THE GREEN PLANET BLOG - Our World and Environment...

All about conservation, ecology, the environment, climate change, global warming, earth- watch, and new technologies etc.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A re-birth of the Aral Sea in central asia...

AKESPE, Kazakhstan – Standing on the shore under the relentless Central Asian sun, Badarkhan Prikeyev drew on a cigarette and squinted into the distance as one fishing boat after another returned with the day's catch.

Until recently, this spot where the fish merchant was standing, in a man-made desert at the edge of nowhere, represented one of the world's worst environmental calamities.

Now fresh water was lapping at his boots, proclaiming an environmental miracle — the return of the Aral Sea.

The Aral Sea was once the world's fourth-largest body of fresh water, covering an area the size of Ireland. But then the nations around it became part of the Soviet Union. With their passion for planned economics and giant, nature-reversing projects, the communists diverted the rivers that fed the inland sea and used them to irrigate vast cotton fields. The result: The Aral shrank by 90 percent to a string of isolated stretches of water.

The catastrophe "is unprecedented in modern times," says Philip Micklin, a geography professor at Western Michigan University who has studied the Aral Sea for years.

What an amazing story. The rebirth of a sea in an era where seas and lakes are disappearing from this planet.

Read more:Acknowledgements: Associated Press writer,Peter Leonard.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Arctic ocean largely ice free in summer - 10-20 years...

Arctic ocean will be largely ice-free during summer within a decade or two...

Arctic Sea Ice, 2002-2003. Credit: NASA images by Jesse Allen, using data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). Caption by Michon Scott, with input from Ted Scambos, NSIDC.

New data, released today (Oct. 10) by the Catlin Arctic Survey and WWF, provides further evidence that the Arctic Ocean sea ice is thinning, supporting the emerging thinking that the Ocean will be largely ice-free during summer within a decade.

The Catlin Arctic Survey, completed earlier this year, provides the latest ice thickness record, drawn from the only survey capturing surface measurements conducted during winter and spring 2009.

The data, collected by manual drilling and observations on a 450-kilometre route across the northern part of the Beaufort Sea, suggests the survey area is comprised almost exclusively of first-year ice.

This is a significant finding because the region has traditionally contained older, thicker multi-year ice. The average thickness of the ice-floes measured 1.8 metres, a depth considered too thin to survive the next summer’s ice melt.

These findings have been analysed by the Polar Ocean Physics Group at the University of Cambridge, led by Professor Peter Wadhams, one of the world’s leading experts on sea ice cover in the North Pole region.

British polar scientist, Peter Wadhams, gives it a little longer - about 20 years - before global warming leaves the Arctic ice-free during summer, raising sea levels and harming wildlife such as seals and polar bears. But what can humankind do about it now?

Another story

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Amphibians are threatened with extinction worldwide

Amphibians Are Threatened With Extinction Worldwide...

Frogs and their relatives are in deep trouble. According to a new study published in the journal Science, one-third of the world's amphibians are declining due to disease, climate change, and habitat loss. Of the 5,743 known species, 1,856 are considered globally threatened in the wild. Up to 168 may be extinct.

Warming temperatures may be heating many cooler species out of house and home. Development, such as that facing the red-legged frog in California, is destroying the ponds and other wetlands amphibians depend on. Meanwhile, the fungal disease chitridiomycosis, which attacks skin, appears to be responsible for many additional declines.

Thin-skinned amphibians readily absorb moisture, air, and pollutants from both land and water. For this reason, they are considered barometers of environmental health, the proverbial canaries in the global coal mine. Scientists say their precipitous decline, tracked by more than 500 scientists participating in the Global Amphibian Assessment project, bodes ill for the future of the planet

Acknowledgements: California Academy of Sciences

Endangered mountain chicken frog

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Friday, October 9, 2009

Polar bears endangered by reduced sea ice...

November 15th, 2006: Researchers for the first time have showed a connection between global warming and decreased polar bear survival, a University of Wyoming scientist said. But as you read below, the word is "presumably" caused by climate change. There is no doubt that there is a linkage between reduced sea ice and decreased polar bear survival. Three years on the debate about climate change and global warming has heated up and the protagonists geared up for a continued verbal and publicity battle over the causes: Are they man-made, cyclical weather patterns or a combination of both? At this stage I'm a little inclined to look at the latter. But lets read about the decreased polar bear survival - it is serious for this species of animal.

Eric Regehr, a UW Ph.D. candidate in zoology and physiology and United States Geological Survey (USGS) employee, has spent the last two years analyzing polar bear data collected by the Canadian Wildlife Service in Canada's western Hudson Bay.

"These data provide evidence for a direct linkage between reduced sea ice coverage, presumably caused by climate change, and decreased polar bear survival in western Hudson Bay," Regehr says in the current edition of UWyo magazine.

The Canadian Wildlife Service study documents a 22 percent decline in the size of the western Hudson Bay polar bear population, from 1,194 in 1987 to 935 in 2004. Although researchers cannot determine the degree to which legal polar bear harvesting by Canadian Inuit has affected the population, they agree changing sea ice is partly to blame.

U.S. polar bears are found only in northern Alaska where, to date, USGS research has not linked global warming to changing population dynamics, according to Regehr and his colleague, George Durner, another UW Ph.D. candidate who has worked with the USGS on polar bear research for 14 years.

U.S. conservation groups already are using the information to urge federal regulatory agencies to consider regional ramifications if climate change does affect American polar bears.

Last February the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) acknowledged a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Greenpeace to seek federal protections for the polar bears. The petition is still under review, but has been validated by the USFWS, which says the petition contains enough research support to be given serious consideration.

Before protecting U.S. polar bears under the Endangered Species Act, the USFWS must seek specific information regarding population distribution, habitat, and effects of climate change on both the polar bears and their prey, along with the potential effects of development, contamination, and poaching threats. While a variety of polar bear research projects are consulted, the USGS will provide much of the information for the USFWS ruling, according to Durner.

Researchers say earlier melting of sea ice may also explain why in recent years there has been an increase in human interactions with polar bears in communities along the western coast of Hudson Bay, such as Churchill, Manitoba.

Source: University of Wyoming

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Farewell to New Zealand's clean and green image - very likely "green activists" claim

A cash starved National Government considers allowing mining in Department of Conservation Estates in both North and South Island national parks. Will it be farewell to New Zealand's clean and green image? Opponents claim it could; the Green Party has actually produced a list of likely sites for potential exploitation. Mining and conservation are not great bedmates. Read further:

Green campaigners are not buying the Government line that there is nothing to fear in mining Department of Conservation (DOC) land.

The Green Party has produced a list of sites at threat of possible exploitation, while Greenpeace says the countryside is under attack, and it too is preparing for battle.

The Waituna Lagoon in Southland, the Aspiring National Park and Paparoa National Park on the West Coast, Kahurangi National Park at the top of the South Island and the whole of the Coromandel are all under threat.

Geoff Keey from Greenpeace is not buying the claim high value conservation land is not at risk - saying the country is under attack.

Greenpeace is concerned the DOC estate will be stripped.

"The very things we use to promote our clean green image - our national parks, our wildlife refuges, all the really important things, are under attack,” Mr Keey says.

But Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee has scotched such suggestions.

“No one would want to see those ripped up in anyway whatsoever,” he says.

Industry experts like Eddie Davis from Minerals West Coast say there is a middle ground for both mining and conservation.

“I think everybody in our industry is for that type of thing but we just need trade-offs. Don't stop one for the sake of the other,” Mr Davis says.

“What I really want to do is get DOC and Crown Minerals talking to each other rather than over top of each other,” says Mr Brownlee.

Pike River mine in Greymouth is being held up as a shining example of sustainability in action.

When the coal is exhausted in a few decades time, the entire operation will be dismantled and the site returned to the forest.

Mr Brownlee says the recently created Oteaki Park in Southland is another indication of what is possible.

"We kept out of that park 200h because there might at some point some mineral value that could be readily accessed on that little bit of it,” he says.

However, Greens co-leader Russel Norman is not convinced.

“National parks are national treasures, and any government that threatens to destroy those national treasures by mining is betraying future generations,” he says.

"Mining is not compatible with doesn't work together,” adds Mr Keey.

Greenpeace are demanding answers from the mining industry about the proposed mining in national parks.

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