How far would you go to save this?

Fill your eyes with all the stunning colours and natural splendour.

Take deep breathe and smell the white sand and crystalline water.

Then think about how far you would go to save this.

A visit to the  Great Barrier Reef is a life-changing experience. One of the natural wonders of the world.

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Photo By Ciambue – https://www.flickr.com/photos/ciamabue/6106191035/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40691429

Sadly, new aerial surveys have found that back-to-back severe bleaching events have affected two-thirds of Australias’s Great Barrier Reef. This is the second year in a row that the reef has been hit by severe bleaching. This year, the bleaching has spread further south. The underlying cause for the bleaching is global warming.

A proposal to pump cold water on the Great Barrier Reef to help stave off the bleaching has been described as an band-aid solution. Admittedly to use $9m to pump water does not address the underlying problems linked to rising water temperatures. Yet, few of us would say that using a plaster is a waste of time and money to dress a wound.

What do you think? How far should go we go? What kind of solutions are required to save the reef?

Go here for more blog posts about coral reefs.

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coral colors from myLapse on Vimeo.

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Guilty! Climate Change and Recent Wave of Extinctions

Does the understanding that we have helped to cause previous mass extinctions help us to become less nonchalant about our role in the present wave of mass extinction?

During the last million of years, our planet has experienced several cycles of cooling and warming. Unlike the relatively stable conditions the Earth has experienced the last 10 000 years, the Earth has undergone a series of climate fluctuations. The last cooling, the ice age, ran from about 75 000 to 15 000 years ago.

Animals have disappeared during these fluctuations in climate. For example, the largest ever living marsupial, the diprotodon, disappeared about 45 000 years ago. During this period, about 90 percent of Australia’ s megafauna disappeared together with the diprotodon.

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Diprotodon optatum

The climate on Earth never rest, it is constantly changing. As a result of these changes in climate different species have disappeared. Did Sapiens play any role in the previous waves of mass extinction?

The disappearance of the diprotodon around 45 000 years ago in Australia just when Sapiens arrived there, this is circumstantial evidence. Yet, there are several indications that Sapiens did indeed contribute to the extinctions of large marsupials in Australia. Not only does the arrival of Sapiens coincide with the extinctions of the animals but there is also no evidence of any extinctions of animals in the oceans. Usually, sea creatures are hit as hard as land dwellers when the major underlying reason for the extinction was changes in the climate. Thus, this suggests that the presence of humans on land contributed to the extinctions of these animals.

Similar pattern can we found when you examine extinction of animals in New Zealand, Madagascar, and other islands as well as in  North America, where the arrival of animals and changes in climate resulted in the extinction of several species.

The idea that human beings are powerful and responsible for negative impacts on the environment have been debated. Yet, the present extinction of animals and the changes in climate are indeed the result of human activities linked to the Industrial  Revolution.

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The graph shows the increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere over the last 2,000 years.

The rate of extinction of animals may be 1 000 times faster due to human activities. Yet, we are also inventing new technologies and methods to save animals.

Why not be part of the solution? Join a group that works to save animals!

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Giant Iceberg Ready to Break Off

A giant iceberg, with an area equivalent to Trinidad and Tobago, is ready to break off from the Antarctic shelf.

Why should I care?

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Photo:  Iceberg Arctic By AWeith

“It’s Hot Outside!” – Zebra Finch Parents tells their chicks

How do animals respond to climate change?

Well, birds may tell their offsprings that it is hot outside the egg.

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Photo: A male Zebra Finch, Jim Bendon

Beep, meep, oi! or a-ha!.

Zebra finches are loud singers who are native to central Australia, Indonesia and East Timor. They inhabit grasslands as well as forests usually close to  water. This little songbird is preparing its offsprings for a warming world. A study has found that the zebra finches are making special calls to the embryos inside their eggs. The embryos can hear the sounds. The zebra finches are using sounds to influence the growth and development of their chicks.  So do birds learn as embryos? Well, another

This little songbird is preparing its offsprings for a warming world. A study has found that the zebra finches are making special calls to the embryos inside their eggs. The embryos can hear the sounds. The zebra finches are using sounds to influence the growth and development of their chicks.  So do birds learn as embryos? Well, another

So do birds learn as embryos? Well, another

Well, another study recently found that fairy-wrens learn, just like humans, as embryos. The embryos lowered their heart-rate when they heard calls from their own species but they did not respond to a white noise, which was a call from another species. The fairy-wren parents teach their embryos a special “password” to help them get food from their parents after hatching,

The idea that zebra finch parents would talk to their eggs and tell them important things about the world outside occurred to Mylene Mariette and Katherine Buchanan, when they noticed that parents would sometimes make a rapid, high-pitched series of calls while sitting on the eggs. They saw that the parents would only make these calls towards the end of the incubation period and when the maximum daily temperature rose above 26°C  (78.8°F).

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Photo: Zebra finch chicks, Martin Pot

To test the idea that the calls would prepare the chicks they incubated 166 eggs and exposed them to the standard temperature of 37.7°C (99.9°F). Then they either exposed the chicks to the recorded incubation calls or the parents’ normal contact calls. The chicks that had listened to the incubation calls weighed less which is an advantage when the environment is hot. A smaller body is better at losing heat.

Vocal communication seems to have persistent effects on the birds. The lower weight chicks produced more fledglings than the control birds. Yet the control birds were more successful in a cooler environment. Zebra finches live in arid conditions so they availability of water is important. The birds only breed when the conditions are good so the change in calls make sense.

It is a comforting thought that birds as tiny as zebra finches can tell their offspring that the world is heating up. Yet I cannot help to wonder why humans are so slow to react. . .

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Sandpipers at the Beach

Tanking sunshine and surfing on waves.

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Photo: By Alpsdake (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)],via Wikimedia Commons

The political climate in the UK has been tumultuous the last weeks and today the new Prime Minister Theresa May decided to abolish the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

Worrying sign!

I had hoped that she would have taken the opportunity to design plans for ways to not only reduce the part that the UK plays in contributing to the climate change but also ensure that we plan for a future with rising sea levels.

The two major causes of global sea-level rise can be identified: thermal expansion caused by the warming of the oceans and the loss of land-based ice due to increased melting. When water heats up it expands and it is estimated that around half of the past century’s rise in sea level is due to warmer oceans simply taking more space. Melting glaciers and polar ice-caps have also contributed to rising sea-levels.

So new exciting ideas are needed to prepare for the rising sea-levels. Inspiration for planning cities and building houses can perhaps come from watching sea-birds,

A day at the beach can be truly magical.

But it can also be a day filled with wonderous and mind-boggling ideas and questions.

Dream up the most amazing modern city or house inspired by seabirds that can survive the waves and survive until the next day. Look at the wading birds long and slender legs.

Dream, build and invent.

Beautiful and Mysterious Moths in Decline

Moths are a bit of a mystery as well as beautiful – not all of them are brown colours.
Sadly, changes in climate has lead to a decline in many species.

Lepidoptera, insect order, is made up of butterflies (10%) and moths (90%). Most moths are only active at night and their bouncy, seemingly erratic flight paths is fascinating to watch. Night flying insects cannot rely on their visual system when they are flying. Moths use their hairy antennae as a special orientation sensors to help them steady themselves when they fly. They use the sensors to help them hover over flowers.Insects like moths like ear canals and they also do not have any appendages that two-winged insects have. So they have developed these sensors antennae to help them orientate themselves.

Arctia_caja_03_(HS)Garden Tiger

All over the worlds moths are declining and in southern parts of Britain the numbers are down by two-thirds over the past four decades.  The Garden Tiger was previously frequently seen in most of Britain has declined by 92 % since 1968. The Garden Tiger’s brown caterpillars looks like “woolly bears”, which can been seen feeding on herbaceous plants. The caterpillars like more frosty weather so the mild wet winters and warmer spring weather may be an underlying reason for the decline.

Some moths are migrating to colder parts, for example, the Scarlet Tiger can be found further north. Of course, this approach of dealing with changes in climate is problematic for species that already live in the colder parts of  the country. Other moths that have sharply declined in numbers are the pink-striped Blood-vein (by 73%), and the V-moth (by 99%).

Moths and their caterpillars are important sources of food so this decline is not only worrying signs for the moth population but also for small mammals, birds, and amphibians. Some birds, such as cuckoos, specialise in eating hairy caterpillars and the decline in caterpillars may be linked to the decline in cuckoos.

Loss of habitat is a major issue but also the use of pesticides, herbicides in our gardens. Light pollution may also have a negative impact on the night flyers. Finally the timing of spring alters the growth of moths food plants and the emergence of leaves on trees and other plants can have serious consequences on the supply of food for the caterpillars.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wolly Bear Caterpillar

Yet, there is no straightforward relationship and there may be hidden effects of climate changes, something that a Finnish study highlighted. There was no decline in the number of moths in this study where 80 moth species were examined from 1978 to 2009; 90 percent of them were either stable or increasing. A possible explanation may be that the moths in the northern parts of Finland like the warmer and wetter temperatures. However, advanced analysis of the data showed a different pattern, and warmer temperatures and wetter weather did actually reduce the rates of population growth.

A possible explanation is that another factors masked the negative effects of climate changes and the scientists found that the number of trees increased due to the changes in climate and this might have helped the moths. Moths find shelter in trees and also food. Overall, the effects of climate changes is tricky to predict and to study – several factors are changing, interacting and ultimately influencing the population of moths.

Participating in events such as Moth Night is a great way to help monitor these fascinating creatures. The yearly event usually last a couple of  days where people record the number of moths in their area. The focus is a special type of moths, this year it was the Hawk-Moths.  If you live in an area where there is no events like this, why not start one? It is a great way to increase awareness, have fun and to support these ancient creatures. Moth Night  has great tips about how to attract moths and how to study them in the darkness. Making moth-traps is an easy method where you lure moths to sugar. Moths are also attracted to light. Happy moths spotting.

Link to a  report on the State of Britain’s Larger Moths.

Arctia_caja_Buchstein02Garden Tiger

A Trip to the Future – Hazmat Surfing and Change is Coming

Put on your hazmat suit and dive into the waves!

Predicting the future is never easy but imagining it can be both exciting and scary. The two videos below by Dyrland Productions paints a gloomy and sad vision. But they are great conversation starters and they do make you think about what can happen if we continue with the current trend. Theses two videos are like little provocations that makes people ask “why?” and “how?”. This opens up the door to  continue to discuss the consequences of our choices and behaviours.

Will we need a hazmat suit to protect ourselves from all the pollution in the water?

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Photo: Michael Dyrland and Mike Marshall

Michael Dryland got the inspiration for the hazmat suit after a visit to Los Angeles. One morning after the rain had cleared, he wanted to go surfing but his friends told him that no one surfs after it had rained. It seldom rains in Los Angeles and when it does all the sewage, garbage and oils runs right into the ocean. Billion of liters of rain runoff straight into the ocean. And it you surf in this water you can pick up all sort of diseases.

I know that several of our readers are passionate about winter sports and skiing.

Will we have to redesign our skis and snowboards so that they can cope with bare patches?

Let’s hope that this vision of the effects of mild winters does not become reality.

Raising awareness of possible effects about global climate change is important but it is equally important to spread the message that change can start with small things. We can all make a positive impact by changing our daily behaviour. Pick up some rubbish on the way home, gather some friends and spend time discussing things that you can do. After all, one person can start an environmental revolution.

A slightly different version of this blog post has been posted on Thinkibility.