Tuesday, 25 April 2017
Things seemed quite progressed in Rotterdam. Wych elm (Ulnus glabra) and Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) were in flower in Het Park. There were also smaller bloomings in that location with White dead-nettle (Lamium album) and Greater celendine (Chelidonium majus). At Nieuerkerk, Common comfrey (Symphytum officinale) was much in evidence.
Tuesday, 18 April 2017
Monday, 17 April 2017
A study by Brighton and Reading Universities has suggested that there currently are around 150k urban Red fox (Vulpes vulpes) in the UK and that their numbers are increasing whilst populations of their rural counterparts decline (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/apr/16/urban-foxes-number-one-for-every-300-residents-study-suggests). The numbers in particular city areas seem quite variable with the density being highest in Bournemouth (circa 23/ square Km); also high in London (circa 18/ square Km) but somewhat lower in Newcastle (circa 10/ square Km). The estimates are, however, partially based on reports by the general public and could be influenced by local enthusiasms for reporting wildlife. It is suggested that foliage in gardens is a factor that encourages the spread of this territorial predator but personally I think that local provisions of food (as waste or as material left outside for dogs and cats, along with the availability of the odd rat or wild bird) are more likely to determine the densities of these animals. Foraging for food in towns is likely to be more cost-effective for the fox than trying to make a living in the countryside.
Sunday, 16 April 2017
Saturday, 15 April 2017
Thursday, 13 April 2017
There is a novel report that a species of ant from the Ivory coast that raids termite nests will 'rescue' injured attackers from their own colony in response to an emitted 'pheromone' (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/apr/12/injured-ants-get-rescued-after-sending-chemical-sos-researchers-find). The chemical signal presumably differs slightly from colony to colony and does not really trigger genuine altruism. The rescuers come after trapped or damaged attackers (they will respond to an ant that has had 2 of its legs cut off by the scientists!). It does appear that rescued individuals can be active again after recovery. Damaged individuals from other colonies are treated as 'meat'. It seems most likely that this is a mechanism for maintaining the colony's stock of attackers for as long as possible (the more attackers, the more termites to process?). In some ways it is like the mechanism in worker Honey bees of not over-loading with nectar and pollen before flying back to the hive that maximises their longevity (and utility to the colony).
Tuesday, 11 April 2017
Monday, 10 April 2017
Reports from Australian scientists claim that the Great Barrier Reef is in a state of 'terminal' decline (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/apr/10/great-barrier-reef-terminal-stage-australia-scientists-despair-latest-coral-bleaching-data). The coral bleaching events (where the animal dies, leaving only the 'skeleton') appear to be more wide-spread and spaced closer together in time. Much of the damage has been linked to human activities such as waste disposal and gas emissions but some people who depend on tourism are claiming that the scientists are exaggerating. It seems pretty clear, however, that human activities will have to be modified if this natural wonder is to survive.
Sunday, 9 April 2017
Saturday, 8 April 2017
The situation of the pristine forests of Poland seems to be getting worse but is being 'resisted' by some mother's groups (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/apr/07/polish-law-change-unleashes-massacre-of-trees). Any private owner of land can reportedly cut down trees (irrespective of their age, importance or rarity) with impunity due to a law change. Companies wishing to clear land for lucrative building projects are said to 'sell' land for a nominal fee to a 'private buyer' who then has the trees cleared before 'selling it back' to the builders. Since the law change, it is claimed that tree-felling companies have seen enormous increases in demand for their activities. The mothers draw attention to this destruction of heritage by posing with babies for pictures on the stumps. The new legal position appears to regard trees as disposable 'weeds' (now, where have we heard that before?) that get in the way of 'development' and profits.
The sunny weather seems to have kick-started flowers and butterfly appearances. The Smooth sow-thistle (Sonchus oleraceus) bloomed in Loughor along with Common vetch (Vicia sativa); Red campion (Silene dioica) and Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum) in Bynea. In Loughor, a Small white (Artogeia rapae) and a Peacock (Inachis io) fluttered by. In Bynea, Speckled woods (Parage aegeria tircis) were in evidence.
Friday, 7 April 2017
Wednesday, 5 April 2017
Tuesday, 4 April 2017
Bad news for diesel vehicle drivers who live or work in London as they face major increases in their charges to enter the Capital on every day of the week rather than Monday to Friday (news.sky.com/story/diesel-drivers-face-16324-charge-to-enter-london-10824455). The mayor of London is having to find ways of legislating to reduce air pollution to acceptable levels as it is reportedly a factor there in around 9.5 k premature deaths per year. Diesels cars were initially encouraged by former governments as they produce less carbon dioxide per mile than their petrol-powered equivalents and it was concluded that this would help limit the accumulation of 'greenhouse gases' with their known effects on climate change. The trouble is that diesel engines operate at a higher temperature, generating more harmful nitrous oxides (as well as pumping out more particulates, in a manner similar to cigarette smoke). Air pollution is worryingly very high in London especially around some schools (and young lungs are very susceptible to damage). Something has to change.
A storm in an egg-cup seems to be developing with people being urged to resign their membership of the National Trust because of its claimed 'airbrushing' of the Easter Story (bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39487307). This has all seemingly come about as the NT is hosting Cadbury-sponsored 'Great Egg Hunts' at some of its properties. The claim is that the organisation is taking the word 'Easter' out of the equation to make these events relevant to people from a variety of faiths (including no faith). The odd thing is that the Spring tradition of eggs is actually older than Christianity, being reportedly related to fertility celebrations. Some of these old traditions were said to be modified to make the then new religion popular with the locals. I personally would worry more about whether the 'Great Egg Hunt' is doing much to counter obesity problems in our children.
A very interesting development in the use of graphene oxide membranes (www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/graphene-sieve-turns-seawater-into-drinking-water) has been reported. Graphene is a novel form of the element carbon, with a high tensile strength and it has been known for some time that micro-sieves, made from this material, can be used to remove contaminants (metal ions) from water. The development of even finer sieves now appear, in laboratory studies, to be capable of filtering much smaller salts from seawater, raising the possibility that they can be used to generate drinking (and water for agriculture?) water in areas unable to afford the high energy costs traditionally employed in desalination plants. Such a development, if it transpires, would be a real boon in certain areas of the world where access to water is very limited.
Monday, 3 April 2017
Disturbing news that an invasion by tens of thousands of sapphire prospectors is endangering the unique wildlife in Madagascar's rainforests (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/02/sapphire-rush-threatens-rainforests-of-madagascar). Madagascar, because of its long geographical isolation, has many unique plants and is home to major concentrations of lemurs ('primitive' primates). The gem stone finds are impressive and, as usual, people find it difficult to resist the allure of getting rich quick (even if the unique biodiversity is more 'saleable' in the long-term).
Sunday, 2 April 2017
Saturday, 1 April 2017
The Giant panda (rather than the much smaller Red panda as illustrated) is being given a major boost in its native China (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/31/china-to-create-giant-giant-panda-reserve-to-boost-wild-population). The intention is to link several reserves, creating a panda area of more than 27000 square kilometres. The Giant panda has already shown signs of an inprovement in its conservation status. Creation of the park will mean displacing around 170k people whose use of bamboo and grazing of cattle is seen as inimical to the project. Such as reserve would naturally also benefit many other animals and plants in that area. It is generally unappreciated by the general populice how large reserves have to be to accommodate viable breeding populations of large animals with substantial home ranges. Perhaps the Chinese Government is also perhaps starting to take an interest in the conservation of large mammals in other parts of the world, with new restrictions on ivory carving in that country. It will be interesting to see whether this has any real beneficial effects for the African elephant. Chinese 'medicine' continues, however, to threaten the Rhinoceros, Tiger and other animals
A very impressive array of 130m year-old fossil footprints of enormous dinosaurs have come to prominence on the Kimberley shoreline of Western Australia (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/mar/28/worlds-largest-dinosaur-footprints-discovered-in-western-australia). The footprints had long been known to the local Aboriginal tribes but their relevance has only recently been appreciated by scientists (the area was once dismissed by local politicians as being of such little significance, that it was ripe for development). Thousands of footprints from at least 21 different species of dinosaur have been currently identified in what was once apparently a delta merging with the Indian Ocean. The footprints should reveal much about the behaviour of these fascinating reptiles (including which species are found together, whether the animals moved as groups and even stride lengths and probable weights).
There is a somewhat odd finding that highly toxic Pumpkin toadlets from Brazil apparently cannot hear their own mating calls ( https://w...
A combination of night rain and day-time sun has resulted in more Bynea blooms. The Southern marsh orchid ( Dactylorhiza praetermissa...
A study ( https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/feb/01/special-spit-is-the-secret-of-uniquely-sticky-frog-tongues-study-reveals ) has...
It is always sad to hear of problems occurring at places you have used for teaching and the outbreak of h5n8 avian influenza at Abbot...