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Some 30% of global tree species at risk of extinction -report

Some 30% of global tree species at risk of extinction -report

Almost a third of the world’s tree species are at risk of extinction, while hundreds are on the brink of being wiped out, according to a landmark report published by Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) on Wednesday.

According to the State of the World’s Trees report 17,500 tree species – some 30% of the total – are a risk of extinction, while 440 species have fewer than 50 individuals left in the wild.

Overall the number of threatened tree species is double the number of threatened mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles combined, the report said.

“This report is a wake up call to everyone around the world that trees need help,” BGCI Secretary General Paul Smith said in a statement.

Among the most at-risk trees are species including magnolias and dipterocarps – which are commonly found in Southeast Asian rainforests. Oak trees, maple trees and ebonies also face threats, the report said.

Trees help support the natural ecosystem and are considered vital for combating global warming and climate change. The extinction of a single tree species could prompt the loss of many others.

“Every tree species matters — to the millions of other species that depend on trees, and to people all over the world,” Smith added.

Thousands of varieties of trees in the world’s top six countries for tree-species diversity are at risk of extinction the report found. The greatest single number is in Brazil, where 1,788 species are at risk.

The other five countries are Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Colombia and Venezuela.

The top three threats facing tree species are crop production, timber logging and livestock farming, the report said, while climate change and extreme weather are emerging threats.

At least 180 tree species are directly threatened by rising seas and severe weather, the report said, especially island species such as magnolias in the Caribbean.

Though megadiverse countries see the greatest numbers of varieties at risk of extinction, island tree species are more proportionally at risk.

“This is particularly concerning because many islands have species of trees that can be found nowhere else,” the report added.


Oliver Griffin via Reuters

Our Forests Are on Track to Hit a Crucial Climate Tipping Point by 2050, Scientists Warn

Our Forests Are on Track to Hit a Crucial Climate Tipping Point by 2050, Scientists Warn


Forests and other land ecosystems today absorb 30 percent of humanity’s CO2 pollution, but rapid global warming could transform these natural ‘sinks’ into carbon ‘sources’ within a few decades, opening another daunting front in the fight against climate change, alarmed researchers have said.

Climate skeptics often describe CO2 as “plant food”, suggesting that increased greenhouse gas emissions will be offset by a massive upsurge in plant growth.

But the new study shows that beyond a certain temperature threshold – which varies according to region and species – the capacity of plants to absorb CO2 declines.

Full Story by Marlowe Hood at ScienceAlert

Clothes washing linked to ‘pervasive’ plastic pollution in the Arctic

Clothes washing linked to ‘pervasive’ plastic pollution in the Arctic

The Arctic is “pervasively” polluted by microplastic fibres that most likely come from the washing of synthetic clothes by people in Europe and North America, research has found.

The most comprehensive study to date found the microplastics in 96 of 97 sea water samples taken from across the polar region. More than 92% of the microplastics were fibres, and 73% of these were made of polyester and were the same width and colours as those used in clothes. Most of the samples were taken from 3-8 metres below the surface, where much marine life feeds.

Full story by Damian Carrington at The Guardian

Top scientists warn of ‘ghastly future of mass extinction’ and climate disruption

Top scientists warn of ‘ghastly future of mass extinction’ and climate disruption

The planet is facing a “ghastly future of mass extinction, declining health and climate-disruption upheavals” that threaten human survival because of ignorance and inaction, according to an international group of scientists, who warn people still haven’t grasped the urgency of the biodiversity and climate crises.

The 17 experts, including Prof Paul Ehrlich from Stanford University, author of The Population Bomb, and scientists from Mexico, Australia and the US, say the planet is in a much worse state than most people – even scientists – understood.

Full Story by Phoebe Weston at The Guardian

Cleveland Based Green Paper Products Proves That Green and Clean Can Co-Exist

Cleveland Based Green Paper Products Proves That Green and Clean Can Co-Exist

As the restaurant industry shifted its focus to takeout and delivery, many restaurateurs quickly realized that there’s much more to running a successful takeout and delivery business than moving meals off dishes and into containers.

The three major challenges businesses have been facing when it comes to a successful food transit business have been packaging durability, eco-friendliness of the materials used, and cost. Luckily, Ohio based company Green Paper Products offers efficient solutions to all three of these challenges with their extensive line of biodegradable, compostable and eco-friendly tableware and food service products.

Read more at Total Food Services

New catalyst converts common plastic waste into fuels and wax

New catalyst converts common plastic waste into fuels and wax

As useful as plastics are in our everyday life, they’re difficult to recycle, meaning most ends up in landfill or polluting the environment. Now, researchers in Japan have used a novel catalyst to recycle a common plastic into useful products like fuel and wax.

By design, plastics are extremely resistant to chemical reactions. That makes them great for bottles and containers for chemicals, but on the flipside it makes them hard to break down when they need to be disposed of. For example, thermal recycling processes, require temperatures of between 300 °C and 900 °C (572 °F and 1,650 °F), which obviously consumes a whole lot of energy.

So for the new study, researchers at Tohoku and Osaka City Universities set out to find a new catalyst that could break plastics down at lower temperatures. The team found that combining ruthenium and cerium dioxide worked most effectively, creating a catalyst able to recycle polyolefinic plastics at just 200 °C (392 °F).

“Our approach acted as an effective and reusable heterogeneous catalyst, showing much higher activity than other metal-supported catalysts, working even under mild reaction conditions,” say Masazumi Tamura and Keiichi Tomishige, co-authors of the study. “Furthermore, a plastic bag and waste plastics could be transformed to valuable chemicals in high yields.”

The researchers say they were able to convert about 92 percent of the waste plastic into useful materials. As much as 77 percent of it became a liquid fuel, while 15 percent yielded wax, which should help make plastic recycling a more viable prospect.

This is far from the only plastic recycling method on the horizon. Just a few weeks ago a team from UC Berkeley reported a new process to turn polyethylene into a clingy new adhesive, while others are designing new plastics from the ground up to be easily recyclable.

The new study was published in the journal Applied Catalyst B: Environmental.

Source: Osaka City University

Explosive Documents Reveal BP Behind Toxic Mauritius Oil Spill

Explosive Documents Reveal BP Behind Toxic Mauritius Oil Spill

Newly released documents reveal that BP was behind the toxic oil involved in the Mauritius oil spill in the Indian Ocean last year. Even more troubling are revelations that BP formally blocked the investigation into the fuel that was being used on board the large Japanese bulk carrier.

The documents also show that the oil on the Wakashio was known to be faulty from the moment the vessel set sail from Singapore on its final, fateful voyage across the Indian Ocean.

Ship operator, Japanese shipping giant Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) knew the oil exceeded engine safety limits and they were concerned during the Wakashio’s final voyage that this fuel could cause serious engine failure, which they attempted to communicate to the ship’s crew. Both BP and MOL were taking a gamble with the lives of the crew and the coastline of surrounding countries by allowing the vessel to sail with this fuel on board.

Full Story at Forbes.com by Nishan Degnarain

On The Web This Week, 7 Jan

On The Web This Week, 7 Jan

Welcome to our weekly round up of the news stories that have caught our eye over the past seven days. If you’d like to see these stories on the day they’re posted, click here for our Facebook page.

Young Gorilllas Observed Destroying Poachers’ Traps

Just days after a poacher’s snare had killed one of their own, two young mountain gorillas worked together Tuesday to find and destroy traps in their Rwandan forest home.

For Rwanda’s population of Mountain gorillas, poaching remains one of the biggest threats to their long-term survival. But after decades of being a prime target for unlawful hunters, these critically endangered gorillas have apparently learned to outsmart them — and even the youngsters are getting in on the act.

This week, conservationists from Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund observed, for the first time ever, a pair of juvenile gorillas doing something remarkably clever: destroying sharp, wooden snares set out by poachers to trap them. Just days earlier, a gorilla had been killed in a similar snare nearby, which may have familiarized the youngsters with the workings of those cruel devices.

Norway becomes first country to sell more electric cars than petrol vehicles

Greenpeace UK has argued that a fast transition to electric cars could create thousands of jobs (Getty Images)

Electric cars comprised 54% of all new vehicle sales in Norway for 2019.

This makes Norway the first country to have sold more electric cars than petrol, hybrid, and diesel engines in a year.

The Norwegian government plans to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2025, and is using tax breaks and financial incentives to encourage the purchasing of more sustainable vehicles. 

“Our preliminary forecast is for electric cars to surpass 65% of the market in 2021,” said Christina Bu who heads the Norwegian EV Association, an interest group. “If we manage that, the goal of selling only zero-emission cars in 2025 will be within reach.“

Scientists Warn of an ‘Imminent’ Stratospheric Warming Event Around The North Pole

Every winter in the Northern Hemisphere, a cold wind circles the North Pole like water around a drain. It’s an annual weather pattern meteorologists keep an anxious eye on – any significant changes could suggest Europe is in for a serious cold snap. Right now, that wind is ripping in two.

Researchers from the Universities of Bristol, Exeter, and Bath have come up with a new way to predict the knock-on effects of various changes to this major air current high up in the stratosphere, 10 to 50 kilometres (6 to 30 miles) overhead.

“Although the prolonged cold spell and snow events in February and March of 2018 – dubbed the ‘Beast from the East’ by the UK media – were linked to a sudden stratospheric warming, the record warm spell that occurred in February 2019 also followed such an event,” says meteorologist Matthew Lehnert.

We’ve got some way to go before we can promise with confidence which way the weather will go in the wake of these polar changes.

But tools like this new algorithm will improve the odds of guessing, and continue to do so the more we learn about our atmosphere.

Study: Warming already baked in will blow past climate goals

The amount of baked-in global warming, from carbon pollution already in the air, is enough to blow past international agreed upon goals to limit climate change, a new study finds.

But it’s not game over because, while that amount of warming may be inevitable, it can be delayed for centuries if the world quickly stops emitting extra greenhouse gases from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, the study’s authors say.

“You’ve got some … global warming inertia that’s going to cause the climate system to keep warming, and that’s essentially what we’re calculating,” said study co-author Andrew Dessler, a climate scientist at Texas A&M University. “Think about the climate system like the Titanic. It’s hard to turn the ship when you see the icebergs.”

Dessler and colleagues at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab and Nanjing University in China calculated committed warming to take into account that the world has warmed at different rates in different places and that places that haven’t warmed as fast are destined to catch up.

If the world gets to net zero carbon emissions soon, 2 degrees of global warming could be delayed enough so that it won’t happen for centuries, giving society time to adapt or even come up with technological fixes, he said.

“If we don’t, we’re going to blow through (climate goals) in a few decades,” Dessler said. “It’s really the rate of warming that makes climate change so terrible. If we got a few degrees over 100,000 years, that would not be that big a deal. We can deal with that. But a few degrees over 100 years is really bad.”

South African parks and reserves face a renewed struggle for survival

A group of baboons gather around a safari vehicle in the famous Kruger National Park.(Photo: EPA / GERNOT HENSEL)

Game reserves and national parks remain open under alert Level 3, albeit with limited services and scars from financial losses brought on by the lockdown. The tourism industry continues to take a knock from ongoing restrictions, with game parks, a massive drawcard for international travellers, doing their best to survive on revenues from local holidaymakers.

Covid-19 has continued to have a devastating effect on the local tourism industry. For the country’s beloved game reserves and national parks, the impact varies: while some are surviving, others are barely hanging on as financial losses take their toll.

The shift to alert Level 3 on 29 December 2020 saw the closure of beaches, mass cancellations and financial losses for small accommodation providers in coastal towns. But game reserves have been allowed to remain open to the public if they have existing access control measures and entry limitations in place. 

South African National Parks (SANParks), which manages 19 national parks across seven provinces, said it has had to cut back on some of its service offerings to comply with restrictions. 

Tourism, which is the lifeblood of many micro and small enterprises, is set to take a further beating amid the country’s second wave of infections. The new, more infectious, strain has sounded alarm bells overseas with the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Turkey, Israel and Mauritius banning flights from South Africa. 

Figures from the Department of Tourism show the sector accounts for 2.9% of GDP and supports close to 1.5 million jobs. Inbound tourism generates more than R80-billion in direct foreign spend. 

The Department’s Tourism Recovery Plan published in August 2020 estimated R54.2-billion in losses between February and May with a further R149.7-billion in losses projected for the remainder of 2020 —and 438,000 job cuts.

But it’s not all bad news. Brendan Strydom from Gondwana private game reserve said reduced human foot traffic during the lockdown saw new (and old) creatures venturing into the game reserve.

“We had a brown hyena that actually made its way on to the property coming from the Langeberg mountains during this whole lockdown. The reduced movement of people allowed for some animals to come back so we have some great stories about our conservation side.”

Friday Prime Video playlist, 20 March 2020

Friday Prime Video playlist, 20 March 2020

Join Amazon Prime – Watch Thousands of Movies & TV Shows Anytime – Start Free Trial Now

Click on the banner above to get a 30 day free trial of Prime Video, and then check out one of our favourite films and documentaries, all at no additional cost:

51min 2016 7+

Cape Spin

1h 26min 2011 7+

The surreal, fascinating, and tragicomic story of the battle over America’s most controversial clean energy project. Cape Wind was to be America’s first offshore windfarm. But formidable alliances formed on both sides: Kennedys, Kochs, and everyday folks do battle with the developers and green groups over the future of American power and the aesthetic of America’s most privileged enclave.

Chernobyl’s Cafe

Thirty years after the nuclear reactor explosion, Chernobyl is showing signs of life. As the fears of older generations are replaced by the fascination of the new, Chernobyl is emerging as a popular tourist destination, and local industry is on the rise. However, with radiation levels still dangerously high, serious questions remain over whether the region can ever truly recover from its past.

Breakpoint: a Counter History of Progress

1h 38min 2019 ALL

For the last two centuries progress has been our reason for being. But progress has also given us napalm, pesticides, nuclear waste and global warming. It can be measured in the atmosphere, in the ice caps and in sediment layers. Mixing footage and propaganda with an original soundtrack, Breakpoint looks back at 200 years of development to provide an alternative view of our history of progress.

New Zealand From Above

1 Season 2012 7+

An aerial journey from the deep south of the South Island to the northern tip of the North Island. We discover the landscapes and meet New Zealanders who talk about their work, interests and culture.

Friday Prime Video playlist, 13 March 2020

Friday Prime Video playlist, 13 March 2020

Join Amazon Prime – Watch Thousands of Movies & TV Shows Anytime – Start Free Trial Now

Click on the banner above to get a 30 day free trial of Prime Video, and then check out one of our favourite films and documentaries, all at no additional cost:

Unsupersize Us

1h 22min 2016 13+

The follow up to the award-winning film Unsupersize Me. Juan-Carlos Asse takes five subjects from his hometown that all suffer from common health issues and puts them on regimen of a plant based diet and exercise for six weeks.

Ultimate Freedive: The Great Barrier Reef

45min 2016 ALL

Actress and world champion freediver Marina Kazankova is on a mission: to freedive the Great Barrier Reef. Able to hold her breath far longer than that average human, she takes on a series of challenges, from swimming with turtles and giant grouper, to diving down on ship wrecks and through hidden caves. Join her on her incredible journey and see the Great Barrier Reef like never before.

Agave: The Spirit Of A Nation

1h 19min 2018 13+

In Mexico, families have passed down the tradition of distilling agave for generations. Discover how this delicate plant has carried the weight of a nation and the people trying to protect it.


1 Season 2008 13+

When a storm coincides with high tide, it unleashes a colossal tidal surge which travels down England’s east coast and into the River Thames. Torrents of water pour into the city. The lives of millions of Londoners are at stake. Top marine engineer Rob and his father Leonard Morrison rush to the aid of his ex-wife, Sam, to try to save a city on the brink of annihilation.