Environment

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Land, water, sea, air

  • homes
  • food - agriculture and fishing
  • materials
  • sources of energy
  • transport routes
  • places of recreation
  • influence weather and climate
  • support other animals and plants with which we co-depend for life on this planet.

Agriculture

Moorlands, grouse, burning

Bonfire of the Verities George Monbiot; 10 Mar 2016

several people have asked me to comment on an opinion piece due for publication in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. It is called The role of fire in UK peatland and moorland management; the need for informed, unbiased debate. The paper (by Matt Davies et al) names me, and the associated press release boasts that it contains “criticism of the journalist George Monbiot”. So here, briefly, is my response.

grouse-shooting industry further enraged by chris packham video Raptor Persecution UK; 14 Jul 2016

Yesterday, four organisations (BASC, Countryside Alliance, Moorland Association and the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation) united in their efforts to silence Chris by publishing a joint statement calling for the BBC to ‘rein in Packham’.

Forests

A world on fire (The Economist; 27 Feb 2016)

Indonesian forest fires

The solution for the melting polar ice caps may be hiding in the rainforest

Reducing carbon emissions is truly important to mitigating climate change. But in the meantime, it’s faster and cheaper to save and regrow tropical trees

Poland approves large-scale logging in Europe's last primeval forest Agence France-Presse / Guardian; 26 Mar 2016

Poland has approved large-scale logging in Europe’s last primeval woodland in a bid to combat a beetle infestation despite protests from scientists, ecologists and the European Union.

becomes first country in the world to commit to zero deforestation Sadie Levy Gale; Independent; 4 Jun 2016

The Norwegian parliament pledged the government’s public procurement policy will become deforestation-free after a committee of MPs recommended imposing regulations to ensure the state did "not contribute to deforestation of the rainforest". Norway funds forest conservation projects worldwide and also supports human rights programmes for forest communities.

forests and climate

How a 2 hectare forest in Bangalore’s heart has lowered temperature and raised its water table Maya Kilpadi; earthamag; 18 May 2016

The summer temperatures in Bangalore this year have been cause for particularly high concern among its residents, with some claiming that daytime temperature shot up to 41 degrees Celsius one day in April. This summer has surely felt hotter than most old Bangaloreans remember them ever being. But, there are some parts of the city that have kept the unrelenting heat away. Walk around the lush Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Campus and you will encounter several species of trees, native and exotic. The 400 acre campus is home to 112 species of trees and 45 species of grasses. There are gulmohar lined avenues, large, raintree-shaded bowers, and colourful bursts of laburnum, jacaranda, and tabebuia. And then you walk past the Centre for Ecological Sciences department (CES) and you stop short! The vegetation here is unlike anything you’ve encountered on the rest of the campus so far. Gigantic, woody vines weave endlessly like lace through a lush canopy, the trees are thick and dense, letting only a modicum of sunlight through, and all around you, in the cool air, is the hum of insects and birds. If you feel like you are in the rainforests of Agumbe, you’re not alone. You are in IISc’s mini-forest, a forest planted by a team of researchers led by senior faculty member Dr. T.V. Ramachandra (Energy and Wetlands Research Group).

Reforestation

Adaptation

natural

How bears help trees climb mountains Patrick Monahan; AAAS Science mag; 25 Apr 2016

If you’re a plant, there are only two places you can go to escape a warming world: toward the poles, or up a mountain. But because you can’t move, you need to rely on animals to get you—or more accurately, your seeds—there. And what if they aren’t going your way? In a new study, scientists looked at a specific example: a species of Japanese cherry tree (Prunus verecunda) that needs mammals to spread its seeds. Asian black bears (Ursus thibetanus, pictured) eat most of the cherries, and the researchers could determine where the bears—um—deposited the seeds by measuring the seeds’ levels of a variety of types of oxygen, which change with altitude. The bears moved the seeds an average of about 300 meters up in altitude, the team reports today in Current Biology, likely because the timing of cherry fruiting coincides with the bears’ springtime trek up the mountains to follow fruiting plants. That’s a 2°C temperature drop, meaning cherry trees will likely be able to keep up with climate change thanks to the behaviors of their seed-spreaders. Other plants may not be so lucky.

Wilderness / re-wilding

Rewilding Britain

E.O. Wilson Wants Us to Leave Half of the Earth Alone — Here's Why

Can the World Really Set Aside Half of the Planet for Wildlife? Tony Hiss; Smithsonian Magazine; Sept 2014

The eminent evolutionary biologist E.O. Wilson has an audacious vision for saving Earth from a cataclysmic extinction event

Rewilding: Who are we to dictate what species live where? John Burnside; New Statesman; 28 Aug 2013

The idea of “rewilding” the environment with depleted species seems sound. But, warns John Burnside, we mustn’t manipulate the world — which wasn’t built around us — just to suit our impractical fantasies.


Watch: How Europe is greener now than 100 years ago Washinton Post

Animated graphics

Man single-handedly grows a forest larger than Central Park

Thinking Like an Elephant George Monbiot; 15 Jun 2015

Status and Ecological Effects of the World’s Largest Carnivores

Large carnivores face serious threats and are experiencing massive declines in their populations and geographic ranges around the world. We highlight how these threats have affected the conservation status and ecological functioning of the 31 largest mammalian carnivores on Earth. Consistent with theory, empirical studies increasingly show that large carnivores have substantial effects on the structure and function of diverse ecosystems. Significant cascading trophic interactions, mediated by their prey or sympatric mesopredators, arise when some of these carnivores are extirpated from or repatriated to ecosystems. Unexpected effects of trophic cascades on various taxa and processes include changes to bird, mammal, invertebrate, and herpetofauna abundance or richness; subsidies to scavengers; altered disease dynamics; carbon sequestration; modified stream morphology; and crop damage. Promoting tolerance and coexistence with large carnivores is a crucial societal challenge that will ultimately determine the fate of Earth’s largest carnivores and all that depends upon them, including humans.

flood control

Tree planting 'can reduce flooding' Roger Harrabin; BBC; 11 Mar 2016

Planting trees around rivers could reduce the height of flooding in towns by up to 20%, new research suggests. A study for the Environment Agency concludes that trees round a feeder stream can slow the rush of rainwater and save properties from flooding. But it warns that natural flood prevention methods do not always work. And it urges a strategic approach because foresting a whole catchment would be counter-productive. The report - from the universities of Birmingham and Southampton - says that with increased building on flood plains and climate change increasing the risk of heavy rain, many places can't be completely protected by walls of concrete.

Drowning in Money George Monbiot; 13 Jan 2014

The hidden and remarkable story of why devastating floods keep happening.
Vast amounts of public money – running into the billions – are spent every year on policies that make devastating floods inevitable.

Yellowstone wolves

Wolves change rivers:

Pine Martens and squirrels

Population crash in an invasive species following the recovery of a native predator: the case of the American grey squirrel and the European pine marten in Ireland

Devon Beavers

A natural ally in the fight against floods - the beaver

Devon beavers are officially working their magic Rewilding Britain; 12 Jun 2016

The latest data from Okehampton reveal incredible results. Sara King and Cain Blythe from ecological consultancy Ecosulis, and Mark Elliott from the Devon Wildlife Trust, describe the boom in biodiversity seen at the Devon Beaver Trial

Whales

references in the video description; also (from a comment):
It has previously been asserted that baleen whales compete with fisheries by consuming potentially harvestable marine resources. The regularly applied “surplus-yield model” suggests that whale prey becomes available to fisheries if whales are removed, and has been presented as a justification for whaling. However, recent findings indicate that whales enhance ecosystem productivity by defecating iron that stimulates primary productivity in iron-limited waters. While juvenile whales and whales that are pregnant or lactating retain iron for growth and milk production, nonbreeding adult whales defecate most of the iron they consume. Here, we modify the surplus-yield model to incorporate iron defecation. After modeling a simplistic trajectory of blue whale recovery to historical abundances, the traditional surplus-yield model predicts that 1011 kg of carbon yr−1 would become unavailable to fisheries. However, this ignores the nutrient recycling role of whales. Our model suggests the population of blue whales would defecate 3 × 106 kg of iron yr−1, which would stimulate primary production equivalent to that required to support prey consumption by the blue whale population. Thus, modifying the surplus-yield model to include iron defecation indicates that blue whales do not render marine resources unavailable to fisheries. By defecating iron-rich feces, blue whales promote Southern Ocean productivity, rather than reducing fishery yields.

oceans

Did Russ George's Geoengineering experiment actually work?

facebook thread

Cities

water

conservation

Rajendra Singh Wikipedia - and popular article This Man Single Handedly Revived 5 Rivers And Brought Water To 1000 Villages In Rajasthan

Fog Harvesting

materials

Sustainable Materials - With Both Eyes Open Julian M Allwood, Jonathan M Cullen

Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization – Vaclav Smil

Uncertainty in the Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions from U.S. Production of Three Biobased Polymer Families

peak stuff

‘Peak Stuff’ Did the UK reach a maximum use of material resources in the early part of the last decade? A research paper by Chris Goodall; chris@carboncommentary.com; 13 Oct 2011

Empirical evidence presented in this paper supports a hypothesis that the UK began to reduce its consumption of physical resources in the early years of the last decade, well before the economic slowdown that started in 2008. This conclusion applies to a wide variety of different physical goods, for example water, building materials and paper and includes the impact of items imported from overseas. Both the weight of goods entering the economy and the amounts finally ending up as waste probably began to fall from sometime between 2001 and 2003. ... If correct, this finding is important. It suggests that economic growth in a mature economy does not necessarily increase the pressure on the world’s reserves of natural resources and on its physical environment. An advanced country may be able to decouple economic growth and increasing volumes of material goods consumed. A sustainable economy does not necessarily have to be a nogrowth economy.

'Peak Stuff' again Carbon Commentary; 02 Jul 2014

Carbon sequestration*