Some of the recent Science and Nature headlines which have caught our eye:
“Sea of filth”. Volunteers have been working tirelessly along the north of Ireland’s coastline after 80mph gales and high tides hurled thousands of tonnes of rubbish onto the beaches. Oil drums, thousands of plastic bottles, even a car chassis were thrown ashore.
Power plant challenge. An Taisce, Ireland’s National Trust, was given leave by the High Court for a judicial review of the decision to grant planning permission to Edenderry Power to keep burning peat and biomass at their power station in Offaly. Policy Director, James Nix said, “… the environmental impact must be assessed before a green light”. It is estimated that 1.2 million tonnes of peat is burned annually.
Sun lull causes anxiety. An Oxfordshire-based space physicist told the BBC, there was a worrying drop in gas explosions on the Sun’s surface. “It would feel like the sun is asleep”, causing anxiety about a real fall in temperatures … perhaps a gradual return to the mini Ice Age, like in the 17th century, in Europe.
Bee concerned Latest research in the US on honey bee deaths has pointed to a variant of Tobacco Ringspot Virus as being a potential factor in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). It was found in the pollen that the bees were foraging on and then spread by them. This is the first known case where a pollen-based virus could be a culprit in CCD. Other factors still exist such as the use of pesticides, and parasites.
First new river dolphin species since 1918. In Brazil, scientists have discovered the first new dolphin species since WWI. The Araguaia dolphin, named after the river where up to 1000 are believed to exist, has a long beak to help search for fish in the mud at the bottom of the river. Scientists have categorised it as Vulnerable and are concerned for its future . “They rob fishing nets .. so people shoot them”.
Long-term trend in global warming. NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, which analyses global surface temperatures, has just published an updated report on temperatures in 2013. “The continued increases in greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere are driving a long-term rise in global temperatures.”
Rewilding The new buzz word “rewilding” is being taken seriously by Environment Ministers (both serving and past) in England, due to the current debates surrounding flooding. It has been suggested that swathes of upland pasture are planted with woodland, “rewilded”, to help prevent flooding. Studies suggest that re-introducing flood forests to upland areas can be highly effective; and cheaper than building flood defences.