Global warming driving mass migration of marine life

April 14, 2021 by  
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Marine life is migrating from the equator to the tropics, according to a recent  study  published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study shows that many species known to reside in the equator’s warm waters are migrating to cooler waters. Scientists behind the study have linked this situation to global warming, saying that water at the equator has become too warm for some species.  Traditionally, the equatorial regions are known to have more species diversity than the poles due to abundant food sources and warm waters. However, with the changing climate , environments for marine life are changing, too. As equatorial waters become less hospitable, many species are migrating for better conditions. Related: Scientists search for cause of mass marine die-off in Russia Researchers warn that if the situation continues, this migration will have serious ecological effects. The authors note that such a situation happened has occurred before. For example, about 252 million years ago, this type of species migration led to the death of about 90% of all marine species. When species migrate to other regions, they can affect the area’s natural food chain and overburden the environment. In turn, this can lead to the death of weaker species.  Though global warming has not affected the equatorial regions as heavily as other parts of the globe, it still significantly impacts the area. Over the past 50 years, the equator has witnessed a temperature rise of about 0.6 degrees Celcius. While modest compared to temperature changes in polar regions, the equator’s rising temperature can be detrimental because “tropical species have to move further to remain in their thermal niche compared with species elsewhere.” A 2015  study  published in Nature Climate Change predicted that species richness would decline at low latitudes. The recent study found that species richness is greatest at around 30 degrees North and 20 degrees South. This could mean that many species are migrating from the equator to the cooler subtropics, and they may move even further if global warming continues. Via EcoWatch Lead image via Pixabay

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Harmful algal blooms release "Very Fast Death Factor" into air

April 12, 2021 by  
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A new study published in the journal  Lake and Reservoir Management has found that a dangerous toxin known as anatoxin-a (ATX) could be airborne around bodies of water with algal blooms. The toxin could be released from scum found on ponds and lakes into the surrounding air. Also known as the “Very Fast Death Factor”, ATX has many negative effects on fish, other animals and ecosystems at large. The study was conducted on a pond in Massachusetts after scientists suspected that the toxin, produced by cyanobacteria and found in harmful algal blooms, could spread into the air. Related: Botswana elephant deaths caused by cyanobacteria ATX can affect humans and animals in various ways. The most common symptoms include lack of coordination, respiratory paralysis and muscular twitching in humans. It has also been linked with the death of waterfowl, livestock and dogs that drink this water. Besides the direct effects of the toxin, the algal blooms that produce ATX can also affect water quality. When the algae die and sink below the lake or pond surface, the decomposition process drains oxygen from the water, leading to the death of fish. While ATX has been produced in water for a long time, the rate at which the toxin is being produced has increased in recent years. The toxin is produced by cyanobacteria, which can grow exponentially when fertilizer runoff from farms finds its way into bodies of water. Rising temperatures also provide ideal growing conditions. “ATX is one of the more dangerous cyanotoxins produced by harmful algal blooms, which are becoming more predominant in lakes and ponds worldwide due to global warming and climate change ,” said study lead author James Sutherland of the Nantucket Land Council. Sutherland and his colleagues are warning people who live around bodies of water to be watchful. They said if a person inhales or comes in direct contact with the toxin, there is a possibility of serious health risks. “People often recreate around these lakes and ponds with algal blooms without any awareness of the potential problems,” Sutherland said. “Direct contact or inhalation of these cyanotoxins can present health risks for individuals, and we have reported a potential human health exposure not previously examined.” + Scimex + Lake and Reservoir Management Image via Aerial Associates Photography, Inc. by Zachary Haslick / NOAA

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Neurological disorder leaves bears in California vulnerable

April 7, 2021 by  
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The  California Department of Fish and Wildlife  (CDFW) is concerned over increasing incidences of bears with rare neurological disorders showing up in residential areas. This follows an incident where a small black bear showed up at a utility building site last month in Pollock Pines in El Dorado County. The young bear was far too small, covered in ticks and looked weak; it did not exhibit normal bear behaviors, instead taking food and pets from humans. The incident in Pollock Pines was not the first of its kind. In the past 12 months, there have been similar encounters, with three other bears showing signs of neurological abnormalities. The bear found in Pollock Pines was diagnosed and euthanized. Related: While humans are away, Yosemite bears come out to play “Any time a wild animal comes into our care, the best-possible outcome is a release back to the wild,” Munk said. “That’s just not possible for these neurologically impaired bears. The second-best outcome would be a long, healthy life at a reputable zoo or wildlife sanctuary, but any inflammation of the brain is going to be significant for the individual bear and may have long-term consequences.” Diagnoses of the affected bears has revealed that they suffer from a condition known as encephalitis. This condition refers to the inflammation of the brain tissue, usually caused by viral or bacterial infection . Scientists have already discovered five novel viruses that could be related to the encephalitis. However, Munk said that the team has not found the exact cause of the condition in the affected bears. “At this point, we don’t know what causes the encephalitis so we don’t know what, if any, health risks these bears might pose to other animals,” Munk noted. Unfortunately, diagnosed bears that have already undergone treatment are not showing signs of recovery. Munk said that even if the animals are sent to animal sanctuaries, they will become a big burden to the facilities. “The few bears like this we have placed do not seem to fully recover, some requiring significant medical management for the life of the bear, which is a huge burden for these facilities that often operate on tight budgets,” Munk said. + California Department of Fish and Wildlife Images via Kirsten Macintyre and Shelly Blair

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Philadelphia skyline to go dim in favor of migrating birds

March 17, 2021 by  
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Starting April 1, the skies of Philadelphia will stop shining so bright, all for a good cause. The Lights Out Philly program is an initiative that seeks to save the lives of migratory birds by dimming artificial lights or turning them off entirely. The program runs from April 1 to May 31 and from August 15 to November 15, when migratory birds make their way through the city. During these periods, property managers and tenants are asked to voluntarily switch off lights or dim them from midnight to 6 a.m. Bird Safe Philly announced the Lights Out Philly initiative, which brings together the Audubon Mid-Atlantic, the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club and the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. The coalition was formed following a mass collision of migratory birds last October. Related: Biden administration reinstates migratory bird protections “We have specimens in the academy’s ornithology collection from a kill that happened when lights were first installed on Philadelphia’s City Hall tower in 1896,” said Jason Weckstein, associate curator of ornithology at Drexel University’s Academy of Natural Sciences. Weckstein says that the collision last year was caused by a combination of situations, including heavy clouds on a perfect migratory day. “Conditions were perfect for a heavy migratory flight and imperfect given that there was a low ceiling of clouds and rain. That in combination with Philly’s bright city lights was a disaster for many fall migrant birds winging their way south.” When birds migrate, they depend on celestial cues such as stars to find their way. When they cannot see such cues on a cloudy day, collisions are possible. Scientists also say that artificial lighting can confuse birds. Weckstein says that when birds see cloud and star reflections in windows, they may get misguided and collide. Among the bird species at the risk of collision are the ovenbird and black-throated blue warbler. The same birds are also threatened by conditions such as climate change . The Building Owners and Managers Association of Philadelphia has said that many house managers and owners are ready to support the move. As BOMA executive director Kristine Kiphorn said, “We have some early adopters and the list is approaching 20 buildings, many of which are iconic and very recognizable members of the Philadelphia skyline.” Via AP News Lead image via Pixabay

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Sunne passively and stylishly collects sunlight for use after dark

March 17, 2021 by  
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A recently launched Kickstarter campaign shines light on everyday possibilities for solar technology. Sunne is a smart light that combines the sustainable aspects of solar power with sleek interior design and optimal functionality. Based in Amsterdam, solar enthusiast Marjan van Aubel is dedicated to finding ways to rely on solar energy to enhance everyday products. Her most recent example, Sunne, harvests sunlight during the day while unobtrusively hanging in a window. It then stores the collected energy in an internal battery, which powers the ambient glow after dark. Sunne is designed to automatically turn on at dusk, although it can be turned off with a light touch or through use of an app, which is still under development.  Related: A magical field of solar-powered lights takes over a California landscape The light has three settings. ‘Sunne rise’ simulates the purple and yellow shades of early morning. ‘Sunne light’ offers a warm glow appropriate for reading. ‘Sunne set’ presents a fiery glow for ambiance. On dark, cloudy days, Sunne won’t be able to harvest fresh energy ; however, there is a backup charging option to keep the glow alive. Sustainability is at the heart of Sunne. To that end, the composition focuses on a long-lasting design. It is made using high-quality LED lights to enhance efficiency. The case is made from durable aluminum. The team works hand-in-hand with notable solar research center ECN.TNO in the Netherlands to identify the best solar cells available on the market. They’ve also planned for the eventual disposal when Sunne has come to the end of its usable lifecycle. Each part of the light can be easily removed, because the pieces are not glued or otherwise permanently connected. This allows the highly recyclable aluminum to live another life while leaving very little post-consumer waste. Packaging for Sunne relies on cardboard boxes and other eco-friendly materials. Aubel believes Sunne should be as much about style as it is about technology or function. With this in mind, the device can hang in a window, supported only by two steel wires. There are no unsightly cords or cables dangling from the device. While the curved design is sleek, shaped like the horizon from a single strip of aluminum, the contour provides a larger surface area for maximum solar cells . The team is continuing to develop the app, which will allow users to see how much energy is stored in Sunne and monitor the battery level. It will also allow you to control the on/off and light settings. The Sunne Kickstarter campaign quickly surpassed its initial pledge goal. It closes on April 2, 2021. Expect more to come from Aubel, with a new solar roof on exhibition as part of the Dutch Pavilion at the World Expo in Dubai in October 2021. + Sunne Images via Sunne

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Hacking solutions to ‘time-sensitive’ climate problems

March 11, 2021 by  
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Hacking solutions to ‘time-sensitive’ climate problems Shana Rappaport Thu, 03/11/2021 – 01:03 For more essays and articles by Shana Rapport, sign up for VERGE Weekly , one of our free newsletters. Sanjana Paul is a 23-year-old scientist, electrical engineer and environmental activist on a mission.  Yes, she’s worked at NASA. But her mission isn’t to explore the outer edges of the solar system. Instead, it’s to harness the full power of technology and the ingenuity of young people to solve our most pressing environmental challenges — right here on Earth.  In addition to her former role as a junior atmospheric science software developer at NASA and her current work as a researcher at MIT, Sanjana is founder and executive director of Earth Hacks , an organization that hosts hackathons for college students to combat the climate crisis.  I caught up recently with her to talk about technology innovation, climate solutions and environmental justice. The following interview has been edited for clarity and length. Shana Rappaport: Before we get into Earth Hacks’ mission, let’s start with your own passion for innovation. What technologies are you personally most excited about or inventions are you most proud of? Sanjana Paul: That’s a great question, and not an easy one because the answer changes every few months. The technology landscape is evolving so rapidly and always reflective of the society that we live in.  I think I’ll have to stick with a classic and choose harnessing the photoelectric effect through solar panels. The trajectory we’re on of being a planet powered by the sun is such a powerful way to support a growing, thriving society. Rappaport: You also have some inventions of your own. Can you speak briefly to those?  Paul: I’ve been fortunate to work on a number of different hardware prototyping projects that I’m very proud of. One is what’s now the Sentinel Project at Conservation X Labs , which is a next-gen camera trap for wildlife conservation that harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to assist wildlife conservationists. Another is a robot that I created with a partner of mine, FLOATIBOI , that captures marine plastic debris in coastal areas using visual identification. [Editor’s note: FLOATIBOI is short for Floating Long-term Oceanic Autonomous Trawler Incorporating Buoyant Object Identification.] Rappaport: You founded Earth Hacks in 2018 to leverage the power of the hackathon innovation model in direct service of climate education and solutions. Talk a little bit about what set you on this journey. Paul: I used to go to hackathons as a way to boost my coding skills and supplement what I was learning as an electrical engineering and physics student. But I’d go to these hackathons and find myself stunned because the problems that they presented seemed completely out of touch with the reality that we are living in. They seemed like things only third-year computer science majors would care about.  So, I started to wonder: If hackathons are a place where really smart people come to essentially give up their whole weekends to work on problems, why are we not presenting societally relevant problems? And why are we not presenting really time-sensitive problems, like climate change, which is the most time-sensitive issue we have ever faced as a species? I got a group of my friends together, and we decided to have environmental hackathons as a space to engage with environmental issues and actually start imagining what we can do about them. It all spiraled from there. We started out with one in Richmond, Virginia, and then started getting contacted by students across the country and eventually across the world. We formed an organization around it, and now we’re fortunate to have worked with people from every inhabited continent on the planet — on hackathons ranging from creating urban heat island maps to creating better tools for conservationists working with endangered species. Rappaport: The EarthHacks model is also working to ensure that great ideas don’t just get generated at these student-driven hackathons but are actually implemented. What are some of the real-world projects that have come out of them so far? Paul: That’s a great question, and before I dive into it, I just want to say that one amazing part of all this is that nothing is ever really lost at these hackathons. Even if no cool inventions or startups come out of them, we’re still fortunate that this is an educational opportunity — students still walk away learning about these issues and engaging with them more closely than they did before. That said, we’ve seen some really incredible projects come out, already being put to work in really interesting ways.  We collaborated with a startup called Urban Canopy and with scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab — working with satellite data from the International Space Station to create the world’s first public map of urban heat islands. We basically gave students data, said, “Pick a city, plot the land surface temperature and put it on a map.” This told us where urban heat is most concentrated, which we can hand over to city planners or researchers, and hopefully guide policy so that people have to deal less with extreme heat.  Another example is endangered species conservation. We worked with a bunch of nonprofit organizations who focus on vaquitas — a very endangered porpoise that lives in the Sea of Cortez. We were able to create technical tools for the conservation teams to better track the animals and some of the key issues surrounding them; and to engage law students to draft a white paper that is going to go public soon with real recommendations to lawmakers about how to deal with wildlife crime. We also created a public outreach campaign, because no one is going to do anything about endangered species if they don’t know about them.  Rappaport: Let’s talk about the intersection of tech, climate and social issues. What are your aspirations for how EarthHacks, and the tech industry more broadly, can work to advance environmental justice?  Paul: First, I just want to acknowledge that, for a long time, I think the environmental movement as a whole was really focused on environmental issues as somewhat abstract, as separate from us. Maybe they affect species in far-off places or natural landmarks whose beauty we marvel at but we’ve never seen in person.  But fundamentally, the climate crisis is about people, right? It’s about whether we’re going to have the ability to live happy, healthy lives. Because of that, the climate crisis is inherently tied into social justice and social crises. That’s why I think that taking a more complete view of climate is so critical. The single biggest thing that business leaders today can do to help young people with aspirations is to take drastic action on climate, so that we have the time and space to grow up and to be business leaders ourselves. Second, it’s the practical thing to do. If we ignore how social issues are a huge chunk of the climate problem, and how it’s actually playing out, we’re not going to be able to meaningfully solve either. For the tech industry, specifically, the movement for social, racial and gender equality needs to become integrated into all of the core actions that we take — not just an extra thing to do. Social equity needs to be included in decision-making processes and planning from the very start.  If we don’t work to address these issues now, we’re not going to be able to when we’re overwhelmed by changing temperatures and extreme storms. Even though these can be uncomfortable conversations, we need to expand the cultural window of where they happen and make sure that they happen everywhere all the time. Rappaport: You’re speaking to an audience of business leaders. What kind of support can the private sector provide to you and other young technologists committed to solving environmental challenges, either as corporate partners or as intergenerational allies? Paul: I love the phrase “intergenerational allies” — and I think that’s key. The single biggest thing that business leaders today can do to help young people with aspirations is to take drastic action on climate, so that we have the time and space to grow up and to be business leaders ourselves.  The other smaller step that everyone can take is, put simply, to engage. All of the students we work with at our hackathons are always looking for more opportunities. They’re looking for people to learn from, to come and speak at their events, to mentor them. They’re looking for places to work that are advancing sustainability. So, just engaging with us, reaching out and saying, “Hey, we’d like to support you in some way” — that’s hugely meaningful to us. There are so many different ways to get involved, but it’s always going to start with just reaching out. Pull Quote The single biggest thing that business leaders today can do to help young people with aspirations is to take drastic action on climate, so that we have the time and space to grow up and to be business leaders ourselves. Topics Innovation Featured Column On the VERGE Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off An Earth Hacks hackathon in 2019.

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Orlando’s journey to accelerate sustainability and resilience

March 11, 2021 by  
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Orlando’s journey to accelerate sustainability and resilience Chris Castro Thu, 03/11/2021 – 01:00 Cities are home to more than 50 percent of the global population and as a result are presented with ever-growing challenges, including finding a balance between social equity, economic vitality and environmental sustainability. Cities also have extraordinary potential to enable change and the ability to find harmony between people, prosperity and the planet that creates a better future for all. Recognizing this, member-countries of the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals , including a historic goal on SDG 11: Sustainable Cities: “to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” by 2030, leaving no person, place or ecosystem behind. This global framework continues to be centered as a Rosetta Stone to advance humanity in a more sustainable direction. I’m a second-generation Cuban-American from Miami. I’m also a social entrepreneur, community organizer and now director of sustainability and resilience for the city of Orlando. In my role, I advise Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and am tasked with making Orlando a showcase model for the U.N.’s sustainable cities vision and making our city a great place, to live, work, learn and play. Cities have extraordinary potential to enable change and to find harmony between people, prosperity and the planet. Before I get to details about my day job, it’s important to share my experiences where things actually get done: the community. Over the last 15 years, I’ve been actively engaged in the Central Florida community through my work with several nonprofit NGOs, social enterprises, academia, community groups and businesses chambers to engage a wide range of individuals in advancing the sustainable cities vision, including USGBC-Florida, Florida Green Chamber of Commerce (FGCC), Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC), Goodwill Industries of Central Florida, Florida Renewable Energy Association (FREA), Solar United Neighborhoods of Florida (FL SUN), Global Shapers Orlando and Climate Reality Project. One organization that is near and dear to my heart is Ideas For Us , a U.N.-accredited NGO that works to develop, fund and scale local solutions that advance the Sustainable Development Goals worldwide. In 2008, I co-founded Ideas for Us while attending college at the University of Central Florida, and over the last 13 years I have worked with an amazing team to expand a grassroots movement of collegiate and community chapters that engage youth leaders around the world, creating and expanding local sustainability solutions to more than 200 communities in 25 countries on five continents. Today, two of the most successful and impactful programs are still active across the IDEAS movement. The first is a think and do tank called the Ideas Hive , which brings public awareness to the U.N. SDGs by facilitating conversations about global challenges and developing local action projects that we can implement in our own community. In addition to monthly workshops (made virtual thanks to COVID), the Ideas Hive also coordinates public eco-tours, eco-film screenings and Umuganda Community Action days for public awareness, education and community engagement. The second successful program is an urban agricultural solution for communities that is redefining local food systems, specifically how we produce and distribute food in our communities.  Fleet Farming turns suburban lawns into a distributed network of micro-urban farms and uses a fleet of volunteer farmers to build, maintain and distribute the produce grown to local venues — all by bicycle. This effort has gotten the attention of more than 60 million people around the world, been on major media outlets such as NPR and NBC Nightly News , and is in the process of scaling to communities to address food insecurity and access. Ideas for Us has incorporated an exciting new program called the Solutions Fund, a micro-granting program providing funding to women and young change-makers to incubate proof-of-concept ideas that advance the SDGs around the world. With this focus on environmental philanthropy, we are becoming a conduit for foundations and corporations to make a direct difference in advancing sustainability, and an outlet for people of all ages around the world to make a difference in our local communities. As for my work in the city, I’m happy to say Orlando is shaping up to be one of the smartest and most sustainable cities in the country at the forefront of innovation and sustainability. Through the vision and leadership of Dyer and the Green Works Orlando initiative, we have implemented innovative policies and programs in a wide variety of focus areas, including energy and green buildings, local food systems, livability, water resources, transportation and smart cities — and have worked to provide our residents and businesses with the tools to live more environmentally friendly lifestyles. In 2018, Orlando became the first city in Florida to pass legislation that requires public disclosure of energy and water efficiency in buildings , and an ambitious goal of transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy city-wide by 2050 . To strive towards the goal, the city added four new rooftop solar projects to critical facilities, including fire stations and neighborhood centers, and subscribed over 5 megawatts of community solar to offset all of our electricity use at Orlando City Hall, the Orlando police headquarters and all 17 fire stations. With clean energy financing options available for home and business owners, community solar farms and local solar cooperatives, we are working to make the transition to renewable energy as easy and cost-effective as possible. We’ve even been researching creative applications to achieve this goal, such as floating solar farms on stormwater ponds at the Orlando International Airport and other locations throughout the region. In December, our hometown utility, OUC, also published the Energy Integrated Resources Plan (EIRP) , which outlined a long-term plan for the electric utility that made bold commitments, including achieving net-zero by 2050 without offsets, with intermediate targets of 50 percent CO2 reduction by 2030 and 75 pecent by 2040; a commitment to early-retire the last two coal-fired power plants; and a significant ramp-up of energy efficiency, renewable energy, energy storage and electric vehicles over the next 30 years. This plan not only aligns with the Green Works goals, but it also supports science-based targets to address the climate crisis. Imagine if every utility in the country made this commitment. As for transportation, our city has bike-share and ride-share programs, one of the largest networks of electric vehicle chargers, real-time bus travel information, a commuter rail (SunRail) and a fare-free bus rapid transit system called the Lymmo to help lessen commuter pollution and congestion within the city. In October, we also unveiled the first fleet of electric buses in the Lymmo BRT, and a commitment to transition 100 percent of transit buses to electric and alternative fuels by 2030. If that wasn’t enough, in December, the city also published its first smart city master plan, Future-Ready Orlando , which works to combine some of my work in sustainability and resilience with technology to position Orlando to be a leading experimental prototype city of the 21st century. I believe in the ability for humans to live sustainably in harmony with the planet, and not just survive, but thrive. Whether it’s building climate resilience to the challenges we will face, taking direct action to mitigate and reverse our impacts or increasing public awareness and engagement about creating a more environmentally friendly future, I have made it my life’s mission to advance sustainability on a personal and professional level. Many say it’s become who I am, not what I do. No small act of improvement is wasted in this effort, so how much are you willing to contribute to building the future we want? Listen to Chris Castro on the EDF+Business podcast. Pull Quote Cities have extraordinary potential to enable change and to find harmony between people, prosperity and the planet. Topics Cities Renewable Energy Transportation & Mobility Resilience 30 Under 30 Collective Insight 30 Under 30 EDF Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Glowing sharks found near New Zealand

March 5, 2021 by  
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Scientists have found three glow-in-the-dark sharks off the coast of New Zealand. The kitefin shark , blackbelly lanternshark and southern lanternshark weren’t unknown to science. However, scientists had never seen them glow until recently. It’s the first time this phenomenon has been observed in larger sharks. Researchers found the glowing sharks at the Chatham Rise, a 1,000-meter deep area of ocean floor east of New Zealand , last January, according to a study published last week in Frontiers of Marine Science. Researchers from Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in New Zealand observed a blue glow on the three sharks’ ventral surface when they were in a fully dark environment. A fainter blue glow came from their dorsal fins as well as the lateral and dorsal areas. Related: 10 fun and fascinating facts about sharks Many marine animals emit bioluminescence, a distinct glow due to a chemical reaction in the body. An animal needs a molecule called luciferin, which produces light when it reacts with oxygen, to really shine. The reaction is even more impressive if the organism also produces the catalyst luciferase. Bioluminescent animals can regulate their brain processes and chemistry to control when they light up. This could be for mating or hunting purposes or to scare off predators. What does a shark gain from gleaming? Scientists are speculating. While you might think that lighting up would make you stand out, the sharks’ bioluminescence can actually serve as camouflage. Say you’re swimming below the shark on a sunny day. If the shark lights up its belly, and the sun is shining above, you’d only see a shadow. These three New Zealand species cruise the mesopelagic zone, between 200 and 1,000 meters in depth. Sunlight can reach a maximum of 1,000 meters, so this area is also called the twilight zone. There’s nowhere to hide in the twilight zone, so bioluminescent camo comes in handy. The study’s authors concluded, “Bioluminescence has often been seen as a spectacular yet uncommon event at sea but considering the vastness of the deep sea and the occurrence of luminous organisms in this zone, it is now more and more obvious that producing light at depth must play an important role structuring the biggest ecosystem on our planet.” + Frontiers of Marine Science Via The Guardian , Smithsonian and BBC Image via Frontiers of Marine Science

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Glowing sharks found near New Zealand

Climate change spells trouble for baby tree swallows

March 4, 2021 by  
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As climate change worsens, spring temperatures come earlier in the year, cueing tree swallows to build their nests sooner. This leaves baby swallows vulnerable as the inevitable cold snap happens. “It’s getting warmer overall. They’re thinking, OK, it’s a good time to breed, to lay my eggs,” said Lily Twining of the Max Planck Institute for Animal Behavior in Germany. Related: Birds are dying mid-air possibly due to climate crisis effects But late-season cold snaps can still happen. When they do, these sudden cold temperatures can harm hatchlings. Baby birds aren’t able to regulate their body temperatures, making them vulnerable to hypothermia. When it gets too cold, the insects stop flying, too. This means the baby tree swallows find themselves going without meals, potentially leading to starvation. A study published in 2020 reviewed almost 50 years of breeding records. Researchers concluded that tree swallows had advanced their egg-laying by approximately 3 days each decade. But by laying eggs 2 weeks earlier, they are now exposed to twice the cold snaps that they experienced in the 1970s. The study also confirmed that many of the baby birds died because low ambient temperatures equaled no bugs to eat. “Even a single inclement weather event can reduce offspring survival by >50%,” according to the study. “The decoupling between cold snap occurrence and generally warming spring temperatures can affect reproductive success and threaten long-term persistence of populations.” In 2016, a single cold snap in Ithaca, New York, killed more than 70% of baby tree swallows. “And there have been more and more of these severe cold weather die-off events for these tree swallows as they’ve been breeding earlier and earlier over the past 40 or so years,” Twining said. Swallows are just one of many species of animals trying to survive our warming planet. Climate change affects everything from reproduction to food availability to migration. Via Yale Climate Connections Image via Jason Crotty

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Monarch butterfly population declines due to climate change and logging

March 3, 2021 by  
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A new  report by the World Wildlife Fund  in association with the government of Mexico shows that there is a drastic decline in the number of monarch butterflies hibernating in Mexico. The report indicates that the number of butterflies had reduced by 26% in December 2020 compared to the same month in 2019. Monarch butterflies are among the most beautiful migratory insects in the world. Every fall, they treat people in the U.S. and Mexico to a stunning show as they migrate to Mexico to hibernate for the winter. Unfortunately, logging in Mexico and some climate factors have dealt a blow to their population. Related: What’s causing the decline in monarch butterfly populations The report shows that the butterflies occupied nearly 7 acres in their hibernation ground in Mexico in 2019. In 2020, the monarchs only occupied about 5.1 acres of forested land. According to Jorge Rickards, Director-General of WWF Mexico, the migration of the butterflies across two countries shows how collaboration is necessary for their conservation . “Monarch butterflies show us how individual work, in this case, migration, can become an exceptional collaborative exercise, when all these migrants gather in the forests to hibernate together and buffer the climate,” Rickards said. The report has linked the decline in numbers of monarch butterflies with deforestation . The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, which is the major hibernation area, lost four times more trees in 2020 than it did in 2019. While natural events, such as wind and drought, have contributed to tree loss, the decline in trees is also attributed to logging and pest-control activities. The report indicates that such tree losses have hindered monarch butterflies’ reproduction and have also interfered with their migration patterns. “This limited the reproduction of the Monarch population, with an impact on the migrant generation, reducing the population of this insect throughout North America and leading to a smaller population occupying the Mexican forests during its hibernation,” the report says. In the U.S., monarch butterflies are on the brink of being classified as an endangered species . If the species is not protected, the world is likely to lose the only known two-way migration butterflies. According to WWF, they travel up to  2,800 miles  in a year to spend winter months in Mexico. + WWF Via CBS Image via Ulrike Leone

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