One-third of the world’s protected areas face ‘shocking’ human impact

May 18, 2018 by  
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Bad news for wildlife: 2.3 million square miles of protected areas around the world face human pressure from activities like road building, urbanization, or grazing, according to a new study . Lead author Kendall Jones, a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland , said in a statement , “We found major road infrastructure such as highways, industrial agriculture, and even entire cities occurring inside the boundaries of places supposed to be set aside for nature conservation .” Millions of square miles “have this level of human influence that is harmful to the species they are trying to protect,” University of Queensland professor James Watson told the BBC . “It is not passive, it’s not agnostic; it is harmful and that is quite shocking.” Scientists at the University of Queensland, University of Northern British Columbia , and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) teamed up for the study, described as a reality check, that was recently published in the journal Science . Related: Chile creates five new national parks from 10 million acres of land in historic act Watson said that governments claim the areas are protected “when in reality they aren’t.” Even though more land has been protected in the last few decades, the lack of real protection is a major reason for  biodiversity ‘s continued, catastrophic decline. There was a ray of hope in the study’s findings: protected areas that have strict biodiversity conservation objectives in place tend to experience less human pressure. WCS listed the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary in Cambodia, the Yasuni Biosphere Reserve in Ecuador, and the Madidi National Park in Bolivia as examples. Watson said, “We know protected areas work — when well-funded, well-managed and well placed, they are extremely effective in halting the threats that cause biodiversity loss and ensure species return from the brink of extinction . There are also many protected areas that are still in good condition and protect the last strongholds of endangered species worldwide. The challenge is to improve the management of those protected areas that are most valuable for nature conservation to ensure they safeguard it.” + Wildlife Conservation Society + University of Queensland + Science Via the BBC Image via Depositphotos

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One-third of the world’s protected areas face ‘shocking’ human impact

Bering Sea ice is "at record low levels for this time of year"

May 18, 2018 by  
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Arctic sea ice is low, with the Bering Sea’s ice extent “the lowest recorded since at least 1979,” according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). This reflects a larger overall trend: in April, Arctic sea ice covered an area 378,400 square miles below the 1981 to 2010 average. According to Alaska-based meteorologist Rick Thoman, Bering Sea ice extent “is five percent of normal” for the middle of May, and “there is almost nothing left except for near shore ice in protected areas.” The worrisome part of all this? There are still four months to go in the Arctic’s melt season. NSIDC provided information on Arctic sea ice extent in April of this year, and said 2016 and 2018 essentially tied “for lowest April sea ice extent on record.” Barents Sea and Bering Sea ice extent was below average, as it was during the 2017 to 2018 winter. According to Earther , the Bering Sea has been something of a ground zero for crazy ice, with sea ice disappearing when it was supposed to be growing in February, rebounding slightly in March, and then plummeting in April. Bering Sea ice extent is 5% of normal for mid-May and there is almost nothing left except for near shore ice in protected areas. Chukchi Sea ice extent also at record low, with open water now north of 71N. #akwx #Arctic @Climatologist49 @ZLabe @lisashefguy @amy_holman pic.twitter.com/Ur7UmoptgL — Rick Thoman (@AlaskaWx) May 17, 2018 Related: Extreme Arctic warmth deeply concerning, scientists say Warm oceans have played a role in the dive of Bering Sea ice levels; University of Alaska Fairbanks climate researcher Brian Brettschneider told Earther that “Bering Sea SSTs [sea surface temperatures] have been at record or near record levels for months now. This represents a strong positive feedback. Warm waters are hard to freeze, which then allows for more solar absorption.” And Bering Sea ice typically protects Chukchi Sea ice. When Bering Sea ice disappeared in February, open water seeped into the Chukchi Sea — an event that has probably only happened in one other winter on record. + National Snow and Ice Data Center Via Earther Images via Depositphotos and the National Snow and Ice Data Center

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Bering Sea ice is "at record low levels for this time of year"

Millions of insect species will go extinct before we even discover them

December 14, 2017 by  
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Only 200 years ago did humans begin to systematically categorize the species, and within that relatively small stretch, we’ve recorded about 2 million species of plants, animals, fungi. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. By some estimates, we still have another 2 million to uncover, and by others, there are upwards of 100 million left to be classified. However, with deforestation, sprawl, and, above all, climate change putting the planet in jeopardy, scientists believe millions of species will die off before we will even encounter them. And the implications of this are far-reaching. For several decades, scientists have warned that we are headed into, or may even be experiencing, the sixth mass extinction . As The Guardian notes , there have been five other instances like this in the past, including the end-Cretaceous extinction, which led to the demise of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. However, to know for certain if we’re amidst doom and gloom, scientists need to determine the rate at which species are disappearing, and when human activity is factored in, how by how much this rate increases. Related: Plummeting insect population signals potential “ecological Armageddon” Previous studies have deemed humans to indeed be major drivers, possibly causing animal species to go extinct “up to 100 times” faster because of human activity, as one  team of American and Mexican scientists  found. However, Terry Erwin, a world-renowned tropical entomologist, says that the data that has historically been used in these studies is wholly incomplete and “biased towards a very small portion of biodiversity.” Rather, if scientists want an accurate picture of existing conditions, they need to look beyond vertebrates to invertebrates like worms, snails, spiders, octopuses, and most importantly insects, which account for about 70 percent of the Earth’s living creatures. Indeed, only one in 200 of all known species is a mammal. With that said, to determine the true rate of extinction of species on Earth, you need to determine the scale of the insect kingdom—and this is the biggest challenge. While the scope of the insect population is still being explored, The Guardian does cite a “breakthrough” that’s offered some insight into what we’re dealing with. In 1982, Erwin headed to a rainforest in Panama with the goal of determining how many species of insect lived on average across one acre of forest. He chose one tree, which he draped in sheeting and used blasts of insecticide to fog the bugs out. Over several hours, as the insects evacuated the tree onto the sheeting, Erwin was able to collect 1,200 species of bugs, of which he later determined more than 100 of which were exclusive to that one tree. From those findings, he averaged that there are about 41,000 different species per hectare of rainforest, and in turn 30 million species worldwide. The estimates, however, he now deems conservative and suspects the number could actually be between 80 and 200 million, but adds that tens of thousands of them are probably disappearing annually without us even knowing. Of no surprise, climate change is being pinned as the fundamental driver of the great insect die off. Scientists have even noticed drops in the virgin forests of Ecuador and places where insecticides aren’t being used and humans have not cut down a single tree. As the Guardian writes, based on data collected, Erwin and his collaborators have found that the Amazon rainforest has been slowly dying out over the last 35 years. “[If the forest goes out] everything that lives in it will be affected,” he told the site. The disappearance of insect life on Earth would surely mean the end of all life on Earth. Insects are responsible for the planet’s course of evolution from flowering plants to food chains and are key to keeping those systems functioning. As EO Wilson, a celebrated Harvard entomologist, and inventor of sociobiology, tells The Guardian, humanity would last all of a few months without insects and other land-based arthropods. “After that, most of the amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals would go, along with the flowering plants. The planet would become an immense compost heap, covered in shoals of carcasses and dead trees that refused to rot. Briefly, fungi would bloom in untold numbers. Then, they too would die off. The Earth would revert to what it was like in the Silurian period, 440m years ago, when life was just beginning to colonise the soil – a spongy, silent place, filled with mosses and liverworts, waiting for the first shrimp brave enough to try its luck on land.” Via The Guardian Images via MaxPixel and Wiki Commons

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Millions of insect species will go extinct before we even discover them

Rammed earth Palenque Cultural Tambillo is designed to celebrate Afro-ecuadorean arts

December 8, 2016 by  
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Caá Porá , Siete86 and Ingeniera Alternativa designed a cultural center in the UNESCO heritage province of Esmeraldas to celebrate Afroecuadorean culture, marimba music, and traditional dance. Proposed for Tambillo, Ecuador, the center, named Palenque Cultural Tambillo , would give the community a dedicated place to express their heritage, pass down their musical traditions to their children, and share their culture with tourists. The design comprises a collection of buildings built using local techniques, as well as ecologically friendly materials and energy efficient principles to keep operating costs at a minimum. https://vimeo.com/172954061 The Afroecuadorean town of Tambillo is located in the “region of the marimba,” a type of percussionist folk music that UNESCO has described as an intangible heritage of humanity. Unfortunately, those celebrated traditions are at risk due to intra-generational learning gaps and insufficient rehearsal and performance facilities. Palenque Cultural Tambillo was created to help continue those artistic traditions and was designed through a series of participatory research and design workshops with the Tambillo community in October 2015. Related: UNESCO announces winning design for the Bamiyan Cultural Center in Afghanistan The final design comprises the performance center, located in the main building, and a cluster of smaller buildings for workshops and classrooms. The performance center would feature a dance floor made from packed sand and opens on one side to the mangroves for natural ventilation , light, and to acknowledge the important role the environment plays in culture. The building frames would be made from locally harvested wood and topped with palm thatch roofs. All walls would be made from rammed earth with crushed oyster shells and clamshells. It’s unclear if the project has been funded or will be built. + Palenque Cultural Tambillo Via ArchDaily

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Rammed earth Palenque Cultural Tambillo is designed to celebrate Afro-ecuadorean arts

Non-profit creates open-source drinking water filter for 1/10th of the cost

December 6, 2016 by  
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The high-tech vision of open-source software meets low-tech design at non-profit organization OHorizons,  an international coalition of  innovators working to solve persistent global challenges. The team’s most recent invention is the open-source Wood Mold, designed to allow even the least experienced person to create a BioSand Filter that can deliver clean water at 1/10th of the cost of the traditional method. The Wood Mold is designed to be accessible by anyone who has  the DIY , open-source construction manual that OHorizons offers for free online. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dwX9oXcrvc The team of technical, social, and commercial professionals  at OHorizons creates simple, easily implemented, low-tech applications that empower communities without the need for external capital or expertise.When designing new products, they follow certain principles to ensure wide adoption. The design must be simple, low-cost, locally sourced, flexible to meet the needs of different communities, and open-source (available to the public, non-proprietary). As such, the Wood Mold is accessible by anyone via the open-source, online construction manual. Literacy, technical skills, or electricity is not required, though the user needs some way to acquire the blueprint. OHorizons collaborates with local organizations that are already active in local community development, including LEDARS Bangladesh , which supports the construction and distribution of the Wood Mold manual in that country. OHorizons also supports projects in Ecuador, Kenya , and Mali. Related: Researchers design cheap mercury-free LED foil to purify water Over the past year and a half, over 400 people or organizations have downloaded the Wood Mold Construction Manual to create their own locally sourced BioSand filters. As a result of these distributed Wood Molds and the collaborative work to utilize them, 5,500 people have gained access to  sustainable safe drinking water access in their homes in 2016. Based on their success so far, OHorizons has set the ambitious goal of providing 1 million people in Bangladesh with safe drinking water access, via the Wood Mold BioSand filters, by 2021. + OHorizons

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Non-profit creates open-source drinking water filter for 1/10th of the cost

Shipping container home in Ecuador dismantles like a clock for easy transport

August 29, 2016 by  
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When the owner of this home was a kid he wanted to decipher the mechanisms of old clocks; as he grew older, his passion for mechanics continued with motorbikes and landrovers. So it’s natural that he wanted a utilitarian home he could also dismantle just like the elements of a clock. The whole house is designed for disassembly , meaning it can be broken into modules and transported to a different location if necessary. Related: Kurgo’s bright orange shipping container office is a haven for dogs To highlight the containers ‘ legacy, and with it their scratches and dents, the architects removed the factory paint from their exterior skin. In contrast, the interiors were painted sanitary white or clad in light wood, making them more habitable. These design decisions, along with large windows everywhere, indoor-outdoor patios, and a balcony on the top floor, fill the industrial home with natural light, air circulation while enhancing its connection with the peaceful Ecuadorian outdoors. + Daniel Moreno Flores Via Homedsgn

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The sustainable, hilltop home in Ecuador built in 75 days

January 19, 2016 by  
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Human-powered sky bike lets you fly through Ecuador’s cloud forest

February 25, 2015 by  
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The Mashpi Lodge in Quito, Ecuador is a hideaway in the clouds. Tucked away in the 3,200 acre orchid-filled Mashpi Rainforest Biodiversity Reserve, is a glass-walled lodge . Guests at the lodge can now explore the Andean Cloudforest by Sky Bike. If you’re brave enough, you can take this human-powered, two-seat bike across the Cloudforest and see the canopy of the rainforest up close. Read the rest of Human-powered sky bike lets you fly through Ecuador’s cloud forest Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: andean cloudforest , biodiversiy reserve , cloud forest , cloudforest , ecotourism ecuador , Ecuador architecture , ecuador forest , ecuador sky bike , mashpi ecuador reserve , mashpi rainforest lodge , mashpi reserve , mashpi retreat , quito ecuador , Sky Bike

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Human-powered sky bike lets you fly through Ecuador’s cloud forest

5+design stacks a dramatic mountain-inspired mixed-use project atop a transit hub in Shenyang

February 25, 2015 by  
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Read the rest of 5+design stacks a dramatic mountain-inspired mixed-use project atop a transit hub in Shenyang Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: china , Diamond Hill , Michael Ellis , mixed use project , mixed-use , mountain-inspired architecture , mountain-like architecture , mountain-like building , shenyang , SOHO lofts , sun mapping , sun path

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5+design stacks a dramatic mountain-inspired mixed-use project atop a transit hub in Shenyang

Breathtaking Mashpi Lodge Retreat Wins the 2014 World Travel Award for Leading Green Hotel in Ecuador

August 14, 2014 by  
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Read the rest of Breathtaking Mashpi Lodge Retreat Wins the 2014 World Travel Award for Leading Green Hotel in Ecuador Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: 2014 World travel award , Alfredo Ribadeneira , central america , Central American tourism , cloud forest , cloudforest , Diego Arteta , Eco Architecture , ecuador , ecuador forest , green design , lodge , mashpi , mashpi lodge , mashpi rainforest lodge , mashpi retreat , Quito , rainforest , retreat , sustainable design , sustainable lodge , world travel award

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Breathtaking Mashpi Lodge Retreat Wins the 2014 World Travel Award for Leading Green Hotel in Ecuador

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