University of Queensland wants to drop "bommies" on the Great Barrier Reef

July 25, 2018 by  
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Experts at the University of Queensland are experimenting with a new way of saving Australia’s Great Barrier Reef – one of the most endangered natural environments on the planet – and their strategy might surprise you. Researchers in the university’s Civil Engineering and Biological Sciences department have been salvaging portions of dead coral and recycling them into new structures. They hope that the project will not only protect still-active parts of the reef, but restore it with new life as well. University scientists are collaborating with engineering, science and technology consulting firm BMT to create netted structures that contain unstable rubble made up of dead coral, with the goal of transforming them into bombora. Bombora, or “bommies” as Australians have dubbed them, are large pillars of coral that serve as a habitat for myriad fish species and – when strategically positioned – may help repair the reef in a natural, non-invasive manner. Related: Australia is investing over $377 million to save the Great Barrier Reef The team has received funding from the Australian and Queensland governments that will allow it to commence pilot testing on the project. If the reef is not aided by external forces, it may not be able to survive the coral bleaching events of 2016 and 2017. While other projects have been suggested, including using giant fans in an attempt to cool down reef waters or developing films to shield the coral from increased sunlight exposure, the bommies would represent a more sustainable and natural endeavor. Professor Tom Baldock, who is working on the project, explains, “on a healthy reef, the wave energy is reduced by the coral structure, enabling broken coral to naturally bind to form a stable layer, initially through the growth of crustose coralline algae, or CCA. CCA helps bind coral rubble together to create the framework for reefs and releases chemicals which attract free-swimming coral larvae.” The research team is working hard in their race against the clock to establish this organic foundation and protect one of the Earth’s most beautiful yet endangered habitats. +University of Queensland Via NewAtlas

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University of Queensland wants to drop "bommies" on the Great Barrier Reef

Colombia to produce free chocolate deforestation-free, that is…

July 25, 2018 by  
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You’ll soon be able to enjoy your chocolate guilt-free. Colombia has become the first Latin American country and the third country in the world to commit to deforestation-free cocoa production. The government signed a pledge with the Cocoa and Forests Initiative, a movement intent on achieving this goal throughout all cocoa-producing nations. The country hopes to achieve this monumental goal in just under two years. The Casa Luker company, a cornerstone brand in Colombian chocolate manufacturing, has joined the pledge along with the National Cocoa Federation, and the initiative is spearheaded by the World Cocoa Foundation. These organizations are committed to helping Colombia achieve deforestation-free chocolate production by the year 2020. Colombia will join other member-nations Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana , making it the third country to engage in the anti-deforestation effort. Related: Australia’s rampant deforestation is killing koalas In 2017, Colombia faced “one of the most drastic losses of tree cover in the world,” according to Mongabay . In total, tropical countries lost forest grounds approximately the size of Bangladesh, and Colombia experienced a 46 percent rise in deforestation from the previous calendar year, losing about 1,640 square miles (or 4,250 square kilometers) of greenery. Not wanting this degradation to continue, the Colombian government has agreed to a Framework for Action subsisting of “11 core commitments, which include preventing deforestation and forest degradation; promoting the conservation of protected areas; respecting the rights of cocoa farmers and minimizing adverse social and economic impacts monitoring and reporting on the progress on commitments; ensuring transparency and accountability; and providing support to sustainable markets for cocoa products.” Related: First newly-developed chocolate in 80 years is made from Ruby cocoa beans Enthusiastic about the progress, Eduard Baquero López, president of the National Cocoa Federation, said, “There are many inspiring examples of cocoa production leading to forest protection and restoration; we wish to gain greater global market access for Colombia’s cocoa, which has such a distinctive quality and which is rare in contributing both to forest protection and to the peace. We hope the global consumer will come to enjoy their chocolate even more when they learn it protects the forests and delivers the peace!” + World Cocoa Foundation Via Mongabay

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The origami-like monocoque pavilion in London is shaped by its environment

July 25, 2018 by  
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A striking prefabricated  monocoque pavilion has popped up in London, bringing with it a social-enterprise cafe and multifunctional community space. Developed as part of the City of London Corporation’s transformation of the Aldgate gyrator into one of the largest public spaces in London’s Square Mile, the Portsoken Pavilion is a striking sculptural landmark that’s distinctive in its contemporary form yet sensitive to its heritage surroundings. Local architecture practice Make Architects designed the sculptural structure with a Corten canopy featuring large overhangs to provide solar shading and channel rainwater runoff. Spanning an area of nearly 3,500 square feet, the Portsoken Pavilion comprises a single light-filled level above ground as well as a basement area — reclaimed from former underground subway space — that houses plant, back-of-house facilities, kitchens and toilets. Local social enterprise Kahaila will run the pavilion’s cafe and multifunctional community space, which opens up to a new landscaped and pedestrian-friendly area. The origami-like roof is built from Corten cladding panels and folds down to touch the ground at three triangular support points; full-height glazing wraps around the exposed sides. Weathered steel was chosen as a nod to the brown brick of the Grade I-listed St. Botolph Without Aldgate church and the red brick Grade II-listed Sir John Cass’s Foundation Primary school that sit on either side of the new square. “The final scheme is beautiful — distinctive, yet respectful of the heritage architecture surrounding it,” said project architect Sarah Shuttleworth. “It provides a bespoke civic amenity and the ambition and determination of the City of London Corporation to persist and deliver the square and the pavilion  — despite the challenges — in order to transform this parcel of London for the benefit of the local community, should be applauded.” Related: Make Architects unveil igloo-shaped cinema made from reclaimed cardboard in London The three glazed elevations of the parametrically designed pavilion face the three key pedestrian approaches to the square. The structure was prefabricated and weathered off site before it was reassembled and welded in situ. The underside of the steelwork was sprayed with 150 millimeters of insulation to minimize heat loss, while the constant temperature of the concrete tunnels that run below the structure help regulate the temperature in the cafe year-round. + Make Architects Images via Make Architects

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The origami-like monocoque pavilion in London is shaped by its environment

Great Barrier Reef bleaching is the "worst coral die-off" in recorded history

November 30, 2016 by  
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The health of the Great Barrier Reef is widely thought to be an indicator for the state of the Earth’s marine ecosystems, and the announcement made Tuesday that the reef is currently experiencing the worst coral die-off in recorded history doesn’t bode well for the rest of our waters. The depressing conclusion was reached after evaluating data collected during more than 900 dives along the 1,400-mile reef. When coral is exposed to too much warm water, it dies, thus transforming from a vibrant display of colorful creatures to a white or greyish skeleton. Its light color is known as “coral bleaching,” and researchers are recording ever larger spans of the reef where this phenomenon is taking place. On Tuesday, Prof. Terry Hughes, director of the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University in Queensland, said on Tuesday that around two-thirds of the shallow-water coral on the reef’s 430-mile northern stretch is now dead, but the survival rates in the middle and southern parts of the reef are much better. Related: No, the Great Barrier Reef isn’t dead – but it is damaged “The good news is that in the south, only about 1 percent of the reef’s coral has died, and the mortality rate in the middle is about 6 percent,” Hughes said. “But in the north, mortality rates are very high, and in some places where coral has survived but it has weakened, the per capita predation rate has gone through the roof.” Hughes noted that this is the third major bleaching event to hit the Great Barrier Reef, and that while some sections of the reef are still thriving, their fate remains uncertain. Increasing warming trends in ocean water currents pose higher and higher future threat to the remaining living coral, not to mention the other creatures living in and around the reef. In response to the issue, the Australian government is putting about $33.6 million into efforts to protect the reef, by improving water quality and reducing sediment runoff. Australian leaders may petition the United Nations to declare the Great Barrier Reef an “in danger” site, a move the international coalition has stopped short of in recent years. Via NYT Images via ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

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Croatian freshwater aquarium by 3LHD is built right into the hillside

November 30, 2016 by  
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Designers at 3LHD transformed an abandoned campsite into a unique hillside aquarium in Karlovac, Croatia . Freshwater fish and plant life are featured at the aquarium to give the public a deeper understanding of the area’s ecosystems . The educational center and its nearby shops are located both alongside and underneath the natural hillside, covered in green grass as a sign of unity with the surrounding habitat. The Karlovac aquarium sits alongside the river Korana, where a diverse array of wildlife flourishes. 3LHD derived inspiration for the center’s design from the revered “Karlovac star”, upon which many buildings and city structures are based. Visitors can stroll through the open center of the attraction to reach the gift shop, reading room, and cafe bar, which is accessible by strategically placed, multidirectional walkways. Related: South America’s largest aquarium boasts a 650-foot underwater tunnel Once guests walk inside, they are greeted by a symbolic river exhibit that displays the full biodiversity of the area. Surface waters give way to deeper aquariums on the lower level, where species no longer flourishing in the area can be found. On the other side of the tunnel, marshlands are displayed with lilies and rushes, which eventually give way to a climactic collection of waterfalls. The entire center is an experience unlike any other aquarium – an educational story told from beginning to end. The Karlovac aquarium is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund . Scientific research facilities and fish acclimatization spaces can be found on site, proving the center’s dedication to preserving the natural state of the surrounding ecosystems. +3LHD Via World Architecture News Images via 3LHD

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Croatian freshwater aquarium by 3LHD is built right into the hillside

No, the Great Barrier Reef isnt dead – but it is damaged

October 17, 2016 by  
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Last week, social media users from around the world were shocked and horrified to find the Great Barrier Reef had been “declared dead” in a viral symbolic obituary from Outside Magazine. There was only one problem: the premise of the article isn’t actually true, and scientists have been scrambling to correct the record in the following days. What is true is that the reef is struggling due to climate change, and needs urgent help if it’s going to survive. Earlier this year, a shocking 93% of the reef began experiencing a phenomenon known as “bleaching,” which occurs when warm ocean temperatures stress the reef, causing the tiny colored algae living within the coral organisms to become ejected. Without the algae, the coral eventually dies. In fact, this is what’s recently happened to about 22% of the coral on the reef. While this is the worst mass bleaching event on record, the majority of the reef is still alive and struggling. Related: This startling video shows coral bleaching in action The viral obituary has marine scientists scrambling to correct the record. In a statement to the Huffington Post , Russell Brainard, chief of the Coral Reef Ecosystem Program at NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, expressed his frustration. While the article may have been a well-intentioned attempt to highlight the urgency of the situation, he worries that people will take it at face value and assume that there’s no work to be done to save what’s left of the reef. In fact, there is reason for hope: one study last year found that even after massive bleaching events, it is possible for reefs to fully recover. However, it’s a slow process that requires stable conditions to occur — something the reef may not have if bleaching events continue to occur at a faster and faster rate. Related: More than one-third of the coral is dead in parts of Great Barrier Reef If we don’t act soon to protect our oceans, we may see the world’s coral reefs perish for real. The driving cause of coral mass bleaching events is climate change , and if global temperatures continue to rise, we will reach a point at which coral simply can’t survive. That’s why it’s so important to vote for candidates with a strong environmental record, write to our representatives, and do what we can to reduce our individual carbon footprint . Via Slashdot Images via Wikipedia and Oregon State University

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Scientists discover an enormous, hidden reef behind the Great Barrier Reef

August 29, 2016 by  
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New laser data from the Royal Australian Navy has revealed a massive reef behind the rapidly dying Great Barrier Reef. Giant fields of circular, donut-shaped mounds, between 200 and 300 meters in diameter, are created by a type of green algae. Unfortunately, this reef is likely facing the same threats as the neighboring Great Barrier Reef . A collaboration between James Cook University , the University of Sydney , and Queensland University of Technology led to the discovery of just how large these fields are. Dr. Robin Beaman of JCU said in his co-authored paper , “We’ve known about these geological structures in the northern Great Barrier Reef since the 1970s and 80s, but never before has the true nature of their shape, size and vast scale been revealed.” Related: Startling video shows coral bleaching in action The mounds are bioherms, or organic reef-like mounds, made by the growth of Halimeda green algae . Upon death, they form small limestone flakes similar to the shape of cornflakes and mounds begin to form over time. These Halimeda bioherms are between 200-300 meters wide and 10 meters deep. Thanks to the new glimpse into the area, over 6,000 square kilometers have now been mapped. The closer look has raised questions of environmental preservation and historical documentation. Associate Professor Jody Webster of the University of Sydney said, “As a calcifying organism, Halimeda may be susceptible to ocean acidification and warming,” and wonders about the extent of possible damage so far. Dr. Beaman is interested in what researchers can learn from bioherm sediment samples about changes in the reef systems over the last 10,000 years. Further impending research will help scientists better understand the structures, their impact, and their future. Via Daily Mail Images via Wikipedia , Wikimedia

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Scientists discover an enormous, hidden reef behind the Great Barrier Reef

This startling video shows coral bleaching in action

August 18, 2016 by  
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Rising ocean temperatures have prompted devastating coral bleaching in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef – and in some sections, at least 35 percent of bleached coral has died. Now scientists at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) have scrutinized just how coral reacts to hotter temperatures in controlled conditions, and caught the process on film. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bjamypAq9Y Scientists Brett Lewis and Luke Nothdurft put Heliofungia actiniformis coral in a 10 liter “aquarium system” to see how the coral would respond as they heated the water. Over 12 hours, they increased water temperatures from 26 degrees Celsius to 32 degrees Celsius, or about 78.8 degrees Fahrenheit up to 89.6 degrees Fahrenheit. They kept the coral in the system for around eight days. Related: Great Barrier Reef coral bleaching is now more widespread than ever The coral spewed Symbiodinium algae that live in them and provide the brilliant colors we’re used to seeing in coral reefs. The algae also generate sugars consumed by the coral. Expelling algae under the duress of hot temperatures can help the coral to survive – Lewis said “rapid expulsion” could increase the coral’s chance of survival. It’s possible for coral to regain the algae and their vivid colors if conditions improve, but if ocean temperatures don’t return to normal levels and the algae doesn’t recolonize, the coral can die. Scientists have been aware of this expulsion process, but the QUT team’s video is the first to show the eviction in action. Lewis said in a press release, “What’s really interesting is just how quickly and violently the coral forcefully evicted its resident symbionts. The H. actiniformis began ejecting the symbionts within the first two hours of us raising the water temperature of the system.” Northdurft said coral bleaching is a “concern for scientists globally.” The journal Coral Reefs published their research online earlier this month. + Queensland University of Technology

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This startling video shows coral bleaching in action

Great Barrier Reef tourist pollution may be giving turtles herpes

July 7, 2016 by  
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Pollution may be the cause of a peculiar form of herpes currently plaguing sea turtles living near the Great Barrier Reef. Researchers at James Cook University in Australia have been mapping the outbreak and found a hotspot in a small part of Cockle Bay frequented by tourists. There, more than half of the turtles exhibit symptoms of the viral disease, while it is much more rare in other parts of the Reef. Researchers think the high number of cases is linked to contamination from tourist activity. Outside of the tourist destination, less than 10 percent of the bay’s turtle population has been infected with the disease, according to researchers. The substantial difference in the number of cases has led scientists to suggest that human activity—specifically, pollution —is to blame for the illness. Researchers suspect that pollution damages the turtles’ immune system and causes an otherwise dormant disease to become life-threatening. The turtle-specific variety of the herpes disease causes fibropapillomatosis , a condition that causes tumors to grow on the outside of the body. Because of the size and number of tumors, turtles can lose mobility as well as sight, impeding their survival. Related: Green sea turtles are no longer endangered in Florida and Mexico While this outbreak is under investigation in Australia, others have cropped up elsewhere. New Scientist reports that, last year in the Florida Keys, a record number of turtles were found with the same tumors. Many healthy turtles carry the disease, but the tumorous growths are actually quite rare. Since the cases in Florida were near a popular tourist destination, similar to Australia’s Cockle Bay, the evidence is mounting that people could, inadvertently and without realizing, be threatening delicate sea turtle populations around the world. To further pinpoint the relationship, researchers at James Cook University will test the bay water for specific contaminants and look for more evidence to explain why the turtles are suffering so much from a disease that is typically harmless. Via The Verge Images via Karina Jones/James Cook University

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Great Barrier Reef tourist pollution may be giving turtles herpes

Stunning Seashore Chapel in China appears to float at high tide

July 7, 2016 by  
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Located on the beach next to China’s Bohai Sea, the Seashore Chapel serves the resort community as both a religious space and a community gathering space for public events. The chapel was created in a similar fashion to Vector Architects’ Seashore Library, a nearby concrete building completed last year at Nandaihe. Unlike its sandy-colored predecessor, the Seashore Chapel is covered in brilliant white stucco with laminated bamboo slate and glass curtain walls . The 270-square-meter Seashore Chapel is divided into two main areas. The first is a covered, sea-facing outdoor space that, as the architects describe it, connects the “religious space to the mundane life,” and is submerged by water at high tide. The second space is the elevated chapel with its steep gable roof accessed via a 30-meter-long staircase. The ascent leads visitors to a panoramic view of the sea through a large horizontal window on the east facade. Related: Elegant Japanese wedding chapel mimics curved leaves Windows are strategically placed to limit the amount of harsh light to the interior, while allowing diffused natural light to stream in and highlight the textures of the stucco walls. Hidden windows allow for natural ventilation to flow through the building. “Together with Seashore Library, [the Seashore Chapel] provides spiritual spaces at ocean front, where people can slow down their pace, experience the nature and examine their inner state,” write the architects. + Vector Architects Images via Vector Architects

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