Sunday set: Back to the garden

Go local

As a step toward cutting our carbon footprint, we’ve started to become more conscious about what we eat, and cutting back on meat, especially beef, is one big step. But it also means thinking about where your food comes from. If you stop eating meat but you’re munching fruit that’s been transported 8,000 miles by an oil-powered freighter, it might not be so climate-friendly. These are part of our regular talks at the dinner table, and it all leads to more awareness and change. Austrian supermarkets and food producers help inform these conversations with labels showing the origins of various items, and organic almost goes without saying. As often as possible, we buy produce, and wild mushrooms, from a regional farmer who comes to town once a week. The best foods of all come from a backyard garden, like the luscious strawberries and grapes that grow at our friends’ house in Lower Austria. And wild food isn’t bad either, when you can get it. Blackberries off the vine? Yes, please!

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Biologists see serious new threat to amphibians

Boreal toads are threatened by a fungal disease, but that’s not the only worry. @bberwyn photo.

Severe Perkinsea infections may be responsible for a significant number of frog die-offs

Staff Report

A emerging disease has been identified as another possible cause for amphibian die-offs, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Scientists already know that chytridiomycosis and the ranavirus are linked to frog population declines worldwide.

New research suggests that that SPI (the abbreviation for severe Perkinsea infections) is the third most common infectious disease of frogs. Continue reading “Biologists see serious new threat to amphibians”

17 years later, feds still playing politics with threatened lynx

Routine studies delayed, protections lagging …

The U.S. Forest Service will track lynx this coming winter to learn how they are responding to changes in forest habitat and to human activities. PHOTO BY TANYA SHENK, COLORADO DIVISION OF WILDLIFE.

Staff Report

The U.S. Forest Service started dragging its feet on protecting lynx ever since the wild cat was designated as a threatened species in 2000, and that pattern continues to this day. The Center for Biological Diversity has released a document suggesting that the agency’s Northern Rockies office dawdled for eight months working on a routine biological assessment that is often done in just a few weeks.

Superficially at issue are regional forest plans for mining and logging in and near lynx habitat, but the CBD’s conservation expert said the delay is more disturbing because it’s linked with a GOP effort to weaken the Endangered Species Act. Continue reading “17 years later, feds still playing politics with threatened lynx”

EPA stops work on airline emissions standards

Air travel accounts for one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas pollution. @bberwyn photo.

Agency’s move could violate federal environmental laws

Staff Report

A little more than a year after determining that greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft are a threat to public health, the EPA has stopped working on developing new standards for the air industry.

That’s not surprising, given that the Trump administration has sought to undermine nearly every rule set to limit heat-trapping pollution, but environmental advocates with the Center for Biological Diversity want to know more about the latest step backward by the EPA. Continue reading “EPA stops work on airline emissions standards”

Sunday set: Late summer

Bittersweet days …

From the marketplace out into the fields and forests, late summer brings a last flush of colorful blooms. Make sure to get out a few more times before the monochromatic days of fall and winter come along. Not that there’s anything wrong with a crystalline or wet world of white and gray, but it’s nice to tank up on some of summer’s energy when you can. These are some of my favorite end-of-season images from last year, taken at the Brunnenmarkt in Vienna, the Austrian Alps and the canyon country of southern France.

Western fires take toll on water supplies

Erosion a huge factor as burned areas grow

A wildfire burns in Texas. Photo via U.S. Forest Service.

Staff Report

The growth of wildfires in the West could double the amount of sediment moving through the region’s rivers, U.S. Geological researchers found in a new study. Increased sediments can affect both water quality and the amount of water available for communities.

The USGS scientists analyzed a collection of climate, fire and erosion models for 471 large watersheds throughout the western U.S. They found that by 2050, the amount of sediment in more than one-third of watersheds could at least double. In nearly nine-tenths of the watersheds, sedimentation is projected to increase by more than 10 percent.

Continue reading “Western fires take toll on water supplies”

New study reveals whale shark secrets

Science helps inform conservation

Little by little, giant whale sharks are giving up some of their secrets. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Staff Report

Ocean biologists are starting to learn about the world’s largest fish, and the information should help efforts to protect endangered whale sharks.

Giant whale sharks, up to 60 feet long, feed mostly on tiny drifting animals and small fish like sardines. To find enough food, they endlessly cruise vast reaches of ocean to find dense swarms of prey. The learn more, scientists have been tracking the whale sharks in the eastern tropical Pacific, finding that they spend most of their time along ocean fronts, which are dynamic boundaries of cold and warm water masses that stimulate life. Continue reading “New study reveals whale shark secrets”