Tag Archives | Ecology

When the Earth Gets Sick: Most Mass Extinctions Happened Slowly

Pangaea

Earth in the Permian period. Illustration: Kieff (CC)

Via ScienceDaily:

In geology as in cancer research, the silver bullet theory always gets the headlines and nearly always turns out to be wrong. For geologists who study mass extinctions, the silver bullet is a giant asteroid plunging to earth.But an asteroid is the prime suspect only in the most recent of five mass extinctions, said USC earth scientist David Bottjer. The cataclysm 65 million years ago wiped out the dinosaurs.

“The other four have not been resolvable to a rock falling out of the sky,” Bottjer said. For example, Bottjer and many others have published studies suggesting that the end-Permian extinction 250 million years ago happened in essence because “the earth got sick.”

The latest research from Bottjer’s group suggests a similar slow dying during the extinction 200 million years ago at the boundary of the Triassic and Jurassic eras. The latest research from Bottjer’s group suggests a similar slow dying during the extinction 200 million years ago at the boundary of the Triassic and Jurassic eras.

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Mysterious White-Nose Syndrome Is Killing Bats Across The U.S.

White Nose BatmanHoly Fungus, Batman! Reports David Wrights and Jonann Brady of ABC NEWS:
A mysterious fungus is killing off thousands of bats around the country. Scientists are calling it white-nose syndrome, because of the distinctive white smudges on the noses and wings of infected bats. White-nose itself doesn't kill bats, but it disturbs their sleep so that they end their hibernation early. During the winter there are no insects to eat, so the bats literally starve to death. Bats may be one of Mother Nature's least cuddly creatures, but they are ecologically important, keeping mosquitos and insects that attack crops in check. Researchers say the syndrome has killed upward of half a million bats from New England to Virginia.
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The Industry of Hunger

Photo: Tawheed Manzoor (CC)

Photo: Tawheed Manzoor (CC)

Vandana Shiva on Al Jazeera English explains how, as mega-chains venture into industrial farming, they have created an epidemic of hunger- and generated billions in profit.

New Delhi, India – In November 2011, when the UPA government announced that it had cleared the entry of big retail chains such as Walmart and Tesco into India through 51 per cent Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail, it justified the decision saying that FDI in retail would boost food security and benefit farmers’ livelihoods.

But the assurance that FDI in retail would ease inflation did not resolve the political crisis the government was facing; it deepened it. Parliament was stalled for several days of the Winter Session, after which the government was forced to withdraw its decision.

The story of FDI in retail goes back to 2005, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed an agriculture agreement with the US, along with the nuclear agreement.

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Is It Too Late? The Retreat of Arctic Sea Ice Is Releasing Huge Fountains of Methane

Arctic Ice MeltKeep in mind that methane affects the atmosphere in multiple ways, and that another major Ice Age might be what’s really in the works. Steve Connor reports in the Independent:

Dramatic and unprecedented plumes of methane — a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide — have been seen bubbling to the surface of the Arctic Ocean by scientists undertaking an extensive survey of the region.

The scale and volume of the methane release has astonished the head of the Russian research team who has been surveying the seabed of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf off northern Russia for nearly 20 years.

In an exclusive interview with the Independent, Igor Semiletov, of the Far Eastern branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that he has never before witnessed the scale and force of the methane being released from beneath the Arctic seabed.

“Earlier we found torch-like structures like this but they were only tens of metres in diameter.

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Occupy Goes Rural

OccupyRuralLilac writes on the Earth First! Newswire:

Rural land use in the US has followed the pipeline of the American Dream. Since the Great Depression, farm ownership has fallen by two thirds. Today, half of farm sales come from 2% of farms. Meanwhile, timber companies increasingly exploit low wage labor, by-passing the unions at saw mills, and selling their product overseas. Mountaintop removal is yet another way corporations have found to destroy the environment while hiring fewer workers. The accumulation of land and etiolation of the work force has led to an economic and ecological tipping point that coincides with the crisis of capitalism. The product is a friction and energy that forms an unrecognized centrifuge of the Occupy movement.

Rural areas paint a picture of worsening economic conditions, shifts in climate, droughts and floods, farmer paralysis and ensuing chain reactions throughout the country. Their narratives unravel a context of rising prisons, persecution in the cities, and rampant dispossession and repression at home.

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How Did We Get to 7 Billion from 1 Billion People in Just 200 Years? (Video)

Via NPR:
It was just over two centuries ago that the global population was 1 billion — in 1804. But better medicine and improved agriculture resulted in higher life expectancy for children, dramatically increasing the world population, especially in the West. U.N. forecasts suggest the world population could hit a peak of 10.1 billion by 2100 before beginning to decline. But exact numbers are hard to come by — just small variations in fertility rates could mean a population of 15 billion by the end of the century.
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The (Unexplained) Death of Bats

BatVia New Times:
The abandoned iron mine at Mine Hill in Roxbury used to provide a winter home for 3,000 bats -- the largest bat hibernaculum in the state. The last time Jennie Dickson, a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, counted, there were about 100 bats there. "That's not good," she said. For the past five years, the bats of the eastern United States have been dying in like numbers — one of the worst environmental catastrophes in recent years. What biologists like Dickson knew was that the dying bats could be found with an off-white fungus on their nose and wings. What was causing the die-off was uncertain ...
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7 Billion People and Counting: Concerns From Around the World

PopulationGreat roundup of opinion found in the Detroit Free Press:
What’s the biggest issue facing humanity as the global population reaches seven billion? Montreal’s Le Devoir newspaper asked for an answer from correspondents around the world. Here are the replies, including a link to that from the Free Press. Note the recurring theme of fresh water, not a problem here in the Great Lakes region, but a critical issue for millions of people in many regions.
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Thousands of Dead Birds Wash Ashore in Ontario

WaterfowlVia CTV:
Thousands of dead birds will be collected from an Ontario shoreline on Monday as the province's Ministry of Natural Resources tries to determine what killed the waterfowl. Officials estimate as many as 6,000 dead birds have washed up on the Georgian Bay's shoreline. The carcasses are scattered along a nearly three-kilometre stretch near Wasaga Beach. "You just want to cry," resident Faye Ego told CTV Toronto on Saturday. Authorities speculate that the birds may have been killed by a form of botulism after eating dead fish. Locals said they noticed some dead fish on the beach a few weeks ago and a few dead birds earlier in September. During Monday's cleanup, crews will be trying to tally up the total number of dead birds on the shoreline ...
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