Floating Tar, Dead Fish: Oil Spill Threatens Greek Beaches

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The Greek authorities scrambled on Thursday to clean up fuel leaked by an oil tanker that sank near Athens, putting popular beaches off limits to swimmers and raising fears of environmental damage.

The Agia Zoni II, a 45-year-old oil tanker, sank near the island of Salamis, about seven miles from the country’s main port, Piraeus. It was carrying more than 2,500 metric tons of fuel oil and marine gas oil.

Though the leak was initially thought to be contained to the area of the shipwreck, it soon expanded to the coastline area known as the Athens Riviera.

Evaggelia Simou, a resident of Salamina, on the island, denounced the authorities for not tackling the oil spill more quickly and fully.

“We drove by the Selinia beach on Sunday night, and were alarmed because of the suffocating smell of oil,” Ms. Simou said.

When she and her husband went to the beach, they were shocked to see that a thick coat of oil had blackened the water. “Huge pieces of floating tar were burdening the waves, dead fish floated on the surface,” Ms. Simou said. They were surprised to see no cleanup workers, she said.

George Papanikolaou, the mayor of Glyfada, said he got a phone call from the Piraeus harbor master warning of the spill only a few hours before the black ooze washed up.

Since then, three private antipollution vessels have cleaned up more than 180 metric tons of fuel from Glyfada’s four beaches. Just this summer, one of the beaches had been recognized by the Foundation for Environmental Education as a Blue Flag beach, a certification of water quality.

It’s tragic that it happened now, after all four beaches have gotten so beautiful,” Tima Vlasto, 51, an American who has lived in Glyfada for six years, said in a phone interview. “Seeing this makes you want to leave. If I can’t swim here, what’s the point of living in Glyfada?”

Mr. Papanikolaou said that emotions were running high in his community. “We’re angry”, he said. “It’s just such a shame that all this hard work can be destroyed in a split second.”

Some ecologists have called the oil spill an environmental disaster, with immediate and potential long-term effects.

The full extent of the pollution and its effects are not yet clear; areas like uninhabited rocky islets are also thought to be affected.

The Hellenic Register of Shipping, an independent organization that oversees shipping safety, said that the tanker had not been certified as seaworthy, although its owner, Fos Petroleum, said that it had all of the proper credentials. The Greek Ministry of Shipping and Island Policy did not respond to several requests for information.

Read here the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/14/world/europe/greece-oil-spill.html?mcubz=1

“Importance and Value of Trees”

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Since the beginning, trees have furnished us with two of life’s essentials, food and oxygen. As we evolved, they provided additional necessities such as shelter, medicine, and tools. Today, their value continues to increase and more benefits of trees are being discovered as their role expands to satisfy the needs created by our modern lifestyles.

Here, some important benefits of the trees that you probably didn’t know:

  1. An acre of nature trees absorbs the amount of CO2 produced when you drive your car 42.000 Km.
  1. An acre of nature trees provides enough oxygen for 18 people.
  1. Trees reduce UV-B exposure by about 40 percent.
  1. The evaporation from a single tree can produce the cooling effect of 10 room size air-conditioners operating 20 hours a day.
  1. A well placed tree can reduce noise by as much as 40 percent.
  1. One large tree can supply a days’ supply of oxygen for 4 people.
  1. A healthy tree can store 6 kg of carbon each year.
  1. An acre of trees can store 2.6 tons of carbon dioxide each year.
  1. For every 16.000 km you drive, it takes 7 trees to remove the amount of carbon dioxide produced.
  1. A hundred million new trees would absorb 18 million tons of CO2 and cut air-conditioning cost by 84 billion annually.
  1. A belt of trees 40 meters wide and 12 meters high can reduce highway noise by 40 percent.
  1. A tree can absorb as much as 24 kg of CO2 per year and can sequester on ton of CO2 by the time it reaches 40 years old.
  1. A mature tree can have an appraised value between 1.000$ and 10.000$ council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers.
  1. About 20 percent of the worlds’ emissions are a result of deforestation.
  1. CO2 worlds’ emission is 35.000.000 metric tons per year.
  1. CO2 sequestration is 25 kg per tree per year.
  1. One half the dry weight of wood is carbon.
  1. One person emit 20 ton of CO2 per year.

So, what you have to do is “take action”, and just plant a tree. It is so simple, but so important!! Protect the environment!! Do not destroy it!!

Arid Zone Afforestation

 

 

Forests and their Benefits

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The importance of forests cannot be underestimated. Specifically, we depend on forests for our survival, from the air we breathe to the wood we use. Besides providing habitats for animals and livelihoods for humans, forests also offer watershed protection, prevent soil erosion and mitigate climate change.

Here, there are some examples of the importance of plants:

  1. Plants combat climate change: Plants absorb CO2 removing and storing carbon, while releasing the oxygen into the air.
  1. Plants clean the air: Plants absorb odors and pollutants gases (nitrogen, oxides, ammonia, sulfur dioxide, and ozone) and filter particules out of the air by trapping them on the leaves and back.
  1. Plants prevent water pollution: Plants reduce runoff by breaking rainfall thus allowing the water to flow down the trunk and into the earth below the tree. This prevents strormwater from carrying pollutants to the ocean. When mulched trees act like a sponge that filters this water naturally and uses it to recharge groundwater supplies.
  1. Plants help prevent soil erosion: On hillsides or stream slopes tress slow runoff and hold soil in place.
  1. Plants regulate the water cycle: By absorbing and redistribuing rainwater quite equal to every species living within its range.
  1. Plants provide food: Aside from fruits for humans, trees provide food for birds and wildlife.
  1. Plants provide medicine material: Huge amount of different medicine material and drugs we use are extracted from plants, as well as the drugs used to fight cancer.
  1. Plants provide clean water: By slowing rainwater so that it can be absorbed into the ground, plants help filter pollutants and sediment from our water’s while replenishing aquifers and keeping annual stream flows steady.
  1. Plants provide perfect habitat: Plants provide perfect habitat for life to flowrish on lands, containing up to 90% of the planet’s species life.
  1. Plants control floods: Plants can hold vast amount of water that would other ways stream down hills and surge along rivers into towns. That is why plants are such an important part of stormwater management for many cities.
  1. Plants enrich the soil: By recycling the nutrients throw the shedding of leaves and seeds.
  1. Plants control the temperature: The shade and wind-breaking qualities that trees provide, benefit every one from the individual taking sheltrer from a hot summer day to entire cities.
  1. Plants combat global warming: It result from leaf transpiration generating moisture that rise to the atmosphere, forming clouds which release water as rain or other precipitation.
  1. Plants protect from UV-RAYS: Trees reduce UV-B exposure by about 50 percent, thus providing protection to children on school campuses and playgrounds and to all us on the beaches.
  1. Plants heal: Studies have shown that patient with views of trees out of their windows heal faster and with less complications.
  1. Plants are our life: Plants transform solar energy into foods and supply the oxygen we need to survive as well as produce water vapour absorb carbon dioxide and store carbon.

However, today we are experiencing a tragedy, as there is a loss of 13 million hectares of forests every year via deforestation.

Dipla Aikaterini (Arid Zone Afforestation)

 

 

Soil erosion and degradation: a global problem – Effects (Part 2)

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The consequences of soil erosion are primarily centered on reduced agricultural productivity, as well as soil quality. But also, water ways may be blocked, and it may affect water quality. This means, most of the environmental problems the world face today, arises from soil erosion.

Particularly, the effects of soil erosion go beyond the loss of fertile land. In other words, it has led to increased pollution and sedimentation in streams and rivers, clogging these waterways and causing declines in fish and other species. And degraded lands are also often less able to hold onto water, which can worsen flooding.

So, the effects of soil degradation include:

  1. Loss of arable land: Lands used for crop production have been substantially affected by soil erosion. Soil erosion eats away the top soil which is the fertile layer of the land and also the component that supports the soil’s essential microorganisms and organic matter. In this view, soil erosion has severely threatened the productivity of fertile cropping areas as they are continually degraded. Because of soil erosion, most of the soil characteristics that support agriculture have been lost, causing ecological collapse and mass starvation.
  1. Water Pollution and Clogging of Waterways: Soils eroded from agricultural lands, carry pesticides, heavy metals, and fertilizers which are washed into streams and major water ways. This leads to water pollution and damage to marine and freshwater habitats. Accumulated sediments can also cause clogging of water ways and raises the water level leading to flooding.
  1. Increased flooding: Land is commonly altered from its natural landscape when it rids its physical composition from soil degradation. In other words, soil degradation takes away the soil’s natural capability of holding water thus contributing to more and more cases of flooding.
  1. Drought and Aridity: Drought and aridity are problems highly influenced and amplified by soil degradation. As much as it’s a concern associated with natural environments in arid and semi-arid areas, the UN recognizes the fact that drought and aridity are anthropogenic induced factors especially as an outcome of soil degradation. Hence, the contributing factors to soil quality decline such as overgrazing, poor tillage methods, and deforestation are also the leading causes of desertification characterized by droughts and arid conditions.
  1. Destruction of Infrastructure: Soil erosion can affect infrastructural projects such as dams, drainages, and embankments, reducing their operational lifetime and efficiency. Also, the silt up can support plant life that can, in turn, cause cracks and weaken the structures. Soil erosion from surface water runoff often causes serious damage to roads and tracks, especially if stabilizing techniques are not used.
  1. Desertification: Soil erosion is also responsible for desertification. It gradually transforms a habitable land into deserts. The transformations are worsened by the destructive use of the land and deforestation that leaves the soil naked and open to erosion. This usually leads to loss of biodiversity, alteration of ecosystems, land degradation, and huge economic losses.

Finally, we all understand that the erosion of the soil is a very serious issue, especially in our days. That is why we need to take action and prevent the unpleasant effects.

Dipla Aikaterini (Arid Zone Afforestation)

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Soil erosion and degradation: a global problem – Causes (Part 1)

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Soil degradation, defined as lowering and losing of soil functions, is becoming more and more serious worldwide in recent decades, and poses a threat to agricultural production and terrestrial ecosystem.

Particularly, soil degradation simply means the decline in soil quality, which comes about due to aspects such as improper land use, agriculture and pasture, urban or industrial purposes. It involves the decline of the soil’s physical, biological and chemical state. In other words, it is a process that leads to decline in the fertility or future productive capacity of soil, as a result of human activity.

It is well known that all soils undergo soil erosion, but some are more vulnerable than others, due to human activities and other natural causal factors. The severity of soil erosion is also dependent on the soil type and the presence of vegetation cover.

Here are few of the major causes of soil degradation:

  1. Physical factors: There are several physical factors contributing to soil degradation, distinguished by the manners in which they change the natural composition and structure of the soil.  Rainfall, surface runoff, floods, wind erosion, tillage, and mass movements result in the loss of fertile top spoil thereby declining soil quality. All these physical factors produces different types of soil erosion (mainly water and wind erosion) and soil detachment actions, and their resultant physical forces eventually changes the composition and structure of the soil by wearing away the soil’s top layer as well as organic matter.
  1. Chemical factors: The reduction of soil nutrients because of alkalinity or acidity or water logging, are all categorized under the chemical components of soil degradation. In the broadest sense, it comprises alterations in the soil’s chemical property that determine nutrient availability.
  1. Biological factors: Biological factors refer to the human and plant activities that tend to reduce the quality of soil.  Some bacteria and fungi overgrowth in an area can highly impact the microbial activity of the soil through bio-chemical reactions, which reduces crop yield and the suitability of soil productivity capacity. Also, human activities such as poor farming practices may also deplete soil nutrients thus diminishing soil fertility.
  1. Deforestation: Deforestation causes soil degradation on the account of exposing soil minerals by removing trees and crop cover, which support the availability of humus and litter layers on the surface of the soil. When trees are removed by logging, infiltration rates become elevated and the soil remains bare and exposed to erosion and the buildup of toxicities.
  1. Improper cultivation practices: There are certain agricultural practices that are environmentally unsustainable and at the same time, they are the single biggest contributor to the worldwide increase in soil quality decline. For example, due to shortage of land, increase of population and economic pressure, the farmers have adopted intensive cropping patterns of commercial crops in place of more balanced cereal-legume rotations.
  1. Misuse and Extensive cultivation: The excessive use and the misuse of pesticides and chemical fertilizers kill organisms that assist in binding the soil together. In other words, it increases the rate of soil degradation by destroying the soil’s biological activity and builds up of toxicities through incorrect fertilizer use. We all know that due to tremendous population increase, the use of land is increasing day by day.
  1. Overgrazing: The rates of soil erosion and the loss of soil nutrients as well as the top soil, are highly contributed by overgrazing. Overgrazing destroys surface crop cover and breaks down soil particles, increasing the rates of soil erosion. As a result, soil quality and agricultural productivity is greatly affected.
  1. Industrial and Mining activities: Soil is chiefly polluted by industrial and mining activities. For example, mining destroys crop cover and releases a myriad of toxic chemicals such as mercury into the soil thereby poisoning it and rendering it unproductive for any other purpose. Industrial activities, on the other hand, release toxic effluents and material wastes into the atmosphere, land, rivers, and ground water that eventually pollute the soil and as such, it impacts on soil quality. Altogether, industrial and mining activities degrade the soil’s physical, chemical and biological properties.
  1. Roads and Urbanization: Urbanization severely affects the erosion process. Land denudation by removing vegetation cover, changing drainage patterns, soil compaction during construction and then covering the land by impermeable layers of concrete or asphalt, all of them contribute to increased surface runoff and increased wind speeds.

Finally, taking into consideration all the above, we understand that soil erosion is a continuous process and may occur either at a relatively unnoticed rate or an alarming rate contributing to copious loss of the topsoil. So, we have to be careful and avoid all the above problems.

Dipla Aikaterini (Arid Zone Afforestation)

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Greenland: how rapid climate change on world’s largest island will affect us all

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The largest wildfire ever recorded in Greenland was recently spotted close to the west coast town of Sisimiut, not far from Disko Island.  The fire has captured public and scientific interest not just because its size and location came as a surprise, but also because it is yet another signpost of deep environmental change in the Arctic.

Greenland is an important cog in the global climate system. The ice sheet which covers 80% of the island reflects so much of the sun’s energy back into space that it moderates temperatures through what is known as the “albedo effect”. And since it occupies a strategic position in the North Atlantic, its meltwater tempers ocean circulation patterns.

But Greenland is especially vulnerable to climate change, as Arctic air temperatures are currently rising at twice the global average rate. Environmental conditions are frequently setting new records: “the warmest”, “the wettest”, “the driest”.

The ice sheet is melting

Between 2002 and 2016 the ice sheet lost mass at a rate of around 269 gigatonnes per year. During the same period, the ice sheet also showed some unusual short-term behaviour.

The 2012 melt season was especially intense – 97% of the ice sheet experienced surface melt at some point during the year. Snow even melted at its summit, the highest point in the centre of the island where the ice is piled up more than 3km above sea level. 

In April 2016 Greenland saw abnormally high temperatures and its earliest ever “melt event” (a day in which more than 10% of the ice sheet has at least 1mm of surface melt). Early melting doesn’t usher in a period of complete and catastrophic change – the ice won’t vanish overnight. But it does illustrate how profoundly and rapidly the ice sheet can respond to rising temperatures.

Despite its icy image, the margins of Greenland are actually quite boggy, complete with swarms of mosquitoes. This is the “active layer”, made up of peaty soil and sediment up to two metres thick, which temporarily thaws during the summer. The underlying permafrost, which can reach depths of 100m, remains permanently frozen.

If thawing continues, it’s estimated that by 2100 permafrost will emit 850-1,400 billion tonnes of CO₂ equivalent (for comparison: total global emissions in 2012 was 54 billion tonnes of CO₂ equivalent). All that extra methane and carbon of course has the potential to enhance global warming even further.

With this in mind, it is clear to see why the recent wildfire, which was burning in dried-out peat in the active layer, was especially interesting to researchers. If Greenland’s permafrost becomes increasingly degraded and dry, there is the potential for even bigger wildfires which would release vast stores of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Learn more here: https://theconversation.com/greenland-how-rapid-climate-change-on-worlds-largest-island-will-affect-us-all-82675

The US cities at risk of flooding – and how they deal with it

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Tropical storm Harvey may have bared its teeth at Houston, but other cities in the US have felt the pangs of nervousness. Several cities are vulnerable to the fiercer storms and sea level rise that are being fueled by climate change.

Cities, by their very nature, struggle during flood situations. Water that would have been soaked up by grass and other vegetation washes off the concrete and asphalt of urban areas and, if not properly diverted away, can inundate homes.

Add in, as in Houston’s case, lax rules around property zoning and a federal flood insurance system that repeatedly pays out for damage to poorly situated houses, and it’s clear cities have much work to do to cope with the changes upon them.

Harvey brought a huge amount of rainfall, but cities now face flooding threats even without a major storm. “Rare events are going to become more common in the future strictly due to sea level rise,” said William Sweet, an oceanographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa).

“We are already seeing flooding in property and the streets in Charleston, Norfolk and Miami on sunny days, driven by the tides. That is a looming crisis that is only going to grow more severe over time.”

The nightmare of a Harvey (or Katrina or Sandy) has led to many cities opt for huge sea walls and other expensive engineering fixes. But there is no easy solution – a sea wall simply pushes the water elsewhere, perhaps on to a neighbor’s head. The water has to go somewhere and decades of development on flood-prone land has left little space to maneuver for some municipalities.

“There are coastal cities at risk from an extreme event and they have giant sea walls or houses on stilts,” said Sweet. “But then there are communities that don’t face a big hurricane threat but water is bubbling up from underneath them. They can’t defend against this sort of flooding. You can’t build a wall everywhere.”

Some progressive cities have started to look at alternative approaches, most notably from the Netherlands, where communities “live” with the water, allowing certain areas to flood while aggressively defending critical infrastructure. Natural sponges such as parklands, wetlands and dunes are now also in vogue with city planners.

But as attitudes to flooding slowly shift, the problem is escalating. Scientists are now confident that hurricanes will become more powerful, fed by a warming, moisture-laden atmosphere, while more common “nuisance” flooding will become so frequent along parts of the US east coast that they will occur once every three days by 2045. By around this time, a majority of US coastal areas are likely to be threatened by 30 or more days of flooding each year.

So which cities are at risk and what are they doing about the threat?

Follow the link to learn more about that serious problem, and how climate change is responsible for this situation: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/aug/31/us-risk-flooding-harvey-boston-new-york-miami-beach

World has missed chance to avoid dangerous global warming – unless we start geo-engineering the planet

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The world has missed the chance to avoid dangerous global warming – unless we start geo-engineering the atmosphere by removing greenhouse gases, according to new research.

Scientists used computer models to assess what needs to be done to restrict global warming to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius, the limits adopted by the Paris Agreement on climate change. They found that the world was likely to overshoot this temperature but could bring it back down to 1.2C by the end of this century by using techniques to remove carbon dioxide from the air.

Giant biological machines could be created to do this by growing vegetation which absorbs carbon, then burning the resulting biomass in power stations that capture the emissions.

The researchers also said other techniques to remove carbon from the atmosphere would need to be developed. Another team of researchers reached similar conclusions last month, finding that geo-engineering would be required to restrict warming to 1.5C but 2C could be achieved without it.

Scientists previously thought limiting global warming to 2C would avoid the most dangerous effects, but there is increasing evidence that allowing it to go much above 1.5C could lock in considerable sea level rise for the next few centuries. So far the world has warmed by just under 1C in little over a century.

The world would have to bring about a “complete shift” to an energy system based on renewables, nuclear, hydrogen, and bio-energy with carbon capture and storage.

Follow the link to learn more about the research: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/world-global-warming-avoid-geo-engineering-planet-climate-change-man-made-a7904966.html

Global warming doubles growth rates of Antarctic seabed’s marine fauna – study

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Marine life on the Antarctic seabed is likely to be far more affected by global warming than previously thought, say scientists who have conducted the most sophisticated study to date of heating impacts in the species-rich environment.

Growth rates of some fauna doubled – including colonising moss animals and undersea worms – following a 1C increase in temperature, making them more dominant, pushing out other species and reducing overall levels of biodiversity, according to the study published  in Current Biology.

The researchers who conducted the nine-month experiment in the Bellingshuan Sea say this could have alarming implications for marine life across the globe as temperatures rise over the coming decades as a result of manmade greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Gail Ashton of the British Antarctic Survey and Smithsonian Environmental Research Center said she was not expecting such a significant difference. “The loss of biodiversity is very concerning. This is an indication of what may happen elsewhere with greater warning.”

Sub-zero conditions near the south pole mean there are comparatively few species on the usually frozen land, but below the ice, the relative lack of pollution, traffic and fishing has left an abundance of marine life that divers and biologists compare to coral reefs.

Previous studies of warming impacts have focused on single species, but the latest research examines an assemblage of creatures. Twelve identical 15cm sq heat plates were set in concrete on the seabed. Four were warmed by 1C, four by 2C and four left at ambient temperature as a control.

Until recently, most of the coverage of temperature rises has focused on the north pole, where the shrinking of arctic ice has been most visibly dramatic. But concerns are growing about the impact of global warming on the far bigger southern ice cap.

Follow for more information: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/aug/31/global-warming-doubles-growth-rates-of-antarctic-seabeds-marine-fauna-study