Constructed to shelter China's people and culture from the outside world, the Great Wall stretches over 4,500 miles and took 2,000 years to construct. UNESCO calls it "an absolute masterpiece" not only "because of the ambitious character of the undertaking but also the perfection of its construction." But perfection isn't protection, and the Great Wall is now under threat from the pressures of the modern world. Unsurprising given its incredible length, large portions of the wall now suffer from neglect and erosion from the elements. More popular sections are subject to the wear and tear that comes with millions of visitors each year. But according to Addison, the biggest threat to the Great Wall may be the "slow and seemingly innocuous destruction and brick-by-brick looting. Portions that had survived for 2,000 years have vanished in recent decades and there are reports of quarrying in many locations." Constructed to shelter China's people and culture from the outside world, the Great … [Read more...] about 10 World Heritage Sites to See Before They’re Gone Forever
Human impacts on coral reefs
Some of the world’s most beloved tourist destinations are in danger. Many are threatened by climate change, which has caused rising seas, melting glaciers and bleached coral. Others are being infringed upon by local industry or “loved to death” by too many tourists. We’ve gathered nine such places to see before they disappear or are irrevocably altered. (To make sure you’re not adding to the problem with your presence, take care to travel responsibly.) In just a couple of decades, the name of Montana’s famous park may be a misnomer; according to the National Park Service, some scientists believe the glaciers here may be gone by 2030. They have already receded so visibly that scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey are using the park as a major site for research on climate change. These idyllic islands off the coast of East Africa are a haven for honeymooners and divers, but they face an uncertain future. The coral reefs fringing the islands have … [Read more...] about 9 Places to See Before They Disappear
The world’s oceans may at times appear like vast undiscovered spaces. More than 70 per cent of the planet’s surface is covered with 1.332 billion cubic kilometres of oceanic water. Oceans are crucial to our survival, not only being a critical component of the water cycle, but also because of their role in regulating the global climate and their plentiful resources that are ever more exploited by humanity. Human impact on the world’s oceans has, in recent decades, increased considerably and threatens the ecological stability and biodiversity that exists in them. The threat of extinction for marine wildlife is a direct effect of human pressures on the oceans.The 2010 Census of Marine Life, conducted by 2,700 scientists from over 80 nations, helped build the World Register of Marine Species. This states that ‘excluding microbes, approximately 250,000 valid marine species have been formally described in the scientific literature, with an estimate of at least 750,000 … [Read more...] about Marine destruction
The Cove is about one little geographic body of water, a couple of hectares. But with that little body of water we were able to talk about big issues. Here we’re talking about a huge issue. That’s the question, how do you take such a broad issue and make it so that people feel that they can grasp it, and then at the end actually do something about it? It’s a mass extinction, with multiple drivers, not just one cause. So we wanted to approach it from that perspective. How do you give people the breadth of it, but at the end feel like they can have an impact?We started by trying to bring it down to a single species, and a single animal in a species. The first animal you hear about is the ‘O’o bird, the last male of a species singing for a female who will never come. The idea is just to get people to realise what it’s like to empathise with one creature. You talk about 30,000 species being lost every year – it’s just a number. Until you put … [Read more...] about Louie Psihoyos: Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker
As the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem, with over 2,500 individual reefs across 348,000 sq km, the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is undoubtedly an iconic landmark – even ambassador – for Australia. It has immense biodiversity, and is home to over 1,500 species of fish, 400 species of coral, 4,000 species of mollusc, and 240 species of birds.But, of course, it is threatened. A 2012 report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that the reef had lost over half of its coral cover since 1985 – falling from 28 to 13.5 per cent – and is forecast to lose half again by 2022. The damage is predominantly being caused by both storms and outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish, with coral bleaching also to blame for around one tenth of the damage.Additionally, a 2014 report by the GBR Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) found that the reef ‘continues to be at serious risk and the threats likely to affect it in the future are … [Read more...] about What will be the fate of the Great Barrier Reef?
There is a reason why we normally associate corals with clear, shallow waters. They are one half of a symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellae, a microscopic algae, which produces oxygen and other products through photosynthesis. In other words, corals need light to survive and build reefs. So how has an extensive reef been thriving in some of the muddiest waters of the world – the plume of the Amazon river?‘The plume is huge,’ says Patricia Yager, a Professor of Oceanography and Climate Change at the University of Georgia, who co-authored the paper on the reef discovery. ‘It covers many million square kilometres of the northern tropical Atlantic Ocean. Imagine that huge discharge forming a ten-metre thick layer, which spreads out across the sea.’ The plume is the dense haul of the Amazon river, which carries 1,200 million tons of sediment from the South American continent to the ocean every year. It billows from the mouth of the river, usually spreading … [Read more...] about How can coral survive at the mouth of the Amazon?
During Charles Darwin’s many years studying wildlife species around the world, he found himself pondering an observation he couldn’t explain. While most of the open ocean is very low in nutrients, the isolated hotspots where coral reefs form are instead teeming with the energetic resources that stimulate marine ecosystems. ‘He travelled for weeks on end and saw nothing, then came across what he believed to be one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet,’ explains Gareth Williams, lecturer in Marine Biology at the School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University. ‘That became known as Darwin’s Paradox.’Sixty years ago, a hypothesis entitled the ‘Island Mass Effect’ (IME) claimed to have helped solve the famous naturalist’s quandary. The IME proposes that a variety of differing factors work together in the near vicinity of oceanic islands, reinforcing each other and creating a positive feedback system that accumulates and … [Read more...] about Solving ‘Darwin’s Paradox’
The research found that as the water in which the fish live warms, they are less able to perform activities crucial to survival, such as evading predators, finding food and accumulating sufficient energy reserves to breed.Published in Global Change Biology, the study measured the rates at which six species of fish living on coral reefs near the equator use oxygen across different temperatures, both at rest and during maximal performance. Many species in this region only ever experience a narrow range of temperatures, said Jodie Rummer, the study’s lead author, and so are likely to be adapted to perform best at those temperatures. Given that oceans are projected to warm by 2–3°C by the end of this century, many equatorial marine species may be at risk. ‘Such an increase in warming leads to a loss of performance,’ Rummer explained. ‘We found that four species of fish are living at or above the temperatures at which they function best.’According to … [Read more...] about Equatorial fish at risk as water warms
What do the Everglades and Wrangell-St. Elias–two iconic national parks at the far ends of North America–have in common? According to scientists, both face a grave future as temperatures rise. To see the impact up close, our reporter pushes deep into the backcountry, discovering landscapes both beautiful and threatened beyond his imagination.In August 1999, British artist Hamish Fulton set out on a long hike through the mountains of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, in southeast Alaska. Fulton's destination was Iceberg Lake, a crystalline body of glacier-dammed water in a remote valley above the Bagley Icefield. Fulton had a week of rough backpacking behind him when he crested a low pass on a sunny morning and paused for his first look at the lake. On the near side of the valley, a creek emerged from an alpine glacier. But instead of flowing into a blue lake, the stream meandered across a plain of gray mud, then vanished into a field of dripping icebergs.Although many of … [Read more...] about The Impact of Climate Change on Florida’s Everglades, Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias
At the edge of a mixed woodland near the southern coast of Nova Scotia, I stand with seven other citizen scientists before 100 of the world's most expensive mousetraps. We've come together to do our part in the struggle against global warming. At the moment, that means snaring wily little rodents."These are Longworth traps, designed to capture mice and voles and leave them unharmed," explains Christina Buesching, the University of Oxford biologist training us in their proper use. "They're custom-made in England and cost between $60 and $100, so please be gentle with them."The trap is about the size of a woman's foot. Buesching stuffs one end with hay, then adds some seed and a piece of apple as bait. "Don't stuff it too tight, or the shrews won't be able to escape through this hole," she says, pointing to an opening that's a little wider than a pencil. Shrews are tiny, insect-eating mammals with incredibly high metabolisms. They can starve to death if caught in a trap for longer than … [Read more...] about I, Citizen Scientist