30 new marine species found in Galapagos’ deep seas

September 9, 2020 by  
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The  Galapagos  Islands are famous for several endemic species that evolved to fit the exact niche required to live on rocky islands 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean. Now, marine scientists have found 30 new species deep beneath the ocean’s surface around the Galapagos.  Using cutting-edge remote operated vehicles (ROV), expedition crews from the  Charles Darwin Foundation , the  Galapagos National Park Directorate and the  Ocean Exploration Trust  explored seamounts as far down as 3,400 meters. Seamounts are extinct underwater  mountains  entirely covered by seawater. Until now, the Galapagos seamounts were largely unexplored. Related: Iguanas reintroduced to island after 200 years The 30 newly identified species include 10 bamboo corals, 11 sponges, four squat lobsters and a brittle star. Scientists also found four new octocorals. Commonly known as sea fans, octocorals are polyp-bearing  corals . One of the four new octocorals is the first giant solitary soft coral found in the Tropical Eastern Pacific. These new research findings come from a 10-day cruise on the 64-meter research vessel the E/V Nautilus. Scientists manipulated arms on the ship’s two ROVs to collect biological and geological specimens. After the expedition, the team sent these samples to deep-sea experts for identification and analysis. “The many discoveries made on this expedition showcase the importance of deep-sea exploration to developing an understanding of our oceans and the power of telepresence to build a diverse team of experts,” Dr. Nicole Raineault, chief scientist of the Ocean Exploration Trust, said in a press release. “Since we never know what we’re going to find, we utilize land-based scientists who watch the ROV dives from home and communicate directly with the shipboard team in real time, to help determine what is truly new and worthy of further investigation or sampling. Scientists studying the resulting video, data, and specimens make an astonishing number of discoveries, reminding us how little we know about the deep  sea .” The new deep-sea dwelling creatures will never become as familiar to visitors as more visible endemic species, such as the Galapagos penguin, giant  tortoises and marine iguanas. Still, these species hint at the many mysteries dwelling in Earth’s oceans. + Charles Darwin Foundation Via EcoWatch Images via Ocean Exploration Trust/Nautilus Live and Pexels

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30 new marine species found in Galapagos’ deep seas

Indigenous Amazon communities use tech to protect the forest

August 12, 2020 by  
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Indigenous communities in Brazil leverage technology to protect the Amazon and its resources. For a long time, Indigenous communities have protected the forest from illegal loggers and poachers. As aerial images show, the lush areas protected by Indigenous groups sharply contrast the struggling surrounding regions. The Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau tribe, located in a remote area of the Amazon, specifically makes strong efforts to protect the forest. The Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau tribe’s work is not isolated. Hundreds of Indigenous communities across South America help conserve nature. South America serves as home to about 40% of the world’s vegetation. Indigenous groups offer surveillance to areas of forests targeted for developments, farming, mining or logging. As Bitaté Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau, coordinator of the Association of the Indigenous People Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau, said in an interview, “When they kill a jaguar it is the same as they will do with indigenous people in the future. Killing the jaguar, they also kill us like deforestation , mining, intoxication. It gives me deep sadness to receive the news that a jaguar has been killed. We don’t kill the jaguar. When we see the jaguar in his habitat it is a beautiful thing to see, we just admire the presence.” The Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau and other local groups now use drones to survey the forests. Such technology makes it possible for the villagers to monitor large areas of the forest and navigate tough terrain. Communities in Brazil, Peru and Ecuador are quickly adopting this technology for similar purposes. The Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau tribe first came into contact with the outside world in the 1990s. Since then, the tribe has integrated technology into its forest management practices. Today, one of the nine Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau tribe villages has wifi connection, while four other villages have electricity. The  WWF UK  in association with WWF Brazil and  Kaninde Association of Ethno-Environmental Protection  funded the drones used by the tribes. Kaninde, a Brazilian NGO, works with Indigenous communities to integrating technology into forest conservation efforts. Via Independent Image via Pexels

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Cod are disappearing due to global warming

August 12, 2020 by  
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Cod lovers might have to change their preferences soon. According to new research published in the  Journal of Applied Ecology , global warming may cause a decline in cod populations. Cod thrive in cool water, and global warming pushes the species to the brink of extinction. A group of scientists from the University of Bristol and the University of Exter, in collaboration with the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquatic Science (Cefas) conducted this research. The researchers used computer models to predict how fish populations may change by 2090.  Research now indicates that cod may need to be replaced by species more resistant to climate change . Cod serves as a favorite for fish and chips, but as cod populations decline, new species may need to step up. Species such as the red mullet, John Dory, and lemon sole rank as possible candidates to replace cod on menus. These species thrive in warm water and are starting to appear more frequently in catches, in contrast to decreasing numbers of cod. “Our results show that climate change will continue to affect fish stocks within this sea region into the future, presenting both potential risks but some opportunities that fishers will likely have to adapt to. Consumers can help fishers take advantage of these fishing opportunities by seeking out other fish species to eat and enjoy,” Dr. Katherine Maltby, marine climate change scientist at Cefas and the study’s lead author, said. Earlier research from the Plymouth Marine Laboratory warned that larger North Sea fish populations may fall by up to 60%. This decline comes alongside reports of the North Sea heating at a rate double that of average world oceans . Last year, the North Sea hit a new record of heating by 1.67 degrees Celsius over the past 45 years.  Reducing global warming’s impacts on the fish in these waters will require new fish management techniques. As Louise Rutterford, co-author of the Cefas study and a postgraduate researcher at the University of Exeter, explained, “We know from working with fishers that warmer water species are appearing in catches more. Bringing together their ‘on-the-ground’ experiences with studies like ours will help inform future management decisions that enable sustainable exploitation while supporting fishers’ adaptation.” + Journal of Applied Ecology Via Independent and The Ecologist Image via Per Harald Olsen

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A playful home built of recycled materials takes in sunrise views in Ecuador

August 19, 2019 by  
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Built largely from recycled materials, the home that architect Daniel Moreno Flores recently completed for an artistically inclined client in Ecuador oozes playfulness and creativity as well as a reduced environmental footprint. Located in the town of Pifo less than an hour’s drive east from Quito, the House of the Flying Tiles is strategically sited to embrace views. The house is named after its massive installation of hanging tiles — reclaimed and new — placed at the entrance to create visual interest and help shield the glass-walled home from unwanted solar heat gain. When deciding where to place the home, Flores began with a site study. Along with the client, he arrived early at the site to observe the direction of the sunrise and the best positions for framing landscape views. To make the home look “as if it had always been there,” Flores also let the site-specific placement of the home be informed by the existing trees and fauna. No trees were removed during the construction process. Related: This staggered, residential tower is draped with greenery in Quito “The house is oriented to the view, for the contemplation of the mountain, of the neighborhoods, and of all the plants and trees of the place,” Flores explained. “These spaces seek an intensification in the relationship with some externalities such as the mountain, the low vegetation, the sky and with the Guirachuro (a kind of bird of the place).” Using a mix of new materials and reclaimed wood and tiles from three houses in Quito , the architect created a 130-square-meter home with three main spaces: a double-height living area that opens up to an outdoor reading terrace and connects to a mezzanine office space; the bedroom area that overlooks mountain views; and the ground-floor bathroom that is built around an existing tree. The roofs of the structure are also designed to be accessible to create a variety of vantage points for enjoying the landscape. + Daniel Moreno Flores Photography by JAG Studio , Santiago Vaca Jaramillo and Daniel Moreno Flores

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Sunflower-inspired tower design envelopes urban residents in mini forests

May 7, 2019 by  
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Concerned by the rampant growth of cities across Latin America and the loss of endemic species, Ecuadorian design studio oficina de Diseño (odD+) has proposed the Sunflower Tower, a conceptual residential building inspired by the seeds and petals of a sunflower. Proposed for Quito , the Sunflower Tower has been envisioned as a “vertical ecosystem” with lush, self-sustaining planters located on every floor of the high-rise. As a result, the building would offer year-round interest and natural air purification as well as food and habitat for local birds and insects. Currently in the design development phase, the Sunflower Tower was created as a residential high-rise spanning a little over 77,000 square feet. The multifaceted facade is defined by a series of arches backed by floor-to-ceiling glazing for panoramic views of the city. The balconies directly in front of the arches support lush gardens, while the facade’s protruding opaque elements provide protection from the sun. “Sunflower Tower utilizes its equatorial context to become a depository of plant and animal life in the city,” the architects explained. “With the ability to thrive all year round, incorporating a self-sustaining ecosystem into the built environment reduces the tower’s carbon footprint  and creates a constant and direct connection with nature, as every apartment is surrounded by its own mini forest in the midst of a dense urban setting. This creates a unique user experience, and changes the typical urban backdrop by adding a layer of nature to the lens.” Related: This staggered, residential tower is draped with greenery in Quito The interiors have been envisioned with a minimalist and contemporary aesthetic where even the private rooms, such as the bedroom and bathroom, look out across views of the gardens and city. The material palette’s muted colors keep the focus on the outdoors. The building is topped with a landscaped terrace and lounge space. + oficina de Diseño (odD+) Photography by Julia Bogdan via oficina de Diseño (odD+)

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Iguanas reintroduced to island after 200 years

January 15, 2019 by  
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In 1835, Charles Darwin was the last person to officially see a land iguana on Santiago Island in the Galapagos. After that encounter, predators like the feral pig wiped the lizard population out of that location. Now — nearly two centuries later —  an initiative by the Galapagos National Park authority has reintroduced more than 1,400 land iguanas (Conolophus subcristatus) back to Santiago Island. Authorities said in a recent statement that on January 3 and 4, the land iguanas were taken from neighboring North Seymour Island and introduced to the coastal regions Puerto Nuevo and Bucanero, which have similar ecosystems to the iguanas’ former home. The Galapagos Conservation Trust says that the archipelago’s land iguana population suffered when species like cats, rats, dogs and pigs were introduced. Those species prey on baby iguanas and eggs, plus they compete for food. Some cats even target adult iguanas up to four years old. But, the last feral pig on Santiago Island was eradicated in 2000 as part of the Galapagos Conservancy’s Project Isabela, and the island became officially pig-free in 2004. Related: Endangered green and loggerhead turtles make Mediterranean comeback The Santiago Island iguana reintroduction initiative was in due to depleting vegetation on North Seymour Island, which was threatening also a main threat to the food source of more than 5,000 iguanas. However, some lizards did remain to avoid compromising the existing vegetation . “The land iguana is a herbivore that helps ecosystems by dispersing seeds and maintaining open areas free from vegetation,” says Galapagos ecosystems director Danny Rueda. Authorities will continue to monitor the iguanas that have been reintroduced to the Galapagos island in order to determine if the iguanas are properly adapting and creating nests, and also to see if they are finding necessary food. They will also keep a close eye on newer species found on the island, such as rodents and ants, to make sure they are not disturbing the iguanas’ nests. Galapagos National Park Director Jorge Carrión said on Twitter that reintroducing the iguanas to Santiago Island was “great news for #Galapagos, for #Ecuador, and the world.” Via CNN Image by 8moments

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An adaptable timber house celebrates recycling in Ecuador

January 11, 2019 by  
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Ecuadorian architecture firm Natura Futura Arquitectura has teamed up with Frontera Sur Arquitectura to develop an inspiring example of social architecture in the town of Huaquillas, Ecuador. Dubbed La Comuna, the project is a double-story timber structure that not only provides a local family a place to live but also a safer work environment for them to continue their recycling business. The building was constructed with six easily replicable modules that take inspiration from the local vernacular with its “chazas”, or latticed screens. Commissioned by a foundation and private company, the architects were asked to create a live-work building that would also be held up as an inspirational landmark for the city, which suffers from a reputation of poor sanitation. To that end, the design studios created a two-story building with a community-facing ground floor that houses the recycling workspaces, while the upper level houses the private living spaces. The structural system is based on a 3-meter-by-4-meter module, with each floor made up of three modules. “’La Comuna’ becomes a milestone for the city, due to the transformation process it had, with a history of unhealthiness and contamination,” the team explained in a project statement. “The project communicates a discourse through its facade with a message, generating reflection between the private and the public through architecture and recycling. The wood is used by the tradition of the existing buildings in the area, the application of shafts or lattices contribute in the construction of the building.” Related: LOT-EK upcycles 140 shipping containers into an apartment complex in South Africa In contrast to the open workspace in the ground floor, the living quarters on the upper level are screened off for privacy. The operable timber latticed screens were also designed to spell out the word “RECICLA” (recycle) when closed. Inside, the home is engineered for flexibility with walls set on wheels and movable furniture that give the family freedom to reconfigure their living quarters as they please. + Natura Futura Arquitectura Via ArchDaily Images via Natura Futura Arquitectura

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This staggered, residential tower is draped with greenery in Quito

October 4, 2018 by  
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Acclaimed architecture firm Safdie Architects has been tapped to design a new residential tower that’s expected to be one of the tallest in Quito , Ecuador. Rising to 24 stories, the eye-catching project — dubbed Qorner — features a staggered tower with large garden terraces on every floor. Created in collaboration with local construction firm Uribe & Schwarzkopf, the striking high-rise will also feature operable glass walls for residents to embrace indoor-outdoor living and take advantage of Quito’s year-round temperate temperatures. Oriented to face the city’s central park, La Carolina, at the corner of the popular shopping street Avenida Portugal, Qorner mirrors the neighboring park’s lush environment in its design. In addition to the double-height garden terraces on each floor, the north facade of the building is partly covered with a dramatic living wall planted with native vegetation. A tree-lined infinity-edge swimming pool and garden top the roof. The projecting terraces on the east and west faces of the tower help shield full-height glazed openings from the sun and create a variety of double-height corner terraces that boast views in multiple directions. Perimeter concrete walls and columns as well as a central stabilization core were used to create a column-free interior with maximum flexibility. Related: Nature-inspired housing mimics the curvature of the landscape in Chongqing “We pride ourselves on developing projects unique to the place and program, and at the same time, incorporating principles that have long guided our work,” Moshe Safdie said. “While our projects around the world are diverse, our principles remain steadfast for each one: access to green space , the maximization of daylight and views in each dwelling, and fostering a sense of a ‘vertical neighborhood’ wherein each apartment forms part of a greater whole.” The Qorner is slated for completion in 2020. + Safdie Architects Images via Safdie Architects

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This staggered, residential tower is draped with greenery in Quito

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"

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