Spring Tuneup

The drama of April is taking a bow on nature’s center stage, a magic moment of transition as the world awakens. The floodlights of strong sunlight lift the curtain and the show has begun.

Warm nights are filled with the light of thousands of stars. Along our coast, lapping wavelets mingle with the voices of otters romping in the white sands of a moonlight beach. Their soft chirping barks and chuckles mingle with the sounds of sleepy birds working the night shift.

Morning’s warming beams illuminate the bottoms of the passing clouds with a brilliant glow. A flight of long-necked egrets, with downcast bills and full of grace, sweeps inland, white bellies gleaming bright in the morning sun. From every tree and bush comes a melody of birdsong – chirping, tweeting, whistles and cooing, joyful voices full of cheer. And bobbing along a grassy roadway, a rusty-breasted robin searches for unwary earthworms that failed to come in after last night’s rain. [Read more...]

Climate Change Linked to Rapid Species Fluctuations

Climate change is making the world “bluer,” according to new study that finds that weather and animal populations are fluctuating more rapidly than in years past.

The blue shift is not literal; rather, the color blue is used to represent rapid fluctuations in a system called “spectral color,” which ecologists use to describe environmental change. The increasing blueness of the environment may be altering species extinction risks, said study author Bernardo Garcia-Carreras, a graduate student at Imperial College London.

“From simple models, it appears that if the spectral color of the population becomes bluer, as our results seem to suggest, then extinction risk is reduced,” Garcia-Carreras told LiveScience. “It is good news in that sense.”

But there is a large caveat to the good news, Garcia-Carreras said. Environmental fluctuations are just one influence on species survival. Other factors — such as overall temperature change and habitat loss — put pressure on species that could offset any benefits from a bluer world. [Read: With Climate Change, Expect More Monster Winter Storms] [Read more...]

Biologists Head To Bunkers To Fight Bat Disease

Biologist Susi von Oettingen walked into the dark World War II-era military bunker and took out her flashlight. Among the old pipes, wires and machinery parts, she saw some bats hanging from cracks in the cement walls and ceiling.

It was an unusual place for the bats to hibernate, different from a mine or cave. But something else was different, too: None of them had white-nose syndrome, a fungus that’s killing bats across the country.

The group of bats found last winter in the New Hampshire bunker was small, recalled von Oettingen, an endangered species biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. But two of the three species discovered there – the Northern Long-eared Bat and the Little Brown Bat – have been dying off from the disease.

Starting as early as next month, von Oettingen will be part of a group of state and federal biologists monitoring that bunker and a few others in the state. They’ll study temperature and humidity levels and put up footholds for the bats, hoping to attract more and figure out if there’s a way to control white-nose syndrome, first discovered near Albany, N.Y., in 2006. [Read more...]

World’s Largest Solar-Powered Boat Docks At Cancún Giving UN Climate Delegates Something To Think About… Before Finishing Record-Breaking Round-The-World Sail

As the United Nations climate talks continued this week in Cancún, on the east coast of Mexico, a huge boat quietly breezed into the harbour… and gave environmental delegates plenty to think about.

At 102ft long, 29ft wide and 25ft high, it’s hard to miss the Tûranor PlanetSolar catamaran, the largest solar-powered sea vessel.

And with 500 solar high-efficiency units that cover some 540sq. ft the 200-person capacity boat, which is silent and pollution-free, can motor along at a fair old lick, too: the top speed is about 15 knots.

It cost a cool £10million to build and is in the process of achieving a series of record-breaking feats as it circumnavigates the globe, while also promoting the use of sustainable energy. [Read more...]

Nature’s Bounty

In an attempt to promote landscaping under the purview of environment-friendly concepts, Pune is all set to host the 5 th International Landscape and Gardening Expo-2010. And, for the first time, the landscape expo this year will include a new component – the ‘Stone art’, which will be the highlight of this three-day expo organised by Media Today Group.

“Stones play a very crucial role in the arena of landscaping. Stone art can enhance the appeal of landscaping. Moreover, landscape architecture can generate many jobs. But unfortunately, the capacity of stone art is not being utilised to its best. So this year, we are focusing on the idea of stone art, in order to create more jobs and better landscaping,” says S Jafar Naqvi, president of Indian Flowers and Ornamental Plants Welfare Association (IFLORA). [Read more...]

Fruit Fly Study Sheds Light On Core Elements Of Obesity

Scientists say that fruit flies that grow obese after eating a diet loaded with fat could lead the way to the core elements of obesity.

The demonstration that flies do become obese on a high-fat diet (HFD), much as humans do, indicates that the ability to become obese goes way, way back, researchers said.

It is harder to survive in times of scarcity. As a result, organisms may be poised to maximize their food intake. At the other extreme, this can lead to obesity. It may be that the propensity has always been there,” said Sean Oldham of the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute. [Read more...]

Kashmir’s Famous Gardens get a facelift

After three months of curfews and strikes hitting Jammu and Kashmir, the state administration on Wednesday launched a massive facelift drive to beautify the region’s famous gardens.

As part of the drive, restoration and beautification works have already begun in some of the heritage gardens that were built by the Mughal emperors in medieval times.

G. S. Naqash, Director of Floriculture, said that maintaining the gardens was a challenge due to the tense situation in the Kashmir Valley. [Read more...]