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china losing ground against the environment

“Soil erosion had affected a total of 3.6 million square km of land, accounting for 37 percent of the country's territory, Vice Minister of Water Resources E Jingping was quoted as saying.

“Loss of topsoil is reducing China's already limited arable land. The country has 21 percent of the world's population, but only 10 percent of its tillable earth.

“Erosion is also fuelling desertification in China's north, where the Gobi Desert has grown dramatically over the past decade and crept closer to Beijing, which suffers thick sandstorms almost every spring.”

“Per-capita water availability in the country is about one quarter of the world average and expected to fall further. More than 300 million Chinese do not have access to drinkable water, while, measured by its economy, China consumes five times more water than the global average, officials said.

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#china_291205


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global warming burden of proof is shifting as data accumulates

    “ "In a sense, the burden of proof has shifted from the people who are saying there's a risk, to the skeptics now," [...] ”

    “Among fresh reports of warming's impact:

  • “The World Meteorological Association said Thursday that in the Arctic Sea, where average winter temperatures have risen as much as 7 degrees Fahrenheit over 50 years, the ice cap this summer was 20 percent smaller than the 1979-2004 average.

  • “British oceanographers reported this month that Atlantic currents carrying warm water toward northern Europe have slowed. Freshwater from melting northern ice caps and glaciers is believed interfering with saltwater currents. Ultimately such a change could cool the European climate.

  • “In southern Africa, beset by four years of drought, average temperatures during the 12-month period ending last July were the warmest on record, British scientists said. The mercury stood more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit above a recent 40-year average.

  • “In Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea in the southwest Pacific, rising seas are forcing hundreds of islanders to abandon vulnerable coastal homes for higher ground, according to U.N. and news reports. ”
the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#co2_increasing_201205

amazonian trees and global carbon

“Using radiocarbon dating methods, the team, which includes UC Irvine's Susan Trumbore, found that up to half of all trees greater than 10 centimeters in diameter are more than 300 years old. Some of the trees, Trumbore said, are as much as 750 to 1,000 years old [...].

“Little was known about the age of tropical trees, because they do not have easily identified annual growth rings," added Trumbore, a professor of Earth system science. "No one had thought these tropical trees could be so old, or that they grow so slowly.”

“Because their trees are old and slow-growing, the Amazon forests, which contain about a third of all carbon found in land vegetation, have less capacity to absorb atmospheric carbon than previous studies have predicted. Although some of the largest trees also grow the fastest and can take up carbon quickly, the vast majority of the Amazon trees grow slowly.

“ "In the Central Amazon, where we found the slowest growing trees, the rates of carbon uptake are roughly half what is predicted by current global carbon cycle models," Trumbore said. "As a result, those models - which are used by scientists to understand how carbon flows through the Earth system - may be overestimating the forests' capacity to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere." ”

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#tree_rings_151205

yet another fossil fuel disaster

Smoke from oil depot fire at Hemel Hempstead, England. Image courtesy of NASA.
Smoke from oil depot fire at Hemel Hempstead, England. Image courtesy of NASA

A fuel depot of twenty-two storage tanks blows up in crowded south-east England, provoking the largest oil fire in Europe during peacetime.

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#hemel_hempstead_121205

bio-diesel - an environmental disaster in the making

George Monbiot now admits:

“Like most environmentalists [...] I now realise that I have entertained a belief in magic.”

marker at abelard.org

“It suggested that the best means of dealing with the problem was to prevent environmentally destructive fuels from being imported. The government asked its consultants whether a ban would infringe world trade rules. The answer was yes: "Mandatory environmental criteria ... would greatly increase the risk of international legal challenge to the policy as a whole." So it dropped the idea of banning imports, and called for "some form of voluntary scheme" instead. Knowing that the creation of this market will lead to a massive surge in imports of palm oil, knowing that there is nothing meaningful it can do to prevent them, and knowing that they will accelerate rather than ameliorate climate change, the government has decided to go ahead anyway.”

And still the article does not attend to the fossil fuel input involved in bio-fuels, but at least the fellow shows honesty.

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#monbiot_121205

new creature found? now to destroy its environment?

The beast of Borneo, snapped during a late walk
image credit:Stephan Wulffraat, WWF

“The island, which is shared by Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, has some of the most diverse wildlife on earth, but its forests are under threat from expanding rubber and palm oil plantations.”

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#beast_of_borneo_071205

mongolia to become the saudis of renewable energy - and they still have not included yak power!

The UNEP study that includes the referenced wind map is not yet publicly available. Thus, there are only second-hand reports as yet, so claims should be treated with caution.

“Among the nations surveyed, Nicaragua, Mongolia and Vietnam had the greatest potential with about 40 percent of the land area suitable for windmills.

“Least promising was Bangladesh, with just 0.2 percent of the land area suited to windmills, along with countries including Cuba and Ghana.”
— .
“ In Nicaragua, for instance, the government in the 1980s estimated the nation's wind power potential at just 200 megawatts. The UN map estimates its potential at 40,000 megawatts, a rough equivalent of 40 nuclear power plants.”

approximate land areas in sq. km

  • Nicaragua 118,750
  • Vietnam 325,360
  • Mongolia 1,565,000

UN renewable energies mapping project

related material
replacing fossil fuels
new report suggests much higher wind energy available to be tapped

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#wind_power_061205

conserving land quality and enhancing economics - minimum tillage

“ Less cost and greater quality

“Moreover, on reducing the tillage work, the costs of production are also cut, particularly the costs of fuel, without negatively affecting the average production of the crop. Between no-till and minimum tillage, the author holds that the minimum tillage system is of greater environmental interest, given that it does not require any additional application of herbicides.

“It has also been shown that the reduction in tillage has contributed to an improvement in soil quality. In the trials undertaken, the researchers explain, there was an improvement observed in the physical and chemical properties of the soil and an enhancement in the stability of the surface soil aggregates was also noted. Likewise, the activity of the worm population increased, one of the main indicators of soil quality.

“As regards the sustainability of the environment, it is precisely the systems for soil suggested by conservation tillage which are the most effective tools in this sphere, reducing, as it does, fuel consumption and favouring the capture of carbon in the soil due to the increase of organic material in its content.”

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#tillage_051205

atlantic conveyor slowing, yet still many remain in denial

“The Atlantic Conveyor, a life-giving ocean current that keeps northern Europe warm, is slowing down, scientists said on Wednesday.

“If the 30 percent slowdown seen over the past 12 years is not just a blip, temperatures in northern Europe could drop significantly, despite global warming, they added.

“Scientists have long forecast that the Atlantic Conveyor that carries warm surface water north and cold deep water back to the equator could break down because of global warming.”

related material
growing concerns about the atlantic conveyor
global warming

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#atlantic_conveyor_011205

global warming is a con - it just must be!

“Current levels of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere are higher now than at any time in the last 650,000 years. ”

“We find that CO2 is about 30% higher than at any time, and methane 130% higher than at any time; and the rates of increase are absolutely exceptional: for CO2, 200 times faster than at any time in the last 650,000 years.”

“ We found a very tight relationship between CO2 and temperature even before 420,000 years," said Professor Stocker.

“The fact that the relationship holds across the transition between climatic regimes is a very strong indication of the important role of CO2 in climate regulation.”

related material
global warming

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#global_warming_261105

science, carbon and nuclear power Three and half GoldenYak(tm) award
Recommended reading

“For all practical purposes, the recent "carbonation" of the atmosphere is irreversible. Carbon dioxide is a persistent gas; it lasts for about a century. Thus, while it is possible to increase CO2 concentrations relatively quickly, by, say, burning fossil fuels or levelling forests, the opposite is not the case.”

“ "In climate-science circles, a future in which current emissions trends continue, unchecked, is known as "business as usual," or B.A.U. A few years ago, Robert Socolow, a professor of engineering at Princeton, began to think about B.A.U. and what it implied for the fate of mankind. Socolow had recently become co-director of the Carbon Mitigation Initiative, a project funded by BP and Ford, but he still considered himself an outsider to the field of climate science.

“Talking to insiders, he was struck by the degree of their alarm. "I’ve been involved in a number of fields where there’s a lay opinion and a scientific opinion," he told me when I went to talk to him shortly after returning from the Netherlands. "And, in most of the cases, it’s the lay community that is more exercised, more anxious.

“If you take an extreme example, it would be nuclear power, where most of the people who work in nuclear science are relatively relaxed about very low levels of radiation.

“But, in the climate case, the experts - the people who work with the climate models every day, the people who do ice cores - they are more concerned. They’re going out of their way to say, ‘Wake up! This is not a good thing to be doing.’ ”

“ Stabilizing CO2 emissions, Socolow realized, would be a monumental undertaking, so he decided to break the problem down into more manageable blocks, which he called "stabilization wedges."

“For simplicity’s sake, he defined a stabilization wedge as a step that would be sufficient to prevent a billion metric tons of carbon per year from being emitted by 2054. Along with a Princeton colleague, Stephen Pacala, he eventually came up with fifteen different wedges - theoretically, at least eight more than would be necessary to stabilize emissions.

“These fall, very roughly, into three categories - wedges that deal with:

    1. energy demand
    2. energy supply
    3. "capturing" CO2 and storing it somewhere other than the atmosphere.

“Last year, the two men published their findings in a paper in Science which received a great deal of attention. The paper was at once upbeat" - Humanity already possesses the fundamental scientific, technical, and industrial know-how to solve the carbon and climate problem for the next half-century," it declared - and deeply sobering. "There is no easy wedge" is how Socolow put it to me.”

There are two previous articles in this series: 24.04.05, 02.05.05

[Quotes modified slightly for readability.]

related material
global warming

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#nuclear_carbon_131105

“two incompatible objectives will put the lights out in britain in a decade”

substantial press release

“Energy will inevitably become less available and more expensive than it has been for the last few decades. The change will be permanent. Adapting to this scenario while maintaining the UK’s standard of living will require fundamental changes in the way we produce and use energy. All sources of energy will be required.”

marker at abelard.org

“Britain must renew its ageing nuclear power stations or risk missing its targets on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, leading scientists said on Thursday.

“Failing that, the lights will start to go out across the country within a decade as an energy gap of 20 percent emerges between supply and demand >for electricity as the nuclear stations are forced by old age to shut down.” [Quoted from planetark]

related material
is nuclear power really really dangerous?

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#nuclear_warming_101105

destroying the ocean resources

The only way this will stop is when concerned nations return to sending out gunboats and sink them. I see that pirates tried to hijack an European cruise liner recently. Soft words merely amuse the seriously lawless. They are a clear sign that people will not act to confront and stop them.

“Many nations have significant economic interests in illegal fishing through companies and citizens who operate ships flying FOCs. Taiwan tops the list, and Spain is in fourth place (see Diagram) despite the European Union having signed up in 2001 to a UN plan that requires governments to act against any of their citizens involved in illegal fishing. Signatories are also committed to improve monitoring of vessels, and not to flag a vessel found to have been involved in illegal fishing. "These are states generally considered to be responsible in terms of action to regulate fishing on the high seas," says Gianni. "Yet companies within their jurisdiction own and operate vessels fishing illegally with impunity.”

related material
is australia getting serious about fisheries protection?

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#ocean_resources_101105

growing ecological problems in china

“Water shortages had struck several cities in the prosperous southern province of Guangdong due to months of drought that had destroyed farmland, dried up rivers and reservoirs and allowed salt water to wash upstream and contaminate fresh water supplies, the China Daily said.”

related material
pollution and power in china
urbanisation and increasing living standards cause china ecological problems

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#china_problems_041105

antarctic breaking up faster than predicted

“The edges of the Antarctic ice sheets are slipping into the ocean at an unprecedented rate, raising fears of a global surge in sea levels, glaciologists warned on Monday.

“The findings confound predictions made just four years ago, by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), that Antarctica would not contribute significantly to sea level rise in the 21st century.”

Unfortunately, no predictions of associated sea level changes are included in the item.

related material
global warming
giant iceberg disrupts antarctica
south georgia, antarctica and icebergs from satellite

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#antarctica_241005

neat short piece on 'natural disasters'

“Scientists believe the increase in hydro-meteorological disasters is due to a combination of natural and human-caused factors. global warming is increasing the temperatures of Earth's oceans and atmosphere, leading to more intense storms of all types, including hurricanes.”

“ People are also tempting nature with rapid and unplanned urbanization in flood-prone regions, increasing the likelihood that their towns and villages will be affected by flash floods and coastal floods.”

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#natural_disasters_201005

on the orrible poison animals of ostralia Three GoldenYak (tm) award

and the study of their toxins.
Recommended reading.

“The cone shell is a marine snail that lives in tropical regions worldwide, including the waters around northeastern Australia's Great Barrier Reef. The snail aggressively reaches out to sting prey or would-be predators, injecting toxins that are among the most powerful in the animal kingdom. Even a diminutive member of the genus Conus can carry enough venom to kill a dozen people; a single careless encounter can bring death in less than thirty minutes. What's more, the radula, a harpoonlike stinger that delivers the venom, can strike with enough speed and force to pierce a diver's wetsuit. There is almost no pain associated with a cone-shell sting, because the venom contains a strong analgesic. That's the good news. The bad news is that the toxin is a nerve agent for which there is no known antidote.”

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#poisonous_oz_191005

is australia getting serious about fisheries protection?

“Canberra is to spend A$88 million ($67 million) on four new patrol boats and more than 50 additional customs and fisheries officers so more illegal fishing crews can be arrested, their vessels seized and the cases brought before Australian courts.

“At present patrol boats sometimes only seize the catch and the fishing gear from foreign boats in Australian waters and allow the vessels to go, Fisheries Minister Ian Macdonald said on Tuesday.

“He said a record 160 foreign fishing vessels had been apprehended in Australia's northern waters so far this year and the new arrangements would allow Australian authorities to detain more illegal fishermen and process them more quickly.”

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#oz_fishing_131005

the train is roaring down the track - the old fogeys prefer denial

“ "There are a group of people in various parts of the world ... who simply don't want to accept human activities can change climate and are changing the climate. I'd liken them to the people who denied that smoking causes lung cancer."

“Lawton said hurricanes were getting more intense, just as computer models predicted they would, because of the rising temperature of the sea.

“ "Increasingly it looks like a smoking gun," he said.”

marker at abelard.org

Meanwhile, a grassroots blog campaign is fast gathering pace to attack us government waste. The tag is ‘porkbusters’.
The gimmick is to pay for Katrina. As usual, the fossil media is struggling to keep up, let alone government big spenders.

Here are a couple of main drivers:

while the auroran sunset is editorialising the key acts.

The fiscal conservatives in the Republican Party are getting increasingly concerned about our George and are, therefore, increasingly ignoring or by-passing him.

marker at abelard.org

The land of the free are increasingly looking to hybrids. Americans know nothing about diesels!

“Toyota Motor Corp. has seen a rise in demand for hybrid vehicles in the United States in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as consumers seek more mileage out of $3-gallon gasoline, a top official said on Thursday.” [Quoted from planetark.com]

While, just about every day, the large motor corporations are scrambling to announce new hybrids and more production. It will not solve the underlying problem, but it will still buy time.

The world it is a’changing, while the masses cannot yet believe it and George seems intent on maximising big oil returns.

And there goes Miss Rita.

marker at abelard.org

“History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives.”
Abba Eban, 1970

marker at abelard.org

Now I’m told that born-again George is plotting to rebuild New Orleans for a cool $60 billion. How surreal, I can just see the headlines:

“Fundamental christian vows to rebuiild Sodom and Gomorrah.”

Doubtless, again below sea-level, and on the hurricane coast.

This must come under “how to confuse the voters”, or perhaps he responding to messages from a higher realm.

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#denial_260905

natural disasters and risk assessment

“[...] the clearing of trees, filling of wetlands, engineering of rivers, and destruction of coral reefs and mangroves has frayed the natural safety nets that healthy ecosystems provide. Consequently, when a natural disaster strikes, the risks of catastrophic losses are higher.

“Data collected by Munich Re, one of the world's largest reinsurance companies, show the loss of life and property due to natural disasters has been climbing for two decades. Worldwide economic losses from natural catastrophes during the past 10 years have totaled $566.8 billion, exceeding the combined losses from 1950 through 1989. More than four times as many "great" natural catastrophes occurred during the 1990s as during the 1950s.” [Quoted from csmonitor.com]

marker at abelard.org

“[...] experts are revisiting with a new concern the risks posed by everything from killer asteroids to ocean-shaking landslides.

“They also are considering a haunting new question: How can a disaster as widely predicted and slow-moving as a storm still pack such a devastating surprise in the United States?”
—”
“The potential catalog of calamities considered by scientists starts with the near-certainty of a major earthquake on California's San Andreas fault, and proceeds to far-shot catastrophes such as an Atlantic Ocean tsunami triggered by a volcanic landslide.” [Quoted from planetark.com]

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#risks_100905

no more great apes in twenty years?

“He said that the park, reckoned to hold half the world population of eastern lowland gorillas, had 8,000 in 1970. Now, 4,000 to 5,000 were probably gone. Klaus Topfer, executive director of the UN environment programme, had suggested that he would appoint a UN ambassador for the apes to put their case to governments, said Mr Redmond.

“Prof Galdikas predicted that the orang-utan would become extinct in the wild in five to 10 years as a result of rampant illegal logging in Indonesian national parks. She and experts behind the campaign 2001 An Ape Odyssey called for international institutions, aid donors, the World Bank and the IMF to press Indonesia to stop the logging.

“She said: "All other problems are secondary to the loss of the forest."
Dr Goodall said there were thought to have been 200,000 chimps in Africa's equatorial forest 100 years ago. Now, in Tanzania 100-120 lived in fragments surrounded by fields.”

some current great ape populations
chimpanzee bonobo 10,000 - 15,000
gorilla mountain 700
  Cross River 250
orangutan Sumatran 7,300
  Borneo 45,000

Contrast this with a current human population of 3 billion people and rising.

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#great_apes_050905

bananas under threat of extinction

“The diversity of fruit in Aguilar's field is astonishing. Some of the bananas are thick and over a foot long; others are slender and pinky-size. Some are meant to be eaten raw and sweet and some function more like potatoes, meant for boiling and baking or frying into snack chips. But Aguilar's admonition is aimed squarely at our northern lunch boxes and breakfast tables.”

And much more of fascination on bananas!

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#bananas_300805

improving understanding of forestry optimisation

“ "In the past we just didn't pay much attention to what was decaying, and how, and what the ecological implications of that were," Harmon said. "We now know there are huge differences between tree species, that some fungi decay some species and not others, and that all of these factors will play a role in sustainable forestry and overall forest health."

“In the future, Harmon said, trees increasingly will be planted that are never meant to be harvested - by design, they will be left to decay and play certain roles in forest ecology, for the health of plants, trees, microbes and wildlife. With large trees that have commercial value, it's still not certain exactly how many must be left for the complete range of forest benefits, he said, and findings on that issue will continue to emerge from studies such as this.”

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#forestry_optimisation_280805

bird numbers in UK change with global warming Three and half GoldenYak (tm) award
[28-page, illustrated .pdf file]

“Good news! Recent surveys have detected encouraging increases for four of our most vulnerable breeding species: capercaillie, corncrakes, bitterns and nightjars. A fifth species, the hen harrier, showed encouraging increases in the north and west but worrying declines elsewhere in its range.”

“Among our common breeding birds, some continue to decline alarmingly. Most noticeably, these include woodland birds such as wood warblers, spotted flycatchers and willow tits.”

From a just published comprehensive and detailed report from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds [RSPB], well-illustrated with photographs and charts.

“Mean annual global temperatures have increased by 0.6°C since 1900, making the 1990s the warmest decade in the century. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in its third assessment report (2002), stated that ‘most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations’ and that there was ‘new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities’.”

“A number of responses of birds to climate change in the UK have been well documented. They include changes in breeding success, possibly including those for guillemots and kittiwakes (see page 16). Phenological changes are widely apparent – egg-laying dates of a wide range of UK breeding species have advanced seasonally since the 1970s, the time that summer migrants arrive has become earlier and short-distance migrants may have delayed their departure to the wintering grounds. For some species, migration patterns are changing as well as timing.”

“If the northward range expansion of European species such as black kites, cattle egrets and great reed warblers continues, there is a strong possibility that they will colonise the UK during the present century. A 1°C rise in mean temperatures may bring Kent and Sussex within the breeding range of zitting cisticolas. More worryingly, climate warming may also lead to the loss of species restricted to breeding either at high altitudes, such as ptarmigans and snow buntings, or in northern Scotland, such as whooper swans, Arctic skuas and greenshanks.”

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#uk_bird_report_190805

every radio-active cloud has a silver bio-diverse lining!

“Chernobyl's ecosystems seem to be bouncing back, 19 years after the region was blasted with radiation from the ill-fated reactor. Researchers who have surveyed the land around the old nuclear power plant in present-day Ukraine say that biodiversity is actually higher than before the disaster.” [Quoted from nature.com]

marker at abelard.org

Here is a haunting photo-journal from a biker abroad in the danger zone around Chernobyl: kiddofspeed.com

“good girls go to heaven, bad girls go to hell....
girls with fast bikes go anywhere they want!”

marker at abelard.org

It seems that nature welcomes the very things which cause our pseudo-greens so much agony.

“Military exercises are boosting biodiversity, according to a study of land used for US training manoeuvres in Germany. Such land has more endangered species than nearby national parks.

“The land is uncultivated, but also churned up by tank tracks and explosions. This creates habitat both for species that prefer pristine lands and those that require disturbed ground, explains ecologist Steven Warren of Colorado State University in Fort Collins." [Quoted from nature.com]

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#no_mans_land_160805

pollution: home-cooking v. store-produced meals

“Emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide or methane, were somewhat higher for the home-cooked meal. One reason, Sonesson explains, is because much potentially wasted energy in commercial preparation of foods was recaptured—such as by the incineration of food scraps. Production of smog-inducing gases proved highest for the semi-prepared meal, largely because it required the most plastic for packaging the various components.

“Emissions of nitrogen oxides, a component of smog and acid rain, were highest overall for home-cooked meals, Sonesson's group found. One major reason: potato peels.”

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#cooking_140805

mars: red to brown to blue

Short speculative item on the terraforming of Mars.

“[...] what we could do is make Mars suitable for life. Human beings are a particular subset of life that require particular conditions. And it turns out oxygen in particular is very hard to make on Mars. That is, I think, beyond our technological horizons - it's a long time in the future. But warming Mars up, and restoring its thick carbon dioxide atmosphere, restoring its habitable state, is possible. It's sort of a stretch of the word terraforming, but if you want to call that terraforming, that's possible. Bob McElroy coined the phrase "ecosynthesis" for that, and I think that's a better word." ”

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#life_on_mars_120805

the desert of iceland

A neat little read.

“Andres Arnalds says that "soil samples from eroding areas were tested in wind tunnels in Texas, US, and they found out that only soil samples from the Moon blew as easily as the Icelandic soils." ”

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#iceland_desert_070805

there is no global warming - population is no problem - please do not worry!

This article has been incorporated into Land conservation and food production - briefing document

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#global_warming_020805

water flow benefits of tree planting questioned

“The study said trees often showed the "clothes line" effect.

“Just as wet clothes dry quicker if hung out rather than left lying on the ground, the enormous combined surface of trees' leaves combined with their deep roots meant they transpired more water into the air than other crops, it said.”
[Quoted from planetark.com]

marker at abelard.org

“Planting trees can create deserts, lower water tables and drain rivers, rather than filling them, claims a new report supported by the UK government.

“The findings - which may come as heresy to tree-lovers and most environmentalists - is an emerging new consensus among forest and water professionals.”
[Quoted from newscientist.com]

This UK government report is quite fascinating, if a bit politically correct. It is well worth a quick scan through, or more, if you feel like some work! (Also well illustrated.)

“Water management programmes across the developing world are based on the mistaken belief that trees increase the available water in an area, says a report published today (29 July).”

“Although the report does not advocate an end to tree planting - which can help limit soil erosion and preserve biodiversity - it does challenge the widely-held view that forested land always conserves and supplies more water than grassland or other treeless areas.

“ "Contrary to popular opinion, we found that trees usually reduce the amount of available water," says Ian Calder, director of the Centre for Land Use and Water Resources Research.

“Forests tend to diminish water supplies because they lose more water through evaporation than other vegetation, say the researchers.”
{Quoted from scidev.net]

marker at abelard.org

From the full report: [63-page .pdf file]

“The wagon wheel that upset the apple cart: revelations in the United States Forest Service7 In the early twentieth century, policy of the US Forest Service was driven by the idea that forests regulate streamflow. Despite an absence of scientific proof to support this notion, the Weeks Act was passed. This provided the US president with authority to purchase watershed forests in order to protect commercial interests influenced by the navigability of inland waterways. This government agenda gained weight from events such as the Ohio floods of 1907.

“It was only in 1910 that the US Forest Service carried out its first systematic attempt to evaluate experimentally the impact of forest removal on streamflow. This project, known as the Wagon Wheel Gap experiment, involved the monitoring of streamflow from two adjoining watersheds over a nine-year period. After this time, forest cover was removed from one watershed but left intact on the other as a control. Streamflow was then monitored for another nine years. The deforestation of the watershed resulted in an increase in run-off that was sustained throughout the year, thereby negating the twin prediction of an increase in floodwaters, and a decrease in dry season streamflow.

“ The Wagon Wheel Gap results overturned ideas that had long been held sacred within the US forest community. The results did not change opinions overnight but by the 1950s, a number of research stations were established to examine the relationship between forests, water and soil run-off. Results tended to support the findings of the Wagon Wheel Gap experiment and, finally, the US Forest Service abandoned claims that forests regulate streamflow.”

From an interesting section on payments for environmental services:

“Costa Rican forestry law recognises four environmental services provided by forests. One, carbon fixation, or mitigation of greenhouse gases; two, hydrological services, or stabilisation of streamflow and reduction of sedimentation for downstream beneficiaries such as domestic water-users in urban areas and hydroelectricity-generating companies; three, biodiversity protection and four, provision of scenic beauty.”

Another interesting section gives10 basic lessons of water management with commentary.

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#tree_planting_300705

nz succeeds in localised invasive pest eradication

“These days pilots follow a grid pattern to ensure an island is swathed in bait, with printouts of the paths flown enabling the conservation team to check for any gaps.

“Campbell Island [is] the biggest of the more than 100 islands New Zealand has cleared of pests [...].”

“So fine-tuned is the DOC [Department of Conservation] technique that "virtual" islands are now springing up on the country's main islands.

“In the middle of New Zealand's North Island, a community group is half way through ringing 3,400 hectares (8400 acres) at the top of a local mountain, Maungatautari, with a 47km (29 miles) predator-proof fence.

“When the fence is completed, the mammalian pests within will be poisoned.

“Already four North Island brown kiwi have been reintroduced into a small pest-free enclosure on the mountain, the first kiwi there in living memory.

“ [...] "The bottom line is that you just make sure that every rat has access to bait and if you do, then they'll all be dead." ”

New Zealand is also doing pioneering work in the development of ocean reserves. One place where you can read details is The end of the line.

Lead from Chris.

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#nz_rats_300705

elephants adapt to poaching

Five to 10 percent of Asian elephants in China now had a gene that prevented the development of tusks, up from the usual 2 to 5 percent, the China Daily said, quoting research from Beijing Normal University.”

“ Similar changes in elephant tusk development and sex ratios have been reported in Africa and India.”

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#elephants_210705

the threatened planet

“So botanists such as Raven begin with the big picture of sustainable growth and can calculate to the nearest planet how much land and sea it would take to sustain the population of the world if everybody lived as comfortably as the Americans, British or French. The answer is three planets.

The interesting question has been asked, how many planets would it take if the standard of living considered were that of Bangledesh, or that of other examples? It is also unclear from the item whether the current situation is sustainable.

“The global population is about to soar from 6 billion to 9 billion in less than a lifetime. Around 800 million humans are starving, and maybe 2 billion are malnourished, while 3 billion survive on two dollars a day.”

“ [...] The greater the variety of microbes, plants and animals in an ecosystem, the more resilient it is and the better it works for all, including humans. So it would not be a good idea to evict at least half of these creatures, especially if nothing is known about them. But, Raven says, that is what is happening.”

related material
wwf world ecology report 2004

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#threatened_planet_200705

wolfowitz wishes to involve world bank in multi-national ‘clean’ energy technology

“World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz on Friday said the multilateral lender wants to help foster discussion among industrialized nations and emerging market countries such as China and India on tackling global warming.”

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#wolfowitz_130705

why australia’s dream time ended page2

“By studying the ancient remains of two Australian animals, the wombat and the emu, scientists have discovered that the diets of animals on the continent changed radically about 45,000 years ago.

“After eliminating possibilities like disease and climate change, researchers determined that it was the arrival of humans that so dramatically altered the Australian landscape. The scientists suspect that humans' use of massive fires is to blame. The exact purpose of the fires, however, remains a mystery.”

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005_2.php#australia_090705

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