Trumps name found scraped into a manatees back

January 13, 2021 by  
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Manatees resemble half-ton potatoes, but researchers can tell them apart. According to Patrick Rose, aquatic biologist and executive director for Save the Manatee Club, most adult manatees have unique scars from accidents like boat strikes. But one manatee stands out more than the rest. This week, viral videos showed a West Indian manatee with “Trump” scraped into its back. The maimed manatee was spotted in Florida’s Homosassa River last Sunday. In 2019, Inhabitat reported on illegal interactions between manatees and humans in this same river. Related: Effects of COVID-19 lead to increased deaths of Florida manatees While scraping the presidential surname into a layer of algae will probably not injure a manatee — unless the perpetrator scrapes too hard and the sea cow becomes infected — it is still harassment. Under U.S. law, anyone guilty of harassing a manatee faces a $50,000 fine and up to a year in prison. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is leading an investigation into the defiled manatee. The Center for Biological Diversity is adding $5,000 as a reward for intel leading to a conviction of the responsible party. “It’s a little hard to see the extent of damage from the video,” said Ruth Carmichael, marine biologist at Dauphin Island Sea Lab. “It is harassment, regardless. If the scrape penetrates the skin, then it likely caused some pain and stress. The animals have nerves and sensory hairs in the skin. Additionally, open wounds could become infected.” Florida has an estimated 6,300 manatees, a big increase from a 1991 estimate of 1,267. But the gentle giants are susceptible to terrible fates due to human activity. At least 10 were drowned or crushed last year by locks and floodgates, in addition to the usual boat strikes. In 2017, the IUCN upgraded manatees from endangered to vulnerable. But it’s especially cruel that a creature that has faced the threat of extinction should have to bear the surname of a man who has spent the last four years weakening protections of endangered species . Do you have information on who scraped “Trump” onto the manatee? Call the wildlife crime tips hotline at 1-844-397-8477 or email FWS_TIPS@FWS.GOV . Via BBC , HuffPost and Save the Manatee Club Image via NOAA

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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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Smelly but smart: ships to use ammonia as "zero-carbon" fuel

November 10, 2020 by  
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While the world rushes against time to curb carbon emissions from cars, trains and airplanes, another area of transport raises concerns. Today, almost  90% of all goods traded globally are transported by water . As massive fuel guzzlers compared to other transportation methods, ships exacerbate the emissions problem. To deal with the issue of carbon pollution by ships, several companies and organizations are exploring ammonia as a possible solution.  In 2008, the International Maritime Organization(IMO) set a target of halving its emissions by 2050. To accomplish this, IMO intends to use ammonia as a fossil fuel alternative. Ammonia makes a great alternative since it does not contain carbon; the pungent-smelling gas can burn within an engine and power it without emitting carbon dioxide. Due to ammonia’s ability to provide clean energy, several companies are now testing the gas as an alternative fuel. A German company, Man Energy Solutions, has announced plans to install an ammonia-ready engine on a ship. According to the company, the first model will be dual, allowing the ship to run on traditional gas with an ammonia option. Meanwhile, Eidesvik, a Norway-based company, plans to invest in ammonia-powered ships. By 2023, the company will install ammonia-powered cells on all its ships. Similar to batteries, these cells will generate energy to power the ship’s motor. Though ammonia is less energy-rich than many other marine fuels, it proves more energy-dense than hydrogen . Hydrogen, another zero-emission gas, has been used to power cars, trains and planes. While cheaper to produce than ammonia, hydrogen presents handling difficulties due to its -253 degrees Celcius storage temperature. “Ammonia sits very nicely in the middle,” Dr. Tristan Smith of University College London said. “It’s not too expensive to store and not too expensive to produce.”  If the shipping industry adopts ammonia as a fuel source, there is still more work required to keep it clean. Ammonia produces nitrogen oxides, which can be toxic. Fortunately, there is a technology that can purify the oxides before they are released.  + BBC Image via Pexels

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Biodegradable mushroom packaging makes Seedlip gifts special

November 10, 2020 by  
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In an effort to help reduce food packaging waste, non-alcoholic spirit company Seedlip is introducing a  Mycelium Gift Pack  wrapped in  biodegradable  mushroom packaging. Mycelium, the root structure of mushrooms, creates a durable and sustainable packaging alternative for the upcoming holiday season. This fully bio-contributing material is also biodegradable, recyclable and compostable. The gift set includes a full-sized bottle of Seedlip Spice 94 (an aromatic non-alcoholic spirit), a highball glass made from 100% recycled material and a thyme seeded neck tag. The tag includes instructions to plant and grow your own herbs using the biodegradable  mushroom  box as a planter. Seedlip has partnered with the Magical Mushroom Company, a U.K.-based production plant specializing in manufacturing mycelium-based packaging and insulation, to bring the project to life. Presale for the set began on October 22 and is available now on  Seedlip’s website .  Related: Entrepreneur sells mushroom suits that decompose your body after death “We are committed to celebrating and protecting the natural world and our mushroom-based gift set progresses both our support of sustainable packaging as well as championing nature’s ability to solve society’s challenges,” said Ben Branson, founder of Seedlip. “Mushrooms are nature’s recycling system and we’re very proud to be working with them.” Seedlip Spice 94, featured in the gift set, is an aromatic blend of Jamaican allspice berries, grapefruit, lemon and cardamom that gets its earthy bitterness from oak and cascarilla tree barks. Seedlip offers  beverage  recipes on its website that incorporate the non-alcoholic spirit. The mycelium used to make the gift box paper plays a critical role in  nature  by breaking down debris on the forest floor. Seedlip’s packaging can mimic this process as a compostable material in your compost bin. This helps make mycelium a great alternative to plastic packaging. According to Seedlip, the Magical Mushroom packaging is just as strong as conventional  plastic  foams but doesn’t contribute to landfill or ocean pollution. + Seedlip Images via Seedlip

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Biodegradable mushroom packaging makes Seedlip gifts special

Some dual-flush toilets are actually wasting water

September 30, 2020 by  
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The innovation was supposed to save us water. But now, in shocking commode news, the water-saving organization Waterwise has revealed that dual-flush toilets actually waste water. Waterwise estimates that between 5% and 8% of U.K. toilets are leaking a total of 88 million gallons per day. Dual-flush toilets allow users to select from a small flush for liquids and a larger flush for solid waste , a design intended to save water. This type of toilet usually depends on a drop-valve system. The valve sits underwater and opens for a flush. But debris can catch in the valve, resulting in leaks and constant running. Related: High-tech public toilets proposed for San Francisco can recycle rainwater for reuse “Because we’ve got so many [loos] that continuously flow all through the day, collectively that water loss is now exceeding the amount of water they should be saving nationally,” Andrew Tucker, water efficiency manager at the U.K. sewerage company Thames Water, told the BBC . “The volume of water loss is getting bigger every day as more people refurbish and retrofit their older toilets and as we build more homes, so we’re actually adding a problem.” Some experts say the solution is to manufacture more dual-valve toilets that use a siphon system rather than a drop valve. The siphon works by forcing water down through a tube and into the pan when you depress your toilet handle. That way, the water can only escape if it’s above the water line, which makes it much less likely to leak. Jason Parker, managing director of U.K. plumbing manufacturer Thomas Dudley Ltd, wants drop valves outlawed, no matter the cost to his own business. “If we’re serious about wasting water and we want to stop it, the only way to do that is put a siphon back in,” he told the BBC. Additional water is lost when dual-flush users get confused over which button to push. Thames Water’s recent consumer research found that as many as 50% of customers either chose the wrong button or pushed both. Via BBC Image via Adobe Stock

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Record number of pilot whales get stranded, die in Tasmania

September 25, 2020 by  
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Over 380 long-finned pilot whales have been confirmed dead after nearly 500 were stranded on Tasmania’s west coast. The whales are believed to have been lured to the shore to feed or erroneously guided by one of their own. By late Wednesday, rescuers had managed to save 50 of the stranded whales and were working hard to save the remaining 30. According to Tasmanian officials, the rescue efforts are to continue as long as the whales are still alive. Nic Deka, the regional manager for Tasmania’s Parks and Wildlife Service, said that the government has hope of rescuing the remaining whales and as long as they are still alive, they have a chance of getting back to the water. However, Deka also explained that the chances of survival get slimmer every second that passes by. “While they’re still alive and in water, there’s still hope for them — but as time goes on they do become more fatigued.” Related: Right whales now ranked as critically endangered species While the rescuers are making efforts to save the living whales , the Australian government is working on a plan to clean up the carcasses. The government has to decide the best way of disposing of the perished whales before embarking on the process. In previous cases, carcasses were buried on the shoreline to reduce the cost of transportation. It is still not clear why the whales in Tasmania ended up beached, but investigations are underway. This incident surpasses one of the largest strandings ever recorded in Australia in 1996, when 320 whales were beached. Tasmania is prone to whale strandings, with more than 80% of the continent’s stranding events occurring here. According to Kris Carlyon, Marine Conservation Program wildlife biologist, the latest mass stranding is the largest to occur in Australia in terms of the number of whales stranded and deaths. Carlyon said that the whales might have been lured into the coast for food or misguided adventure. Pilot whales travel in groups. Unfortunately, their bond means that they may get stranded in masses and eventually lead to huge losses, as is currently happening in Tasmania. Via BBC and Huffington Post Image via Ursula Di Chito

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Record number of pilot whales get stranded, die in Tasmania

Painting wind turbines may reduce bird collisions and deaths

August 27, 2020 by  
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A new study published in the journal Ecology and Evolution shows that painting one blade on a wind turbine black may reduce bird deaths at wind farms by up to 70%. For a long time, organizations, such as the Royal Society For The Protection of Birds (RSPB), have been championing for more care when it comes to setting up wind power plants to avoid the deaths of birds through collisions. This study could reveal a simple solution. Although wind farms provide one of the cleanest sources of energy , they are tainted by the effects of the turbines on birds. It is common for birds to collide with the turbines and die on the spot. The study now shows that if the blades of turbines are painted black, the rate of accidents could greatly decrease. The study was conducted off the coast of Norway; the location is home to the Smøla plant, where six to nine white-tailed eagles are killed annually. Related: US and Canada in drastic crisis with 3 billion birds lost since 1970 According to Roel May, researcher at the Norwegian Institute of Nature Research and one of the authors of the study, wind power negatively impacts wild bird populations. “Collision of birds, especially raptors, is one of the main environmental concerns related to wind energy development,” May said. The main purpose of the study was to find out if there are any mitigating measures that could reduce the collisions. The researchers found that if one of the main rotor blades is painted black, it reduces the motion smear, making the blades visible to birds when they are in motion. While the findings are promising, the study authors warn that more research still has to be done. The new study provides a platform for more studies to explore the possibility of reducing bird deaths at renewable energy plants. “Although we found a significant drop in bird collision rates, its efficacy may well be site- and species-specific,” May explained. “At the moment there exists interest to carry out tests in the Netherlands and in South Africa.” Further studies will need to be carried out in diverse locations to determine the viability of such a move in different areas and on specific bird species. Members of RSPB are also championing for establishing wind power farms in safer locations, where there are no large populations of birds. + Ecology and Evolution Via BBC Image via Matthias Böckel

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Painting wind turbines may reduce bird collisions and deaths

Proposed UK law pushes accountability for Amazon products

August 26, 2020 by  
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People around the world have watched with increasing horror as Amazon forest destruction has accelerated in recent years. Now,  U.K.  officials have proposed a law to make large companies operating within the U.K. comply with environmental laws and show where their products originate.  The new law would cover  soy , rubber, cocoa, palm oil and other commodities. According to a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) survey, 67% of British consumers want more government oversight on companies, and 81% think businesses should be more transparent about product origin. Related: Indigenous Amazon communities use tech to protect the forest “This consultation is a welcome first step in the fight to tackle the loss of our planet’s irreplaceable natural wonders such as the Amazon and in the pursuit of supply chains free from products that contribute to deforestation ,” said Ruth Chambers from the Greener UK coalition. Additionally, this law could require businesses to publish purchasing details for commodities like soy and  palm oil , to prove the resources were produced following local laws protecting natural ecosystems. Failure to do so would incur fines. Critics say the plan needs ironing out, especially regarding details on penalties. Though delayed, the COP26 climate conference will occur in Glasgow in 2021. In the meantime, the U.K. works to show international leadership on environmental and climate concerns, including deforestation. About 10% of the world’s known species make their home in the  Amazon , which is the largest rainforest and river basin in the world. Already 20% of the Amazon biome has disappeared, and matters are getting worse. At the current rate of deforestation, WWF estimates that more than a quarter of the Amazon biome will be treeless by 2030. The new U.K.  law  remains in the planning stage. Emphasizing the law’s significance, Chambers said, “The evidence linking deforestation with climate change, biodiversity loss and the spread of zoonotic diseases is compelling. A new law is an important part of the solution and is urgently needed.” Via BBC and WWF Image via Pexels

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Proposed UK law pushes accountability for Amazon products

One-quarter of UK mammals face threat of extinction

July 31, 2020 by  
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While tigers and elephants regally pose for endangered animal posters, many smaller creatures are fading away unnoticed. Now scientists are bringing attention to the dire outlook for less glamorous native U.K. mammals, claiming that one-quarter of them are at imminent risk of extinction. The scientists put 11 mammals on the U.K.’s first official Red List of endangered species . This list categorizes species according to their conservation status, using internationally agreed upon criteria. Related: Right Whales now ranked as critically endangered species “When we draw all the evidence together — about population size and how isolated and fragmented those populations are — we come up with this list of 11 of our 47 native species being threatened imminently,” Fiona Mathews of the Mammal Society told BBC News. “And there are more species that are categorized as ‘near threatened’.” The study concluded that the Scottish wildcat and the greater mouse-eared bat are the U.K.’s most critically endangered mammals. Beaver, red squirrel, water vole and grey long-eared bats ranked as endangered. The vulnerable category included the hedgehog, hazel dormouse, Orkney vole, Serotine bat and Barbastelle bat . “The three categories of threat — critically endangered, endangered and vulnerable — tell you about the probability of the animal becoming extinct within this imminent timeframe,” Mathews said. The U.K. Red List was produced for official nature agencies of England, Wales and Scotland and has been approved by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature ( IUCN ). The biggest reason for plummeting populations is habitat loss. A 2019 report on U.K. wildlife called the country among the most nature-depleted in the world. Many animal species in the U.K. have decreased by an average of 60% since 1970. Invasive species are another factor. Disease-ridden grey squirrels moved in and killed off endangered red squirrels, who lost more than 60% of their range just in the last 13 years. American mink that escaped from fur farms — and who can blame them — ate many native water voles. Scientists lacked enough information to assess the status of some mammals, including the wild boar and whiskered bat. They assigned five animals into the “near threatened” category, meaning they’re slightly too populous to make the Red List: the mountain hare, harvest mouse, lesser white-toothed shrew, Leisler’s bat and Nathusius’ pipistrelle. Via The Guardian and BBC Image via Peter Trimming

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