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Oceans and Freshwater

Sea cucumbers are being eaten to death

Two Moroccan divers stood on the rocks an hour before sunrise facing the gray Atlantic. Their wet suits were torn and patched, their flippers held together with tape. Unable to afford proper diving belts, the men wore thick bands of rubber strung with lead weights. Each carried a large black …

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This mine threatens America’s largest wild salmon run

July 4 marks the peak of the largest, most valuable wild salmon run left in America. The sockeye salmon migration into Bristol Bay, Alaska, can exceed 40 million fish. As they charge into the Kvichak and Nushagak rivers and fan out across myriad tributaries, the sockeye and four other species …

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The end of the ‘panda of the sea’

There is a word, sad and resonant, for the last member of a dying species. The word is endling. Martha, who perished at the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914, was the endling for the passenger pigeon — the final representative of a bird once so prolific its flocks blackened the sky. …

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Drinking problems: A Kansas farm town confronts a tap-water crisis

Elizabeth Royte, a contributing editor at FERN, writes about the long history of nitrate contamination in the water of Pretty Prairie, Kansas, a farming community just west of Wichita, in the latest issue of Harper’s Magazine. One of the things she explores is why residents didn’t demand that the town fix …

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A slow-motion catastrophe threatens 350-year-old farms

On the lower eastern shore of Maryland, the stately Almodington plantation overlooks the Manokin River as it drains into the Chesapeake Bay. First surveyed in 1663, the expansive farm sits a few miles from Princess Anne, a town named for the daughter of King George II. For 350 years, this …

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The simple river-cleaning tactics that big farms ignore

Ione Cleverley wasn’t eager to break up with her tenant, who had been farming 88 acres of her central Iowa land for more than a decade. He was affable and hardworking, but after harvesting his corn and soybeans, the farmer left her fields unplanted. Cleverley had learned that each spring, …

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