Wednesday, 28 December 2011
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/27/malaysia-borneo-sumatran-rhino-extinction). It is never easy to breed 'difficult' animals in captivity and any offspring would have a) limited genetic diversity and b) probable difficulties in adapting to a wild existence. Given that the number of such rhinoceros in the wild are estimated to be around 40 individuals, it is likely they will be extinct within a decade. Even the Southern white rhinoceros (illustrated), which is in a far better state population-wise, is far from safe.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/dec/27/spending-cuts-scotland-endangered-species). Many initiatives such as those concerning the encouragement of the Red squirrel European beaver and the Osprey and those directed at the eradication of the Signal crayfish, Rhododendron and Japanese knotweed will have to be curtailed. Such issues were formerly protected from cuts in Scotland but major percentages of the former spending (around 20%) are being 'redirected'.
Tuesday, 27 December 2011
http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2011/dec/26/lawyers-crack-case-unlawful-eggs). This seems to have been a drafting glitch that has been seized upon by collectors. Changes are needed as it is difficult to defend retrospective alternations to the law.
Wednesday, 21 December 2011
Thursday, 15 December 2011
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-16138206). This is said to be largely the result of an influx of humans to the island who challenge the earlier tradition of the islanders that the lemurs are representative of human ancestors (and hence there was a taboo in terms of eating them). Decimation of the lemurs in their unique stronghold would greatly impoverish the biota. Strange how 'free meat' can have that effect.
Tuesday, 13 December 2011
http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/dec/12/frozen-planet-polar-bear-bbc?newsfeed=true). I must admit to being less than surprised about this section of the programme. Many 'natural history' films involve quite a lot of artifice - how did that convenient prey insect just land there as the cameras roll? I have argued that one could, by selection of footage, make even an erroneous tale seem convincing. The BBC did detail the origins of the cub shots in a brief item on their web (more than you get in many instances) and I don't think the actual sequence misinforms about what usually happens. Perhaps Sir David's crime is to irritate sections of the media with his observations on climate change?
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/interactive/2011/dec/12/durban-climate-change-conference-2011-global-climate-talks) but the finally documented item does appear a bit on the feeble side. Clearly having widespread economic problems at the same time as recognising a need to reduce human impact on the atmosphere is not an ideal combination. I will be surprised if very much that is positive for limiting climate change actually happens. It has been suggested that solar panels in the desert could supply 'green electricity' but preventing the devices being etched or covered in sand by winds might be problematic.
Monday, 12 December 2011
http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/16112188 ) has, however, confirmed that these birds, like the rest of the Aves, actually use lymph in this process. This suggests that the mechanism evolved early in this vertebrate Class.
Friday, 9 December 2011
http://www.swan.ac.uk/aptbioscience/). This EU-funded programme aims to develop and deliver modules to help with Continuing Professional Development of bioscience workers in small and medium-sized enterprises in most of Wales. Four modules ('Pest control', 'Wild plant identification', 'Invasive plant species' and 'Laboratory skills') have been successfully delivered to enthusiatic acclaim from the participants. It is obvious, even from this initial list, that the modules are intended for both field and laboratory workers. It is also hoped that their provision will enhance employment prospects of recent graduates (they provide practical skills that can be lacking from degree programmes).
Wednesday, 7 December 2011
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00zj39j). It appears that the rate of ice loss at both poles is accelerating and this is likely to have a dramatic effect on sea levels. It is particularly striking that the decline in ice at the north pole has made it much easier to extract oil and gas which, when burned, is likely to further increase global warming. The 'freeing' of the north-west passage from ice would also increase marine traffic between the Atlantic and the Pacific (furthering the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere). I must admit that Attenborough's graphic presentation of evidence is likely to be compelling to the lay viewer (in spite of the fact that much of the global warming debate has, apparently, failed to convince). His notes that some polar animals have 'adapted' to the changes (mainly by altering their location) but this would not seem to be an option for many human populations.
Saturday, 3 December 2011
Friday, 25 November 2011
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2011/nov/24/emulate-christ-tribunal-cheek-slapped?INTCMP=SRCH). He doesn't seem to appreciate, in his Chancellorocentric view of the natural world, that the snake only bites people and their animals when they pick it up or tread on it (it's a waste of its hard-generated venom as the snake can't swallow them). Vipera berus is an important part of the ecology of many areas, as it largely feeds on rodents with the potential to show population explosions. The snake's loss from areas is generally a sign that the environment has suffered from intensive agriculture or urbanisation. The adder is actually a beautifully adapted little beast with the largest geographical range (southern Italy to the high Arctic) of any reptile. It's a good job that Alexander doesn't live in India or Australia as the tiger or the shark would be respectively doomed.
Thursday, 24 November 2011
Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Tuesday, 22 November 2011
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/nov/22/night-flowering-orchid-discovered?INTCMP=SRCH). This suggests that it must be pollinated exclusively by some nocturnal agent (a moth?). Unfortunately, the island is scheduled for logging activity.
Saturday, 19 November 2011
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15726717). The claim is that, without a clear understanding of the species we currently have, we will never know what we have lost to climate change, pollution events and urbanisation etc. It is clearly felt that relying on spore patterns produced by fruiting bodies only gives a partial picture. The fungi are incredibly important in natural recycling of carbon etc. The wax-caps are first on the agenda but it sounds as if the tiny soil fungi are not due for study any time soon.
Friday, 18 November 2011
Thursday, 17 November 2011
http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/nov/17/gourmet-salt-health-celebrity-chefs?INTCMP=SRCH) has confirmed that both are equally bad for you. You probably only rarely need to add salt to processed foods. The manufacturers have leaped in with arguments that the 'trace elements' in sea salt etc are of benefit but they are present in tiny amounts and are variable impurities.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/nov/16/amphibians-terrifying-extinction-threat). The first two of these factors seem, in many parts of the globe, to be additive whereas chytridiomycosis seems to strike more locally and sporadically. I personally think that the loss of these fascinating beasts would be awful as well as having 'knock on' effects on the ecology of regions. Urgent action is needed! Hop to it!
Sunday, 13 November 2011
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/nov/13/warm-autumn-wildlife-oddities?INTCMP=SRCH). This is largely based on seeing seasonal oddities. I don't think that too much should be read into them as strange timings for insects and flowers are not that uncommon. Locally, Orange hawkweed (Pilosella aurantiaca) is late in flower and the bushes in my garden are flowering for the third or fourth time.
Saturday, 12 November 2011
Monday, 7 November 2011
Sunday, 6 November 2011
Friday, 4 November 2011
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2011/oct/31/population-growth-buddhist-reincarnation). Buddhists apparently do not believe that reincarnation is a matter of 'one out -one in' where which a permanent 'soul' persists but prefer to talk in terms of rebirth.
Sunday, 30 October 2011
Thursday, 27 October 2011
http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/oct/27/david-attenborough-frozen-planet?newsfeed=true). This is still considerably less than 'Strictly Come Dancing's' 9.4 million but, hey, the dancing abilities of a group of 'celebrities' is clearly more important than what is happening on a planetary basis! There is no doubt that the photography in 'Frozen Planet' was generally stunning and the animal 'mini-dramas' appeared broadly accurate and compelling (if the outcomes appeared occasionally 'cosmetic') but I found the flicking for examples between the north and south poles somewhat confusing (and this is someone who knows something about the two regions already). Like some others, I am a bit ambivalent about the associated music. I am not certain that Attenborough's claim that we might be seeing some of the animals for the last time is true but it is worth thinking about.
Wednesday, 26 October 2011
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/oct/25/germans-detained-cacti-mexico-airport?INTCMP=SRCH). These included several endangered species. This just goes to confirm my belief that gardeners are a major menace to conservation!
Sunday, 23 October 2011
http://www.bmj.com/content/343/bmj.d6832.extract). This is the first time that a vaccine has been developed to a protozoan parasite and this, along with the distribution of bed nets and effective mosquito control, could transform human population dynamics in the sub-Saharan region, especially if vaccine use is encouraged by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This 'technofix' will not, however, come without some associated problems. The malarial agent is very variable and it might well prove difficult for vaccine development to stay 'ahead of the game'. A second problem is that, without a rapid change in reproductive behaviour, the increased survival might well lead to later economic development problems in the region. Finally, there has been some recent predictions that the world population for humans will reach around 10 billion by 2050 (http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6038). If this occurs, it might well prove to be catastrophic for the planet and its inhabitants. Child death and morbidity is not a good way to curtail population increases (by no means limited to Africa) but I would argue that vaccine application should be accompanied by dissemination of contraceptive advice and technology.
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