Deforestation

 

First of all, I would like to explain the word deforestation – what it means. Deforestation is the permanent destruction of forests in order to make the land available for other uses. Deforestation is considered to be one of the contributing factors to global climate change. An estimated 18 million acres  of forest, which is roughly the size of the country of Panama, are lost each year, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.

Trees are cut down for many reasons, for example:

  • To be used, sold or exported as timber, wood or fuel
  • To be used for farming purposes
  • To make room for human settlement and urbanization
  • To make room for mining
  • Soy, palm oil and other crop plantations

The number one problem caused by deforestation is the impact on the global carbon cycle. Gas molecules that absorb thermal infrared radiation are called greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most prevalent greenhouse gas. In 2012, CO2 accounted for about 82 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas. The deforestation of trees not only lessens the amount of carbon stored, it also releases carbon dioxide into the air. This is because when trees die, they release the stored carbon. Deforestation releases nearly a billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere per year, though the numbers are not as high as the ones recorded in the previous decade. Deforestation is the second largest anthropogenic source of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, ranging between 6 percent and 17 percent.

I would like to talk about Amazonian deforestation because of the high pecantage of deforestation in this area. Even though Amazonia is not even in first 20 top deforestated areas. Since 1978 over 750,000 square kilometers  of Amazon rainforest have been destroyed across Brazil,Colombia, Bolivia, Peru,  Venezuela, Suriname, Guyana, and French Guiana.

Deforestation in the Amazon was primarily the product of subsistence farmers who cut down trees to produce crops for their families and local consumption. But in the later part of the 20th century, that began to change, with an increasing proportion of deforestation driven by industrial activities and large-scale agriculture. By the 2000s more than three-quarters of forest clearing in the Amazon was for cattle-ranching. The result of this shift is forests in the Amazon were cleared faster than ever before in the late 1970s through the mid 2000s.

Vast areas of rainforest were felled for cattle pasture and soy farms, drowned for dams, dug up for minerals, and bulldozed for towns and colonization projects. At the same time, the proliferation of roads opened previously inaccessible forests to settlement by poor farmers, illegal logging, and land speculators. But that trend began to reverse in Brazil in 2004. Since then, annual forest loss in the country that contains nearly two-thirds of the Amazon’s forest cover has declined by roughly eighty percent. The drop has been fueled by a number of factors, including increased law enforcement, satellite monitoring, pressure from environmentalists, private and public sector initiatives, new protected areas, and macroeconomic trends. Nonetheless the trend in Brazil is not mirrored in other Amazon countries, some of which have experienced rising deforestation since 2000.

In Brazil in 1970 was total forest loss 98, 400 square kilometres, in 2000 was the number of the forest loss much higher and the number was already 575,903 square kilometres. Year by year the loss is bigger and bigger, in 2015 the total forest loss was 768, 935 square kilometres. The number of deforestated area is almost 8 times higher than it was in year 1970. These numbers are just the deforestation of Amazonia in Brazil. Brazil holds about one-third of the world’s remaining rainforests, including a majority of the Amazon rainforest. Terrestrially speaking, it is also the most biodiverse country on Earth, with more than 56,000 described species of plants, 1,700 species of birds, 695 amphibians, 578 mammals, and 651 reptiles.

10 most deforestated countries in the world are:

  1. Honduras
  2. Nigeria
  3. The Philippines
  4. Benin
  5. Ghana
  6. Indonesia
  7. Nepal and North Korea
  8. Ecuador and Haiti

One of the easy ways how to combat the deforestation is to plant a tree. Personally I think that this is not helping to solve the problem of the deforestation. If we plant one tree, other three trees are cut down. What could help are the companies which are using the trees.

When companies have the power to destroy the world’s forests, they also have the ability to help save them. Companies can make an impact by introducing “zero deforestation” policies that clean up their supply chains. That means holding their suppliers accountable for producing commodities like timber, beef, soy, palm oil and paper in a way that does not fuel deforestation and has a minimal impact on our climate. Companies should set ambitious targets to maximize the use of recycled wood, pulp, paper and fiber in their produts.

Donáta Čepčeková

References:

http://www.livescience.com/27692-deforestation.html

http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/Deforestation/deforestation_update3.php

http://rainforests.mongabay.com/amazon/amazon_destruction.html

Ocean Acidification

Healthy oceans are essential for human life. They cover 71 percent of our planet and represent the basic component that makes life on Earth possible. We all depend on healthy oceans. I would say that the most important benefit we all have thanks to the oceans is the oxygen as oceans produce more than half of the oxygen in the atmosphere and absorb a big amount of carbon from it. For tens of millions of years, Earth’s oceans have maintained a relatively stable acidity level and this resistant environment with rich and varied web of life in today’s seas has arisen and flourished. But recent research shows that this balance is being undone by a recent and rapid decrease in surface pH that could have serious global consequences. I have chosen to write about ocean acidification mainly due to the fact that this issue is not given as much attention as deforestation, water scarcity or global warming and because of this incontestable importance of oceans for life.

Since the beginning of the industrial revolution in the early 1800s, fossil fuel-powered machines have driven an unprecedented burst of human industry and advancement. The unfortunate consequence, however, has been the emission of billions of tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases into Earth’s atmosphere. Scientists now know that about half of this anthropogenic, or man-made, CO2 has been absorbed over time by the oceans (read more here: http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/explore/pristine-seas/critical-issues-ocean-acidification/).

feature_ocean_acidification_inline

Picture 1 https://ensia.com/features/what-does-ocean-acidification-mean-for-sea-life/

When carbon dioxide (CO2) is absorbed by seawater, chemical reactions occur that reduce seawater pH, carbonate ion concentration, and saturation states of biologically important calcium carbonate minerals. These chemical reactions are termed “ocean acidification“. Calcium carbonate minerals are the building blocks for the skeletons and shells of many marine organisms. In areas where most life now congregates in the ocean, the seawater is supersaturated with respect to calcium carbonate minerals. This means there are abundant building blocks for calcifying organisms to build their skeletons and shells. However, continued ocean acidification is causing many parts of the ocean to become undersaturated with these minerals, which is likely to affect the ability of some organisms to produce and maintain their shells. Over the past two hundred years, the pH level of the ocean surface has decreased by 0.1 units. This change of 0.1 units represents a thirty percent increase in acidity levels. Future predictions show that the oceans will become even more acidic. Based on usual emission scenarios, it is predected that by the end of this century ocean waters could be 150 percent more acidic, that means that pH level will reach a point that haven´t experienced for more than 20 million years (read more here http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/co2/story/What+is+Ocean+Acidification%3F).

The negative effect of bad ocean biochemistry is not only effecting the ocean itself but also coastal cities and people living near the oceans and rivers that depend on its healthy environment the most. Local economies will suffer because of poisoned fish and low supply. Fisherman will not be able to provide food for the local community, and they will suffer also because they cannot sell as much fish as they used to. Tourism will be affected as well because  species living near to the oceans will become extinct. During the years when the oceans have been poisoned by high levels of carbon dioxide, the marine life have not had a possibility to adapt to the new levels of acid in their habitat. Shells erode and species are forever poisoned due to the lack of adaptability the creatures face. There are only few organisms that are able to adapt to the new acidity levels but many other organisms do not have this capacity for evolution. Every single organism is important and play a key role in maintaining the marine food web. Dangers to the biodiversity in the ocean not only affect the marine life food web, but the human food and economic web that depends on healthy fish (read more here: http://www.eartheclipse.com/environment/causes-effects-solutions-of-ocean-acidification.html).

The most convincing evidence that the ocean acidification is effecting marine ecosystems are coral reefs. Coral reefs are massive underwater structures and are some of the oldest and most diverse ecosystems on the planet. They build structures that provide food and shelter for many marine organisms. We can find them in more than 100 countries around the world. Worldwide, coral reefs cover an estimated 285 000 square kilometers, less than 1 percent of the sea floor, but are home to 25 percent of ocean species, including 4 000 species of fish and thousands of plants and animals. Reefs are centres of biodiversity. 3 000 species can live on one reef and depend on the reef for food and shelter. If today’s carbon dioxide levels double as expected by 2100, there will be a 3 to 60 percent decline in the rate of reef building. Coral reefs are being lost more than twice as fast as the rainforests. It is estimated that we will lose the other 50 percent over the next 40 years. We need healthy coral reefs for a healthy world. They are home to more than 1 million diverse aquatic species. They provide new medicines for humans, fisheries depend on them and they provide a natural barrier protecting coastal cities, communities and beaches (read more here: http://therevolutionmovie.com/index.php/open-your-eyes/ocean-acidification/impacts/).

dead-coral

Picture 2 http://dariellf.weebly.com/my-tt-green-team-project.html

Solutions to ocean acidification

Here are some possible solutions that might be helpful in decreasing the impact of ocean acidification:

  • Strict regulations

I think that this might be the best solution because human actions are best guarded by the policies of the country. It is possible to reach it through ratification of legislations that can ensure that the waste handling, among other pollution-risk activities are controlled. These regulations would spread to the fisheries department to ensure that safety is maintained in food consumption.

  • Education

Education is a key factor in every aspect of life and in my opinion it plays a key role in environmental issues. Schools, governments and international organizations can create some projects where they educate or sensitize the common citizens on the risks posed by the climate change and ocean acidification. Such initiatives can instill some self-triggered discipline that acts as guidance for the quest to environmental conservation.

  • Consuming only the “right fish”

Increase in acidity level will make fish consumption a risky affair. This is why the authorities would be tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that only the less harmless fish are going to be sell. This can be very helpful in reducing the chances of having food poisoning and carbon gas circulation in the environment.

  • Reducing the consumption of carbon-oriented energy sources

The presence of high concentration of carbon in the atmosphere is a result of various human activities which can be controlled to some extent. Carbon emitted from the fossil fuels can be reduced through the minimization of use of such fuels. We can switch to alternative/renewable energy sources that are the best available option. Diversification of energy sources such as the use of solar and wind as the alternative energy sources can significantly pay off.

Other ways in which individuals can help to reduce ocean acidification: be mindful of our pollution rates, eat less fish, eat humanely sourced food, use less water, recycle, plant and maintain trees, rely less on coal and fossil fuels, etc. You can read about many other ideas here: http://www.eartheclipse.com/environment/causes-effects-solutions-of-ocean-acidification.html, http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/causes-effects-solutions-of-ocean-acidification.php

To sum up, problem of ocean acidification is relatively recent, and researchers are just beginning to study its effects on marine ecosystems and human life. People do not know much about this problem and may think that it is not so serious issue but we can already see some consequences of bad chemistry of the oceans today. All signs indicate that unless humans are able to control and eventually eliminate our fossil fuel emissions, ocean organisms will find themselves under increasing pressure to adapt to their habitat’s changing chemistry or perish. With the pace of ocean acidification accelerating, scientists, resource managers, and policymakers recognize the urgent need to strengthen the science as a basis for sound decision making and action. But not only scientists can contribute to solve this problem, there are little things we can do every day to make less harmful impact on the environment. Taking care of the Earth is not just a responsibility, it is a privilege.

Petra Kasášová

SOURCES:

  1. http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/co2/story/What+is+Ocean+Acidification%3F
  2. http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/co2/story/Ocean+Acidification
  3. http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/explore/pristine-seas/critical-issues-ocean-acidification/
  4. http://therevolutionmovie.com/index.php/open-your-eyes/ocean-acidification/impacts/
  5. http://www.eartheclipse.com/environment/causes-effects-solutions-of-ocean-acidification.html
  6. http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/causes-effects-solutions-of-ocean-acidification.php
  7. https://www.nap.edu/read/12904/chapter/6#65

Reforestation efforts and their consequences

As we all know, deforestation poses a huge environmental threat, with about 7.3 million hectares (which supposedly is about half the area of England, for example) of forest disappearing every year, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. This practice comes with negative effects which affect areas such as climate change, number of species, soil erosion, water cycle and general life quality. It goes without saying how vital trees are for our existence. Therefore, many countries as well as organizations are trying to counter it with reforestation or afforestation.

lesSource: http://www.worldwildlife.org/habitats/forest-habitat

Reforestation can be described as the process of planting new trees in areas where they have been damaged or destroyed, mostly by fire, disease and logging. While it is sometimes possible for forests to naturally regenerate themselves through dispersal of their seeds by wind or animals, areas which have been severely hit need manual help. That is where we come in.

The obvious reason for reforesting is recovery of trees that have been accidentally destroyed. But there are other uses. Reforesting helps fight pollution and is used to mitigate climate change, through the ability of trees to absorb carbon dioxide. In some cases, forests are managed, new trees are planted to replace those that were cut down, much like crops.

During the Great Leap Forward in China, which happened in 1950s, millions of hectares of native forest were changed to cropland. In the following decades, forests continued to be destroyed. China spent about 14 billion dollars between 2000-2010 on the protection of forests. After years of intensive logging, the country has introduced a few national programs regarding forest restoration. In 2000, after major floods in the late 90’s, China has introduced the Natural Forest Conservation Program – a logging ban designed to battle soil erosion and deforestation. And it has proven to be a big success. An independent analysis in the journal Science Advances found that between 2000 and 2010, forest cover increased over 1.6% of China’s territory (15.7 million hectares), while at the same time about 0.4% of the country’s territory (3.7 million hectares) lost its forests, which implies significant net gain. According to the study, China has pledged to increase its forest cover by a total of 40 million hectares between 2005 and 2020. Another program, which is said to be the worlds largest reforestation program, involving the largest population in the history of China and in the world, is the so-called Grain-for-Green Program. This effort, which is supported by the Chinese government, was first initiated in 1999 and was later implemented in 2002 across the country. One of the many program’s objectives is to change agricultural fields and farmlands in slopes back to forest. Within this program, rural residents are also being encouraged to plant forests, grasslands and shrubs. The Grain-for-Green program is in place in about 26 out of 31 mainland provinces covering around 60 million farmers. It has thus big significance in poverty alleviation too. Like the Natural Forest Conservation Program, this effort has similarly tried to address the soil erosion problem. It has transformed about 28 million hectares of cropland and barren scrubland back to forest. The program has helped reduce soil and water erosion as well.

Now the important question is, whether these efforts are really that successful as they seem and if there aren’t some less desirable side effects to the projects and to reforestation in general. I think that often many topics and issues that even seem unrelated are in reality intertwined and the solution of one might influence another in a good or bad way. It could even create a chain reaction of sorts. This is especially true if were talking about ecology and the environment.

Now back to China. While the overall significance of these programs and their results are undeniable, the authors of the previously mentioned study are worried that since China increases its imports of lumber, the whole problem of deforestation is simply transferred onto other countries. The Chinese lands gain low biodiversity forests, while the foreign high biodiversity forests are being used to satisfy the demand in China. The whole topic thus needs to be tackled globally. That’s the way I understood it, anyway.

Continuing with the topic of biodiversity, a research led by Princeton university has found that the above mentioned Grain-for-Green Program is not very effective in restoring the biodiversity of native forests, since it’s mostly planting just monoculture forests (just one species) and can potentially even harm the local wildlife. If it were not possible to restore the native forests, the second best option would be mixed forests.

To sum it up, I believe that this is a good example of how things can mutually affect one another on a regional, as well as on a global scale. Reforestation is a more complex topic than one would think. It’s not just about planting trees, but about the different factors that influence the outcome, too.

Branislav Janál

Sources:

https://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S47/22/32G35/index.xml?section=topstories

http://www.pri.org/stories/2016-06-27/what-chinas-successful-reforestation-program-means-rest-world

https://insideclimatenews.org/news/22032016/china-success-regrowing-its-forests-has-flip-side-deforestation-carbon-emissions

http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/2/3/e1500965

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/deforestation/

http://www.fao.org/docrep/008/ae537e/ae537e0j.htm

Species extinction – is it consequence of human activity, or just natural process?

Galaxy, universe and the planet Earth, as well as the others planet, are in constant process of change. Every living part has some kind of energy. Energy is a fundamental entity of nature that is transferred between parts of a system in the production of physical change within the system and usually regarded as the capacity for doing work. It means that energy is meant to be non-permanent. Change is natural process, in which nothing is permanent, constant. If we think of the Earth and the ecosystem as something which is in constant change, than we can understand that extinction is a natural part of life on Earth. Over the history of the Planet, most of the species that ever existed, evolved and than gradually went extinct. For example 70% of the North American large mammal genera went extinct at the end of the last ice age. So what is the reason for today species extinction?

Human activity. Even though some species are predetermine to extinct, but they are not to extinct so fast. And there are many species that would without human activity for another hundreds of years joining worlds ecosystem. Today species are going extinct at accelerated and dangerous rate, because of non-natural environmental changes caused by human activities. Some of the activities have direct effects on species and ecosystem: habitat loss, overexploitation (overfishing), spread of non-native species/diseases, some indirect but wide-reaching effect on biodiversity: climate change and pollution. All of these threats have put a serious strain on the biodiversity of species on Earth. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), globally about one third of all known species are threatened with extinction. That includes 29% of all amphibians, 21% of all mammals and 12% of all birds. If we do not stop the threats to biodiversity, we could be facing some another mass extinction with terrible consequences to the environment.

But thinking about this issue, we have to consider as well natural shifts in environment that take place over long periods of time, such as ice ages. Now the planet Earth is in the interglacial period, so we have to allow that some species had to go extinct, and now is turn of some others.

Paleontologist estimate that most species “last” from 1 to 10 million years. So if we assume there are 10 million species, 1 to 10 species goes to extinct each year (0,00001% – 0,0001% per year). This rate might be considered as normal, natural rate according to which we can measure today’s mass extinctions. Global biodiversity has reached an all time high in present geological period about 30 000 years ago. Since than the biodiversity declined mostly because of the human activity.

Cultural evolution allow the rapid spread of new technologies and over few centuries humans became super-predator capable of hunting, mining and the most dangerous thing for our planet – overexploiting almost everything, any prey. And species are not able to respond via biological evolution when extinct. Extinction rate is now documented to be about 2 species per year.

Evidence from the fossil record suggest that there have been at least 5 mass extinctions during the Earth’s history. Assuming that less well known taxa[1] has similar rates, we are experiencing the sixth mass extinction of life on Earth.

So why should we be concerned about modern extinctions, if it is a natural process?

  1. The extinction rate today is at much higher level that the expected natural  rate. At this level, the ecosystem is not capable to recover or the species are not allowed to adapt.
  2. The primary cause of extinction is human impact, corresponding today’s lifestyle.

Throughout the centuries, we can see increasing human activity and decreasing capability of ecosystem to work and act natural. Many years of pollution have result in huge impact on ecosystem and biodiversity. It’s slowly and unstoppable ruining nature and it will never be the same. Some scientist say, that all the things we have done to our Earth can’t be reverse, we can just slow down and postpone completely damage of ecosystem. Climate change as effect of pollution, overexploitation, deforestation, urbanization, etc. has terrible and huge impact of every aspect on Earth. For example the agriculture is becoming unsustainable due to the climate change, urbanization and irresponsible way of farming.

There is no single factor responsible of extinction. Some species may gradually reduce in number over thousands of years as they are crowded out and competed by another species. Others may become extinct very suddenly due to an unprecedented event, such as a large-scale fires or natural disasters. Internationally, habitat loss and degradation is considered the most significant factor. Other factors include over-exploitation, pollution, disease and climate change. Some species may be affected by a combination of factors. Species that have a very limited habitat or small population size are particularly vulnerable to extinction.

Conclusion :  Species extinction at natural rate is consequence of natural process, but mass extinction in today’s world is caused by human activity. It’s necessary to slow down the process of mass species extinction and to precede biodiversity loss.

[1] A grouping of organisms given a formal taxonomic name, such as species, genus, family, etc.

Marcela Pekárová

Deforestation- Causes, Effects and Solutions

In general, deforestation is clearing Earth’s forests on a massive scale, often resulting in damage to the quality of the land. Sometimes the people didn’t realize, that they produce vital oxygen and provide homes for people and wildlife. Many of the world’s most threatened and endangered animals live in forests, and 1.6 billion people rely on benefits forests offer, including food, fresh water, clothing, traditional medicine and shelter. Forests are cut down for many reasons, but most of them are related to money or to people’s need to provide for their families. The biggest driver of deforestation is agriculture. Farmers cut forests to provide more room for planting crops or grazing livestock. Often many small farmers will each clear a few acres to feed their families by cutting down trees and burning them in a process known as “slash and burn” agriculture. So we can say, that deforestation has many negative effects on the environment. The most dramatic impact is a loss of habitat for millions of species. Seventy percent of Earth’s land animals and plants live in forests, and many cannot survive the deforestation that destroys their homes. The quickest solution to deforestation would be to simply stop cutting down trees. Though deforestation rates have slowed a bit in recent years, financial realities make this unlikely to occur.
Deforestation is a particular concern in tropical rainforests because these forests are home to much of the world’s biodiversity. For example, in the Amazon around 17% of the forest has been lost in the last 50 years, mostly due to forest conversion for cattle ranching. Deforestation in this region is particularly rampant near more populated areas, roads and rivers, but even remote areas have been encroached upon when valuable mahogany, gold and oil are discovered. Deforestation or felling trees has become a favourite activity of man to extract assorted needs- be it medicines or precious paper to waste. For obvious reasons, it is shameful to read the statistics on how discriminating man has been, especially when it comes to deforestation. But at the end there is always hope. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), an estimated 18 million acres of forest are lost each year.
Forests still cover 30% of the earth’s land, due to it is estimated that within 100 years there will be no rainforests. One and a half acres of forest is cut down every second. Loss of forests contributes between 12 percent and 17 percent of annual global greenhouse gas emissions. If the current rate of deforestation continues, it will take less than 100 years to destroy all the rainforests on the earth. The rate of deforestation equals to loss of 20 football fields every minute. There are more than 121 natural remedies in the rain forest which can be used as medicines. According to Rainforest Action Network, the United States has less than 5% of the world’s population yet consumes more than 30% of the world’s paper. The over exploitation of forests is making it extremely difficult to replant a new ecology. As we know, twenty percent of the world’s oxygen is produced in the Amazon forest. Up to 28,000 species are expected to become extinct by the next quarter of the century due to deforestation. Deforestation has considerably stopped in places like Europe, Pacific, North America and some parts of Asia due to lack of agricultural land. But the fact is, that half of the world’s tropical forests has already been cleared. 4500 acres of forests are cleared every hour by forest fires, bull dozers, machetes etc. Poverty, over-population and unequal land access are the main causes of man- made deforestation. The total world forest loss till date is 7.3 million hectares per year. 1.6 billion people across the globe depend on forest products for their livelihoods there by adding more to deforestation. Almost half of world’s timber and up to 70% of paper is consumed by Europe, United States and Japan alone. Industrialized countries consume 12 times more wood and its products per person than the non-industrialized countries. The United States has less than 5% of the world’s population but consumes more than 30% of the world’s paper. Fuel wood in sub Saharan African countries is consumed up to 200% times more than the annual growth rates of the trees. This is causing deforestation, lack of timber resources and loss of habitat for the species living in it.

I have mentioned some facts, that are caused by deforestation, or we can say, by us, humans. Many of people didn’t realize, that trees are important constituents of the ecosystem. They absorb carbon (tropical forests, where deforestation is most prevalent, hold more than 210 giga-tonnes of carbon) and groundwater and release the same into the atmosphere during transpiration. Soil erosion, floods, wildlife extinction, increase in global warming, and climate imbalance are few of the effects of deforestation. Worldwide more than 1.6 billion people rely on forests products for all or part of their livelihoods. According to Forestry Department Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, about half the world’s tropical forests have been cleared or degraded. Deforestation affects also water cycle. So why should we do this? Why should we cut the trees, when it has these horrible causes, and we know it very well? When deforestation happens, the climate automatically changes to a drier one and also affects the water table. My personal statement is, that we can always find some starting point. For example, there are corporations, that collect money online to save trees. One can save up to 20 square feet of forest with online contributions thereby conveniently prevent deforestation. Over 4 million tons of junk is created online by spamming. 41 pounds of these junk mails are sent to almost every adult in the United States. 44% of the junk mail goes unopened. People in America spend more than 275 million dollars to dispose junk mails. The paper industry is fourth largest in producing greenhouse gas thereby majorly contributing to deforestation. On an average, a person in the United States uses more than 700 pounds of paper every year. A lot of paper and cardboard is used unnecessarily for packing. This also means more tree felling. The solution will be, to re-use paper and plastic bags to discourage deforestation. Use canvas or paper bags as another alternative. Pick products which require less packaging. Be creative and mail manufacturers telling them to use eco-friendly products. Show them your deforestation knowledge by highlighting certain important facts using statistics. Sign effective petitions that work and help reduce deforestation. Support eco-friendly companies by buying their products that promise more durability in an inexpensive way. Be active and plant trees- it can be at your homes, backyards or you can join any organization keen on stopping deforestation. Reduce the consumption of beef to tone down the pressure to clear more forests for the cattle. Boycott companies by supporting organizations that care about the environment at the cost of fighting back for the evergreen trees. Seek knowledge on deforestation and how can you prevent it from happening by reading newspapers, magazines, internet, TV shows. Spread the word and make it go viral. There is always hope for better us, and also for better planet, with less of damages.

References:
http://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/deforestation/
http://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation
http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/various-deforestation-facts.php
http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/causes-effects-solutions-of-deforestation.php
http://www.theworldcounts.com/stories/deforestation-facts-and-statistics

Natália Cirjaková

Why we need darkness?

Look at the stars! How many of them can you see? Five, fifteen, fifty or five hundred? Even more? If you can see at least a few dozen, you are the lucky one. Many people living on the Earth have even never seen the Milky Way. How is it possible? I think that almost everybody has sometimes heard about light pollution. That’s the reason. Do you think that the only one effect of light pollution is that you cannot see the stars? You are wrong.

1

Source: http://kottke.org/13/02/what-if-the-milky-way-were-visible-in-nyc

Light pollution affects everyone’s quality of life. It disturbs our sleep and our biorhythm and may even contribute to the development of cancer. Light pollution has influence not only on us, people, but also on our environment, forests, plants, insects, and animals. Light pollution is widespread in Asia, Europe, and North America. Unfortunately, it remains largely overlooked and unregulated in many countries. Many politicians don’t realize that regulations restricting lighting are advantageous not only because of decreasing level of light pollution but also because of energy saving.

All plants and animals depend on Earth’s daily cycle of light and dark rhythm. This rhythm governs reproduction, nourishment, sleep and protection from predators. Light pollution affects a wide variety of living organism. It can even influence ecological balance. Artificial light affects the population of many organisms, it could have an impact on the population of those organisms, and it can even threaten biodiversity.

You can ask how light pollution affects for example birds. They sing at unnatural hours in the presence of artificial light. Long artificial days allow longer feeding and it can influence migration schedules. The consequence is that birds start their migration too early or too late and they can miss ideal climate conditions for nesting. Many birds migrate or hunt at night, they are navigated by moonlight and starlight. They can wander off course and toward the dangerous nighttime landscapes of cities and all because of light pollution. They die colliding with needlessly illuminated buildings and towers.

Light pollution may also contribute to the global decline of amphibians because many amphibians are nocturnally active or have biological rhythms regulated by light.

2

Source: http://darksky.org/5-appalling-facts-about-light-pollution/

How can light pollution influence forests?

The natural cycle of day and night has an impact even on plants and trees. Light pollution can cause that plants don’t respond to the change of seasons. Light pollution can also affect the regeneration of tropical rainforests. It has an influence on the recovery of deforested rainforests.

Light pollution disrupts the behavior of fruit-eating bats. These bats are important because they eat fruits and disperse seeds. Bats can help trees and plants recolonize the deforested land. Artificial light can cause the extinction of bats. Light pollution can have adverse consequences for forest regeneration in the tropics. Deforested ecosystems rely on seed-dispersers and bats are the most important seed dispersers in tropical rainforests. Bats are an important source not only dispersing seeds but also a source of pollination. They disperse a lot of seeds through seed-rich feces known as “seed rain” across the rainforest. Fruit-eating bats are so important because only a few another animals than bats disperse seeds into open habitats. Bats are more likely to feed in dark conditions than in artificial light. Human expansion and light pollution cause that bats die or they don’t spend time in those areas. Throughout South America and parts of Central America, the bats encourage the growth of hundreds of plant species. In many tropical countries in these areas, light pollution is increasing rapidly as human populations grow. It can have negative impacts on biodiversity and consequent effects on land erosion.

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Source: http://www.ibtimes.com/light-pollution-affects-rainforest-regrowth-altering-bat-behavior-dark-refuges-needed-light-1561009

Why is this kind of pollution different? In a certain sense, light pollution has a big advantage. From all kinds of pollution, light pollution is perhaps the most easily remedied. Unlike losing a species to extinction or topsoil to erosion, the night sky is 100% recoverable.

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Source: http://www.delmarfans.com/educate/basics/lighting-pollution/

The main cause of light pollution is bad lighting design. Almost 30% of outdoor lighting is wasted due to poor design. It allows artificial light to shine outward and upward into the sky, instead of focusing it downward. Already simple changes in lighting design can cause immediate changes in the amount of light pollution and energy savings immediately. Many people don’t realize that light costs lots of money, also the state uses millions of money to generate electric power. Unfortunately, the reduction of light pollution from widespread street lighting may prove more difficult to achieve. Through that, you can make small steps to the reduction of light pollution at your own home. The solution is to choose outdoor light fixtures that are shielded and turn off any unnecessary outdoor lights. Turn off all decorative and unnecessary light as much as possible. And one of the most important things, educate other people about dangers of light pollution!

Nikola Rajčoková

Sources:

http://www.ibtimes.com/light-pollution-affects-rainforest-regrowth-altering-bat-behavior-dark-refuges-needed-light-1561009

http://www.delmarfans.com/educate/basics/lighting-pollution/

http://www.techtimes.com/articles/4342/20140316/light-pollution-affects-rainforest-regrowth-by-altering-feeding-habits-of-fruit-bats.htm

http://globeatnight-network.org/lp-effect.html

http://darksky.org/light-pollution/wildlife/

http://www.livescience.com/43996-light-pollution-slows-rainforest-regeneration.html

International Laws and Regulations Protecting Whales: Are They Sufficient?

Whales belong to the order Cetacea which includes whales, dolphins and porpoises. The blue whale is the largest animal that ever have lived on our planet; it is larger than any of the dinosaurs was. A blue whale heart can weigh up to 600 kg and is the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. The tongue of an adult blue whale is approximately the same weight as an adult elephant. Unfortunately their large size does not protect them. There are many reasons contributing to the current endangered status of whales. For example, overfishing is making it difficult for whales and other marine animals to find sufficient food sources and leaving them to starve. Human activities like deep seabed mining and marine fracking, coastal and marine development (building constructions in the coastal areas) destroy the natural ecosystem whales live in. Many marine creatures and whales certainly not excluded are touched by the effects of climate change. Sea level rise and changes in sea temperature will leave whales vulnerable, maybe not be able to adapt quickly enough to survive. Crowded with pollution ranging from plastics to derelict fishing gear, the oceans have become a minefield for marine wildlife. Another problem threatening whale population is ocean noise pollution from such things as military sonar, seismic surveys and vessel traffic. But out of these contributing factors commercial whaling has had the largest impact on the current declining whale population.

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In fact the hunting of whales has existed for hundreds or even thousands of years. But it had only little effect on the whale population and did not cause so huge ecological damage due to the undeveloped and limited technology. The rate at which whales were being killed considerably increased between the 17th and 20th centuries as sophisticated boats, technologies and hunting equipment evolved. Killing whales for oil became a very lucrative business and the competition on the market eventually led to the expansion of the whaling industry. Nearly 3,000,000 whales were wiped out in what may have been the largest cull of any animal in the history of mankind. For example, blue whales have been depleted by up to 90% of their pre-whaling population. Over 50,000 whales have been killed since the ban on commercial whaling came into force in 1986. Japan, Norway and Iceland kill 2,000 whales each year. Six out of the 13 great whale species are classified as endangered. Scientists think that it takes around 20 years on average for a female whale to replace itself with one mature female offspring. If you are still not terrified of the slaughter of whales that is happening while we are watching and its ecological impacts, we should took a closer look at the crucial question in this isssue.

Why should we care about whales?

Why Slovaks, for example, as we live in inland country would ever care about some big marine creatures living thousands of miles away somewhere deep in the ocean?  Of course we love animals. We keep pets, we establish dog shelters for the abandoned dogs, we have natural reserves and sanctuaries for the animals we know. But overwhelming majority of us would never have a chance to see a living breathing whale in our lifetime (Free Willy in TV does not count).

In fact whales are amazing and special beings. These marine mammals are at the top of the food chain and play a very important role in the health of the marine environment even though we do not realize that. They manage the flow of food by helping to maintain a constant food chain and the balance of the ecosystem. Whales guarantee that particular animal species do not overpopulate the ocean (when one species of sea animal that is important to the food chain passes away it allows other species to thrive). Scientific studies of the cetacean species provided us a lot of discoveries and advancements regarding echolocation, aquatic environments, marine life and marine mammal intelligence (whales dispose of a high level of intelligence and self recognition – a characteristic that is known in only a few animal species). Another aspect of the importance of whales is that whale watching has become a major source of income for some countries. Especially developing countries seek to increase their global importance and attract the interests of other countries by whales observer activities and tourist attractions.

                Despite all these facts, the law protection of whales is insufficient.

Otherwise there would not be such a huge decline in their population, so many endangered spieces and numerous warnings from scientists about their extinction. Laws and regulations that are supposed to be protective are replete with systemic loopholes that value economic achievement over species preservation.  Lack of regulation, lack of transparency and lax oversight are problems that need to be solved in order to rescue and protect the precious population of whales.

140401161801-05-whale-hunting-story-top     Source: http://edition.cnn.com/2015/11/30/asia/japan-whaling-research

The main framework dealing with the whales protection is the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) that was signed in 1946 and it is the International Whaling Commission’s founding document (IWC). ICRW contains a provision that allows killing of whales for scientific purposes. But it was written more than 50 years ago, at a time when no alternative ways of scientific research existed. Now there are non-lethal methods that provide the data required for management much more efficiently and correctly. Nations like Japan use the above-mentioned loophole of scientific purpose for killing the whales for the economic gains. A whale is captured and justified that it is for research purposes. Then the meat is sold with the explanation that it is the best way to get rid of the whales corpse (it would be wasting to throw the meat away like a trash, right?). This is how commercial whaling works nowadays and even international law seems to be weak to fight against it.

Another document covering the protection of marine animals is United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). It defines the rights and responsibilities of nations with respect to their use of the world’s oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of marine natural resources.. But the paragraphs dealing with the protections of the marine mammals are too general. UNCLOS does not even contain the word whale. It has been argued that potential uncertainty arises in relation to the second sentence of the final version of Article 65 which reads: “States shall co-operate with a view to the conservation of marine mammals and in the case of cetaceans shall in particular work through the appropriate international organizations for their conservation, management and study.” In the end, one organisation was established for the conservation of cetaceans – above-mentioned IWC. But the plural of the word “organization“ leaves open the additional possibility for a successor.

Obviously, current international laws and regulations protecting whales are not protecting them properly. On May 31, 2010, the Australian Government even lodged formal proceedings against Japan in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands. On March 31, 2014 the ICJ ruled that Japan’s whaling program was not for scientific purposes. The Court ordered that ”Japan revoke any extant authorization, permit or licence to kill, take or treat whales” and refrain from granting any further permits. Japanese officials confirmed their nation’s recognition of the ICJ decision. But despite this recognition, they disobeyed the judgement of the ICJ and launched new program of „so-called scientific“ whaling for the next season.

I may have a few ideas how to help protect whale species more effective. Enhancing legal protections, demanding effective application of laws, adoption of stronger protective regimes and generating greater public awareness may help to deal with this situation. There should be some penalty mechanisms as they work on the regional level (e.g. a fine or even a jail when bringing danger or death to an endangered animal). There are some organisations and groups trying to protect marine animals at any cost. One of them is Sea Shepherd Conservation Society whose mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world’s oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species. They use innovative direct-action tactics to investigate, document, and take action when necessary to expose and confront illegal activities on the high seas. You may have heard of them from news, they really succeed in creating greater public awareness.

Human beings would not be able to survive without plants and animals. Especially species like whales need our protection. They can not be kept in some natural reserves like pandas in order to maintain their existence. In my opinion, not only coastal countries should bear the burden of protecting whales. They live in high seas which are the commmon heritage of manking stated by the international law.

Kristína Jablonská


 

Sources:

http://www.whalefacts.org

http://us.whales.org/whales-and-dolphins/facts-about-whales

http://www.defenders.org/whales/basic-facts

http://www.worldwildlife.org/species/whale

http://www.seashepherd.org/whales/japan.html