Posts Tagged ‘climate’

This month in ecological science

This month in ecological science

Evolutionary traps, invasive yellow starthistle’s favorable response to carbon dioxide and plant breeding for harmony between agriculture and the environment

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Posted 22 September 2011, by Nadine Lymn (Ecological Society of America) , EurekAlert! eurekalert.org

 

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Evolutionary traps in human-dominated landscapes

A study published in the September issue of Ecology looks at how human activities can diminish the usefulness of an ornamental trait, such as colorful feathers, as a signal of fitness. Cardinals, for example, need carotenoids in their diet to produce their red plumage; brilliant red plumage can signal an individual’s health and fitness. Researcher Amanda Rodewald (Ohio State University) and colleagues looked at the socially monogamous Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) in 14 forests in Ohio between 2006-2008, measuring plumage color, reproduction, and quantifying habitat. They found that the non-native Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) altered the selective environments for coloration by creating an evolutionary trap for the cardinals in rural landscapes and possibly relaxing selection in cities. Evolutionary traps occur when behavior that was once beneficial is a drawback in an altered environment.

The non-native honeysuckle is appealing to cardinals because it provides dense vegetation for nesting. Honeysuckle fruits are also a source of carotenoid pigments the birds need for their red plumage. Previous studies suggest that plumage brightness or hue signal a bird that is in good condition, has a good territory, and will put energy into raising its offspring. But the non-native honeysuckle’s appeal to cardinals comes with a price: a nest in this shrub is more vulnerable to predators. Rodewald and colleagues found that in rural areas the mostly brightly colored male cardinals were in best condition, bred earliest in the season, and secured the more preferred territories that included the non-native shrub. But their annual reproductive success was lower than that of duller males. The authors did not see these results in urban forests, where color was not related to any reproductive indicators, likely because the abundant honeysuckle and birdseed reduce the usefulness of color as a signal of quality. This scenario might lead to relaxed selection for bright color in urban forests and selection against bright color in rural forests.

“Our study provides evidence that human –induced changes to ecosystems can both create evolutionary traps that alter relationships between sexual and natural selection (i.e., via exotic shrubs in rural landscapes) and facilitate escape from evolutionary traps (i.e., via anthropogenic resources in urban landscapes),” write the authors. Read more at:http://www.esajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1890/11-0022.1

Noxious and invasive yellow starthistle responds favorably to increased carbon dioxide

Yellow starthistle (Centaurea solstitaialis) is a highly invasive plant species in the grasslands of western North America. Native to the lands northeast of the Mediterranean Sea and highly poisonous to horses, yellow starthistle is considered one of California’s most problematic non-native plants. Jeffrey Dukes (Purdue University) and colleagues conducted field experiments in California and found that Centaurea grew more than six times larger in response to increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration and also responded favorably to nitrogen (N) deposition. In contrast, the surrounding grasses and wildflowers responded less strongly or not at all to increased CO2 and nitrogen levels. The researchers report their findings in the September issue of Ecological Applications.

“Given these results, we add Centaurea to a short but growing list of noxious and invasive plants demonstrated to dramatically benefit from CO2 in community settings, and to the longer list of invasives that benefit from increased N availability,” write the authors. “Atmospheric CO2 concentrations are increasing by 2 ppm/yr around the globe. Nitrogen deposition rates vary spatially, but are already higher than our treatment levels at one sampling station in California, and are expected to increase globally. Unless biocontrol agents become more effective at controlling Centaurea, the weed’s response to environmental changes is likely to heighten the challenge facing many North American land managers over the course of this century.” Read more at: http://www.esajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1890/11-0111.1

Plant breeding for harmony between agriculture and the environment

Meeting basic human needs while also preserving the natural resources to do so is a major challenge of the coming century. Earth’s human inhabitants need more food, animal feed, fiber, fuel and forest products, all while facing shrinking vital resources such as land, water and nutrients. A new eView review paper in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment asserts that plant breeding is a critical tool to bring about a more positive relationship between agriculture and the environment on which it depends.

In their review, E. Charles Brummer (Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation) and colleagues note that plant breeders are working to improve crop hardiness to withstand various environmental conditions, such as those associated with climate change. Many breeders are also interested in reducing agriculture’s negative impacts on the environment, such as contributing to oxygen-deprived dead zones in water bodies or soil erosion. Since the 1950s, crop improvements—together with inputs including fertilizers, pesticides and water—have enabled agricultural production to keep up with human demands. Now, say the authors, “partnerships between ecologists, urban planners, and policy makers with public and private plant breeders will be essential for addressing future challenges.” Co-author Seth Murray (Texas A&M University) adds that: “We tend to think that solutions are technological and can be put in place quickly. But new crop cultivars and species take decades or more to develop and there is no shortcut so we really need to start thinking now about what we will need in 10-20 years.” Read more at: http://www.esajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1890/100225

 

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http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-09/esoa-tmi092211.php

Fight devil of corruption this Navratra

 

Fight devil of corruption this Navratra

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Posted22 September 2011, by Swati Chandra, The Times of India (Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd),

 

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VARANASI: Get yourself ready for a glimpse of contemporary issues like global warming, pollution, terrorism, price rise, corruption and even the decreasing number of lions in the forthcoming festival of Navratra. The lavish visual spectacles displayed on the tableaux that adds up to colourful aura of festivity will go issue-specific too.

“The Town Hall puja pandal will be depicting the arrival of the Ganga on Earth and Goddess Durga will release the Ganga from devil Mahishasur who is imitating the Tehri Dam,” says artist Gopal Chandra Dey at his Bengali Tola situated workshop. According to Dey, the decreasing number of lions is also a cause of concern for the present world and the whole family of artists of Varanasi have decided to symbolise lion more alive. Global warming is very beautifully depicted by artist Puluck Chand Mukherjee in the tableaux for Dher Mal Gali, Mirghat. “The problem of global warming imitated by devils will get buried by the Goddess into a volcano,” says Puluck. Many artists have also used electric lights on devil’s horns to relate it to useless and harmful use of science and technology.

In yet another tableaux theme called Tridev getting ready for mini stadium Shivpur, the backdrop of the pageant is set with the problem of corruption, price rise and terrorism and Lord Shiva will be demolishing the three evils.

“To impress kids, few idols will depict comic pattern too,” informed Puluck. Special attention has been given to devils and demons. According to Sushant Kumar Pal, whose family has been making idols for six generations, Mahishasur signifies evil and the focus has been put on the depiction and imitation of the devil with ever-rising threat of corruption and technology.

“Standing a bit away from the routine decorations, the whole artist community of the town hopes that the enactment on the tableaux will serve the religious as well as moral dimensions,” believes kaarigar (artisan) Badri.

With only five days left to Navratra, the ‘kaarigars’ (artisans) at various spots are also busy giving a final touch to ornamental decorations and dressing of idols of Durga and other gods and goddesses.

Artist Puluck opined that the real work of art begins now when the deity is clad in saree and jewellery. Ranging from terracota, art Bangla, solar Bangla, pearls, white beads to gold work, all add to the lavish decorations that get displayed in a week’s time.

“Like the talented artists, the raw material used in the decoration of the idols also come from Bengal,” informed Narendra, organiser of a puja pandal in Jaitpura. The range of these accessories, including sarees, starts from Rs 1,000 to Rs 8,000. According to Gopal Chandra Dey, the goddess is specially clad with Banarasi saree brought from Lohta, Chowk and Madanpura while the other deities are dressed in satin clothes. Jewellery and weapons of the deity are theme specific this time. The Bengali idol of the deity at various places will get clad in cream saree with red border and the accessories will include ‘Shakhapola'(red and while Bengali bangles) and silver coloured weapons.

The jute idol of the Goddess which will get displayed at Jaitpura is all set to get decorated with ‘terracota art’. “The entire base of this idol is made of jute and the idol will not get coloured but decorated with terracota art (which is prepared by burning the clay) and expensive Banarasi saree,” says Gopal Da. As the authorities have advised the artists to go environment friendly from this year to save the Ganga from pollution, artists have used natural colours, mixed with ‘ararot’ and biodegradable base has been used, adds Pal.

 

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http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/varanasi/Fight-devil-of-corruption-this-Navratra/articleshow/10082430.cms

Surviving the Warmth of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum

 

Surviving the Warmth of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum

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Posted 21 September 2011, by Staff, CO2 Science (Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change), co2science.org

 

Reference
McInerney, F.A. and Wing, S.L. 2011. The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum: A perturbation of carbon cycle, climate, and biosphere with implications for the future. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences 39: 489-516.

Background
During the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, or PETM, of some 56 million years ago, it is believed that large amounts of carbon were released to the ocean-atmosphere system and that global temperatures may have risen by 5-8°C. Thus, the authors write that study of the PETM may provide “valuable insights into the carbon cycle, climate system and biotic responses to environmental change that are relevant to long-term future global changes.”

What was done
McInerney and Wing reviewed much of the scientific literature pertaining to the insights being sought by biologists concerned about potential species extinctions due to CO2-induced global warming; and they give their assessment of the current status of the grand enterprise in which many scientists have been involved since the early 1990s, when the PETM and its significance first began to be recognized (Kennett and Stott, 1991; Koch et al., 1992).

What was learned
In summarizing their findings, the two researchers write that although there was a major extinction of benthic foraminifera in the world’s oceans, “most groups of organisms did not suffer mass extinction.” In fact, they say “it is surprising that cool-adapted species already living at higher latitudes before the onset of the PETM are not known to have experienced major extinctions,” and they remark that “this absence of significant extinction in most groups is particularly interesting in light of the predictions of substantial future extinction with anthropogenic global warming.” In addition, they note that “low levels of extinction in the face of rapid environmental change during the Quaternary pose a similar challenge to modeled extinctions under future greenhouse warming,” citing Botkin et al. (2007). And, last of all, they indicate that “rapid morphological change occurred in both marine and terrestrial lineages, suggesting that organisms adjusted to climate change through evolution as well as dispersal.”

What it means
McInerney and Wing wrap up their review by noting that “research on the PETM and other intervals of rapid global change has been driven by the idea that they provide geological parallels to future anthropogenic warming.” And in this regard, the many research results they review seem to suggest that earth’s plants and animals, both on land and in the sea, may be much better equipped to deal with the environmental changes that climate alarmists claim are occurring in response to anthropogenic CO2 emissions than what many students of the subject have long believed to be possible.

References
Botkin, D.B., Saxe, H., Araujo, M.B., Betts, R, Bradshaw, R.H.W., Cedhagen, T., Chesson, P., Dawson, T.P., Etterson, J.R., Faith, D.P., Ferrier, S., Guisan, A., Skjoldborg-Hansen, A., Hilbert, D.W., Loehle, C., Margules, C., New, M., Sobel, M.J. and Stockwell, D.R.B. 2007. Forecasting the effects of global warming on biodiversity. BioScience 57: 227-236.

Kennett, J.P. and Stott, L.D. 1991. Abrupt deep-sea warming, palaeoceanographic changes and benthic extinctions at the end of the Palaeocene. Nature 353: 225-229.

Koch, P.L., Zachos, J.C. and Gingerich, P.D. 1992. Correlation between isotope records in marine and continental carbon reservoirs near the Paleocene/Eocene boundary. Nature 358: 319-322.

 

 

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http://www.co2science.org/articles/V14/N38/B3.php

Climate change hits coffee industry

Climate change hits coffee industry

A farmer inspects her coffee plants. Photo/FILE

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Posted 18 September 2011, by Staff, Business Daily (Nation Media Group), businessdailyafrica.com

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Global warming has increased the spread of pests in key farming regions with coffee exports facing the strain from the berry disease.

Scientists at the Nairobi based International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) predict increased incidences of coffee berry borer in coffee zones over the next 40 years due to changing climatic patterns.

The incidence of coffee berry borer, a small beetle recognised globally as the most destructive of coffee pests, will be higher in central and eastern regions of the country, the key producers of the country’s export coffee, states ICIPE.

Even small increases in temperature will lead to serious consequences on the number of generations, as well as the latitudinal and altitudinal range of the borer, adversely affecting coffee production in East Africa and parts of South America.” ICIPE said in a statement released last week.

This report comes as a shock to government that has been mulling plans to revive an industry that once served as the country’s foreign exchange earner.

Fluctuating temperatures and rainfall, the hallmarks of climate change, have already led to the spread of thrips (tiny insects known to destroy coffee beans by puncturing and sucking up their contents) in the coffee growing districts, lowering farmer’s output.

“There is serious thrips outbreak in most coffee regions which is likely to worsen after the end of the cold (July, August) season,” Dr Joseph Kimemia, managing director of the Coffee Research Foundation, said in an industry alert issued in July.

In spite of the good international prices government statistics indicate that coffee production dropped by 22.2 per cent in 2010 to 42,000 tonnes, leading to forex earning of Sh16 billion compared to peers like tea (Sh97 billion) and horticulture (Sh78 billion).

While the coffee prices have remained higher in the international market in the first half of this year, production decline has persisted in Kenya with deliveries to the marketing board declining in the first quarter of 2011 by 28 per cent to 11,300 tonnes.

Of late, farmers have alarmingly been abandoning coffee and turning their plantations to real estates, citing corruption and mismanagement that has undermined confidence in the industry.

The National Economic and Social Council, the country’s top policy organ wants the government to fight corruption and mismanagement in the industry to prevent farmers from abandoning coffee for other ventures .

“The council noted that coffee production has continued to decline while global prices are favourable and recommends that Kenya’s comparative advantage be leveraged to provide farmers with more incentives,” NESC said in a press release issued after the full Council meeting held on September 10.

The government may however have to rethink the proposed incentives as the ICIPE study encourages investment in climate adaptation measures to cushion the industry from further losses.

The first ever global map of future distribution of the coffee berry borer drawn by ICIPE scientists and colleagues from the UK, US and Germany indicate that most of today’s coffee growing zones will not sustain the crop in coming years.

The study says Africa’s arable land will shrink by 60 to 90 million hectares by 2050 as the impact of climate change sets in.

“Moreover, soil conditions at higher altitudes might not be suitable for Arabica coffee under the anticipated high temperatures,” the scientists said, adding that shade trees should be introduced in coffee plantations to improve microclimate that favours the growth of coffee.

omondi@ke.nationmedia.com

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http://www.businessdailyafrica.com/Climate+change+hits+coffee+industry++/-/539546/1238694/-/mfjyb9/-/

The Personal Mega-Sized Eye of Horus: Naomi Campbell’s Eco-Mansion

 

 

The Personal Mega-Sized Eye of Horus: Naomi Campbell’s Eco-Mansion

The Personal Mega-Sized Eye of Horus: Naomi Campbell’s Eco-Mansion

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Posted 19 September 2011, by Vrushti Mawani, Industry Leaders Magazine, industryleadersmagazine.com

 

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An ancient Egyptian symbol of protection, royal power and good health, the Eye of Horus has been reproduced in its most physically monumental form on the Isla Playa de Cleopatra in Turkey in the form of Naomi Campbell’s eco-palace.

The 25-bedroom home, designed by Spanish architect Luis de Garrido, reported as being the architect’s gift to Campbell, has been designed to function in a largely self-sufficient manner.

With features that enhance the ability of the building to be self-sufficient in terms of its energy and water needs, Campbell’s new island mansion functions as an off-grid home complete with photovoltaic panels, a sophisticated geothermal system and an interior landscaped terrace.

Eye-ball Home Details

Naomi Campbell’s palatial eco-home, with its over two dozen bedrooms and five lounges, is one of the latest to join the rapidly growing list of eco-friendly celebrity island abodes, like Johnny Depp’s solar hydrogen fuel powered home in the Bahamas.

The large steel-and-glass dome, the eyeball of the Eye of Horus, is light and transparent, letting in natural light and warmth all year round. The intensity of how much light and warmth filter in is controlled by horizontal louvers, landscaping, and glazed windows.

Campbell’s personal Eye of Horus in Turkey has been designed by devising an ingenious system of structuring photovoltaic panels which helps generate a large share of the energy required to run the building. The rest of the energy requirement is met by a highly sophisticated geothermal system and passive design.

The design of this eco-mansion also includes a detailed rainwater harvesting system, while wastewater from the home is treated on site with the use of a biological treatment system, further increasing this home’s overall energy efficiency.

The architect has also tried to ensure that the house is well-ventilated, to address any concerns about the greenhouse effect creating an uncomfortable humidity level. The indoor landscaped terrace on the top floor of this eco-palace further contributes to the home’s superior microclimate.

Architect Luis de Garrido

Architect Luis de Garrido has, over the last few years, been in the spotlight for his signature style of creating designs based on the theme of “artificial nature”.

Luis De Garrido’s bold, yet respectful, design philosophy states “The architect can even surpass Nature, but to do so, they must understand it, take it in, and love it with all their souls.”

De Garrido’s expertise where new-age sustainable architectural technologies are concerned is demonstrated perfectly in projects like GREEN BOX, which is the first modular Garden-House that is prefabricated, can be built in just 15 days, is reusable, transportable, has an infinite life cycle, is bioclimatic, has zero energy consumption, and does not generate waste.

Intermodal Steel Building Units (ISBU) awarded Luis de Garrido the 2008 Architect of the Year Award for his sustainable Bio-climatic architecture, educational symposiums and the innovative award winning architectural designs.

 

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http://www.industryleadersmagazine.com/the-personal-mega-sized-eye-of-horus-naomi-campbell%E2%80%99s-eco-mansion/

Why I’m Donating My Heinz Award Money to the Fight Against Fracking

Sandra Steingraber beautifully shares why the fight against fracking is so important.

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Posted 15 September 2011, by Sandra Steingraber, AlterNet, alternet.org

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Photo Credit: todbaker

I’m thrilled to receive a Heinz Award in recognition of my research and writing on environmental health. This is work made possible by my residency as a scholar within the Department of Environmental Studies at Ithaca College. Many past and present Heinz Award winners are personal heroes of mine–and Teresa Heinz herself is a champion of women’s environmental health–so this recognition carries special meaning for me. And it comes with a $100,000 unrestricted cash prize. Which is stunning.

As a bladder cancer survivor of 32 years, I’m intimately familiar with two kinds of uncertainty: the kind that comes while waiting for results from the pathology and radiology labs and the kind that is created by the medical insurance industry who decides whether or not to pay the pathology and radiology bills. Over the years, I’ve learned to analyze data and raise children while surrounded by medical and financial insecurities. It’s a high-wire act.

But as an ecologist, I’m aware of a much larger insecurity: the one created by our nation’s ruinous dependency on fossil fuels in all their forms. When we light them on fire, we fill the atmosphere with heat-trapping gases that are destablizing the climate and acidifying the oceans (whose plankton stocks provide us half of the oxygen we breathe). When we use fossil fuels as feedstocks to make materials such as pesticides and solvents, we create toxic substances that trespass into our children’s bodies (where they raises risks for cancer, asthma, infertility, and learning disorders).

Emancipation from our terrible enslavement to fossil fuels is possible. The best science shows us that the United States could, within two decades, entirely run on green, renewable energy if we chose to dedicate ourselves to that course. But, right now, that is not the trail we are blazing.  Instead, evermore extreme and toxic methods are being deployed to blast fossilized carbon from the earth. We are blowing up mountains to get at coal, felling boreal forests to get at tar, and siphoning oil from the ocean deep.

Most ominously, through the process called fracking, we are shattering the very bedrock of our nation to get at the petrified bubbles of methane trapped inside. Fracking turns fresh water into poison. It fills our air with smog, our roadways with 18-wheelers hauling hazardous materials, and our fields and pastures with pipelines and toxic pits.

I am therefore announcing my intent to devote my Heinz Award to the fight against hydrofracking in upstate New York, where I live with my husband and our two children. Some might look at my small house (with its mismatched furniture) or my small bank accounts (with their absence of a college fund or a retirement plan) and question my priorities. But the bodies of my children are the rearranged molecules of the air, water, and food streaming through them.

As their mother, there is no more important investment that I could make right now than to support the fight for the integrity of the ecological system that makes their lives possible. As legal scholar Joseph Guth reminds us, a functioning biosphere is worth everything we have. This summer I traveled through the western United States and saw firsthand the devastation that fracking creates. In drought-crippled Texas where crops withered in the fields, I read a hand-lettered sign in a front yard that said, “I NEED WATER. U HAUL. I PAY. “

And still the fracking trucks rolled on, carrying water to the gas wells. This is the logic of drug addicts, not science.  I also stood on the courthouse steps in Salt Lake City while climate activist Tim DeChristopher was sentenced to two years in federal prison for an act of civil disobedience that halted the leasing of public land for gas and oil drilling near Arches National Park. Before he was hauled away by federal marshals, Tim said, “This is what love looks like.”

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http://www.alternet.org/water/152427/

“Ethical Oil” is Not an Oxymoron

Ethical Oil” is Not an Oxymoron

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Posted 08 September 2011, by , No Unsacred Place, nature.pagannewswirecollective.com

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As a follow up to John’s recent coverage of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, below is a video of a speech given at the Tar Sands Action protests in Washington D.C. this past weekend by Naomi Klein, an activist and author of books such as The Shock Doctrine and No Logo:

I have never seen anything quite as audacious as the campaign to rebrand the Tar Sands “Ethical Oil.” Do you know that Bill McKibben was on a debate with one of these guys on BBC, and he compared the Tar Sands oil to fair trade coffee and free range chickens? Do you know that they’re running ads on Oprah’s Network saying that by buying Tar Sands oil, you’re helping to free women in Saudi Arabia?

I mean, I’m from Canada, and let me tell you something. We don’t have ‘ethical oil’ in Canada. We have Tar Sands oil, which is like regular oil, but a whole lot dirtier. It ravages the earth as it is extracted. Ravaging bodies, ravaging the land as you just heard from our brothers and sisters from the Indigenous Environmental Network. And it ravages the earth at the point of combustion. When all of that carbon, three times as much carbon, three times as much greenhouse gas is emitted as it takes to produce a regular barrel of crude. And all of that carbon enters the atmosphere, and destroys and threatens the lives and livelihoods of millions of people around the world. And it also threatens the earth when it is transported in pipelines like the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline. It threatens waterways, drinking supplies, ranches, the land that people and animals depend on.

“Ethical Oil” is not an oxymoron. It is an outrage. It is an insult.

Meanwhile, today over on Spirituality and Ecological Hope, Margaret Swedish asks if we can still talk about “hope” in a culture that seems so hell-bent on denial, self-destruction and environmental devastation:

But, seriously, how is it possible to approach the challenging concept of hope in a nation of this much cultural denial, media manipulation, and irrational religious extremism (you know, the kind where God gave us brains and then demands that we not use them), in a nation in which we have allowed a few very wealthy billionaires and mega-corporations involved in fossil fuel production to make off with the truth about our situation? […] I long ago gave up equating ‘hope’ with a belief that we can still keep very bad stuff from happening. Bad stuff is already happening and more bad stuff is going to happen, and we still can’t address our reality like adults fully cognizant of the danger we are in.

So what are we hoping for? What does it mean to hold on to hope in the face of on-going environmental disasters, heat waves, droughts, floods, raging fires and ever-larger storms. For Klein, hope is a stubborn commitment to keep fighting and working towards a better way of life:

As we gather today, new tropical storms are gathering, and people are in that familiar state of huddling by their television sets, wondering, wondering if they will be safe. We don’t really have summers anymore, we have disaster season. And disaster season just seems to be longer and longer. […] We are here because we don’t want to live this way, careening from disaster to disaster. […] We are here because we know that we can do better. That we do not have to attack our earth with ever greater violence in order to live happily and fulfilled. We know that there are energy sources based on renewing and amplifying life, not sucking it dry. And that on this path there are tens of millions of safe and dignified jobs, jobs that workers can be proud to go to every day.

For Swedish, hope rests on the evolving ecological concept of conviviality — living in “good company” with the earth and with each other, accepting and embracing a lifestyle of responsibility and limits as a first step towards greater abundance for everyone.

After a long summer of disasters and bad news for the environment — how do you hold on to hope? And what do you do to pass it on to others?

Categorized: Nature in the News.

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http://nature.pagannewswirecollective.com/2011/09/08/ethical-oil-is-not-an-oxymoron/