Florida coral reefs plagued with mysterious disease

May 16, 2018 by  
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With coral reefs under threat worldwide, researchers in Florida are racing to understand and treat a mysterious disease that threatens to decimate the third-largest coral reef on Earth. Over the past four years, the as-yet unidentified, potentially bacterial disease has already had a significant impact on Florida’s coral species, half of which are fatally vulnerable to the disease. “When they’re affected by this, the tissue sloughs off the skeleton,” Erinn Muller, science director at Mote Marine Lab’s Center for Coral Reef Research and Restoration in the Florida Keys, explained to NPR . “And we see that once a coral is infected, it usually kills the entire coral, sometimes within weeks. And it doesn’t seem to stop.” After being hired by the State of Florida to study the health of coral reefs near Miami , scientist William Precht first observed the disease moving from coral to coral, with particularly devastating effects on star and brain coral. “This is essentially equivalent to a local extinction , an ecological extirpation of these species locally,” Precht told NPR . “And when you go out and swim on the reefs of Miami-Dade County today, it would be a very rare chance encounter that you’d see some of these three or four species.” Related: Scientists made a liquid ‘umbrella’ to protect coral reefs from sun damage Researchers at Mote Marine Lab are hard at work to determine how to protect coral from the mysterious disease . “Anything from… looking at chlorine-laced epoxy as an antiseptic, and even looking at how antibiotics interact with the disease,” Muller said. “Because if it is bacterial, then antibiotics would be a way to stop it.” Mote Marine Lab is also serving as a nursery for baby coral, which are released into the wild when they are ready. At this moment, the reefs under siege will need all the help they can get. “We’re really at a critical juncture right now, where we have corals left on the reef,” said Muller. “Before we lose more corals, now is the time to start making a change.” Via NPR Images via  NOAA National Ocean Service   (1)

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Florida coral reefs plagued with mysterious disease

This turtle with a green mohawk is one of the most endangered reptiles in the world

April 12, 2018 by  
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It’s not every day you see a turtle with a mohawk – even if that mohawk is made up of algae and not hair. The Mary River turtle is eye-catching for this stylish feature, and it is also known as a butt-breather, or a reptile that can breathe through its genitals. But this unique animal is now ranked 29 out of 100 on the Zoological Society of London ‘s EDGE of Existence Program , a list of vulnerable reptiles . According to an article from herpetologist Rikki Gumbs, the Mary River turtle can breathe through organs in its cloaca — an ability that allows the turtle to remain underwater for as long as 72 hours. Gumbs is also a lead author on a recently published PLOS One study that, according to The Guardian , highlights that reptiles such as the Mary River turtle are in trouble. According to Gumbs, “Intense historical collection for the pet trade, combined with habitat disturbance in its tiny range, mean this species is threatened with extinction .” We launched our #EDGEreptiles list yesterday, and the #punkturtle Elusor macrurus has stolen the show with its algae mohawk and unique ability to breathe through its genitals! Read more about the Mary river turtle here: https://t.co/CLfd355DQT pic.twitter.com/TYhZPyWveT — EDGE of Existence (@EDGEofExistence) April 12, 2018 Related: Turtle hatchlings spotted on Mumbai beach for the first time in nearly 20 years The freshwater turtle lives in Queensland , Australia in — as you might have guessed — the Mary River.  EDGE  explained yet another reason why the turtle is so distinct: “The only species in its genus, the Mary River turtle diverged from all other living species around 40 million years ago. In comparison, we split from our closest relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos, less than 10 million years ago.” The International Union for Conservation of Nature  also lists the Mary River turtle as endangered on its Red List. EDGE said it takes a long time for the reptiles to reach sexual maturity; they don’t breed before age 25. Dam construction is one key factor in their decline. The organization said conservation programs are now in place to protect the species. Other striking turtles that made the top 10 list include the Cantor’s giant softshell, which is among the largest freshwater turtles in the world; the pig-nosed turtle, whose nose says it all; and the Roti Island snake-necked turtle, “one of the 15 most endangered turtles worldwide.” + Top 100 EDGE Reptiles + Top 10 Most Amazing EDGE Reptiles + Mary River turtle + PLOS One Via The Guardian Image courtesy of Chris Van Wyk/Zoological Society of London

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This turtle with a green mohawk is one of the most endangered reptiles in the world

Tesla Model Y production will power up in November 2019

April 12, 2018 by  
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With all the news about the Tesla Model 3 and the cargo hauling Tesla Semi , we might have forgotten that Tesla is already hard at work on its next model, the Tesla Model Y . We have yet to see the Tesla Model Y crossover, but according to the latest reports, Tesla has a goal of starting production in November 2019. Sources recently revealed to Reuters this week that Tesla is currently accepting bids for supplier contracts for the compact crossover. Tesla is keeping most of the details under wraps, but it has reportedly told suppliers as part of an RFI (request for information) that it will begin production of the Model Y at its Fremont, California plant by the end of next year. Related: The Tesla Semi just made its first cargo trip transporting battery packs News about Tesla getting ready for the Model Y production may raise comments from critics, since Tesla still hasn’t fully ramped up production of the Model 3 . Tesla is still hoping that it will be able to produce 5,000 Model 3 sedans a week at some point this quarter. It may seem aggressive that Tesla plans to start production so quickly, but the fact that the compact crossover shares its platform with the Model 3 will help. Tesla aims to eventually produce 1 million Model Y crossovers a year, helped by a new production facility in China that is expected to power up by 2021. Now that we have a production start date for the Model Y, we can get ready for the reveal of the car in the near future, though Tesla hasn’t confirmed just when this will happen. For now, we just have this single teaser of the Model Y. + Tesla Via  Reuters Images by Tesla

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World’s first electric road that charges moving vehicles debuts in Sweden

April 12, 2018 by  
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The first electrified road capable of charging EVs as they drive across it is now open outside of Stockholm , Sweden. While the road — which links Stockholm Arlanda airport to a nearby logistics site — is only two kilometers long, it is a significant step forward in Sweden’s strategic plan for energy and climate change . The country aims to become independent of fossil fuels by 2030 – a task that will require a 70 percent reduction in emissions from the transportation sector. Once expanded, the electric roadways and highways in Sweden will make it convenient to charge electric vehicles and ease the country’s transition from traditional combustion engine vehicles. The system works by transferring electricity from the installed underground rail to the vehicle above through a flexible arm that attaches to the charging vehicle . “There is no electricity on the surface,” Hans Säll, chief executive of  eRoadArlanda , explained to the Guardian . “There are two tracks, just like an outlet in the wall. Five or six centimeters down is where the electricity is. But if you flood the road with salt water , then we have found that the electricity level at the surface is just one volt. You could walk on it barefoot.” Related: Siemens debuts first electrified eHighway in the US It currently costs 1 million euros to construct one kilometer of electrified road, but this is still 50 times less than the cost of installing an equivalent distance of an overhead tram line. At the moment, Sweden maintains about half a million kilometers of roadways, of which 20,000 are highways. “If we electrify 20,000 kilometers of highways that will definitely be enough,” Säll said. “The distance between two highways is never more than 45 kilometers, and electric cars can already travel that distance without needing to be recharged. Some believe it would be enough to electrify 5,000 kilometers.” Sweden and Germany are in discussion to eventually construct a network of electrified roads to encourage a Europe-wide adoption of electric vehicles. Via The Guardian Images via  Erik Mårtensson/eRoadArlanda

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World’s first electric road that charges moving vehicles debuts in Sweden

Iceland is replanting its forests 1,000 years after vikings razed them

April 6, 2018 by  
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Iceland has become a popular tourist destination due in no small part to its breathtaking views and unique geological features, but it is also one of the worst examples of deforestation on the planet. When settlers first arrived in Iceland in the ninth century, up to 40 percent of the land area was covered with forests. The Vikings cleared these trees for fuel and to make space for grazing. Erosion from overgrazing and disruption from volcanic events left Iceland nearly without woods. Now, in collaboration with forest farmers and local forestry societies, the Icelandic Forest Service is working to regrow what was lost centuries ago and bring forests back in Iceland. Icelandic Forest Service director Þröstur Eysteinsson understands the true magnitude of what the organization he leads is trying to accomplish. “Iceland is certainly among the worst examples in the world of deforestation . It doesn’t take very many people or very many sheep to deforest a whole country over a thousand years,” said Þröstur . “To see the forest growing, to see that we’re actually doing some good is a very rewarding thing.” Þröstur is motivated by a driving desire to build ecological resilience . “My mission is to support growing more forests and better forests, to make land more productive and more able to tolerate the pressures that we put on it.” Related: Iceland makes it illegal to pay women less than men in world first The only native forest-building tree, the downy birch, has struggled to establish itself in new forests. With assistance from the Euforgen program, the Iceland Forest Service is introducing locally-tailored, non-native tree species, most of which are from Alaska , into Iceland woodlands. These newly mixed forests are “growing better than anybody ever thought,” according to Þröstur. The ultimate goal is to improve Iceland’s forest cover from the current two percent to twelve percent by 2100, with help from carefully curated non-native trees . Via Treehugger Images via Deposit Photos and  Icelandic Forest Service

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Iceland is replanting its forests 1,000 years after vikings razed them

Orange snow covers the mountains across Eastern Europe

March 26, 2018 by  
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The mountains of Russia , Bulgaria, Romania, and Ukraine have been splashed with color, as the region’s snow has taken on an unusual orange hue. Although the snow may look more like orange sherbet, observers are advised to not eat it. The strange color has been added to the snow by way of the Sahara Desert. While the mountains may present an otherworldly aesthetic, the phenomenon is actually quite normal and occurs every five years, according to meteorologists. Sand turned up by storms in the Sahara Desert flows north and mixes with snow and rain, turning the subsequent precipitation orange. The orange tint has not been confined to the mountains. On its way towards the high-altitude locations of Eastern Europe, the orange dust passed through the Mediterranean, where it added an orange filter to the air in places like the Greek island of Crete. While this is not the first instance in which Saharan sand has affected European weather, it is one of the most intense examples of the phenomenon. The displaced dust can even be seen from space, appearing as a narrow brown streak amidst the usual white and grey clouds. Related: This is one of the hottest places on Earth – and it just snowed there “Looking at satellite imagery from [NASA], it shows a lot of sand and dust in the atmosphere drifting across the Mediterranean,” Steven Keates, a meteorologist with the U.K.’s National Weather Service, told the Washington Post . “When it rains or snows, it drags down whatever is up there, if there is sand in the atmosphere.” Previous incidents involving orange-tinted, dust-induced weird weather in Europe include a 2016 event in which northwest Europe experienced an orange sky. Visible in London, the phenomenon was exacerbated by wildfires raging in Spain and Portugal at the time. Now, those fortunate enough to be in the mountains can enjoy the emulated experience of “skiing on Mars.” Via Washington Post Images via  margarita_alshina/Instagram and  slivi4/Instagram

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Natural wetland in India filters 198 million gallons of wastewater a day with zero chemicals

March 6, 2018 by  
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The East Kolkata Wetlands in India processes almost 198 million gallons of wastewater and sewage produced by the region’s population everyday, relying on nothing but nature. What was once a mix of lowland salt marshes and silted rivers is now a sprawling complex of man-made wetlands framed by green space. With the help of local farmers and fishers, the wetlands are maintained in good health to organically clean sewage using sunlight, oxygen, and beneficial microbes. This process, known as bio-remediation, cleans wastewater within three weeks, a remarkably quick turnaround that highlights the great power of natural solutions. Wastewater from the city is directed into small inlets, each one controlled by a local fishery cooperative. The cooperative then separates the dense polluted water from clearer surface water, which flows into the large wetland while the wastewater decomposes and becomes fish food through organic processes. This water is then used to raise fish in ponds known as bheries or grow crops on the banks of the wetlands. In addition to its wastewater and agriculture services, the East Kolkata Wetlands also act as a flood control system, absorbing excess water from the nearby city. Related: Dakshineswar Skywalk could greatly improve pedestrian safety in Kolkata Former city sanitation engineer Dhrubajyoti Ghosh has served as the Wetland’s guardian for several decades. After realizing the enormous value of the wetland’s environmental services, he defined the formal limits of the area and successfully protected it from real estate developers. Today, Ghosh recognizes the challenges and opportunities facing the wetlands and others like it. “I am still learning how this delicate ecosystem works, how to further refine it, and why some places are better suited than others,” he told The Better India . “I am happy to give any advice or help absolutely free, this is the best system of its kind in the world and could be helping millions of people. If I have failed in one thing it is this; not enough people know about it or are benefiting from it.” Via The Better India Images via East Kolkata Wetlands Management Authority and  The Better India

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Wave of earthquakes shake Yellowstone’s supervolcano

February 22, 2018 by  
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Since the start of February, Yellowstone National Park and its supervolcano have been hit with a wave of at least 20 earthquakes and a number of smaller tremors. Although the largest earthquake only registered a 2.9 on the Richter scale and all have struck about five miles below the Earth’s surface, this so-called earthquake swarm is noteworthy, though likely not reason for alarm. “While it may seem worrisome, the current seismicity is relatively weak and actually represents an opportunity to learn more about Yellowstone,” wrote researchers Michael Poland and Jamie Farrell for the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory . “It is during periods of change when scientists can develop, test, and refine their models of how the Yellowstone volcanic system works.” Though the name may conjure images of aggressive insects , earthquake swarms are actually a fairly common, benign occurrence at Yellowstone. The largest earthquake storm came in 1985, when more than 3,000 earthquakes struck Yellowstone over several months. The area typically experiences 1,000 to 3,000 earthquakes each year, most of which are not felt. Swarms are caused by stress changes at fault lines due to either tectonic forces or local pressure increases resulting from changes in water, magma , or subterranean gas. The highly seismic Yellowstone is affected by both swarm-causing factors. Related: Scientists construct new theory of Yellowstone’s supervolcano hotspot While the earthquake swarms and Yellowstone’s supervolcano are both currently harmless, there is always a small chance that, someday, the big one will arrive. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that there is a 1 in 730,000 chance that the supervolcano will experience a major eruption; this is roughly equivalent to the probability of an asteroid collision with Earth. As for what might trigger such an event, tiny tremors serve as reminders. Seismologist Jamie Farrell told National Geographic, “The most likely hazard in Yellowstone is from large earthquakes”. Via National Geographic Images via Depositphotos (1)

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7 simple designs that solve modern problems – and don’t cost a fortune

February 22, 2018 by  
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Clean water . Affordable housing. Renewable energy . These are just a few of the pressing needs that can be met by design . All around the world, people have come up with innovative solutions to life’s problems using affordable, readily available materials and technologies. Read on for a look at seven simple designs that meet these challenges and more. Recycled laptop batteries power houses You might think the Tesla Powerwall has home renewable energy storage under control, but a few creative people have decided to do it themselves, drawing on recycled laptop batteries to make their own home storage devices that cost less than the Tesla option – solving an issue and reducing waste at the same time. They’ve shared their designs online so others can also benefit. Related: 6 urban farms feeding the world Plastic bottle air conditioner uses no electricity Climate control is an issue people worldwide face, but those living in rural areas don’t always have access to the air conditioners we may have. In Bangladesh, inventor Ashis Paul repurposed plastic soda bottles to design the Eco Cooler : a cooling system that requires no power. His company has already installed them in around 25,000 homes. 3D printing homes out of clay and mud Humans will probably always need affordable, sustainable housing . The World’s Advanced Saving Project is working to meet these needs with their BigDelta, a massive printer that 3D prints houses for almost zero cost out of mud and clay. The organization draws inspiration from the mud dauber wasp, which builds its homes from mud. Ceramic Cool Brick cools homes with simply water 3D printing innovators Emerging Objects created a home-cooling solution called the Cool Brick. The ceramic device only needs water to cool down a house in a dry, hot climate – and works based on evaporative cooling systems utilized all the way back around 2,500 BC. Ceramic filters help bring clean water to Cambodia When you can switch on a tap and water gushes out, it’s easy to take clean water for granted. But people around the world lack access to clean drinking water , and UNICEF and the Water and Sanitation Program teamed up to bring it to people in Cambodia . Their ceramic water filters , manufactured and distributed by Cambodians, resulted in a 50 percent fall in diarrheal illness after they were implemented. The ceramic water purifiers cost around $7.50 to $9.50 per system, according to a report from both organizations , and replacement filters cost around $2.50 to $4. Zero-energy air conditioner made of terracotta tubes Evaporative cooling was also put to work in India in an artistic, energy efficient cooling solution designed by Ant Studio for a DEKI Electronics factory. Conical terracotta tubes comprise the installation , and when water is run over them – once or twice a day – evaporation helps lower the temperature. DIY solar generator for the people of Puerto Rico Remember those creatives who design their own Powerwall-like devices? Business owner Jehu Garcia is one, and he also put his technological know-how to work to try and combat Puerto Rico’s electricity crisis in the wake of Hurricane Maria . He posted a YouTube video detailing his design for a solar generator costing around $550, including the cost of a solar panel and light bulbs. He teamed up with a contact in Puerto Rico, asking people to build the generators and send them or parts. Images via Pixnio , Jehu Garcia , Grey Bangladesh , World’s Advanced Saving Project , Emerging Objects , UNICEF and Water and Sanitation Program , Ant Studio , and Jehu Garcia on Instagram

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7 simple designs that solve modern problems – and don’t cost a fortune

Peru protects one of world’s last great untouched forests

February 15, 2018 by  
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In collaboration with local and international conservation groups, the Peruvian government has established Yaguas National Park in the country’s far eastern territory to permanently protect millions of acres of pristine rainforest . “This is a place where the forest stretches to the horizon,” Corine Vriesendorp, a conservation ecologist at The Field Museum in Chicago, told the New York Times . “This is one of the last great intact forests on the globe.” The forest is so massive that the clouds which form above it may impact precipitation in the Western United States while many unique species of animals and plants are found only in Yaguas. The National Park designation also protects land inhabited by several tribes of indigenous peoples. Peru’s most recently established national park joins a growing conservation network in South America , with Ecuador, Chile and Columbia also having recently created national parks. “Nowadays we’re trying to think big,” Avecita Chicchón of the Andes-Amazon Initiative told the New York Times , “You need these large areas to be connected.” Thanks to a vibrant and engaged civil society, policymakers of Latin America are shifting their views on climate change and environmentalism, increasingly recognizing the importance of taking action to protect natural resources. Related: Peru passes legislation to let roads slice through remote Amazon area Indigenous communities , of which there are at least six living in the Yaguas National Park area, also now have a voice in the process, something that has historically been denied these communities. Over the past two decades, federations of indigenous groups have educated scientists on the geology and ecology of the region while advocating for its protection from the federal government. Important to the local way of life, the natural resources of the region include endemic fish that serve as keystone species in the local ecosystem by transporting seeds across flooded forest plains. Vulnerable species such as tapirs and endangered species such as giant otters have also been sighted within the park. Though conservationists and local groups may have won an important victory, continued vigilance is key to long-term preservation.“For now, Yaguas is safe,” Gregory Asner, an ecologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science, told the New York Times , “but in the 20 years I’ve been working in the Amazon, I’ve learned the hard way that today’s remoteness is tomorrow’s access”. Via The New York Times Images via Depositphotos  and Lenora Enking/Flickr    

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