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Environment

Illinois studies explore converting wastewater to fertilizer with fungal treatment

Creating fertilizers from organic waste can help reduce the consumption of fossil fuels and promote sustainable production. One way of doing this is through hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL), which converts biomass into biocrude oil through a high-temperature, high-pressure process.

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Illinois clean energy transition excludes key constituents in energy justice equation

Illinois has made transitioning to clean energy a major priority in recent years with the passage of the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) in 2016 and the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) in 2021. Both pieces of legislation prioritize an equitable transition, aiming to avoid and address historical wrongdoings associated with environmental injustice. 

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Wastewater is a viable medium for growing lettuce in hydroponic systems, study shows

Urban agriculture has the potential to improve food security through local, efficient, and sustainable food production. Examples of urban food systems include hydroponics, where plants grow in a nutrient solution without soil, and aquaponics, which combines hydroponics with raising fish in tanks.

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Organic farmers’ beliefs about soil microbiome affect their practices, study shows

Organic farming can support soil microorganisms that promote plant defenses and reduce insect pests. But not all organic practices are equally beneficial for soil microbes, and it’s important to understand farmer motivations in order to encourage the adoption of microbiome-supportive efforts.

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ACE professor receives funding to study impacts of wildfire smoke

The Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment has awarded $30,000 in seed funding to Andrew Hultgren, assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, and others for an interdisciplinary proposal examining the economic and human health effects of exposure to wildfire smoke on a broad scale. The project aims to inform policy related to climate change.

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Specialist and migratory birds at greater risk under climate change

Following decades of decline, even fewer birds will darken North American skies by the end of the century, according to a new analysis by scientists at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

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Agricultural management practices evaluated in new nitrous oxide accounting method

As greenhouse gases go, nitrous oxide (N2O) is a doozy. With a global warming potential 273 times that of carbon dioxide, mitigating N2O could make a big difference. But before mitigation can happen, it’s important to understand where the compound is coming from. 

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Illinois researchers develop an AI model to reduce uncertainty in evapotranspiration prediction

When scientists look at the Earth’s available water for ecosystem services, they don’t just look at precipitation. They must also account for water moving from the ground to the atmosphere, a process known as evapotranspiration (ET). ET includes evaporation from soil and open water pools such as lakes, rivers, and ponds, as well as transpiration from plant leaves.

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ACES scientists improve understanding of canopy-level photosynthesis

In recent years, the scientific community has increasingly turned its attention to sustainable agriculture, aiming to maximize crop yield while minimizing environmental impact. A crucial aspect of this research involves understanding the fundamental processes of plant photosynthesis and how they can be monitored at scale. One promising method for assessing photosynthetic activity is through the measurement of sun-induced chlorophyll fluorescence, a byproduct of photosynthesis that can be detected from ground-based sensors as well as from satellites in space.

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Illinois study: Backyards, urban parks support bird diversity in unique ways

Researchers from the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences tracked bird diversity in public parks and private backyards in twin cities in Illinois with significantly different development histories and green space management practices. They found that birds rely on both public and private spaces in different seasons and for different reasons. The study linked park management practices aimed at conservation and restoration to increased bird diversity and the persistence of rarer species. 

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