Earth ChangesS


Ancient Forests Which Gave Us The Apple Are In Danger Of Extinction

© GETTY Professor Adrian Newton will oversee the launch a new government-funded project in Kyrgyzstan to conduct research on the threatened trees
The wild fruit tree cousins of Britain's favorite domestic apples are teetering on the brink of global extinction, according to a new report.

Scientists have drawn up a 'Red List' of 44 species of Central Asian fruit trees that could soon disappear unless drastic action is taken.

Around 90 per cent of the fruit and nut forests in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan have been destroyed over the past 50 years.

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Japanese fruit farmers stung badly by bee shortage

From Yamagata to Kagoshima prefectures, farmers are bemoaning a shortage of Western honeybees --crucial in the pollination of melons, cherries, strawberries and other crops.

According to the farm ministry's Animal Health Division, imports of Western honeybees ground to a halt last year after an outbreak of a contagious disease was confirmed in 2007 among beehives from Australia.

Honeybees from Australia accounted for about 80 percent of imports to Japan. Moreover, mass bee deaths have been occurring in Europe and the United States.


Bees survive better at small farms than commercial ones

The mysterious bee colony collapses have not impacted every beekeeper in the same way.

"We had one of the largest die-offs this winter, but I had one of my best years," said Chris Harp, a beekeeper on Plains Road, who said the plight of the bees has dramatically increased his business, as well as the number of students coming to his farm to learn about beekeeping.

Harp claims to have lost only 10 percent to 15 percent of his colonies, compared with 36 percent or more for beekeepers across the country. He attributes the high survival rate to a smaller, more intimate operation that allows him to tend more closely to his insects' needs, he said.


US: Bat Illness Spells Trouble For Farmers

Harrisburg, Virginia - Although they are largely misunderstood, bats are considered among the most beneficial animals in the United States.

So the recent discovery of a rapidly spreading fatal disease called White-Nose Syndrome in Virginia bats, possibly including those in Endless Caverns near New Market, has biologists and elected officials scrambling to save the small-winged mammals.

The syndrome takes its name from the ring of white fungus that often appears on infected bats' snouts and other body parts. Bats infected with the disease also typically have low body fat, dehydration and demonstrate abnormal behavior.

Scientists don't know what's causing the disease that has wiped out hundreds of thousands of bats since first showing up in the northeast about three years ago. They also don't know how the disease is spread or how to stop it from infecting more bats, which, in most cases, are disease resilient.


Arizona, US: City feels shake of minor quake

A firefighter in Black Canyon City said the National Weather Service in Flagstaff reported a mild earthquake in the town, located 54 miles southeast of Prescott on the Yavapai County/Maricopa County border, late Friday night, although no homes or buildings received damage and no one suffered injuries.

Black Canyon Fire Department firefighter/paramedic Shawn Smith said he and four other firefighters were on duty around 11 p.m. Friday when the quake, which reportedly registered at 3.1 on the Richter scale, occurred three miles underground about 10 miles north of Black Canyon City near Sunset Point.

"We were sitting in recliners and noticed a little shake," Smith said. "It felt like somebody hit the building (at the fire station) and kind of sounded like if our guys were to jump off one of the top bunks and run around a little bit. It probably carried on for a few seconds and stopped."

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Chaitén Volcano In Southern Chile: Historic Volcanic Eruptions Significantly Underestimated, Ash Fallout Analysis Shows

© Oxford UniversityAsh and steam rising from the Chaiten lava dome, shortly after a small earthquake.
A study into ash fallout from the biggest volcanic eruption in almost 20 years has shown that the impact of past eruptions is likely to have been significantly underestimated as so much of the evidence quickly disappears, Oxford University scientists report.

The study focuses on the Chaitén volcano in southern Chile that began to erupt explosively on 2 May 2008. For six days afterwards the volcano pumped huge volumes of ash high into the atmosphere before its activity began to decline to a low intensity eruption still going on today.

With emergency funding from the UK's Natural Environment Research Council, a team of scientists from the University of Oxford was quickly dispatched to map out the distribution of ash from the eruption and to study its impacts on the local environment, in collaboration with Argentinian scientists.


Flight Of The Bumble Bee Is Based More On Brute Force Than Aerodynamic Efficiency

© Richard BomphreyHigh-speed cameras capture the bumblebee's 'brute force' approach to flight.
Brute force rather than aerodynamic efficiency is the key to bumblebee flight, Oxford University scientists have discovered.

In recent years scientists have modelled how insect wings interact with the air around them to generate lift by using computational models that are relatively simple, often simplifying the motion or shape of the wings.

"We decided to go back to the insect itself and use smoke, a wind tunnel and high-speed cameras to observe in detail how real bumblebee wings work in free flight," said Dr Richard Bomphrey of the Department of Zoology, co-author of a report of the research published this month in Experiments in Fluids. 'We found that bumblebee flight is surprisingly inefficient - aerodynamically-speaking it's as if the insect is 'split in half' as not only do its left and right wings flap independently but the airflow around them never joins up to help it slip through the air more easily.'

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US: Rare 3.1 Earthquake Shakes Central Arizona

© US Geological Survey
A rare magnitude 3.1 earthquake shook central Arizona late Friday night, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

It occurred at 11:07:31 p.m. and was centered about 31 miles southeast of Prescott near Bumble Bee, seismologists said.

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Earthquake Magnitude 6.1 Off Coast Of Ecuador

© US Geological Survey

* Sunday, May 10, 2009 at 01:16:10 UTC

* Saturday, May 09, 2009 at 07:16:10 PM at epicenter

Location 1.405°N, 85.228°W

Depth 23.9 km (14.9 miles)

Distances 500 km (310 miles) SSE of Isla del Coco, Costa Rica

550 km (340 miles) ENE of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Galapagos

710 km (440 miles) WNW of Guayaquil, Ecuador

945 km (590 miles) S of SAN JOSE, Costa Rica

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Mystery worms turn on northwest China herdsmen

Beijing - An invasion of unidentified worms has forced 50 herdsmen and their families from their grassland homes, taking 20,000 head of livestock with them, in northwest China's Xinjiang region, state news agency Xinhua said Friday.

The worms are packed up to 3,000 per square meter and chew through the grasslands like lawnmowers, leaving only brown soil in their wake, Xinhua said.

The agency described it as the worst plague in three decades in Usu, about 280 km (175 miles) west of the Xinjiang capital Urumqi.

Local experts could not identify the 2-cm (1 inch) long, thorny green worm with black stripes and samples had been sent to Xinjiang Agricultural University, Xinhua said.