Blackrock, books, cutting pollution, Environment, Fausto Llerena Tortoise Center, Gallapagos tortoise, Glistening Inkcap, Green investing, green living, habitat restoration, Lawrence D. Fink, recycling, San Francisco, Uncategorized

odds and ends

DSD_8846-galapagos-super-tortoise-768x509

Diego, the Tortoise Whose High Sex Drive Helped Save His Species, Retires

With the future secured, he’s finally going home. Good job, Diego.

By Aimee Ortiz
Jan. 12, 2020

A member of the giant tortoise species indigenous to Española Island in the Galápagos in Ecuador, Diego was one of 15 tortoises in a captive breeding program at the Fausto Llerena Tortoise Center on the island of Santa Cruz.

Among the males, Diego displayed an exceptional sex drive, so much so, he’s credited with helping save his species from extinction. Approximately 40 percent of the 2,000 tortoises repatriated to Española Island are estimated to be Diego’s descendants, officials said.

Now, more than 100 years old, he is retiring, since the Galápagos National Park announced the end of the breeding program, saying an evaluation showed it had met its conservation goals. (Maybe he doesn’t want to quit now!!)

Begun in 1965, the program on Pinzón Island started with the last 2 males and 12 females, plus Diego, a 30-year old male from the San Diego Zoo who is believed to have been taken from Española Island in the 1930s.

For many years, feral goats overran the island, competing for food and destroying the habitat. Conservationists have worked to restore the island’s habitat, including the growth of cacti, which are a main source of food for the tortoises.

There are more details on the breeding program here.      And here.

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LAURENT GILLIERON-AP

Photo: Laurent Gillieron. AP

Climate Crisis Will Reshape Finance,
Andrew Ross Sorkin,

January 14, 2020

Laurence D. Fink, the founder and chief executive of BlackRock, announced Tuesday that his firm would make investment decisions with environmental sustainability as a core goal.

BlackRock is the world’s largest asset manager with nearly $7 trillion in investments, and this move will fundamentally shift its investing policy — and could reshape how corporate America does business and put pressure on other large money managers to follow suit.

Mr. Fink’s annual letter to the chief executives of the world’s largest companies is closely watched, and in the 2020 edition he said BlackRock would begin to exit certain investments that “present a high sustainability-related risk,” such as those in coal producers. His intent is to encourage every company, not just energy firms, to rethink their carbon footprints.

“Awareness is rapidly changing, and I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance,” Mr. Fink wrote in the letter, which was obtained by The New York Times. “The evidence on climate risk is compelling investors to reassess core assumptions about modern finance.”

In recent years, many companies and investors have committed to focusing on the environmental impact of business, but none of the largest investors in the country have been willing to make it a central component of their investment strategy.

In that context, Mr. Fink’s move is a watershed — one that could spur a national conversation among financiers and policymakers. However, it’s also possible that some of the most ardent climate activists will see it as falling short.

More details here.

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Tyler Varsell

Photo: Tyler Varsell

Climate Fwd – One Thing We Can Do: Fix Recycling
by Eduardo Garcia,

January 15, 2020

For years, we relied heavily on recycling operations in China to take our waste. But that came to an end in 2018, when Beijing barred the import of recycling materials. The result is a waste crisis that has caused at least dozens of municipalities to cancel curbside recycling programs, with many more implementing partial cuts. Huge amounts of recyclables are now going to landfills.

Experts say that we would need to implement changes across the board. Legislators may need to pass laws requiring manufacturers to use more recyclable materials, companies would need to build much-needed recycling infrastructure and people would need to recycle properly.

Cities can’t do all that. But they can play an important role.

For a possible model, consider San Francisco, which runs one of the most successful waste-management programs in the United States. Through recycling and composting, the city manages to keep around 80 percent of its waste out of landfills.

San Francisco’s program has been years in the making. In 2000, it introduced the “fantastic three” citywide curbside collection program with separate, color-coded bins for recyclables, compost and trash. In 2009, it passed a law requiring residents and businesses to separate their waste.

Other policies include bans on hard-to-recycle items including single-use plastic bags and polystyrene packaging and an ordinance requiring food vendors to use compostable or recyclable food containers.

San Francisco’s system is built on a highly unusual partnership with a single waste company. That company, Recology, has had a monopoly on handling San Francisco’s waste for almost 90 years. That no-bid, no-franchise-fee concession has come under harsh criticism over the years.

More here.

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Also, in “Spotlight On” –

800px-Coprinellus_micaceus_Glimmer-TintlingGlistening Inkcap

This is a common edible fungus found all over the world. It grows in dense clusters on rotting hardwood and disturbed ground sites. Under humid conditions, it can also grow indoors on rotting wood. In one instance it was discovered about four hundred feet underground in an abandoned coal mine, growing on wooden gangways and props used to support the roof. The Glistening inkcap can be highly productive, with several successive crops appearing during one fruiting season.
The entire cap surface is covered with reflective cells that look like flakes of mica, which give this mushroom its name.
It is edible, and is enjoyed in omelets and sauces. Nutritionally, it contains a very high concentration of potassium, but also accumulates heavy metals from exposure, so it should not be collected from roadsides and other areas that may be exposed to pollutants.
The scientific community has found the Coprinellus micaeus of interest since 1601, when it was the subject of a monograph by Carolus Clusius in The History of Rare Plants. As this mushroom is plentiful and easily grown in laboratories, it has often been the subject in studies of cells and the processes of spore production.
Bioactive compounds have been isolated from Coprinellus micaeus. One was found to inhibit the enzyme that aids cancer cells to resist chemotherapy, and one has been shown to have some modest potential as an antioxidant. (From Volume 1 of Secret Voices, Coastal Redwood Companions)

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And, don’t forget my books, Secret Voices from the Forest – Thoughts and Dreams of North American Trees, are on sale on Amazon.com. p.s. There are some weird people offering them for sale, sometimes for hundreds of dollars! Don’t be fooled. The list prices are $28.95 for Vols. 1 & 2, and $32.95 for Vol. 3.

cover    cover-SV2    Vol. 3 - The East copy

See ya later, alligator.

 

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Aboriginal Firekeeping, Australia, Bureau of Indian Affairs, California, Environment, global warming, Karuk tribe, National Forest Service, Nature Conservancy, Uncategorized, Yurok tribe

Let’s Talk About Fire…

matthew abbottNYT

Reducing Fire, and Cutting Carbon Emissions, the Aboriginal Way 
As blazes rage in southern Australia, Indigenous fire-prevention techniques that have sharply cut destructive bushfires in the north are drawing new attention.

Thomas Fuller, NYT, Jan. 16, 2020
Photo by Matthew Abbott

Traditional Aboriginal practices of burning, which reduce the undergrowth that can fuel bigger blazes, are attracting new attention as Australia endures disaster and confronts a fiery future.

Over the past decade, fire-prevention programs, mainly on Aboriginal lands in northern Australia, have cut destructive wildfires in half. These programs, first given government licenses in 2013, now cover an area three times the size of Portugal. Even as towns in the south burned in recent months and smoke haze blanketed Sydney and Melbourne, wildfires in northern Australia were much less severe.

These efforts draw on ancient ways, but have a thoroughly modern benefit: Organizations that practice defensive burning have earned $80 million under the country’s cap-and-trade system as they have reduced greenhouse-gas emissions from wildfires in the north by 40 percent.

They are also generating important scientific data, and are held up as a model that could be adapted to save lives and homes in other regions of Australia, as well as fire-prone parts of the world as different as California and Botswana.

“The Australian government is now starting to see the benefits of having Indigenous people look after their lands,” said Joe Morrison, one of the pioneers of the project. “Aboriginal people who have been through very difficult times are seeing their language, customs and traditional knowledge being reinvigorated and celebrated using Western science.”

In some ways, the Aboriginal methods resemble Western ones practiced around the world: One of the main goals is to reduce underbrush and other fuel that accelerates hot, damaging fires.

But the ancient approach tends to be more comprehensive. Indigenous people, using precisely timed, low-intensity fires, burn their properties the way a suburban homeowner might use a lawn mower.

The preventive fires must be timed according to air temperature, wind conditions and humidity, as well as the life cycles of plants. Northern Aboriginal traditions revolve around the monsoon, with land burned patch by patch as the wet season gives way to the dry.

The pioneering defensive burning programs in northern Australia came together in the 1980s and ’90s when Aboriginal groups moved back onto their native lands after having lived in settlements under the encouragement, or in some cases the order, of the government.

Depopulated for decades, the land had suffered. Huge fires were decimating species and damaging rock paintings.

The Aboriginal groups ultimately teamed up with scientists, the government of the Northern Territory and the Houston-based oil company ConocoPhillips, which was building a natural gas facility and was required to find a project that would offset its carbon emissions.

According to calculations by Mr. Edwards, wildfires in northern Australia burned 57 percent fewer acres last year than they did on average in the years from 2000 to 2010, the decade before the program started.

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alexandra hootnickNYT

California Today: Native Solutions to Big Fire
Thomas Fuller, NYT, January 24, 2020

Photo by Alexandra Hootnick

As many parts of the world grapple with how to reduce destructive, out-of-control wildfires, Native North American burning techniques have come into the spotlight, as well.

The experience in northern Australia has been critical. Researchers have used satellite data to calculate that an Aboriginal burning program started seven years ago has cut hot and destructive wildfires in half and reduced carbon emissions by more than 40 percent.

With California’s Could something similar be done in California?

Margo Robbins, a member of the Yurok, California’s largest Indian tribe, traveled to Australia two years ago and saw many similarities with her own cultural burning practices.

In 2014, Ms. Robbins helped organize a burn of seven acres on the Yurok reservation. A crew of 20 prison inmates brought by Cal Fire worked with the tribe to conduct the burn.

“The No. 1 priority for our community was to bring fire back to the land. The land needs fire in order to be healthy,” said Ms. Robbins, a basket weaver who relies on the long and pliable shoots that emerge from burned hazelnut bushes.

The Nature Conservancy assists with a yearly controlled burn on the Yurok reservation in Northern California. The 2014 burn rekindled the tradition and now happens every year.

Don Hankins, a fire expert at Cal State, Chico, estimates that, at most, a few thousand acres are burned in California every year using traditional cultural burning techniques. This is tiny compared with the Australian program, which covers close to 90 million acres, around the size of Montana.

But Mr. Hankins and tribal fire experts say there seems to be an appetite in California to better understand and expand tribal burning practices. Native American burning traditions are similar to Aboriginal ones in the way that they look to nature for signals on when to burn.

Mr. Tripp says it is crucial not to interrupt natural reproductive cycles with fire — nesting birds, flowering plants — but to burn in ways that encourage growth of critical plants like hazelnut bushes and acorn-bearing oaks.

As with other Native fire experts, Mr. Tripp, who is deputy director of the Karuk tribe’s Natural Resources Department, says he is working with the National Forest Service, Cal Fire and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to obtain more sovereignty over fire.

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Also, “Spotlight On” the Walking Stick Insect

Stick_insect_(5012291723)

Walking stick

From the Ancient Greek phasma, meaning “a phantom,” the Walking stick, or Stick insect, is a master at disappearing into its surroundings. This insect and its cousin, the Leaf insect, are normally green or brown. Also useful in self-protection is its ability to enter into a motionless state that can be maintained for a long period. The only predator from which the Walking stick has no defense is the bat, which hunts by echolocation.
Only certain species of animals can reproduce by parthenogenesis, most notably insects, but also reptiles, and it was recently discovered, sharks. This is the process by which an unfertilized egg produces an offspring. (From Volume 2, Staghorn Sumac)

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And finally, another plug for my self-published books about North American trees,

Secret Voices from the Forest, Thoughts and Dreams of North American Trees

Available at Amazon.com

cover    cover-SV2    Vol. 3 - The East copy

See ya tomorrow.

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arctic ice melting, bird flyway, books, cleaner car emissions, Environment, environmental news in New Mexico, global warming, Lebanon, Nature, oceans, Sunflower, Uncategorized, Weather, Wildlife

A little more news…

NOAA Climate.gov

Our Future Depends on the Arctic
Save it from the ravages of warming and we can save the planet.

By Durwood J. Zaelke and Paul Bledsoe
The authors work for groups focused on climate policy.
Dec. 14, 2019, NYTimes California Today

Delegates from all over the world spent two weeks in Madrid, trying to work out how to reach a global goal of net zero emissions by 2050. As the United Nations’ secretary general, António Guterres, warned in opening the meeting: “The point of no return is no longer over the horizon. It is in sight and hurtling toward us.”

Perhaps nowhere is that more true than in the Arctic. The surface air there is warming at twice the global rate and temperatures over the past five years have exceeded all previous records since 1900.

A study published in Geophysical Research Letters in June described the catastrophic consequences of losing the Arctic’s reflective summer sea ice, which reflects incoming solar warming back to space, that would otherwise be absorbed by the ocean. Equal to an extra 25 years of current levels of emissions, it will push us more quickly towards catastrophic damage: more intense heat waves and coastal flooding, extinctions of species and threats to food supplies.

The heating up of the Arctic is also speeding the thawing of permafrost, causing the release of more carbon dioxide and methane, a greenhouse gas 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide when measured over 20 years, along with nitrous oxide, a powerful long-lived climate pollutant.

If we are to keep the Arctic ice strong, we not only need to cut diesel emissions, limit methane emissions from landfills, and keep strict regulations on refrigerants in air-conditioners and consumer products. California has cut these emissions by more than 90% since the 1960s.

Several other geoengineering ideas are being floated, such as putting a covering of white sand over first year ice, to enhance its reflectivity, or introduce particles into the atmosphere to reflect solar radiation. There are potential risks with these procedures, and there could be experiments to see if the risks are worth the effort.

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em012617h

New Clean-Car Rules for New Mexico,
December 4, 2019, Sierra Club

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that New Mexico will join 14 other states in adopting clean-car standards requiring new cars sold in the state to emit fewer greenhouse gases. The standards also mandate an increasing percentage of cars to have zero emissions.

Lujan Grisham made the announcement in September at Climate Week in New York City, where U.S. governors met to discuss states advancing ambitious climate action in the face of federal inaction. The move came on the heels of the announcement that the Trump administration is revoking California’s authority to set fuel-efficiency and greenhouse-gas standards stricter than federal standards. California and nearly two dozen other states are suing the administration over the attack.

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Diego Ibarra Sanchez

Where Eagle Feathers Fall Like Snow,
By Helen Sullivan, NYTimes Climate Forward

January 6, 2020

Adonis Al Khatib, of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon, works with students, community leaders and hunting associations to instill sustainable hunting practices. Hunting is ubiquitous in Lebanon, which has the 11th-highest rate of small-arms ownership in the world. Half to three-quarters of boys own guns, and birds can be a common target.

Among the Society’s top concerns is protecting the 2.5 billion migratory birds that pass over the country twice a year. During those journeys, 2.6 million migratory birds are shot or trapped illegally, according to BirdLife International; S.P.N.L. is that organization’s official partner in Lebanon. As other countries examine why some of their protected birds aren’t returning from migration, Lebanon has come under the spotlight.

Lebanon’s topography is dominated by two long mountain ranges. Various bird migration routes, or flyways, pass through the country; when squeezed between mountains, the routes narrow, forming bottlenecks. The bottlenecks create conditions for satisfying bird-watching, and make it easier for organizations like S.P.N.L. to conduct bird counts.

But the bottlenecks also serve hunters. At certain points throughout the country, the narrow flyways funnel birds through elevated vantage points from which hunters can get easy shots.

Assad Serhal, a founder of S.P.N.L., is a reformed hunter. The organization has lobbied Lebanon’s government for stricter anti-poaching laws, and has reintroduced a traditional Islamic system of conservation to Lebanon.

Twenty years ago, on very old military maps, he noticed areas labeled, “hima.” In Arabic, hima can mean refuge, protected area, private pasture or homeland; “Humat al-Hima” (Defenders of the Homeland) is Tunisia’s national anthem. Mr. Serhal had known vaguely of the idea, but had no idea that hima had existed in Lebanon.

He discovered that the concept dates back more than 1,000 years, with a mention in the Quran. Muhammad had designated certain areas as hima, which meant they were subject to rules about grazing, hunting or even trade. On Mr. Serhal’s maps, it turned out, hima signified communal areas. The word’s appearance gave him an idea: Perhaps he could revive its traditional meaning.

Mr. Serhal thought that, instead, hima might be accepted as a traditional concept; it also would include communities and municipalities in the design of the conservation areas. Hima wouldn’t be just about protecting nature, Mr. Serhal said; it would be “nature plus people.” When S.P.N.L. helped a community design a local hima, the group suggested additional conservation methods, like banning hunting.

The first hima was established in southern Lebanon in 2004. Today there are 25; they have been given legal status by the government and cover more land than Lebanon’s national parks. Five of the designated hima are also what BirdLife calls “Important Bird Areas,” of which there are 15 in the country.

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And in “Spotlight On”

http---cdn.cnn.com-cnnnext-dam-assets-190815135835-03-north-dakota-sunflower

 Sunflower

Our native Sunflower was domesticated and cultivated by indigenous Americans, possibly as long as five thousand years ago, when seeds were selected for the best size and shape to produce the largest crop. They were used to make flour, cooking oil, dye, and medicinal ointments. It has been suggested that the sunflower was domesticated before the maize plant. Some American Indian tribes planted sunflowers as a “fourth sister” to the combination of corn, beans, and squash.
Early Spanish explorers took seeds back to Europe around 1500. In 1716, the English granted a patent for a process of squeezing oil from sunflower seed. By 1769, sunflower oil had become a popular commodity with members of the Russian Orthodox Church, because it was one of the few oils not forbidden during Lent.
By 1830, the manufacture of sunflower oil had become a commercial enterprise, and Russian farmers were growing over two million acres of the plant. By 1880, sunflower seeds called the “Mammoth Russian” were being marketed in catalogs in the U.S.
Canada began the first government sponsored breeding program in 1930, and because of high demand for sunflower oil, production grew. More recently, because of increasing concerns about high cholesterol in the diet, demand increased further, and U.S. production took off. Today the sunflower is the most important native crop plant produced in the United States. (from Volume 2, Elm Companions)

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And again, don’t forget you can buy all three volumes of Secret Voices from the Forest, Thoughts and Dreams of North American Trees, on Amazon.

cover   cover-SV2   Vol. 3 - The East copy

 

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Alabama map turtle, Eco-tourism, Ethiopia, forests, Maria Fire, protecting rain forests, rescue animals, trees, Uncategorized

News from The Treetalker

Nature.com

Sorry, haven’t posted much in a while.

I check out the headlines of the NY Times every day, and have made note of a few recent articles, of which I will give a brief rendition, over the next few days. Here’s the first 3:

The Church Forests of Ethiopia, by Jeremy Seifert, Dec. 3 2019

From an interview and video by Dr. Alemayehu Wassie, Forest Ecologist, working with priests and communities since 1992 to save Ethiopia’s rapidly shrinking church forests.

“In Ethiopian Orthodox teaching, a church–to be a church–should be enveloped by a forest. It should resemble the garden of Eden.

A hundred years ago the highland was one big continuous forest. That big continuous forest has been eaten up by agriculture. It is the church who has protected these forests and only their patronage has safeguarded them from destruction.

Over the past century, nearly all of Ethiopia’s native forests have been cleared to make way for farming and cattle grazing.

“Every plant contains the power of God, the treasure of God, the blessing of God. The church is within the forest; the forest is inside the church. In ecology culture the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The mystery is to think beyond what we see. Everything is important and interlinked. So if you really care, we have to respect trees, the role of trees, and we have to learn to live with forests.  We can bring back the landscape given that these church forests exist. That’s my hope, that’s my vision. ” 

ram, post rescue
Owl rescued from ashes of Maria Fire by firefighters on patrol
Gretchen Wenner, Ventura County Star, Nov. 3, 2019

A Ventura County Fire Department hand crew was patrolling the fire line of the Maria Fire, which burned thousands of acres between Santa Paula, Saticoy and Somis during a Santa Ana wind event.  The crew was in a eucalyptus grove looking for “hazard” trees: burnt-out trees that can fall and kill firefighters and civilians, when they saw a Great horned owl hopping around in the ashes. One crew member, firefighter Caleb Amico, approached the owl, who was docile, wrapping it in his flame-resistant jacket.

Firefighters brought the owl to Nicky Thole at the nonprofit Camarillo Wildlife Rehabilitation, Des Forges said. The bird’s wings were fine and no bones were broken.

“She thinks the bird inhaled smoke and became dazed and confused,” he said. The owl is expected to make a full recovery and will be released back into its territory when conditions are safe.

The fire crew named their feathered find before handing it off: Ram. A ram is the crew’s mascot and Amico and the other crew members are big fans of the Los Angeles Rams football team, Des Forges said.

Mashpi Lodge, Ecuador

Looking to Scientists to Expand Eco-Tourism Efforts,
By Abby Ellin, Nov. 13, 2019

Hotels, lodges and resorts are bringing in scientists to conduct serious academic inquiries while also offering nature tours, workshops and classes for guests. Two years ago, the Mashpi Lodge, a luxury hotel in Ecuador, opened a research lab just steps from its main lodge.

Carmen Soto, a research scientist with a master’s degree in ecology and natural resources, collaborates with José Koechlin, the founder and chief executive of Inkaterra Hotels in Peru. He offered Ms. Soto a full-time job to help him with a pest problem at the Lodge.

Within a year, Ms. Soto was the resident biologist and orchid specialist at that hotel and at Inkaterra Asociación, the company’s nonprofit organization. Since then, she and her team of nearly a dozen workers have helped identify 372 orchid species, 22 of which are new. While continuing to identify new species of birds, butterflies and flora in the cloud forest, she also organizes specialized excursions for guests and educational workshops for area schoolchildren. Today, Mashpi has 12 biologists on staff, and seven studies have been published about the frogs, flowers, butterflies and birds found there.

Eco-tourism has been a part of the travel industry for some time now, but some other companies have begun hiring scientists to conduct serious academic inquiry while also offering nature tours, workshops and classes for guests. Hotel owners and managers say their ecological efforts trump any financial hits they may take.

As Daydream Island Resort’s “Living Reef Manager,” Mr. Johhny Gaskell is one of six full-time resident marine biologists. He is responsible for the resort’s reef restoration program and protecting the creatures of the Living Reef, one of Australia’s largest man-made living coral reef lagoons. He also runs the Reef After Dark program, when he’ll jump into the ocean at night and live-stream his findings onto a giant screen for guests.

Eleanor Butler, the resident biologist at Soneva Jani resort, in the Maldives, is inviting guests to help resore the coral reefs surrounding the resort, which were being destroyed by the high temperatures of the 2016 El Niño event.

She believes she’s able to reach more people, about climate change and the importance of reefs, than if she were working in academia.

ALSO, an excerpt from Volume Three of Secret Voices from the Forest:

The Alabama Map Turtle, a companion of the Longleaf Yellow Pine

Unknown     

Commonly known as the “Sawback” turtle, because of a black, knobbed ridge on its back, the Alabama map turtle can be seen basking on brush piles, tree branches or trunks along river banks.
Researchers have recently discovered a turtle’s organs do not gradually break down or become less efficient over time, unlike most other animals. It was found that the liver, lungs, and kidneys of a 100-year-old turtle are virtually indistinguishable from those of a juvenile.
The inner layer of a turtle’s shell is made up of about sixty bones that include portions of the backbone and the ribs, meaning the turtle cannot crawl out of its shell. In most turtles, the outer layer of the shell is covered by horny scales called scutes that are part of its outer skin.
Turtles once had a complete set of teeth, like most other animals, but now all turtle species have beaks. Generally, once an organism stops producing teeth, the genes specific to teeth start to mutate and become non-functional, but in turtles, most of these tooth-specific enamel genes are still present and in reasonable shape despite turtles having lost their teeth well before birds even evolved, about 150-200 million years ago. This indicates that turtles have a really slow mutation rate.
The first primitive ancestors of turtles are believed to have existed about 220 million years ago. Their shell is thought to have evolved from bony extensions of their backbones and broad ribs that expanded and grew together to form a complete shell that offered protection at every stage of its evolution, even when the bony component of the shell was not complete. A genetic analysis suggests that turtles are a sister group to birds and crocodiles, the separation of the three estimated to have occurred around 255 million years ago.
The Alabama map turtle lives only in the Mobile Bay drainage basin, inhabiting flowing waters in areas of Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana. Because of its limited range, it is variously—according to state—listed as “rare,” “protected,” “near-threatened” or “a species of special concern,” because of habitat destruction and fragmentation, caused primarily by development, and by collection for the pet trade. Although sale of under-4-inch turtles is highly restricted by the FDA, and illegal in many states, dealers discovered a loophole in the regulation that allows for the sale of small turtles for educational purposes.

And, don’t forget that all 3 volumes of my book series, Secret Voices from the Forest, Thoughts and Dreams of North American Trees, are on sale on Amazon!

Vol. 3 - The East copy    cover     cover-SV2

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Uncategorized

Not just a physical thing…

What a wonderful essay! Pass it on.

Echoes in the Mist

One 1600px-Tongass_National_Forest_4

By Sharon St Joan

The earth is not just a physical thing. The same is true of the trees, the flowers, the clouds in the sky, the mountains, the rivers, the valleys, the oceans. And, of course, all the animals.

The other day I listened to a spokesperson for a major environmental organization explaining on national television the reasons why it’s not a good idea to log the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. I’m not going to give his name because I’m about to criticize him – even though he spoke well and gave good, rational arguments. But I felt there was an essential element missing. I don’t honestly remember all the points that he made, but they may have gone something like this. The Tongass National Forest puts a significant percentage of the earth’s oxygen into the air. It is the largest temperate forest in the world. It is…

View original post 1,598 more words

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cutting pollution, energy efficiency, Environment, forests, global warming, Green Movement, protecting rain forests, Renewable Energy, trees, Uncategorized, windfarms

News from The Treetalker

Getty Images

Getty Images

These days, when there is some new assault on Nature occurring almost daily, I find it difficult to locate stories about the environment that can give hope. More and more, I’m seeing that it’s up to those who, like we all did in the 1960s, see problems that are urgent, and are willing to not just speak truth to Power, but to put their bodies on the line.

So my first story is about the group called “Extinction Rebellion.” They are an international “non-violent civil disobedience activist movement.” Their co-founder, Gail Bradbrook, says that the the future of the planet depends upon actions such as theirs.

They believe that governments must declare a climate “emergency,” that nations like the U.K. must legally commit to reducing carbon emissions to net zero by 2025, and that a citizens’ assembly must be formed to “oversee the changes.” (Sounds like they don’t trust government!!)

They foresee severe restrictions on flying, drastically cutting back on the consumption of meat and dairy, and a massive increase in renewable energy, to name just a few of the radical changes needed.

For more information, you can just google them, but my source on this story was the BBC.

shutterstock_554001493

In other encouraging news, we find that,
“Automakers, Rejecting Trump Pollution Rule, Strike a Deal With California”
The New York Times, July 25, 2019, Coral Davenport and Hiroko Tabuchi

Ford, Volkswagen, Honda and BMW, in order to avoid having to have 2 separate operations, made a secret deal with California regulators that allow them to follow rules, increasing fuel efficiency, slightly less than the Obama standards, but still much stricter that those proposed by the Trump administration.

The Trump administration is suing California, but state officials vow to take the fight all the way to the Supreme Court.

Lots more information on this at:

TJ Watt

T.J.Watt for U of B.C.

UBC scientists find high mutation rates generating genetic diversity within huge, old-growth trees
University of British Columbia News, Jul 8, 2019, Lou Corpuz-Bosshart

The original of this article is kind of scientific, so let me boil it down for you:

U. of British Columbia researchers studied some several-hundred-year-old Sitka spruce trees in Vancouver Island. After doing DNA sequencing, they found that a single tree, starting at the base and going all the way to the top, might have gone through up to 100,000 genetic mutations over its lifespan.

This opens a discussion of how trees evolve over time, passing on genetic changes to their offspring that may help them survive and adapt to environmental changes.

Read the story at:

800px-Alpha_Ventus_Windmills

Chang W. Lee/NY Times

New York Awards Offshore Wind Contracts in Bid to Reduce Emissions,
By Ivan Penn, NYTimes, July 18, 2019

Technological advances have reduced the cost of wind turbines; as a result, NY State passed an ambitious law to reduce greenhouse emissions last month, and it has now reached an agreement for two large offshore wind projects, to be built off the coast of Long Island. They are supposed to start operation within the next five years.

More of this article at:

 

cecile-belmont-jean-marc-cecile-et-dominique

cecile-belmont-jean-marc-cecile-et-dominique.jpg

A French Town’s Green Policies Aim to Win Over the Working Class
The NYTimes, July 25, 2019, By Constant Méheut

But Grande-Synthe, near the northern city of Dunkirk, stands out as an unlikely laboratory for working-class environmentalism. The town’s Green party mayor, Damien Carême, has a vision of “social environmentalism.” In his efforts to convince his voters that innovative green policies, such as the installation of LED bulbs in street lights, serving organic food in school cafeterias, grown by local farmers who lease their land from the government for a cut rate.

The town is one of the poorest in France, surrounded by a sprawling industrial park, filled with closed factories and apartment blocks, including France’s oldest nuclear plant.

The jury is still out on whether or not Carême’s policies will save the town, but we wish him luck.

Read more on this story at:

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Sorry it took me so long to get these posted. Just too much going on to think straight!

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P.S. Look for my books, Secret Voices from the Forest—Thoughts and Dreams of North American Trees—Volume One: The West, Volume Two: Midcontinent, and Volume Three: The West. Coming eventually (probably in a year or two) Volume Four: Tropics and Deserts. You can find them on Amazon, by title.

 

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Children taking Action, Dolphins, endangered species, Environment, green living, Green Movement, hydrogen fuel, invasive species, Nature, oceans, plants, Renewable Energy, self-sustainability, Uncategorized, water purification, Whales

News from The Treetalker

Invasive, native marsh grasses may provide similar benefits to protected wetlands, Science Daily, via N.C. State University

Researchers here have noticed that the Common reed, which is an invasive species, has many of the same benefits for protected wetlands as the native marsh grasses it is crowding out, such as equivalent or even better levels of carbon storage, erosion prevention and plant diversity.

A great deal of money is spent trying to eradicate it, this research could impact management strategies, since this species protects shorelines from erosion by spreading more quickly. Shoreline erosion is a major problem, with rising seas.

read more here.

Seth Theuerkauf

Photo: Seth Theuerkauf

Researchers create hydrogen fuel from seawater, Stanford University, March 18, 2019

A “Water Engine” splits the molecules in water to access the hydrogen, which is then used as alternative energy (in hydrogen powered vehicles, for instance.) However, the existing water-splitting methods rely on highly purified water, which is a precious resource and costly to produce.

Stanford researchers have devised a way to generate hydrogen fuel using solar power, electrodes and saltwater from San Francisco Bay.

Splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen with electricity — called electrolysis — is a simple and old idea: a power source connects to two electrodes placed in water. When power turns on, hydrogen gas bubbles out of the negative end — called the cathode — and breathable oxygen emerges at the positive end — the anode.

But negatively charged chloride in seawater salt can corrode the positive end, limiting the system’s lifespan. The team wanted to find a way to stop those seawater components from breaking down the submerged anodes. They discovered that if they coated the anode with layers that were rich in magnetically negative charges, the layers repelled chloride and slowed down the decay of the underlying metal.

The surprisingly quick and simple solution is detailed in the following article, which you can read here.

H. Dai, Yun Kuang, Michael Kenney

H. Dai, Yun Kuang, Michael Kenney

Schools’ climate strike: Young people protest across EnglandBBC News, March 15, 2019Young people who have skipped school to join climate change protests across England have told the BBC there is no point in learning when their future is at risk.Thousands of schoolchildren have flooded into city and town centers across the country as classrooms around the world were abandoned for a day of demonstration. Some of their administrators were not in favor of the demonstrations, and said there would be consequences for skipping classes. One student responded, “I really don’t care what consequences they give us, it’s more important that we fight for our future. This is the world we’re going to have to live in.”Read more here

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An Elusive (Recently Discovered) Whale Is Found All Around the Worldby Karen Weintraub, for The New York Times, March 22, 2019.Researchers are learning about a newly identified species of baleen whales, tracing sightings and sounds to learn that they stay mainly in tropical waters. Salvatore Cerchio stunned the small world of whale science in 2015 when he found examples of a new species in the wild for the first time. Now, he’s mapped the habitat of that species, called Omura’s whale after Hideo Omura, a prominent Japanese whale biologist.The surprise in the new study, published in Frontiers in Marine Science, is that Omura’s whales, though little seen, are widespread across the tropical world.A researcher found a population off the northwest coast of Madagascar, where he works, and compiled reports of sightings from Japan, Australia, Brazil and off the coasts of Indonesia, among others. In total, from photographs, audio recordings, museums and documents, he identified 161 accounts of Omura’s whales in 95 locales.Technological innovation in recording devices, advances in genetic analysis — and simply knowing what to look for — seem to have led to the new insights. Scientists said the finding is a reminder of how little we actually know about what goes on in the world’s oceans.Read details here.

photo quora

Photo: Earth.com

Also, this week, “Spotlight On:” the Atlantic spotted dolphin…

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Photo: Quora

and remember, you can find all three volumes of “Secret Voices from the Forest, Thoughts and Dreams of North American Trees, on Amazon.

Make sure you buy them from me personally. There are people selling them for some outrageously high prices, which is some new weird scam. Vols 1 & 2 are $28.95, and Vol 3 is $32.95.

Vol. 3 - The East copy   cover-SV2  cover

 

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endangered species, Environment, global warming, Green Movement, habitat restoration, methane from livestock industry, Nature, Uncategorized

News from The Treetalker

Courtesy WhatWhenHow

Courtesy WhatWhenHow.com

Why large forest fires may not be a big threat to some endangered animals, January 29, 2019, ScienceDaily. Source: Oxford University Press USA

Spurred by climate change, megafires in western North America are becoming more frequent, causing speculation that endangered species will have an even more difficult surviving.

The Great Gray Owl, endangered in California, is a resident of Yosemite National Park and Stanislaus National Forest, which are areas that were badly burnt in the 2013 Rim Fire, experiencing a 104,000 acre burn.

In surveys covering a 3-year period following the fire, it was found that, rather than decreasing in number, the Grey Owls have adjusted to the terrain well, using large trees that were killed for nesting, and finding plentiful food in the rodent populations that have increased, due to more meadow area. Read the rest of the article here.

Neil Palmer:CIAT

Cattle urine’s planet-warming power can be curtailed with land restoration, January 29, 2019, Science News. Source: International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)

The exceptional climate-altering capabilities of cattle are mainly due to methane, which they blast into the atmosphere during their daily digestive routine. Cattle urine is a lesser-known climate offender. It produces nitrous oxide (N2O), which has warming power far greater than that of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main driver of global warming. A new study shows that these N2O emissions can be significantly curbed by healthy cattle pastures.

In the majority of test sites, degraded pastures emitted significantly more N2O — sometimes up to three times as much, than restored pasture.

Degraded livestock land is generally characterized by overgrazing, soil compaction, loss of organic material and low levels of nutrients and soil carbon. Large-scale land restoration with improved forage grasses, rotational grazing and the addition of shrubs and trees, could significantly mitigate the negative climate effects wrought by degradation. In addition to reducing N2O emissions, restored landscapes generally contain more carbon, have healthier soils and more robust and productive livestock. Find the rest of this article here.

Odd Andersen:Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Teenagers Emerge as a Force in Climate Protests Across Europe, By Milan Schreuer, Elian Peltier and Christopher F. Schuetze, for the NYTimes, Jan. 31, 2019

Tens of thousand of children skipped school in Belgium on Thursday to join demonstrations for action against climate change, part of a broader environmental protest movement across Europe that has gathered force over the past several weeks.

In Germany, France, Sweden, Switzerland and elsewhere, activists have come together on social media to gather in large numbers and without much apparent preparation, the protests taking a different shape in each country.

In Germany, students have protested on Fridays, communicating mainly through the messaging app WhatsApp; in Belgium, they organize on Facebook and have skipped school by the thousands on four consecutive Thursdays.

Last Sunday, climate protests in Brussels swelled to an estimated 100,000 people of all ages. That same day, an estimated 80,000 took part in cities across France — more than turned out for the “Yellow Vest” protests the day before.

The climate movement has no obvious leaders or structure, but young people feel that most older people do not feel the urgency that the young do about global warming, and want their governments to take action while there is still time. For the rest of this article, click here.

Johnny Milano for The New York Times

Global Warming Concerns Rise Among Americans in New Poll, by John Schwartz, for the NYTimes, Jan. 22, 2019

Some 73 percent of Americans polled online late last year by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, said that global warming was happening, the report found, a jump of 10 percentage points from 2015 and three points since last March. This suggests that climate change has moved out of the realm of the hypothetical for a wide majority of Americans.

Americans’ growing understanding of global warming is part of a long-term trend, which is attributed to the recent increase of extreme weather events with plausible connections to a warming planet, and to the publicity that surrounded two major scientific reports on climate change last year. For more on this, click here.

Wensum Alliance

Norfolk study shows new ditches could help improve rivers, by Maggie Dolan and Nic Rigby for the  BBC.

The amount of harmful sludge entering rivers from farmers’ fields can be more than halved with special ditches, a new study by The Rivers Trust found. Its research showed only 14% of UK rivers are currently in a healthy state.

That health can be damaged by sediment containing fertilizer chemicals which can harm water quality and fish.

The study by the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Wensum Alliance used traps (pictured) near the Blackwater – a tributary which flows into the River Wensum at Lenwade, which in turn flows through Norwich. They then tested the water downriver and found a 58% reduction in sediment year on year.

Traps were also placed near roads, which can also add pollution to waterways. For more on this, click here.

Getty Images/ Kean Collection

And, lastly, I saw this article in this morning’s Washington Post’s daily newsletter, “Today’s WorldView.”  Really fascinating.

The salient points to me were, “Scientists from University College London, U.K. estimate that 60 million people were living across the Americas at the end of the 15th Century, and that this was reduced to just five or six million within a hundred years, eliminated by introduced disease (smallpox, measles, etc), warfare, slavery and societal collapse. Vast swaths of agricultural land was then reclaimed by fast-growing trees and other vegetation. This pulled down enough carbon dioxide (CO₂) from the atmosphere to eventually chill the planet.”

Read the article at this link.

See you next time, whenever that might be! 

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salamanders, Uncategorized

News from The Treetalker

Today, for your holiday reading, four articles about salamanders, all from the New York Times. I found they have a number of articles about these sometimes exotic creatures, going back a few years, although these were all published in 2018.

“A Salamander of Legend Emerges From Southern Swamps,”
by Asher Elbein, Dec. 14, 2018

“It’s eel-shaped and leopard-spotted, and it has no hind-limbs. It grows to two feet long. And yet until recently, hardly anyone had ever seen it.

A team of researchers has discovered of new species of salamander in the pine forests of northern Florida and southern Alabama. The so-called reticulated siren is the largest vertebrate found in the United States in decades, and the first new member of its family since 1944.”

This is a link to the entire, fascinating article.

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Photo: David Steen

“Vanishing in the Wild, These Salamanders Found Refuge in a Convent,”
by Geoffrey Giller, July 30, 2018

“The Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Salud, built in the 1500s with whitewashed walls and red stone columns, hosts a thriving colony of endangered salamanders. Scientists call them Ambystoma dumerilii, but the nuns in Pátzcuaro, Mexico call them achoques.

The achoques live their entire lives underwater and keep the external gills that most salamanders have only as aquatic larvae.

Carefully tended by the nuns, about 300 achoques live in glass aquaria and white enamel bathtubs lining the walls of a long hallway and two adjoining rooms in the convent. The nuns support themselves partly by selling a cough syrup called jarabe made from the salamanders’ skin.

They are found nowhere but Lake Pátzcuaro, and outside the convent their numbers are falling fast. This colony may be critical to the salamanders’ prospects in the wild.”

A link to the article is here.

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“China’s Giant Salamanders Pose a Conservation Conundrum,”
by Rachel Nuwer, June 4, 2018

“The Chinese giant salamander, the world’s largest amphibian and a critically endangered species, has quietly slipped toward extinction in nature. Following an exhaustive, years long search, researchers recently reported that they were unable to find any wild-born individuals.

Millions of giant salamanders live on farms scattered throughout China, where the animals are bred for their meat. But another study by Dr. Turvey and his colleagues shows that reintroducing farmed animals is not a simple solution for saving the species in the wild.

In the wild, Chinese giant salamanders were not just one species but at least five, and perhaps as many as eight. On farms, they are being muddled into a single hybridized population adapted to no particular environment.

“The farms are driving the extinction of most of the species by homogenizing them,” said Robert Murphy, a co-author and senior curator of herpetology at the Royal Ontario Museum. “We’re losing genetic diversity and adaptations that have been evolving for millions of years.”

Many have been released into the wild, in the hope of maintaining the species, but the genetic mixup has created an issue of “pure” wild species.

Here is a link to the article.  www.nytimes.com/2018/06/04/science/giant-salamanders-china.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article

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photo credits: Goh Chai Hin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

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“The Smiling Axolotl Hides a Secret: A Giant Genome,”
by Nicholas Bakalar, Feb. 1, 2018

“Scientists have decoded the genome of the axolotl, the Mexican amphibian with a Mona Lisa smile. It has 32 billion base pairs, which makes it ten times the size of the human genome, and the largest genome ever sequenced.

The axolotl, endangered in the wild, has been bred in laboratories and studied for more than 150 years. It has the remarkable capacity to regrow amputated limbs complete with bones, muscles and nerves; to heal wounds without producing scar tissue; and even to regenerate damaged internal organs.

This salamander can heal a crushed spinal cord and have it function just like it did before it was damaged. This ability, which exists to such an extent in no other animal, makes its genes of considerable interest.

This is the first salamander genome ever sequenced. The reason it took so long is that it has so many repetitive parts. The study’s author believes that it will open up a wealth of opportunities in studying how organisms regenerate.”

Here is the link.  www.nytimes.com/2018/02/01/science/axolotl-genes-limbs.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinkspgtype=Article

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photo credit: Research Institute of Molecular Pathology

Spotlight on:

Harbor seal    
Although Harbor seals have the greatest geographical range of all seals, encompassing both Pacific and Atlantic Oceans in the Northern Hemisphere, they stay in the coastal areas, rarely going out into the ocean further than ten miles.
They hunt alone, but are sociable when they “haul out” to rest or breed on places that are protected, which can be a beach, a rocky shore, or an iceberg.
Before a seal pup is born, it is covered with a white wooly coat. At birth, it weighs about twenty-five pounds and can swim and dive within four hours. The mother’s milk is 40% fat, so the pup doubles its weight the first month, after which time it is left to learn to hunt and fend for itself.
Seals are distantly related to dogs and bears. They have upper and lower arms and legs that are concealed, and only their hands and feet extend outside the casing of the skin. The hands and feet are known as “flippers,” and are flat and elongated, each having five digits.
They typically dive for about three minutes at a time, but can stay underwater for a half an hour and dive as deep as 600 feet. To do this, they breathe out before diving, using oxygen already in their bodies and slowing their heartbeat from about one hundred beats per minute to ten. In one breath a seal exchanges 90% of the air in its lungs, while we can only change 20%.
Both the United Kingdom and the United States prohibit the killing of seals, although there can be a high mortality rate for pups in some countries, as they can get caught in bottom trawl nets. From Volume 3 of Secret Voices: Crabapple Companions

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Secret Voices from the Forest – Volume Three: The East is available on Amazon.

Vol. 3 - The East copy

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ants, books, coral reefs, Environment, Nature, oceans, Uncategorized, wild horses, Wildlife

News from The Treetalker – Nov 26, 2018

Lisa Carne

photo: Lisa Carne

Saving Coral

BBC Earth, by Zoe Cormier

“So far we’ve lost half the world’s reefs, and one of the biggest threats – climate change – shows no sign of abating. Scientists say if we do nothing, 90 per cent of the world’s tropical reefs will be gone by 2050, along with all the fish, wildlife and humans that depend on them.”

The Director of the Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology says that we have learned that “putting a big seawall around the reefs” and leaving them alone doesn’t work. “We have to stop thinking that if we leave nature alone and treat it with the utmost respect that is sufficient. It’s not,” she says.

Not all hope is lost, she says: we just need to apply the science, ingenuity, manpower and – above all – money, while we still can.

“It might seem hopeless – but look at the hole in the ozone layer,” she says. “We identified the problem, acted to remove harmful gases from the atmosphere, and boom: the hole closed. That’s remarkable, and it shows that we can fix these things, we just have to start acting now.”

Read the entire article here

Larisa Bogardis

photo: Larissa Bogardis

Judge blocks controversial plan to sterilize wild horses in Oregon

From NBC News, by Daniella Silva, Nov 5, 2018

“U.S. District Court Judge Michael W. Mosman issued a preliminary injunction on Friday that stops the Bureau of Land Management from moving forward with its plan to surgically remove the ovaries of wild mares in the Warm Springs Management Area of Hines, Oregon, according to court records.”

Read the entire article here.

Timothée Brütsch

photo: Timothee Brutsch

For ants, unity is strength — and health: Ant social networks put a brake on disease spread

From ScienceDaily, 23 November 2018

“High population density, as well as frequent and close contacts between individuals, contribute to a rapid spread of diseases. To protect their colonies, ants have developed disease defense mechanisms, including adaptations to their social organization. Ants do not interact randomly with other colony members, but are organized in sub-groups according to their age and the tasks they carry out.

“How ants collectively deal with problems, such as the risk of an epidemic, could give insights into general principles of disease dynamics. Social interactions are the routes on which diseases travel and define how epidemics may spread. Basic research on ants can help us to deeper understand epidemiological processes, which can be relevant also in other social groups.”

Read the rest of the article here.

Also, if you’d like to visit my website, here is the link.

And if you are interested in my books about the sentience of North American trees, visit Amazon to purchase.

Vol. 3 - The East copy

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