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ecology news archives 9

New translation, the Magna Carta
article archives at abelard's news and comment zoneecology archives
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III-2004: 17 18 19 22 30

ecology 9

huge engineering project reopened to revive the aral sea
and maybe protect the gulf stream!

“The proposed scheme would be roughly equivalent to irrigating Mexico from the North American Great Lakes. It would drive a canal 200 metres wide and 16 metres deep southwards for some 2500 kilometres.”

Note: cotton is a highly intensive water user.

related material gulf stream item

the web address for this article is


related material
gulf stream item







eating the wildlife

“ "Asia's wildlife is being sold on a massive scale throughout the region for food, medicines and pets, and populations of many species are declining or facing local extinction," said WCS scientist Dr Melvin Gumal, a participant at COP-7 and Director of WCS's Malaysia Program.

“The trade includes everything from small songbirds sold as pets, to reptiles sold on a massive scale for their skins and their meat, to animal parts for medicinal use. Even species once thought of as common are becoming rare as they are being trapped, shot or snared and sent to the marketplace. The result is loss of wildlife across the region.

“ "In many parts of Asia, it is easier to see animals in the markets than in the forest," said COP-7 delegate Dr Kent Redford, Director of WCS's Conservation Institute and originator of the "empty forest syndrome" concept, used to describe forests after hunters decimate their animal populations. "As animals that perform vital roles in the forest as predators, pollinators and seed dispersers disappear, other species will also go."

“In last 40 years, 12 species of large animals have become extinct or virtually extinct in Vietnam due mainly to hunting and wildlife trade....”

the web address for this article is


state of north atlantic fisheries: book review

“"After exposing the roots of the trouble, Pauly and Maclean attempt to describe how the North Atlantic reached its current sorry state. They document several problems—government subsidies that distort the economics of fishing, ineffective governance at both the national and the international level, and a lack of scientific information—all of which, they contend, interact to produce a management regime at odds with ecological reality. They conclude by recommending five measures to restore the North Atlantic: Reduce fishing effort by a factor of three or four; establish 20 percent of the ocean as marine reserves by 2020; increase market-based attempts (such as eco-labeling) to move the fishing industry toward sustainability; implement procedures to expose unsustainable and illegal practices; and alter access and property rights in fisheries to favor small-scale, place-based operations.”

This review is a recommended read.

the web address for this article is


more consumerism, more environmental pressure

While this article contains some arithmetic gaffs, it is recommended for outline reading. Three and a half GoldenYak (tm) award

“Today nearly half of global consumers reside in developing countries, including 240 million in China and 120 million in India - markets with the most potential for expansion.

“Rising consumption has helped meet basic needs and create jobs," Christopher Flavin, president of Worldwatch Institute said in a statement to the press. "But as we enter a new century, this unprecedented consumer appetite is undermining the natural systems we all depend on, and making it even harder for the world's poor to meet their basic needs."

“The report addresses the devastating toll on the Earth's water supplies, natural resources, and ecosystems exacted by a plethora of disposable cameras, plastic garbage bags, and other cheaply made goods with built in product-obsolescence, and cheaply made manufactured goods that lead to a "throw away" mentality.”

state of the world 2004

The Worldwatch Institute, State of the world 2004
W.W. Norton & Company, January 2004, 0393325393 $11.87 / £8.33

I have not seen the full report.
There is another press release here.

the web address for this article is


a lightweight assessment of whaling

“In fact, less moralising from the anti-whalers might even serve their purpose better, if that purpose is indeed to save whales from the harpoon. The economics of whaling is unlikely ever to attract much hunting, and certainly nothing on a large scale. It is the politics that excites: politicians champion whaling in Japan, Iceland and Norway because it is popular to stand up to foreign bullying. Perhaps, too, if there were less bullying, Iceland and Japan might feel less compelled to lavish taxpayers' money on such elaborate and ambitious whale-killing research programmes.”

“It is not fanciful to argue that [extinction of species] might have already happened to some species of whale had their killing not been banned. Recent research, recorded in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that the slaughter of over half a million whales in the north Pacific between 1946 and 1979 caused such a fall in their numbers that the killer whales that used to prey on them turned their attention to other creatures, such as seals, sea lions and otters, whose numbers have yet to recover. Whale stocks have recovered a bit, but stand at only about 14% of their former levels.”

the web address for this article is


environmental standards and childhood

“Most people know that particularly loud noises can damage hearing, but continuous background noise can also cause harm. The best research so far on this topic was done in 1973 and concerned a high-rise public housing project built over I-95 in Manhattan. The researchers compared the reading levels of children who lived on the bottom floors, close to traffic noise, with those who lived higher up, where the noise was not as loud. All the children went to the same schools, and the income restrictions for eligibility to live in the project helped control for economic and educational backgrounds (which have by far the most significant effect onchildren's scholastic achievement). For those children who had lived in the apartments for at least four years, approximately 20 percent of the difference in reading scores could be predicted simply from their floor number.”

related material
hearing damage and loud music
Silent scourge, review

the web address for this article is


related material

loud music and hearing damage

Silent scourge, review


is soot a greater factor in global warming than previously supposed?

News item transferred to dust, aerosols and particulates section of global warming briefings document.

the web address for this article is


another warning on global warming

“The American Geophysical Union has just adopted a new policy position on global warming in which it states its concern over rising greenhouse gas emissions.

“The AGU's council says carbon dioxide concentrations may be climbing faster now than at any time in Earth history.

“It calls for concerted worldwide study to understand how Earth will change.

“ "It is virtually certain that increasing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases will cause global surface climate to be warmer," the AGU council statement says.”

the web address for this article is


clathrates and hydrates—words you will increasingly hear

“... evidence of the release of an enormous quantity of methane gas as ice sheets melted at the end of a global ice age about 600 million years ago, possibly altering the ocean's chemistry, influencing oxygen levels in the ocean and atmosphere, and enhancing climate warming because methane is a powerful greenhouse gas ....”

“ Methane clathrates are increasingly thought to play a role in mass extinctions associated with significant climate change in the Earth's history, and they are a large and exceedingly unstable source of greenhouse gas, greater than the equivalent of instantaneously burning all the oil reserves on Earth.

“Linking these dramatic climate events to changes in the methane clathrate pool has important implications for the stability of our current climate," said Martin Kennedy, an associate professor of geology at UC Riverside. "The Earth has a large unstable pool of these clathrates in ocean sediments today, and it is thought that a few degrees of ocean warming could trigger large-scale release into the atmosphere. We now have strong evidence of this doomsday scenario in one of the most important intervals of Earth's biologic history". ”

the web address for this article is


ocean circulation system seems to be altering

“Tropical ocean waters have become dramatically saltier over the past 40 years, while oceans closer to Earth’s poles have become fresher, scientists report in the December 18th issue of the journal Nature. These large-scale, relatively rapid oceanic changes suggest that recent climate changes, including global warming, may be altering the fundamental planetary system that regulates evaporation and precipitation and cycles fresh water around the globe.

“ An acceleration of Earth's global water cycle can potentially affect global precipitation patterns that govern the distribution, severity and frequency of droughts, floods and storms. It would also exacerbate global warming by rapidly adding more water vapor - itself a potent, heat-trapping greenhouse gas - to the atmosphere. And it could continue to freshen North Atlantic Ocean waters to a point that could disrupt ocean circulation and trigger further climate changes.”

"If the North Atlantic becomes too fresh, its waters would stop sinking and the Conveyor could slow down. Analyses of ice cores, deep-sea sediment cores, and other geologic evidence have clearly demonstrated the Conveyor has abruptly slowed down or halted many times in Earth's history. That has caused the North Atlantic region to cool significantly and brought long-term drought conditions to other areas of the Northern Hemisphere over time spans as short as years to decades.”

the web address for this article is


moving beyond kyoto...

“While Kyoto has become a convoluted, arbitrary and short-term measure to mitigate climate change, C&C could provide a simple, fair, long-term solution. And above all, it is based on science rather than politics.”

“ The average global citizen is responsible for pumping just over a tonne of carbon into the air each year. To prevent dangerous climate change, while allowing for some population increase, the world has to reduce that figure to around 0.3 tonnes per head.

“That target is not quite as daunting as it sounds. Emerging technologies for generating energy without burning fossil fuel and for increased energy efficiency suggest it is achievable within a few decades without serious damage to the world's economic health.”

contraction and convergence.

the web address for this article is


Spain close to making rare seabird extinct

“The most affected species was the Guillemot Uria aalge [...]. Of two colonies existing in 2002, one has since disappeared and no new chicks have been recorded at the other, where only 2-4 breeding pairs remain. [...] “The already tiny Spanish population of the Guillemot, differing in appearance to those elsewhere, was already minuscule before the Prestige disaster [...]. However this was the final nail in the coffin for the bird in Spain which lost its food sources as a result of the oil spill”.”

“ “The most catastrophic decision for birds which the Spanish Government made was to move the tanker Prestige away from the Galician coast when they knew that it was losing the fuel that it was transporting,” comments Alejandro Sánchez, Director of SEO/BirdLife. “It is incredible that, given the devastating effects of this disaster on wildlife, the Spanish Government has neither tightened its maritime security procedures nor has it further invested in vital equipment, such as tugboats and cleaning tankers.”

related material
the politics of irresponsibility—the Prestige disaster

the web address for this article is




the politics of irresponsibility
—the Prestige disaster



effects of early humans on climate suggested

“You have 395,000 years of history, which sets some rules, and 5000 years that break those rules," Professor Ruddiman said. ”

“Previously, scientists assumed widely it was only with the onset of the factory age that human activity had any significant effect on the global climate. The prehistoric changes in carbon dioxide and methane levels have been noted before but were attributed to natural causes, Professor Ruddiman said.”

“Analysis of air trapped in ice cores drilled from the Antarctic ice sheet show anomalous increases in carbon dioxide levels beginning 8000 years ago - just as crop lands began to replace previously forested regions across Asia and Europe.

“About 5000 years ago, the ice cores reflect a similarly anomalous rise in methane levels, this time tied to increased emissions from flooded rice fields, as well as burgeoning numbers of livestock, Professor Ruddiman said.

“The prehistoric practices apparently overrode a build-up of ice that models predict should have occurred from 5000 years ago.”

And from

“The amount of carbon dioxide that reaches the Earth's atmosphere is spooky. In the 1980's humanity released over 5.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere with a further 1.6 billion tons coming from natural sources. The total amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is nearly 7.2 billion tons. [...] The worlds oceans can absorb up to two [error – million] billion tons of this released carbon dioxide while the Earth can take up another two billion tons. Physically the Earth can absorb a total of four billion tons while the remaining 3.2 billion tons remains in the atmosphere. Globally carbon dioxide is rising at 1.5 parts per million each year. The estimate for carbon dioxide in 2035 is for around twelve billion tons per year. This is not a good number when you consider the potential consequences of global warming.”

While I do not trust this second document, it gives useful background in simple language. As will be seen, it takes some effort of imagination to believe that and ever rising atmospheric CO2 load will not effect climate. [ab.]

For more detail, see this NASA series.

related material
global warming – briefing document

the web address for this article is


related material
global warming – briefing document


ecological advantage claimed for gm crop
short item, recommended reading Three GoldenYak (tm) Award

“Phipps and colleague Richard Bennett say the benefits arise mainly because farmers spray much less weedkiller and pesticide onto GM beet, less often. Thus s aving a lot of tractor fuel and reducing the impact on global warming, for example.”

“Phipps says their experimental approach, which they call "life-cycle analysis", could easily be used to test the environmental impact of other farming systems. "There's absolutely no reason why the same methodology couldn't be applied to organic or no-till systems of agriculture.”

Doubtless this method can be extended to wildlife impacts or other concerns.

related material
food production, genetic engineering and ecology

the web address for this article is


related material food production, genetic engineering and ecology


are trees reliable carbon sinks?

“Countries are still arguing over the criteria for including forestry projects in this equation, and how to measure their effects. Many non-governmental organizations are uneasy about the importance of 'carbon sinks' in the overall balance.

“Trees are temporary, and should not be on a par with reduced emissions, says Rob Bradley, an energy specialist with the Brussels-based Climate Action Network. "There's no long-term way of guaranteeing that carbon stays locked up in a tree," he points out. "Sink projects are not a viable alternative to emission cuts." ”

Many researchers believe that increasing amounts of CO2, belched into the atmosphere by human fossil fuel use, will be captured through nature's ability to lock up the carbon in soil organic matter and faster growing trees. But it's not so simple. A new report, published in the November 28 Science, shows that the availability of nitrogen, in forms usable by plants, will probably be too low for large increases in carbon storage.”

the web address for this article is

  ‘catastrophes’ by crispin tickell

The article starts part way down the page. It is worth reading, but is a wee bit ponderous.

“The definition of catastrophe in the Collins dictionary is "sudden, extensive or notable disaster or misfortune": from the Greek to overturn. The history of the earth and of life on it is full of overturnings, many of them sudden; and tonight I shall focus on four such: those from beyond the earth; those from within the earth system; those affecting life in general; and those caused by the small animal species which is ourselves. I will then say something at the end about what, if anything, we can do to anticipate, prevent, mitigate or adapt ourselves to them." ”

“ "Markets are superb at setting prices but incapable of recognizing costs." ”

This article covers the notion of catastrophic sources of dust in the atmosphere, among other broad categories of ecological threats.

the web address for this article is


bird extinct since 1894 found alive and warbling in fiji
with picture.

Elvis expected any time soon.

the web address for this article is


atmospheric methane levels may have stopped rising

“Over the past four years there has been no growth in atmospheric methane concentrations compared to a 15% rise over the preceding 20 years and a 150% rise since pre-industrial times, ...”

From another source link:
“Although we can't be certain why methane concentrations have levelled out, we think it is in response to emissions declining due to better management of the exploration and use of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) and the increasing recovery of landfill methane, ...”

Methane is thought responsible for approximately 15% of greenhouse action.

For more see this related document:
Global warming

the web address for this article is


variation in animal numbers with indian numbers in north america

“Prior to the arrival of Columbus in the Americas around 1500, the estimates of Native American population in North America ranged from 2 million to 3.8 million people. But by the time major western settlement by Europeans began in the 1800s, up to 90 percent of the Native Americans may have died from smallpox, measles and other diseases that had already swept the continent after being introduced by Europeans.”

“ The new study, which was just published in the journal Bioscience, essentially concluded that in the early 1800s, large game animal populations existed in much higher numbers where human populations were low. Where Native American populations were higher, the animals existed in fewer numbers, to the point of near extinction in some locations and instances.”

“ Many people have a vision of very little human influence on the land around the time of the Lewis and Clark expedition," Ripple said. "That wasn't the case. The impact of humans, even then, was far greater than most people appreciate. And as we develop ecological theories and management practices today, we must be careful about what we consider pristine. With wildlife in the West, it was not in 1806.”

the web address for this article is


shipping pollution

“Each year tankers, container ships and trawlers emit a quantity of nitrogen oxides (NOx) similar to that released by the entire United States, the study finds. "A single industry's emissions rival an entire nation," says marine-policy researcher James Corbett of the University of Delaware in Newark.”

This is pollution into the atmosphere.

In addition, there is the sea pollution created by the illegal cleaning of tanks and holds into the high seas, in order to avoid harbour charges.

“... about 2,600 tonnes of oil are spilled in the Mediterranean every day. In a year, these add up to 15 Prestiges. This spillage is from regular, deliberate and illegal discharge of oil during tank washing or ballast water exchange operations from oil tankers as well as cargo and passenger ships. ”

And that discharge pollution is merely the amount in the Mediterranean, “... the amount released globally into the sea from tank flushing was up to four million tonnes a year”.

These two types of pollution are made by all motor-driven, sea-going vessels, not by just single-hulled oil tankers or the so-called “floating dustbins”.

Pollution resulting from accidents and damage to ships at sea is a further source of environmental damage.

editorial note: there are some questions raised by the statement on the quantity of oil spilt into the Mediterranean Sea.

  • If there is such high level of pollution in the Mediterranean, why is its coastline not in a mess comparable to that suffered by the Spanish, French (and now English and Belgian) coastlines since the Prestige oil spill?
    A partial answer is that most of the oil spilt will not be the
    heavy residual fuel oil that was being transported by the Prestige. Lighter oils are more volitile and evaporate into the atmosphere.

  • If much of oil discharged into the Mediterranean evaporates, why is this not mentioned in the first article cited above, which is on marine-derived atmospheric pollution?

This topic will be investigated further by

related material
the Prestige oil spill disaster

the web address for this article is


related material
the Prestige oil spill disaste


arctic feedback systems and global warming
with several colour animations.

“Warming trends like those found in these studies could greatly affect ocean processes, which, in turn, impact Arctic and global climate, said Michael Steele, senior oceanographer at the University of Washington, Seattle. Liquid water absorbs the Sun's energy rather than reflecting it into the atmosphere the way ice does. As the oceans warm and ice thins, more solar energy is absorbed by the water, creating positive feedbacks that lead to further melting. Such dynamics can change the temperature of ocean layers, impact ocean circulation and salinity, change marine habitats, and widen shipping lanes, Steele said.”

“ According to Comiso's study, when compared to longer term ground-based surface temperature data, the rate of warming in the Arctic over the last 20 years is eight times the rate of warming over the last 100 years.”

“ If the high latitudes warm, and sea ice extent declines, thawing Arctic soils may release significant amounts of carbon dioxide and methane now trapped in permafrost, and slightly warmer ocean water could release frozen natural gases in the sea floor, all of which act as greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, said David Rind, a senior researcher at NASA's
Goddard Institute of Space Studies, New York. "These feedbacks are complex and we are working to understand them," he added.”

related material
global warming accused

the web address for this article is


related material
global warming accused

  sea grasses under stress

“Seagrasses are flowering plants that live in coastal waters. There are 177,000 square kilometres of seagrass beds worldwide, an area equivalent to about two-thirds of the United Kingdom. But their extent has fallen by 15% in the past decade.”

“The atlas should raise awareness of the often-overlooked ecosystems, says marine biologist Martin Attrill of the University of Plymouth, UK. "They're extremely valuable habitats, and they don't get the publicity they deserve," he says.”

Short item, worth a scan

the web address for this article is


the advanced science: food production, genetic engineering and ecology
highly recommended Four GoldenYak (tm) award

Item transfered to land conservation and food production, a briefings document.

the web address for this article is


related material

replacing fossil fuels: the scale of the problem

there is no global warming—it won’t effect us

“The problem is that the glaciers are melting at an accelerating rate: according to scientific measurements, glacial retreat is now happening three times faster than before 1980. In the past 30 years, 811 million cubic metres of water (about three times the volume of Lake Windermere, England's largest water body) has been lost from the natural reservoirs of ice above Lima.

“Once these glaciers are gone, the rivers they feed will run dry, and the tens of millions of people who inhabit Peru's parched coastal strip will be left without water. Nor is this a problem singular to Peru: on the Indian subcontinent, half a billion people are facing the same plight as Himalayan glaciers begin an accelerated retreat.”

The relates to a journey around the world, looking at warming effects.

the web address for this article is


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