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Fri, 22 Feb 2019
The World for People who Think



Peru: Global Warming freezes 20,000 alpaca

Climate change continues to wreck havoc in Peru's southern Altiplano, where the arrival of freezing temperatures since March - almost three months earlier than usual - have killed at least 20,000 alpaca, reported Peru's National Agriculture and Sanitation Service, or Senasa.

Since January, approximately 20,000 alpaca - a number that still remains within normal limits - have died, and 73,000 others have suffered from various illnesses due to the cold, said Senasa Director Reinaldo Llano Flores.

Alpacas, or vicugna pacos, is a domesticated species of South American camelid, and resembles a small llama. These animals are mostly kept in herds, and bred specifically for their high-quality fiber.


Deep-sea worms fire glowing bombs

In the depths of the Pacific Ocean, newly discovered species of free-swimming worms have a unique method of distracting predators. They deploy "bombs" that burst in a flare of green light.


Australia: Mice 'plague' threatens mid-west crops

A mid-west Western Australian agronomist says mice numbers in the northern agricultural region have reached near plague proportions.

Growers in Yuna, Binnu and Mullewa have reported increased mice activity in their paddocks over recent weeks.

The mice cause significant damage by eating the nodes of flowering and early podding canola and lupin crops.

Better Earth

Killer whales spotted in Ireland and Scotland

© Unknown
Two killer whales have been spotted off the Mullet peninsula.

Dúlra Nature Tours was conducting a survey of whales, dolphins and sharks, when 'Comet' and 'Puffin', male and female members of the west coast community in Scotland, were seen near the Inishkea Islands.

Machiel Oudejans, a marine biologist working with Dúlra Nature Tours, said the killer whales were identified using photographs of the dorsal fins and the white saddle patch behind the dorsal fin.

"By matching the photos to an online database in Scotland, the whales were identified. These whales are commonly observed near the Hebrides, west of Scotland. Little is known about the distribution of these whales, which occasionally travel long distances and visit the Irish coastal waters," said Mr Oudejans.


One in Four Fish in U.S. Waterways Contaminated with Unsafe Levels of Mercury

© Brian Hughes, U.S. Geological Survey
The U.S. Geological Survey found mercury in waterways, sediments and fish.
A U.S. Geological Survey study finds mercury levels above federal standards in 25 percent of fish

Mercury contamination found in a quarter of U.S. freshwater fish exceeds federal safe levels for human consumption, according to a study released today by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The agency examined mercury in fish, sediment and water drawn from 291 rivers and streams between 1998 and 2005, finding 25 percent carried mercury at levels above the safe standard for human consumption (0.3 parts per million wet weight), while all of the fish had detectable mercury levels.

"This study shows just how widespread mercury pollution has become in our air, watersheds, and many of our fish in freshwater streams," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement. "This science sends a clear message that our country must continue to confront pollution, restore our nation's waterways, and protect the public from potential health dangers."


Millions of salmon fail to turn up in Canada

Millions of salmon have mysteriously failed to turn up in a Canadian river as part of their annual spawning, leaving experts baffled and the local fishing industry in despair.

The Canadian government's Department of Fisheries and Oceans projected that between six and 10 million sockeye salmon would return to the Fraser river this month.

But the official count for the annual 'summer run' -- by far the largest of four salmon migrations that see millions of fish return to Canada's lakes and rivers from the Pacific each year from June to late August -- is now just 600,000.


US: Tomato fungus appears in Wisconsin

tomato blight
© Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection
This blighted tomato plant is from a home garden in Dane County. Late blight has also been found at a Rock County vegetable farm.

Wisconsin potato growers are on alert for a highly contagious fungus that has been found on tomato plants throughout the state. Officials worry that the fungus - which caused the Irish potato famine in the mid-19th century - could make the leap to potatoes and threaten the local crop.

As of Friday, Wisconsin had at least eight confirmed cases of the late blight fungus on tomatoes in Dane, Rock, Portage and Langlade counties - including at least one commercial vegetable farm, said Amanda Gevens, a plant pathologist with the University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Wisconsin Extension. An additional 20 to 30 suspected cases are being investigated in several counties, she said.

The fungus first appeared earlier this summer in the Northeast, possibly carried by infected seedlings at garden centers. It has spread to other parts of the country since, rapidly killing tomato plants in its path. Spores are carried by wind, rain, people, machinery and wildlife.

In other states, the fungus quickly made the leap to potatoes, which is why Gevens met with Wisconsin potato growers this week to explain the signs and to prepare growers for a potentially devastating crossover. Wisconsin - the nation's third largest potato producer behind Idaho and Washington - last year harvested 2.3 billion pounds of potatoes.

"It has now landed in the center of commercial potato production in Wisconsin, so the risk is great," Gevens said.


US: Nebraska tomatoes over a month late ripening

green tomatoes
© unknown
This year, the prize of gardening — a juicy tomato, ripe by the Fourth of July — has remained stubbornly green and hard.

Talk about frustration.

By now, many vegetable gardeners would be layering fat slices of tomatoes on a plate and eating them like watermelon.

But not this year.

The prize of gardening - a juicy tomato, ripe by the Fourth of July - has remained stubbornly green and hard.

"This is as slow as I've seen it, and I've been growing tomatoes since 1972," said Bob "The Tomato Man" Green.

A Sarpy County farmer, master gardener and longtime competitor at the county fair, Green has 67 plants - 27 varieties - this year at his farm outside Springfield, Neb. And they just aren't ripening.

Blame it on the cool weather, he said. Tomatoes need warm days and warm nights to ripen. So far, though, much of eastern Nebraska is running about 4 to 6 degrees below normal for July.


Aftermath of a Japanese whale hunt

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has just released video footage from a whale hunt that occurred late last month.

Baird's beaked whales are rare, but are exempt from whaling bans since they are still classified as small cetaceans. Around 60 Baird's a year are hunted commercially in northern Japan and sold in Japanese supermarkets. However, tests have revealed extremely high levels of mercury in the meat, which could pose a serious health risk.


The plight of the humble bee

Honeybees are in serious trouble. Last year nearly a third of the UK's 240,000 honeybee colonies were wiped out, putting at risk the pollination of fruits and vegetables. Early indications of losses this year suggest the bees are faring slightly better, but a survey of beekeepers to be released this month is expected to show that around one in five hives didn't make it through the winter. Beekeepers can usually expect to lose 10% of their hives due to poor weather or disease.