A short photographic stroll through a city that consistently ranks near the very top worldwide for quality of life. Vienna’s coffee houses and parks are definitely part of its charms, but it’s also a European hub science, culture, literature and tech innovation. And there are connections to my old stomping grounds in Colorado. For example, I spent several years following the story of how parasitic whirling disease wiped out most of Colorado’s rainbows, and how biologists were working to restore the popular game fish with a population resistant to the disease. Then last summer, as I was working on a story about a massive fish die-off in the Yellowstone River, my research led me to an Egyptian-born research scientist at the University of Vienna who has been studying various parasitic trout diseases, and linking them with global warming. Turns out that Mansour El-Matbouli also was an instrumental figure in the efforts to breed the strain of rainbow trout that are resistant to whirling disease, and that he had worked closely with aquatic biologists in Colorado that I also had interviewed for my stories in Colorado. We’re facing global environmental challenges, and they require a global and science-based response. It’s a small world.
Trump’s proposed Cuts to federal regulations likely to lead to more environmental woes
Coal ash waste is poisoning fish in North Carolina lakes, scientists said this week announcing findings from a new study supported in part by the EPA. The research by scientists from Duke University showed that potentially harmful levels of selenium are building up because of emissions from coal-fired power plants.
“Across the board, we’re seeing elevated selenium levels in fish from lakes affected by coal combustion residual effluents,” said Jessica Brandt, a doctoral student in environmental health at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, who led the study, published this month in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. Continue reading “Coal ash pollution poisoning fish in North Carolina”→
A beech forest in Thayatal National Park, along the border of Austria and Czechia.
Mountain view in Gesäuse National Park, in the central Austrian Alps.
Along the Grossglocknerstrasse, in the Hohe Tauern National Park.
The Neusiedler Lake, in eastern Austria.
Donau-Auen National Park, along the Danube River near Vienna.
During the past few months I’ve been able to visit several of Austria’s national parks, including the Donau Auen, a spectacular bosque river landscape that starts practically in downtown Vienna and extends all the way to the border with Slovakia. The Donau Auen is one of the biggest remaining natural river landscapes in central Europe and stands as testament to the power of grassroots activism. When plans for a giant hydropower plant were revealed in the early 1980s, students, teachers, artists and others banded together to occupy the area, eventually winning the public relations battle and leading to preservation of the area.
While Austria is best known for its mountain landscapes, the Neusiedler See is located on the eastern border of Austria, where the mountains tilt away to the great steppes of the northernmost Balkan region. The other two parks in shown in this set are in the heart of Austria’s Alps, featuring classic mountain landscapes. Most Austrian parks are just a few decades old and were inspired by national parks in the U.S. Indeed, the concept of public places as showcases of ecological diversity and preservation is probably one of America’s best exports.
Danube Pano from Aggstein Castle looking across at Willendorf.
Most travelers have heard of the Wachau region. The fertile hillsides along the Danube River have long been designated as a World Heritage region for its cultural and natural landscapes. But just across the river is another slice of forest, the Dunkelsteinerwald, that’s not quite as famous but just as beautiful. On a mid-October weekend, we hiked from the pilgrimage town of Maria Langegg up the restored Aggstein Castle, which was built in the 12th century. Like many others along the Danube, the castle was an outpost for charging toll to passing ships, a payment made in exchange for maintaining the paths along the shore that were used to tow ships upstream. But the area was inhabited long before that, with signs of civilization dating back to the Celtic era — and long before. Just across the river, construction workers in 1908 unearthed the famed Venus of Willendorf, a prehistoric fertility figurine dating back to about 25,000 BC.
In just two years following a man-made flood in the Colorado River Delta, cottonwoods and willows have grown 10 feet tall, rebuilding habitat for other native plants and animals, according to a new monitoring report on the international experiment to re-water the long-arched region.
During out last reporting trek we visited a unique wildnerness area in central Austria, in the far eastern reaches of the Alps, to learn how resources managers and citizens perceive wilderness in the heart of a densely populated country. The area is the watershed of the Ybbsteinbach, which flows into the Ybbs, and then into the Danube, which is really a mountain river at heart. Learning how resources managers are trying to recreate a true undisturbed wilderness area here was inspiring, and we have a story coming up, but for now enjoy these autumn riverside scenes and visit our online gallery for more landscape photography. And learn more about our reporting in the Alps here.
New growth in delta could offset CO2 released from riverbed
Human management of natural ecosystems always has unintended consequences, and the Colorado River is no exception. After decades of intense dam building and diversions, the mighty river is a mere shadow of it former self, reduced to a trickle in some places and polluted by return flows in others. Along its entire length, ecosystems, including riparian zones and native fish, have suffered, with some of the biggest impacts in the Colorado River delta.
In an effort to restore at least some key reaches of the river, scientists and water managers have teamed up to try mimic some of the Colorado’s natural functions, with controlled releases of water to build up beaches. Those efforts culminated in early 2014 during an eight-week experiment that unleashed a mighty torrent of water from Morelos dam (on the border with Mexico and the USA).
The huge surge (130 million cubic metres) of water raised river levels down to the delta, which has been starved of water for decades. Scientists closely monitored how the release — and potential future releases — affect agricultural crops and natural plant and animal life of the lower delta.