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Sun, 16 Jan 2022
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Earth Changes

Better Earth

Starfish defy climate change gloom

© D. Gordon E. Robertson, Wikimedia Commons
A species of starfish has confounded climate change doom-mongers by thriving as sea temperatures and acidity increase - a scenario that is likely as the world gets warmer.

Most studies have concluded that sea animals with calcified shells or skeletons, such as starfish, will suffer as carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels dissolves in the sea, making the water more acidic and destroying the calcium carbonate on which the creatures depend.

But the sea star Pisaster ochraceus may ride out the climate storm. Rebecca Gooding and colleagues at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, exposed sea stars to rising temperatures and water acidity. They thrived in temperatures of up to 21 °C and atmospheric CO2 concentrations of up to 780 parts per million - beyond predicted rises for the next century (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: link).


'Crazy Turtle Woman' Transforms Graveyard into Maternity Ward

© Kathleen Toner/CNN
Suzan Lakhan Baptiste's efforts have turned a beach from a leatherback turtle graveyard to a nesting colony.
Matura, Trinidad -- With its white sand and clear, blue water, Trinidad's Matura Beach looks like a postcard. It's a far cry from its recent past, when leatherback sea turtle carcasses littered the ground and kept tourists away.

"Twenty years ago, this was a graveyard," Suzan Lakhan Baptiste said of the six-mile stretch of beach near her home.

"The stench was horrendous. You could smell it for miles," she said.

Saddened and frustrated, Baptiste launched a crusade to help end the slaughter of the gentle giants. Today, she and her group are succeeding: What was once a turtle graveyard is now a maternity ward -- one of the largest leatherback nesting colonies in the world.

Better Earth

Huge undersea mountain with potentially catastrophic power found off Indonesia

© Unknown
This aerial view shows new homes being constructed to the north of Banda Aceh on the island of Sumatra in 2006. A massive underwater mountain discovered off the Indonesian island of Sumatra could be a volcano with potentially catastrophic power, a scientist said Friday.
A massive underwater mountain discovered off the Indonesian island of Sumatra could be a volcano with potentially catastrophic power, a scientist said Friday.

Indonesian government marine geologist Yusuf Surachman said the mountain was discovered earlier this month about 330 kilometres (205 miles) west of Bengkulu city during research to map the seabed's seismic faultlines.

The cone-shaped mountain is 4,600 metres (15,100 feet) high, 50 kilometres in diameter at its base and its summit is 1,300 metres below the surface, he said.

"It looks like a volcano because of its conical shape but it might not be. We have to conduct further investigations," he told AFP.

He denied reports that researchers had confirmed the discovery of a new volcano, insisting that at this stage it could only be described as a "seamount" of the sort commonly found around the world.

"Whether it's active or dangerous, who knows?" he added.

Bizarro Earth

Earthquake Magnitude 5.7 - Mindanao, Philippines

- Friday, May 29, 2009 at 19:51:18 UTC
- Saturday, May 30, 2009 at 03:51:18 AM at epicenter

5.933°N, 125.799°E

158.9 km (98.7 miles) set by location program



Thousands of Marauding Caterpillars Trap Car in Silky Web

© unknown
Moth attack: Spindle ermines covered this car with a giant silk web in Rotterdam
Most drivers would be delighted if their car came with a silk-lined interior.

Whether it's such an appealing prospect on the outside is another matter.

This is the sight that greeted one unlucky motorist when he returned to his vehicle in Rotterdam.

Under a giant silk cocoon created by an army of caterpillars, the shape of a Honda is just about visible.

The car was mistaken as food by spindle ermine larvae, which had already begun to strip a nearby tree of its leaves.


Human fishing spree goes back 1000 years

Call it the myth of industrial sin. It seems fish stocks were declining due to human exploitation long before the arrival of giant trawlers and factory ships, according to marine scientists at a conference being held this week in Canada.

"We are discovering that human pressure on marine life was much earlier, much larger and much more significant than previously thought," says Poul Holm, an environmental historian at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland. "We now know that there was major commercial exploitation of fisheries, doing huge damage to fish populations, back in medieval times and even before. The idea that it is only modern fishing technology that has done damage turns out to be completely wrong."


Dirty secret of Vietnamese wildlife farms revealed

© AFP/Getty Images
Restaurant workers skinning a crocodile. But is it from a farm or from the wild?
Wildlife farms are supposed to promote conservation by providing a sustainable alternative to hunting animals in the wild. But those in Vietnam are having exactly the opposite effect, says a study by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in New York.

Over the past two decades, dozens of commercial wildlife farms have sprung up in Vietnam. WCS investigators and Vietnamese officials who visited 78 farms undercover found that half had taken original breeding stock from wild populations, and 42 per cent were still doing so.

Animals farmed include snakes, turtles, crocodiles and monkeys. Worst affected are species such as tigers and bears, whose body parts or secretions are valued in traditional medicine. Not only are they slow to breed, but farms can also be used to launder products from animals killed in the wild.

Eye 2

How spitting cobras are such blinding shots

For venom-spitting cobras, an accurate shot is the difference between slithering away and getting trampled to death by an elephant.

A new study finds that the snakes adjust the trajectory of their squirts to deliver venom right to the faces of animals that tread too closely.

"We know they spit on elephants, hyenas, just about anything that passes by that's big enough to trample on them or even eat them," says Guido Westhoff, a herpetologist at the University of Bonn, Germany, who led the study.

Alarm Clock

South Asia cyclone contaminates water sources

New Delhi - Tens of thousands of cyclone survivors in India and Bangladesh desperately need clean water after the storm contaminated drinking sources with sea water, aid agencies say.

Relief workers also warned the death toll could soar if there are outbreaks of water-borne diseases following massive flooding.

Bizarro Earth

Earthquake Magnitude 5.7 Seram, Indonesia

© US Geological Survey
- Friday, May 29, 2009 at 00:58:38 UTC
- Friday, May 29, 2009 at 09:58:38 AM at epicenter

3.857°S, 127.537°E

55.9 km (34.7 miles)