New global bee map gives scientists a conservation baseline

November 24, 2020 by  
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Bees are crucial pollinators for crops that humans consume, but their populations are on the decline. Now, a new, global bee map is tracking more than 20,000 bee species on Earth to help aid in their conservation. Many scientists worked together on the map, including John Ascher of the National University of Singapore, who compiled a checklist of all known bee species. He and other researchers cross-referenced several datasets about bee life on every continent except Antarctica, which doesn’t support bee life. Related: New solar farm in Indiana boosts local pollinators The study concluded that bees are more prevalent in dry, temperate areas away from the equator. More bees make their home in the Northern Hemisphere than the Southern Hemisphere. The U.S., Africa and Middle East are popular with bees. These creatures prefer deserts to forests, since trees don’t offer as many food sources. “People think of bees as just honey bees, bumble bees, and maybe a few others, but there are more species of bees than of birds and mammals combined,” Ascher said. “The United States has by far the most species of bees, but there are also vast areas of the African continent and the Middle East which have high levels of undiscovered diversity, more than in tropical areas.” Honeybees have been well studied, but scientists have little information on more than 96% of bee species. While bee colonies are famous, many people might be surprised that some types of bees are solitary insects. “Many crops, especially in developing countries, rely on native bee species, not honey bees,” said study researcher Alice Hughes of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Yunnan. “There isn’t nearly enough data out there about them, and providing a sensible baseline and analyzing it in a sensible way is essential if we’re going to maintain both biodiversity and also the services these species provide in the future.” The study’s authors hope that combining all of this bee data will be an important step toward conservation. + Science Daily Via BBC Image via Rebekka D

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New global bee map gives scientists a conservation baseline

MVRDV unveils sustainable Chengdu Sky Valley masterplan

November 24, 2020 by  
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MVRDV has revealed designs for Chengdu Sky Valley, a competition entry for the Future Science and Technology City, which is a planned district on the outskirts of Chengdu, China. Guided by sustainable and placemaking principles, the masterplan seeks to differentiate itself from the country’s other high-tech cities with an emphasis on retaining the existing agricultural landscape, promoting self-sufficient lifestyles and designing with site-specific analyses in mind. Developed as part of Chengdu’s Eastward Development Strategy, the planned Future Science and Technology City will be developed on a rural swath of land adjacent to the new Tianfu International Airport with access to the city’s Metro Line 18. Rather than raze the rural area, the architects sought to retain and enhance the existing landscape — characterized by agricultural fields, rolling hills and scattered villages — while embedding new areas of development in between preserved farming areas.  Related: MVRDV designs a sustainable “urban living room” for Shenzhen “The dichotomy between the existing rural landscape and the future science and technology campus demands a solution that balances tradition and innovation, past and future, young and old, East and West, technology and agriculture,” MVRDV explained. “The design therefore preserves the agricultural valleys, incorporating this activity as a key component of the Future Science and Technology City. New buildings are clustered on the hills, and shaped in a way that amplifies the valley skyline, augmenting the appearance of the Linpan landscape.” MVRDV’s tech taskforce, MVRDV NEXT, developed a series of digital scripts to analyze the site’s topography. The site analyses informed decisions on several parts of the design: which areas should be designated for agricultural zoning versus new building development; the optimization of pathways and bridges to ensure accessibility across the entire site while never exceeding a slope of 4%; the shape and height of human-made hills; and building height limits. As a result, the design features three main valleys — the Knowledge Valley, the Experience Valley and the Venture Valley — around which seven mixed-use developments will be clustered. + MVRDV Images via MVRDV and Atchain

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MVRDV unveils sustainable Chengdu Sky Valley masterplan

A lakeside, prefab home in Quebec aims for LEED Gold

November 24, 2020 by  
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After purchasing a humble country home 25 years ago in the village of Ivry-sur-le-Lac, architect-owner Richard Rubin of Canadian firm Figurr Architects Collective wanted to treat himself and his family to a new second home with an extremely low environmental impact. Key to the creation of this low-impact holiday home was the use of prefabrication. The residence consists of five custom, prefabricated modules, each approximately 50 feet in length. With a reduced environmental footprint achieved through an airtight envelope, use of sustainable and local materials, and large, insulated glazing, the modern, energy-efficient home is currently being submitted by Rubin for LEED Gold certification. To ensure that his family wouldn’t lose more than one season of enjoying the country, the architect began construction on the new house in late summer, before the demolition of the existing home. Prefabrication not only helped to speed up the construction process, but the modular design also allowed for indoor construction without fear of inclement weather conditions. The five custom prefab modules were assembled with insulation, windows and flooring intact before they were transported to the site — a challenging undertaking due to the size of the giant, factory-built modules and winding country roads. Related: Work from home in this minimalist, modular 15-sided cabin Conceived as a nature retreat, the new country home is punctuated with floor-to-ceiling glazing that brings in views of the forest as well as direct sunshine, which helps reduce the heating and lighting costs. A natural materials palette blends the building into the landscape, while the warm timbers used indoors create a welcoming feel. The home brings the family together with an open-plan kitchen and dining room along with a cozy living room and a three-season, screened-in porch that looks out to the lake and woods. The architect has also carved out more intimate spaces for each of the family members, such as the ground-floor atelier for painting and carpentry. + Figurr Architects Collective Photography by David Boyer via Figurr Architects Collective

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A lakeside, prefab home in Quebec aims for LEED Gold

Canada’s last Arctic ice shelf has collapsed

August 10, 2020 by  
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The Milne Ice Shelf, the largest remaining intact ice shelf in Canada, has collapsed. According to researchers studying the Milne Ice Shelf, the ice shelf collapsed in just two days at the end of July and lost about 40% of its area. This ice shelf sits at the fringe of Ellesmere Island in the northern territory of Nunavut. For the past 30 years, the Arctic has warmed twice as fast as the global rate. The Arctic’s warming reached new levels this year, causing polar ice to hit its lowest levels in 40 years. Though ice caps melting in the heat has become more frequent, this year’s record temperatures caused unprecedented melting and disintegration of bigger ice shelves. Related: Antarctica reaches record high temperature “Above normal air temperatures , offshore winds and open water in front of the ice shelf are all part of the recipe for ice shelf break up,” The Canadian Ice Service said on Twitter. The area affected by the ice shelf breaking is significantly large. According to researchers, the shelf area shrank by 80 square kilometers — an area roughly 20 square kilometers larger than New York’s Manhattan Island. “This was the largest remaining intact ice shelf, and it’s disintegrated, basically,” said Luke Copland, a glaciologist at the University of Ottawa and Milne Ice Shelf researcher. The research team lost a campsite and several instruments when the ice shelf collapsed. According to one of the researchers, Derek Mueller of Carleton University in Ottawa , the team has noticed signs of collapse while working on the ice shelf. Mueller says the team was lucky to not be on the ice shelf when it collapsed. Given that the collapse swept away an entire campsite, the team would have faced a similar fate. Researchers now warn that the Arctic can expect more ice melting if global temperatures continue to increase. This year, the Arctic experienced temperatures rising 5 degrees Celcius above the 30-year average. If global warming continues, Arctic ice could melt entirely into the sea over time. Via Huffpost Images via Pixabay

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Canada’s last Arctic ice shelf has collapsed

This tiny house is insulated with cork and powered by solar

August 10, 2020 by  
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Eco-friendly company The Tiny Housing Co. has added The Natura tiny home to its portfolio of unique designs. The tiny house is powered by 1000W solar panels and built out of natural materials such as cork and wood, making it sustainable from the inside out. Starting at just over $65,000, the design of The Natura is aimed at being as sustainable as possible. The company already includes solar paneling with all of its homes, but it also offers an additional “eco” package with 2000W solar panels and a wood-burning stove. The improved panels mean that occupants can generate enough power to run appliances solely from solar, and the wood-burning stove is connected to underfloor heating to reduce heating costs when coupled with the already-installed efficient insulation. Related: Solar-powered cork house pursues healthy, sustainable living Wood paneling makes up the exterior, while the facade features a thick corkboard layer to create a breathable, fire-retardant area near the loft-style, king-sized bedroom. The organic aesthetic of the exterior is complemented by the inside, which is complete with luxurious modern fixtures, soft tones and natural light. Clean water is filtered from an under-sink system, and energy-efficient appliances help keep utility costs down. As is essential in a minimalist home, there are plenty of space-saving features as well, such as hidden storage under the stairs, between the walls and under the bed. Tight insulation is achieved in the walls, floor and roof using rockwool, lightweight XPS boards and cork. Rockwool is a rock-based mineral fiber usually composed of volcanic basalt rock and recycled steel or copper byproduct, and XPS boards (or polystyrene) does not result in harmful waste with its manufacture. According to the company, these materials can also help reduce harmful VOCs and other chemicals that can come with more common home insulation. + The Tiny Housing Co. Images via The Tiny Housing Co.

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This tiny house is insulated with cork and powered by solar

Antarctica’s seafloor is leaking methane, scientists confirm

July 23, 2020 by  
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For the first time, scientists have confirmed that methane leaking is from Antarctica’s sea bed. They say the  methane  is likely escaping into the atmosphere. According to the EPA, in 2018, methane accounted for about 10% of U.S. human-driven greenhouse gas emissions. But the Antarctica leak may be beyond human influence or control. Scientists believe that immense quantities of methane are stored under  Antarctica’s  seafloor. They don’t know the leak’s cause, but global warming probably isn’t to blame, since the Ross Sea has not yet warmed significantly. Related: Antarctica reaches record high temperature Decaying, thousands-of-years-old algae deposits likely create the methane. Usually, microbes consume undersea methane before it reaches the atmosphere. But the  ecosystem  around the Antarctica leak has been slow to produce the methane-eating microbes, making for an inadequate methane biofilter beneath the vast West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Current climate change models don’t allow for this lag time between seepage and microbe development, which could lead researchers to overly-optimistic conclusions. Divers first noticed the methane seep in 2011, but  scientists didn’t start investigating until 2016, studying it in detail both onsite and in the laboratory. Scientists regard the methane release from permafrost regions and frozen underwater stores as a key indicator that  global warming  can no longer be stopped. “The methane cycle is absolutely something that we as a society need to be concerned about,” said Andrew Thurber, the Oregon State University scientist who led the research. “I find it incredibly concerning.” The new research,  published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B , places the methane seep at a site called Cinder Cones in McMurdo Sound. The patch is about 70 meters long. “The delay [in microbes consuming methane] is the most important finding,” Thurber said. “It is not good news. It took more than five years for the microbes to begin to show up and even then there was still methane rapidly escaping from the  sea  floor.” + The Guardian Image via Pixabay

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Antarctica’s seafloor is leaking methane, scientists confirm

New map exposes secrets of Antarctica’s green snow

May 28, 2020 by  
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Antarctica’s peculiar green snow is spreading, according to researchers who have created the first large-scale map of microscopic algae growing on the chilly, southernmost continent. As the climate warms, snow algae is becoming a more and more important terrestrial carbon sink. “This is a significant advance in our understanding of land-based life on Antarctica, and how it might change in the coming years as the climate warms,” study leader Matt Davey, faculty member of the University of Cambridge’s Department of Plant Sciences, said. “Snow algae are a key component of the continent’s ability to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis.” Related: Antarctica reaches record high temperature The study’s researchers, from University of Cambridge and the British Antarctic Survey, explained the lay of the Antarctic land. “In the limited terrestrial ecosystems of Antarctica , all photosynthetic organisms will make a significant contribution to the ecology of their habitat,” the scientists wrote in their paper, which is published in Nature Communications . With only about 0.18% of Antarctica’s continental area ice-free, there’s very little exposed ground for traditional vegetation. Thus, evolution got creative and developed snow algae. Expeditions in the 1950s and 1960s first described the green and red patches on and below the snow surface. Since then, researchers have learned that Antarctica’s diverse algal species are important for nutrient and carbon cycling. “Considering that a single snow algal bloom can cover hundreds of square meters, snow algae are potentially one of the region’s most significant photosynthetic primary producers, as well as influencing nutrient provision to downstream terrestrial and marine ecosystems ,” the researchers wrote. Researchers combined their own measurements on the ground with satellite images taken between 2017 and 2019 to map the algae. They found that algae grows in “warmer” areas along the Antarctica coastlines and west coast islands, where temperatures in the continent’s summer months rise just a hair over 0 degrees Celsius. Marine birds and mammals also influence the algal distribution, as their excrement is a natural fertilizer. More than 60% of algal blooms were within 5 kilometers of penguin colonies. Lead author Andrew Gray explained, “As Antarctica warms, we predict the overall mass of snow algae will increase, as the spread to higher ground will significantly outweigh the loss of small island patches of algae.” + Nature Communications Via University of Cambridge Images via Gray, A., Krolikowski, M., Fretwell, P. et al. / Nature Communications (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License)

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New map exposes secrets of Antarctica’s green snow

New map exposes secrets of Antarctica’s green snow

May 28, 2020 by  
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Antarctica’s peculiar green snow is spreading, according to researchers who have created the first large-scale map of microscopic algae growing on the chilly, southernmost continent. As the climate warms, snow algae is becoming a more and more important terrestrial carbon sink. “This is a significant advance in our understanding of land-based life on Antarctica, and how it might change in the coming years as the climate warms,” study leader Matt Davey, faculty member of the University of Cambridge’s Department of Plant Sciences, said. “Snow algae are a key component of the continent’s ability to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis.” Related: Antarctica reaches record high temperature The study’s researchers, from University of Cambridge and the British Antarctic Survey, explained the lay of the Antarctic land. “In the limited terrestrial ecosystems of Antarctica , all photosynthetic organisms will make a significant contribution to the ecology of their habitat,” the scientists wrote in their paper, which is published in Nature Communications . With only about 0.18% of Antarctica’s continental area ice-free, there’s very little exposed ground for traditional vegetation. Thus, evolution got creative and developed snow algae. Expeditions in the 1950s and 1960s first described the green and red patches on and below the snow surface. Since then, researchers have learned that Antarctica’s diverse algal species are important for nutrient and carbon cycling. “Considering that a single snow algal bloom can cover hundreds of square meters, snow algae are potentially one of the region’s most significant photosynthetic primary producers, as well as influencing nutrient provision to downstream terrestrial and marine ecosystems ,” the researchers wrote. Researchers combined their own measurements on the ground with satellite images taken between 2017 and 2019 to map the algae. They found that algae grows in “warmer” areas along the Antarctica coastlines and west coast islands, where temperatures in the continent’s summer months rise just a hair over 0 degrees Celsius. Marine birds and mammals also influence the algal distribution, as their excrement is a natural fertilizer. More than 60% of algal blooms were within 5 kilometers of penguin colonies. Lead author Andrew Gray explained, “As Antarctica warms, we predict the overall mass of snow algae will increase, as the spread to higher ground will significantly outweigh the loss of small island patches of algae.” + Nature Communications Via University of Cambridge Images via Gray, A., Krolikowski, M., Fretwell, P. et al. / Nature Communications (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License)

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New map exposes secrets of Antarctica’s green snow

UNStudio to transform Gyeongdo Island into a sustainable tourism destination

May 28, 2020 by  
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UNStudio has unveiled a masterplan to transform South Korea’s Gyeongdo Island into a new, 470,000-square-meter leisure destination that puts the spotlight on nature. The design celebrates the island’s natural beauty by orienting development around carefully framed landscape views — a design approach borrowed from ancient Korean garden design. The high-density development, which ranges from an affordable family resort to private villas, will follow passive solar and bio-design principles to minimize energy use. Commissioned by client YKDevelopment, the redevelopment of Gyeongdo is part of a plan to turn the island into “Asia’s number one marine and coastal tourism destination”. Located in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula, Gyeongdo sits 2 kilometers southeast of the city of Yeosu, the main tourist hub in the Namhae region that is renowned for beautiful, green islands and ocean views. UNStudio’s masterplan aims to highlight the island’s rich biodiversity by creating three developments along the island, each informed by a distinct garden concept with different trees, flowers and other vegetation. Related: UNStudio installs new energy-generating facade for solar producer Hanwha’s HQ Built on either side of a “green backbone” for conservation, the three developments will be nestled within areas of reconstructed forest. The three neighborhoods include the Gyeongdo Gateway at the island’s main entrance; the Sunrise Waterfront on the east side of the island; and Sea Breeze Coast at the island’s southern point. Gyeongdo Gateway will house the main port, a cable car station, marina and bridge, an entertainment center, shopping mall and a waterside boardwalk. The quieter Sunrise Waterfront will serve as the island’s “leisure heart” and will include a four-star hotel and condos. The Sea Breeze Coast neighborhood is located in the most secluded part of the island and will offer a five-star hotel and a series of private villas. All of the buildings will be thoughtfully embedded into the landscape to follow the natural terrain and passive solar principles. Visitors and residents will have access to a seamless public transportation system to easily and sustainably move about the island. + UNStudio Images by Plomp (NL) and Flying Architecture (CZ) via UNStudio

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UNStudio to transform Gyeongdo Island into a sustainable tourism destination

UNStudio to transform Gyeongdo Island into a sustainable tourism destination

May 28, 2020 by  
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UNStudio has unveiled a masterplan to transform South Korea’s Gyeongdo Island into a new, 470,000-square-meter leisure destination that puts the spotlight on nature. The design celebrates the island’s natural beauty by orienting development around carefully framed landscape views — a design approach borrowed from ancient Korean garden design. The high-density development, which ranges from an affordable family resort to private villas, will follow passive solar and bio-design principles to minimize energy use. Commissioned by client YKDevelopment, the redevelopment of Gyeongdo is part of a plan to turn the island into “Asia’s number one marine and coastal tourism destination”. Located in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula, Gyeongdo sits 2 kilometers southeast of the city of Yeosu, the main tourist hub in the Namhae region that is renowned for beautiful, green islands and ocean views. UNStudio’s masterplan aims to highlight the island’s rich biodiversity by creating three developments along the island, each informed by a distinct garden concept with different trees, flowers and other vegetation. Related: UNStudio installs new energy-generating facade for solar producer Hanwha’s HQ Built on either side of a “green backbone” for conservation, the three developments will be nestled within areas of reconstructed forest. The three neighborhoods include the Gyeongdo Gateway at the island’s main entrance; the Sunrise Waterfront on the east side of the island; and Sea Breeze Coast at the island’s southern point. Gyeongdo Gateway will house the main port, a cable car station, marina and bridge, an entertainment center, shopping mall and a waterside boardwalk. The quieter Sunrise Waterfront will serve as the island’s “leisure heart” and will include a four-star hotel and condos. The Sea Breeze Coast neighborhood is located in the most secluded part of the island and will offer a five-star hotel and a series of private villas. All of the buildings will be thoughtfully embedded into the landscape to follow the natural terrain and passive solar principles. Visitors and residents will have access to a seamless public transportation system to easily and sustainably move about the island. + UNStudio Images by Plomp (NL) and Flying Architecture (CZ) via UNStudio

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UNStudio to transform Gyeongdo Island into a sustainable tourism destination

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