Plants use sound to find water and survive, new research shows

May 22, 2017 by  
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Many people believe that playing music to plants makes them grow better , but scientists would say that’s absurd. New research from Australia might prove them wrong though. Monica Gagliano, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Western Australia, found that plants utilize the sounds of nature , from the buzzing of an insect to the sound of liquid rushing through a pipe, to find water and survive. In her recent study , Gagliano placed pea seedlings in a pot in the shape of an upside-down Y. Scientific American reports , “One arm of each pot was placed in either a tray of water or a coiled plastic tube through which water flowed; the other arm had only soil. The roots grew toward the arm of the pipe with the fluid, regardless of whether it was easily accessible or hidden inside the tubing.” According to Gagliano, the plants “just knew the water was there,” even though they could only detect the sound of the water flowing inside the pipe. When the seedlings were given a choice between the flowing tube and soil that was moistened, their roots chose the latter, however. The lead scientist says the plants use sound waves to detect water from far away, but follow moisture gradients to move in on their target when it is within reach. Related: Energy-generating ‘artificial plants’ turn greenhouse gases into clean air Gagliano’s discovery was published in the May 2017 issue of Oecologia, an international peer-reviewed journal. In the paper, titled “ Tuned in: plant roots use sound to locate water ,” she writes: Because water is essential to life, organisms have evolved a wide range of strategies to cope with water limitations, including actively searching for their preferred moisture levels to avoid dehydration . Plants use moisture gradients to direct their roots through the soil once a water source is detected, but how they first detect the source is unknown. We found that roots were able to locate a water source by sensing the vibrations generated by water moving inside pipes, even in the absence of substrate moisture. She added, “Our results also showed that the presence of noise affected the abilities of roots to perceive and respond correctly to the surrounding soundscape.” Considering the phenomena of “buzz pollination,” in which the sound of bees buzzing at a certain frequency stimulates the release of pollen in plants, has already been validated, it doesn’t seem too outlandish to propose that plants rely on sound vibrations to find water and thrive. Gagliano elaborates on her findings in the video below: Via Scientific American Images via Pixabay

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Plants use sound to find water and survive, new research shows

Eco artists build gigantic octopus to save coral reefs in the British Virgin Islands

May 8, 2017 by  
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A group of artists working under the name Secret Samurai Productions have installed a massive mesh octopus on top of a defunct Pearl Harbor ship only to push the large barge into the deep ocean waters of British Virgin Islands – all in the name of coral reef research. Now at the bottom of the sea off the coast of Virgin Gorda, Project YOKO is the world’s largest underwater art installation and marine life habitat, and it will raise funds for research into the ongoing destruction of the area’s coral reefs . The hollow rebar and mesh sea monster with 80-foot tentacles holding court at the bow of the Kodiak Queen was actually the last step of the ship’s reformation. The team of artists spent months cleaning the boat and transforming its chambers into an interactive art installation that will be explored by divers from around the world. Related: Rising ocean temperatures are cooking the Great Barrier Reef to death In addition to the artists’ efforts, the project counted on support from various members of Maverick1000 , a group of entrepreneurs who meet annually on Sir Richard Branson’s famed Necker Island. At the 2016 meeting, the founding manager for the nonprofit Unite BVI , Lauren Keil, gave a presentation on the challenges of the BVI community, focusing mainly on the problems caused by global warming and overfishing and their undeniable impact on the health of the area’s beloved coral reefs . During the presentation, Keil also mentioned the Kodiak Queen, a WWII fuel barge that had been discovered in a local junkyard. After Keil’s speech, Aydika James, art director of Secret Samurai Productions had the idea to use the historic ship as a way to bring attention to the growing issues facing the BVI waters. With collaboration from fellow members and Branson himself, the idea for the YOKO BVI Art Reef was born. Thanks to funding from local supporters, the ship was soon being transformed into an artificial dive site that would serve as beacon of hope for the region’s disappearing coral reef populations . The artists and dive specialists worked together to create an interactive diving experience,taking divers through the ship’s many chambers. To convert the installation into a research center as well as diving site, the nonprofit organization, Beneath the Waves , was called in to install an emerging technology called environmental DNA that will be used to collect data on the entire marine ecosystem surrounding the sunken ship. And the giant octopus? Well, it’s more than just a fun sculpture; it actually plays a vital role in the project. Its body and tentacles were designed to form a protected habitat for the repopulation of grouper. The dwindling grouper population is a major cause of coral damage considering the large fish help form an ecosystem in BVI waters, which is essential to the health of the coral reefs. After a long process of fund raising and transforming the boat, Project YOKO is slated to open to divers at a cost of $10 donation. All funds will go towards research into local marine health as well as a program promoting swim education for children. + Project YOKO BVI Art Reef + Secret Samurai Productions Via Fast Company Photography by Rob Sorrenti + Owen Buggy Photography via BVI YOKO Art Reef

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Eco artists build gigantic octopus to save coral reefs in the British Virgin Islands

Groundbreaking new material for longer-lasting batteries inspired by leaf veins

April 11, 2017 by  
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Biology may hold the clues to better batteries . An international team of scientists designed a porous material inspired by the vascular structure of leaves that could make energy transfers more efficient. Similar to the way leaf veins efficiently transport nutrients, this material could help rechargeable batteries perform better and last longer. A team of researchers led by Xianfeng Zheng of China’s Wuhan University of Technology and Australia’s University of Queensland scrutinized the way leaf veins optimize the flow of nutrients, with minimum energy consumption, “by branching out to smaller scales” according to the University of Cambridge , and then applied that to their groundbreaking porous material. The nature-inspired material could help relieve stresses in battery electrodes that currently limit their lifespan. The material could also enhance the charge and discharge process. Related: American fern inspires groundbreaking new solar storage solution The team calls their product Murray material after Murray’s Law. Cambridge said according to the rule the whole network of pores in biological systems is connected in a manner “to facilitate the transfer of liquids and minimize resistance throughout the network.” Scientist Bao-Lian Su of Cambridge, Wuhan University of Technology, and University of Namur in Belgium said they applied that biological law to chemistry , saying, “The introduction of the concept of Murray’s Law to industrial processes could revolutionize the design of reactors with highly enhanced efficiency, minimum energy, time, and raw material consumption for a sustainable future.” The scientists applied Murray material to gas sensing and photocatalysis as well. Su is a co-author on a paper published online by Nature Communications late last week. There are seven other co-authors on the paper from institutions in China, Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Another co-author, Tawfique Hasan of Cambridge University, said it could be possible to manufacture the porous material on a large scale. Via the University of Cambridge Images via Christoph Rupprecht on Flickr and Pixabay

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Groundbreaking new material for longer-lasting batteries inspired by leaf veins

Colombian town turns down $35B gold mine – prefers a clean environment

March 31, 2017 by  
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A small Colombian town just rejected a $35 billion gold mine project, putting people and the Earth before profit. Around 98 percent of the residents in Cajamarca said no to the mine due to concerns over the environment and water pollution – and Colombian Mining Minister German Arce doesn’t seem too happy with the results. South African company AngloGold Ashanti aimed to build the gold mine, called La Colosa, in Central Colombia, and it could have been the biggest gold mine in South America . The national government was in favor of La Colosa, saying mining is vital as they recover from war with Marxist rebels. But residents of Cajamarca, where the mine would be located, overwhelmingly rejected the project in a recent referendum. According to the BBC, 19,000 people live in the town, and only 76 locals voted in favor of the gold mine while 6,100 voted against. Related: Damage to Peruvian Amazon Caused by Illegal Goldmines Revealed for the First Time Local 21-year-old student Camila Méndez told Mongabay before the results were in, “I voted no for the future generations. I have two nephews of seven and three years old. Even though they do not live in Cajamarca, I know that I want them to enjoy the little I’ve been able to enjoy so far, as it concerns the countryside. If we win…we’d show the complete world that Cajamarca is able to defeat a huge multinational enterprise, a mining monster as AngloGold Ashanti.” But Arce said campaigners misled voters. He said AngloGold Ashanti had been issued an exploration license already, and that license would remain valid. Local authorities may control the land, but Arce said the national government controls any underground riches. AngloGold Ashanti still needs an environmental license, and if that is awarded Arce said it would be up to the courts or the country’s Congress to decide if local or national authorities would win the fight. Locals fear the mine would damage the mountain environment of the area, or pollute water sources. Via The Wall Street Journal and the BBC Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Colombian town turns down $35B gold mine – prefers a clean environment

Mexico-sized algae bloom in the Arabian Sea connected to climate change

March 21, 2017 by  
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Talk of climate change probably evokes images of rising sea levels or hotter temperatures, but what about algae blooms ? Scientists have made a direct connection between an algae bloom in the Arabian Sea, which has blown up to the size of Mexico, and climate change. The massive bloom has been captured from satellites . 30 years ago, algae in the Gulf of Oman could barely be seen. Now, twice a year, microscopic organisms of the species Noctiluca scintillans turns the gulf green as it sprawls throughout the Arabian Sea towards India. Scientists say conditions produced by climate change are allowing the algae to thrive. Columbia University researchers have even traced the algae blooms to ice melting in the Himalayas. Related: Florida declares state of emergency due to gigantic algae bloom Satellite technology has also allowed researchers to connect algae with greater levels of water and air pollution . NASA ocean carbon and biology projects manager Paula Bontempi told the Associated Press satellite images of the algae are beautiful, like a Van Gogh painting, but in person the algae is smelly and ugly. She said, “We know that our Earth is changing. It may be in a direction we might not like.” The phenomenon threatens local ecosystems ; algae has been known to paralyze fish . The United Nations’ science agency says in rare cases algal toxins have killed humans. Oman faces unique threats from the algae bloom. There, algae can clog pipes at desalination plants providing as much as 90 percent of fresh water for the country. Fisheries in the country could also be harmed by the algae bloom; in 2008 an eruption of a different type of algae beached 50 tons of fish, which were starving for oxygen and rotted along the coast of Oman. Saleh al-Mashari, the captain of a researcher vessel, said this algae bloom has already caused damage. He told the Associated Press, “The fish are migrating. They can’t get enough air here.” Ahmad al-Alawi, a marine ecologist, said blooms are getting larger and lasting for longer periods of time. He said the blooms displace zooplankton, which are the base of the local food chain . Via Phys.org Images via Tristan Schmurr on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Mexico-sized algae bloom in the Arabian Sea connected to climate change

Boston public schools phase in new map to decolonize curriculum

March 21, 2017 by  
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The global map on which all your geographical knowledge is based probably wasn’t as accurate as you thought. For nearly 500 years, classrooms have referred to the Mercator projection, which exaggerated the size of continents in the northern hemisphere. But now Boston public schools are switching over to the Gall-Peters projection, which attempts to correct the sizes of countries and could have a dramatic impact on students’ worldview. The Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator devised the Mercator projection all the way back in 1569. Now hundreds of years later, Boston schools are implementing a replacement, and director of the Boston public schools history department Natacha Scott says they believe they are the first public school district in America to make the switch. Related: New map reveals the world’s most toxic countries The Mercator projection has informed our collective worldview for centuries, but Mercator made it seem as if North America and Europe were larger than South America and Africa , for example. He also moved the equator, which places Germany near the map’s middle instead of much further north. Arno Peters, a German historian, released his projection in 1974 – as it corresponds with work by James Gall, a 19th century Scottish cartographer; today it’s called the Peters or Gall-Peters projection. Now in Boston classrooms, teachers have put the Gall-Peters projection up next to the Mercator projection. Colin Rose, Assistant Superintendent of Opportunity and Achievement Gaps for the Boston Public Schools, told The Guardian, “This is the start of a three-year effort to decolonize the curriculum in our public schools…It’s important that students trust the material they are given in school but also question it. The Mercator projection is a symbolic representation that put Europe at the center of the world. And when you continue to show images of the places where people’s heritage is rooted that is not accurate, that has an effect on students.” But some people say the Gall-Peters projection is also distorted – stemming mainly from the fact that it’s difficult to place a three dimensional sphere shape on a two dimensional piece of paper. Sizes are correct in the Gall-Peters projection, but shapes are wrong: near the poles countries are stretched horizontally and near the equator they’re stretched vertically, according to Business Insider, which pointed to four alternatives , including the Winkel tripel projection which National Geographic adopted in 1998. Via The Guardian and Business Insider Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Google Street View takes you inside the fiery depths of an active volcano

March 20, 2017 by  
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Have you ever seen an active volcano up close? Most of us haven’t had the opportunity, but now thanks to Google Street View , you can glimpse the fiery depths of one the world’s largest boiling lava lakes. Two explorers repelled down into the Marum crater on the island on Ambrym in Vanuatu , a country of islands around 1000 miles away from Australia, to collect images of the lava lake for Google (and all of us). Forget the relatively tame imagery of city streets. Google went to new extremes to collect dramatic images of Ambrym, from volcanic beaches to a volcano itself. Explorers Geoff Mackley and Chris Horsley helped out by repelling around 1,312 feet down into the Marum crater to gather 360-degree imagery of the massive lava lake, which is about as big as two football fields, according to Google. Mackley said, “You only realize how insignificant humans are when you’re standing next to a giant lake of fiery boiling rock .” Related: Sheep enlisted to bring ‘Google Street View’ to remote Faroe Islands After repelling into the crater, Horsley said, “I hope that by putting this place on the map people will realize what a beautiful world we live in.” Over 7,000 people live on Ambrym. Chief Moses of Endu, a local village, welcomed Google in to share the incredible beauty of the area. Locals have been rebuilding after Cyclone Pam hit a few years past, and are ready to greet travelers again. According to Google, Chief Moses feels welcoming visitors to the region will help the island recover, help set up a sustainable economy, and preserve the island’s culture . Along with the volcano, Google Street View offers images of his village, a primary school, and a craft workshop on the island. Can’t hop on the next plane to trek to Vanuatu? You can also check out a jungle on Ambrym, more images of the Marum crater, and villagers harvesting coconuts on Google Street View. Via Google Images via screenshot ( 1 , 2 )

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Google Street View takes you inside the fiery depths of an active volcano

Indonesian president gives forest management back to indigenous communities

February 23, 2017 by  
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After decades of conflict over the power to oversee Indonesia’s forests, President Joko Widodo gave management rights back to nine indigenous communities. According to the World Agroforestry Centre, millions of indigenous people cared for forests sustainably for centuries until the Dutch colonial government declared state ownership, and this moment marks an important milestone in the acknowledgement of indigenous rights . For years, indigenous communities have fought for recognition as their rights have been contested by the government – even after independence in 1945, according to the World Agroforestry Centre. There are thousands of distinct ethnic groups across the islands of Indonesia, and Widodo recently took what the center described as a highly symbolic step in formally granting forest management titles to the nine indigenous communities. In a speech on the occasion, Widodo said, “Recognition also means an appreciation of Indonesia’s original values and its identity as a nation.” Related: Indonesian president announces plan to halt palm oil industry expansion Widodo cited the Kajang people, one of the nine communities, in his speech as an example from which others could benefit. An earlier national government altered the Kajang’s forests’ management status from indigenous to “production forests with limited uses” so the government could control them and parcel some land out for rubber plantations. But the Kajang developed “a set of local regulations that affirm, recognize, and protect based on traditional management,” according to Andi Adriardi, a member of a non-governmental organization that helped the Kajang regain rights. They coordinated with the local government and organizations to reclaim the title. Adriardi said the government recognized their case as a “good lesson that approaches perfection” for a well-managed forest. Kajang leader Andi Buyung Saputra, pictured above with Widodo, said in his acceptance speech, “Our traditional wisdom has played an important role in managing and preserving our forests. This has contributed to keeping our Earth greener and reducing the negative impacts of climate change .” Via World Agroforestry Centre Images via World Agroforestry Centre and Wikimedia Commons

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Patagonia launches campaign to protect Utah’s Bear Ears National Monument

February 23, 2017 by  
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The battle for Bears Ears National Monument is far from over. Weeks after Patagonia spurned the Outdoor Retailer Show trade show in Salt Lake City to protest Utah governor Gary Herbert’s quest to roll back nascent protections for the twin sandstone formations, the outdoor-apparel company has launched a campaign to inundate the gubernatorial office with calls demanding otherwise. Utahns are more than familiar with this song and dance: Locals, lawmakers, and environmentalists have long knocked heads over how the Bears Ears area, and its untapped reserves of gas and shale , should be developed. The 1.35 million-acre expanse of arches, buttes, and canyons, which several Native American tribes regard as sacred, isn’t the only public land under attack from Utah’s top politician. On February 17, Herbert signed a resolution urging President Donald Trump to narrow the boundaries of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to the south. “In passing two resolutions asking the Trump administration to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument and reduce the Grand Staircase Escalante Monument, Governor Herbert and Utah’s state delegation have unleashed an all-out assault on the state’s protected public lands,” Patagonia wrote on a website powered by Phone2Action , which provides web and voice tools to help advocacy groups connect their supporters with elected officials. “This land grab would open wilderness and recreation areas to oil and gas development and could eliminate access to the diverse landscape that makes Utah unique.” Related: Patagonia boycotts huge Outdoor Retailer show to protest Utah Republicans The outdoor-recreation industry plays a major role in Utah’s economy, supporting some 122,000 jobs and bringing in $12 billion a year in consumer spending, according to Rose Marcario, CEO of Patagonia. For Patagonia, at least, boycotting the Outdoor Retail trade show was just a start. “Because of the hostile environment they have created and their blatant disregard for Bears Ears National Monument and other public lands, the backbone of our business, Patagonia will no longer attend the Outdoor Retailer show in Utah,” Marcario said. “And we are confident other outdoor manufacturers and retailers will join us in moving our investment to a state that values our industry and promotes public lands conservation.” + Patagonia Via Outside Photos by Bureau of Land Management

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Patagonia launches campaign to protect Utah’s Bear Ears National Monument

China is building the world’s first migratory Bird Airport

February 17, 2017 by  
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Modern architecture has often been accused of encroaching on wildlife habitats – but McGregor Coxall just unveiled a new project that’s literally for the birds. The world’s first migratory “Bird Airport” is designed to convert a landfill in Lingang, China into a wetland bird sanctuary Every year, more than 50 million birds journey from the Antarctic along the East Asian-Australian Flyway (EAAF), but the route is increasingly threatened to due to coastal urbanization. Today, 1 in 5 globally endangered waterbirds fly this route as their population rapidly decreases. Related: 1.5 billion birds disappear from North America’s skies To address the problem, the Port of Tianjin called on international designers to create a wetland sanctuary for migrating birds. McGregor Coxall’s Bird Airport includes 60 hectares of wetland park, where birds will be able to stop, refuel, and breed on their way through the flyway. Renewable energy will be used to irrigate the wetlands with recycled waste water and harvested rain. Adrian McGregor, CEO and lead designer of McGregor Coxall explains the inspiration behind the project, “The earth’s bird flyways are a wonder of the natural world. The proposed Bird Airport will be a globally significant sanctuary for endangered migratory bird species whilst providing new green lungs for the city of Tianjin.” The city of Tianjin will enjoy many benefits from the new green infrastructure . The proposal calls for plenty of park space – including walking and cycling paths along a 7 km network of recreational urban forest trails. Construction on the bird airport is slated to begin late 2017, and the project will be completed in 2018. + McGregor Coxall

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China is building the world’s first migratory Bird Airport

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