April 23, 2013

    Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Indian Apple Farmers Head to Himalayas

Climate change driving industry up

Quaker missionary Samuel Evans Stokes first introduced American Red Delicious apple trees to India in 1916 and they have grown there ever since, supporting a robust apple farming industry. But now the trees are threatened by a changing climate, driving farmers further and further up into the Himalayas to grow their crops.

Rapid warming has opened many high-altitude areas such as Kinnaur and Lahaul, previously thought to be too cold and dry, to cultivation. According to a Harvard study, average surface temperature rose by 1.5 degrees C since 1982, a whole degree grater than the global average.

Snowfall in the region has also been decreasing by 36 millimeters annually. This is terrible for Red Delicious trees, which require 1,200 to 1,400 hours below 7 degrees centigrade annually. One recent study shows that suitable low-altitude apple growing areas have been reduced by almost 77% since 1981. Farmers unable to relocate to higher altitudes are suddenly finding themselves sitting on subtropical land.


Tough Mudder     Photo: glennharper/Flickr

Tough Mudder Participant Dies in Virginia

Found submerged in water obstacle

Maryland resident Avishek Sengupta died Sunday at a Virginia hospital after participating in a Tough Mudder in West Virginia's Berkeley County on Saturday. The 28-year-old had to be removed from a deep pool at the “Walk the Plank” aquatic obstacle after being submerged for some time. He was treated on site by medics and staff and was reportedly revived at some point.

Sengupta is the first Tough Mudder participant to die in the event's three-year history. Tough Mudder’s CEO, Will Dean, released a statement Monday addressing the incident. “As organizers, we take our responsibility to provide a safe event to our participants very seriously,” said Dean. “Tough Mudder is devastated by this tragic accident.”

Sengupta was first taken to City Hospital in Martinsburg before being moved to Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church. Ted Snyder of the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Department, said he was informed of Sengupta’s death by the victim’s sister. “He was an active individual and kept himself in good shape,” Snyder of the victim. An autopsy is currently under way to determine the exact cause of death.

For more, read Tough Mudder's First Death In Context.


Redwood-country underpass

Redwood-country underpass     Photo: Chris Burkard

Climate Change Group Clone Redwoods

Plans to plant them worldwide

A non-profit group is cloning redwoods and with the intention of planting them around the world to fight climate change.

According to the Associated Press, David Milarch, co-founder of Archangel Ancient Tree Archive and his sons have crisscrossed the U.S. in search of "champion" trees that have survived thousands of years. While scientists are skeptical, Milarch is convinced that superior genes have allowed them to outlast the others, making them the ideal trees to clone. Milarch also claims that redwoods and sequoias are the trees best suited to combating climate change.

"This is a first step toward mass production," Milarch said. "We need to reforest the planet; it's imperative. To do that, it just makes sense to use the largest, oldest, most iconic trees that ever lived."

By placing branch tips in baby food jars containing nutrients and hormones, Milarch has produced genetic copies of 70 of the world's oldest and largest trees. The specimens are grown in the lab until they're large enough to be planted; the challenge is finding places to plant the trees and raise them.

"A lot of trees will be planted by a lot of groups on Arbor Day, but 90 percent of them will die," Milarch said. "It's a feel-good thing. You can't plant trees and walk away and expect them to take care of themselves."

The first planting took place in December on a ranch near Port Orford, Oregon. Others will be planted at the College of Marin in Kentwood, California, and in Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, and Germany.


John James Audubon, 1812.     Photo: Courtesy of Rizzoli

Running Banned at 3 Oregon Refuges

Brisk walking still a grey area

Oregon officials have planted "no joggings signs" at three national wildlife refuges in the Willamette Valley to discourage a pace that they say will disrupt wildlife. The signs have surprised some runners, but wildlife officials say that jogging can stress animal populations and disrupt breeding. Regulations also prohibit bicycling, horseback riding, and pets. Hiking, however, is allowed, as is hunting in the fall season.

"To allow hunting and not jogging really surprises me," said Tim Johnson who leads trips with the Salem Audubon Society. "I feel for joggers who just want to be out in a beautiful place, and I'm surprised that it's forbidden."

"It might be a new sign, but jogging has never been allowed in the (Willamette) wildlife refuges," Jock Beall, Willamette Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex biologist, told Oregon Public Broadcasting. "Activities with higher speeds can be disruptive and cause stress to the animals. We identify compatible uses on a refuge by refuge basis — we just look at which activities are best for each one."


Chinese Fishing Vessel Off Antarctica

Chinese Fishing Vessel Off Antarctica     Photo: CCAMLR

Chinese Fishing Vessel Sinks Off Antarctica

Had prompted oil spill concerns

A burning, unmanned Chinese fishing vessel that was zizagging off the coast of Antarctica last week sunk on Sunday, prompting an international rescue effort. The Kai Xin caught fire last Wednesday and all 97 crew members were rescued by the Norwegian krlll fishing vessel Juvel.

Fearing an oil spill, the Chilean navy sent a boat to tow the Kai Xin to safety. The burning 341-foot ship sank before they could retrieve it.

The maritime partner for Chile's portion of Antarctica said that a large oil spill is unlikely. “An environmental disaster is ruled out because of the fire on board,” Captain Juan Villegas told the Associated Press. “Experts say that if there was any fuel on board it has burned out by now.”