Recent Entries in Eco

Daryl Hannah has been arrested in a tree as she tried to save a green space in Los Angeles from developers.

Hannah was among 40 protesters arrested by police in an early morning raid on a community farm that is to be demolished to make way for a warehouse. Along with another climber, the actress raised her fist as she was pulled from the branches of a walnut tree onto the platform of a fire engine.

More than 120 police officers, some in riot gear, carried out the arrests, removing activists who had handcuffed themselves to benches, trees and a picnic table in the garden, which sits among industrial buildings in the South Central district of the city.

Daryl Hannah arrested in a tree - World - Times Online

An international team of scientists has discovered 4.1-million-year-old fossils in eastern Ethiopia that fill a missing gap in human evolution.

The teeth and bones belong to a primitive species of Australopithecus known as Au. anamensis, an ape-man creature that walked on two legs.

Because the fossils are from the same human ancestral hot spot in Ethiopia as remains from seven other human-like species, scientists can now fill in the gaps for the most complete evolutionary chain so far.

"We just found the chain of evolution, the continuity through time," said Ethiopian anthropologist Berhane Asfaw, co-author of the study being reported today in the journal Nature. - Fossil find fills evolution gap

Scientists have made one of the most important fossil finds in history: a missing link between fish and land animals, showing how creatures first walked out of the water and on to dry land more than 375m years ago.

Palaeontologists have said that the find, a crocodile-like animal called the Tiktaalik roseae and described today in the journal Nature, could become an icon of evolution in action - like Archaeopteryx, the famous fossil that bridged the gap between reptiles and birds.

As such, it will be a blow to proponents of intelligent design, who claim that the many gaps in the fossil record show evidence of some higher power.

Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist, said: "Our emergence on to the land is one of the more significant rites of passage in our evolutionary history, and Tiktaalik is an important link in the story."

Guardian Unlimited | Science | Discovered: missing link that solves a mystery of evolution

  Turf Warrior

Nearly 50,000 square miles of the continental US is covered by lawn, according to estimates by ecologists at NASA's Ames Research Center. Using satellite and aerial imagery, the team calculated that irrigated grass covers three times more land in the US than irrigated corn does. That makes turf the nation's most widespread irrigated crop.

Lawn care and gardening is also the most popular outdoor leisure activity in the country, and the global industry supporting it generates an estimated $7 billion a year. ScottsMiracle-Gro accounts for more than a third of that - $2.4 billion in 2005. Numbers aside, though, that neatly trimmed front lawn is a Rockwellian feature of the American landscape. It's safe to say that no other nation commits even a fraction of the land, resources, chemicals, and water that the US does in pursuit of the perfect greensward.

All that vegetation has some environmental benefit. According to the NASA group, lawns collectively absorb some 12 billion pounds of carbon each year - effectively cutting greenhouse gas emissions. And if that grass weren't there, much more soil would run off into storm drains, waterways, and ?rivers, polluting reservoirs and hastening the erosion of hillsides and valuable farmland.

Wired 14.04: Turf Warrior

The winter of 2005-2006 has been Canada's warmest on record and the federal agency Environment Canada said Monday it was investigating whether it's a sign of global warming.

Between December and February, the country was 3.9 degrees above normal - the warmest winter season since temperatures were first recorded in 1948. Environment Canada climatologist Bob Whitewood said it smashed the previous record set in 1987 by 0.9 degrees.

"We saw it coming from mid-January on that we were seeing something quite remarkable," Whitewood said.

Winter warmest ever on record in Canada

The ice sheet sitting atop Greenland is the world's largest storehouse of ice outside Antarctica, and the coldest region of the Northern Hemisphere, but even it appears to be under duress from global warming.

Although the vast ice cap has been melting in fits and starts since the end of the last glaciation, researchers using satellite data and other observations have made an alarming discovery: The rate at which it is shrinking has suddenly begun to accelerate.

It more than doubled between 1996-2005, due mostly to glaciers sliding more quickly into the ocean. Greenland is now adding a volume of water to the North Atlantic every two years that is about equal to the total in Lake Erie.

The finding is significant because it suggests that current estimates of Greenland's contribution to rising sea levels may be far too low. : Rapid melt shrinks Greenland's ice cap

The last part of the 20th century is considered by many scientists to be the warmest period since modern record-keeping began around the 1850s, but new research indicates the era is even more remarkable.

The warmth in which the Northern Hemisphere has basked since the middle of the 20th century has been the most widespread and longest period of unusual climate experienced at any time during at least the past 1,200 years, according to a research paper in the journal Science.

The finding, by a pair of climate researchers from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, U.K., was based on comparisons of the current warm period to other hot and cold intervals since the year 800.

Among these long periods of alternating temperatures were the "Little Ice Age" that sent Northern Europe into a deep freeze, and the Medieval Warm Period around 1000, when an interval of more benign climate coincided with the rise of the sea-faring Vikings. : World at its warmest of past 1,200 years, researchers show

Canada has unveiled a 16-million acre preserve, including parkland teeming with grizzly bears, wolves and wild salmon in the ancestral home of many native tribes.

Closing another chapter of the wars between environmentalists and loggers, the Great Bear Rainforest is the result of a deal between governments, aboriginal First Nations, the logging industry and activists.

The new preserve, which dwarfs the famed 2.2-million-acre Yellowstone National Park in the United States, will stretch 250 miles along British Columbiaâ..s rugged Pacific coastline â.. the ancestral home of groups whose cultures date back thousands of years.

IOL: Canada unveils huge wildlife park

Rising temperatures are responsible for pushing dozens of frog species to extinction in the past three decades, according to new findings being reported today by a team of Latin American and U.S. scientists.

The study, published in the journal Nature, provides concrete evidence that climate change has already contributed to wiping out species and could spur more extinctions and the spread of disease worldwide. It also helps solve the mystery of why amphibians across the globe have been vanishing from their usual habitats over the past quarter-century: As many as 112 species have disappeared since 1980.

Scientists have speculated that rising temperatures and changing weather patterns could endanger the survival of many species, but the new study documents for the first time a direct correlation between global warming and the disappearance of roughly 65 amphibian species in Central and South America.

The Seattle Times: Nation & World: Study: Global warming killing frog species

Grasses and other green growth may produce 10 to 30 percent of Earth's annual methane output, a new study reports, making plants a surprisingâ..and potentially significantâ..contributor to global warming.

Until the data were unveiled in this week's Nature, scientists had believed that plant-related methane formed only in oxygen-free environments, such as bogs.

But a team of European researchers identified a large range of plants that release methane under normal growing conditions. The gas also seeps from dead plant material.

David Lowe is a study co-author and an atmospheric chemist with the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in Wellington, New Zealand.

According to Lowe, "We now have the specter that new forests might increase greenhouse warming through methane emissions rather than decrease it by being sinks for carbon dioxide."

Plants Exhale Methane, Contribute to Warming, Study Says

A perfectly preserved fossil of a feathered creature that lived 150 million years ago has provided further evidence to show that modern birds originate from dinosaurs.

The fossil is a complete skeleton of an Archaeopteryx and shows that it had features common to birds and a group of meat-eating dinosaurs called theropods.

Scientists said the feet of the fossilised Archaeopteryx were anatomically almost identical to those of theropod dinosaurs, which pointed to a common ancestry for both groups.

Archaeopteryx had many bird-like features, such as feathered wings and a wishbone, but it also had distinctly reptilian traits, including jaws with teeth, a bony tail and claws on its fingers.

IOL: Fossil strengthens dinosaur ancestry case

Nearly 150 years after he proposed it, Charles Darwin's theory of evolution remains controversial, even though most scientists today accept it as biological fact. A major new museum exhibit in New York examines the scientific evidence for evolution, and attempts to understand Charles Darwin both as a scientific genius, and as a man.

At a press opening for "Darwin," one of the American Museum of Natural History's biggest shows in recent memory, Randal Keynes, Darwin's great-great grandson, stands between two exhibits that would certainly have pleased his famous ancestor.

To his left is a pair of live giant Galapagos tortoises, one of many species first recorded by Charles Darwin as a young naturalist aboard the HMS Beagle during its five-year voyage around the world from England through the southern oceans. To Mr. Keynes' right is a full-scale model of the laboratory and study where Darwin wrote his landmark book, On the Origin of Species.

VOA News - NY Museum Exhibit Examines Evolution

The breakup of giant icebergs may have forced minor evolutionary changes in penguins over the past 6,000 years, a new study suggests.

The Antarctic iceberg chunks, which break off the continent now and then, are thought to have blocked the swim paths of Adelie penguins returning home to their colonies. Some of the penguins were forced to become immigrants in other colonies, where they established new homes and interbred with the locals.

As a result, genetic changes that might otherwise have remained isolated became widespread among the different colonies. The result is what scientist call microevolution.

Penguin evolution linked to shifting icebergs - LiveScience -

The area of land cleared of trees in the Amazon is twice the estimate, according to a new study of the environmental damage from previously undetected logging.

Satellites record clear cuts, where all the trees on a swath of land are removed to make room for farming or grazing.

"Selective logging," or the loss of individual trees from a forest, wasn't detected as deforestation because satellites were unable to penetrate the upper forest canopy.

Using new high-resolution satellite imaging techniques, researchers at the Carnegie Institution of Washington have detected openings in the forest canopy down to one tree.

CBC News: Logging damage in Amazon underestimated, satellites show

The numbers are straightforward. In the past 50 years, air temperatures across the Arctic Ocean have climbed by as much as 5.4 degrees F�huge by climate standards. This has had an unsurprising effect on the ice. Ordinarily, the ice sheet expands and shrinks with the changing seasons, dwindling to its smallest size in late September. Even then, however, it used to measure about 2.7 million sq. mi., roughly the size of the contiguous U.S. Not anymore. On the last day of summer this year, the ice measured just 2.05 million sq. mi.�a loss of area twice the size of Texas. That continues a four-year trend of dwindling ice, reducing the sheet to perhaps the smallest size ever recorded in the 100 years measurements have been taken. The Artic Meltdown Speeds Up -- Page 1

Pity the poor Neanderthals, who had the misfortune of being discovered at the time Darwin was evoking the outrage of his contemporaries by suggesting that humans, apes, and gorillas have a common ancestry.

The fossilized bones of Neanderthals were first excavated in the middle of the 19th century. The bones were undeniably human, but distinctly different than those of modern men and women. The stocky limbs and heavy, slanted brows suggested a gorilla-like ancestor that no one warmly welcomed to the human family tree.

In The Outline of History, published in 1920, H.G. Wells promoted the view that a dim racial remembrance of the Neanderthals may survive in folklore stories of ogres. He assumed that the first modern humans did not interbreed with Neanderthals, and attributed this separateness to the Neanderthal's "extreme hairiness," "ugliness," and "repulsive strangeness."

Science Musings by Chet Raymo

A new study concludes that rising sea temperatures have been accompanied by a significant global increase in the most destructive hurricanes, adding fuel to an international debate over whether global warming contributed to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina.

The study, published today in the journal Science, is the second in six weeks to draw this conclusion, but other climatologists dispute the findings and argue that a recent spate of severe storms reflects nothing more than normal weather variability.

Severe Hurricanes Increasing, Study Finds

Pretty prophetic. I'm just waiting for the earthquake in L.A. now....

Louisiana's Wetlands @ National Geographic Magazine

Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by sewage and industrial waste. Thousands more who survived the flood later perished from dehydration and disease as they waited to be rescued. It took two months to pump the city dry, and by then the Big Easy was buried under a blanket of putrid sediment, a million people were homeless, and 50,000 were dead. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.

When did this calamity happen? It hasn't�€”yet. But the doomsday scenario is not far-fetched. The Federal Emergency Management Agency lists a hurricane strike on New Orleans as one of the most dire threats to the nation, up there with a large earthquake in California or a terrorist attack on New York City. Even the Red Cross no longer opens hurricane shelters in the city, claiming the risk to its workers is too great.

Toxic chemicals in the New Orleans flood waters will make the city unsafe for full human habitation for a decade, a US government official has told The Independent on Sunday. And, he added, the Bush administration is covering up the danger.

In an exclusive interview, Hugh Kaufman, an expert on toxic waste and responses to environmental disasters at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said the way the polluted water was being pumped out was increasing the danger to health.

The pollution was far worse than had been admitted, he said, because his agency was failing to take enough samples and was refusing to make public the results of those it had analysed. "Inept political hacks" running the clean-up will imperil the health of low-income migrant workers by getting them to do the work.

Independent Online Edition > Americas : app2

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