Global warming driving mass migration of marine life

April 14, 2021 by  
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Marine life is migrating from the equator to the tropics, according to a recent  study  published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study shows that many species known to reside in the equator’s warm waters are migrating to cooler waters. Scientists behind the study have linked this situation to global warming, saying that water at the equator has become too warm for some species.  Traditionally, the equatorial regions are known to have more species diversity than the poles due to abundant food sources and warm waters. However, with the changing climate , environments for marine life are changing, too. As equatorial waters become less hospitable, many species are migrating for better conditions. Related: Scientists search for cause of mass marine die-off in Russia Researchers warn that if the situation continues, this migration will have serious ecological effects. The authors note that such a situation happened has occurred before. For example, about 252 million years ago, this type of species migration led to the death of about 90% of all marine species. When species migrate to other regions, they can affect the area’s natural food chain and overburden the environment. In turn, this can lead to the death of weaker species.  Though global warming has not affected the equatorial regions as heavily as other parts of the globe, it still significantly impacts the area. Over the past 50 years, the equator has witnessed a temperature rise of about 0.6 degrees Celcius. While modest compared to temperature changes in polar regions, the equator’s rising temperature can be detrimental because “tropical species have to move further to remain in their thermal niche compared with species elsewhere.” A 2015  study  published in Nature Climate Change predicted that species richness would decline at low latitudes. The recent study found that species richness is greatest at around 30 degrees North and 20 degrees South. This could mean that many species are migrating from the equator to the cooler subtropics, and they may move even further if global warming continues. Via EcoWatch Lead image via Pixabay

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Lessons from Schoonschip, Amsterdam’s floating eco-village

April 14, 2021 by  
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How can people live in harmony with global warming and rising water levels? In Amsterdam , a group of forward-thinking people decided to go with the flow. Schoonschip, a self-sustaining floating community of more than 100 residents, boasts innovative technology like 500 solar panels and a green roof on every house. This brave and fascinating experiment demonstrates how humans can adapt to the changing planet while forging stronger communities. TV director Marjan de Blok got the idea for the floating neighborhood after working on a documentary about a floating home . She and some friends began to brainstorm. “We are a bottom-up initiative built by the people that live here,” she told Inhabitat in an email. “Not owned / started / sold by a company / architect. For us this is important and it’s the biggest strength of the project.” Schoonschip has already received tons of press, not all of it accurate, de Blok said. “We don’t use grey water to water our plants, we don’t grow food on our roofs and we don’t use the jouliette to pay electricity with. These are just a couple of things that are not true but have been spread and copied.” Related: This home floats in a self-sufficient Amsterdam neighborhood Instead, graywater is used for showers, washing machines, drainage and dishwashers. “Black water,” i.e. human waste , will be fermented and transformed into energy at a biorefinery, in partnership with a water supplier called Waternet. For other accurate details of Schoonship design and technology, de Blok recommends this article from GB&D . Inhabitat talked to three residents to get an inside look at what it’s like to call a floating village home. Marjan de Blok, resident since May 2019 Inhabitat: How did you get the idea for Schoonship? It started when I was making a short documentary about a sustainable floating house about 11 years ago. I completely fell in love with the concept of living on the water, as sustainable as possible. It gave me a great feeling of freedom and it seemed like the answer to a lot of challenges we were facing and still are facing. At the same time, I realized that building a house like this, as sustainable as this, would take a lot of money and effort. That’s how the idea was born to start a group, build more houseboats , to make a bigger impact. I started to talk to some friends and every single one of them was so enthusiastic, that we said let’s go for it. At that time our plan was more simple than what it turned out to be today. The project grew and grew and the sustainable possibilities developed, so we just grew along and here we are with 46 households living in this sustainable neighborhood, inspiring people worldwide.  Schoonschip consists of 46 houses and one collective space that we realized with the group and that we use for all kinds of purposes. In total there are 30 water lots. So some of the lots you see are inhabited by two households. They have their own house, on a shared lot. One of the lots is even inhabited by three families. We were a foundation and now a homeowners association.  How has your life changed since moving to Schoonschip? For me personally my life changed completely. I moved from a top floor small apartment in the busy west of Amsterdam to the north. Living on the water means living with the weather. But the biggest change for me is the social part. Sharing a village or neighborhood with people that you know is a big change compared to living in a house in a street where you hardly know any neighbor. Now, in winter, especially now with the lockdown going on, it might seem a bit quiet, but in summertime it’s wild. Everybody is swimming and playing. Kids rule the jetty. What else should we know? The project didn’t finish when we moved here. Our goal is to inspire and inform people worldwide to try and play a role in a more sustainable way of living and to become part of development of the area that they live in. Hanneke Maas Geesteranus, resident  since June 2019 What have been the biggest adjustments to moving to Schoonschip? That we are responsible for our own house and all the technical things about the solar collectors, the warm heat pump, the charger, etc. This was rather new for me so I had to deepen my knowledge about sustainable techniques. What do you like the most about living there? I like our house and the feeling to live so close to the water. But most of all I like to live in a community like this. It is a little village. We know each other rather well. Everyone is friendly, helpful and supportive of each other. What do you miss about traditional on-land housing? The trees . Could you describe the qualities a person needs to thrive at Schoonschip? We have a lot of different people in the community. So the differences are very charming and needed. But in common, 1. Interest in sustainability, feel the importance of understanding, to share innovation and new ideas. 2. To be open to live with other people around you and willing to invest in the social aspects. Pieter Kool, resident since April 2019 What have been the biggest adjustments to moving to Schoonschip? We were living in a small downtown apartment with kids, so ever since we live here it feels like we’ve rented a super fancy holiday home — without having to leave! The comfort of living and the quality of light in the houseboat is incredible. It was quite easy to adjust to this actually… Practically, the biggest adjustment was getting rid of our car. Within Schoonschip, we’ve set up a car-sharing system with electric vehicles and most Schoonschippers joined the group. Prior to the switch, this felt like a big adjustment, but it wasn’t as much of a deal as we expected. It’s quite relaxed to not have the usual car ownership issues. Before we moved we did a CO2 footprint analysis of our household; we were already vegetarians and moving to an energy-neutral house, by far the biggest polluting aspect of our lives would be transportation. Realizing this, the choice to move to electric car-sharing was a no-brainer. What do you like best about living there? The environmental sustainability aspect of living at Schoonschip is great, but to me, the social sustainability is much more special and rewarding on a personal level. The project has run 13 years from initiation to completion and together we’ve worked very hard at achieving our goals. Everybody in the community participated and we’ve gotten to know each other really well. Some people left the project along the way, but many stayed. The people that are still in the project are all very different, but they also seem to share a mentality of resilience, openness and forgiveness toward each other. Nice people to be around with! What do you miss about traditional housing? We don’t have a shed, so DIY work is a bit of a hassle. We added a small floating garden to the boat which produces vegetables and even has a generous pear tree on it! + Schoonschip Images by Isabel Nabuurs, courtesy of Schoonschip

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Lessons from Schoonschip, Amsterdam’s floating eco-village

Harmful algal blooms release "Very Fast Death Factor" into air

April 12, 2021 by  
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A new study published in the journal  Lake and Reservoir Management has found that a dangerous toxin known as anatoxin-a (ATX) could be airborne around bodies of water with algal blooms. The toxin could be released from scum found on ponds and lakes into the surrounding air. Also known as the “Very Fast Death Factor”, ATX has many negative effects on fish, other animals and ecosystems at large. The study was conducted on a pond in Massachusetts after scientists suspected that the toxin, produced by cyanobacteria and found in harmful algal blooms, could spread into the air. Related: Botswana elephant deaths caused by cyanobacteria ATX can affect humans and animals in various ways. The most common symptoms include lack of coordination, respiratory paralysis and muscular twitching in humans. It has also been linked with the death of waterfowl, livestock and dogs that drink this water. Besides the direct effects of the toxin, the algal blooms that produce ATX can also affect water quality. When the algae die and sink below the lake or pond surface, the decomposition process drains oxygen from the water, leading to the death of fish. While ATX has been produced in water for a long time, the rate at which the toxin is being produced has increased in recent years. The toxin is produced by cyanobacteria, which can grow exponentially when fertilizer runoff from farms finds its way into bodies of water. Rising temperatures also provide ideal growing conditions. “ATX is one of the more dangerous cyanotoxins produced by harmful algal blooms, which are becoming more predominant in lakes and ponds worldwide due to global warming and climate change ,” said study lead author James Sutherland of the Nantucket Land Council. Sutherland and his colleagues are warning people who live around bodies of water to be watchful. They said if a person inhales or comes in direct contact with the toxin, there is a possibility of serious health risks. “People often recreate around these lakes and ponds with algal blooms without any awareness of the potential problems,” Sutherland said. “Direct contact or inhalation of these cyanotoxins can present health risks for individuals, and we have reported a potential human health exposure not previously examined.” + Scimex + Lake and Reservoir Management Image via Aerial Associates Photography, Inc. by Zachary Haslick / NOAA

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Harmful algal blooms release "Very Fast Death Factor" into air

Leaking wastewater pond causes state of emergency in Florida

April 6, 2021 by  
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A leak in a wastewater pond caused a state of emergency in Manatee County, Florida last weekend. More than 300 homes were evacuated in case the reservoir at a former phosphate mine collapsed. If the 400 million-gallon reservoir were to totally collapse, residents could face a 20-foot wall of water in less than an hour’s time. To avoid a burst reservoir, authorities drained the untreated wastewater into surrounding waterways. Gov. Ron DeSantis reassured the public in a press conference Sunday that the water wasn’t radioactive. He said it was primarily salt water “mixed with legacy process water and stormwater runoff.” Related: Study finds US tap water is contaminated with dangerous chemicals If you’re wondering what “legacy water” is, you’re not alone. An article on legacy pollutants from the University of Southern Maine describes them as “contaminants that have been left in the environment by sources that are no longer discharging them such as an old industry that has since left the area.” (Such as a phosphate mine.) Officials are pumping out 33 million gallons of the reservoir water per day. According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the drained water “meets water quality standards for marine waters with the exception of pH, total phosphorus, total nitrogen and total ammonia nitrogen. It is slightly acidic, but not at a level that is expected to be a concern.” The state and governor plan to hold HRK Holdings, who bought the site in 2006, accountable for damages due to the reservoir emergency. But the trouble with the site precedes the current owner. In 2020, one article described the reservoir as “one of the biggest environmental threats in Florida history” and outlined controversies all the way back to the ‘60s. HRK filed for bankruptcy in 2012 after an expensive gypsum stack liner leak in 2011. “It could have been resolved two decades ago,” said Manatee County’s Acting County Administrator Scott Hopes, as reported by Huffington Post. “What I’ve seen in the past four days from the governor’s office is that all agencies and entities are now committed to a permanent resolution.” Via HuffPost and NPR Image via Jemzo

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Glowing sharks found near New Zealand

March 5, 2021 by  
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Scientists have found three glow-in-the-dark sharks off the coast of New Zealand. The kitefin shark , blackbelly lanternshark and southern lanternshark weren’t unknown to science. However, scientists had never seen them glow until recently. It’s the first time this phenomenon has been observed in larger sharks. Researchers found the glowing sharks at the Chatham Rise, a 1,000-meter deep area of ocean floor east of New Zealand , last January, according to a study published last week in Frontiers of Marine Science. Researchers from Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in New Zealand observed a blue glow on the three sharks’ ventral surface when they were in a fully dark environment. A fainter blue glow came from their dorsal fins as well as the lateral and dorsal areas. Related: 10 fun and fascinating facts about sharks Many marine animals emit bioluminescence, a distinct glow due to a chemical reaction in the body. An animal needs a molecule called luciferin, which produces light when it reacts with oxygen, to really shine. The reaction is even more impressive if the organism also produces the catalyst luciferase. Bioluminescent animals can regulate their brain processes and chemistry to control when they light up. This could be for mating or hunting purposes or to scare off predators. What does a shark gain from gleaming? Scientists are speculating. While you might think that lighting up would make you stand out, the sharks’ bioluminescence can actually serve as camouflage. Say you’re swimming below the shark on a sunny day. If the shark lights up its belly, and the sun is shining above, you’d only see a shadow. These three New Zealand species cruise the mesopelagic zone, between 200 and 1,000 meters in depth. Sunlight can reach a maximum of 1,000 meters, so this area is also called the twilight zone. There’s nowhere to hide in the twilight zone, so bioluminescent camo comes in handy. The study’s authors concluded, “Bioluminescence has often been seen as a spectacular yet uncommon event at sea but considering the vastness of the deep sea and the occurrence of luminous organisms in this zone, it is now more and more obvious that producing light at depth must play an important role structuring the biggest ecosystem on our planet.” + Frontiers of Marine Science Via The Guardian , Smithsonian and BBC Image via Frontiers of Marine Science

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Design unveiled for a sustainable wooden tower in Switzerland

March 5, 2021 by  
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Architecture firms  3XN  and  IttenBrechbühl  have won an international competition with their design for the Tilia Tower©, an 85-meter-tall timber high-rise that will serve as a beacon for sustainability and an anchor for the up-and-coming district of Prilly-Malley. In addition to an ambitious wooden building, the pair of architecture firms will also oversee the energy-efficient renovation of two existing buildings for the real estate company Insula SA. The project will target Minergie-P, a Swiss certification for buildings with very low energy consumption. Proposed for the western suburbs of  Lausanne , the project will inject new life into the rapidly developing district of Prilly-Malley with a mixed program that includes residences, retail, co-working spaces, restaurants, public spaces and a hotel. The tower will be built primarily of timber, a material chosen for its low carbon footprint, and open up to a new public square landscaped with biodiverse plants and microorganisms. To highlight the tower’s importance to the district as well as its diverse functions, the architects have created a rhythmic and sculptural facade made up of deep window niches and terraces that are also designed to optimize daylight and shading. “We have worked with the philosophy of making a building that respects the human scale by emphasizing the connection to nature and by ensuring good daylight, which we know is important for human well-being,” said Jan Ammundsen, architect and responsible senior partner for the Tilia Tower©, at 3XN. “ Wood  is a consistent material in the project which adds a natural, warm, and robust look. Wood is a fantastic building material, and it will add a fine tactile expression to the building. The Tilia Tower will be a bright, friendly, humane, and sustainable building.” Related: 3XN’s green-roofed offices to sport an elevated cycling path in Stockholm The new high-rise will be connected to the pair of existing buildings — an office and a badminton hall — that will undergo an energy-efficient  renovation  and feature new facades to match the appearance of the Tilia Tower©.  + 3XN Images via 3XN

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Lazzarini Design releases conceptual Pagurus, an amphibious catamaran

February 17, 2021 by  
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Lazzarini Design calls it the Pagurus or the Crabmaran, and this amphibious catamaran concept is both futuristic and exciting. If you’re in the market for an ultra-luxurious, multipurpose adventure vehicle, this might be for you. Its 82 feet of length matches the long-standing yacht standards for opulence and function, with copious additional features that include solar and water power and the amphibious capability to function on land or in the water. Related: Isaac Burrough unveils solar-powered luxury yacht concept Lazzarini Design of Rome and Dubai is known for finding inspiration in nature, and Pagurus is no exception with its crab-like body. Within that framework, each hull provides a separate living space with up to three bedrooms, a kitchen, and a bathroom. It can host up to eight passengers and four additional crew members. The two areas are connected through a bridge tower deck station, while a bridge steel structure stiffens and reinforces the design. Capable of sailing across the ocean propelled by 890 HP engines at speeds up to 24 knots, Pagurus is supplemented by the energy created by water friction and solar power , both of which can recharge the batteries while the vehicle is in motion. In full electric mode, the vessel can pull five knots for a duration of six to seven hours. This billionaire’s toy can even transport massive loads, including an electric automobile or off-road vehicle, which would be lifted onboard using a crane. Remarkably, Pagurus doesn’t skip a beat when the road ahead is land rather than waves , with the ability to move on sand or mud terrains up to 30kmh. If this is what your ideal future looks like, Pagurus can be built on demand from a starting price of 6,580,000 euros ranging up to 24,000,000 euros for the Crabmaran version (about $8-29 million). Then again, you might want to consider one of the other six nature-inspired designs by the company, including the previously released Avanguardia the Swan or Prodigium the Shark. + Lazzarini Design Studio Via Yanko Design Images via Lazzarini Design Studio

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Researchers develop hydrogen paste that could fuel vehicles

February 17, 2021 by  
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A team of researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute of Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials (IFAM) has developed a hydrogen paste that could one day be used to fuel vehicles. In the Germany-based institute’s latest development, the team came up with a product it calls POWERPASTE, which could be revolutionary in the transport sector. The product is created from a magnesium base and would be stored in vehicles in the form of a cartridge. Those who wish to use this form of fuel for vehicles would be required to purchase hydrogen paste cartridges . To refuel, a driver would swap a used hydrogen cartridge with a new one and then fill the tank with water. Related: Hydrogen fuel cells — good or bad for the environment? Marcus Vogt, research associate at IFAM, explained how the paste works. “POWERPASTE stores hydrogen in a chemical form at room temperature and atmospheric pressure to be then released on-demand,” Vogt said. The researchers say that the paste offers a safe, convenient and affordable hydrogen fuel option for small vehicles. The paste begins to decompose at 480°F, meaning it can be used in cars even in the hottest regions of the world. The POWERPASTE has been praised by the developers for its capacity. “POWERPASTE … has a huge energy storage density,” Vogt said. “It is substantially higher than that of a 700 bar high-pressure tank. And compared to batteries, it has 10 times the energy storage density.” Given that the paste is similar to gasoline in terms of range, it could be a viable alternative. As a result, researchers are proposing the use of the paste in smaller vehicles. They also say that its use could be extended to drones. In recent years, many companies and countries have been shifting attention to hydrogen-based energy solutions. In a bid to avoid the problems caused by fossil fuels , hydrogen technologies such as POWERPASTE are being developed. + IFAM Via Business Insider Image via IFAM

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Global Forest Watch can now see through clouds to stop deforestation

February 17, 2021 by  
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Last year, the Global Forest Watch tracking system starting allowing people to help monitor deforestation in far-flung parts of the world while sitting at home with their laptop. But the satellite program had a flaw: perpetrators could hide behind cloud cover. The system recently announced a new upgrade that uses radar to see right through the clouds. “Essentially, the satellites are sending radio waves to Earth and collecting how they come back,” said Mikaela Weisse, one of site administrators, as reported by NPR . Operated by the European Space Agency, the instrument is delivering sharper pictures than ever. “If we can detect deforestation and other changes as soon as they’re happening, then there’s the possibility to send in law enforcement or what have you, to stop it before it goes further.” Related: You can help monitor Amazon deforestation from your couch The software scans for changes, such as trees disappearing, and issues alerts when it detects something fishy. About once a week, the satellites re-scan each place that they are monitoring. Global Forest Watch has been popular with citizen scientists — ordinary people without training as data or climate experts — who want to do their part to slow deforestation. The app depends on a combination of artificial and human intelligence to monitor the world’s forests. Preliminary studies indicate that the monitoring is paying off. There’s been less forest -clearing in some places when people know their illegal actions are being observed. Eventually, evildoers figured out that clouds would cloak their deeds, so they would clear land under cover of rain, according to Weisse. This was an especially big problem in the tropics. “In Indonesia, my impression is, it’s the rainy season almost all the time,” Weisse said. “There’s almost always cloud cover.” Global Forest Watch is available for anybody to login and see deforestation in real time. Let’s hope that big companies that have pledged not to support deforestation will use this tool to live up to their promises. + Global Forest Watch Via NPR Image via Gryffyn M.

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This home in Vietnam stays cool with a rooftop rainwater sprinkler

February 5, 2021 by  
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Located in Hai Duong, Vietnam, this solar-powered home designed by H&P Architects and completed in 2020 is made of steel, bamboo and locally sourced brick. The 75-square-meter model, known as HOUSE (Human’s Optional USE), is designed for use in vulnerable, low-income areas and regions prone to flooding. The HOUSE has a unique installation in the form of a rooftop rainwater sprinkler. These multifunctional structures can be grouped together to create different patterns of neighborhoods or even serve as education, healthcare or community spaces. According to the architects, the innovative sprinkler system is used to clean and cool the home’s roof during hot days. The water cools the roof as it evaporates, keeping the summer heat from absorbing into the roof. Otherwise, indoor temperatures would soar and lead to higher air conditioning and energy costs. This water comes from a rainwater harvesting system that reuses rain in order to save domestic water. Related: Porous brick walls keep this bold Vietnamese home naturally cool Structurally, the home has a lifted, reinforced steel frame with a pitched roof and 3-meter-long beamed tubes that fit together through joints. With this design, the home can easily accommodate more floors if necessary, and the lifted frame is suitable for flood-prone areas. The roof is made of pieces of thick bamboo beams positioned for optimal reinforcement. The HOUSE features simple, organic materials with corrugated iron and painted steel on the exterior and bricks and natural wood on the interior. On the top floor, a netted section provides a fun, recreational space for lounging. Multiple doors and windows open on each side to promote cross breezes and passive cooling, especially necessary in the hot, humid Vietnamese climate. In addition to the rainwater sprinkler system, the large roof also holds solar panels that produce twice as much energy needed to power electrical equipment within the household. Residual energy can be stored within the system or traded. + H&P Architects Images via H&P Architects

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This home in Vietnam stays cool with a rooftop rainwater sprinkler

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