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Environments, Volume 9, Issue 5 (May 2022) – 11 articles

Cover Story (view full-size image): BC (biochar) can be modified by metal ions, alkali, oxidizing agents, acid, steam, gas purging, and carbonaceous materials. The selection of modification methods depends on the application fields. BC engineering allows achieving the required BC properties that are optimized for specific purposes. BC modification leads to harnessing the favorable features of BC to enhance its efficiency. The chemical and physical properties of modified BCs greatly depend on the type of modification reagents. Modified BC is also used to improve soil quality and performance for better plant growth and productivity. Soil amendment with modified BC enhances the nutrient uptake, soil organic matter, hydraulic conductivity, and microbial activities, all of which reduces dependency on chemical fertilizers. View this paper
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Article
Creation of Value Chains for the Sustainability of Control and Eradication Actions on Ailanthus altissima (Mill.) Swingle
Environments 2022, 9(5), 64; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments9050064 - 23 May 2022
Viewed by 557
Abstract
Actions to control and eradicate Ailanthus altissima (Mill.) Swingle are essential to the prevention of uncontrolled growth and expansion of this species and its competition with native species. This competition leads to biodiversity and productivity losses in forests. The present study evaluated the [...] Read more.
Actions to control and eradicate Ailanthus altissima (Mill.) Swingle are essential to the prevention of uncontrolled growth and expansion of this species and its competition with native species. This competition leads to biodiversity and productivity losses in forests. The present study evaluated the potential to create value chains to maintain the sustainability of control actions through the energy recovery of collected A. altissima biomass. Other possibilities were also discussed, such as the extraction of allelopathic compounds. For this purpose, and to assess the potential for energy recovery, samples of A. altissima were collected and analyzed in the laboratory to discuss the potential of using extracted compounds in nature-based applications, and a literature review was carried out. It was found that, although there is potential for the use of these biomasses for energy production, the high levels of chlorine and heavy metals pose some obstacles to their large-scale use, mainly due to their corrosive potential. On the other hand, the extraction of allelopathic compounds was shown to be potentially interesting for use in the control of other invasive species. Used in this application, it may be possible to create value chains to sustain, control, and eradicate the actions of this invasive species. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Feature Papers in Environments in 2021)
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Article
Commercial Red Food Dyes Preparations Modulate the Oxidative State in Three Model Organisms (Cucumis sativus, Artemia salina, and Danio rerio)
Environments 2022, 9(5), 63; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments9050063 - 21 May 2022
Viewed by 649
Abstract
The growing environmental spreading of food synthetic dyes and bio-colors have the potential for altering organisms’ redox states. Here, three model species for aquatic pollution trials, Cucumis sativus seeds, Artemia salina cysts, and Danio rerio embryos, were short-term exposed to a fixed concentration [...] Read more.
The growing environmental spreading of food synthetic dyes and bio-colors have the potential for altering organisms’ redox states. Here, three model species for aquatic pollution trials, Cucumis sativus seeds, Artemia salina cysts, and Danio rerio embryos, were short-term exposed to a fixed concentration of the artificial red E124, and two red bio-colors, cochineal E120, and vegan red (VEGR). In the animal models, we evaluated the total reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the susceptibility to in vitro oxidative stress, and in C. sativus, H2O2 production and antioxidant capacity. We also measured organismal performance indices (routine oxygen consumption in the animal models, dark oxygen consumption, and photosynthetic efficiency in C. sativus). In C. sativus, only E124 increased ROS and affected dark oxygen consumption and photosynthetic efficiency, while all dyes enhanced the antioxidant defenses. In the A. salina nauplii, all dyes increased ROS, while E120 and E124 reduced the susceptibility to oxidative stress. In D. rerio, treatments did not affect ROS content, and reduced oxidative stress susceptibility. Our data show that red food dyes affect the redox state of the developing organisms, in which ROS plays a significant role. We suggest a potentially toxic role for red food dyes with environmentally relevant consequences. Full article
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Article
Assessment of the Role of Nearshore Marine Ecosystems to Mitigate Beach Erosion: The Case of Negril (Jamaica)
Environments 2022, 9(5), 62; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments9050062 - 16 May 2022
Viewed by 707
Abstract
Coastal and marine ecosystems are supplying a wide range of services. With accelerated Sea Level Rise, intensification of waves and storm surge severity and increasing anthropogenic pressures, these areas are under multiple threats and society may not receive the same level of ecosystems [...] Read more.
Coastal and marine ecosystems are supplying a wide range of services. With accelerated Sea Level Rise, intensification of waves and storm surge severity and increasing anthropogenic pressures, these areas are under multiple threats and society may not receive the same level of ecosystems services. This study aims at measuring the trend of beach erosion and at identifying and quantifying the role of some coastal and marine ecosystems in mitigating beach erosion in the region of Negril (Jamaica). In this location, the tourism industry provides the main source of economic revenue. Even at the national level, the two beaches are important assets linked with 5% of the national revenue as 25% of the hotel rooms are located around Negril. In Jamaica, the tourism industry is a significant component of national GDP. 25% of hotel rooms are located around the two beaches of Negril, which have lost an average of 23.4 m of width since 1968. Given the importance of Negril’s beaches to their economy, the Government of Jamaica asked UNEP to conduct a study to identify causes of beach erosion in Negril and potential solutions to address trends of beach erosion, in the context of future sea level rise scenarios induced by climate change. This paper addresses the current beach erosion status and future trends under different climate scenarios. We explain how, by using remote sensing, GIS, wave modelling and multiple regressions analysis associated with national, local and community consultations, we were able to identify and quantify the role of ecosystems for mitigating beach erosion. We show that larger widths of coral and seagrass meadows reduce beach erosion. Full article
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Article
Enhanced As, Pb and Zn Uptake by Helianthus annuus from a Heavily Contaminated Mining Soil Amended with EDTA and Olive Mill Wastewater Due to Increased Element Mobilization, as Verified by Sequential Extraction Schemes
Environments 2022, 9(5), 61; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments9050061 - 16 May 2022
Viewed by 737
Abstract
Soils close to former mines or metallurgical facilities often contain extreme concentrations of potentially toxic elements (PTEs), and among soil remediation actions needed, enhanced phytoextraction techniques using chelating agents could be a very promising option. In this context, a pot experiment was conducted [...] Read more.
Soils close to former mines or metallurgical facilities often contain extreme concentrations of potentially toxic elements (PTEs), and among soil remediation actions needed, enhanced phytoextraction techniques using chelating agents could be a very promising option. In this context, a pot experiment was conducted to evaluate the effect of Na2-EDTA, olive mill wastewater (OMW), and their combination (EDTA + OMW) on As, Pb and Zn uptake by Helianthus annuus (sunflower), grown in a heavily contaminated soil from Lavrio, Greece. After harvest, aboveground and belowground biomass and the concentrations of As, Pb and Zn were determined. Additionally, composite soil samples of all treatments were subjected to appropriate sequential extraction procedures for each PTE. Results showed that although nonstatistically significant effects on plant growth and As concentration were observed, Pb and Zn plant concentrations increased by the EDTA addition, alone or combined with OMW. When the total bioavailability parameter was assessed, EDTA treatment was also found to significantly enhance As uptake (50% increase, p ≤ 0.05). These results were further supported by the respective sequential extraction schemes in which both Pb and As showed increased concentration in the corresponding more soluble soil fractions, probably as an outcome of partial Fe–Mn amorphous oxide dissolution. Our study thus suggests that the applied treatments of EDTA, OMW or their combined application could play a key role as reductive agents in enhancing the mobility of these PTEs in the soil environment, triggering their increased uptake by H. annuus. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Remediation)
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Review
Modified Biochars and Their Effects on Soil Quality: A Review
Environments 2022, 9(5), 60; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments9050060 - 15 May 2022
Viewed by 734
Abstract
Biochar (BC) has attracted attention due to its impacts on soil quality by enhancing soil fertility, carbon storage and contaminants immobilization. BC also induces changes in microbial community structure and enhances crop productivity in long term scenarios compared to many other organic amendments. [...] Read more.
Biochar (BC) has attracted attention due to its impacts on soil quality by enhancing soil fertility, carbon storage and contaminants immobilization. BC also induces changes in microbial community structure and enhances crop productivity in long term scenarios compared to many other organic amendments. However, information related to the role of modified BCs in altering the soil quality is still scarce. BC can be modified by using physical, chemical and microbial methods. Modified BC can change the functional groups, pore size, pore structure, surface area and chemical properties of soil, which plays a key role in changing the soil quality. The addition of modified BCs as soil amendment increased soil CEC (cation exchange capacity), EC (electron conductivity), pH, organic matter, hydraulic conductivity, soil porosity, infiltration rate, microbial activities (enzymes and community), nutrient profile and gas exchange properties, but it varies according to the soil structure and pervading environmental conditions. This study provides a basis for effective practical approaches to modifying BCs for improving soil quality. Full article
(This article belongs to the Topic Sustainable Environmental Technologies)
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Article
Comparative Assessment of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Pig Farming Using Tier Inventories
Environments 2022, 9(5), 59; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments9050059 - 13 May 2022
Viewed by 677
Abstract
Although pig meat accounts for nearly half of total meat production in Europe, less attention has been focused on the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of pig farming. The aim of this study was to assess and compare the impact of pig livestock on [...] Read more.
Although pig meat accounts for nearly half of total meat production in Europe, less attention has been focused on the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of pig farming. The aim of this study was to assess and compare the impact of pig livestock on GHG emissions during the period 2015–2020 in major European countries, including Greece, using different computational approaches (Tier 1, Tier 2, Gleam-i software v. 2.0 developed by FAO, Rome, Italy). A semi-extensive pig farm was also used as a small-scale scenario. The ranking of the countries related to GHG emissions was not affected by the applied methodology. Spain had the highest emissions due to the higher number of farming animals. The noted numeric differences in the estimations can be attributed to the elaborated and different equational approach that Tier 2 methodology and Gleam-i followed, considering many livestock parameters. Additionally, the semi-extensive farm had lower emissions/fewer animal compared to the average intensive pig farm in the Greek territory. The Tier 1 approach revealed that breeding animals produces more to the emissions, contrary to Tier 2, which showed that fattening pigs is responsible for the majority of GHG emissions. Therefore, specific animal categories could be targeted (i.e., fattening gilts) in a more specialized manner apart from general strategies (i.e., animal improvement). Full article
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Article
COMSOL Modeling of Heat Transfer in SVE Process
Environments 2022, 9(5), 58; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments9050058 - 11 May 2022
Viewed by 648
Abstract
Non aqueous phase liquid (NAPL) pollution exists in porous media such as soil. SVE technology can be used to remove this pollution in soil. However, few domestic and international studies have paid attention to the changes of soil temperature in the field, which [...] Read more.
Non aqueous phase liquid (NAPL) pollution exists in porous media such as soil. SVE technology can be used to remove this pollution in soil. However, few domestic and international studies have paid attention to the changes of soil temperature in the field, which we believe can be useful information to optimize the layout of heating wells. In this research we established partial differential equations of soil heat transfer using the COMSOL multi-field coupling tool to simulate the field distribution of the change in soil internal temperature in the process of SVE to obtain the change of effective heating area with time under certain initial heating conditions. At the same time, we used liquid ethylbenzene to represent NAPL pollutants, and designed a simulation of soil temperature field distribution under the movement of liquid ethylbenzene under external pressure. It was found that under the action of Darcy’s velocity field, the utilization efficiency of the SVE system for the heat source was significantly improved, that is, the temperature distribution of the soil was more uniform. However, the temperature of the heated area increased slowly because the extraction well took away the heat energy. The heat source power should be increased or prolonged to improve the effect of Darcy’s field. Through a coupled simulation, we obtained a variation relationship of the soil temperature field in 1800 min under the action of one extraction well and four heating wells. These data will provide the basis for our next step in designing an algorithm to optimize the distribution of heating wells. Full article
(This article belongs to the Topic Organic Pollution in Soil and Groundwater)
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Article
Polylactide as a Substitute for Conventional Polymers—Biopolymer Processing under Varying Extrusion Conditions
Environments 2022, 9(5), 57; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments9050057 - 07 May 2022
Viewed by 741
Abstract
The polymer processing industry is paying more attention to biodegradable materials synthesized from renewable sources. One of the most popular of them is polylactide (PLA). Except the material from which a given product is made, particularly important is the process of manufacturing a [...] Read more.
The polymer processing industry is paying more attention to biodegradable materials synthesized from renewable sources. One of the most popular of them is polylactide (PLA). Except the material from which a given product is made, particularly important is the process of manufacturing a polymer material, processing, use by the consumer, and finally, recycling it. Neither of these steps is indifferent to the environment. The processing of polymers can often lead to material degradation, which affects the properties of the material and leads to the generation of substantial amounts of post-production waste that cannot be reused by processors. The aim of this work is to evaluate selected properties of PLA subjected to the extrusion process under variable extrusion conditions. This is important due to the large losses of material and energy resulting from the extrusion of biodegradable polymers under poorly selected processing conditions, which, apart from the economic effects, has a negative impact on the environment. The research proved that both the temperature and the structure of the plasticizing system as well as the rotational speed of the screws affect the mechanical properties of the final product. For PLA optimization, this process will directly contribute to the improvement of the PLA processing process, and indirectly help to act for the benefit of the environment by reducing the consumption of energy, raw materials, and the amount of post-production waste. The obtained results allowed for the selection of appropriate parameters depending on the expectations regarding the properties of the final product. The conducted research will help to optimize processing processes and reduce the consumption of raw materials, which in the future will also affect the environment. Full article
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Article
Riboflavin as a Biodegradable Functional Additive for Thermoplastic Polymers
Environments 2022, 9(5), 56; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments9050056 - 01 May 2022
Viewed by 807
Abstract
With continuous development of biodegradable polymers, new areas of applications are intensively researched. Modifications of these polymers are commonly conducted by an extrusion compounding process. While additives are changing desired properties, biodegradability of such composites can be deteriorated. The aim of the work [...] Read more.
With continuous development of biodegradable polymers, new areas of applications are intensively researched. Modifications of these polymers are commonly conducted by an extrusion compounding process. While additives are changing desired properties, biodegradability of such composites can be deteriorated. The aim of the work is to investigate a novel, functional, organic additive, riboflavin (vitamin B-2), in terms of thermal stability, extrusion processability, wettability, surface energy, especially biodegradability, and when compounded with PLA. Additionally, a comparison of unmodified PLA resin, as well as PLA-modified with inorganic talc—which is known for its nucleation promotion in a variety of polymers—to PLA with riboflavin, was presented. Research reveals the outstanding thermal stability of riboflavin and the sufficient extrusion process properties with no significant changes of wettability and, surprisingly, a significant degradation rate as compared to pure PLA or and PLA with talc. The obtained results do not exclude further modifications of PLA depending on the target application, e.g., antimicrobial agents, flame retardants, etc. Full article
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Communication
Simplified Method for the Determination of Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen in Wastewater
Environments 2022, 9(5), 55; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments9050055 - 28 Apr 2022
Viewed by 1040
Abstract
The increase in total Kjeldahl nitrogen (TKN) concentrations is correlated with increases in cyanobacterial bloom biomass. Standard methods for the measurement of TKN are tedious, costly, time-consuming and involve the use of hazardous catalysts, such as mercury, high temperatures and significant amounts of [...] Read more.
The increase in total Kjeldahl nitrogen (TKN) concentrations is correlated with increases in cyanobacterial bloom biomass. Standard methods for the measurement of TKN are tedious, costly, time-consuming and involve the use of hazardous catalysts, such as mercury, high temperatures and significant amounts of toxic acids and bases. Since TKN plays a pivotal role in influencing algal blooms, there is an urgent need to develop simpler, safer and more accurate methods for the determination of TKN. The simplified TKN method (s-TKN™) developed by Hach® offers several advantages over the traditional TKN method, including eliminating the use of mercury, requiring low sample and reagent volumes and being cost-efficient and user-friendly. This communication presents preliminary results comparing the efficacy of s-TKN™ and the standard method, using commonly used primary standards and waste, estuarine and lake water matrices. For all primary standards analyzed, the s-TKN™ method exhibited good accuracy across a wide range of concentrations. The repeatability for the glycine–para-toluene sulfonic acid (Gly-PTSA) standard using the s-TKN™ method was 4.1% at the highest concentrations analyzed, with overall repeatability across concentrations comparable to the standard EPA method. For wastewater, estuarine and lake matrices, a good correlation (r2 = 0.9917) between the two methods and no statistical difference in the values (p > 0.05) were obtained between two methods. Preliminary studies indicate that the s-TKN™ method has the potential to reduce the expenditure associated with the cost of analysis and has the potential to be a safer and cheaper alternative, while providing comparable analytical results to the standard method. Full article
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Article
Radiation Protection at the Large Hadron Collider: Problematics, Challenges and Advanced Monte Carlo Simulation Techniques
Environments 2022, 9(5), 54; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments9050054 - 25 Apr 2022
Viewed by 822
Abstract
This paper provides an overview of the problems, challenges, and the advanced simulation techniques used to study and plan complex interventions in radiation areas at CERNs Large Hadron Collider and its future upgrade to the High-Luminosity Large Hadron Collider. The operational radiation protection [...] Read more.
This paper provides an overview of the problems, challenges, and the advanced simulation techniques used to study and plan complex interventions in radiation areas at CERNs Large Hadron Collider and its future upgrade to the High-Luminosity Large Hadron Collider. The operational radiation protection aspects are supported by state of the art simulations by means of the FLUKA Monte Carlo code and estimates conducted via other tools such as ActiWiz and SESAME, used within the HSE-RP group. Full article
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