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Water

Pharmaceuticals and endocrine disruptors: transfer from water to land ecosystems

Pharmaceuticals and endocrine disruptors increasingly contaminate the world’s freshwaters. New research provides direct evidence of their transfer from aquatic to terrestrial ecosystems via the consumption of aquatic insects by terrestrial predators such as spiders, birds and bats. This exposure may have negative impacts on the physiology and population dynamics of predators, suggesting a need for improved risk-assessment guidelines and practices. <a href="https://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/research/newsalert/pdf/569na3_en-1323-aquatic-insects-transfer-pharmaceuticals-and-endocrine-disruptors_aquatic-to-terrestrial-ecosystems.pdf">Click here to read more</a>

 
Towards the global plastics agreement - stay of play

In response to the global problem of marine litter and plastic pollution, which is projected to triple by 2040, the Governments of Ecuador, Germany, Ghana and Vietnam will jointly organize a Ministerial Conference on Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution, most likely on 1 Sep 2021. The objective is to adopt an ambitious Ministerial Declaration paving the way for the UNEA5 to adopt a negotiating mandate for a global plastics agreement in Feb 2022. The first pre-meeting to the Ministerial Conference on 27-28 May with more 500 participants including governments, NGO’s, industry showed broad support for launching the negotiations for a legally binding global agreement for plastics through a circular economy/life cycle approach. DG ENV is now working with the EEAS to prepare a targeted outreach in run up to UNEA 5.2. with the primary focus on like-minded (signatories to New York declaration) and open-minded countries (e.g. Indonesia, India, Malaysia, South Africa).

 
GACERE - the Global Alliance on Circular Economy and Resource Efficiency - takes off

The EU, teaming up with the United Nations Environment Programme, and in coordination with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, launched the Global Alliance on Circular Economy and Resource Efficiency (GACERE). The Alliance is one of the deliverables of the EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan. Alongside the EU, fourteen countries (Canada, Chile, Colombia, Japan, India, Kenya, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Peru, Rwanda, Morocco, South Africa and South Korea) have already joined the Alliance. A number of other countries are also considering their membership including Switzerland, Mexico, and Singapore. The second working meeting took place on 1 Jun 2021.

 
Nearly 5700 Northern Hemisphere lakes may be ice-free within this century

Frozen freshwater lakes provide ice to support human transportation, refrigeration, food harvest and recreation. This ice also influences key environmental factors; crucially, it minimises lake evaporation rates, moderates summer water temperatures and curtails toxic algal blooms. However, freshwater-lake ice cover is decreasing under climate change. A study estimates how many lakes in the Northern Hemisphere will permanently lose ice cover within this century, and identifies those most at risk of becoming ice-free.</br> </br> <b><a href="https://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/research/newsalert/pdf/560na3_en-nearly-5700-northern-hemisphere-lakes-may-be-ice-free-within-this-century.pdf">Click here to read more</a></b>

 
Biocide release from antifouling paints may be higher than reported, finds Swedish study

Researchers have evaluated the EU’s environmental risk assessment tool for antifouling paint used on leisure boats. Currently, product approval applications can report biocide release rates that have been ‘corrected’ to account for potential overestimation. However, field observations in Swedish waters suggest that these reductions are not accurate and — in order to protect marine ecosystems — should not be used. </br> </br> <b><a href="https://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/research/newsalert/pdf/560na1_en-biocide-release-from-antifouling-paints-may-be-higher-than-reported-finds-swedish-study.pdf">Click here to read more</a></b>

 
Nanopesticides may have the potential to increase food production — but are they environmentally safe?

As the world’s population increases, so does the need for environmentally sustainable ways to increase food production. Nanopesticides are growing in popularity, as they appear able to achieve the same results as traditional agrochemicals when applied at lower amounts. However, regulatory and ecotoxicological research gaps remain. A literature review now identifies these gaps, and suggests the steps needed to enable sustainable nanopesticide use on a global scale. </br> </br> <b><a href="https://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/research/newsalert/pdf/558na2_en-nanopesticides-may-have-the-potential-to-increase-food-production-but-are-they-environmentally-safe.pdf">Click here to read more</a></b>

 
Bioreactors and wetlands: two-step solutions could support lagoon recovery in Spain

The Mar Menor coastal saltwater lagoon, in south-east Spain, is the largest such water body in the Mediterranean basin. The lagoon is experiencing a ‘eutrophication crisis’ as excess nutrients — largely nitrates, but also phosphorus and dissolved organic carbon — are washed into the lagoon from its surroundings. A study explores the Mar Menor’s nutrient inputs and evaluates the results of a two-step system including a <a href="https://ec.europa.eu/info/research-and-innovation/research-area/environment/nature-based-solutions_en">nature-based solution (NBS)</a>; an initiative that works with and enhances nature to address societal challenges. </br> </br> <b><a href="https://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/research/newsalert/pdf/558na1_en-bioreactors-and-wetlands-two-step-solutions-could-support-lagoon-recovery-in-spain.pdf">Click here to read more</a></b>

 
Nanoplastics may reduce efficacy of constructed wetlands for water treatment

Water bodies absorb the nitrogen released by human activity and must, therefore, be protected against nutrient overloading (or eutrophication), which can cause significant environmental damage. Constructed wetlands (CWs) are widely used as an eco-friendly treatment method for this; however, the efficacy of CWs may be affected by the presence of emerging contaminants in wastewater. This study explores how nano-sized particles of polystyrene plastic (nanoplastics) affect nitrogen removal (denitrification<sup>1</sup>) in CWs. </br> </br> <b><a href="https://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/research/newsalert/pdf/557na4_en_nanoplastics-may-reduce-efficacy-of-constructed-wetlands-for-water-treatment.pdf">Click here to read more</a></b>

 
Sixteen-year reduction in levels of toxic PAHs in the Elbe River, Saxony

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a large group of toxic molecules produced by forest fires, industrial processes and the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. The airborne particles containing these molecules are often washed into watercourses, where they can persist. This study uses long-term monitoring data from the Elbe river, Saxony, Germany, to show how changes in PAH sources affect both the concentrations of these chemicals and the corresponding environmental risks. The researchers suggest that controlling PAHs is the best prevention of harm to aquatic and human health.

 
Shifts in cropland and trade patterns could feed the world in 2050

How can we grow more crops without taking too much water away from freshwater ecosystems for irrigation? A new study indicates that it is possible to double crop production by 2050 without exceeding set limits for water extraction if more crops are grown in regions with higher rainfall and with corresponding shifts in international trade and agricultural management. However, without appropriate safeguards, and if we follow the current business-as-usual scenario, this could come at the ecological cost of converting natural land and forest into cropland. This research provides a ‘first-step’ in analysing potential trade-offs in the global food-trade-water nexus.

 
World’s glaciers melting fast: 9.6 trillion tonnes of ice lost in last 50 years

The most comprehensive glacier assessment yet reveals that glacier melt was responsible for 27 mm of sea level rise between 1961 and 2016. Ice loss from glaciers is now the second biggest contributor to rising sea levels after warming water. If glaciers continue to melt at current rates, most — including many in central Asia, central Europe, western Canada and the USA — will vanish during the second half of this century.