The Gulf of Fubar
(Name suggested by Karen Snow Drake) Permalink 5:24 AM
From The Ithaca Journal.
|The Ash Tree|
|Emerald Ash Borer, magnified (actual size is less than 1/2 inch long|
|The damage caused by an ash borer|
From the Ithaca Journal
Permalink 9:38 AM
The Cayuga Nature Center is accepting proposals from groups or individuals who would like to use its 40-acre farm facility.
The use of the farm must be consistent with CNC's overall mission to increase awareness, appreciation and responsibility for the natural world.
Examples of possible uses include a horse and riding stable, sustainable or green energy facility, organic farm, field station or outdoor education facility.
The CNC farm is located at the intersection of Garrett and Houghton roads. Maps and photographs are available at www.cayuganaturecenter.org/farm.
Use agreements may be single- or multiple-year. Letters of interest must be submitted by Friday, Feb. 3, and full proposals must be submitted by Friday, March 3. For details, call Doug Weeks at 273-6260 or e-mail him at email@example.com.
Scientists in Sweden have come up with a new theory for how evolution produced the ear. The answer, they report in the journal Nature, is that before the middle ear was used for hearing, in its ancient form, it might have been used for breathing.
The researchers, Martin D. Brazeau and Per E. Ahlberg from Uppsala University, base their claim on a study of a fossil of Panderichthys, a 370-million-year-old fish that is an immediate ancestor of the most primitive tetrapods [creatures with four limbs, such as most reptiles and mammals].
The fossil has an enlarged spiracle, a passageway between the jaw and the top of the head, as well as other changes that represent a middle ground between the relatively simple structures of more ancient fish and the complex morphology of tetrapods.
"It's got this combination of fish- and tetrapod-like features," said Mr. Brazeau, who undertook the research as part of his work on a doctorate in evolutionary biology.
Scientists have known since the 19th century that in tetrapods, including humans, the middle ear develops from an embryonic structure called the first gill arch. In fish, the first gill arch forms the support for the jaws including the spiracle.
In fish that are ancestral to Panderichthys, the spiracle is small. In Panderichthys, Mr. Brazeau said, "the first thing that happens is that the spiracle becomes very large." Further alterations follow, he said, including changes to a bone that is the forerunner of the stapes, or stirrup bone, that is part of the middle ear structure.
So the Panderichthys fossil, which was found in Latvia, is a useful snapshot of a moment in evolution. But why do the researchers suspect that the spiracle was part of the fish's breathing system?
Part of the answer can be found in modern bottom-dwelling marine creatures like rays. When they are on the sea floor, rays use spiracles on the top of the head for breathing instead of their mouths, to avoid sucking up sand. Panderichthys, Mr. Brazeau said, may have been a bottom dweller and have had the same need for an alternate respiration route. "It may very well have had its face in the mud," he said.
There is trouble beneath the surface of this majestic lake in Kenya's Rift Valley.
For one thing, huge carp, introduced years back, are stirring up the bottom where tilapia, which had been the dominant fish, reproduce. Also, unlicensed fishermen are dragging finely sewn nets through the murky water, trapping species before they come of age. Then there is the pesticide problem, the sewage and the steady decline in the water level, additional signs of an ailing ecosystem.
But it is on the shoreline that Lake Naivasha's real problems lie, and this month it all led to homicide not far from the water's edge.
Joan Root, a noted conservationist, lived for decades on a prime piece of Naivasha's lakefront before gunmen stole her life...
Zookeepers at the Mutsugoro Okoku zoo near Tokyo presented the hamster Gohan ("meal") to the snake Aochan as a tasty treat in October after the snake refused frozen mice...But instead of indulging, Aochan made friends with the rodent, keeper Kazuya Yamamoto told the Associated Press.However, Gary Bogue of the ContraCosta Times warns, though:
...you should be aware that captive snakes sometimes will ignore mice, rats (or hamsters) that have been dropped into their cages as food -- for days, weeks and on rare occasions even months. Why? Who knows, call it a snake thing. Reptiles have slow metabolisms, and it can take a while for them to work up an appetite.Permalink 8:54 AM
From the Chicago Tribune
BEIJING, CHINA -- A record 21 surviving baby pandas were born in China's zoos and breeding centers in 2005, state media reported Monday.
Sixteen were born at Wolong Giant Panda Research Center in the southwestern province of Sichuan, the rare animal's biggest natural habitat, the China Daily newspaper said. The others were born in research centers in the Sichuan provincial capital, Chengdu, in the northwestern Chinese province of Shaanxi and at the Beijing Zoo.
China has 183 pandas in captivity, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. It said 24 others live in nine zoos in five other countries.
From inkycircus, a woman-run science blog:
It's a year since the tsunami, and there've been lots of stories in the media about regeneration and hope in the areas devastated by the wave. But this one story caught my eye. A 2 year old baby hippo known as Owen was living with his family near the Sabaki River on the East African coast when the wave swept him out and stranded him on a reef. He was rescued by local fishermen and taken to the Haller Park sanctuary, where, all alone and clearly lonely, he formed a strong attachment to another resident and started following him around and trying to sleep next to him. This other resident is Mzee - a male tortoise who is over 130 years old.
Mzee was apparently initially unimpressed and tried to ignore Owen's attentions. But he has since been won over and the two are inseparable friends a year on. Staff at the Haller sanctuary think that Owen may have been attracted by Mzee's round shape and gray color because they are somewhat similar to that of an adult hippopotamus. They plan to introduce Owen to another hippo called Cleo at the sanctuary to give him some companionship of his own kind, but intend to keep the tortoise on hand during the introductions to smooth the process. (More info from MSNBC here, photo - which is just too much - from Associated Press)
Jeff Dukes, professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts, works in the areas of the impact of human activity on the environment. In Burning Buried Sunshine, a research article on the rate at which humans are consuming energy, he concludes:
The fossil fuels burned in 1997...is >400 times the net primary productivity (NPP) of the planet's current biota.In other words, the fossil fuel we burn each year took 400 years to produce through biological processes. This fact argues that even if we ended our dependence on fossil fuels and exclusively turned to renewable fuel sources (burning wood, ethanol, biodiesel), the world's plants are nowhere close to being able to meet our demands.
From George Monbiot in the Guardian
Over the past two years I have made an uncomfortable discovery. Like most environmentalists, I have been as blind to the constraints affecting our energy supply as my opponents have been to climate change. I now realise that I have entertained a belief in magic.Permalink 7:20 AM
In 2003, the biologist Jeffrey Dukes calculated that the fossil fuels we burn in one year were made from organic matter "containing 44 x 1018 grams of carbon, which is more than 400 times the net primary productivity of the planet's current biota". In plain English, this means that every year we use four centuries' worth of plants and animals...
In promoting biodiesel - as the EU, the British and US governments and thousands of environmental campaigners do - you might imagine that you are creating a market for old chip fat, or rapeseed oil, or oil from algae grown in desert ponds. In reality you are creating a market for the most destructive crop on earth.
Last week, the chairman of Malaysia's federal land development authority announced that he was about to build a new biodiesel plant. His was the ninth such decision in four months. Four new refineries are being built in Peninsula Malaysia, one in Sarawak and two in Rotterdam. Two foreign consortiums - one German, one American - are setting up rival plants in Singapore. All of them will be making biodiesel from the same source: oil from palm trees.
"The demand for biodiesel," the Malaysian Star reports, "will come from the European Community ... This fresh demand ... would, at the very least, take up most of Malaysia's crude palm oil inventories." Why? Because it is cheaper than biodiesel made from any other crop.
In September, Friends of the Earth published a report about the impact of palm oil production. "Between 1985 and 2000," it found, "the development of oil-palm plantations was responsible for an estimated 87 per cent of deforestation in Malaysia". In Sumatra and Borneo, some 4 million hectares of forest have been converted to palm farms. Now a further 6 million hectares are scheduled for clearance in Malaysia, and 16.5 million in Indonesia.
Almost all the remaining forest is at risk.
Via Biodiesel Blog
"Nelson told The Associated Press in an interview last week that he began learning about the product a few years ago after his wife purchased a biodiesel-burning car in Hawaii, where the star has a home."
"'I got on the computer and punched in biodiesel and found out this could be the future,' said Nelson, who now uses the fuel for his cars and tour buses."
"Peter Bell, a Texas biodiesel supplier, struck up a friendship with Nelson after filling up one of the tour buses, and the business partnership came together just before Christmas..."
"'What Willie brings to this is the ability to communicate directly with a truck driver. That kind of community is hard for people to get to,' Bell said. 'When he starts talking, these folks really listen to him.... It's like having Tiger Woods talk about golf clubs.'"
In the New York Times
ELKO, Nev. - Just outside the chasm of North America's biggest open-pit gold mine there is an immense oasis in the middle of the Nevada desert. It is an idyllic and isolated spot where migratory birds often alight for a stopover. But hardly anything is natural about it.
This is water pumped from the ground by Barrick Gold of Toronto to keep its vast Goldstrike mine from flooding, as the gold company, the world's third largest, carves a canyon 1,600 feet below the level of northern Nevada's aquifer...
Barrick says the effects of its pumping will last at most a few decades. But government scientists estimate it could take 200 years or more to replenish the groundwater that it and neighboring mine companies have removed, with little public attention or debate, as they meet soaring consumer demand for jewelry and gold's price tops $500 an ounce.
Danby residents are working to preserve wetlands that are the homes to beavers, herons, and many other birds.
DANBY - Searching for help in preserving and restoring a total of 115 acres of wetlands located right in the backyards of four Danby landowners wasn't hard to find.
Upon realizing the desire and need to keep his portion of the wetlands intact, Danby resident Alan Wagner contacted U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. From there, a partnership among the Upper Susquehanna Coalition (USC), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Partners program and the landowners was formed to restore between 15 and 25 acres of the wetland complex.
From National Geographic
Like something straight out of a Jules Verne novel, an enormous tentacled creature looms out of the inky blackness of the deep Pacific waters.
But this isn't science fiction. A set of extraordinary images captured by Japanese scientists marks the first-ever record of a live giant squid (Architeuthis) in the wild.
Reports this week claimed that polar bears were being forced by climate change into cannibalism and attempting suicidal swims. Experts say it is too early to be sure, but that these are the kind of impacts expected as melting sea ice leaves the bears with longer distances to travel.
From AP via YahooNews
Permalink 8:11 PM
SAN FRANCISCO - Toxic waste from computers, TVs and other electronic devices discarded in the United States and dismantled in China and India is an even more severe problem than previously feared, according to environmental groups that seek better recycling programs.
Researchers from Greenpeace International said in a report Wednesday that they detected high levels of toxic metals in more than 70 samples collected in March from industrial waste, river sediment, soil and ground water around the southern Chinese city of Guiyu and the suburbs of New Delhi. Dust from electronics-dismantling workshops contained the highest levels of contaminants.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - Fresh from visits to Canada's Yukon Territory and Alaska's northernmost city, four U.S. senators said on Wednesday that signs of rising temperatures on Earth are obvious and they called on Congress to act.
"If you can go to the Native people and walk away with any doubt about what's going on, I just think you're not listening," said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (news, bio, voting record) of South Carolina.
Republican Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record) of Arizona and Democrat
Hillary Clinton of New York told reporters in Anchorage that Inupiat Eskimo residents in Barrow, Alaska, have found their ancestral land and traditional lifestyle disrupted by disappearing sea ice, thawing permafrost, increased coastal erosion and changes to wildlife habitat.
Heat-stimulated beetle infestation has also killed vast amounts of the spruce forest in the Yukon Territory, they said.
PARIS (AFP) - The best way to save the planet's large wild mammals facing extinction this century, including lions, cheetahs, elephants and camels, is the creation of a huge nature preserve in the US midwest, a group of leading biologists reportedly argue.
Using the end of the Pleistocene period some 13,000 years ago -- when the prehistoric cousins of these and other "megafauna" roamed North America by the millions -- as a benchmark, the scientists call for the "re-wilding" of great swathes of sparsely populated land, Nature magazine reported.
"It would take many, many hundreds of square miles (kilometers)," said Harry Greene, one of the authors and a professor at Cornell University in New York. "We are talking about an American Serengeti," he added, referring to the 15,000 square kilometer (5,800 square mile) wildlife preserve in northern Tanzania.
By TIM MOLLOY, Associated Press Writer
CORTE MADERA, Calif. - Politicians and automakers say a car that can both reduce greenhouse gases and free America from its reliance on foreign oil is years or even decades away. Ron Gremban says such a car is parked in his garage.
It looks like a typical Toyota Prius hybrid, but in the trunk sits an 80-miles-per-gallon secret — a stack of 18 brick-sized batteries that boosts the car's high mileage with an extra electrical charge so it can burn even less fuel.
Gremban, an electrical engineer and committed environmentalist, spent several months and $3,000 tinkering with his car.
Like all hybrids, his Prius increases fuel efficiency by harnessing small amounts of electricity generated during braking and coasting. The extra batteries let him store extra power by plugging the car into a wall outlet at his home in this San Francisco suburb — all for about a quarter...
Monrovia-based Energy CS has converted two Priuses to get up to 230 mpg by using powerful lithium ion batteries. It is forming a new company, EDrive Systems, that will convert hybrids to plug-ins for about $12,000 starting next year, company vice president Greg Hanssen said.
August 11, 2005.
THE world's largest frozen peat bog is melting. An area stretching for a million square kilometres across the permafrost of western Siberia is turning into a mass of shallow lakes as the ground melts, according to Russian researchers just back from the region.
The sudden melting of a bog the size of France and Germany combined could unleash billions of tonnes of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.
The news of the dramatic transformation of one of the world's least visited landscapes comes from Sergei Kirpotin, a botanist at Tomsk State University, Russia, and Judith Marquand at the University of Oxford.
Kirpotin describes an "ecological landslide that is probably irreversible and is undoubtedly connected to climatic warming". He says that the entire western Siberian sub-Arctic region has begun to melt, and this "has all happened in the last three or four years".
June marks the beginning of the melt season for Arctic sea ice, which reaches its minimum extent at the end of the season in September. In the past few Septembers, Arctic sea ice concentration (the amount of ice in a given area) has been markedly reduced. September 2002 set a new record low at 15 percent below average. It was followed closely by September 2003 and September 2004. So far, 2005 is shaping up to be another record-low sea ice year in the Arctic...
Different explanations have been proposed for Arctic sea ice decline, including the strong positive mode of the Arctic Oscillation (AO). This oscillation is an alternating pattern of atmospheric pressure at polar latitudes and mid-latitudes. In the early 1990s, the AO was in positive mode. In that mode, the AO produces a strong polar vortex, and resulting winds tended to flush older, thicker ice out of the Arctic. Since the late 1990s, however, the AO has been much more neutral, yet Arctic sea ice decline continues. Another explanation for declining sea ice is climate change. Global temperatures have risen, and climate models generally agree that one of the strongest signals of greenhouse warming is a loss of Arctic sea ice.Read the rest fromNasa's Earth Observatory website Permalink 1:39 PM
Interim Cornell President Rawlings announced that Cornell would go ahead with plans to bulldoze Redbud Woods and build a new parking lot, in spite of continuing protests by Cornell students and faculty, and in spite of a request from Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton to reconsider.
Since 1960, the oceans have been getting less salty, due to the influx of fresh water from melting glaciers and from increased rainfall. Both of these factors are attributed to global warming.
(Editorial comment: I hate being so predictable that every article about the Bush administration and the environment is negative. Maybe I will look around for good news about the administration, but it's a little hard to find.)
The Bush administration altered critical portions of a scientific analysis of the environmental impact of cattle grazing on public lands before announcing Thursday that it would relax regulations limiting grazing on those lands, according to scientists involved in the study.... The original draft of the environmental analysis warned that the new rules would have a "significant adverse impact" on wildlife, but that phrase was removed. The bureau now concludes that the grazing regulations are "beneficial to animals."
The Full Plate Farm Collective is a collective of three farms working to provide a quality CSA experience to shareholders and to strengthen a community of growers and eaters. The three farm are Stick and Stone Farm (10th year in operation!), Ann and Jeff's Farm, and Remembrance Farm. The CSA aspect of operation is managed by Melissa Brill. This collective feeds 100 families in the Trumansburg, Ithaca, and Danby Communities.
New England waters are being plagued by what may be the worst outbreak of red tide in the region, a Massachusetts official said Friday.
The Panama Canal depends on the water from Gatún Lake, one of the largest artificial lakes in the world, created during construction of the canal. This water in turn depends on the health of the surrounding watershed forest. But in the last few decades, half of it has been lost to logging and slash-and-burn agriculture.
From The New York Times, Carolyn Marshall writes:
Speaking to hundreds of international leaders gathered here for the United Nations World Environment Day, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced a plan to reduce California's contribution to gases that many scientists believe cause global warming.Read the rest of the story. Permalink 8:53 PM
Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, outlined his ambitious goals on Wednesday in a three-tiered Environmental Action Plan intended to reduce California's greenhouse gas emissions in less than five years to less than the levels in 2000.
The plan calls for the further reduction of emissions by 2020 to less than the levels produced in 1990, and for the reduction, by 2050, of emissions to 80 percent less than the levels in 1990.
Philip A. Cooney, the chief of staff to President Bush’s Council on Environmental Quality, resigned yesterday, White House officials said.Read the rest of the article, by ANDREW C. REVKIN in The New York Times. Permalink 8:48 PM
Mr. Cooney’s resignation came two days after documents revealed that he had repeatedly edited government climate reports in ways that cast doubt on the link between building greenhouse-gas emissions and rising temperatures.
In four different instances last week, the Bush administration allowed corporate influence to affect national environmental, scientific, health and land use policy:
Marine biologists have figured out one of the secrets of life in the deep sea beds of Monterey Bay. Until now, it was unclear how anything could live down there. No sunlight, no photosynthesis, no photosynthesis no plants, no plants, no food for animals.
It turns out we can thank tadpole-like creatures called "giant larvaceans" for secreting huge balls of mucus. The lavaceans live inside these mucus balls until they get too clogged up and gross. At this point, the larvaceans discard their old homes and make new ones. The old dirty mucus balls sink like bombs of carbon and provide food for deep sea animals.
From Jane Marie Law:
From Jae Sullivan:
via the Ithaca Journal
Chainsaw crews felled the first handful of trees Monday morning at the Cornell University site known as Redbud Woods, but work on a proposed parking lot there was soon stalled by protesters.Permalink 10:43 AM
Between 8 and 9 a.m., a man who identified himself only as "Psyrx"(pronounced "sigh-rex") climbed about 25 feet into the branches of one of the trees near University Avenue and remained there through the afternoon, despite a violent thunderstorm.
Other protesters took shifts camping on a platform installed in another tree behind a housing cooperative at 660 Stewart Avenue and locked themselves to reinforced concrete blocks buried in the ground nearby. Dozens of supporters milled around the woods or watched from a distance.