Earth ChangesS


Did Termites Help Katrina Destroy New Orleans Floodwalls?

Three years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, people still speculate over causes of the destruction of the city's floodwall system. A new article in the fall issue of American Entomologist suggests that Formosan subterranean termites played a large role.
© Photo courtesy AFPThe Formosan subterranean termite originates from China, where it has been known to damage levees since the 1950s. Besides eating at bagasse seams, the termites may have contributed to the destruction of the levees of New Orleans by digging networks of tunnels, which can cause "piping," sending water through the tunnels and undermining the levee system.


US: Billions of fish, fish eggs die in power plants

BUCHANAN, New York - For a newly hatched striped bass in the Hudson River, a clutch of trout eggs in Lake Michigan or a baby salmon in San Francisco Bay, drifting a little too close to a power plant can mean a quick and turbulent death.


Ship Strike Reduction Rule Aims To Protect North Atlantic Right Whales

NOAA officials have issued a regulation that will implement new measures to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales.
Right whale and calf
© NOAARight whale and calf.

The regulation will, for the first time, require large ships to reduce speeds to ten knots in areas where the whales feed and reproduce, as well as along migratory routes in between. The goal of the regulation is to reduce the risk of ship collisions with the whales.

"The ship strike rule, based on science, is a major addition to NOAA's arsenal of protections for this endangered species," said Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.

Bizarro Earth

US: About 100 horses die from mystery illness

Ocala, Florida - State veterinary officials say a mystery illness has killed nearly 100 horses at one farm in central Florida.

As many as 100 horses have died in just over a week in Marion County, an area known for its hundreds of horse farms. The cause of the illness is unknown.

The owners of the farm think contaminated hay wreaked havoc on the animals' nervous systems.


Australia: Fish kill remains a mystery

Authorities are yet to establish the cause of a fish kill in the Swan River.

More than 70 fish were found floating in the river near the Barrack Street Jetty yesterday.

Lake Monger is being examined as a potential source, as well as waste water from Perth work sites.

Both discharge water into a drainage system which leads to the river outlet near Barrack Street Jetty where the fish were discovered yesterday.

Bizarro Earth

Perth seagull deaths remain a mystery

The mysterious deaths of 300 seagulls that dropped from the sky in July in two beachside suburbs south of Perth may never be explained.

The state's Department of Environment and Conservation confirmed yesterday that two months of exhaustive investigations, including dozens of autopsies, interstate forensic testing and pollution inspections at nearby businesses, had failed to identify a cause.

The deaths closed the popular Woodman Point beach for more than two weeks amid fears of a threat to human health.

Almost 150 seagulls were found dead on the beach on July 21. The death toll reached 230 after three days and 282 a week later. No other bird species were affected.


Palin hometown a window into her environmentalism

Long before John McCain made Gov. Sarah Palin his running mate and before her views on global warming became a campaign issue, Palin's environmental priorities were crystallized in a city where she was mayor and where development long has trumped conservation.

Better Earth

Protected 'Swimways' Urged For Endangered Leatherback Sea Turtle

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) World Conservation Congress this week adopted a resolution urging nations to protect the leatherback sea turtle and sharks from the world's industrial fisheries by identifying and creating marine protected areas along the Pacific leatherback's migratory routes.

More than 8,000 scientists, government officials and environmental organizations from over 250 nations overwhelmingly supported the resolution, which includes the "Cocos Ridge Marine Wildlife Corridor," designed to shield the critically endangered Pacific leatherback and the hammerhead shark from longline and gillnet fisheries. Recent satellite tracking data from Stanford University researchers shows that after nesting on the beaches in Playa Grande, Costa Rica, Pacific leatherbacks swim toward the Galapagos Islands.

Randall Arauz, President of Costa Rican-based PRETOMA that sponsored the resolution explained, "Our plan allows one of the largest reptiles on Earth to continue its 100-million-year-old existence by opening and closing portions of the migration corridor to fishing as turtles enter and exit the area." He added, "We believe this corridor is also used by other endangered species, such as hammerhead sharks and would benefit many other threatened marine species."


Less Ice In Arctic Ocean 6000-7000 Years Ago

Recent mapping of a number of raised beach ridges on the north coast of Greenland suggests that the ice cover in the Arctic Ocean was greatly reduced some 6000-7000 years ago. The Arctic Ocean may have been periodically ice free.
Astrid Lyså in August 2007 in the ruined settlement left by the Independence I Culture in North Greenland
© Eiliv Larsen, NGUSettlement: Astrid Lyså in August 2007 in the ruined settlement left by the Independence I Culture in North Greenland. The first immigrants to these inhospitable regions succumbed to the elements nearly 4000 years ago, when the climate became colder again.

The climate in the northern regions has never been milder since the last Ice Age than it was about 6000-7000 years ago. We still don't know whether the Arctic Ocean was completely ice free, but there was more open water in the area north of Greenland than there is today," says Astrid Lyså, a geologist and researcher at the Geological Survey of Norway (NGU).

Bizarro Earth

4 injured, 7 missing in Vietnam floods

THUA THIEN-HUE -- Four people were injured and seven were reported missing Sunday after heavy rains and flooding struck central Vietnam, officials said.