Saturday, 28 December 2019

Locals Only?



Although some species, such as the Bee orchid, have done well recently, other 'native' UK species including the Puffin and the Arctic tern are in decline (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/dec/27/uk-weather-attracts-migrant-species-but-threatens-native-ones). These effects have been linked to changes in the weather patterns that also bring in species from abroad, such as the Long-tailed blue butterfly. Although some people may appreciate the increased diversity, not all species can deal with environmental changes that are so rapid and widespread.

Plastic Rain

Studies have shown that microparticles of plastic are everywhere including in the rain that falls in UK cities (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/dec/27/revealed-microplastic-pollution-is-raining-down-on-city-dwellers). This is concerning as the impact of these ubiquitous items on human health are far from being fully assessed. You can find plastic microparticles everywhere - in the deepest oceans and on the highest mountains! Swarming from the teabag in your cup of tea! Perhaps we should call the current Geological period the Polymerera?

Thursday, 26 December 2019

Electric Dreams?

Industry analysts have reportedly claimed that 2020 will be the year of the electric and low emissions cars in Europe (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/dec/25/2020-set-to-be-year-of-the-electric-car-say-industry-analysts). There could be an element of trying to stimulate sales in such pronouncements. One also has to note that, although the fuel directly consumed by such vehicles is much better than petrol or diesel, there are some problems with such a development. Firstly, the numbers of charging points will need to be massively expanded. Secondly, the means by which the electricity is generated have to be considered (there is no point in using oil or coal). Thirdly, there are considerable energy and emission costs when constructing the new vehicles (and disposing of the old ones). Fourthly, the tyres and brake linings of the electric cars will still add to the concentrations of dangerous particulates in the air adjacent to roads. We really need to stimulate public transport rather than simply changing the fuelling of our individual cars.

No Shit?

Vegans should apparently note that the vast majority of vegetables that they purchase have been grown with the aid of animal fertilisers and manures (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/dec/24/vegetables-vegan-organic-agriculture-farming). This is said to be the case even if plants are not factory produced and insecticides are banned whilst they grow.

New Year


Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Downunder Logic

It seems a touch perverse for the Australian 'government' to be resisting any international developments to counter climate change whist their continent burns (https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/dec/25/australias-east-coast-faces-extreme-heat-as-bushfire-threat-looms-again). I appreciate that it is difficult to establish a direct link between their own country's production of greenhouse gases but there are more than enough hints (and, perhaps, they need to get the rest of the world committed to substantial reductions?

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

The Green, Green Houses of Wales

Building is scheduled to start in spring 2020 on Parc Hadau in Pontadawe (South Wales) to construct one of the world's first zero-carbon neighbourhoods, generating more energy than it uses (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/dec/23/net-zero-carbon-neighbourhood-to-be-built-in-south-wales). The 35 homes will have solar panels, storage batteries augmented by ground source heat. They will also use innovative insulation and ventilation throughout. This all sounds very good but we really need a major modification of much of the existing housing stock to combat climate change.

Fossil Love

People seem to be getting very excited about a single case of a 300 m year-old fossil varanopid (lizard-like) reptile from Canada that appears to be an adult providing parental care to a single offspring in a plant stump nest (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/dec/23/300m-year-old-fossil-is-early-sign-of-creatures-caring-for-their-young). It is claimed that this may push parental care in four-limbed vertebrates back considerably. Having said that, there is a certain element of poetic licence in the interpretation of the fossil and it is already well-known that some fish, amphibians and many crocodilians show pronounced parental care. Improving the chances of one's offspring surviving thus appears to be a very old tool in the behavioural box of actions.

Monkey Moves

Japanese workers at Kyoto University have reportedly shown that both male and female Common chimpanzees, when individually given access to a music booth with short recordings of 'strident piano rhythms', sway about clap along and even sometimes tap their feet (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/dec/23/cha-cha-chimp-ape-study-suggests-urge-to-dance-is-prehuman). The scientists regard this as evidence that the tendency to dance in primates occurs earlier than in the human species (none of the chimpanzees had had earlier experiences of the music booths and the animals received no rewards for their actions). 

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Forgetmenots?

A survey has suggested that very few people in the UK can name common wild flowers (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/dec/17/plantwatch-what-is-that-wildflower-and-why-dont-we-know). This includes items like the Common dog violet which is found over most of our landscape. Although people in general would like to know more, this is not true of the younger cohort. Although the level of ignorance (compared to knowledge of mammals and birds) is unsurprising, it is a weakness in our being able to monitor the effects of climate change and invasions by alien species.

Depressing Airs

It has been confirmed that air pollution has an influence on human depression and suicide rates (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/dec/18/depression-and-suicide-linked-to-air-pollution-in-new-global-study). Isn't it strange that the people who produce the fumes and the politicians who do nothing about it, often live in nice rural locations, leaving the poorest to the full effects of the fumes? The effect is most powerful in the USA which ranks 7th in the world for deaths associated with pollution (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/dec/18/us-top-10-countries-pollution-related-deaths-study). It's the only rich nation in the top ten and has almost 200k deaths per annum from all forms of pollution (not just the air).

Monday, 16 December 2019

Moths of Another Stripe

It has been reported that some species of Tiger moth do little by the way of making evasive changes in flight direction even when faced by predators such as insectivorous bats (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/dec/16/bad-taste-in-the-moth-study-reveals-insects-chemical-defence). It appears that these 'lazy' species have actually developed a disgusting taste which makes them unattractive to the bats. Other moths, without this chemical defence, do show unpredictable changes in their flight pattern. The authors argue that the movement change type of defence might end with the moth flying into a spiders web or away from a potential mate. It could, of course, also be a form of kin selection such  as is seen in caterpillars of the Cinnabar moth. They are conspicuous and poisonous but feed on Ragwort in groups. It appears that, when a predator eats one, it benefits its kin (that share its genes) by providing a potent disincentive to eat any more.

Sunday, 15 December 2019

For Richer For Poorer

Who would have ever guessed that some large, rich countries (reportedly Brazil, China and India) are perceived as holding up agreements on paying for carbon emissions at the Madrid meeting (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/dec/13/richer-nations-accused-of-stalling-progress-on-climate-crisis)? The first mentioned is said to be clearing an area of forest per year, the size of Porto Rico, as well as wanting to be paid for having (rather than planting) forests. Small island nations are fearful.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Pestilential?

I suppose that nobody is likely to be surprised that President Bolsonaro of Brazil reacts crassly to Greta Thunberg's complaint, about the killing of indigenous people trying to defend the invasion of their lands by exploiters (as encouraged by him), by describing her as a pirralha. This translates as a 'little brat' or a 'pest'. I suspect that he is likely to find that the numbers of 'pests' is increasing in many age groups and they are likely to come back to bite him.

The Greening of Greenland

Reports that the rate of melting of Greenland's ice sheets is some 7 times that seen in the 1990s is very concerning (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/dec/10/greenland-ice-sheet-melting-seven-times-faster-than-in-1990s). Although this might help agriculture in that country, the reflecting back of solar energy into space will be reduced, causing the planet to warm even faster. Furthermore, the water released will increase sea-levels reducing the land surface and exacerbating the risk of flooding in coastal regions.

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Dead Zones

And another thing! The oceans of the planet are reportedly rapidly losing their ability to hold oxygen (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/dec/07/oceans-losing-oxygen-at-unprecedented-rate-experts-warn). Water retains less oxygen as it becomes warmer and more salty, inevitable  consequences of climate change, so it is likely that more ocean dead zones will be created especially near the equator. Many fish populations (particularly rapid swimming species such as tuna and marlin) are likely to suffer.

Seeing the Changes 1366

In a howling gale in Bynea, a Bumble bee (Bombus terrestris) still managed to fly.

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Seeing the Changes 1365

In Loughor, Winter heliotrope (Petasites fragrans) was in flower.

Bottling the Hermits

There has been a mass mortality of hermit crabs on the Henderson and Cocos islands (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/dec/05/plastic-pollution-hermit-crabs-species-decline-henderson-cocos-islands ). This appears to be directly related to the accumulation of plastic waste on the beaches of these islands.

Monday, 2 December 2019

Tipping Points?

News that the world's climate may have already passed tipping points is concerning (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/nov/27/climate-emergency-world-may-have-crossed-tipping-points). Such events, including things such as the loss of major ice sheets, fuel continuing change, making it next to impossible to reverse the consequences.

Going Wild in Rural China?

The recent 'freeze' on the production of wild animals for human consumption in rural China appears to be meeting difficulties ( h...