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41% Of UK Wildlife Species Have Declined Since 1970, Major Report Finds

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Photo Credit: EcoWatch

Brexit may have dominated the headlines in recent weeks, but another crisis is underway in the UK: One in seven of its wildlife species face extinction, and 41% have declined since 1970.

Those figures are from the most recent State of Nature report, released Friday. It is the “most detailed report ever” on the state of the UK’s wildlife, according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). It looked at nearly 7,000 species and drew on the expertise of more than 70 organizations, BBC News reported.

“We know more about the UK’s wildlife than any other country on the planet, and what it is telling us should make us sit up and listen,” lead report author and RSPB scientist Daniel Hayhow said, as BBC News reported.

Here are some of the report’s key messages, according to BBC News, The Guardian and The Natural History Museum:

  • More than one quarter of UK mammals face extinction.
  • Almost one half of its bird species are at risk.
  • Nearly one-fifth of plant species, 15% of fungi and lichens, 40% of vertebrates and 12% of invertebrates also face extinction.
  • One quarter of moths and almost one fifth of butterflies have already gone extinct.
  • In total, 133 of the species assessed have gone extinct since the 1500s.
  • Sixty percent of so-called “priority species” have declined since 1970.
  • The most threatened mammals are the Scottish wildcat and the black rat.
  • Since the 1950s, hedgehogs have declined by 95%, turtle doves by 98% and common toads by 68%.
  • Ninety-three percent of beached northern fulmar seabirds had eaten plastic.
  • In three Crown Dependencies and 14 Overseas Territories, which include important ocean ecosystems, 40% of sharks and rays, 36% of reptiles and amphibians, 11% of mammals and eight percent of birds are threatened.
  • In positive news, one quarter of species have increased, including the bittern and the large blue butterfly.

The report builds on other alarming findings. A 2018 study found that a fifth of UK mammals could be extinct within 10 years. The last State of Nature report, in 2016, found that the UK was “among the most nature depleted countries in the world,” according to The Guardian.

“We are in the midst of a nature and climate emergency right here at home,” Mark Wright of WWF told The Guardian. “The new [post-Brexit] environment bill must be world-leading with bold legal targets and a strong watchdog that holds the government accountable for halting the losses.”

The major drivers of biodiversity loss are agriculture, the climate crisis, urbanization, pollution, hydrological change, invasive species and woodland management, the report said.

Pesticide use on crops increased 53% between 1990 and 2010, and many species are shifting their ranges 20 kilometres (approximately 12 miles) north per decade as temperatures warm, BBC News reported.

“I have felt the loss of nature more acutely this year than any other,” 24-year-old Sophie Pavelle, a conservationist quoted in the report’s foreword, told The Guardian. “A dawn chorus less deafening; hedgerows less frantic; bizarre, worrying weather. It seems that in a more complex world, nature is tired, muted and confused.”

But the increasing ecological crisis corresponds with an increase in public interest in and concern for the environment and the report itself is proof. It relied on observations from volunteers and citizen scientists around the country, Head of Science Policy and Communication at the Natural History Museum John Jackson said.

“The fact that this report exists reflects a mass of individual interest in the natural world,” Jackson said. “It reflects that cultural value that is attached in the UK to understanding and interacting with nature.”

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Environment

This Rainbow River In Colombia Has The Most Amazing Colors In The World

Welcome to the most colourful river of the world. Rainbows are jealous of the beauty of Caño Cristales.

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This Rainbow River In Colombia Has The Most Amazing Colors In The World
Photo Credit: World of Travel

Caño Cristales is a vividly coloured river found in Colombia’s Meta region, in South America. It is commonly known as the “River of Five Colors” or the “Liquid Rainbow,” and when you are first confronted with its breath-taking beauty, you immediately know that these names are by no means an exaggeration.

During the peak season, Caño Cristales sports vivid colours including black, blue, green, yellow and red, the last caused by Macarenia clavigera plants. The river is said to contain no fish, and it is situated in a mountainous region with nearby grasslands. The total length of Caño Cristales is 100 kilometres (62 miles) and it lies in the Serrania de la Macarena National Park.

Image credit: Moterocolombia
Image credit: Moterocolombia

Caño Cristales is a fast-flowing river with many rapids and waterfalls. Small circular pits known as giant’s kettles can be found in many parts of the riverbed, which have been formed by pebbles or chunks of harder rocks. Once one of these harder rock fragments falls into one of the cavities, it is rotated by the water current and begins to carve at the cavity wall, increasing the dimensions of the pit.

Image source: World of Travel
Image credit: World of Travel
Image credit: Mario Carvajal
Image credit: Mario Carvajal

The river is home to a wide variety of aquatic plants. Its water is extremely clear due to the lack of nutrients and small particles – which also explain the absence of fish. Almost unique is the bright red – pink coloration of riverbed after the rainy period in the end of June – November, caused by the endemic plant species Macarenia clavígera.

Image credit: Mario Carvajal
Image credit: Mario Carvajal
Image credit: Mario Carvajal
Image credit: Mario Carvajal
Image credit: Mario Carvajal

The colours of Caño Cristales reach their peak some weeks between June and December, and this is the best time to visit. The river is in a remote area and can only be accessed by aircraft, then boat, and even then, a hike is required.

Tourists were unable to visit Caño Cristales for 20 years, from 1989 to 2008, mainly due to guerrilla warfare in the area, but also because of the potential negative effect they would have on the habitat. However, visitors have been able to tour the area since 2009 with authorised tourism companies.

Image credit: canocristales.co
Image credit: canocristales.co
Image credit: canocristales.co
Image credit: canocristales.co
Image credit: canocristales.co
Image credit: canocristales.co

Caño Cristales is among the most beautiful rivers on earth. National Geographic quotes that the river seems to have been from “The Garden of Eden” (Spanish: Paraíso), and yes, it is definitely true.

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Environment

Reforestation Drones Will Plant 40,000 Trees This Month With 1 Billion Goal Set for 2028

A Canadian startup has set the lofty goal of using drones to plant a billion trees by 2028. The company hopes to revolutionize reforestation.

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Reforestation Drones Will Plant 40,000 Trees This Month With 1 Billion Goal Set for 2028
Photo Credit: Newsweek

(TMU) – As the world continues to witness warming climate conditions, there has been a frightful uptick in massive wildfires from California to the Amazon rainforest and the Australian bush.

And as the world’s forests burn to the ground, this creates a dilemma not only for wildlife habitats but also for us humans – because trees help absorb and store carbon dioxide, they are one of our basic lines of defence against global warming.

However, a Canadian startup has set the lofty goal of using drones to plant a billion trees by 2028 – and in the process, the company hopes to revolutionize the manner in which the process of reforestation is tackled.

Flash Forest plans to deploy its revolutionary new technology to identify the best planting sites on fire-scorched land just north of Toronto where it can begin firing specially designed seedpods into the ground. The pods consist of germinated seeds, fertilizer, and a proprietary blend of “secret” ingredients, according to Newsweek.

A spray drone would then cover the area with nutrients such as nitrogen, helping the seedlings to grow, before mapping drones are sent later to monitor progress.

The company hopes to plant at least 40,000 trees in the Toronto region this month alone. Later this year, Flash Forest will also plant up to 300,000 trees in Hawaii.

Now On Kickstarter: Flash Forest | Using Drones to Plant 1 Billion Trees

And while people are capable of planting around 1,500 seed pods by hands, per day – requiring a hectic pace, without a doubt – Flash Forest’s drone solutions are apparently capable of planting 10,000 to 20,000 at present, with the company hoping to eventually be able to plant 100,000 a day.

And not only is the process far less intensive in terms of manual labour required, but it’s also far cheaper at around 50 cents per seed pod – about 20% cheaper than traditional planting techniques.

Image Credit: Flash Forest
Image Credit: Flash Forest

According to a study published in the journal Science, planting about a billion trees across the globe could remove two-thirds of all carbon dioxide emissions worldwide—approximately 25% of the CO2 in the atmosphere—creating a vast natural means to trap and store the emissions in an affordable and politically non-controversial manner.

Image Credit: Flash Forest
Image Credit: Flash Forest

The company claims that its drones can sharply increase the speed and efficiency of planting trees. The company said:

“Flash Forest is a reforestation company that can plant at 10 times the normal rate and at 20% of the cost of traditional tree planting techniques.

With drone engineering, we bring new levels of accuracy, precision and speed to the reforestation industry.”

The world faces a shrinking window of time in which to tackle the problem of heat-trapping emissions, with researchers warning that rampant and accelerating hot conditions across the world could exceed the worst-case scenarios previously forecast by climate experts – giving added impetus to mitigation efforts.

Flash Forest co-founder and chief strategy officer Angelique Ahlstrom said that’s where its drones can be a crucial part of such a strategy. She told Fast Company:

“There are a lot of different attempts to tackle reforestation. But despite all of them, they’re still failing, with a net loss of 7 billion trees every year.”

Ahlstrom notes that it’s not possible to combat deforestation by planting trees alone – however, Flash Forest’s state-of-the-art hardware using mapping drones and pneumatic-powered firing devices that shoot pods deep into the soil can be an asset in the cause.

Continuing, she said:

“It allows you to get into trickier areas that human planters can’t.”

Each planting will also consist of four species and eventually eight – covering an aspect of mass tree-planting that similar initiatives have overlooked in the past. Ahlstrom said:

“We very much prioritize biodiversity, so we try to plant species that are native to the land as opposed to monocultures.

We work with local seed banks and also take into account that the different changes that climate change brings with temperature rise, anticipating what the climate will be like in five to eight years when these trees are much older and have grown to a more mature stage, and how that will affect them.”

According to their website, they’ve so far planted 469 White Spruce, 344 White Pine, around 327 Blue Spruce, 225 Red Maple, 790 White Birch, 621 Sugar Maple, 131 Douglas Fir, and 199 Balsam.

And with researchers claiming that the Earth has room for over 1 trillion additional trees that can be planted across the globe, Flash Forest could help change the way any worldwide planting initiative would take shape. For Ahlstrom, it’s pretty simple math. She said:

“I think that drones are absolutely necessary to hit the kind of targets that we’re saying are necessary to achieve some of our carbon sequestration goals as a global society (and) when you look at the potential for drones, we plant 10 times faster than humans.”

By Jade Small | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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Environment

The ‘Underwater Waterfall’ Illusion At Mauritius Island

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The ‘Underwater Waterfall’ Illusion At Mauritius Island
Photo Credit: Unknown

Mauritius is an island nation in the Indian Ocean about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) off the southeast coast of the African continent. Mauritius was first discovered by the Arabs in 975 AD, then by the Portuguese between 1507 and 1513. Since then there have been periods of succession and colonization between the French, Dutch and British. The island gained independence in 1968 and became a republic in 1992.

Located at the Southwestern tip of the island you will find a fascinating illusion. When viewed from above, a runoff of sand and silt deposits creates the impression of an ‘underwater waterfall. Satellite views (as seen in the Google Maps screenshots below) are equally dramatic, as an underwater vortex seemingly appears off the coast of this tropical paradise.

Satellite Photograph by DigitalGlobe via Google Maps
Satellite Photograph by DigitalGlobe via Google Maps
Satellite Photograph by DigitalGlobe via Google Maps
Satellite Photograph by DigitalGlobe via Google Maps

Towering high above is Le Morne Brabant, a basaltic monolith with a summit 556 m (1,824 ft) above sea level. The summit covers an area of over 12 hectares (30 acres) and is situated on Le Morne Brabant peninsula. The area (Le Morne Cultural Landscape) is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Recently, videographer ReubenMRU flew his drone high above the island to show what Le Morne Brabant and the nearby ‘underwater waterfall’ look like from above.

Mauritius’s Underwater Waterfall

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With Tourists Gone, Australian Scuba Tours Are Planting Coral On Great Barrier Reef Instead

This is awesome!

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With Tourists Gone, Australian Scuba Tours Are Planting Coral On Great Barrier Reef Instead
Photo Credit: www.quicksilver-cruises.com

(TMU) — As Australia’s tourism has come to a crashing halt following the back-to-back tragedies of an unprecedented bushfire season and the coronavirus pandemic, tourism companies are volunteering their time, labour and resources to give back to the ocean environment.

Family-owned diving tour company Passions of Paradise is one such company hoping to nurture and heal the coastal environment by planting coral on the Great Barrier Reef off Australia’s coast, which has been reeling in recent years due to the devastating impact of human activities.

Passions of Paradise CEO Scott Garden told Karryon that the eco-tourism company has donated an advanced multi-hulled catamaran, the Passions III, as well as fuel and volunteers to the Coral Nurture Program, which was initiated by the tourism industry and scientific community of Australia to bring life back to the Great Barrier Reef.

Garden explained:

“We have been assisting Dr. David Suggett’s team from the University of Technology Sydney who is conducting reef resilience research at one of our 26 reef sites.

“I have been working with Passions of Paradise Environmental Sustainability Coordinator Russell Hosp at the site most weeks recording data for the project and establishing a coral nursery.”

The expansive Great Barrier Reef comprises about 2,900 reefs and 900 islands. It is home to an incredible array of fish, shrimp, and various other reef denizens.

In recent years, dead coral reefs have become one of the major horrors resulting from the impact of human economic activities, with thousands of miles of coral ecosystem across the globe being transformed into bleached-out graveyards due to the devastating impact of fast-heating ocean temperatures, rising sea levels, pollution, marine pests, and overfishing.

As a result, the Great Barrier Reef—the largest living structure on the entire planet—has rapidly died off, turning massive amounts of once-dazzling coral reef ecosystems teeming with healthy marine life into dead zones.

The bleaching and eventual death of the Great Barrier Reef would not only spell doom for ocean life, but would also be the final nail in the coffin of Australia’s lucrative eco-tourism industry whose essential “product” is the environment itself.

The danger of a further degradation of the reef ecosystem coincides with a drastic and prolonged pause in international and domestic travel to Far North Queensland, which largely relies on billions of dollars in tourism revenue to keep local restaurants, hotels, and businesses running.

For this reason, five tourism companies—Passions of Paradise, Wavelength, Ocean Freedom, Sailaway, and Quicksilver Cruises—have pledged to use the lull in tourism to help clean up corals and help eliminate harmful pests that pose a threat to reef ecosystems, such as the crown-of-thorns starfish which is responsible for a large amount of coral destruction in the Great Barrier Reef.

Project coordinator and PhD student Lorna Howlett explained:

“The Coral Nurture Program aims to give operators yet another stewardship activity they can do at their reef sites in addition to Crown-of-Thorns eradication and the Eye on Reef monitoring program.”

The program involves volunteers restoring coral that has been fragmented and re-attaching them to reefs using state-of-the-art technology, such as “coral clips.” Howlett continued:

“We can only use fragments of opportunity found at the site, so Passions of Paradise has installed six frames at the site which can be used as a nursery to grow more corals.

“Once they find a coral fragment they attach it to the nursery to grow and as it grows they can take fragments from it to attach to the reef giving them a continual source of new corals.

“The 12-month project finishes next month, however, the operators can continue to operate the nurseries and out plant the corals.”

Passions of Paradise CEO Garden said that 1,000 pieces of coral have been planted so far on Hastings Reef, one of the most popular reefs for travellers that lies about 30 nautical miles from Queensland’s bustling tourist city of Cairns.

Garden hopes that when the crisis subsides, visitors will be able to indulge in a restored and sustainable ocean environment. He said:

“When tours resume passengers will be able to snorkel over the site which boasts healthy marine life and corals near the nursery.”

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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