These goats seems to be well-trained. Even without a herder persent, they knew which way to go.
High mountain pastures are part of Austria’a agricultural tradition.
With snow in the forecast, sheepherders prepare to move their animals down to the valley.
This past summer, we spent several weeks exploring the world of Austrian Alms, high mountain pastures that are only grazed for a few months each summer. While we in the U.S. generally tend to prefer undisturbed mountain landscapes for their aesthetic and environmental values, these Austrian pastures have been grazed for centuries and even millennia. In the earliest days, as humans colonized the Alps after the last ice age, they had to use the higher slopes as forage areas because the valleys were still choked with glacial debris, wetlands and thick vegetation. That means the open meadows higher up were actually available for animal husbandry earlier than the lower elevations. In any case, the Alms now form an important part of the Alps’ ecological fabric, providing habitat for many wildflowers, including rare orchids, that wouldn’t thrive in a dark forest environment. Alms are also important to culture and recreation, as gathering points for hikers, and help ensure local food supplies. The first three in a series of grant-funded stories on this topic have been published at Pacific Standard, links below. Help support independent environmental journalism by visiting the stories and sharing them on your social media networks.
The Gjaidalm, at a Bronze Age grazing site in the Austrian Alps, now serves mainly as an outpost for hikers and also offers yoga classes and wellness retreats.
Global warming is radically changing the chemistry of mountain soils and some plants that rely on a specific combination of nutrients are unlikely to survive.
Wilderness as its understood in the U.S. is a relatively new concept in Austria, but resource manageres are determined to recreate wilderness in the remote mountain forests around the Dürrenstein.
Mountain pastures in Austria help ensure local food security.
Global sea ice has been at a record low extent for several months. This aerial shot of Greenland, taken from a commercial flight, shows a receding glacier along the east coast of Greenland.
I’ve been reporting on the environment for 21 years, so it’s not surprising that, even when I’m traveling on vacation, I tend to see nearly everything through a certain prism. That may be a blessing and a curse at the same time. It might be nice, every now and then, to completely tune out from the world’s problems and just live hedonistically. On the other hand, I feel like I can really connect with the people and places I’m seeing by understanding them in an environmental context. And in reality, I don’t really separate work and play all that much anymore. This past summer’s trek through the Austrian Alps to learn about climate change and sustainable mountain agriculture was a wonderful experience. Being a journalist gives me an excuse to exercise my curiosity. You can read about the environment and culture of the Austrian Alms here, and learn more about melting Arctic ice may affect you in this story
There could be more trouble ahead for pollinators, as a new species of Varroa mite is developing the ability to parasitize European honeybees. That’s a new threat for insects already under pressure from pesticides, nutritional deficiencies and disease, according to a Purdue University study.
The scienists found some populations of Varroa jacobsoni mites are shifting from feeding and reproducing on Asian honeybees, their preferred host, to European honeybees, the primary species used for crop pollination and honey production worldwide. To bee researchers, it’s a grimly familiar story: V. destructor made the same host leap at least 60 years ago, spreading rapidly to become the most important global health threat to European honeybees. Continue reading “Study IDs new parasite threat to honeybees”→
More conversion to forests and grasslands needed …
Aggressive land disturbance could turn Earth’s soils into sources of CO2 by the end of the century, researchers warned in a new study combining models of soil carbon and land use change with climate change predictions, using France as a case study.
Currently, soil is considered to be a net carbon sink, partially counteracting the impacts of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion, but study projects that up to 25 percent of the carbon in found in soil in France could be lost to the atmosphere during the next 100 years.
Business-as-usual land use change has limited capacity to counteract this trend, experts from the University of Exeter, INRA and CERFACS in France and University of Leuven in Belgium say in the journal Scientific Reports. If soils lose a significant amount of carbon it will endanger their ability to produce food and store water, potentially leading to increased soil erosion and flood damage. Continue reading “Study shows how soils could become source of CO2”→
Systemic pesticides seen to affect hives in various ways
A new study led by a University of Nebraska-Lincoln entomologist reinforces the link between neonicotinoid pesticides and declining honeybee colonies. The researchers experimentally fed queen bees with a syrup laced with imidacloprid, finding that queens laid significantly fewer eggs than queens in unexposed colonies.
“The queens are of particular importance because they’re the only reproductive individual laying eggs in the colony,” said lead author Judy Wu-Smart, assistant professor of entomology. “One queen can lay up to 1,000 eggs a day. If her ability to lay eggs is reduced, that is a subtle effect that isn’t (immediately) noticeable but translates to really dramatic consequences for the colony.” Continue reading “Queen bees exposed to neonicotinoids lay fewer eggs”→
Commercially valuable tree stands take hit in Pacific Northwest
Global warming may be a factor in the spread of a fungus affecting valuable Douglas fir forests in the Pacific Northwest. Needle cast disease has recently spread across 590,000 acres in Oregon, quadrupling since the start of surveys in 1996. The annual economic loss has been estimated at $128 million.
“The correlation between disease severity and climate factors, such as spring moisture and warm winter temperatures, raises the question of a link between disease expansion and climate change,” said researcher Gabriela Ritokova. “Those factors, in combination with lots of Douglas fir and with large springtime fungal spore production, have us where we are now.” Continue reading “Climate change may be factor in spread of tree fungus”→
Air pollution is changing plant odors, which confuses bees and makes them less efficient at foraging and pollinating plants, Penn State researchers said in a new study that shows how ozone breaks down plant-emitted scent molecules.
The chemical interactions decrease both the scent molecules’ life spans and the distances they travel, the scientists reported in the new study. They found that plant-emitted hydrocarbons break down through chemical interactions with certain air pollutants such as ozone. This breakdown process results in the creation of more air pollutants, including hydroxyl and nitrate radicals, which further increase the breakdown rate of plant odors. Continue reading “Air pollution seen as another factor in honeybee decline”→