December 12, 2005

Someone! Venice's sinking! Do something.

Venezia, as it is said in Italian…It is the Queen of the Adriatic, city of canals and palaces. It is a city that once ago was build up by merchants and sellers. One each four corners of the city is surrounded by water. This city is full of riches ness and devotion from its people. It has withstood the brick of time, through hard and tantrum times. It has a long history and doubly future, but the air in this city is delicate and melancholy. For thousands of years this city was one of the most enduring mercantile sea powers on the face of the earth. Today its brilliance and influence have long since faded, leaving behind a town of tarnished glories, out of time and out of place, so achingly beautiful it's hard not to look for the back of the set. New facts point out that Venice is sinking at alarming rate. This ancient city is sitting on wooden pillars that are pounded into marshy grounds by architects that have live centuries ago. It has sunk about 7 cm a century for the past 1000 years and just in the last 100 years; it has been sinking at the alarming rate of 24 cm. There is a controversial plan name Moses that involves a number of moveable dams and also a plan to reduce the water flooding the city. The project is about $4 billion and it started out in 1966, when a massive flood flooded the St. Mark Square. Without the fact of having bridges and dams, the city is so vulnerable on floods and tides. This project was started by a professor and an engineer at the University of Padua. His name is Gambolati and along with his crew, they are considering to inject sea water to raise the city about 30 cm and rescue it from the tides. The project would require digging holes about 12 of them about 30 cm in diameter and 10km area around the city. To pump the water about 700 meters deep. The sea water would make the sand that is underneath to expand because the group will use waterproof clay to help push the soil. This is the explanation that the professor gives on the project. The estimated cost is about $17 million. He explains that he plans to test his theory by testing a small area at first. The project will need to be approved by the city council and the major. As of the present time, it is only in the beginning phase and also needs to pass to the state commissions before making legal. The final version will be called “Moses? and along with it a flood barrier would also be build to help ease the tension of the tides. The name “Moses? was taken from the Biblical figure that parted the Red Sea and because of the slitting of the water and the building of the dams, that’s why they’ve decided on this name. Much high place society’s city’s figures such as the president of the New Venice Consortiu (the agency that helps out with the project) said that this plan that needs careful testing and it needs to be checked very thoroughly. Venice is a very delicate and soft space and it should be elevated in a different way…that what he said…or the city would crumble. But according to Gambolati, the project will not affect the city’s stability. This project can be considered as a step towards elevating and helping a city that throughout many centuries has lacked the help and need to be saved.

Posted by at 9:05 PM | 4. Land Use and Land Management

December 9, 2005

Someone! Venice’s sinking! Do Something.

Not only is Venice sinking, but it’s surrounding land is sinking as well. Though this is not new news, there are some interesting tactics being considered to save this international treasure. Are these innovative approaches worth the risk of possible destruction in a historical city?
The current anthropogenic subsidence of the land in the Zennare Basin surrounding Venice city is 1.5 to 2 cm per year. (Gambolati et. al 2005) This is largely due to bio-oxidation of organic rich peat layers, which naturally decompose at a rate that is increased with agricultural nutrification and water level increase from agricultural drainage. Venice currently has sunk about one foot in the last 300 years and is in jeopardy of flooding from high tides and floods which threaten to drown the landmark city. (U.S. Water News)
The current approach to remediation of these issues is a $5.2 billion project attempting to build large gates which will act as a flood barrier for high tide conditions.(U.S. Water News) Though this approach was approved in 2003 a new approach to directly save Venice from its current condition is being proposed. Project head Giuseppe Gambolati and his group of engineers are “considering injecting seawater under Venice to raise the waterlogged Italian city by one foot to rescue it from the tides and floods.?(Gambolati et. al 2005) This extreme hydrological alteration may have large impacts on both the hydrology and the geology of the city and the local area. The current approach to slow the subsidence of the Zennare Basin is to implement conservation soil practices for agricultural land use, implement cover crops in times of bare soils, and manage the level of the water table to keep the levels low and the bio-oxidation at a manageable rate.
Currently, professional dispute of the effectiveness in the seawater injection results exists. Professor of geotechnic engineering at Turin Polytechnic, Michele Jamiolkowski, fears that only half of the projected height gain will be obtained and the possibility of uneven rise as well as other unknown repercussions may tear the city apart.
Difficulties with water table regulation due to fluxes in precipitation are also current concerns about effectively regulating the Zennare Basin drainage discharge.
The approaches being considered for these problems shows innovation as well as solid scientific principal. The largest question is the possibilities of implementation problems such as uneven distribution of the water and uneven land elevation. Agricultural conservation has little possibility of undesired alterations to height levels, but water table management should be done with great care. The risks to the city of Venice should be studied carefully before any action is taken. A mistake on this magnitude would doubtfully be acceptable to any historical preservation entity.

Reference

Gambolati G., Putii M., Teatini P., Camporese M., Ferraris S., Gasparetto G., Nicoletti V., Silvestri S., Rizzetto F., and Tosi, L.(2005) Peat Land Oxidation Enhances Subsidence in the Venice Watershed: EOS Vol. 86, Numb. 23, June 7 pg. 217

U.S. Water News Online (Nov. 2005) New idea proposes to inject seawater to raise Venice: http://www.uswaternews.com/archives/arcglobal/5newxidea11.html

Posted by at 1:39 AM | 4. Land Use and Land Management

December 8, 2005

Overharvesting of fish recources

I am an avid fisherman, and with the seasonal changes keeping me off the ice i have been thinking about the continuation of fisheries. I have recently been shown a magazine article, that talked about big DNR busts over the summer fishing season, and I was amazed by some of the stories I took away from it. I was upset when I learned that in the past when people were caught with overharvesting they would be given a small fine, and lose the fish in possession, however they would retain their rights to fish the following day. I am glad however, that this practice no longer exists, and there are severe fines, and the chance to lose any fishing rights. Some of the stories that irritaded me included a group of two men, that had over 100 fish over there limit, and when asked why they continued fishing, he simply stated because they were biting. Overall I believe most fishermen are law abiding, but there should be a strict penelaty for any who break these laws. Anyone who takes fish illigally are not only harming the fishery, but also giving a bad name to the law abiding fisherman.

Posted by at 6:00 PM | 5. Air and Water Resources

Coral Reefs' Fight for Survival

Coral reefs are a part of one of the most beauitful and spectacular ecosystems on the earth. They are home to at least 1/4 of all marine plant and animal species, while also protecting many of the world's coastlines from erosion. In order to understand human impact on coral reefs, I'll give you a little summary of what they are. A reef is built of tiny coral animals who contrust calcium carbonate shells around their bodies. In turn, the reef grows when the larva from a young coral polyp attaches itself to an ideal spot, typically on top of an existing coral, and then begins to build itself a new shell. From this building, the reef structure rises about one to two inches per year. Of course coral dies, and when it does, new larvae build their shells on top of them, allowing reefs to grow to keep up with a moderate rise in sea level. A single reef can grow for millions of years and become hundreds of meters thick--the world's largest, the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, is 1,250 miles long.
Since coral reefs consist of many diverse organisms, its animals have a "symbiotic" relationship with minute algae known as zooxanthellae (quite a word). In short, this algae provides the coral with oxygen and food made from photosynthesis. The zooxanthellae then get a home and nutrients from the coral. This algae is what gives the coral its fascinating and bright colors. The environmental conditions the coral live in determine different kinds of algae that live there, wuch as light availability, depth and water temperature. Coral need a certain set of conditions to thrive, as do the zooxanthellae in order to provide photosynthesis to the coral. The water has to be warm, clear and moderately saline with constant salinity. Without this, coral reefs are in danger. Now, human activity is estimated to have killed ten percent of known coral reefs, while thirty percent of them are currently in critical condition. Sadly, only thirty percent of the total are thought to be stable.
Humans are not the only cause to coral depletion. Many environmental factors take their toll, including the tsunami in the Phillipines, which damaged thousands of miles of coral reefs. Scientists are currently trying to establish ways to replenish this damaged coral. Also, sediment runoff can and has killed reffs because zooxanthellae cannot photosynthesize in cloudy or murky water; logging and plowing has increased this runoff, especially in the Philippines and the Costa Rican coast. In these areas, 75% of the reefs have died as a result. Just a list of a few more environmental problems include ultraviolet radiation from ozone depletion, pesticide and industrial runoff, oil spills, coral mining and damage from tourists and divers that have resulted in killed reefs in othre various locations.
When these environmental changes occur, it puts stress on the coral animals. Under stress, they expel their zooxanthellae and cause the coral to turn white, rather than die. Since this algae turns the coral color, the reef results in white, known as "coral bleaching". Corals can recover from one bleaching event, but multiple times can kill them. A theoretical cause of bleaching is the contamination of the reefs by extra nutrients from sewage, or the increase of seawater temperatures due to global warming.
Natural selection may also be playing a part in this. A recent research study has concluded that when a coral expels its zooxanthellae, it may actually be aiding in its own survival. When the environment rapidly changes, the algae that the coral gets rid of is no longer optimal, which in turn allows the coral to host a different type of algae that is better suited to the coral's survival in the new environment. This was discovered by Wildlife Conservation Society's (who conducted it) and Dr. Andrew C. Baker, a scientist at the New York Aquarium. He switched corals found off the coast of Panama, putting deep water species of coral in shallow water and shallow water species in deep water. The coral that went from deep water to shallow bleached but then took on new algae and ended up surviving. The shallow to deep water coral didn't bleach, which says it did not change its algae, and most of the coral died. It was concluded that while bleaching is a risky strategy for survival, it does indeed help the coral respond to rapid environmental change, which we all know is fast upon us.

Posted by at 4:21 PM | 1. Critical Thinking in Environmental Science | 7. Humans, Knowledge, and Technology

Global Climate Change Will Cause an Increase in Disease Outbreaks

Global climate change is a highly discussed, debated, and analyzed topic. There are many components that make up this debate ranging from why it is occurring to how we are going to slow its effects. A very important area of study within the topic of global climate change is the effects that it will have on the ecosystems of the world.
One of the most recent revelations found, from a study put out by Harvard Medical School's Center for Health and the Global Environment, reinsurance company Swiss Re, and the United Nations Development Program, is that the warmer climates and increased/decreased amounts of precipitation, due to global climate change, will be greatly influencing the number of disease outbreaks among humans. Hari Pant, assistant professor of environmental, geographic, and geological sciences at Lehman College of the City University of New York says that, "[But] overall, the effect on human health will be bad because of the spread of opportunistic organisms that take advantage of unstable environments." The three diseases thought to increase the most are Malaria, West Nile, and Lyme disease.
Malaria is predicted to have an increased outbreak in the areas where the climate will be getting predominately warmer. The warming of these specific areas will cause the breeding season to be longer and the reproduction and biting rates of these insects to increase. The warmer temperatures also cause the parasite that is Malaria to reach full maturity inside the mosquito more quickly then it would in cooler temperatures. An increase in precipitation causes more breeding grounds for mosquitoes, and a decrease in precipitation causes people to migrate and therefore transmit the disease around the country, continent, or world.
West Nile virus is said to be more prevalent with the onset of global climate change because the mosquito that carries this virus thrives in droughts. This means that some areas of the world that usually do not see this disease because of their tendency to be a relatively moist area, could start to see a rise in the number of outbreaks because global climate change could impact these areas, making them more dry. Another negative effect of drought in the areas where these diseases could appear is that drought decreases the amount of predators that these mosquitoes have, creating an imbalance in the local food chain.
Lyme disease will also take advantage of rising temperatures. Lyme disease is prominently carried by deer ticks. These ticks will move north when the temperatures start to get warmer, causing the area in which the disease inhabits to more than double.
This problem can be solved in a number of different ways. One could be to find solid vaccines for all of these diseases and give them to everyone susceptible. This is not a very logical solution, however. It would be very costly and would also have the potential of causing more harm to some then it would cause good. The main solution that I think the world should put to action is simply to work on reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. We need to find alternate forms of sustainable energy that will give off less greenhouse gases and therefore slow down global warming so that the consequences of the changes it will cause can be better prepared for and possibly curbed to reduce the impact by a margin.
This information comes from an article in National Geographic Magazine by Nicholas Bakalar called “Warming Will Lead to Major Disease Outbreaks, Experts Warn? written on December 2, 2005. This magazine focuses entirely on nature and advocates its preservation. It is good that they are supporting articles that generate awareness about the looming effects of human-caused turmoil in the environment not only in the US but on a world-scale. This magazine doesn’t sugar-coat the reality of situations and I think that is exactly what people need to hear: an intelligent sounding, reality bearing, informative analysis of the problems that the world is facing.

Posted by at 1:15 PM | 2. In the News

Invasive species

Introduction

Although there are various articles discussing the importance of control and management of invasive species, I wasn’t able to find many articles against this subject. The reasons for providing control for invasive species were very persuasive. However, I did find another article arguing against the control invasive species, equally as convincing.

Benefits of Invasive Species

Plants and other species have invaded the territory of other native species making it very difficult for native species to survive. With an increase in international travel and trade, invasive species have become a greater issue in the world today. When plants or other species invade an area, endangered species and the original state of ecosystems are threatened. Along with threatening species, there are also arguments that billions of dollars each year trying to alleviate the problem of invasive species.

After reading an article entitled Benefits of Classical Biological Control for Managing Invasive Plants, I learned that there are three strategies for the management of plant invasions. They include: prevention, eradication, and control. The effectiveness of prevention has been question by legislation. As a means of prevention, legislation would be required to make sure that foreign plants are unable to entering specific areas. This article suggests that destroying weeds is not regarded as economically feasible. Conventional weed control (which includes mechanical and chemical for example) is very expensive, and takes a lot of energy and is laborious. These types of control would require a repeated application which is not practical for managing widespread plant invasions such delicate habitats.

Mechanical control disturbs the soil and may cause erosion. The usage of chemical herbicides has lead to resistance in evolved weed species in some cases. Chemical herbicides also pose a threat to the health of wildlife and humans. As a result of these negative effects of these methods of controls, the use of biological control has increased.

Biological control is the usage of exotic natural enemies to control the exotic pests. It is considered a safe method of control, and cost effective. Overall, biological control has a success rate of 33 percent. Some of the benefits include being permanent, energy efficient, nonpolluting, and inexpensive relative to other methods. There are some risks involved in biological control but there have not been any significant records of harm to non-targeted species or the environment.


Different Perspective

In contrast to the other article, the article entitled An Essay on Some Topics Concerning Invasive Species speaks from a different perspective on invasive species. Unlike the other article, this article emphasizes that past invasions have occurred without human assistance. These specie invasions rarely caused any measuring effects on the population or ecological change. In fact, the article goes on to say that “They are unintentional, uncontrolled experiments, which can provide insights into attributes of successful colonist, relationships with native species, and impacts on the structure and function of ecological systems.? Just as fossil records show, the earth and the environment has been changed drastically. Species have been invading the earth since the dawn of time. The current invasions just show that the earth is experiencing an episode of changes in the environment and biodiversity caused by our own invasive species. Humans are constantly altering the climate, destroying habitats, connecting isolated lands or waters, exterminating species, and transporting organisms. Therefore, there should be no surprise in the impact and distribution.

My Opinion – Conclusion

Yes, there is a lot of supporting evidence that shows that there should be control for invasive species. However, it is my opinion that invasive species should not be managed and that we should allow nature to take its course. The argument against the invasive species control won my vote. I think that the statement that they make in the article regarding foreign species that states, “similar to the human instinct to dislike or distrust foreigners, the view toward invasive species is the same? (An Essay on Some Topics Concerning Invasive Species). We do not understand these species and because they are foreign does not mean that they are unbeneficial to society. I think that it is important to measure the fact these control methods may be just as detrimental to the environment. Regardless, there are going to be concerns for economic cost. Because there is no evidence showing that there is a 100% sure way to effectively control these species, I feel that we shouldn’t mess with what has already been done. We are possibly even causing more harm to the environment than these new species are through our methods of control. There is usually are reason for everything. Maybe the reason for these new species.....is our answer to discovering new cures and will beneficially useful in many ways, in years to come.


Continue reading "Invasive species"

Posted by at 10:04 AM

clean air?

The Clean Air Act was created in 1943 to reduce the amount of smog and atmospheric pollution (Wikipedia). “The use of the federal government and state and local governments to enforce clean air standards has contributed to an improvement of the health of Americans? (Wikipedia). Basically the Clean Air Act requires major point sources to obtain a permit to put emissions into the air. Once they have the permit they are supposed to maintain certain standards that are enforced mainly by fees (http://www.epa.gov/oar/oaqps/peg_caa/pegcaa02.html#topic2e); fees that are in my opinion way to low. If a company can just get out of updating there equipment by paying a small fine then what are the incentives to not polluting. We need to have stronger punishments such as closing a company down that does not meet certain standards until they comply with the standards that were created to protect us all.

Posted by at 9:55 AM | 6. Energy, Economics, and Policy

Should Minnesotas Forests Be Deemed Road Less Once Again?

Recently there has been a national debate regarding our precious forests and woodlands. The repeal of a road less designation has affected not only Minnesota, but many other states as well. However, Minnesotans are facing a dilemma unlike other states where the solution is much more evident.

In 2001, Bill Clinton enacted regulations declaring 58 million acres of forest road less throughout the nation, including some 65,000, right here in Minnesota. Now, President Bush has dropped these protections and opened all of the previously guarded land up to logging, mining, and development.

Nearly a dozen other states are displeased with the new designation and in order to reinstate the road less status governors from each are petitioning to bring woodland conservation back to their states.

Among eco-conscious Minnesotans, this may seem like a natural response, however there is confusion over what would be the best plan of action and accordance among unexpected groups.

Sean Werly, with Friends of the Boundry Waters Wilderness, warns that land previously unavailable is now up for the taking. "For instance the Echo Trail logging project, which plans to cut 16,000 acres on the edge of the wilderness," explains, Werly. "That is left vulnerable and open because of this new national policy."

Republicans are satisfied with the new designation and that is why many environmental groups are taking an unusual opinion on the issue. Although conservationists are not happy with the new management plan they are concerned what a petition might bring about. Many are advocating leaving whatever protections are left and not advising for the governor to petition the status. Werly explains that most of the other states seeking a petition have democratic governors who are expected to establish even more protection after investigating the issue. However, environmentalists fear that reopening the issue could in fact result in less protection. Governor Pawlenty has requested an investigation be made by the state’s Forest Resources Council, on which sit environmentalists but also representatives from the timber industry, in order to recommend a petition or not.

Conservationists with Common Sense, based out of Ely, typically oppose positions taken by Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, but this time they are in unusual agreement. Nancy McReady describes the situation as a can of worms they don’t want to stir. The group fears that land still protected after the repeal would be opened up and that land currently available would be off limits.

Shawn Perich, an outdoor writer and member of the Forest Resources Council, states that
there are restrictions in place, protecting some of the land that had previously been deemed road less. But these are associated with the Superior and Chippewa Land Management Plans that are not as effective as stricter policies, however he doesn’t feel the road less act would compensate for there shortcomings.
In my opinion Minnesota should have the best interest of the forest in mind. Where other states can immediately retaliate the weakened protection, I feel it is too uncertain a gain for a petition to be filed. The Forest Resources Council is not expected to recommend a petition and it seems that is probably the best decision for all involved. Perhaps in the future the current land management plan can be reinvestigated and strengthened to preserve the value and integrity of our priceless wilderness. Until then it seems that Minnesota should stick with whatever protections have been left.

Posted by at 9:30 AM

Should Minnesotas Forests Be Deemed Road Less Once Again?

Recently there has been a national debate regarding our precious forests and woodlands. The repeal of a road less designation has affected not only Minnesota, but many other states as well. However, Minnesotans are facing a dilemma unlike other states where the solution is much more evident.

In 2001, Bill Clinton enacted regulations declaring 58 million acres of forest road less throughout the nation, including some 65,000, right here in Minnesota. Now, President Bush has dropped these protections and opened all of the previously guarded land up to logging, mining, and development.

Nearly a dozen other states are displeased with the new designation and in order to reinstate the road less status governors from each are petitioning to bring woodland conservation back to their states.

Among eco-conscious Minnesotans, this may seem like a natural response, however there is confusion over what would be the best plan of action and accordance among unexpected groups.

Sean Werly, with Friends of the Boundry Waters Wilderness, warns that land previously unavailable is now up for the taking. "For instance the Echo Trail logging project, which plans to cut 16,000 acres on the edge of the wilderness," explains, Werly. "That is left vulnerable and open because of this new national policy."

Republicans are satisfied with the new designation and that is why many environmental groups are taking an unusual opinion on the issue. Although conservationists are not happy with the new management plan they are concerned what a petition might bring about. Many are advocating leaving whatever protections are left and not advising for the governor to petition the status. Werly explains that most of the other states seeking a petition have democratic governors who are expected to establish even more protection after investigating the issue. However, environmentalists fear that reopening the issue could in fact result in less protection. Governor Pawlenty has requested an investigation be made by the state’s Forest Resources Council, on which sit environmentalists but also representatives from the timber industry, in order to recommend a petition or not.

Conservationists with Common Sense, based out of Ely, typically oppose positions taken by Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, but this time they are in unusual agreement. Nancy McReady describes the situation as a can of worms they don’t want to stir. The group fears that land still protected after the repeal would be opened up and that land currently available would be off limits.

Shawn Perich, an outdoor writer and member of the Forest Resources Council, states that
there are restrictions in place, protecting some of the land that had previously been deemed road less. But these are associated with the Superior and Chippewa Land Management Plans that are not as effective as stricter policies, however he doesn’t feel the road less act would compensate for there shortcomings.
In my opinion Minnesota should have the best interest of the forest in mind. Where other states can immediately retaliate the weakened protection, I feel it is too uncertain a gain for a petition to be filed. The Forest Resources Council is not expected to recommend a petition and it seems that is probably the best decision for all involved. Perhaps in the future the current land management plan can be reinvestigated and strengthened to preserve the value and integrity of our priceless wilderness. Until then it seems that Minnesota should stick with whatever protections have been left.

Posted by at 9:30 AM

How we should go about feeding our world population

How population is growing very fast, I do beleive we have enough good to feed our world population, but we go about it the wrong way According to the agriculture.tusk web site the world population should be about 8.3 billion in 2025. I believe if the world food supply if distributed evenly everybody will be okay, but there are countries that get more food than our third world countries like Asia and Africa for example. According to the article if the Third World countries attempted to obtain 30% of their calories from animal’s products- as in the USA and other countries a world population of only 2.6 billion people could have been sustained. They also believe that if these third world countries diets improve the food demand could increase by 100 percent- to above 9 billion gross tons-over 35 years period.
Plant products constituted 93% of the human diet, with about 30 crops species providing most of the world’s calories and protein, including eight species of cereals, which collectively accounted for 66% of the world food supply. Base of the food production chat this article gave, our food product is mainly increase in percent. We have the food; I just don’t think we know how to divide it up. You will think countries with more people will get more food, but it doesn’t work like that.
Being raise in a third world country myself at a young age, I don’t believe they should blame the food problem on third world countries. Yes third world countries are more populated that USA or Canada, but I believe Canada and USA get more of the food supplies than these third world countries and these countries have more people in their population. They need to divide the food equally and stop worrying about third world countries dieting. I believe USA diet and stay fit and skin and health, but Some third world countries like Africa for example believe big is beautiful we don’t worry too much about being skin and fit, we enjoy the food that natural have provide for us.

Posted by at 9:27 AM