Posts tagged as: eco

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

 

Record sea ice loss opens Northwest Passage

‘Sea ice in the Arctic has sunk to its lowest level since satellite record-keeping began, fully opening the most direct route through the Northwest Passage, the European Space Agency said Friday.

The much-coveted shortcut connecting Asia to Europe through the Canadian Arctic has been historically impassable.

The European Space Agency says sea ice continues to melt year after year, but a drastic drop this year has made the direct route “fully navigable” for the first time since satellite records began in 1978.

“We have seen the ice-covered area drop to just around three million square kilometres,” said Leif Toudal Pederson from the Danish National Space Center.

Over the past decade, he says, a drop of about 100,000 square kilometres per year is the average.

“So a drop of one million square kilometres in just one year is extreme,” said Toudal.’


Sunday, September 2, 2007

 

Wild Vervet Monkeys Wreak Havoc in Kenya

‘If you live in the small village of Nachu in Kenya, watch out, because a group of approximately 300 marauding monkeys is out to steal your food, sexually harass your women and attack and kill your livestock! In a truly amazing incidence of interspecies communication, a group of vervet monkeys, Chlorocebus pygerythrus, is using sexual harassment to intimidate women and children, who are responsible for growing maize, potatoes, beans and other crops for their farming community, causing them to lose their main food supply so they now are dependent upon famine relief to survive.

The monkeys are more afraid of young men than women and children, with the bolder individuals throwing stones and chasing the women from their farms. In an attempt to scare the monkeys away, the women are now wearing their husband’s clothing, but the wily monkeys are not fooled.’


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Friday, August 31, 2007

 

The World Without Us

‘Without us on the earth, what traces of us would linger? What would disappear?’


Sunday, August 19, 2007

 

Pollution Causes 40 Percent Of Deaths Worldwide, Study Finds

‘About 40 percent of deaths worldwide are caused by water, air and soil pollution, concludes a Cornell researcher. Such environmental degradation, coupled with the growth in world population, are major causes behind the rapid increase in human diseases, which the World Health Organization has recently reported. Both factors contribute to the malnourishment and disease susceptibility of 3.7 billion people, he says. [..]

“We have serious environmental resource problems of water, land and energy, and these are now coming to bear on food production, malnutrition and the incidence of diseases,” said Pimentel.’


Thursday, August 16, 2007

 

Chernobyl ‘not a wildlife haven’

‘The idea that the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant has created a wildlife haven is not scientifically justified, a study says.

Recent studies said rare species had thrived despite raised radiation levels as a result of no human activity.

But scientists who assessed the 1986 disaster’s impact on birds said the ecological effects were “considerably greater than previously assumed”. [..]

The study, which recorded 1,570 birds from 57 species, found that the number of birds in the most contaminated areas declined by 66% compared with sites that had normal background radiation levels.’


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California Squirrels Heat Tails for Defense

‘California ground squirrels have learned to intimidate rattlesnakes by heating their tails and shaking them aggressively.

Because the snakes, which are ambush hunters, can sense infrared radiation from heat, the warming makes the tails more conspicuous to them _ signaling that they have been discovered and that the squirrels may come and harass them, explained Aaron Rundus, lead author of a study in this week’s online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The tail “flagging” places the snakes on the defensive, he said.

Adult squirrels are not the snakes’ prey, Rundus said in a telephone interview. The adults have a protein in their blood that allows them to survive the snake venom, and they have been known to attack and injure snakes, biting and kicking gravel at them.’


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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

 

Swedish grandmother hospitalised after beaver attack

‘A grandmother taking a leisurely swim in a Swedish river ended up in the hospital after a beaver attacked her with its tail, regional newspaper Nerikes Allehanda reported Wednesday.

Police sources said it was the second time a beaver had attacked humans at the beach on the banks of the Bottenaa River, around 150 kilometres (93 miles) west of Stockholm, the newspaper reported.

“The beaver attacked the grandmother. She was seriously hit by the animal’s tail and received a number of bites and scratches,” an officer told the newspaper.

The authorities have decided to kill the dozen or so beavers living near the beach to eliminate any further risk to local bathers.’


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Sunday, August 12, 2007

 

World Clock

All sorts of stats about the world population.


Are the Bees Dying off Because They’re Too Busy?

‘All across America, a mysterious disease is wiping out bee colonies. This malady causes all the bees in a hive to seemingly vanish overnight, abandoning their brood in the nursery, as well as their stores of honey and pollen. Other bees and pests, which normally plunder deserted honey, shun these hives. This baffling die-off dealt a financial blow to commercial beekeepers this season and raised fears of environmental and economic disaster. For farmers, no bees means no pollination.

But pollination is happening like mad in Leah Fortin’s tiny yard in North Oakland, Calif. Busy little bee bodies cover the clumps of lavender, salvia and roses that line her driveway. More bees work the malaleucas on the parking strip, those trees with shaggy bark that look like giant Q-tips when they’re in bloom.’


Saturday, August 11, 2007

 

Blogger Finds Y2K Bug in NASA Climate Data

‘My earlier column this week detailed the work of a volunteer team to assess problems with US temperature data used for climate modeling. One of these people is Steve McIntyre, who operates the site climateaudit.org. While inspecting historical temperature graphs, he noticed a strange discontinuity, or “jump” in many locations, all occurring around the time of January, 2000.

These graphs were created by NASA’s Reto Ruedy and James Hansen (who shot to fame when he accused the administration of trying to censor his views on climate change). Hansen refused to provide McKintyre with the algorithm used to generate graph data, so McKintyre reverse-engineered it. The result appeared to be a Y2K bug in the handling of the raw data. [..]

The effect of the correction on global temperatures is minor (some 1-2% less warming than originally thought), but the effect on the U.S. global warming propaganda machine could be huge.’


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Rare river dolphin ‘now extinct’

‘A freshwater dolphin found only in China is now “likely to be extinct”, a team of scientists has concluded.

The researchers failed to spot any Yangtze river dolphins, also known as baijis, during an extensive six-week survey of the mammals’ habitat.

The team, writing in Biology Letters journal, blamed unregulated fishing as the main reason behind their demise.

If confirmed, it would be the first extinction of a large vertebrate for over 50 years.’


international

Thursday, August 9, 2007

 

Raiders of the Lost Lake

‘In the early 1990s, a Russian drilling rig encountered something peculiar two miles beneath the coldest and most desolate place on Earth. For decades, the workers at Vostok Research Station in Antarctica had been extracting core samples from deep scientific boreholes, and analyzing the lasagna-like layers of ice to study Earth’s bygone climate. But after tunneling through 414,000 layers or so– about two miles into the icecap– the layers abruptly ended. The ice below that depth was relatively clear and featureless, a deviation the scientists were at a loss to explain. In search of answers, the men drilled on.

Unbeknownst to the Russians, their drill had mingled with the uppermost reaches of one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world; a pristine pocket of liquid whose ecosystem was separated from the rest of the Earth millions of years ago. As for what sort of organisms might lurk in that exotic environment today, no one can really be certain.’


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Sunday, July 29, 2007

 

Climate Engineering Is Doable, as Long as We Never Stop

‘New research indicates that hacking the atmosphere — pumping microscopic particles into the stratosphere or clouds to block sunlight and offset global warming caused by greenhouse gases — is imminently possible. The problem is we could never, ever stop doing it.

Climate scientists Damon Matthews of Concordia University and Ken Caldeira of Stanford ran the numbers on atmospheric geo-engineering through a climate simulation and found that while cranking out carbon dioxide at business-as-usual rates we can geo-engineer our way back toward pre-industrial temperatures in short order, reaching 1900 levels in about five years. Not only that, it would be fairly cheap and easy to do.

Pumping 20 to 25 liters of aerosols per second to keep enough particles in the stratosphere would cool temperatures, causing the planet’s carbon sinks to suck more carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

“That kind of flow rate can be handled by a single fire hose,” said Caldeira. “For something like $100 million a year you could probably keep a hose in the stratosphere suspended by an array of balloons with pumps along the way.”

The problem is what happens if we stop short or screw it up.’


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

 

24 Bizarre Creatures of the Deep

‘The sea contains untold numbers of strange and bizarre creatures. It is said that we know more about our own solar system than we know about our oceans.

Indeed, some creatures of the sea can seem more alien than anything you can imagine.

But even worse, some of them can seem more frightening than your worst nightmare.

Below we have collected pictures of 24 CREATURES FROM THE DEEP!’


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Monday, July 23, 2007

 

China’s Massive Dam Changing Weather

‘Two years before its completion, the world’s largest dam is already changing the local weather, say scientists studying the Three Gorges Dam on China’s Yangtze River. Both modeling and actual meteorological data suggest that the reservoir is cooling its valley, which is causing changes in rainfall. [..]

Among the surprise weather changes has been the increase in rainfall between the Daba and Oinling mountains, said Wu.

The rains come from a “lake effect” intensification of precipitation, like that seen around the Great Lakes of North America. The lake effect happens when already moist air picks up more moisture as it crosses over a warm body of water, then rains or snows it out quickly upon reaching the shore.’


Sunday, July 22, 2007

 

Asian parasite killing Western bees

‘A parasite common in Asian bees has spread to Europe and the Americas and is behind the mass disappearance of honeybees in many countries, says a Spanish scientist who has been studying the phenomenon for years.

The culprit is a microscopic parasite called nosema ceranae said Mariano Higes, who leads a team of researchers at a government-funded apiculture centre in Guadalajara, the province east of Madrid that is the heartland of Spain’s honey industry.

He and his colleagues have analyzed thousands of samples from stricken hives in many countries.’

Followup to Mystery of the dying bees.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

 

Spiders invade Gippsland

‘The Gippsland floods in Victoria’s south-east have triggered an explosion in the the birth rate – of the spider population.

Local residents have reported an unusually high number of spiders taking up residence in their homes.

Senior curator of spiders at Queensland Museum, Robert Raven, said the recent heavy drought-breaking rains had led to abnormally high spider hatchings.

“They have been hanging around waiting for this change in moisture level because things have been dry,” Mr Raven told Southern Cross Broadcasting.’


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Sunday, July 15, 2007

 

Ice Tsunami In Antarctica

That’s just cool.


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Found: the giant lion-eating chimps of the magic forest

‘Deep in the Congolese jungle is a band of apes that, according to local legend, kill lions, catch fish and even howl at the moon. Local hunters speak of massive creatures that seem to be some sort of hybrid between a chimp and a gorilla.

Their location at the centre of one of the bloodiest conflicts on the planet, the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has meant that the mystery apes have been little studied by western scientists. Reaching the region means negotiating the shifting fortunes of warring rebel factions, and the heart of the animals’ range is deep in impenetrable forest.

But despite the difficulties, a handful of scientists have succeeded in studying the animals. Early speculation that the apes may be some yeti-like new species or a chimp/gorilla hybrid proved unfounded, but the truth has turned out to be in many ways even more fascinating. They are actually a population of super-sized chimps with a unique culture – and it seems, a taste for big cat flesh.’


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Saturday, July 14, 2007

 

Curious creature caught off Keahole Point

‘It’s a squid, it’s an octopus, it’s … a mystery from the deep.

What appears to be a half-squid, half-octopus specimen found off Keahole Point on the Big Island remains unidentified today and could possibly be a new species, said local biologists.

The specimen was found caught in a filter in one of Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority’s deep-sea water pipelines last week. The pipeline, which runs 3,000 feet deep, sucks up cold, deep-sea water for the tenants of the natural energy lab.

“When we first saw it, I was really delighted because it was new and alive,” said Jan War, operations manager at NELHA. “I’ve never seen anything like that.”‘


Friday, July 13, 2007

 

Butterfly shows evolution at work

‘Scientists say they have seen one of the fastest evolutionary changes ever observed in a species of butterfly.

The tropical Blue Moon butterfly has developed a way of fighting back against parasitic bacteria.

Six years ago, males accounted for just 1% of the Blue Moon population on two islands in the South Pacific.

But by last year, the butterflies had developed a gene to keep the bacteria in check and male numbers were up to about 40% of the population.’


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

 

2 billion Chinese mice overrun lake area

‘People living in communities surrounding a large shallow lake have been overrun by field mice after floodwaters drove the rodents out of islands on the lake, state media reported Monday.

The mouse invasion began on June 23 when the Yangtze River flooded, raising the water level in central China’s Dongting Lake and submerging mouse holes on lake islands, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

Now, an estimated 2 billion mice are ravaging crops in 22 counties around the lake, and authorities were rushing to construct walls and ditches to keep the rodents out. Residents have killed more than 2.3 million field mice — or 90 tons of the rodents, Xinhua said.’


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Monday, July 9, 2007

 

World’s biggest solar farm planned in California

‘A San Francisco company said Friday it plans to build the world’s largest solar power farm near Fresno, California.

The 80-megawatt farm is to occupy as much as 640 acres (260 hectares) and upon completion in 2011 will be 17 times the size of the largest U.S. solar farm, said Cleantech America LLC, a privately held 2-year-old company.

The farm will also be about seven times the size of the world’s biggest plant and double the largest planned farm, both in Germany.

Bill Barnes, CEO of Cleantech, said the scale of the Kings River Conservation District Community Choice Solar Farm will change renewable energy and make California the global leader for huge solar projects and replace Germany as the solar energy hub of the world.’


international

Thursday, July 5, 2007

 

Water Vortex Drives Power Plant

‘In a fairly radical departure from the principles that normally govern hydroelectric power generation, Austrian engineer Franz Zotlöterer has constructed a low-head power plant that makes use of the kinetic energy inherent in an artificially induced vortex. The water’s vortex energy is collected by a slow moving, large-surface water wheel, making the power station transparent to fish – there are no large pressure differences built up, as happens in normal turbines.’


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Wednesday, July 4, 2007

 

Floods are judgment on society, say bishops

‘The floods that have devastated swathes of the country are God’s judgment on the immorality and greed of modern society, according to senior Church of England bishops.

One diocesan bishop has even claimed that laws that have undermined marriage, including the introduction of pro-gay legislation, have provoked God to act by sending the storms that have left thousands of people homeless.

While those who have been affected by the storms are innocent victims, the bishops argue controversially that the flooding is a result of Western civilisation’s decision to ignore biblical teaching.

The Rt Rev Graham Dow, Bishop of Carlisle, argued that the floods are not just a result of a lack of respect for the planet, but also a judgment on society’s moral decadence.’


Rainfall records could warn of war

‘Every month, the International Crisis Group makes predictions it hopes won’t come true. The non-profit organisation, which has its base in Brussels, Belgium, monitors regions where conflict is brewing. By tracking precursors of armed struggle, such as political instability, it raises awareness about looming wars in the hope of stopping conflicts before they begin. And as of this month, it will start talking about whether to include another variable in its analyses: climate change.

The discussions come after a wave of interest in the link between climate change and conflict. Last month, a group of retired US admirals and generals said global warming would act as a “threat multiplier”, with events such as droughts toppling unstable governments and unleashing conflict. The UN Security Council has devoted time to the matter, and media reports have described the crisis in Darfur, Sudan, as the first “climate change war”, due to the decades of droughts that preceded the conflict.’


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Monday, July 2, 2007

 

Mead Opens Nation’s First Cow-Pie Ethanol Plant

‘Cow pies processed in a small Nebraska town may soon be helping to lower the price at the pump.

The Genesis plant near Mead is the first to combine a feed lot operation in its production of ethanol.

“The manure is used to produce bio gas,” said Brian Barber, of E-3 Biofuels.

That gas fires the boilers needed to make ethanol, and the bi-produced from that creates distiller’s grain that is then feed back to the cattle.

“This is truly a historic event,” said CEO Dennis Langley.

At a dedication ceremony on Thursday, Langley said his company’s patented closed-loop system is 12 times more efficient than any other fuel source in the world.’


Waiter, There’s Deer in My Sushi

‘Sushi made with deer meat, anyone? How about a slice of raw horse on that rice?

These are some of the most extreme alternatives being considered by Japanese chefs as shortages of tuna threaten to remove it from Japan’s sushi menus — something as unthinkable here as baseball without hot dogs or Texas without barbecue.

In this seafood-crazed country, tuna is king. From maguro to otoro, the Japanese seem to have almost as many words for tuna and its edible parts as the French have names for cheese. So when global fishing bodies recently began lowering the limits on catches in the world’s rapidly depleting tuna fisheries, Japan fell into a national panic.’


Sunday, June 17, 2007

 

The last place on Earth

‘What are the last true outposts on our planet? In an era when humanity seems to have subjugated the whole world, are there any places left untouched by human influence?

To find out, New Scientist set out to discover the Last Places on Earth. Pleasingly, there were plenty to choose from: unclimbed mountains, unexplored caves, unmapped deserts, tribes untouched by the outside world and islands where alien species have yet to invade. We also discovered the last place dinosaurs roamed, the last place to make radio contact with the rest of the world, the very last place that will survive when our sun expands – and many more. So join us on our grand tour of the planet’s most unknown, pristine or downright extraordinary locations…’


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4 Dolphins Shot to Death in California

‘Four dead dolphins have washed ashore with fatal bullet wounds and fifth with lacerations on its pectoral fin, said authorities who have offered a reward for information on the slayings.

The long-beaked common dolphins were all discovered between Carlsbad State Beach and Oceanside Harbor between May 29 and June 5. Photos showed their normally sleek gray skin mottled and stained with blood from the bullet wounds.

“It’s a horrendous thing that happened,” said Mark Oswell, spokesman for the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration. “That someone would go out there and shoot four dolphins.”‘


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