Conservation & Environment

Deforestation leaves fish undersized and underfed

Posted by on Jun 15, 2014 @ 12:56 am in Conservation | 1 comment

Deforestation is reducing the amount of leaf litter falling into rivers and lakes, resulting in less food being available to fish, a study suggests. Researchers found the amount of food available affected the size of young fish and influenced the number that went on to reach adulthood.

The team said the results illustrated a link between watershed protection and healthy freshwater fish populations.

“We found fish that had almost 70% of their biomass made from carbon that came from trees and leaves instead of aquatic food chain sources,” explained lead author Andrew Tanentzap from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Plant Sciences.

“While plankton raised on algal carbon is more nutritious, organic carbon from trees washed into lakes is a hugely important food source for freshwater fish, bolstering their diet to ensure good size and strength,” he added.

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Redwood burl poaching spreads from national park to national forests

Posted by on Jun 14, 2014 @ 8:54 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The poaching of knobby growths on ancient redwood trees has spread to national forests in Northern California and Oregon. The growths, known as burls, appear at the base of redwood trees, where they send out sprouts. Their intricate grain is prized for furniture and decorations.

The poaching has been a problem in Northern California’s Redwood National and State Parks for years. Two men recently were convicted in a case there after rangers tracked slabs cut from a tree by chain saw to a redwood burl shop.

Wendell Wood of the conservation group Oregon Wild says he was out hiking recently and found two redwood trees with burls cut off. One was along the South Fork of the Smith River on the Six Rivers National Forest near Crescent City, California. The other was along the Winchuck River on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest near Brookings, Oregon, in a stand that represents the northernmost reach of coast redwoods. “I just casually stumbled into them,” Wood said.

Each scar was about 2 feet square or less, he said. At the Oregon site, the poachers cut down nearby trees so they could turn their vehicle around on the narrow road.

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Help needed now for climate refugees

Posted by on Jun 14, 2014 @ 8:38 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Hundreds of thousands of people are already migrating because of climate change, and countries urgently need adaption plans to resettle populations and avoid conflict, says a new report.

Sea level rise, violent storms and more gradual disasters such as droughts will cause more unplanned mass population movements – either temporary or permanent – and governments need to manage this by planning in advance to protect vulnerable people.

The report, by the United Nations University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security, warns that unplanned movements will lead to conflict and insecurity. Governments need to act regionally to anticipate and facilitate the movement of people.

Economic and environmental factors sometimes combine to cause migration, with people anticipating that they may have to move to survive. This can lead to people moving individually to seek a new life – like many of those currently crossing the Mediterranean to Europe from North Africa – or to whole family groups looking for new lands.

Some countries already faced with voluntary or forced migration because of climate change are involved in relocating populations and are working internationally to find new homes in other countries for their people.

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How to attract ladybugs to your garden

Posted by on Jun 13, 2014 @ 8:46 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Lucky are those whose backyards boast an abundance of ladybugs; not only are they just ridiculously cute, but they are of tremendous benefit to the garden. In addition to their Beatrix Potter-like charm, ladybugs have a voracious appetite for plant-eating pests like aphids, mealy bugs, leafhoppers, mites, scales and other unsavory characters of the insect world. Ladybugs are simply one of the best organic ways to manage pests.

While you can buy ladybugs by the pint if you are naturally deficient in them, it may be better not to introduce wild-caught mail-order insects into your ecosystem; they can come with parasites and diseases, or they might not stick around very long. If you do want to purchase them, look for farm-raised ladybugs.

Fortunately, whether you have no ladybugs, want more ladybugs, or want new ladybugs to stick around for awhile, there are ways to make your garden more attractive to them.

Here’s what to do:

 

Brown Is The New Green At U.S. Open: Water Is ‘Biggest Obstacle’ Facing Golf, Says USGA

Posted by on Jun 12, 2014 @ 6:13 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Brown Is The New Green At U.S. Open: Water Is ‘Biggest Obstacle’ Facing Golf, Says USGA

Tuning into the U.S. Open golf championship this Father’s Day weekend, you may think you’re watching the Dubai Desert Classic or the infamous “Brown British Open.”

But the U.S. Golf Association wants you to know that what you’re really seeing at Pinehurst #2 in North Carolina is the future of golf. The Washington Post reports that USGA executive director Mike Davis said this week:

“We happen to think that, long term, water is going to be the biggest obstacle in the game of golf…. It’s not going to be a question of cost. It’s a question of: Will you be able to get it?”

Brown is the new green. Or, rather, browns are the new greens.

Course architects, led by two-time Masters champ Ben Crenshaw, “removed 650 sprinkler heads, and they now have a more streamlined irrigation system that runs down the center of the fairways.” And 35 acres of rough are completely gone. What’s left on the sides of the fairways “is a combination of sand … and more than 200,000 wiregrass plants and other native grasses and weeds, giving it a look that’s natural and gnarly.”

The result of these changes: “Pinehurst No. 2 has gone from using 55 million gallons of water annually to 15 million, Davis said.”

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Sheriff Sends Video Of Party Trash In National Forest To Parents

Posted by on Jun 12, 2014 @ 3:07 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

An end-of-the-year campout for graduating seniors is a popular tradition at many high schools. But after a recent campout near Telluride, CO, the county sheriff found more of a dump site than a campsite. San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters says teens from a mountain town trashed a part of the national forest, and they should know better than to litter their own back yard.

So he shot a four-minute video to publicly shame the students, something the sheriff has done before. “(The trash) just goes on and on. It’s hard to believe nobody came back and tried to clean it up a bit,” Masters said.

But the video got action immediately. “I’m not going to clean it up, and I think the children are supposed to. So as soon as I sent that video off to a couple parents, they put it on Facebook, and then there were parents dragging their children to clean it up.”

The sheriff says he hopes that will teach future classes to take care of public land. “Somewhere along the line, we missed the boat with this group of kids, and it’s pretty disappointing,” Masters said. “To leave the trash out like this is just disgusting … in our national forest.”

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Coal Company CEO Threatens To Sue EPA For ‘Lying’ About Climate Change

Posted by on Jun 11, 2014 @ 6:38 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Coal Company CEO Threatens To Sue EPA For ‘Lying’ About Climate Change

The owner of the largest independent coal producer in the U.S. is threatening to sue the Environmental Protection Agency over its new regulations on carbon emissions from existing coal plants, saying the agency has been lying about the existence of global warming, and that the earth is actually getting colder.

In an extended profile published last month, Murray Energy Corp. founder Robert Murray told WV Executive that the EPA’s claims that climate change exists violates the federal Data Quality Act, which requires agencies to rely on quality, objective information to inform its decisions.

“Under the act, they are obligated to tell the truth, and they are not telling the truth about global warming,” Murray reportedly said. “They are not telling hardly any truth about the science. The earth has actually cooled over the last 17 years, so under the Data Quality Act, they’ve actually been lying about so-called global warming.”

Murray added, “This lawsuit will force them to not just take data from the environmentalists and publish it, as they have been doing, but to review that data and make sure it’s accurate.”

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Could Increasing Climate Variability Usher In “The Age of the Mediocre Forest?”

Posted by on Jun 11, 2014 @ 10:45 am in Conservation | 0 comments

In 2001, when large numbers of red spruce trees began dying atop Mt. Mitchell in western North Carolina, U.S Forest Service researchers stepped in to investigate. During the four years before the researchers’ arrival, unusual drought and abnormally high air temperatures combined with acid rain pollution and a rare outbreak of southern pine beetles to wreak havoc in those forests covering the tallest peak in the eastern United States.

Some red spruce trees survived through it all, providing a unique opportunity for the researchers to examine the differences between the live and the dead trees. As the significance of these differences became clear, the researchers formulated an idea that could redefine forest health and management in a world with increasing climate variability.

The researchers measured physical, chemical, and atmospheric characteristics to uncover variations between Mt. Mitchell’s unhealthy or “chronically stressed” red spruce trees—the slow-growing ones on drier sites with poor soils—and the previously healthy or “non-chronically stressed” trees.

Researchers used these results as a case study that explores the concept of inverse resilience—the possibility that trees growing under conditions of chronic, or long-term, environmental stress might better withstand acute, or short term, environmental disturbances and threats. Researchers have coined this scenario “The Age of the Mediocre Forest” to describe the endurance of less productive, yet potentially more resilient, chronically stressed trees.

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So Much Arctic Ice Has Melted, We Need a New Atlas

Posted by on Jun 10, 2014 @ 6:26 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

It used to be wars, Communism and colonialism that kept atlas illustrators on their toes. These days, though, their biggest headache is global warming.

For instance, when the National Geographic Atlas of the World is published this coming September, its renderings of the ice that caps the Arctic will be starkly different from those in the last edition, published in 2010, reports National Geographic. That reflects a disquieting long-term trend of around 12 percent Arctic ice loss per decade since the late 1970s—a pace that’s picked up since 2007. This comparison from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center, although not the one used by National Geographic, should give a sense of how much skimpier that Arctic ice cover has gotten:

 

 

There’s another crucial metric: “multiyear ice,” which is ice that has survived at least two summers without melting. This older ice is a vital buttress against faster melting and the rising sea levels that would result. Typically three to four meters (10 to 13 feet) thick, multiyear ice is harder to melt and reflects more sunlight than new ice does, keeping solar heat from warming surrounding seas, which would accelerate melting all the more.

Not long ago, multiyear blanketed the Arctic. But that older ice has receded at a much brisker clip than the young, thinner ice. Now just 7 percent of Arctic ice is at least five years old, half of what it was in 2007, and a quarter of what it was in the late 1980s.

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Life on the Mississippi, Now

Posted by on Jun 10, 2014 @ 12:20 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

We’ve spent billions of dollars on dikes, locks, and levees in a vain attempt to subdue what Mark Twain called ‘that lawless stream.’ Is it time to let the river have its way?

Scientists say flooding along the Mississippi is getting markedly worse, in large part because of how we’ve engineered the system and developed the river’s environs. Levees cut the river off from floodplains that, left undisturbed, would often extend for miles. Construction in those lowlands means we can no longer use them for natural flood control. Navigation structures like wing dikes—rock jetties that run perpendicular to the banks, constricting the channel—make floodwaters more turbulent, slowing their flow and raising them higher.

Compounding the problem is global climate change, which has been linked to some of the Midwest’s increasingly extreme weather, including the intense rainstorms that farmers here call “toad stranglers.” Researchers predict that heat waves, flooding, and drought will only grow more pronounced: a 2013 report commissioned by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) projected that along the Mississippi, north of its juncture with the Ohio River in Cairo, Illinois, the amount of land inundated by 100-year floods will grow by anywhere from 30 percent to 60 percent by 2100. About 70 percent of that increase may be attributable to climate change.

How Grafton, IL, population roughly 700, survived more than a century’s worth of aggressive levee-building policies is something of a mystery. The absence of a levee has turned Grafton into an experiment in how more natural river management might work.

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‘Conclusive link’ between fracking, aquifer contamination found in Texas

Posted by on Jun 9, 2014 @ 4:27 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Independent scientists who have reviewed a water analysis conducted by state authorities of a Texas resident’s drinking well say the chemical signatures found in the water may provide “the nation’s first conclusive link” between fracking operations and aquifer contamination.

Steve Lipsky said he has long believed that nearby hydraulic fracturing in the Barnett Shale was to blame for the increasing amounts of methane and other chemicals in his drinking water. Since 2010, he says, growing amounts of methane have been seeping into the groundwater beneath his land — enough of it so that he can literally light the water coming out of his well on fire.

The company says there is no connection between the methane in Lipsky’s well and their drilling, but scientists shown the results from the water analysis — specifically one called an isotopic analysis — say the chemical composition shows they are an exact match to the gas being fracked at two nearby drilling sites — called Butler and the Teal — operated by Range Resources.

“The methane and ethane numbers from the Butler and Teal production are essentially exactly the same as from Lipsky’s water well,” said earth scientist Geoffrey Thyne of Wyoming, who reviewed the data for WFAA. “It tells me that the gas is the same, and that the gas in Lipsky’s water well was derived from the Barnett formation.”

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What To Do When You’re Dead: Science Edition

Posted by on Jun 9, 2014 @ 4:40 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Nobody really wants to think about their own mortality, but the cold truth is that sooner or later, it’s going to happen. Now, your personal beliefs on whether or not you will ascend to Heaven, reincarnate, or simply just be dead don’t really matter; you’re going to leave a body behind when you go. It has now become a custom to either pump dead bodies full of formaldehyde and seal them into a steel and concrete vault or be cremated and have the ashes just sit in an urn.

An increasing number of people are choosing to do more with their bodies after they are gone in an effort to be more eco-friendly, help advance scientific knowledge, or do something awesome that couldn’t be achieved in life.

Here are some of the coolest science-friendly options available:

 

Historic Federal Decision Finds West Virginia Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining Companies Guilty of Damaging Streams

Posted by on Jun 8, 2014 @ 3:58 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Believe it or not, no federal court in the U.S. had ever ruled that high conductivity discharges from coal mines were harmful to streams until this week.

Everything changed with a historic decision in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia that found two companies guilty of violating clean water protections. The decision was a result of a citizen lawsuit filed more than two years ago accusing mountaintop removal mines owned by Alex Energy and Elk Run Coal Co. contaminated waters in Laurel Creek and Robinson Fork with sulfate and other dissolved solids, adding toxicity to the ecosystem of aquatic creatures.

“Pollution such as the high conductivity discharges addressed in this litigation represents the steady degradation of streams that is stealing the future from generations to come,” Cindy Rank of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, said in a statement from the Sierra Club. “Passage of the Clean Water Act over 40 years ago was a wise and prescient recognition that waters of the US can support a healthy human population and economy only when those waters are healthy themselves.

“[The federal] court decision makes it clear that the integrity of our streams must be protected from the real danger of being destroyed by the millions of tiny cuts made by activities like the coal mining operations along Laurel Creek and Robinson Fork.”

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Oil Companies Are Still Using The Faulty Equipment That Caused The BP Oil Spill

Posted by on Jun 6, 2014 @ 11:20 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

The historic BP oil well explosion in April 2010 was not supposed to be so bad. If things had gone as planned, the offshore drilling rig’s last defense — a deep-sea mechanism called a “blowout preventer” — would have kicked in, sealing the drill pipe and short-circuiting the explosion, potentially preventing 11 deaths and 5 million barrels of crude oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico.

But for reasons unknown, the blowout preventer malfunctioned, part of an array of errors that left behind the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry, according to a U.S. Chemical Safety Board report released this week.
That report also said the same equipment is still widely-used in offshore drilling, and more needs to be done to make it safer.

“Although both regulators and the industry itself have made significant progress since the 2010 calamity, more must be done to ensure the correct functioning of blowout preventers and other safety-critical elements that protect workers and the environment from major offshore accidents,” CSB Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso said in a statement.

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Something is seriously wrong on the East Coast — and it’s killing the baby puffins

Posted by on Jun 5, 2014 @ 7:09 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

The new poster child for climate change had his coming-out party in June 2012, when Petey the puffin chick first went live into thousands of homes and schools all over the world. The “Puffin Cam” capturing baby Petey’s every chirp had been set up on Maine’s Seal Island by Stephen Kress, “The Puffin Man,” who founded the Audubon Society’s Project Puffin in 1973.

Puffins, whose orange bills and furrowed eyes make them look like penguins dressed as sad clowns, used to nest on many islands off the Maine coast, but 300 years of hunting for their meat, eggs, and feathers nearly wiped them out. Project Puffin transplanted young puffins from Newfoundland to several islands in Maine, and after years of effort the colonies were reestablished and the project became one of Audubon’s great success stories. By 2013, about 1,000 puffin pairs were nesting in Maine.

Puffin parents dote on their single chick, sheltering it in a two-foot burrow beneath rocky ledges and bringing it piles of small fish each day. But Kress soon noticed that something was wrong. Puffins dine primarily on hake and herring, two teardrop-shaped fish that have always been abundant in the Gulf of Maine. But Petey’s parents brought him mostly butterfish, which are shaped more like saucers.

Checking other nests, Krest discovered only 31 percent had successfully fledged. He saw dead chicks and piles of rotting butterfish everywhere. “That,” he says, “was the epiphany.” Why would the veteran puffin parents of Maine start bringing their chicks food they couldn’t swallow? Only because they had no choice. Herring and hake had dramatically declined in the waters surrounding Seal Island, and Kress had a pretty good idea why: The water was much too hot.

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California condor may have hatched in Zion National Park

Posted by on Jun 5, 2014 @ 2:31 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Zion National Park receives millions of visitors each year, but a recent arrival is drawing attention in wildlife conservation circles. Wildlife officials are a little reluctant to count the chick before they can see it, but they are reporting that a California condor has likely hatched in Utah’s most visited national park.

The announcement is based on the earlier courtship and more recent feeding behavior of a pair of condors in a remote canyon in the park.

“This is a significant milestone in the process of restoring a species to its historical habitat,” said Keith Day, a wildlife biologist with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, in a statement. “It proves that Utah still has suitable habitat for these magnificent birds and that the selection of the Arizona-Utah region for establishing a population was a valid choice.”

An experimental population of California condors was released in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in northern Arizona in 1996. It did not take long for the large raptors to head north to the canyon country of Zion National Park.

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CTNC Protects Jackson Knob Property on Blue Ridge Parkway

Posted by on Jun 4, 2014 @ 5:04 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Conservation Trust for North Carolina recently purchased a 47-acre property on Jackson Knob in Mitchell County. The tract borders the Blue Ridge Parkway and other properties protected by CTNC at the Heffner Gap Overlook. With this land purchase, the Conservation Trust has now protected 53 properties along the Parkway, totaling 31,408 acres.

The Conservation Trust purchased the tract from CSX Transportation, Inc. with generous funding from Fred and Alice Stanback of Salisbury. CTNC will transfer the property to the National Park Service for inclusion in the Parkway’s official boundary, expanding public access to conserved lands.

“Conservation of the Jackson Knob tract protects scenic views from several overlooks in a popular stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway,” said Mark Woods, Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent. “Protecting such high quality properties is essential to the Parkway’s long-term integrity.”