KOENIGSHAIN, GERMANY – MAY 19: Aerial photograph of dead conifers in a mixed forest on May 19, 2020 in Koenigshain, Germany. Because of the last years of drought needleleaf forests are infested by bark beetles. Many trees are felled to stop spreading these beetles. (Photo by Florian Gaertner/Photothek via Getty Images)
Gabriel Popkin offers this overview of the history of, and the new German approach to forest management in his article titled FOREST FIGHT, in Science:
Forest researchers Pierre Ibisch (left) and Jeanette Blumröder check a data logger in a pine forest that burned in 2018 and is now being allowed to naturally regenerate. LENA MUCHA
Germany invented “scientific” forestry. But a huge dieback triggered by climate change has ignited a fierce debate over how the nation should manage its trees
SCHWENDA, GERMANY—Last summer, Friederike and Jörg von Beyme stood on a bramble-covered, Sun-blasted slope outside this small town in eastern Germany. Just 4 years ago, the hillside, part of a nearly 500-hectare forest the couple bought in 2002, was green and shady, covered in tall, neatly arranged Norway spruce trees the couple planned to cut and sell. Continue reading
Over the decades, Leakey inspired countless scientists and activists through his books and talks. Photograph by William Campbell / Getty
We do not normally link to obituaries, but since I felt compelled to recently, this one seems a must also. Nearly two years ago we linked to a profile of Richard Leakey and the author of that profile has written a moving postscript:
On the night of January 2nd, I got a text from Paula Kahumbu, the Kenyan conservationist. “Dear friends, sad news,” she wrote. “Richard Leakey just passed away at his home in Kona Baridi.” Leakey, the renowned paleoanthropologist and wildlife conservationist, had been her mentor—a mercurial, controversial advocate for African wildlife, whose tumultuous career was central to Kenya’s history in the past half century. Continue reading
An album made entirely of endangered bird sounds beat Taylor Swift on a top 50 chart, which is as it should be:
A red-tailed black cockatoo is seen sitting on a branch with the moon behind it. The bird is one of more than 50 featured on the album Songs of Disappearance that features the sounds of many of Australia’s endangered birds. Byron Hakanson/Birdlife Australia
For most of December, Adele had the top-selling album in Australia, followed by Ed Sheeran, and then there was a collection of absolute bangers that took everyone by surprise.
Songs Of Disappearance is an entire album of calls from endangered Australian birds. Last month, it briefly perched at No. 3 on the country’s top 50 albums chart – ahead of Taylor Swift. Continue reading
The trunk of the Sitka spruce marked to be cut down.
The soaring, centuries-old Sitka spruce with its blue spray-paint blaze is spared, for now.
A story about a tree, its history intertwined with five centuries of human history, this article earns your time. And it earns respect for the Washington Post, which assigned a star reporter to oversee its climate change coverage.
Juliet Eilperin features this tree’s significance from multiple angles, and accompanied by the stunning photography and video of Salwan Georges, her words are leveraged artfully with images and dramatic arc into a question you want the answer to: This tree has stood here for 500 years. Will it be sold for $17,500? Definitely worth reading on a large monitor rather than a phone screen. It may get you thinking about graduate school:
The Tongass National Forest in Alaska.
TONGASS NATIONAL FOREST, Alaska — The Sitka spruce soaring more than 180 feet skyward has stood on this spot on Prince of Wales Island for centuries. While fierce winds have contorted the towering trunks of its neighbors, the spruce’s trunk is ramrod straight. Standing apart from the rest of the canopy, it ascends to the height of a 17-story building.
This tree’s erect bearing — a 1917 publication called the Sitka species “the autocrat of timbers” — is what helps give it such extraordinary commercial value. Musical instrument makers covet its fine grain, as do builders whose clients want old-growth wood that’s increasingly scarce. In a world whose ancient forests have largely disappeared, this grove holds a sliver of what remains. Continue reading
Forest clearance in Indonesia. Palm oil production in the country, which is one of the world’s largest producers, has been linked to deforestation. Photograph: Ulet Ifansasti/Greenpeace
Smouldering peatland following a suspected land clearance fire in Kampar, Sumatra, in 2019. Photograph: Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images
Palm oil has a dirty history. It causes havoc, to put it politely. May we all do our part to elect civic leaders with a keen sense of responsibility for devastation in other parts of the world, and get them to take action to reduce it. We thank Patrick Greenfield for his reporting in this article titled The UK city taking a stand on palm oil in the fight against deforestation:
A growing number of towns and villages are following Chester’s lead in helping local businesses to eradicate deforestation-linked oil from their supply chains
Orangutans, tigers, Sumatran rhinos and many other threatened species are affected by habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict that stems from palm oil plantations. Photograph: Vier Pfoten/Four Paws/Rhoi/REX/Shutterstock
From mince pies and biscuits to lipstick and soap, palm oil grown on deforested land in south-east Asia will have been hard to avoid this Christmas. The vegetable oil is found in almost half of all packaged products in UK supermarkets, according to WWF.
But a growing number of towns and cities are trying to use only sustainable palm oil, helping orangutans, tigers, Sumatran rhinos and many other threatened species. Continue reading
Toward the end of his life, E. O. Wilson called for setting aside half of the world’s surface as untouchable.Photograph by Steven Senne / AP
When I read the obituary of E. O. Wilson published in the New York Times, written by one of the science writers we link to the most frequently, it was full of surprises–I had not been aware of the many controversies cited.
I was also surprised to see no mention of biophilia, the concept that first drew my attention to the scientist’s work.
Tom Lovejoy spent most of the past forty years trying to preserve the Amazon rain forest.Photograph by Lev Radin / Shutterstock
Then, this morning, I read the tribute by another of our favorite writers, and had a different surprise: we have featured stories referring to conservation biologist Tom Lovejoy only four times previously. It seems a fitting way to start a new year by correcting an old mistake.
Thanks to Elizabeth Kolbert for Honoring the Legacy of E. O. Wilson and Tom Lovejoy:
Eurythenes atacamensis, a giant new crustacean endemic to the Peru-Chile ocean trench, identified by scientists in 2021. Photograph: Weston et al 2021
The work of species discovery continues, even as extinction continues unabated:
‘Hell herons’, metallic beetles, tiny shrimp – scientists have been busy describing unusual creatures despite Covid restrictions
Two newly described species of spinosaur dinosaurs discovered on the Isle of Wight, named ‘hell heron’ and ‘riverbank hunter’. Photograph: Anthony Hutchings
Six new dinosaurs, an Indian beetle named after Larry the cat, and dozens of crustaceans critical to the planet’s carbon cycle were among 552 new species identified by scientists at the Natural History Museum this year.
In 2021, researchers described previously unknown species across the tree of life, from a pair of giant carnivorous dinosaurs known as spinosaurs – nicknamed the “riverbank hunter” and “hell heron” – to five new snakes that include the Joseph’s racer, which was identified with the help of a 185-year-old painting. Continue reading
A tapir in Braulio Carrillo national park, near San José. Costa Rica’s policy of paying citizens to protect and restore ecosystems is credited with reversing deforestation rates, which threaten the species. Photograph: Michiel van Noppen/2021 Wildlife Photographer of the Year
The stories we use the title Really to highlight are among the heavies. Too much malfeasance, too often. Reading stories about Costa Rica‘s remarkable achievements related to the environment never gets old:
Billionaires, princes and prime ministers are among those keen to learn from the Central American country, which has long put nature at the heart of its policies
If there had been a popularity contest at Cop26, the Costa Rican president, Carlos Alvarado Quesada, would have been a clear winner. Leonardo DiCaprio, Jeff Bezos, Boris Johnson and Prince William all wanted to speak with the leader of the tiny Central American country, eager to bask in its green glow. Continue reading
A ranger, on the lookout for illegal poachers and loggers, logs an early-morning report before returning to the Koh Kong ranger station.
When we first learned of it, we wondered why this concept was not implemented in more locations with similar poaching problems. Now we see it:
Deep in the Southern Cardamom Mountains, former loggers and poachers have assumed new roles as protective rangers and ecotourism guides. Can their efforts help preserve a vast stretch of wilderness?
We were seated near a lush river in the Southern Cardamom Mountains, huddled over a lunch of chicken and rice, when the tip came in via text message: Someone had passed along the location of a poaching camp. Continue reading
If you have visited Costa Rica, or been fortunate enough to live here, you might have already become entangled with the country’s many opportunities to support conservation. For many decades foreigners have been welcomed to join in the country’s marine and terrestrial conservation initiatives. Many of those foreigners adopt the country as home after getting entangled in all kinds of good ways.
The first eight minutes of the video above are bliss: several young people are introduced, each of whom has become entangled. Along with those introductions, some stunning photography and videography showcasing Costa Rica’s nature, helping you to understand the entanglement. At 8:14 you see the dictionary definitions of entangled. The next 17 minutes are a case study in industrial fishing’s unintended consequences. Not surprisingly, this has already received lots of awards, but they ask you to share freely, so please do. And if you want to support financially, that will be appreciated as well.
The Nutmeg’s Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis
by Amitav Ghosh
Published October 2021
Amitav Ghosh, appearing in our pages only once before, has a new book. The title of this review of the book, A Dazzling Synthesis, says plenty, as does the endorsement from Naomi Klein:
We have been aware for centuries that we are responsible for the earth’s denudation: its ‘cold staring spaces’, as English writer John Evelyn called them in 1706, mourning the trees chopped down on his estate. Around a hundred years later, the Prussian explorer Alexander Von Humboldt worried over ‘mankind’s mischief’, conjecturing that if humans ever ventured into outer space, they would carry with them a tendency to leave everything ravaged and barren. (The closer they resembled man, he also observed, ‘the sadder monkeys look’). ‘Are the green fields gone?’ asked the narrator of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, published fifty years after Von Humboldt’s 1801 diary, as he watched his fellow Manhattanites staring dreamily out to sea. Continue reading
It is often said that the world now needs a Second Green Revolution. Illustration by Derrick Schultz
Elizabeth Kolbert continues exploring the potential costs and benefits of mankind’s attempted mastery over nature:
This story begins about two billion years ago, when the world, if not young, exactly, was a lot more impressionable. The planet spun faster, so the sun rose every twenty-one hours. The earliest continents were forming—Arctica, for instance, which persists as bits and pieces of Siberia. Most of the globe was given over to oceans, and the oceans teemed with microbes. Continue reading
Mike Gunton, creative director of the BBC Natural History Unit and a long-time collaborator with David Attenborough.PHOTOGRAPH: BENEDICT REDGROVE
David Attenborough has been a frequent feature in our pages over the years. Each conversation with him repeats something we already knew but shares something we had not previously known:
Hotspots of mycorrhizal fungi are thought to be under threat, from agriculture, urbanisation, pollution, water scarcity and changes to the climate. Photograph: Biosphoto/Alamy
We featured three articles by Fiona Harvey, Environment correspondent for the Guardian, each in 2016 on quite different topics, and then we did not see her again until today. Our attention to fungi has been constant since Milo got the topic started in 2011, and SPUN’s mapping project counts as good news:
Project aims to help protect some of trillions of miles of the ‘circulatory system of the planet’
Vast networks of underground fungi – the “circulatory system of the planet” – are to be mapped for the first time, in an attempt to protect them from damage and improve their ability to absorb and store carbon dioxide. Continue reading
A hazel sapling (Corylus avellana) in the ditches of the tree hub at Amsterdamse Bos. Photograph: Judith Jockel/The Guardian
The trillion trees concept, which inspires but has had its share of legitimate questions, has a scrappy cousin with a novel approach:
‘Every tree counts’: Dutch come up with cunning way to create forests for free
More Trees Now aims to give away 1m unwanted saplings to farmers and councils with hope idea will spread across Europ
Hanneke van Ormondt saves a sapling at the tree hub in Amsterdamse Bos, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Photograph: Judith Jockel/The Guardian
In a clearing in the Amsterdamse Bos, a forest on the outskirts of the Dutch capital, is a “tree hub” where hundreds of saplings, among them hazelnut, sweet cherry, field maple, beech, chestnut and ash, are organised by type.
The idea behind it is simple: every day unwanted tree saplings were being cleared and thrown away when those young trees could be carefully collected and transplanted to where they are wanted. Continue reading
One of the National Trust’s tree-planting projects, at Kingston Lacy in Dorset. Its Plant a Tree appeal has topped £1m. Photograph: James Dobson/National Trust/PA
Planting trees is part of our business model. So, we love this news:
National Trust says tree giving growing in popularity but only 7% know best season to plant
A National Trust ranger, David Smith, preparing saplings for planting at Hafod Garegog in north Wales. Photograph: Paul Harris/National Trust/PA
For centuries people have said it with flowers but research suggests a new tradition is gaining popularity in the UK – expressing love, thanks, perhaps even regret with the gift of a tree.
A third of people said they would consider saying it with a tree rather than a bouquet and more than one in 10 had already done so, according to the research commissioned by the National Trust.
However, the conservation charity also said only 7% of people in the UK knew the best time of year to plant, and it was launching a drive to improve “tree literacy”. Continue reading
Last image like this that I posted was showing the sugarcane along the berm. In the centerground of the photo above, which I just took, and in earlier photos with a similar view, you can see some of the maturing poro saplings planted last year.
Having mentioned in yesterday’s post the idea of supplementing poro shade with solar panel shade, today I am sharing some images of these young trees after planting the seedlings one year ago.
Most have grown to be between four and eight feet in height.
In addition to the seedlings planted, some larger specimens were planted that came from branch cuttings from the best poro on the property.
For example, this tree above is from a branch we pruned that was about four inches in diameter; the one below from a branch even thicker.
Solar panels would be in very good company.
Species living in the Thames include seahorses and sharks. Photograph: ZSL
We will take good news where and how we can get it:
Zoological Society of London carries out most comprehensive survey since 1950s
Since 2003 there has been as steady increase in seal populations in the Thames estuary. Photograph: ZSL
Seahorses, eels, seals and sharks are living in the tidal Thames, according to the most comprehensive analysis of the waterway since it was declared biologically dead in the 1950s.
But scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), who carried out the work, warn that the 95 miles of the tidal Thames is suffering from rising nitrate levels as a result of industrial runoff and sewage discharges. Water levels and temperature are also rising as a result of global heating. Continue reading
People in New Zealand seem on the right side of most issues, so who are we to argue with their decision on this one? Thanks to Natasha Frost for this surprising news:
The long-tailed bat, one of the country’s only two native land mammals, flew away with the top prize.
AUCKLAND, New Zealand — The candidates didn’t know they were running. The winner received no prize. And, at least by appearance, the champion appeared to be ineligible to compete. Continue reading