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To honor both National Ocean Month and World Ocean Day on June 8, the Biden administration announced several initiatives geared toward conservation. One is to create a new marine sanctuary in the Hudson Canyon about 100 miles off the coast of New Jersey and New York that rivals the Grand Canyon in scale. The administration called it an ecological hotspot that provides habitat for sperm whales, sea turtles, and other endangered species including cold-water coral.
In some encouraging news about the plague of plastic pollution, scientists have found that the larvae of a type of beetle (Zophobas morio), commonly called a “superworm” can digest and survive on a diet of polystyrene, a material commonly used in food containers, car parts, and insulation. Researchers at the University of Queensland think that the worms have an enzyme in their guts that breaks down common plastics, but instead of unleashing the worms on piles of waste they hope to identify the enzyme and then use it in a recycling process. The beetle larvae first crunch the plastic foam by chewing it, and then their gut microbes go to work. Earlier research had shown that some beetle larvae consume plastic, and these new findings help understand how bacteria in the worm’s gut function on the material.
The Great Salt Lake in Utah is a ticking time bomb of environmental disaster. Climate change and population growth have caused the water body to shrink by two-thirds since the 1980s, USGS survey data show. Last summer, the water level reached its lowest point on record and could fall further this year. And, as the lakebed becomes exposed, winds could send a toxic cloud of arsenic over nearby Salt Lake City.
As the drought deepens in the West, residents in Southern California are not conserving enough. According to data released last week from the State Water Resources Control Board, cities and towns in the South Coast hydrologic region—an area that includes Los Angeles and more than half the state’s population—used 25.6 percent more water in April than in April 2020, the first year of the current drought.