How to provide a backyard habitat to protect animals in the winter

November 26, 2018 by  
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We live in an ecosystem where plants and animals depend upon one another for survival. During the cold winter months, the animals in your area may struggle to find adequate food, shelter and water; however, you can make a difference in these tough situations. To help animals survive the winter, here are a few simple actions you can take in your own yard in the name of wildlife conservation . Hold off on deadheading Birds eat seeds and make nests from grasses. Critters store nuts and seeds from plants . Although you might find it unsightly, leaving the dried heads of roses, wildflowers, sunflowers, coneflowers and blazing star makes it easier for birds to forage during the winter. So instead of cutting them back in the fall, allow them to overwinter, and trim them back in the spring instead. Rethink your landscaping selections Every gardener knows that some plants appeal to animals more than others. We need flowers for insects to pollinate, attractants for butterflies and plants that produce seeds for small critters to eat. Most of this activity happens during the summer months, which is why animals store up for winter. But when the stores run out or animals seek fresh foods, the right plants in your garden can provide year-round feedings. Related: How to plant fruit in the winter If you are due for a change or some additional shrubbery, consider planting trees that produce nuts such as hazelnut, walnut or oak trees. Plant foliage that produces berries year-round to feed the animals. Some examples include bayberry, viburnum, chokeberry, wintergreen teaberry, dogwood and winterberry holly. Also plant trees that produce pine cones as a food source for birds, and while you’re considering evergreens, note that the juniper tree also provides berries. Some varieties of crabapple trees are an additional option for providing fruit throughout the winter. Create water reservoirs Animals can’t drink snow or ice — keep fresh water available. Build a small pond or maintain bird baths. Keep your water source warm enough to avoid freezing with an easy-to-find heater that you can run in your pond or bath. A layer of ice on the top of your pond will not only trap invertebrates and frogs inside, but it also reduces the amount of oxygen in the water. If you live in a generally mild climate but have a water source ice over during an unseasonal cold snap, place a pot of hot water on the icy surface. Related: Birdbath care during the winter You don’t want rodents falling into the water sources, so make sure that any water available is in the form of a bird bath or other elevated source. Reservoirs, like rain collection barrels, should be completely sealed around any openings to repel critters who could get trapped inside. Build protection out of debris Your yard clippings, especially tree branches, make an appealing refuge for foraging rodents, rabbits, squirrels and reptiles . They also allow birds to have a protected space for building nests in preparation of spring. To create a brush pile for housing, start with a pile of the largest branches and cuttings. Stack smaller debris on top for additional layers of protection and warmth.  Critters and nesting birds will thank you for the protection. You can also encourage animals to take shelter in your woodpile by stacking wood pieces with copious spacing. Criss-crossing split wood chunks provides protection for rabbits, squirrels and other small animals. Craft tiny animal homes Animals that are cold during winter will seek out warmth and shelter wherever they can. That’s why you’ll find rats sneaking into the house, mice burrowing into covered patio furniture or taking over the RV and birds tucked into the rafters. To keep them happy and warm without sharing your living space, build them their own homes. In addition to mounds of protective foliage, put together a row of basic wooden birdhouses resting on posts, hanging from trees or mounted to the fence. Bat houses have visual appeal and functional elements, too. If you have space, choose an area away from the main activity on your property to place a recycled chicken coop, bus stop shed or other small building; lay down straw for added warmth. Put out food Fill your bird feeders and remember to check them often during the winter. Those that keep food dry are the best. Also make and hang some pine cone feeders from your trees. Simply smear some nut butter on the pine cone and roll it in bird food for an easy and animal-friendly craft that the whole family can work on together. Related: Attracting backyard birds in winter Leave the leaves Autumn is dubbed fall because of the obvious characteristic of leaves dropping everywhere. As leaves float away from the trees and onto your property, resist the urge to get out the leaf blower and yard debris cart. Instead, move those leaves over to your flower beds. Not only will they provide mulching benefits to your plants, but they will also offer a habitat for ground birds, such as the thrush, and frogs, which prefer the moist environment that leaves provide. While it’s tempting to strip the yard down to the ground during your fall list of chores, remember to think about the animals. By holding off on debris removal and taking a few calculated steps, you’ll not only improve their winter habitat, but you will also have a more appealing green space with foliage and animals to view. Via Humane Society , Discover Wildlife and HGTV Images via Annie Spratt , Maria Shanina , Peter Trimming , Zailin Liu , Phil Roeder , Erin Wilson , Wes Hicks , DaPuglet and Rachel Kramer

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How to provide a backyard habitat to protect animals in the winter

An experimental greenhouse pops up at a busy Copenhagen intersection

October 19, 2018 by  
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A surprising and experimental pocket of nature has popped up in the middle of a heavily trafficked intersection in Copenhagen , Denmark. Danish architect Simon Hjermind Jensen of SHJWorks recently unveiled “Biotope,” a sculptural pavilion that houses a microcosm of plants and insects. Sixty different seeds have been sown into the soil, and a beehive has been attached inside the installation to foster a thriving and evolving ecosystem of activity for the enjoyment of passersby. Created in the likeness of a primitive organism or bacteria, Biotope comprises a translucent shell made from a 4-millimeter-thick polycarbonate membrane that is set in a curved concrete bowl with a rim thick enough to double as bench seating. The installation measures 7 meters in length, 4 meters in width and 3 meters in height at its tallest point. The bowl collects rainwater and directs the water through the small holes in the polycarbonate membrane toward the soil within, thus creating what the designers call a “self-watering greenhouse.” Located near a train station, Biotope will be seen by many pedestrians, cyclists and motorists daily who will have the opportunity to observe the evolution of the greenhouse over its three-year installation period. Neither maintenance activity nor other interference will take place inside the shell during this period; the public will also not be allowed to access the interior. The shell’s site-specific form is optimized for views from the three lane road. Related: This hand-built island is the start of Copenhagen’s “parkipelago” of floating public spaces “Our climate will change,” SHJWorks said. “And maybe we will integrate plants and biological microcosms in our future dwellings and cities. Most likely there will be more harsh and exposed environment on our planet. And we ask ourselves if a solution will be to create microclimates where we — like the bees in this project — have our homes connected to and intertwined with?” + SHJWorks Images via SHJWorks

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An experimental greenhouse pops up at a busy Copenhagen intersection

Valuable wetlands are disappearing 3 times faster than forests, new study warns

September 28, 2018 by  
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Wetlands around the world are disappearing at an alarming rate. New research shows that these valuable ecosystems are vanishing at a rate three times that of forests . Unless significant changes are made, the disappearance of wetlands could cause severe damage around the globe. The Global Wetland Outlook , which was completed by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, found that more than a third of the wetlands on Earth have disappeared over a 45-year period. The pace that wetlands are vanishing jumped significantly after the year 2000, and regions all over the planet were impacted equally. Unfortunately, there is a handful of reasons why wetlands are diminishing around the world. This includes climate change , urbanization, human population growth and variable consumption patterns, all of which have contributed to the way land is used. Related: Natural wetland in India filters 198 million gallons of wastewater a day with zero chemicals There are several different types of wetlands found on Earth, including marshes, lakes, peatlands and rivers. Lagoons, coral reefs , mangroves and estuaries also fall into the wetland category. In total, wetlands take up more than 12.1 million square kilometers, an area larger than Greenland. Wetlands are crucial, because they provide almost all of the world’s access to freshwater — something that is key to survival. Humans also use wetlands for hydropower and medicines. From an environmental perspective, wetlands help retain carbon and regulate global warming . They also serve as the ecosystems for 40 percent of living species on Earth, providing food, water, breeding spaces and raw materials for these animals to live. If the wetlands keep vanishing at the current rate, many species will go as well. “The Global Wetland Outlook is a wake-up call — not only on the steep rate of loss of the world’s wetlands but also on the critical services they provide. Without them, the global agenda on sustainable development will not be achieved,” said Martha Rojas Urrego, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. “We need urgent collective action to reverse trends on wetland loss and degradation and secure both the future of wetlands and our own survival at the same time.” With wetlands in danger of disappearing, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands has pledged to make saving these regions a top priority. The parties involved with the group have targeted 2,300 sites for protection and hope to expand that to include more wetlands around the globe. + Ramsar Convention on Wetlands Image via Jeanethe Falvey / EPA

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Valuable wetlands are disappearing 3 times faster than forests, new study warns

Hanoi’s koi cafe has a thriving ecosystem complete with an aquaponic garden

December 12, 2017 by  
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From the outside, this café in Hanoi, Vietnam looks fairly traditional with a tile façade that resembles fish scales and a heavy wood door. But inside hides a thriving garden centered around a koi pond. Farming Architects designed the space as a small, self-contained ecosystem with an indoor waterfall and an aquaponic vegetable garden. The café is nestled in an existing three-story building in Hanoi to which the architects added a steel frame. Its ground floor houses the fish pond filled with colorful koi carp, known as the Japanese national fish. The seating area next to it provides direct views of the water. Customers can also walk around the pond along a stepping stone walkway. Related: Bangkok Residents Turn Abandoned Mall into a Giant Fish Pond The architects included an indoor waterfall flowing down into the pond as a reference to an old Chinese legend according to which if a carp could leap over a waterfall on the Yellow River, called the Dragon Gate, it would be transformed into a dragon and fly away. It also helps oxygenate the water for the fish. The rooftop garden and the pond function as a single ecosystem. Excrements produced by the koi carp are used to create nutrients for the plants growing in the garden on the third floor. Produce grown here is used in preparing the dishes served in the café and helps purify the water that flows back into the aquarium. + Farming Architects Via Dezeen Photos by Nguyen Thai Thach

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Hanoi’s koi cafe has a thriving ecosystem complete with an aquaponic garden

The threatened Great Barrier Reef is estimated to be worth $42 billion

June 26, 2017 by  
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Our unsustainable habits are propelling climate change , and as a result, the Great Barrier Reef is under immense environmental stress.  Coral bleaching has reached record levels and no one knows if or when the coral will ever recover. This is concerning not just from an environmental perspective, but, as a new report by Deloitte Access Economics shows, that loss of the reef would represent an “economic catastrophe” as it is estimated to be worth $56 billion (AUS), or $42 billion (USD). As water temperatures rise, the coral expels algae living within, causing it to turn ghostly white (a phenomenon known as coral bleaching). Though consumers everywhere are changing their habits to reduce greenhouse emissions and prevent global warming from worsening, no one knows for sure how long it will take — or even if — the bleached portions will bounce back. To determine that the Great Barrier Reef’s economic worth, the report took into consideration a few factors. All in all, it was concluded that $29 Billion (AUS) is generated from the tourism industry — including the creation of 64,000 jobs, $24 billion (AUS) to indirect or non-use value (describing people who have heard of the reef but haven’t yet visited) and $3 billion (AUS) from recreational use, such as boating. Commissioned by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, the report is the first in the world to calculate the economic value of the reef.   Survey answers from 1,500 Australian and international respondents from 10 countries were taken into account and ended up revealing the extent to which some people have come to depend on the Unesco World Heritage Site. Said U.S. politician and environmentalist Al Gore in the report , “This timely report is a much needed, holistic view of the incredible economic value and opportunities provided by the Great Barrier Reef. Any failure to protect this indispensable natural resource would have profound impacts not only to Australia but around the world.” Related: Rising ocean temperatures are cooking the Great Barrier Reef to death According to Great Barrier Reef Foundation director Steve Sargent, the report “sends a clear message that the Great Barrier Reef—as an ecosystem , as an economic driver, as a global treasure—is too big to fail.” He added that at $42 billion (USD), “the reef is valued at more than 12 Sydney Opera Houses.” Located off the coast of Queensland, Australia, the largest coral reef system in the world isn’t just affected by warming waters. As Gizmodo reports, farming runoff, urban development. cyclic outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish and boating accidents are also damaging the reef at an increasing rate. Experts are presently collaborating to find solutions which will preserve the Great Barrier Reef. Ideas so far include the construction of coral nurseries, increasing the efficiency of starfish culls and cutting greenhouse gas emissions to prevent a further increase in sea surface temperatures. + Deloitte Via Gizmodo Images via Pixabay  ( 1 , 2 )

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Researchers record fish "singing" choruses at the break of dawn in Australia

September 23, 2016 by  
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Fish don’t just sing in cartoons or picture books – it turns out their choruses can also be heard in the coastal waters of Western Australia , especially at dawn or sunset. Curtin University researchers captured seven distinct melodies, and say the fish songs could help us better understand their ecosystems . Four researchers from Curtin University’s Centre for Marine Science and Technology wrote a research article published this month in the journal Bioacoustics . They recorded fish sounds near Port Hedland for 18 months. Sorting through sounds of ships and humpback whales, they managed to extract the fish choruses, which happened mostly between ” late spring and early autumn ,” the area’s wet season. Related: 400-year-old Arctic shark is the oldest living vertebrate animal in the world The songs swell as each fish repeats a noise over and over, and the sounds layered over one another create the chorus. The fish even sing at daybreak, at sunset, or at both times as birds might. The information on patterns and locations of these fish calls could give us deeper insight into their intricate ecosystems. Noises like these are important to fish as they feed, stake out their territory, or reproduce. Scientist Robert McCauley who is a co-author of the paper told New Scientist, “I’ve been listening to fish squawks, burble, and pops for nearly 30 years now, and they still amaze me with their variety. We are only just beginning to appreciate the complexity involved and still have only a crude idea of what is going on in the undersea acoustic environment.” You can listen to the fish choruses here . The sounds you’ll hear come from the Black Jewfish, which makes a “foghorn” sound; a Terapontid species making a sound like the “buzzer in the Operation board game” according to co-author Miles Parsons; and the “ba-ba-ba” sound of a batfish. Via New Scientist Images via gjhamley on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Researchers record fish "singing" choruses at the break of dawn in Australia

Microplastics are killing fish faster than they can reproduce

June 8, 2016 by  
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There are 5 trillion pieces of plastic floating around in the Earth’s oceans, many of which are microplastics no larger than 5 mm large. These tiny particles are being gobbled up by fish and killing them faster than they can reproduce . A new study found that consuming the plastic pieces also slows fish down and interferes with their natural abilities to sense oncoming predators. The study , published in Science , observed perch larvae and their eating habits. When in the presence of microplastics, such as microbeads , the little guys actually preferred eating these harmful morsels over their usual meals of plankton. Ingesting the plastics slowed down development and interfered with the chemical signals the fish rely upon to sense when deadly predators are near. When pike were introduced into habitats where perch had been munching on microplastics, the perch were four times more likely to be eaten than those in a more natural environment. Related: Sea turtles face growing danger due to plastic trash in Australian waters Not only does ingesting plastic impede digestive systems with the fish, as well as with seabirds and other creatures, it seems there are longer-lasting effects on how the fish behave. All of these effects combined lead to increased mortality rates. In fact, all of the fish exposed to microplastics in the study were dead within 48 hours. Oona Lönnstedt, one of the study’s authors, told The Guardian , “If early life-history stages of other species are similarly affected by microplastics, and this translates to increased mortality rates, the effects on aquatic ecosystems could be profound.” Via  The Guardian Images via Flickr ( 1 , 2 )

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Microplastics are killing fish faster than they can reproduce

Is climate change causing Alaskan seabirds to starve to death?

January 13, 2016 by  
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The shores of Alaska’s Prince William Sound are littered with the carcasses of tens of thousands of seabirds  after a mass die-off that scientists say could be caused by climate change. Federal wildlife officials say the birds, all of a species known as the common murre, starved to death. That’s a clear indication that their food supply has been disrupted, but even the experts aren’t exactly sure why. Read the rest of Is climate change causing Alaskan seabirds to starve to death?

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What looks like giant white crystals is actually a lake house in Western Massachusetts

January 13, 2016 by  
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Polar bears are getting dosed with Prozac to keep them calm in captivity

January 13, 2016 by  
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A visit to the zoo wouldn’t be complete without a stop by the polar bear enclosure. Seeing the majestic creatures padding about and docilely swimming up to kids as they peer through the glass may seem like a wonderful experience for a paying guest – yet these behaviors go against everything polar bears are programmed to do. Social isolation, boredom, and living in an enclosure that’s a fraction of what their normal habitat range would be in the Arctic causes bears and other captive animals to quite literally become mentally ill . So prescribing antidepressants and other medications to zoo animals has become a common practice. One that some zoos don’t want the public to know about. Read the rest of Polar bears are getting dosed with Prozac to keep them calm in captivity

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