Norway rejects wind farm in favor of wild reindeer

February 7, 2018 by  
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Nearly 35,000 wild reindeer make their home in the southern mountains of Norway – “the last remaining viable populations in Europe,” according to Reuters . And the country recently prioritized the animals over energy , rejecting construction of a 120 megawatt (MW) wind farm over concerns it could harm the animals . The wind farm had the potential to boost business in the Bygland municipality, a sparsely-populated area. But it also would have been located in a designated national reserve where reindeer live, according to the country’s energy ministry; subsequently, Norway nixed construction. Related: Snøhetta’s Norwegian Wild Reindeer Centre Pavilion was inspired by the robust landscape Other pressures on the herds of wild reindeer include holiday cabins, roads, reservoirs, and railways. In November 2017, eight freight trains killed around 110 reindeer in Norway over a period of one week. TreeHugger said development has encroached on reindeer habitat, and the creatures are suffering. That’s not to mention climate change ; more frequent winter pasture freezes and thaws have also had a negative impact on the reindeer population, particularly in the Arctic north, according to Reuters. The outlet reported around 99 percent of Norway’s domestic energy needs are met by electricity generated in hydropower dams. Generating more power than they can utilize, the country is a net exporter to other Nordic nations and the Netherlands. In 2017, Norway licensed construction for two wind farms with a 141 MW combined capacity in the south of the country, as that region has grown more interested in wind energy in the last few years. So perhaps it wasn’t too difficult to make the call to prioritize reindeer over clean energy. TreeHugger referred to it as an inspiration: having enough renewable energy infrastructure that a country can decide in favor of wildlife when considering a new project. Via Reuters and TreeHugger Images via Espen Faugstad on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Adventuring Naya becomes first wolf sighted in Belgium in a century

January 23, 2018 by  
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A female wolf originally from East Germany has traveled across Europe to arrive in Belgium , marking the country’s first sighting in at least 100 years. Farmers in Belgium’s Dutch-speaking Flanders region have been notified of Naya’s presence after she killed two sheep and injured one in the town of Meerhout. While it is unlikely they are thrilled by Naya’s adventurous spirit, her arrival is nonetheless an inspiring event for a continent that long ago hunted most of its wolves to near-extinction in most places. With the Belgian sighting in the books, wolves have now officially returned to every country in mainland Europe. The nearly two-year old Naya was first tagged with a tracking device by Technical University of Dresden when she was six-months-old. However, she did not depart from her pack rooted in rural Lübtheener Heide, a region between Hamburg and Berlin , until last autumn. She has since been living the dream of traveling through Europe , first traversing the Netherlands before arriving in Belgium. “She passed through four or five natural parks in the Netherlands but she left them all after one or two days showing that she was looking for something else,” Hugh Jansman, a researcher from the Wageningen University and research center, told the Guardian . Related: Wolves return to Rome’s periphery for the first time in 100 years Data gathered from her tracking device indicates that Naya has covered between 30 and 70 kilometers per night. “I followed the places where she stayed,” said Jansman . “We found leftover roe deer and hares, so she has been eating wild animals as well, as expected. And one thing we can tell is that she has totally avoided humans, and anything to do with humans.” Naya is part of a thriving movement of European wolves returning to live in their former habitats. “ Agricultural areas are being abandoned by people so they are re-wilding again, leaving lots of space for carnivores. The countryside is being abandoned by young people who are moving to the cities,” said Jansman. “This increase in wolves numbers and distribution area is going quite rapidly. So it is not a matter of if wolves are coming to the Netherlands , and probably Belgium, but how fast.” Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Adventuring Naya becomes first wolf sighted in Belgium in a century

Peru passes legislation to let roads slice through remote Amazon area

January 23, 2018 by  
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Part of Peru’s Amazon rainforest could be under threat with a recently passed law. The move would allow roads to be constructed in Purus, a region The Guardian describes as the country’s most remote and pristine. It is also home to isolated indigenous groups. The law declares constructing roads in border areas as a “national priority and interest”. The area includes four national parks , and could impact five reserves for indigenous people The Guardian described as living in voluntary isolation. Related: Scientists warn Amazon jungle faces “death spiral” Lizardo Cauper, head of Aidesep , a Peruvian indigenous rights organization, told The Guardian, “These projects don’t benefit indigenous people. This is an area with isolated people who are extremely vulnerable. Roads bring outsiders who traffic our land, log our timber, as well as drug traffickers and illegal miners .” According to The Guardian, the law contravenes multiple international commitments Peru has made, including ones on climate change and trade. The publication also reported that Environmental Investigation Agency Peru director Julia Urrunaga said the new law contradicts a court ruling declaring the protection of the forest in Peru’s national interest. The roads could could open up paths for deforestation – Urrunaga said 95 percent of this occurs less than six kilometers, or around 3.7 miles, away from a road. The law was announced in the country’s official gazette mere hours after Pope Francis’ visit ended; during his trip he said Amazon’s indigenous peoples have “never been so threatened in their territories as they are now,” per The Guardian , and called for an end to exploitation of timber, gold, and gas in the region. In a Friday talk in Puerto Maldonado, the pope spoke out against “pressure being exerted by big business interests,” destroying this natural habitat important for the entire Earth. Laura Furones of Global Witness told The Guardian, “This law makes a mockery of Peru’s climate change commitments and the recent visit by the pope.” Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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Peru passes legislation to let roads slice through remote Amazon area

Scientists puzzle over subterranean heat melting Greenland’s glaciers

January 23, 2018 by  
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Researchers have acquired evidence that heat emanating from deep below the Earth’s surface is contributing to the meltdown of Greenland’s glaciers. Though they have long suspected that a subterranean heat source was a factor in the melting glaciers, scientists were previously unable to determine the precise mechanism by which this occurred. Data gathered from Greenland’s Young Sound fjord region, a geologically active area featuring many hot springs in which temperatures can reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit, indicates that radiant heat loss is melting glaciers from the bottom up. This discovery will allow researchers to more accurately assess the stability of Greenland’s ice sheet and better predict sea level rise . The heat rising from below Greenland’s surface has loosened the lowest levels of glaciers, easing their slide into the sea. “There is no doubt that the heat from the Earth’s interior affects the movement of the ice, and we expect that a similar heat seepage takes place below a major part of the ice cap in the northeastern corner of Greenland,” wrote Søren Rysgaard, lead author of the study published in Scientific Reports . The heat source is known as a geothermal heat flux, an ancient phenomenon found throughout the planet. In Greenland, the heat percolates from below the surface up through fjords, warming deep sea temperatures that then transfer this heat to the surrounding glaciers . Related: 512-year-old Greenland shark may be the oldest living vertebrate on Earth Because geothermal heat fluxes are difficult to assess, “our results are very unique because we determined the relatively small heat flux from a decade-long warming of an almost stagnant water mass,” co-author Jørgen Bendtsen told Newsweek . Earth’s heat circulating up through the fjords of Greenland is one of several factors contributing to the melting glaciers. Rising air and sea temperature, precipitation , and the unique qualities of the ice sheet also affect the speed of glacier melting. Via Newsweek Images via Wieter Boone ,  Mikael Sejr , and  Søren Rysgaard

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Scientists puzzle over subterranean heat melting Greenland’s glaciers

This floating hotel and spa in Sweden will fill you with wanderlust

January 23, 2018 by  
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The team behind the famous Treehotel in Sweden just unveiled plans for a new floating hotel and spa on the Lule River in that will fill you with wanderlust. The Arctic Bath Hotel and Spa might be the perfect place to enjoy the Northern Lights and work on your well-being while being surrounded by stunning landscapes. As a company that specializes in luxury adventure holidays, Off the Map Travel aims to provide people with exotic travel options and allow them to reach authentic destinations. The newest addition to their handpicked offering is this floating hotel and spa that freezes into the ice in the winter and floats on top of the Lule River in the summer. Related: Floating sauna with charred timber cladding boasts minimal site impact The Arctic Bath Hotel and Spa is a circular building that will house a spa treatment room, four saunas , an outside cold bath, a hot bath, outside and inside showers, and two dressing rooms for visitors. The six hotel rooms included also float or remain frozen into the ice, depending on the time of year. The project is being built using locally available materials and will be open for overnight stays as soon as early 2018. + Off the Map Travel Via AFAR

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This floating hotel and spa in Sweden will fill you with wanderlust

Birds called ‘firehawk raptors’ are intentionally spreading fires in Australia

January 10, 2018 by  
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When you think of causes of fire in Australia , you might think of lightning or arsonists – but you probably don’t think of birds . But at least three birds of prey species spread wildfires in Australia, according to a new paper incorporating indigenous knowledge. Penn State University geographer and lead author Mark Bonta told National Geographic , “We’re not discovering anything. Most of the data that we’ve worked with is collaborative with Aboriginal peoples…They’ve known this for probably 40,000 years or more.” ‘Firehawk raptors’ – the Black Kite ( Milvus migrans ), Brown Falcon ( Falco berigora ), and Whistling Kite ( Haliastur sphenurus ) – spread fire by carrying burning sticks in their beaks or talons. They can transport fiery sticks up to around one kilometer, or 0.6 miles, away, staring fires where the flames haven’t yet burned. And while indigenous people have known about this behavior for a long time, this new study published in the Journal of Ethnobiology late last year documenting the knowledge and around six years of ethno-ornithological research could help overcome what the paper abstract described as “official skepticism about the reality of avian fire-spreading.” Related: Carnivorous marsupial alive and well after being presumed extinct for 100 years “Intentional Fire-Spreading by “Firehawk” Raptors in Northern Australia,” Bonta et al. Journal of Ethnobiology, 37(4) (abstract): https://t.co/JJVomc5zDy #ethnobiology #ethnoornithology #birds #fire pic.twitter.com/Bv4oSA6BpC — Bob Gosford (@bgosford) January 1, 2018 Why would these birds of prey set fires? According to National Geographic, the blazes could help them find food as small animals and insects attempt to escape the fire. Co-author Bob Gosford told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 2016, “Black kites and brown falcons come to these fronts because it is just literally a killing frenzy. It’s a feeding frenzy, because out of these grasslands come small birds, lizards, insects, everything fleeing the front of the fire.” And it’s important to dispel skepticism so officials could better plan land management and restoration. The researchers hope their paper will help with fire ecology and fire management that takes into account these fire-spreading birds. Via ScienceAlert and National Geographic Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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Birds called ‘firehawk raptors’ are intentionally spreading fires in Australia

South Australia to host world’s largest thermal solar plant

January 10, 2018 by  
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In South Australia , California-based SolarReserve is building what will be the world’s largest thermal solar plant. The $650 million, 150 megawatt solar plant has received state development approval and construction on the project will begin in 2018. “It’s fantastic that SolarReserve has received development approval to move forward with this world-leading project that will deliver clean, dispatchable renewable energy to supply our electrified rail, hospitals and schools,” South Australia’s acting energy minister Chris Picton told the Sydney Morning Herald . When fully operational, the plant will provide electricity for 90,000 homes and generate 500-gigawatts of energy each year. The South Australia solar thermal plant will feature a single tower that stands at the center of a vast field of solar mirrors, also known as heliostats. These mirrors reflect the sun’s rays onto the tower, which incorporates molten salt batteries to store the energy. This power can then be released as steam, which powers an electricity-generating turbine. When completed, the plant will mitigate the equivalent of 200,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. Related: The world’s first 100% solar-powered train launches in Australia The plant will be located roughly 30 kilometers (18 miles) north of Port Augusta in South Australia, a region which has generated international headlines for its energy developments. In collaboration with Tesla , South Australia now hosts the world’s largest single-unit battery , which is capable of providing power to 30,000 homes. “The state has taken a series of positive steps towards greater energy independence which are really starting to pay off. And it has already met its target of 50 per cent renewable energy almost a decade early,” said Natalie Collard, Clean Energy Council executive general manager, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “South Australia is providing the rest of the country a glimpse of a renewable energy future. Our electricity system is rapidly moving towards one which will be smarter and cleaner, with a range of technologies providing high-tech, reliable, lower-cost power.” Via Sydney Morning Herald Images via Department of Energy

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New giant octopus species discovered near Alaska

December 29, 2017 by  
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You wouldn’t expect humans to have missed a whole species of giant octopus – but researchers recently revealed that’s exactly what we did. Per Earther , the giant Pacific octopus (GPO), which is the biggest octopus we know about on the planet, averaging 110 pounds and 16 feet across , is in reality two species. Alaska Pacific University (APU) undergraduate student Nathan Hollenbeck led the effort to discover what the team is calling the frilled giant Pacific octopus . Scientists had wondered if GPO was an umbrella name, referring to more than one species, for decades, according to Earther. In 2012, APU and United States Geological Survey scientists discovered a genetically distinct group of the giant octopus, but only gathered small samples of arm tissue before sending the creatures back to the ocean , so weren’t sure if the groups were also visually distinct. Hollenbeck hoped to unravel the enigma for his senior thesis. Related: Octopuses are taking over the oceans, and no one knows why He found some answers in shrimp trawling bycatch, where octopuses sometimes show up. It didn’t take him long to realize he could identify two types simply by looking at the cephalopods . One was a regular GPO; the other had a frill running along its body, raised skin eyelashes, and two white spots on its head instead of the one of regular GPOs. “Presumably, people have been catching these octopuses for years and no one ever noticed,” David Scheel, Hollenbeck’s advisor and APU professor, told Earther. Hollenbeck snipped off small arm pieces – and to see if in the future researchers could avoid that invasive technique, collected DNA with a cotton swab. He was the first to try the less invasive method on an octopus. And both samples confirmed the frilled one is a species distinct from the GPO. GPOs can be found from Alaska to California to Japan, but the researchers gathered reliable reports of the frilled giant octopus only from Juneau to the Bering Sea, according to Earther. But the new species could be common in the deeper water habitats they appear to prefer. Frilled giants comprised one third of the octopus bycatch Hollenbeck scrutinized. The American Malacological Bulletin published the research earlier this year here and here ; scientists from the United States Geological Survey and Alaska Resource Education contributed to the second paper. + Frilled giant Pacific octopus Via Earther Images courtesy of D. Scheel and via and Depositphotos

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Why Chicago is pollinating bee populations

December 8, 2017 by  
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In a fresh spin on “concrete jungle,” urban green spaces are home to conservation efforts that bolster declining bee habitats.

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Critically endangered red wolf may be forced into extinction by GOP

December 1, 2017 by  
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There are only 45 to 60 red wolves left in the wild, concentrated in a small area of North Carolina — but for Republicans, that is simply too many. The  Canis rufus, which was declared endangered in 1982 and critically endangered in 1996, has seen only slight growth in its population over the last 30-plus years. As such, the wolves have been protected through a captive breeding and reintroduction program funded by the federal government. But now with Republicans controlling the Senate, a covert push is underway to eviscerate the protective agency and force these red wolves into extinction. As IFLS shares, the initiative is  buried in a Senate report , written as: “The Committee acknowledges the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s request that the [Fish and Wildlife] Service end the Red Wolf recovery program and declare the Red Wolf extinct.” The claim is that “landowners and other species” are being impacted by the wolves and that “the program has failed to meet population goals for the red wolf”—though, notably, absolutely no research or data was accompanied to back up the statements. If passed, the program would come to a close next year. Related: Red Wolves Critically Close to Extinction After Hunters Kill 10 Percent of Population “Senate Republicans are trying to hammer a final nail in the coffin of the struggling red wolf recovery program,” Perrin de Jong, a Center for Biological Diversity staff attorney, said in a  press release . “It is morally reprehensible for Senator Murkowski and her committee to push for the extinction of North Carolina’s most treasured wild predator. Instead of giving up on the red wolf, Congress should fund recovery efforts, something lawmakers have cynically blocked time and time again.” The handful of existing red wolves are the result of an aggressive reintroduction effort started in 1987 to bring them out of extinction. Even today, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) reports they are “one of the world’s most endangered wild canids,” though they have made “good progress” in rebuilding the population, despite illegal poaching and interbreeding with coyotes. The goal has been to grow the number to 220 red wolves. Rather than disassembling the program, the Center for Biological Diversity is calling on pols to improve it: “The science demonstrates that red wolves are still recoverable. A 2014  report  by the nonpartisan Wildlife Management Institute concluded that recovery would require augmenting eastern North Carolina’s existing wild population of fewer than 45 red wolves with two additional wild populations and investing additional resources to build local support for red wolf recovery.” Both the subcommittee and the Interior Department will decide the fate of the wolves. Unfortunately, as the two are under the control of the GOP, a party that has little interest in environmental conservation, the future of the red wolf is bleak. Via  IFL Science Images via Center for Biological Diversity

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