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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

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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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

A third of the world now faces deadly heatwaves as result of climate change

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Nearly a third of the world’s population is now exposed to climatic conditions that produce deadly heatwaves, as the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere makes it “almost inevitable” that vast areas of the planet will face rising fatalities from high temperatures, new research has found.

Climate change has escalated the heatwave risk across the globe, the study states, with nearly half of the world’s population set to suffer periods of deadly heat by the end of the century even if greenhouse gases are radically cut.

“For heatwaves, our options are now between bad or terrible,” said Camilo Mora, an academic at the University of Hawaii and lead author of the study.

Mora’s research shows that the overall risk of heat-related illness or death has climbed steadily since 1980, with around 30% of the world’s population now living in climatic conditions that deliver deadly temperatures at least 20 days a year.

The proportion of people at risk worldwide will grow to 48% by 2100 even if emissions are drastically reduced, while around three-quarters of the global population will be under threat by then if greenhouse gases are not curbed at all.

“Finding so many cases of heat-related deaths was mind blowing, especially as they often don’t get much attention because they last for just a few days and then people moved on,” Mora said.

“Dying in a heatwave is like being slowly cooked, it’s pure torture. The young and elderly are at particular risk, but we found that this heat can kill soldiers, athletes, everyone.”

Follow the link to learn more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/19/a-third-of-the-world-now-faces-deadly-heatwaves-as-result-of-climate-change

Invasive species

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Britannica identifies the invasive species as follows: “Invasive species, also called introduced species, alien species, or exotic species, any nonnative species that significantly modifies or disrupts the ecosystems it colonizes.” The way a species arrives in a new environment can be done in numerous ways; either by natural migration or by activities of other species. Humans do it directly through pet trade or global commerce or indirectly by unintentional “hitchhiking” invaders in ships, planes, trucks, shipping containers or packing materials. Another reason for such a phenomenon is that a species can no longer adapt to the environmental conditions of their habitat. Therefore the invasive species may have more opportunities in an alternative future climate than they have at present.
Recently in Greece there have been many headlines about a species that swarmed the Korinthian Gulf- the tropical scyphozoan Rhopilema nomadica, a kind of Jellyfish. This particular species is listed as one of the “100 worst invading species” in the Alien Invasive Species Inventories for Europe (DAISIE 2009).
There are several reasons that an invasive species can flourish. But before blaming it for destroying our weekend by the beach, let’s get to know it better. Rhopilema nomadica known in english as Nomad Jellyfish, is native in East Africa and Red Sea but its known introduced range is Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey and Greece. Its natural predators are fish, like tuna, mackerel and marine turtles; apparently,overfishing these natural predators helps the species in question thrive. Spawning occurs between June and August and the sexually reproducing swimming scyphomedusae appears when the water temperature exceeds 24º C. It entered the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal in the late 70s and it first appeared in Greece in Lakonikos Gulf in 2006 (Siokou-Frangou et al. 2006). Nonetheless, several other factors could help or hinder the rise of Nomad jellyfishes. Temperature is directly correlated with the population of this particular species and wind traffic at sea affects them. They are offshore and with the help of currents produced by the wind gather up at beaches.
Cost is another important factor that should be considered regarding alien species. When the costs have become apparent, they can be vast; one study in the United States in 2001 estimated that costs associated with alien species amount to some US$136 billion per year and Canada in 2004, estimated that a preliminary review of alien species pegged them conservatively at $13,3 millions to $34,5 millions, annually, for 16 invasive species alone (Joanne Laucious, 2017). These costs must usually be covered by someone other than those who sponsored or promoted the introduction of the species, usually the general public. Decision-makers need to invest more in assessing the potential impacts before allowing potential introductions as well as incorporate more biosecurity measures once the species has been introduced (Jeff McNeely, 2001).
Yet, the nomad jellyfish is a minor incidence of invasion. The most memorable examples of invasive species are the kudzu plant from Japan, the cane toad from America, the asian tiger mosquito, zebra mussels from southern Russia, rats etc. People have always been on the move, carrying other species with them. Australian aborigines brought in the dingo, Polynesians sailed with pigs, and the Asians who first peopled the Americas brought dogs with them (Jeff McNeely, 2001). In the very end,the worst invasive species known to human, is human.

Mara Vasileiou for Arid Zone Afforestation

Sources:
http://www.europe-aliens.org/pdf/Rhopilema_nomadica.pdf
http://jellyrisk.eu/media/cms_page_media/266/1.Daly-Yahia%20et%20al.%202013_1.pdf
http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/bitstream/47850/2/paper01-02.pdf

13 Graceful Pictures of Rare Sea Turtles

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Sea turtles are one of a small number of species alive today that once roamed with dinosaurs, as far back as 150 million years ago. But despite their long history on this planet, sea turtles are now facing an existential crisis.

Of the seven species that swim in our oceans today, all face potential threats. The hawksbill sea turtle and the Atlantic Ridley sea turtle have the most uncertain future—the International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies both as critically endangered.

Sea turtles feel the brunt of human influence on the environment. These animals inhabit both marine and beach ecosystems, and experts warn their extinction could harm seagrass beds and other ecosystems on which people also depend.

The world’s most vulnerable sea turtles face threats at all stages of their life. Sea turtle eggs are frequently harvested and consumed as a delicacy. The beaches upon which they depend to lay eggs and hatch their young are also disappearing or being degraded.

Of the seven sea turtles found around the globe, six travel through U.S. waters and are therefore protected under the Endangered Species Act. Because sea turtles can migrate as many as 10,000 miles across multiple oceans, multilateral agreements have been established internationally to ensure that each turtle is protected across all the regions it inhabits.

Follow the link to see some graceful pictures of rare sea turtles: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/06/world-sea-turtle-day-photos/

 

Climate change is turning Antarctica green, say researchers

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Antarctica may conjure up an image of a pristine white landscape, but researchers say climate change is turning the continent green. Scientists studying banks of moss in Antarctica have found that the quantity of moss, and the rate of plant growth, has shot up in the past 50 years, suggesting the continent may have a verdant future.

“Antarctica is not going to become entirely green, but it will become more green than it currently is,” said Matt Amesbury, co-author of the research from the University of Exeter.

“This is linking into other processes that are happening on the Antarctic Peninsula at the moment, particularly things like glacier retreat which are freeing up new areas of ice-free land – and the mosses particularly are very effective colonisers of those new areas,” he added.

In the second half of the 20th century, the Antarctic Peninsula experienced rapid temperature increases, warming by about half a degree per decade.

Plant life on Antarctica is scarce, existing on only 0.3% of the continent, but moss, well preserved in chilly sediments, offers scientists a way of exploring how plants have responded to such changes.

Learn more here: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/may/18/climate-change-is-turning-antarctica-green-say-reseatchers

Just 100 companies responsible for 71% of global emissions, study says

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Just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988, according to a new report.

The Carbon Majors Report “pinpoints how a relatively small set of fossil fuel producers may hold the key to systemic change on carbon emissions,” says Pedro Faria, technical director at environmental non-profit CDP, which published the report in collaboration with the Climate Accountability Institute.

Traditionally, large scale greenhouse gas emissions data is collected at a national level but this report focuses on fossil fuel producers. Compiled from a database of publicly available emissions figures, it is intended as the first in a series of publications to highlight the role companies and their investors could play in tackling climate change.

The report found that more than half of global industrial emissions since 1988 – the year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established – can be traced to just 25 corporate and state-owned entities. The scale of historical emissions associated with these fossil fuel producers is large enough to have contributed significantly to climate change, according to the report.

ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron are identified as among the highest emitting investor-owned companies since 1988. If fossil fuels continue to be extracted at the same rate over the next 28 years as they were between 1988 and 2017, says the report, global average temperatures would be on course to rise by 4C by the end of the century. This is likely to have catastrophic consequences including substantial species extinction and global food scarcity risks.

While companies have a huge role to play in driving climate change, says Faria, the barrier is the “absolute tension” between short-term profitability and the urgent need to reduce emissions.

Click here, to learn more about that serious problem: https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2017/jul/10/100-fossil-fuel-companies-investors-responsible-71-global-emissions-cdp-study-climate-change