Showing posts tagged environment

The world’s precious few remaining large forests are fragmenting at an alarming rate, and the degradation in Canada leads the world, a new analysis shows.

The degradation of such pristine “intact” forests threatens species such as Canada’s woodland caribou and Asia’s tigers that rely on huge unbroken expanses of natural ecosystems in order to survive, said Nigel Sizer, global director of forest programs with the World Resources Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based research institute focused on resource sustainability.

The satellite mapping analysis led by Peter Potapov, an associate professor of geographical sciences at the University of Maryland, showed that over 104 million hectares of the world’s remaining intact forests — an area about the size of Ontario — were degraded between 2000 to 2013. Such forests are considered degraded when they are broken up or fragmented into smaller pieces that are no longer the same kind of ecosystem. Sizer called the amount of degradation a “shocking number.”

“What is lost is the intactness… This is a process which results in biodiversity loss — particularly, far-ranging species will no longer be able to survive,” said Christoph Thies, senior forest campaigner for Greenpeace International, which contributed to the research through its Greenpeace GIS (geographic information systems) Laboratory.

The area degraded during the study period represents about eight per cent of remaining intact forests.

"These intact forest landscapes are some of the most important landscapes on Earth," Sizer said at an online news conference.

The researchers also said that it is very difficult to restore intact forests that have been degraded. Potapov estimated it would take 30 years for such forests to be restored in the tropics and more than 100 in boreal regions, such as Canada’s north.

The analysis found that Canada had 24 per cent of the world’s intact forest landscapes in 2013. Nearly two-thirds of the world’s intact forests are found in Canada, Russia and Brazil, but they are rapidly being degraded in those places.

"Canada is the country with the largest share of intact forest degradation in the world. It’s No. 1 on the list," Sizer said.

In fact, the fragmentation of intact forests in Canada represents about 21 per cent of the global total, the analysis shows.

(via Canada’s degradation of pristine, intact forests leads world - Technology & Science - CBC News)

Alberta tar sands: Referred to as the most damaging project on the planet. According to Greenpeace, emissions from tar sands extraction could grow to between 127 and 140m tonnes by 2020, exceeding the current emissions of Austria, Portugal, Ireland and Denmark. If proposed expansion proceeds,it will result in the loss of vast tracts of boreal forest and peat bogs of a territory the size of England

(via In pictures: Ten worst ‘ecocides’ | Environment |

Feds sink key science program

By: Mary Agnes Welch

Layoffs at Winnipeg’s federal fisheries office will gut environmental monitoring and kill one of the most unique and successful water research projects in the world.

At least 27 biologists, chemists and other scientists received notice Thursday their jobs are among 400 positions being eliminated across the country at Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

In addition to the scientists at the Fisheries’ Freshwater Institute at the University of Manitoba, 13 support staff received layoff notices Thursday.

Among the most heartbreaking cuts for scientists is the Experimental Lakes Area, a 44-year-old program covering 58 small lakes near Kenora, Ont., that scientists use to conduct real-world experiments on entire ecosystems.

"The department will no longer conduct research that requires whole lake or whole ecosystem manipulation. As such the research program at the Experimental Lakes Area will be ceased and the facility will be closed," a DFO spokeswoman wrote in an email.

Research done there has dramatically altered environmental policy across North America, leading to changes in hydro development, a ban on phosphorus in dish soap and action on acid rain.

Over the decades, scientists from around the world have dumped acid, toxic metals, synthetic hormones and other pollutants into the 58 small, remote lakes. The researchers have used the lakes, as one scientist once put it, “the way medical researchers use white mice.”

For years, it’s been the site of groundbreaking experiments on nutrients and algae blooms, the kind that stifle Lake Winnipeg every summer.

Fisheries scientists who work on the lakes are barred from speaking to the media, but one independent researcher called the decision to kill the ELA “a travesty.”

"This isn’t a Canadian jewel. It truly is an international jewel," said University of Alberta biologist Vincent St. Louis, who began his career as an undergraduate at the ELA and just returned from a research visit two weeks ago.

"Everyone in Canada should value the research being done at the experimental lakes regardless of political tendency, because everyone values clean drinking water, nice lakes to swim in, fishing."


Global warming melts Montana’s famous glaciers

Scientists have warned that the National Park’s remaining glaciers could all melt away by 2030.

In the US state of Montana, the Glacier National Park - an area sometimes called the “Crown of the Continent” - is famous for its snow-capped mountains.

But it could soon lose its glaciers due to global warming.

Scientists warn if the ice keeps melting at this rate, the park’s 25 remaining glaciers could all melt away by the year 2030.

However, public opinion polls show that nearly 50 per cent of Americans believe that the seriousness of climate change is exaggerated.

Al Jazeera’s Rob Reynolds reports from Glacier National Park.

I’ve always enjoyed a quote from Stephen Colbert’s speech at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner from 2006:

Jesse Jackson is here. The Reverend—a very challenging interview. You can ask him anything, but he’s going to say what he wants at the pace that he wants. It’s like boxing a glacier. Enjoy that metaphor, because your grandchildren will have no idea what a glacier is.

It’s incredibly sad that this could indeed become a reality. When I was a kid my dad would insist nearly every year that we take our family vacations by driving out West. My brother and I would moan and complain about “seeing the same stuff every year” but now I’m incredibly grateful that he made us see, for example, the glaciers in Montana and all of the national parks because they’re all slowly disappearing. When I saw the glaciers over a decade ago, there wasn’t much left to them and it’s heartbreaking to see how fast they’re melting.

We’ve destroyed entities that have been on Earth for millions of years in less than two centuries. Human-beings are truly incredible.

(Reblogged from sarahlee310)
(Reblogged from sarahlee310)
(Reblogged from randomactsofchaos)
(Reblogged from pieceinthepuzzlehumanity-deacti)
(Reblogged from sarahlee310)


FRACK ME   Smoke and flames engulfed Royal Dutch Shell’s Pulau Bukom offshore petroleum complex in Singapore. The fire started Wednesday afternoon and has resulted in the shutdown of a hydrocracker unit at its 500,000-barrel-a-day refinery. At least six people were injured, the company said. (Photo: Edgar Su / Reuters via the Wall Street Journal)

(Reblogged from inothernews)


Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan environmentalist who began a movement to reforest her country by paying poor women a few shillings to plant trees and who went on to become the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize, died here on Sunday. She was 71….

Dr. Maathai, one of the most widely respected women on the continent, played many roles — environmentalist, feminist, politician, professor, rabble-rouser, human rights advocate and head of the Green Belt Movement, which she founded in 1977. Its mission was to plant trees across Kenya to fight erosion and to create firewood for fuel and jobs for women.

Dr. Maathai was as comfortable in the gritty streets of Nairobi’s slums or the muddy hillsides of central Kenya as she was hobnobbing with heads of state. She won the Peace Prize in 2004 for what the Nobel committee called “her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.” It was a moment of immense pride in Kenya and across Africa.

Her Green Belt Movement has planted more than 30 million trees in Africa and has helped nearly 900,000 women, according to the United Nations, while inspiring similar efforts in other African countries….

Dr. Maathai toured the world, speaking out against environmental degradation and poverty, which she said early on were intimately connected. But she never lost focus on her native Kenya. She was a thorn in the side of Kenya’s previous president, Daniel arap Moi, whose government labeled the Green Belt Movement “subversive” during the 1980s….

Home life was not easy, either. Her husband, Mwangi, divorced her, saying she was too strong-minded for a woman, by her account. When she lost her divorce case and criticized the judge, she was thrown in jail.

(via Wangari Maathai, Peace Prize Laureate, Dies at 71 -

I listened what I guess was a rebroadcast of Being with Wangari Maathi — the show tends to irritate me but despite that it was interesting. A link to a downloadable podcast (also a listen now option) is available in the upper left corner here :

Kind of a pretty website but virtually unreadable.

(Reblogged from dendroica)

Field voles reach plague levels in Scotland


Field vole

After posting my photo of an outrageously cute field vole last week I did a little digging and found an interesting story on the BBC from earlier this year.

It turns out field voles have had an exceptional couple of years because of the long-lasting snow cover, and are now reaching what would normally be called ‘plague’ conditions.

When a snowpack forms it benefits small mammals in two ways.  It insulates them against the worst of the weather, maintaining a constant temperature of 2-3C and avoiding those penetrating sub-zero temperatures above the snowpack.  It also offers protection from predators, with the usual suspects such as kestrels, buzzards and owls left wondering where all the food has gone.  When the snow melts, a network of runs and tunnels are revealed in the flattened grass.

Come Spring when the voles are breeding, the population is swelled to enormous proportions by the sheer numbers that survived the winter and became parents.  Aberdeen University professor of ecology Xavier Lambin said it was very difficult to work out the total number of field voles in Scotland, but that it could be in the region of 60 million.  This year however, the figure is potentially 10 times that, pushing their number into the hundreds of millions.

And then of course the predators have a field day (no pun intended) once the snow has gone, with easy pickings from the masses of voles scurrying along the ground.  The British Trust for Ornithology has reported that raptors and owls are thriving this year and are having large broods.  Especially the short-eared owl.

Certainly this rings true in Fife, where we had lying snow for 50 consecutive days.  When the snow melted in January, the network of runs through the grass was conspicuous and extensive…..though I never actually saw a vole.  As indicated by the BTO there have been plenty of kestrels and buzzards overhead in Fife, and I’ve been chuffed to see my first ever short-eared owls up here too, which perhaps is an indication of how many voles have survived this year.

In 2007, Spain got special permission from the European Union to undertake controlled burning of 400,000 ha of farmland after field voles reached plague levels and threatened the beet and potato crops.  If we get another winter like last year, one wonders how big our population can get and what impact it will have on our farmland.

Photograph: Durlston Country Park (via Flickr)

I’ve been watching raptor cams based in Estonia. My understanding is that the voles have a three year cycle and this is a high year for them — good snow cover probably exacerbated the normal fluctuations. Last year most of the owl chicks starved to death, because it was a low vole year — of course the resulting reduced number of predators helped to make this a big year for voles.

But then the Lesser Spotted Eagle chick was very well fed this season — early on frogs and then as things dried up cute little vole after cute little vole. On many days as many or more than 5 or 6 voles were delivered.

(Reblogged from benvironment)


How do you fancy these as alternatives to the traditional electricity pylons currently criss-crossing the landscape?  They’re one of six designs that made the shortlist of suitable replacements for the UK’s 88,000 pylons.

The UK apparently needs an upgrade of its transmission infrastructure, so the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Department of Energy & Climate Change and the National Grid appealed to various designers for options that balanced energy needs and visual impact.

You can see all six pylon designs on the Guardian website.

I’m honestly not sure what I think of them.  They all seem radically different to our iconic grey pylons and I have difficulty picturing any of them marching across my neck of the woods…….although, there must be a reason I picked this particular photo rather than any of the others?  Most likely the beautiful blue sky…..which has been in short supply this summer.

(Reblogged from benvironment)