3), 52; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments11030052 - 08 Mar 2024
Viewed by 1352
Abstract
In this paper, we use the literature to help us better understand carbon capture costs and how these estimates fare against those of avoided costs, focusing on bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS), carbon capture and storage (CCS), as well as direct air [...] Read more.
In this paper, we use the literature to help us better understand carbon capture costs and how these estimates fare against those of avoided costs, focusing on bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS), carbon capture and storage (CCS), as well as direct air capture technologies. We approach these questions from a meta-analysis perspective. The analysis uses meta-analysis tools while applying them to numerical rather than statistical studies. Our analysis shows that avoided costs are, on average, 17.4% higher than capture costs and that the carbon intensity of the feedstock matters: the estimates for coal-based electricity generation capture costs are statistically smaller than those for natural gas or air. From a policy perspective, the literature suggests that the costs of CCS are like the 45Q subsidy of USD 50 per metric ton of carbon captured. Full article
(This article belongs to the Topic CO2 Capture and Renewable Energy)
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15 pages, 3831 KiB  
Article
An Effective Biomonitor of Potentially Toxic Elements in Marine Ecosystems: The Brown Alga Dictyota spiralis
by Maria Antonietta Nitopi, Daniela Baldantoni, Vincenzo Baldi, Floriana Di Stefano and Alessandro Bellino
Environments 2024, 11(3), 51; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments11030051 - 08 Mar 2024
Viewed by 921
Abstract
Coastal marine areas are threatened by different forms of pollution, among which potentially toxic elements (PTEs) represent a primary hazard. In this study, 16 Mediterranean macroalgae colonizing the upper eulittoral and infralittoral zones were studied for their PTE accumulation capabilities in order to [...] Read more.
Coastal marine areas are threatened by different forms of pollution, among which potentially toxic elements (PTEs) represent a primary hazard. In this study, 16 Mediterranean macroalgae colonizing the upper eulittoral and infralittoral zones were studied for their PTE accumulation capabilities in order to identify possible biomonitors that could replace the use of Posidonia oceanica, a protected species. To achieve this objective, macronutrients (Ca, K, Mg, P, S), micronutrients (Cr, Cu, Fe, Mn, Na, Ni, Si, V, Zn) and non-essential elements (Cd, Pb) were analyzed in the thalli of different algal species, the leaves of P. oceanica and in sediments collected from six sampling sites along the Cilento coast (Campania, Italy), all characterized by different anthropogenic pressures. For sediments, a sequential extraction of PTEs to evaluate their bioavailability profile was also carried out together with the analysis of mineralogical composition, particle size distribution, pH and organic matter content. Macrophytes, belonging to different divisions (six Rhodophyta, four Chlorophyta, six Heterokontophyta, one Embryophyta), are characterized by different PTE concentrations, with a few ones being characterized by an even accumulation response toward the different PTEs. One of these, the brown alga Dictyota spiralis, is able to accumulate PTEs in concentrations similar to P. oceanica and provides more accurate concentration gradients, highlighting clear pollution scenarios that were overlooked using P. oceanica only. Therefore, D. spiralis is a useful PTE biomonitor of coastal marine ecosystems and a suitable replacement for P. oceanica, also featuring the possibility of being employed in active biomonitoring applications. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Metal Contamination Biomonitoring with Marine Macroalgae)
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20 pages, 8356 KiB  
Article
Development of Cellulose Air Filters for Capturing Fine and Ultrafine Particles through the Valorization of Banana Cultivation Biomass Waste
by Yumara Martín-Cruz, Pablo Bordón, Elisenda Pulido-Melián, Teresa Saura-Cayuela and Mario Monzón
Environments 2024, 11(3), 50; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments11030050 - 07 Mar 2024
Viewed by 1165
Abstract
Outdoor and indoor atmospheric pollution is one of the major problems that humanity continues to face. As a mitigation pathway, numerous technologies have been developed for air purification, including the use of fibrous filters. In this study, the particle capture efficiencies and pressure [...] Read more.
Outdoor and indoor atmospheric pollution is one of the major problems that humanity continues to face. As a mitigation pathway, numerous technologies have been developed for air purification, including the use of fibrous filters. In this study, the particle capture efficiencies and pressure drops of air filters manufactured with cellulose pulp extracted from banana pseudostems were studied across three particle size ranges (PM10, PM2.5, and PM1). Two pretreatments were applied, alkaline with soda-antraquinone (alkali-treated pulp) and a subsequent bleaching process (bleached pulp), and four manufacturing processes were tested: crushing, freeze-drying, vacuum filtration, and pressing. In addition, a study varying filter grammage (70, 100, and 160 g·m−2) and pressing pressures (2, 4, 6, and 8 t) was also performed. After conducting these particle tests, the filter manufactured with bleached pulp, having a grammage of 160 g·m−2 and pressed at 4 t, was deemed the optimal individual solution. It demonstrated high particle retention efficiencies across all particle size ranges (with values exceeding 80%), a moderate pressure drop below 1000 Pa, and high thermal stability (degradation above 220 °C). However, combining freeze-drying and two-ton pressing processes yielded improved results (83% for the smallest particles and 89% for others) with approximately half the pressure drop. Based on these results, this study stands as a noteworthy contribution to waste valorization and the advancement of environmentally friendly materials for particle air filters. This is achieved through the adoption of simple and cost-effective technology, coupled with the utilization of 100% natural agricultural waste as the primary manufacturing material. Full article
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19 pages, 1850 KiB  
Article
Reuse of Soils Fertilized with Ash as Recycling Derived Fertilizer Revealed Strong Stimulation of Microbial Communities Involved in P Mobilization in Lolium perenne Rhizospheres
by Lea Deinert and Achim Schmalenberger
Environments 2024, 11(3), 49; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments11030049 - 04 Mar 2024
Viewed by 871
Abstract
Circular economy recycling-derived fertilizers (RDF) have the potential to replace linear economy fertilizers such as unsustainable superphosphates. Here, effects of ash RDF treatments in Irish grassland cultivation were investigated in a simulated second growing season. Soil fertilized in a preceding pot trial with [...] Read more.
Circular economy recycling-derived fertilizers (RDF) have the potential to replace linear economy fertilizers such as unsustainable superphosphates. Here, effects of ash RDF treatments in Irish grassland cultivation were investigated in a simulated second growing season. Soil fertilized in a preceding pot trial with superphosphate (SP), poultry-litter ash (PLA) and sewage-sludge ash (SSA) at P concentration of 60 kg P ha−1 and a P-free control (SP0) was reused in a microcosm trial. Lolium perenne was cultivated for 54 days in six replicates with a full complement of micro- and macro-nutrients other than P. PLA treatments provided higher dry weight shoot yields than SP0, while SSA and SP overlapped with SP0 and PLA. Most probable number (MPN) analysis showed that phosphonate- and phytate-utilizing bacterial abundance was significantly increased in PLA. Alkaline (phoD) phosphomonoesterase gene fragments were significantly more abundant (qPCR) in the ashes than the superphosphate or P-free control. Bacterial communities were significantly affected by the P application. Similarly, a significant separation of treatments was confirmed in a canonical correspondence analysis of the phoD-harboring community. The genera Streptomyces and Xanthomonas were significantly higher in abundance in the ash RDFs. These results demonstrated the potential benefits of ash RDF treatments as an alternative P source. Full article
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21 pages, 4259 KiB  
Article
BioWin Modeling of CalPrex Phosphorus Recovery from Wastewater Predicts Substantial Nuisance Struvite Reduction
by Donald Vineyard, K.G. Karthikeyan and Phillip Barak
Environments 2024, 11(3), 48; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments11030048 - 29 Feb 2024
Viewed by 1073
Abstract
The wastewater treatment industry could benefit from new technologies for the removal and recovery of phosphorus (P). The CalPrex precipitation reactor has the potential to recover P in a readily land-applicable form by treating organic acid digestate with calcium hydroxide to produce brushite. [...] Read more.
The wastewater treatment industry could benefit from new technologies for the removal and recovery of phosphorus (P). The CalPrex precipitation reactor has the potential to recover P in a readily land-applicable form by treating organic acid digestate with calcium hydroxide to produce brushite. Using data from a pilot-scale reactor at the local Nine Springs Wastewater Treatment Plant in Madison, WI, we modified the plant’s BioWin configuration using BioWin 6.2 to model the CalPrex technology and estimate performance under a variety of conditions. We produced dose/response curves for a range of possible lime dosages to estimate the impact of reagent dosage on the quantity and composition of precipitate produced by the CalPrex reactor and characterize the effects on downstream anaerobic digester performance. CalPrex was found to capture 46% of the plant’s influent P, reducing nuisance struvite precipitates by 57% and biosolid sludge production by 14%. The CalPrex module was also tested in two predesigned plant configurations in the BioWin cabinet with the intention of testing applicability to other configurations and searching for the impacts of CalPrex on treatment train performance. This is the first work simulating a full-scale implementation of CalPrex and the first to model interactions of CalPrex with other treatment processes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Technologies of Water and Wastewater Treatment)
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16 pages, 2900 KiB  
Article
Development of Method for the Measurement of Dermal Exposure on a Lifelike Cow Dummy to Assess the Risk of Using a Urease Inhibitor (Atmowell®) to Reduce NH3 Emissions in Cattle Farming
by Annika Ehmke, Jens Karl Wegener, Andreas Melfsen and Eberhard Hartung
Environments 2024, 11(3), 47; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments11030047 - 29 Feb 2024
Viewed by 915
Abstract
Up to 58% of NH3 emissions can be reduced through the use of the urease inhibitor Atmowell® in cattle farming. Automated manure scraper and drag hose systems should be used to apply urease inhibitors (UIs) to stable floors. Proof of safe [...] Read more.
Up to 58% of NH3 emissions can be reduced through the use of the urease inhibitor Atmowell® in cattle farming. Automated manure scraper and drag hose systems should be used to apply urease inhibitors (UIs) to stable floors. Proof of safe use is also needed. A risk assessment of the urease inhibitor PPDA was conducted utilising estimated and calculated exposure data along with established and verified model calculation tools. Risk assessment models can be improved using measured dermal exposure data. The fluorescent dye pyranine and a Tyvek® collector were used to measure exposure. Tyvek® was attached to a lifelike cow dummy. Regarding the drag hose system, two worst-case scenarios were considered: over the cow and passing the cow. Regarding the robot application system, a 0 m frontal scenario was considered. The over the cow scenario exhibited the highest dermal exposure, with 1.5 mg of PPDA/cow per application run. The robot scenario exhibited the smallest amount, with 0.8 mg of PPDA/cow per application run. The risk of using PPDA was already excluded by model calculation tools in a risk assessment. Compared with the estimated and calculated dermal exposure values, the measured dermal exposure levels were reduced by a factor of two to six. Full article
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30 pages, 7845 KiB  
Article
Linking Clusters of Micropollutants in Surface Water to Emission Sources, Environmental Conditions, and Substance Properties
by Tessa E. Pronk, Elvio D. Amato, Stefan A. E. Kools and Thomas L. Ter Laak
Environments 2024, 11(3), 46; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments11030046 - 28 Feb 2024
Viewed by 1129
Abstract
Water quality monitoring programs yield a wealth of data. It is often unclear why a certain substance occurs in higher concentrations at a certain location or time. In this study, substances were considered in clusters with co-varying concentrations rather than in isolation. A [...] Read more.
Water quality monitoring programs yield a wealth of data. It is often unclear why a certain substance occurs in higher concentrations at a certain location or time. In this study, substances were considered in clusters with co-varying concentrations rather than in isolation. A total of 196 substance clusters at 19 monitoring sites in the rivers Rhine and Meuse were identified. A total of nine clusters were found repeatedly with a similar composition at different monitoring sites. Several environmental conditions and substance properties could be linked to clusters. In addition, overlap with reference substance lists was determined. These lists group multiple substances according to emission sources, substance types, or type of use. The reference substance lists revealed that Rhine and Meuse are similarly affected. The nine ‘repeating clusters’ were analyzed in more detail to identify drivers. For instance, a repeating cluster with herbicides was specifically linked to high temperatures and a high number of hours in the sun per day, e.g., summer conditions. A cluster containing polychlorinated biphenyls, identified as persistent and with a high tendency to bind organic matter, was linked to high river discharge and attributed to a potential release from sediment resuspension. Not all substances could be clustered, because their concentration did not structurally vary in the same way as other substances. The presented explorative cluster analyses, along with the obtained relations with substance properties, local environmental conditions, and reference substance lists, may facilitate the reconstruction of the processes that lead to the observed variation in concentrations. This knowledge can subsequently be used by water managers to improve water quality. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Research on Micropollutants in Water)
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13 pages, 4661 KiB  
Article
The Application of Cyanobacteria as a Biofertilizer for Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) Production with a Focus on Environmental and Ecological Sustainability
by Saoli Chanda, Sanku Dattamudi, Krishnaswamy Jayachandran, Leonard J. Scinto and Mahadev Bhat
Environments 2024, 11(3), 45; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments11030045 - 27 Feb 2024
Viewed by 1718
Abstract
Cyanobacteria, an important addition to biofertilizers, are gaining popularity for their multifaceted benefits in sustainable agriculture and ecosystem restoration. However, harmful algal blooms (HABs) in freshwater, predominantly caused by cyanobacteria, prevent sunlight penetration into the water and develop hypoxic and anoxic conditions. We [...] Read more.
Cyanobacteria, an important addition to biofertilizers, are gaining popularity for their multifaceted benefits in sustainable agriculture and ecosystem restoration. However, harmful algal blooms (HABs) in freshwater, predominantly caused by cyanobacteria, prevent sunlight penetration into the water and develop hypoxic and anoxic conditions. We collected cyanobacteria slurry from Lake Jesup (Central Florida, USA), repurposed it as a biofertilizer, and incorporated it in a typical South Florida calcite soil for high-value okra (Abelmoschus esculentus; var: Clemson spineless) production. Experiments were conducted at the Organic Garden Shade House and Greenhouse located inside the main campus of the Florida International University (FIU), FL, USA. A two-year experiment with four different treatments was conducted, namely, (a) control (C; no fertilizer applied), (b) total synthetic (TS), (c) total biofertilizer (TB; only cyanobacteria biofertilizer was applied), and (d) half and half (HH; 50% biofertilizer + 50% synthetic fertilizer), which were arranged in a randomized complete block design (RCBD) with six replications for each treatment. Our results indicate that TB and TS produced about 29 to 33% higher SPAD (soil plant analytical development) readings than the control. The absence of interveinal chlorosis (yellowing of leaves) in the TB and HH treatments suggests that the cyanobacteria-based biofertilizer had a role in supplying one of the critical micronutrients, iron (Fe). Analysis of the biofertilizer indicated 2000 ppm Fe content, which directly supports our observation. Similarly, average plant height (61 cm), yield (130 gm per pot), and crop biomass (67 gm) productions were significantly higher in TB than in the control. Overall, this study documents the potential of cyanobacteria biofertilizers as a viable option compared to synthetic fertilizers for sustainable crop production and soil health improvement. Full article
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25 pages, 2586 KiB  
Article
Biomass Production and Metal Remediation by Salix alba L. and Salix viminalis L. Irrigated with Greywater Treated by Floating Wetlands
by Suhad A. A. A. N. Almuktar, Suhail N. Abed and Miklas Scholz
Environments 2024, 11(3), 44; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments11030044 - 26 Feb 2024
Viewed by 1118
Abstract
As an alternative wood source for biochar and a cost-effective renewable energy source, sustainable biomass production based on fast-growing willows irrigated with treated wastewater has been explored. Salix alba L. and Salix viminalis L. were selected for assessment of their potentially high woody [...] Read more.
As an alternative wood source for biochar and a cost-effective renewable energy source, sustainable biomass production based on fast-growing willows irrigated with treated wastewater has been explored. Salix alba L. and Salix viminalis L. were selected for assessment of their potentially high woody biomass productivity and phytoremediation efficiency when irrigated with greywater treated by floating treatment wetlands. Both Salix species produced significantly (p < 0.05) high woody biomass in the second harvest, with a significantly higher fresh woody biomass weight with higher water content (53%) for S. viminalis compared to S. alba. The dry biomass weight of S. alba was greater than of S. viminalis at the first harvest. The element accumulations in substrates changed significantly after irrigation, with greywater compared to the raw substrate following this order: Mg > Fe > Al > Cr > Mn > Cd > Cu > B. Element concentrations accumulated in twigs of S. alba following this order: Ca > Mg > Na > Mn > Zn > Fe > Al > Cd > Cu > Cr > Ni > B, but for S. viminalis the order was Ca > Mg > Mn > Zn > Na > Fe > Al > Cd > Cu > Ni > Cr > B. The accumulations of Al, B, Ca, Fe, Mg, Mn, and Ni were significantly greater in S. alba leaves compared to their twigs, which showed significantly high accumulations of Na and Zn. The accumulations of Al, B, Ca, Fe, Mg, Mn, and Na were significantly greater in S. viminalis leaves compared to their twigs. Full article
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16 pages, 2078 KiB  
Review
Lead (Pb) Pollution in Soil: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Contamination Grade and Health Risk in Mexico
by Jorge Briseño-Bugarín, Xelha Araujo-Padilla, Victor Manuel Escot-Espinoza, Jaime Cardoso-Ortiz, Juan Armando Flores de la Torre and Argelia López-Luna
Environments 2024, 11(3), 43; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments11030043 - 25 Feb 2024
Viewed by 1716
Abstract
Lead (Pb) is a toxic metal associated with several health disorders. The mining and Pb battery industry are related to Pb increase in air, water, and soil. Mexico is an important worldwide Pb producer; however, reviews on environmental Pb contamination in Mexico are [...] Read more.
Lead (Pb) is a toxic metal associated with several health disorders. The mining and Pb battery industry are related to Pb increase in air, water, and soil. Mexico is an important worldwide Pb producer; however, reviews on environmental Pb contamination in Mexico are insufficient. Since Pb remains stable in soil and its concentration is an indicator of Pb exposure, this systematic review focused on reports of Pb concentrations in soil from Mexico published in 2010–2023. The retrieved reports were ordered, and contamination grade and health risk were estimated for location. From 36 retrieved reports, 24 were associated with mining Pb pollution, while a unique report mentioned the battery industry. The publications evaluated mining (13), agricultural (11), and residential (16) soils. Pb concentrations in soil were higher than the allowed limits in more than half of the reports. According to the Pb concentrations in soil, the locations evaluated in Mexico presented a contamination grade from heavily contaminated to extremely contaminated and health risks results suggested severe hazards, particularly for children. This work can guide other researchers to identify potentially contaminated but understudied Mexican locations. Full article
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20 pages, 5788 KiB  
Article
Low Abundant Bacteria Reflect Soil Specificity—Analysis of Bacterial Communities from Archaeological Investigation of Pre-Industrial Saline Ash Deposits of Bad Dürrenberg (Germany)
by Johann Michael Köhler, Linda Ehrhardt, Peter Mike Günther, Manfred Böhme and Jialan Cao
Environments 2024, 11(3), 42; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments11030042 - 23 Feb 2024
Viewed by 980
Abstract
Six soil samples from three layers of an archaeological investigation profile from a pre-industrial ash deposit place have been investigated by NGS analyses of 16 S rRNA. The three pairs of sample originate from top soil (internal reference), from an intermediate ash layer [...] Read more.
Six soil samples from three layers of an archaeological investigation profile from a pre-industrial ash deposit place have been investigated by NGS analyses of 16 S rRNA. The three pairs of sample originate from top soil (internal reference), from an intermediate ash layer and from a lower ash layer, formed about two centuries ago. In addition to general abundant bacteria, special genera known as halophilic or alkaline-tolerant have been found as expected from the history of the place and from the measured pH-value and conductivity measurements. The close relations between samples of pairs and the differences between the three soil layers are clearly indicated by abundance correlation and PCA-diagrams. Comparative PCA correlation plots including samples from an archaeological excavation site dedicated to pre-industrial coal mining illustrate the high distinguishability of investigated soils. These relations are particular clearly shown when lower abundant bacteria are regarded. The investigations are a further example for the “ecological memory of soil” reflecting the strong human impact on this pre-industrial embossed place. Full article
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18 pages, 4602 KiB  
Article
Exposure of Zebrafish Embryos to Urea Affects NOS1 Gene Expression in Neuronal Cells
by Pietro Cacialli, Serena Ricci, Flavia Frabetti, Sara Ferrando and Valeria Franceschini
Environments 2024, 11(3), 41; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments11030041 - 21 Feb 2024
Viewed by 1133
Abstract
Nitrogen-based fertilizers represent the most common fertilization tools, particularly used in crop food agriculture, despite the low cost-efficiency and the high negative environmental impact. At present, there is still inadequate information available about the effects of urea on human health; nevertheless, previous studies [...] Read more.
Nitrogen-based fertilizers represent the most common fertilization tools, particularly used in crop food agriculture, despite the low cost-efficiency and the high negative environmental impact. At present, there is still inadequate information available about the effects of urea on human health; nevertheless, previous studies in animals observed that high urea concentration exposure can damage different tissues, including the brain. In several vertebrates, a crucial factor involved in neuronal cell formation is represented by the gas molecule, nitric oxide (NO), derived from the conversion of arginine to citrulline through the enzymatic activity of nitric oxide synthases (NOS). In zebrafish, three different isoforms of the NOS gene are known: nos1, nos2a, and nos2b. In the present study we show that nos1 represents the unique isoform with a stable high expression in the brain and spinal cord during all the embryonic stages of zebrafish development. Then, by using a specific transgenic zebrafish line, Tg(HuC:GFP), to mark neuronal cells, we observed nos1 to be specifically expressed in neurons. Interestingly, we observed that urea exposure at sub-lethal doses affected cell proliferation and the number of nos1-expressing cells, inducing apoptosis. Consistently, brain NO levels were observed to be reduced in urea-treated animals compared to untreated ones. This finding represents the first evidence that urea exposure affects the expression of a key gene involved in neuronal cell formation during embryonic development. Full article
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32 pages, 9751 KiB  
Article
Stream Chemistry and Forest Recovery Assessment and Prediction Modeling in Coal-Mine-Affected Watersheds in Kentucky, USA
by Oguz Sariyildiz, Buddhi R. Gyawali, George F. Antonious, Kenneth Semmens, Demetrio Zourarakis and Maya P. Bhatt
Environments 2024, 11(3), 40; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments11030040 - 21 Feb 2024
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1157
Abstract
Kentucky is one of the largest coal-producing states; surface coal mining has led to changes in natural land cover, soil loss, and water quality. This study explored relationships between actively mined and reclaimed areas, vegetation change, and water quality parameters. The study site [...] Read more.
Kentucky is one of the largest coal-producing states; surface coal mining has led to changes in natural land cover, soil loss, and water quality. This study explored relationships between actively mined and reclaimed areas, vegetation change, and water quality parameters. The study site evaluated 58 watersheds with Landsat-derived variables (reclamation age and percentage of mining, reclaimed forest, and reclaimed woods) as well as topographic variables (such as elevation, slope, drainage density, and infiltration). Water samples were collected in spring (n = 9), summer (n = 14), and fall (n = 58) 2017 to study changes in water quality variables (SO42−, alkalinity, conductivity, Ca2+, Mg2+, Mn2+, Al3+, and Fe2+, Fe3+) in response to changes in land cover. Pearson correlation analyses indicated that conductivity has strong to very strong relationships with water quality variables related to coal mining (except Al3+, Fe2+, Fe3+, Mn2+, elevation, slope, and drainage density) and land cover variables. In addition, separate regression analyses were performed, with conductivity values based on samples collected in the fall. First, conductivity responses to mining percentage, reclamation age and topographic variables were examined (adjusted R2 = 0.818, p < 0.01). Next, vegetation cover change parameters were added to the same model, which yielded slightly improved R2 (adjusted R2 = 0.826, p < 0.01). Finally, reclamation age and mining percentages were used to explain the quantity of reclaimed forested areas as a percentage of watersheds. The model was significant (p < 0.01), with an adjusted R2 value of 0.641. Results suggest that the quantity (area as a percentage) of reclaimed forests may be a predictor of the mining percentage and reclamation age. This study indicated that conductivity is a predictable water quality indicator that is highly associated with Coal-Mine-Related Stream Chemistry in areas where agriculture and urban development are limited. Water quality is not suitable for various purposes due to the presence of contaminants, especially in mined sites. These findings may help the scientific community and key state and federal agencies improve their understanding of water quality attributes in watersheds affected by coal mining, as well as refine land reclamation practices more effectively while such practices are in action. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Research on Micropollutants in Water)
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16 pages, 2636 KiB  
Article
Digital Opportunity or a Threat? Adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) Monitoring Systems for Natural Resources in Germany
by Tanya Baycheva-Merger, Andy Selter, Chris Seijger and Sabeth Häublein
Environments 2024, 11(3), 39; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments11030039 - 21 Feb 2024
Viewed by 1202
Abstract
In Germany, modern digital technologies like Internet of Things (IoT) have been increasingly promoted for better environmental and natural resources management through “smart” monitoring and real-time data. However, adopting such advanced technologies is complex and brings a wide array of risks and challenges, [...] Read more.
In Germany, modern digital technologies like Internet of Things (IoT) have been increasingly promoted for better environmental and natural resources management through “smart” monitoring and real-time data. However, adopting such advanced technologies is complex and brings a wide array of risks and challenges, and it remains unclear whether local actors are in fact willing and sufficiently equipped to adopt them. Using the Motivations and Abilities (MOTA) framework, and quantitative data collection and analysis methods, this study explores the motivations and abilities of German local (governmental) actors by focusing on the adoption of IoT-based forest and water monitoring systems. The findings reveal an early-stage adoption of IoT environmental monitoring, with limited awareness and no plans for adoption. The lack of willingness, however, is not attributed to a lack of motivation; it is, rather, influenced by perceived insufficient financial and technical capacities and resources. This study provides novel insights for understanding the complex relationship between actors’ behavior and the adoption of advanced digital technologies in the realm of environmental and natural resources management. The results provide a robust foundation for future research, and inform policy and practice aimed at facilitating digitalized natural resources management. Full article
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21 pages, 3103 KiB  
Review
Technological Advances in Mechanical Recycling Innovations and Corresponding Impacts on the Circular Economy of Plastics
by Kunle Babaremu, Adedapo Adediji, Nmesoma Olumba, Silifat Okoya, Esther Akinlabi and Muyiwa Oyinlola
Environments 2024, 11(3), 38; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments11030038 - 21 Feb 2024
Viewed by 4332
Abstract
The impact of plastic pollution on the world and its inhabitants is yet to be fully measured. Significant quantities of microplastics and nanoplastics have been found in human organs, and many diseases have been traced to their presence. Even human placentas have been [...] Read more.
The impact of plastic pollution on the world and its inhabitants is yet to be fully measured. Significant quantities of microplastics and nanoplastics have been found in human organs, and many diseases have been traced to their presence. Even human placentas have been found to contain microplastics. This study examines the recycling landscape, advanced reprocessing techniques, and technical challenges in this industry. It points out the top recyclable types of plastics (such as high-density polyethylene, polyethylene terephthalate, and thermoplastic elastomers) by analyzing their different recycling capacities globally. It highlights the most advisable recycling techniques by identifying those most successful, least environmentally damaging, and easiest. Mechanical recycling is arguably the easiest and most common recycling technique. This study examines mechanical reprocessing technologies for construction materials, composite boards, additive manufacturing, and other applications. It also points out prevailing setbacks of these approaches and analyzes different solutions. Promising recycling processes are suggested for further investigation. Full article
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