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

Bee-killing pesticide approved for emergency use in the UK

January 12, 2021 by  
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The U.K. government is reversing a ban on a dangerous pesticide. The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) and British Sugar lobbied hard to get a product containing neonicotinoid thiamethoxam sanctioned for emergency use on sugar beets. Not only is this chemical thought to kill bees, but rainwater will wash it from fields into rivers. Last we heard, fish weren’t requesting neonicotinoid thiamethoxam any more than were insects, many of which already face serious declines. Matt Shardlow, chief executive of the conservation group Buglife, was one of many environmentalists unhappy with the decision. “In addition, no action is proposed to prevent the pollution of rivers with insecticides applied to sugar beet,” Shardlow said . “Nothing has changed scientifically since the decision to ban neonics from use on sugar beet in 2018. They are still going to harm the environment .” Related: Flea treatments are poisoning England’s rivers Beet yellows virus is carried by aphids and has a ruinous effect on sugar beet crops. The U.K. has tracked this disease with national surveys since 1946, charting the effects of chemicals, farm hygiene and other factors on the changes and developments in virus yellows disease. Treating sugar beet seeds with neonicotinoid thiamethoxam is one approach used to control this disease . “Virus yellows disease is having an unprecedented impact on Britain’s sugar beet crop, with some growers experiencing yield losses of up to 80%, and this authorization is desperately needed to fight this disease,” said Michael Sly, chairman of the NFU sugar board. “It will be crucial in ensuring that Britain’s sugar beet growers continue to have viable farm businesses.” He emphasized that pesticides would be used in a limited and controlled way. In 2018, the EU decided to protect bees by banning outdoor uses of thiamethoxam. But now 11 countries, including Spain, Denmark and Belgium, have signed emergency authorizations to use this controversial chemical. Via The Guardian and Pest Management Science Image via Kurt Bouda

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Bee-killing pesticide approved for emergency use in the UK

Middelkerke Casino blends into the surrounding Belgian sand dunes

October 22, 2020 by  
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Great architectural design provides function for indoor spaces but also considers the effect on the surrounding outdoor space. This is especially true in a sensitive habitat, like that along the coastline of Belgium, where a massive casino will meld into the curving landscape while bringing an economic boost to the region. As winner of a recent Design & Build Competition, Nautilus consortium plans to honor both the history and the landscape with the new building, which will be located in the municipality of Middelkerke. Related: Massive eco-resort with a theme park to rise on Vietnam’s beaches The primary design goal was to create visual appeal that blends into the seascape rather than standing out against it, with a focus on building placement and integration. For example, the event hall, restaurant and casino will be situated behind transparent facades that offer views of the beach, sea and horizon beyond. From the outside, the wood structure of the ‘boulder’-shaped hotel is striking, with a light, natural appeal that contrasts the surrounding glass- and concrete-clad buildings and merges seamlessly into the surrounding flora. Energy savings are incorporated into every phase of the design, including the cantilevered dune on top of the ground floor and the terraces of the hotel tower, which protrude over the facade, creating shade during hot summer months. In addition, the layout takes advantage of the cooling sea breezes. Material waste is avoided wherever possible, and recycled materials are incorporated throughout construction. Structurally, the campus addresses flood risk through dike reinforcement while also providing a public space that is pedestrian-friendly . The upper seawall area is a car-free zone focused on bicyclists and foot traffic; an underground parking garage offers convenience and keeps cars out of sight. “With this project our coast will be enriched with a new architectural anchor, that accurately represents the character of Middelkerke,” said Mayor Jean-Marie Dedecker. “It transmits strength and soberness as well as sophistication, with a lot of love for the sea and the dunes. In addition, this project may mean the beginning of the renewal of Middelkerke’s town centre as an appealing place to live and visit.” Nautilus consortium is a collaboration between developer Ciril, chief designers ZJA (architecture) and DELVA ( landscape architecture ), OZ (casino and hotel design), executive architect Bureau Bouwtechniek and contractors Furnibo and Democo. They are assisted by experts from COBE, VK Engineering, Beersnielsen, Witteveen+Bos, Plantec, MINT and Sertius. + ZJA Images via Nautilus Consortium

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Middelkerke Casino blends into the surrounding Belgian sand dunes

Plant a unique indoor garden with this modular living wall kit from Horticus

October 22, 2020 by  
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Designed by Horticus, these modular living walls offer a stunning way to reconnect with nature by creating a vertical hanging garden indoors, no matter how small the space. The flexible system is completely adaptable, with a modular, hexagonal steel frame with room for customized terracotta planters. The instructions are easy enough for even beginner gardeners. Simply soak the terracotta planters, assemble the modular frames into your desired layout, place the planters onto the frames and start planting. You can water without flooding the roots through a grid of watering holes on the side of the planters. Don’t worry, the website goes much more in-depth in terms of instruction, with additional maintenance tips and optional steps to keep your plants as beautiful and healthy as possible. Related: The all-natural ‘Wellness Kitchen’ includes a beautiful living herb wall Plants can be rearranged and replaced according to the customer’s preference. Users can lift the terracotta planters out to rearrange or repot. Planters come with little feet on the bottom for added circulation and finger gaps for lifting, so you can easily place them on a table for things like kitchen herbs or centerpieces. The company offers kits that provide owners with everything they need to get started on their personal indoor living walls. Kits range from three planters to up to 24 planters, with options to include a humidifier (great for tropical plants ), a light or a speaker inside. The website also includes a detailed plant guide with a list of tested plants that work best within the system. The guide designates plants in terms of growing difficulty level, from the “super easy” Zebrina plant to the “medium/expert” orchids. The smallest kit includes three planters and one frame and will set you back about $310, while the largest kit costs over $1,350. These planters are certainly an investment, but if you can swing it, Horticus will help bring a stunning garden oasis right into your home to help you improve your indoor air quality with style. + Horticus Via Dezeen Images via Horticus

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Plant a unique indoor garden with this modular living wall kit from Horticus

Planting tiny urban forests can boost biodiversity and fight climate change

August 7, 2020 by  
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Planting tiny urban forests can boost biodiversity and fight climate change Alex Thornton Fri, 08/07/2020 – 00:30 How much space do you think you need to grow a forest? If your answer is bigger than a couple of tennis courts, think again. Miniature forests are springing up on patches of land in urban areas around the world, often planted by local community groups  using a method inspired by Japanese temples. The idea is simple — take brownfield sites, plant them densely with a wide variety of native seedlings and let them grow with minimal intervention. The result, according to the method’s proponents , is complex ecosystems perfectly suited to local conditions that improve biodiversity, grow quickly and absorb more carbon dioxide. The Miyawaki method The method is based on the work of Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki . He found that protected areas around temples, shrines and cemeteries in Japan contained a huge variety of native vegetation that co-existed to produce resilient and diverse ecosystems. This contrasted with the conifer forests — non-indigenous trees grown for timber — that dominated the landscape. Miyawaki forests can grow into mature ecosystems in just 20 years — astonishingly fast when compared to the 200 years it can take a forest to regenerate on its own. His work developed into the Miyawaki method — an approach that prioritizes the natural development of forests using native species. Miyawaki forests can grow into mature ecosystems in just 20 years — astonishingly fast when compared to the 200 years it can take a forest to regenerate on its own. They act as oases for biodiversity, supporting up to 20 times as many species as non-native, managed forests. Local pollinators such as butterflies and bees, beetles, snails and amphibians are among the animals that thrive with a greater diversity of food and shelter. Greening urban spaces worldwide The popularity of Miyawaki forests is growing, with initiatives in India , the Amazon and Europe. Projects such as Urban Forests in Belgium and France, and Tiny Forest in the Netherlands, are bringing together volunteers to transform small patches of wasteland. Urban forests bring many benefits to communities beyond their impact on biodiversity. Green spaces can help to improve people’s mental health , reduce the harmful effects of air pollution , and even counter the phenomenon of heat islands in cities, where expanses of concrete and asphalt raise temperatures unnaturally high. Carbon sinks The potential for helping to combat climate change makes Miyawaki forests a particularly attractive option for many environmentalists. Reforestation is a key part of strategies to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius, with initiatives such as the Bonn Challenge , Trillion Trees Vision and the World Economic Forum’s 1t.org project setting ambitious targets. It’s estimated that new or restored forests could remove up to 10 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2050. If you have a patch of wasteland in your local community that is sitting idle, a Miyawaki forest could be one way of doing your bit to help the environment. However, not all forests are equally effective in sequestering carbon. Mature forests of native trees soak up much more carbon dioxide than the monoculture plantations that make up many reforestation projects. As scientists learn more about the role of other factors, such as carbon in the soil , it is increasingly clear that planting the right kind of trees matters as much as the number. Conservation groups stress that Miyawaki forests should not be seen as an alternative to protecting existing native forests. Small, unconnected wooded areas never can replace the large tracts of forest that are vital to so many species — and that remain under threat from commercial plantations and slash-and-burn farming. But if you have a patch of wasteland in your local community that is sitting idle, a Miyawaki forest could be one way of doing your bit to help the environment. Pull Quote Miyawaki forests can grow into mature ecosystems in just 20 years — astonishingly fast when compared to the 200 years it can take a forest to regenerate on its own. If you have a patch of wasteland in your local community that is sitting idle, a Miyawaki forest could be one way of doing your bit to help the environment. Topics Forestry Cities World Economic Forum Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off An urban forest in Shirakawa-Go, Japan. Photo by Rap Dela Rea on Unsplash. Close Authorship

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Luxembourg will be the first country to offer all public transportation for free

December 10, 2018 by  
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Luxembourg — a small, landlocked European country that borders Belgium, Germany and France — is going to be the first country on Earth to have completely free public transportation . The newly re-elected Xavier Bettel and a coalition government will lift the fares on all of the public trains, trams and buses starting in Summer 2019. The country’s capital, Luxembourg City, is small but has some of the worst traffic congestion in the world. It has a population of about 110,000, but more than 400,000 additional commuters from neighboring countries travel into the city each day for work. Related: Estonia will soon offer free public transportation The traffic jams aren’t just in the capital. The entire country (which is only 999 square miles) is home to approximately 600,000 people, but another 200,000 people cross the Luxembourg border every day to get to work. Free public transportation will begin next summer, and it will continue Luxembourg’s progressive approach to transport. This year, it started offering free transportation to everyone under the age of 20. Secondary school students can also ride free shuttles between school and home. Currently, all other commuters pay a little over two dollars for up to two hours of travel . Since the country is small, that fare covers just about every commute. But by 2020, all tickets will be abolished. There is still some work to do on the policy, because the government has yet to figure out a plan for the first- and second-class train compartments. Still, it is a step in the right direction to reduce the country’s carbon footprint. Via The Guardian Image via Rubentje01

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Luxembourg will be the first country to offer all public transportation for free

Illegal ivory trade continues to thrive in Europe

July 11, 2018 by  
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International rights group Avaaz says the illegal ivory trade is still alive and well in Europe after the group purchased 109 ivory products from 10 countries and found that many of these items were illegaly sourced from wildlife after 1989. The findings further support Avaaz’s mission in calling on Europe to completely end its ivory trade and protect elephants . During its four-month investigation, the non-profit was able to successfully purchase ivory items in 10 European nations, including Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Spain and the United Kingdom. The ivory products were then shipped to Oxford University , where researchers used carbon dating to determine their authenticity and age. According to Avaaz, approximately 20 percent of the discovered items were harvested in 1990 or later. Under international regulations, it is illegal to sell any ivory taken from animals after 1990, when sanctions on the organic material went into effect. Related: United Kingdom moves to ban most of its ivory trade The good news is that the majority of items found date back as far as 1947 and later, meaning no new animals were killed or threatened for ivory. While this is a major win for animal conservation , pre-1990 ivory trade is only allowed with official documentation — Avaaz was able to purchase the items illegally. “This proves beyond doubt that illegal ivory is being sold across Europe,” Bert Wander, campaign director for Avaaz, said in a media statement. “Every day the sale of these trinkets continues is a day closer to wiping out majestic elephants forever.” The undercover operation is part of a wider awareness campaign by Avaaz to stop all ivory trading across Europe. In a recent update , the activist organization accused the European Union of being open to future trading opportunities. Furthermore, Avaaz claims the EU does not support a proposed five-point plan to protect all elephants from poaching for their tusks. Avaaz is not the only group calling for the outright end of ivory sales. Tusk , a charity championed by Prince William , is demanding the U.K. end all ivory trading, claiming the nation is the third-largest supplier of illegal products to the U.S. + Avaaz Via The Guardian

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Illegal ivory trade continues to thrive in Europe

This vibrant, waterproof pavilion floats along the canal at the 2018 Bruges Triennial

July 11, 2018 by  
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A spectacular art and architecture festival is currently underway in Bruges, Belgium — and the attractions include a beautiful floating pavilion by Spanish architecture firm SelgasCano . Evocative of its vibrant and curvaceous work for the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in 2015 , the SelgasCano pavilion in Bruges is likewise a colorful affair, made with pink-orange fluorescent vinyl that allows light and views to pass through. Commissioned by the city for the 2018 Bruges Triennial , the pavilion serves as a platform for bathing and swimming in the Coupure canal. The architects at SelgasCano created the floating pavilion using computer-modeling software, which determined the shapes and sizes of the arches that make up the long, sinuous frame. In contrast to the use of computer-aided design, the firm built the colorful canopy by hand. The materials were welded and pieced together on site to achieve the desired shape. The waterproof structure was installed atop a yellow wooden platform. “[The] pink-orange fluorescent vinyl [is a] material that has never been used before in a building,” said SelgasCano in a project statement. “Steel structure and plastic skin are just one thing, indissociable one from the other. Light passes through the skin creating a shambling atmosphere that changes the usual perception of the old city.” Related: A massive five-ton plastic waste whale breaches in a Bruges canal The architects also designed the pavilion with movable seating in mind, which could be placed in the covered part of the pavilion as well as on the terrace portion of the floating platform. A kidney-shaped cutout in the middle of the pavilion allows water into the heart of the space. The SelgasCano pavilion is one of more than a dozen site-specific installations created for the 2018 Bruges Triennial, which is free to the public and runs until September 16, 2018. + SelgasCano Images by Iwan Baan

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This vibrant, waterproof pavilion floats along the canal at the 2018 Bruges Triennial

Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects wins bid for carbon-neutral Solvay HQ in Brussels

June 12, 2018 by  
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Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects has won an international competition for the design of global chemical company Solvay’s new sustainable headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. Created in collaboration with local firm Modulo Architects and VK Engineers, the winning proposal beat out designs from top firms including the likes of OMA, Valode & Pistre and Henning Larsen. The green campus is expected to be certified BREEAM Excellent and will be powered with a mix of renewable energy resources, including geothermal energy and solar energy, to reach carbon-neutral status. The new headquarters represents a shift for Solvay as it transitions towards a more open and sustainable business culture. Placed in a single compact structure, the zero-carbon and near zero-energy building will prioritize collaborative spaces and the outdoors. The new campus is located on a 22-hectare site, which has housed many of Solvay’s facilities since 1953. The property will be transformed to include a new dedicated forest, a reintroduced 18th-century stream connected to the Senne, and an open-air amphitheater. Rainwater across the campus will be harvested and reused wherever possible. “In the earliest stages, it became clear that one compact building with one common entrance into a sweeping atrium would allow everyone who passes through the headquarters to share the same unique experience of the building, and create a strong sense of belonging,” said Tiago Pereira, Partner at Schmidt Hammer Lassen. “We translated Solvay’s desire for a welcoming, innovative, sustainable headquarters into an architecturally bold statement that reflects its core values and creates a new identity.” Related: Henning Larsen to revitalize Brussels region with rooftop farming and co-housing The light-filled building will be wrapped in glazing and punctuated with a large atrium with a social staircase that visually connects the various floors and departments. The two lower levels will consist of laboratories and workshops, while the upper floors house offices. In between those floors will be the Meeting Center, which includes relaxing gathering spaces and terraces with panoramic views of the campus green. Geothermal and solar energy will power the Solvay headquarters. + Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects Images via Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

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Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects wins bid for carbon-neutral Solvay HQ in Brussels

The Earth-like planets orbiting this star could hold 250 times more water than Earth

April 27, 2018 by  
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Recent research suggests that some of the Earth-size planets orbiting the star TRAPPIST-1 could carry more water than our own planet. TRAPPIST-1 is an ultra-cool red dwarf discovered in 1999, and its planets were first documented within the past few years. Scientists have measured the density of TRAPPIST-1’s planets and concluded that the mass of some of these planets may be composed of five percent water – roughly 250 times the amount of water found in our planet’s oceans. Stars such as TRAPPIST-1 are of particular interest to astronomers because their size and faintness allows for more in-depth study of orbiting planets. Through the European Union-funded SPECULOOS project, scientists have been able to focus on these planets as they search for life beyond Earth . Researchers have also observed differences based on the planets’ distance from their sun. For example, planets closest to TRAPPIST-1 may contain thick, steamy atmospheres while outer planets may be covered in ice. Perhaps most importantly, astronomers have concluded that the lack of a hydrogen -rich atmosphere on three planets indicates that they are not gaseous and therefore much more likely candidates for harboring extraterrestrial life. Related: Two Trappist-1 planets are highly likely to be habitable The intensive study of the TRAPPIST-1 system is only in its early stages. In 2020, NASA and the European Space Agency will launch the James Webb Space Telescope, which will be capable of detecting possible molecules of biological origin. “In the temperate – and potentially habitable – Earth-size regime, SPECULOOS’s detection potential should be significantly better,” Dr. Michaël Gillon from the University of Liège, Belgium told Science Magazine . “The next years are going to be very exciting!” Gillon plans on expanding the observation of Earth-like planets by searching through 1,000 stars similar to TRAPPIST-1. Via Phys.org Images via NASA (1)

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The Earth-like planets orbiting this star could hold 250 times more water than Earth

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