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Environments, Volume 8, Issue 6 (June 2021) – 13 articles

Cover Story (view full-size image): In this work, the São Pedro da Cova waste pile and the surrounding areas were studied in order to consider the integration of several methodologies, which allowed for the environmental monitoring of several parameters, integrating: temperature monitoring (waste pile); altimetric analysis (waste pile); land use/land cover (waste pile); hydrogeochemical characterization (waste pile and surrounding areas); soil’s characterization (waste pile and surrounding areas). View this paper
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Review
The Brown Seaweeds of Scotland, Their Importance and Applications
Environments 2021, 8(6), 59; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments8060059 - 21 Jun 2021
Viewed by 463
Abstract
More than 50% of the UK coastline is situated in Scotland under legislative jurisdiction; therefore, there is a great opportunity for regionally focused economic development by the rational use of sustainable marine bio-sources. We review the importance of seaweeds in general, and more [...] Read more.
More than 50% of the UK coastline is situated in Scotland under legislative jurisdiction; therefore, there is a great opportunity for regionally focused economic development by the rational use of sustainable marine bio-sources. We review the importance of seaweeds in general, and more specifically, wrack brown seaweeds which are washed from the sea and accumulated in the wrack zone and their economic impact. Rules and regulations governing the harvesting of seaweed, potential sites for harvesting, along with the status of industrial application are discussed. We describe extraction and separation methods of natural products from these seaweeds along with their phytochemical profiles. Many potential applications for these derivatives exist in agriculture, energy, nutrition, biomaterials, waste treatment (composting), pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and other applications. The chemical diversity of the natural compounds present in these seaweeds is an opportunity to further investigate a range of chemical scaffolds, evaluate their biological activities, and develop them for better pharmaceutical or biotechnological applications. The key message is the significant opportunity for the development of high value products from a seaweed processing industry in Scotland, based on a sustainable resource, and locally regulated. Full article
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Article
An In Silico and In Vitro Study for Investigating Estrogenic Endocrine Effects of Emerging Persistent Pollutants Using Primary Hepatocytes from Grey Mullet (Mugil cephalus)
Environments 2021, 8(6), 58; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments8060058 - 18 Jun 2021
Viewed by 505
Abstract
There is growing concern about the environmentally relevant concentrations of new emerging persistent organic pollutants, such as perfluorinated compounds and pharmaceuticals, which are found to bioaccumulate in aquatic organisms at concentrations suspected to cause reproductive toxicity due to the activation of estrogen receptor [...] Read more.
There is growing concern about the environmentally relevant concentrations of new emerging persistent organic pollutants, such as perfluorinated compounds and pharmaceuticals, which are found to bioaccumulate in aquatic organisms at concentrations suspected to cause reproductive toxicity due to the activation of estrogen receptor (ER) α and β subtypes. Here, we use a combined in silico and in vitro approach to evaluate the impact of perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) and Enalapril (ENA) on grey mullet (Mugil cephalus) hepatic estrogen signaling pathway. ENA had weak agonist activity on ERα while PFNA showed moderate to high agonist binding to both ERs. According to these effects, hepatocytes incubation for 48 h to PFNA resulted in a concentration-dependent upregulation of ER and vitellogenin gene expression profiles, whereas only a small increase was observed in ERα mRNA levels for the highest ENA concentration. These data suggest a structure–activity relationship between hepatic ERs and these emerging pollutants. Full article
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Article
Sustainable Mobility in Universities: The Case of the University of Foggia (Italy)
Environments 2021, 8(6), 57; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments8060057 - 15 Jun 2021
Viewed by 629
Abstract
Among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that make up the 2030 Agenda and refer to different areas of social, economic and environmental development, goal 11.2 concerns access to safe, cheap, accessible and sustainable transport systems, increasing road safety particularly through the enhancement [...] Read more.
Among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that make up the 2030 Agenda and refer to different areas of social, economic and environmental development, goal 11.2 concerns access to safe, cheap, accessible and sustainable transport systems, increasing road safety particularly through the enhancement of public transport. Universities can also contribute to increasing the use of more sustainable means of transport through policies and strategies to encourage students and staff in choosing sustainable transport modes. Numerous universities around the world and in Italy have adopted initiatives to reduce the environmental impact related to the mobility of the entire academic community. In Italy, the Italian Network of Sustainable Universities has set up, within its organization, a working group that has drawn up numerous studies on the sustainable mobility of Italian universities. The University of Foggia also conducted a study on mobility to detect and evaluate the mobility routines of community members (students, academic and administrative staff). In this paper, the first results in terms of descriptive analysis are shown. We submitted a survey consisting of 17 questions, and we obtained 3495 answers. After cleaning the data set, we were able to extract various contingency tables, through which we can statistically describe the main means of transport used by members of the University of Foggia community and, thanks to detailed data about the different means of transport, we can estimate their emissions. According to the results shown in the paper, further considerations could be made concerning the environmental implications of the choices of transportation modes. This could address policies about mobility at universities and provide useful information for applying actions to enhance these sustainable choices. Full article
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Article
A New Approach to Mapping Cultural Ecosystem Services
Environments 2021, 8(6), 56; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments8060056 - 15 Jun 2021
Viewed by 670
Abstract
According to various sources, Southern Morocco has stood out as an outstanding tourist destination in recent decades, with global appeal. Dakhla City, including Dakhla Bay, classified by the Convention on Wetlands in 2005 as a Wetland of International Importance, offers visitors various entertainment [...] Read more.
According to various sources, Southern Morocco has stood out as an outstanding tourist destination in recent decades, with global appeal. Dakhla City, including Dakhla Bay, classified by the Convention on Wetlands in 2005 as a Wetland of International Importance, offers visitors various entertainment opportunities at many city sites. Therefore, human activity and social benefits should be considered in conjunction with the need to safeguard the ecosystems and maintain the Ecosystem Services (ES). This study aims to provide an overview of the tourism dynamics and hotspots related to cultural ecosystem services in Dakhla Bay. The landscape attributes are used along with an InVEST model to detect the distribution of preferences for the Cultural Ecosystem Services (CESs), map the hotspots, and identify the spatial correlations between features such as the landscape and visiting rate to understand which elements of nature attract people to the locations around the study area. Geotagged photos posted to the Flickr™ website between 2005 and 2017 were used to approximate the number of tourist visits. The results showed that tourism suffered several dips in 2005–2017 and that tourist visits are currently rising. Additionally, an estimated annual tourist visit rate shows that tourism in Dakhla Bay has been growing steadily by 2%. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Feature Papers in Environments in 2020)
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Article
Influence of Forest Management and Sylvicultural Treatments on Abundance of Snags and Tree Cavities in Mountain Mixed Beech Forests
Environments 2021, 8(6), 55; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments8060055 - 12 Jun 2021
Viewed by 551
Abstract
In this study the influence of forest management on the characteristics of snags and tree cavities in the Hyrcanian forests of Iran was investigated. In particular, the effect of two sylvicultural treatments (shelter wood and single-tree selection) was assessed in comparison to protected [...] Read more.
In this study the influence of forest management on the characteristics of snags and tree cavities in the Hyrcanian forests of Iran was investigated. In particular, the effect of two sylvicultural treatments (shelter wood and single-tree selection) was assessed in comparison to protected stands. The abundance, diameter, height, and degree of decay of snag species, and the characteristics of birds excavated and natural cavities (number and height from the ground level) were measured by systematic plots in each stand. The results showed that the abundance, species diversity, and size of snags in both of the sylvicultural treatments were significantly lower than the protected stands. The number of birds excavated and natural cavities on thicker snags with moderate decay was significantly higher than other decay classes. Abundance, species diversity, size of snags, and number of tree cavities in the single-tree selection stands were significantly higher than sheltered-wood stands. Full article
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Review
Human Cell Culture, a Pertinent In Vitro Model to Evaluate the Toxicity of Landfill Leachate/Sewage Sludge. A Review
Environments 2021, 8(6), 54; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments8060054 - 10 Jun 2021
Viewed by 581
Abstract
Both landfill leachate and sewage sludge are complex mixtures of many potentially toxic substances in unknown and unpredictable amounts and concentrations. Both types of matrices can pose a risk to human health and the functioning of ecosystems if released into the environment. Therefore, [...] Read more.
Both landfill leachate and sewage sludge are complex mixtures of many potentially toxic substances in unknown and unpredictable amounts and concentrations. Both types of matrices can pose a risk to human health and the functioning of ecosystems if released into the environment. Therefore, constant monitoring of the toxicity of these mixtures is necessary. However, traditional methods of analysis of sewage sludge/landfill leachate are mainly based on physicochemical studies that do not fully reflect the effects of these mixtures on living organisms. For this purpose, research based on biological models, including mammalian, mainly human, cells is recommended and increasingly implemented. A variety of cytotoxicity tests, based on various metabolic transformations in living cells, are a very useful tool in landfill leachate/sewage sludge toxicology studies. This paper reviews the methods used in the study of the cytotoxicity of environmental matrices and the cell lines used in these studies as biological models. Full article
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Article
An Axiology of Residual Green Urban Areas
Environments 2021, 8(6), 53; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments8060053 - 04 Jun 2021
Viewed by 715
Abstract
Our cities are often characterised by a complex, ungrammatical articulation of spaces, volumes, intended uses, and values. The residual green urban areas are representative of a low level or absence of order, but above all, of functions and values. The study proposes a [...] Read more.
Our cities are often characterised by a complex, ungrammatical articulation of spaces, volumes, intended uses, and values. The residual green urban areas are representative of a low level or absence of order, but above all, of functions and values. The study proposes a new methodological and operational approach to the rehabilitation of green residual urban areas, participatory type that can generate a new order between values, functions and actors, to mediate private and public needs, to promote new forms of responsibility and thus to implement some of the priority objectives set out in the 2030 Agenda. The operational tools supporting the approach are the Contingent Valuation Method (CVM), public and private partnership (PPP) and crowdfunding. This approach supported the selection of the project and the creation of a budget with public and private funding to support the participatory rehabilitation of a residual green urban area in the municipality of Acireale. The amount of funding identified largely covers rehabilitation costs. The issue of the quality and quantity of urban greenery is crucial for the sustainability and resilience of cities to climate change. Rehabilitation of remaining urban green areas is an opportunity to meet the new needs of green areas, supporting communities in this new challenge. Full article
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Review
A Way to Membrane-Based Environmental Remediation for Heavy Metal Removal
Environments 2021, 8(6), 52; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments8060052 - 04 Jun 2021
Viewed by 711
Abstract
During the last century, industrialization has grown very fast and as a result heavy metals have contaminated many water sources. Due to their high toxicity, these pollutants are hazardous for humans, fish, and aquatic flora. Traditional techniques for their removal are adsorption, electro-dialysis, [...] Read more.
During the last century, industrialization has grown very fast and as a result heavy metals have contaminated many water sources. Due to their high toxicity, these pollutants are hazardous for humans, fish, and aquatic flora. Traditional techniques for their removal are adsorption, electro-dialysis, precipitation, and ion exchange, but they all present various drawbacks. Membrane technology represents an exciting alternative to the traditional ones characterized by high efficiency, low energy consumption and waste production, mild operating conditions, and easy scale-up. In this review, the attention has been focused on applying driven-pressure membrane processes for heavy metal removal, highlighting each of the positive and negative aspects. Advantages and disadvantages, and recent progress on the production of nanocomposite membranes and electrospun nanofiber membranes for the adsorption of heavy metal ions have also been reported and critically discussed. Finally, future prospective research activities and the key steps required to make their use effective on an industrial scale have been presented Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Emerging Technologies for Advanced Water Purification)
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Article
Visibility Driven Perception and Regulation of Air Pollution in Hong Kong, 1968–2020
Environments 2021, 8(6), 51; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments8060051 - 04 Jun 2021
Viewed by 704
Abstract
Visibility is a perceptible indicator of air pollution, so it is hardly surprising that it has been used to promote the regulation of air pollutants. In Hong Kong, poor visibility associated with air pollution has been linked with changes in tourist choices and [...] Read more.
Visibility is a perceptible indicator of air pollution, so it is hardly surprising that it has been used to promote the regulation of air pollutants. In Hong Kong, poor visibility associated with air pollution has been linked with changes in tourist choices and health outcomes. Much research is available to examine the early deterioration of visibility in the city, and especially its relation to particulate sulfate. The period 2004–2012 saw especially poor visibility in Hong Kong and coincided with a time when pollutant levels were high. There is a reasonable correlation (multiple r2 = 0.57) between the monthly hours of low visibility (<8 km) and PM10, NO2, SO2, and O3 concentrations from the late 1990s. Visibility can thus be justified as a route to perceiving air pollution. Over the last decade, visibility has improved and average pollutant concentrations have declined in Hong Kong. The changing health risk from individual pollutants parallels their concentration trends: the risk from NO2 and particulate matter at urban sites has declined, but there have been increases in the health risks from ozone as its concentrations have risen across the region, although this is dominated by concentration increases at more rural sites. Since 2004, the frequency of search terms such as visibility, air pollution, and haze on Google has decreased in line with improved visibility. Despite positive changes to Hong Kong’s air quality, typically, the media representation and public perception see the situation as growing more severe, possibly because attention focuses on the air quality objectives in Hong Kong being less stringent than World Health Organisation guidelines. Policymakers increasingly need to account for the perceptions of stakeholders and acknowledge that these are not necessarily bound to measurements from monitoring networks. Improvements in air quality are hard won, but conveying the nature of such improvements to the public can be an additional struggle. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Air Pollution in Urban and Industrial Areas)
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Communication
An Investigation of Takagi-Sugeno Fuzzy Modeling for Spatial Prediction with Sparsely Distributed Geospatial Data
Environments 2021, 8(6), 50; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments8060050 - 29 May 2021
Viewed by 780
Abstract
Fuzzy set theory has shown potential for reducing uncertainty as a result of data sparsity and also provides advantages for quantifying gradational changes like those of pollutant concentrations through fuzzy clustering based approaches. The ability to lower the sampling frequency and perform laboratory [...] Read more.
Fuzzy set theory has shown potential for reducing uncertainty as a result of data sparsity and also provides advantages for quantifying gradational changes like those of pollutant concentrations through fuzzy clustering based approaches. The ability to lower the sampling frequency and perform laboratory analyses on fewer samples, yet still produce an adequate pollutant distribution map, would reduce the initial cost of new remediation projects. To assess the ability of fuzzy modeling to make spatial predictions using fewer sample points, its predictive ability was compared with the ordinary kriging (OK) and inverse distance weighting (IDW) methods under increasingly sparse data conditions. This research used a Takagi–Sugeno (TS) fuzzy modelling approach with fuzzy c-means (FCM) clustering to make spatial predictions of the lead concentrations in soil. The performance of the TS model was very dependent on the number of outliers in the respective validation set. For modeling under sparse data conditions, the TS fuzzy modeling approach using FCM clustering and constant width Gaussian shaped membership functions did not show any advantages over IDW and OK for the type of data tested. Therefore, it was not possible to speculate on a possible reduction in sampling frequency for delineating the extent of contamination for new remediation projects. Full article
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Article
Phytotoxicity of Tires Evaluated in Simulated Conditions
Environments 2021, 8(6), 49; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments8060049 - 27 May 2021
Viewed by 558
Abstract
Illegal dumps and landfills with disposed of tires are a fact of today, which should not be neglected as they represent a great ecological burden for the environment, affect the surrounding nature and disturb the landscape. This research was focused on testing the [...] Read more.
Illegal dumps and landfills with disposed of tires are a fact of today, which should not be neglected as they represent a great ecological burden for the environment, affect the surrounding nature and disturb the landscape. This research was focused on testing the phytotoxicity of aqueous leachates from the fractions of tires in two sets of experiments—to simulate laboratory conditions (tire leaching in distilled water) and natural conditions (tire leaching in water from a recipient) using the Phytotoxkit testing kit (kit for the establishment of inhibition/stimulation effect on the root development) and the watercress test of phytotoxicity (biological method for the assessment of leachate phytotoxicity). Plants whose seeds were selected for the test were watercress (Lepidium sativum L.) and white mustard (Sinapis alba L.). The aqueous leachate was tested for 38 weeks. During the experiment, physical and chemical parameters were measured at intervals of 14 days by the testing instrument HACH TEST KIT: electric conductivity (EC), amount of dissolved oxygen (LDO) and pH. Results of root growth inhibition (IR) on the seeds of Lepidium sativum L. and Sinapis alba L. exhibited values ranging from 11.73% to 47.74% in the tested samples. Results of germination index (GI) on the seeds of Lepidium sativum L. exhibited values below 66% in the tested samples, which indicated the leachate phytotoxicity. In spite of the fact that similar studies are tackling the acute toxicity of leachates from tires (particularly to algae, embryos and animals), this research brings complementary information in testing the acute phytotoxicity of tire leachates to higher plants. Full article
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Article
An Integrated Multi-Approach to Environmental Monitoring of a Self-Burning Coal Waste Pile: The São Pedro da Cova Mine (Porto, Portugal) Study Case
Environments 2021, 8(6), 48; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments8060048 - 25 May 2021
Viewed by 1055
Abstract
The São Pedro da Cova waste pile (Porto, Portugal) is composed of coal mining residues that have been self-burning since 2005 and is located close to an inhabited area and social infrastructures, further adding to effects on the environment and human health. Therefore, [...] Read more.
The São Pedro da Cova waste pile (Porto, Portugal) is composed of coal mining residues that have been self-burning since 2005 and is located close to an inhabited area and social infrastructures, further adding to effects on the environment and human health. Therefore, there is a great interest in the environmental monitoring of this waste pile. This work describes an integrative multi-approach that allows the environmental monitoring of several parameters of the waste pile, applying several technologies. The temperature measurements were obtained by a thermal infrared (TIR) sensor on board an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and supplemented with field measurements. In order to evaluate the altimetric variations, for each flight, a digital elevation model (DEM) was generated considering a multispectral sensor also on board the UAV. The hydrogeochemical characterization was performed through the analysis of groundwater and surface water samples, with and without the influence of mine drainage. The soil monitoring included the analysis of waste material as well as the surface soil in the surrounding area of the waste pile. All the data were analyzed and integrated in a geographical information system (GIS) open-source application. The adopted multi-approach methodology, given its intrinsic interdisciplinary character, has proven to be an effective way of encompassing the complexity of this type of environmental problem. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Monitoring Networks)
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Article
Material Properties and Environmental Benefits of Hot-Mix Asphalt Mixes Including Local Crumb Rubber Obtained from Scrap Tires
Environments 2021, 8(6), 47; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments8060047 - 22 May 2021
Viewed by 700
Abstract
This paper presents the results of a laboratory-based experimental investigation on the properties of asphalt binder and hot-mix asphalt (HMA) mixes modified by locally available crumb rubber, which was used as a partial replacement of asphalt by weight. In this study, fine crumb [...] Read more.
This paper presents the results of a laboratory-based experimental investigation on the properties of asphalt binder and hot-mix asphalt (HMA) mixes modified by locally available crumb rubber, which was used as a partial replacement of asphalt by weight. In this study, fine crumb rubber with a particle size in the range of 0.3–0.6 mm, obtained from scrap tires, was added to the asphalt binder through the wet process. Crumb rubber contents of 5%, 10%, 15%, and 19% by weight of asphalt were added to the virgin binder in order to prepare the modified asphalt binder samples, while the unmodified asphalt binder was used as the control sample. The crumb rubber modified binder samples were examined for measuring viscosity indirectly using the penetration test, and temperature resistance using the softening point test. Later, both the modified and unmodified asphalt binders were used to produce HMA mixes. Two categories of HMA mix commonly used in Malaysia—namely, AC 14 (dense-graded) and SMA 14 (gap-graded)—were produced using the modified asphalt binders containing 5%, 10%, 15%, and 19% crumb rubber. Two AC 14 and SMA 14 control mixes were also produced, incorporating the unmodified asphalt binder (0% crumb rubber). All of the AC 14 and SMA 14 asphalt mixes were examined in order to determine their volumetric properties, such as bulk density, voids in total mix (VTM), voids in mineral aggregate (VMA), and voids filled with asphalt (VFA). In addition, the Marshall stability, Marshall flow, and stiffness of all of the AC 14 and SMA 14 mixes were determined. Test results indicated that the modified asphalt binders possessed higher viscosity and temperature resistance than the unmodified asphalt binder. The viscosity and temperature resistance of the asphalt binders increased with the increase in their crumb rubber content. The increased crumb rubber content also led to improvements in the volumetric properties (bulk density, VTM, VMA, and VFA) of the AC 14 and SMA 14 mixes. In addition, the performance characteristics of the AC 14 and SMA 14 mixes—such as Marshall stability, Marshall flow, and stiffness—increased with the increase in crumb rubber content. However, the AC 14 mixes performed much better than the SMA 14 mixes. The overall research findings suggest that crumb rubber can be used to produce durable and sustainable HMA mixes, with manifold environmental benefits, for use in flexible pavements carrying the heavy traffic load of highways. Full article
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