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ecology 1

New translation, the Magna Carta
article archives at abelard's news and comment zoneecology archive: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

all change—sex

Polar bears, Arctic foxes and Inuit peoples are under threat from man-made toxins such as polychlorinated byphenyls (PCBs) that build up in the food chain.
Some scientists believe the PCBs are leading to “gender-bender” polar bears in Norway and Greenland, after the discovery of a number of female bears which had both male and female sexual organs.
[Independent, 02.10.02]

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major new USA report on the environment
(Note: it takes a while to download the accompanying navigation gifs.)

This report is very useful for categorising the environment and pressures upon it. It gives history of the measures, where available, and suggests new variables that should be monitored. The report should be on every teacher’s and journalist’s reference list.

Here is a typical page on non-native species which will give an idea of the standard layout. Technical notes are linked to many of the indicators.

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sahara desert in retreat?

Africa’s deserts are in “spectacular” retreat
[New Scientist, 18.09.02]

Sahara desert frontiers turn green

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a note on the steady progress to alternative mobile fuels
[mobile fuels: fuels used in mobile mechanisms, such as cars, as opposed to static fuels used in power stations and for heating.]

Better motor starting technology,
better recycling of plant matter and human waste;
partial replacement of fuel from depletable sources with fuel from sustainable sources,
partial replacement of fuel imports,
increased bio-fuel plantation efficiency,
increased distillery efficiencies (fuel-ethanol is distilled from from sugars),
leading to lowered greenhouse/pollution outputs.

It ain’t perfect, but it is by multiple smaller steps that the worries will probably be mitigated. Not by one mighty leap and we will be free.

Also note that price rises drive fuel substitution.

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in praise of weeds....
hey....why don’t they call wild animals weeds?

Well, maybe you thought that was a bit dull without pictures, so here’s a place to go with various slideshows of US wild flowers
the last item listed is a slideshow of 37 tall grass prairies pictures.

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moving towards hydrogen fuels.....

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
F. D. Roosevelt 1933
[ Nature, 29.08.02]

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can we run out of resources?

A shallow report was spun by the WWF last week, and reported by several sources.

The Cato Institute is already commenting with useful links, so I am now posting their links here. (the Cato site is one of the best resources on the net for common-sense items)

So here is a snippet article by Julian Simon, a long time opponent of false ecology and economics, and a more serious summary.

As far as I am concerned, over-optimism and over-pessimism are as daft as one another. Balance and judgement and planning forwards human advantage, not emotional spasms!

California sets stricter standards for cars...
Californian car laws tend to spread—advised reading.



sea-bat! update: not a ‘sea-bat’, but a sea-hare!

The Sea Slug Forum has identified our beastie:

“Your ‘sea bat’ is indeed a sea slug and more particularly a Sea Hare, most probably Aplysia fasciata.”
The Sea Slug Forum has even posted our three photos at the Aplysia link above. This fascinating site has much further information on sea-hares, sea-slugs and their relatives.

(See here for previous report.)


smoke pall over new england

Spectacular, very large, satellite image.
There is also a smaller version showing the smoke drifting south east.


related material
not enough resources?




related material
not enough resources?

a short article on hybridisation
Cleanly written article, with some references. [IHT, 7.02.02]
AIDS marches on. Are you all doooooomed?

Life expectancy dropping—in some cases to 18th century levels [IHT, 08.07.02]

5 part article on the spread of AIDS in China (first part – links to further parts at bottom of page) [Foreign Affairs, Mar/April 2002]

In both cases, worries grow regarding societies with an imbalance of males with no available females. This imbalance is increased by the considerable tendency, in many parts of the world, to kill female baybees.


Can anything be done about it? [IHT, 06.07.02]
and will anything be done?
But just maybe, we will have a vaccine. [Independent, 09.07.02]

World running out of room? [Observer/Guardian, 07.07.02]
It must be considered that some may quietly think this new plague is no bad thing.

Sperm interference [Nature, 03.07.02]
Falling fertility rates due to pollutants.

Now, here you have an interesting story which shows Darwinian selection arising from environmental pressure. It tells of the shrinking sizes of fish in the world’s fisheries as faster maturing fish, who are smaller as adults, become predominant because larger fishes are favoured by the fishermen. To this can be added the greater ability of smaller fishes to escape through the nets. [Canadian National Post, 05.07.02]


Clearly, in due course, the various pressures from growing populations, as well as other changing pressures, may feed back into chances of population collapse. For instance, the constant saving of human lives who would otherwise have died from disease, and the assisted fertilisation of those who are otherwise infertile, will spread genes that would otherwise have been removed from the population.

There is a breed of commercial duck (the Aylesbury I believe) that can no longer breed and raise young unassisted. I suggest humans could well end up in a similar situation. Good job science is racing ahead—maybe....

related material
global warming




related material
global warming


While roaming in south west France, the clan saw this ‘sea-bat’.

About 30cm long, with frills round its mouth and an undulating ‘skirt’ which it uses to ‘fly’ through the water.

A neighbouring fishing expert told us it is a limace de mer – a sea slug.

ab’s searches found that our ‘sea-bat’ is in the nudibranch family (a site of pretty topical nudibranches here), while the Sea Slug Forum, run by Bill Rudman of the Division of Invertebrate Zoology of the Australian Museum, has been asked for a closer identification.

And here is the find of this piece: the Australian Museum online has plenty of clear information, and pictures too, on all sorts of living things in and around Australia – great for reseach, and for general interest on that wet Sunday afternoon when the local museum has run out of novelty.


more global warming
this is a useful short simple well-written article on the ice caps, particularly Antarctica. [IHT, 07.06.02]

global warming primer (note: this is a PDF file - 18 pages. Found 18.04.2002)
This is an excellent summary article of the current thinking on global warming (mostly with regard to greenhouse effects).
A useful antidote to the next shallow media idiocy on this subject.
(Thanks to J and K Copeland for this link.)

This document is a more accessible (cruder) version of the PDF document above:
“Climate change science: an analysis of some key questions”
It is a summary of the National Research Council study (see footnote 1 of doc. for more) and is part of a large US government report on global warming (listed next).

Bush admistration accepts global warming as serious....
Large US government report in PDF format. Available in parts, total 5 Mb. (Note: this is an index page, linking to the various parts.)
This report is, in the main, political and is directed to showing US government support for research and otherwise improving the situation.

Is global warming really happening, or is it just local variation?
Some recent happenings —

fortunately, there is no global warming...
Alaska loses 4.5 million acres of trees (that is 7,000+ square miles. Wales is ~8,000 square miles).
And Alaska’s winter temperature rises 10 degrees F. [IHT, 18.06.02]

himalayan glaciers melting
this has dangerous consequences....[Independent, 17.04.02]

Antarctic ice shelf breaking up:
useful maps and animation [BBC, 19.03.02]
further detail, including:
“The chunk now calving from the Ross Ice Shelf has been moving for 30 years, Stearns noted. He added, ‘Ice flows down hill, feeding the ice shelf. It would pile up if it did not break off.’ This latest calving brings the Ross Ice Shelf to the size it was in about 1911, when Scott's team first mapped it.”

first country to legislate against light pollution, and about time too. Gold star for the Czech Republic. 06.06.2002
Galapagos iguanas appear badly damaged by oil spill 08.06.2002
new major environmental report (main index)
This is a good, far-ranging and useful report upon the various ecological threats to human comfort, or even to survival.

increasing forests

The UK state-controlled Forestry Commission has 800,000 hectares and the planted area is continuing to grow.
Britain has more trees now than at any time in the last three centuries.
About 12% of Britain is forested (over 17% of Scotland).
The number of varieties of trees being planted is on the increase.
The E.U. is about one-third forested.
In 1895, less than 5% of Britain was woodland.
Wood production in Scotland is expected to rise from the current 4 million cubic metres per annum to 10 million by 2020.
Wood prices are dropping.
(Figures reported in an Economist article, 25.04.2002)

I quietly whisper: the Forestry Commission is, of course, losing money—but then it is run by the government.
Well what did you expect, only good news?

just what did happen to the american locust? 26.04.2002
eating your close relations..... 18.04.2002
desertification in southern europe 04.04.2002
disappearing trees... 04.04.2002
the dodo was just an over-grown pigeon 19.03.2002

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