It is clear that the world's pollinators are under threat. A 2019 study found that almost half of all insects have disappeared since 1970 and 41 percent of insect species are at risk of extinction. Further, one in six bee species have gone locally extinct in at least one area, as AFP pointed out.
But how exactly do the threats these essential animals face interact with each other? To answer that question, a team of researchers analyzed 90 studies to see how pesticide use, parasites and nutritional stress interacted to harm bees. The results, published in Nature on Wednesday, found that a combination of different pesticides was especially damaging.
"[I]nteractions between multiple agrochemicals significantly increase bee mortality," lead author Harry Siviter of the University of Texas at Austin told AFP.
In particular, the researchers wanted to know if the different stressors impacted key bee behaviors and health in ways that were additive or synergistic.
Siviter explained the difference between the two for BBC News:
"If you have a honeybee colony exposed to one pesticide that kills 10% of the bees and another pesticide that kills another 10%, you would expect, if those effects were additive, for 20% of the bees to be killed," Dr Siviter said.
But a "synergistic effect" could produce 30-40% mortality.
This is exactly what the researchers found to happen when bees were exposed to multiple pesticides, which is a problem because farmers are often sold a "cocktail" of different chemicals under a single label.
The researchers therefore warned that current pesticide regulations were not doing enough to protect bees. They recommended that testing include common chemical combinations in addition to individual ingredients.
"Ultimately, our results demonstrate that the regulatory process in its current form does not protect bees from the unwanted consequences of complex agrochemical exposure," the study authors wrote. "Failure to address this and to continue to expose bees to multiple anthropogenic stressors within agriculture will result in the continued decline in bees and their pollination services, to the detriment of human and ecosystem health."
The research found that parasites and poor nutrition were also a problem for bees, but these issues tended to interact with each other and with pesticide exposure in an additive rather than synergistic way.
Writing for Nature, Adam J. Vanbergen of the National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment, who was not a part of the study, suggested further research into how the elements discussed in the paper interact with other threats to pollinators like habitat loss, pollution, invasive species and the climate crisis.
"Although such assessments would be non-trivial to carry out, they will be vital for understanding and ranking the relative risks to pollinators and pollination that are coming from multiple combinations of pressures resulting from global changes," he concluded.
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A smoldering wooden smudge stick with two white sage bundles and rose quartz healing crystals. PamWalker68 / iStock / Getty Images Plus
Ron Goodman and his boss were training a new volunteer ranger at the North Etiwanda Preserve, a lush and rocky landscape in the foothills of the Cucamonga Wilderness, roughly 50 miles east of Los Angeles. They were looking out over an area of burn scar when Goodman spotted three men with duffle bags among the sand-colored boulders. He knew exactly what they were doing and took off running in their direction.
It was the first time the ranger had intercepted illegally harvested white sage, but it wouldn't be a unique experience.
"I cannot explain how difficult it is to march this stuff out. The bags can weigh 70 to 100 pounds. It's rocky terrain and there's no shade, we have rattlesnakes. And yet they still do it," said Goodman, a retired San Bernardino County ranger.
Poaching white sage for commercial sale, mostly bundled in smudge sticks or distilled into essential oils, has threatened the plant's survival in recent years. Police estimate the plant sells for around $30 per pound wholesale — and the industry is booming. But wild white sage has been disappearing in California for decades. Climate change, invasive species, unprecedented fires and sprawling development has chipped away at coastal sage scrub in Southern California, as well as the delicate web of species of flora that grow alongside it, many of them rare, threatened or endangered. Salvia apiana itself is unlisted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which keeps a database of threatened and endangered species.
The average processing time for the threatened and endangered species is 12 years, and plants usually take longer than animals. Despite official data regarding how much remains in the wild, the Indigenous people who have used white sage for centuries and ecologists and rangers who work in the area understand that it's disappearing.
"It doesn't even grow around Los Angeles anymore," said Goodman. "The plants are really suffering from the drought this year and because poaching has been going on for years, the plants haven't been allowed to reach their full size. That's in addition to what we've lost to development."
Human Development and Climate Change
The natural territory of coastal sage scrub spans from Santa Barbara to El Rosario in northwestern Baja California, occasionally popping up in patches along the central California coast. In Southern California, the shrubland exists almost entirely in the wildland-urban interface, where housing developments carve into swaths of wild vegetation. Development has transformed the complex network of grasslands, thickets of dwarf evergreen shrubs and riparian corridors that once ruled the landscape. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that due to human land conversion, only about 15 percent of the California Coastal Sage and Chaparral ecoregion remains intact.
Nothing in an ecosystem exists in a vacuum. White sage is mycorrhizal, meaning its roots form vital relationships with the beneficial fungi in the soil. So when the plant disappears from its native community, the absence throws the ecosystem out of balance. This paves the way for invasive grasses like Bromus rubens and Avena barbata. "These grasses create a flash fuel problem that allows fires to very easily spread through the area," said Arlee Montalvo, a retired senior plant restoration ecologist for the Riverside-Corona Resource Conservation District.
Nine of the 10 largest wildfires in California history have happened in the past nine years. All plants, including those in coastal sage scrub habitats, have adapted to regular bouts of fire. Some seeds even need the smoke to germinate. But flora today are faced with wildfires that burn at a temperature and with a frequency that they haven't evolved to withstand.
"In 2003, the human-caused Grand Prix burned with such intensity that the sage never came back," said Goodman.
A Trend That's Fueling Poaching
Like dietary supplements and medicinal herbs, the white sage market is almost completely unregulated. Consumers have no way of knowing what labels that dub products sustainably or ethically wildcrafted actually means — and some argue that harvesting sage for commercial use isn't ethical at all.
Under California State law, no one is allowed to harvest white sage growing on public land for commercial sale. Harvesting on private land is legal with written permission from the land owner, though Goodman said that is a rare occurrence.
"A lot of vendors say their product is sustainably sourced from the hills of California. Unless they can say exactly where it's grown, we can be pretty sure it's stolen," said Rose Ramirez, an ethnobotanist who lives in San Diego County and who is of Chumash and Yaqui descent.
In 2018, the Rancho Cucamonga Police Department made their largest bust to date. Four people had stuffed 400 pounds of poached white sage into backpacks that they'd plan to hike out of a valley in the North Etiwanda Preserve.
The following year, the department arrested 24 people for poaching white sage, according to police records. According to Goodman, deputies have used helicopters, infrared cameras and a bloodhound to surveil the area in the past, but a dwindling budget means just a few rangers are charged with patrolling the 1,200-acre area.
Susan Leopold, director of United Plant Savers, a non-profit dedicated to protecting native medicinal plants of the United States and Canada, calls the North Etiwanda Preserve the "mecca of the white sage mafia."
"The North Etiwanda Preserve is very unique, ecologically speaking, and white sage grows in big, lush clusters that don't appear anywhere else in California. It's easy to pick a lot quickly in the preserve," said Leopold. (Under state law, white sage in this specific area is protected under the California Endangered Species Act.)
Goodman is putting his second retirement to good use, too. He and a group of 12 core volunteers at the Cucamonga Foothills Preservation Alliance patrol the foothills, educating their neighbors on what to look out for and reporting suspected poachers to local law enforcement. The alliance has aided in the confiscation of 200 pounds of sage seeds and thousands of pounds of the harvested plant.
"When we encounter the poachers, they act on it. Three years ago, they weren't," said Goodman. "But law enforcement is now behind getting white more protection. They now understand the cultural and ecological significance."
Pushing for Transparency
Burning white sage is cultural appropriation for anyone who is not part of a culture that traditionally uses the sacred plant in ceremony. American Indian/Alaska Native people were subject for nearly a century to Eurocentric laws that jailed or even killed them for practicing their religions, including white sage. For these reasons, Native communities have been calling on non-Native people who burn sage to stop. While some argue that cultural appropriation should be reason enough to stop masses of non-AIAN people from using white sage, others see the commercial sale of white sage as something that is here to stay.
A woman uses a bundle of sage for a spiritual ritual. Jana Richter / E+ / Getty Images
Ramirez is part of a group that's trying to get white sage recognized as a culturally significant plant at the state level, which could pave the way for it to eventually be recognized as threatened or endangered. This could save some white sage habitat from development. She's also among those who see working to make the industry more sustainable as the most realistic option to protect wild white sage, which can legally be harvested by local tribes for personal use.
"We are way beyond this idea of not selling white sage. It's being sold all over the world, by places like Wal-Mart and Alibaba," Ramirez told EcoWatch, noting that some wholesale listings are specifically marketed towards yoga studios.
While Ramirez and fellow ethnobotanist Deborah Small don't encourage non-Native people to use white sage, they recognize that it's now deeply rooted in pop culture, largely thanks to social media. In that case, they want people to grow white sage if they can, especially if they live in places like Orange County and Riverside, California, where the wild population has been decimated by construction. "We want people to concentrate on rehabilitating white sage in areas where it used to grow," said Ramirez.
The second option, they say, is to only purchase products made from farmed plants, rather than those that claim to be wildcrafted or foraged. The team is currently working on creating a white sage verification system that would force the industry to be transparent about where they source their product.
"Foragers or wildcrafters think it's their right and they make it seem so innocent. It wouldn't be such a bad thing if we didn't also have the climate change, the over development; if we had massive amounts of this plant left," said Ramirez.
When you think about solar energy, you probably tend to think about places in the Sun Belt — Southern California, Arizona, Texas, North Carolina and places in between. It might surprise you to learn that New Jersey actually gets ample sun exposure, making it one of the top states for solar installation. In fact, the Solar Energy Industries Association notes that New Jersey ranks No. 7 in the nation for total solar installations.
Of course, some parts of New Jersey rank higher than others for overall solar adoption. In this article, we'll take a closer look at the top cities for solar in New Jersey.
Top 10 Cities for Solar in New Jersey
To rank the top cities for solar in New Jersey, the EcoWatch team took into account reports furnished by the SEIA, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's solar irradiance maps and GIS data from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, among other data points.
Based on our research, we rank these as the top cities for solar in New Jersey:
- Middletown Township
- Long Branch
- Cherry Hill
Newark is one of New Jersey's most significant centers for the arts and culture. It's also a city with a growing reliance on solar energy, helping homeowners keep their utility expenses manageable. In fact, the latest Shining Cities report from Environment America shows Newark is one of the top 20 cities in the country for per-capita solar installation.
New Jersey's capital city has made an admirable investment in solar energy. There are a number of top solar companies operating in the area that enable homeowners to easily make the jump to clean, renewable energy. This is helping the city become a leader in offsetting high electric costs.
Middletown Township is a coastal area due south of Staten Island, New York. It's located in Monmouth County, which is one of three New Jersey counties that has over 300,000 kW of solar capacity installed.
Just an hour outside of Manhattan, Edison is a growing bedroom suburb of New York City. Because of its proximity to the Big Apple, Edison has a consistently high population. It also has a steady commitment to solar energy that's matched by many surrounding cities in Middlesex County.
Another part of the broader NYC metropolitan area, Woodridge gets a decent amount of sunlight. Spend any amount of time in the town and you'll notice at least a few rooftops retrofitted with different types of solar panels. You'll probably also see a number of commercial buildings with solar arrays, as Middlesex County has the most non-residential solar installations of any county in New Jersey.
Long Branch, also in Monmouth County, has plenty of access to beaches and shorelines — and with it, ample exposure to the sun's natural rays. It's a great place to invest in solar power; according to NREL maps, Long Branch has one of the highest residential roof-mount potentials in the state and over 20,000 identified buildings that are suitable for solar.
A growing New York City bedroom community, Lakewood has many rooftops that are in prime position for solar power. It's located in Ocean County, which has New Jersey's highest percentage of residential solar installations according to the NJDEP.
Cherry Hill gets enough sunlight that solar energy is a very viable proposition for local home and business owners. NREL maps show Cherry Hill has an above-average number of buildings suitable for solar installation and good potential for energy generation, making it one of the top cities for solar in New Jersey.
New Jersey's third most populous city has a growing solar scene, and a number of local installers who are eager to help homeowners capitalize on clean, renewable energy. Like Long Branch, Patterson has a very high residential roof-mount potential and over 20,000 buildings suitable for solar installations.
Located just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, Camden offers homeowners enough access to sunlight to make it very viable for solar power. It rounds out our list of the top cities for solar in New Jersey thanks to its potential for annual solar power generation and number of buildings fit for solar, plus the capacity the city has already installed.
Where Solar Panels Work Best
In considering the top cities for solar in New Jersey, it's worth pointing out a couple of common denominators. For one, the best cities for solar tend to be places that get lots of sunlight throughout the year. This often makes beach towns especially prime solar locations, and the Garden State has a lot of coastline.
Average New Jersey Electricity Costs
Additionally, cities with higher utility costs tend to be advantageous places to invest in solar power. As a rule of thumb, if your electric costs are high, it means you'll see more benefits from investing in solar panels.
According to the Energy Information Administration, the average monthly energy consumption in New Jersey is 663 kWh, which is actually quite a bit more than in New York but less than in Pennsylvania. The average monthly electric cost is a little more than $105, which is comparable with surrounding states.
New Jersey Solar Tax Incentives
One reason New Jersey has exceptional solar installation rates (even though it's not in the Sun Belt) is that the state has some of the best solar incentives in the entire country. These greatly reduce the overall cost of solar panels for residents.
For example, take the net metering program. Through net metering, if your residential solar system generates more electricity than you actually need, you can funnel that surplus energy back into the eclectic grid and get credits from local utility providers. In other words, New Jersey creates an easy way to sell your excess solar power. To learn more about net metering opportunities, check with participating utility providers, including Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L) and Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG).
New Jersey also offers a sales tax exemption on solar products; when you buy solar panels and other necessary equipment, you won't need to pay the state's 7% sales tax. This makes the initial solar investment considerably more affordable.
The state also offers property tax exemptions: Your residential solar system may increase the value of your property, but it won't make property taxes increase in kind.
Federal Solar Tax Credits
In addition to these state-level incentives, New Jersey homeowners can also take advantage of a federal tax credit, which is available to all Americans. The current credit will reduce the initial cost of your residential solar system by 26% if installed prior to 2022 and 22% if installed in 2023. It is scheduled to drop off for residential solar panel installations in 2024.
New Jersey Solar Regulations
The state's net metering programs and other incentives make solar more attractive, but there are some additional local regulations that New Jersey homeowners should know about as they prepare to make a solar energy investment. Some of the most essential examples include:
- The Solar Act of 2012, which mandates that a little more than 4% of all New Jersey energy sales will come from solar by the year 2028. This was later amended to be a little more than 5%.
- The Community Solar Energy Pilot Program Rule allows certain homeowners to "participate in a solar energy project that is remotely located from their property." The applications for this program are currently closed.
Final Thoughts: Top Cities for Solar in New Jersey
If your city didn't make our top list of the top cities for solar in New Jersey, there are a few ways to raise your area's solar profile. These include installing a solar panel system on your roof and contacting elected officials at both the local and state levels to push for ambitious solar energy goals. By doing these things, you can play a big part in New Jersey's pivot toward clean energy.
A new study identifies threats facing dozens of bat species in areas of the world that are predicted to get hotter and drier.
By Tara Lohan
The Isabelline Serotine bat (Eptesicus isabellinus) ranges across areas north of the Sahara and into the southern portion of the Iberian Peninsula. But it may be time for the species to start packing its bags.
A new study in Global Ecology and Conservation found that dozens of bat species living in parts of the world predicted to get hotter and drier with climate change will need to shift their ranges to find suitable habitat. For Isabelline Serotine bats that could mean a big move — more than 1,000 miles, the researchers determined.
They won't be the only ones.
The study looked at two areas with high drought risk — western North America and the Western Palaearctic, which stretches across North Africa and Europe. They studied 43 species using three climate models and three emissions scenarios to determine where bats could move to "climate refugia" to find more suitable habitat, and which species are at the greatest risk of population decline if that journey isn't possible or easy.
The news isn't great. "All future emissions scenarios led to an overall reduction in predicted bat richness in both continents by 2080," the researchers found. "Areas projected to support high species richness in the current climate coincided with greatest predicted species loss and greatest future drought risk."
Already numerous bat species face threats to their habitat from development and degradation. In North America things are particularly dire. White-nose syndrome, a fatal disease caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans, has decimated cave-dwelling bats there, including killing more than 90% of some populations in less than a decade.
Now climate change and changes to water resources pose a risk, too. All bats need water for basic survival, but some rely on aquatic prey or forage near the surface of water. Many species also roost or select foraging sites near water. And previous research has shown that reproduction declines dramatically during drought.
Scientists conduct bat surveys in Arizona's Kaibab National Forest. USFS
"While many species have evolved to survive in water-limited landscapes, an increase in the frequency, duration and severity of drought conditions may result in conditions too harsh for bat populations to persist, and is a threat to the long-term survival of many bat species," the researchers wrote.
For about half the species studied, the area with a suitable climate would shrink, they found.
Coastal Europe and North Africa currently support the greatest amount of species richness, but are likely to see the highest number of species needing to leave. In Western North America, the low-elevation regions of the southwest U.S. and Mexico were predicted to lose the most species.
Those that may be able to extend their range to find more suitable climates will need to move fast to keep up with the changing climate. Not surprisingly, bats that are adept at traveling long distances are apt to do better in finding new habitat.
The factors driving these relocations vary by region, too, with temperature being the biggest factor for the Western Palaearctic populations and precipitation changes driving changes for bats in Western North America.
As the planet warms, mountain and coastal areas where things will be cooler are likely to see an influx of species.
Higher-elevation areas are predicted to retain the most species, including the mountains of Portugal, northern Spain, northern Italy, Mexico's Sierra Madre, and mountainous areas of Arizona and New Mexico. Populations in some coastal areas were also expected to remain suitable, including coastal California and Mexico, and western France and southern England.
But those places could see additional climatic changes, too.
"While our models predict montane and coastal areas in both regions to remain climatically suitable for the majority of bat species it should be noted that these 'refugia' may be influenced by additional climate effects such as sea level rise (coastal areas) and increased incidence and severity of wildfires (montane areas)," the researchers wrote. "At the highest emissions scenarios, very few lower latitude areas retained their full complement of species."
When it comes to shifting ranges, the researchers found that on average, bat species in the Western Palaearctic will have to move farther and faster than those in western North America.
For some species, there won't be a lot of options.
The study found that 4-6 species in the Western Palaearctic are likely to have little overlap between current and future suitable areas, which could lead to population declines or extinction. Two of them, Mehely's horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus mehelyi) and the greater noctule bat (Nyctalus lasiopterus), are already identified as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. In Western North American, 1-3 species face similar concerns, including Myotis thysanodes, which is likely to lose 44% of its range and for which models show population declines of more than 90% by 2086.
Specialized bats that feed on nectar may also face additional threats in a changing climate, including landscape changes from wildfire.
"Additional factors that may determine the ability of bats to remain in landscapes with changing climates or colonize new areas include dispersal barriers, competition between species, prey and food plant availability, roost requirements, habitat fragmentation, disruption of migration phenology and influence of pathogens," the study showed.
There are some things that can help ensure greater bat conservation success. Areas of refugia and water sources need to be identified — and protected. We also need to continue to strengthen global efforts to protect biodiversity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the researchers say.
"Land managers can prioritize conservation and management activities to enhance existing protected areas and promote connectivity between current and future bat habitats," the authors wrote. "Therefore, a commitment by world governments to significantly reduce carbon emissions should be urgently sought in order to avoid further deterioration of bat communities and the important ecosystem services that they provide."
Tara Lohan is deputy editor of The Revelator and has worked for more than a decade as a digital editor and environmental journalist focused on the intersections of energy, water and climate. Her work has been published by The Nation, American Prospect, High Country News, Grist, Pacific Standard and others. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis.
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
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'The Future of the Auto Industry Is Electric — and Made in America': Biden Wants Half of New Cars to Be Electric by 2030
The Biden administration is set to announce strengthened emissions and fuel efficiency standards and call for half of new car sales in 2030 to be either EVs or plug-in hybrids.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy rulemakings on emissions and fuel efficiency represent the Biden administration's biggest regulatory action so far to cut the nation's climate pollution. Labor leaders and auto company executives will join Biden at the White House for the announcement of the new rulemaking and the signing of his executive order on EVs.
As reported by The Detroit News:
The increased standards will be paired with an executive order stating a goal of making half of all new vehicles sold in 2030 emissions-free and a pledge from the Detroit automakers that they will aim to sell at least 40% electric vehicles annually by 2030. Company leaders plan to join Biden at the White House on Thursday to announce the sales targets.
The companies' endorsement of the changes marks a tectonic shift in the relationship between the legacy automakers and environmental regulators since the Obama era — a reflection of the fact that the industry is amid a once-in-a-generation technological transformation powered by global reactions to climate change and backed by billions in EV investments.
The move is also indicative of President Joe Biden's efforts to reduce the environmental impact of the transportation sector — still the single largest emitter of greenhouse gases — with the goal of combating climate change and moving to a net zero-emission economy.
"What we're hearing across the board is a consensus about the direction where this industry is going. And a coming together around the recognition that this is the moment of truth, not just for climate action but for economic action as well," a senior White House official told reporters Wednesday evening on the condition of anonymity.
The future of the auto industry is electric — and made in America. Today I'm signing an executive order with a goa… https://t.co/9HuMwLsnkS— President Biden (@President Biden)1628165725.0
For a deeper dive:
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Because they have no natural predators, wild horse and burro populations in the U.S. can double every four years, quickly outgrowing the landscape and food systems that support them, according to the Bureau of Land Management. Capturing the horses, sterilizing them, and then returning them to public lands has long been the way land managers keep wild horse populations in check.
Officials have already rounded up 1,200 wild horses this year, with an original goal of 12,000 for the year. But a recent push to increase that number by 50 percent means about 6,000 additional animals primarily in Nevada, Oregon and Colorado, making for around 18,000 across 10 states from California to Montana this year. The roundups are slated to continue through September, Newsweek reported.
Emergency roundups will begin Sunday in Oregon and Monday in Nevada and will focus on places where "chronic overpopulation already has stretched the available food and water to its limits," the Bureau of Land Management said in a statement.
Reducing overpopulation will "achieve healthy, sustainable herd sizes that are more capable of withstanding severe conditions, including prolonged drought, which are becoming more frequent due to climate change," Nada Wolff Culver, the BLM's deputy director for policy and programs, said Monday, according to The Associated Press.
However, horse advocates say the emergency captures are being driven by pressure from ranchers who graze livestock on public lands. They say the ranchers don't want the wild herds competing with their livestock for limited food and water, said The Associated Press.
Kaitlynn Glover, executive director of resources at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, said some ranchers have already made voluntary changes to reduce grazing on fields. She called this year's drought "more pervasive and dramatic than we have seen in years," The Associated Press reported.
"These removals are critical for the horses as well as the health of the rangelands," she said in an email to The Associated Press. "Even in times where resources are plentiful, these overpopulated herds cause serious damage to the landscape."
Some iconic Lake Tahoe sites were closed to visitors this week after chipmunks tested positive for plague.
The closures impact some of the most scenic hiking routes in the area, The Guardian reported, including one that follows a creek to the shore of the lake.
"Based on positive plague tests and planned treatments, Taylor Creek Visitor Center and Kiva Beach parking areas will be closed Sunday through Friday," the Lake Tahoe U.S. Forest Service (USFS) announced Monday on Twitter.
The incident comes a little less than a year after the first Californian in five years was diagnosed with the disease responsible for the Black Death, also in the Lake Tahoe area. However, El Dorado County spokesperson Carla Hass told the Tahoe Daily Tribune on Monday that the impacted chipmunks had not come into contact with any people.
Plague is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is carried by fleas, and humans usually contract it either being bitten by a flea or handling another infected animal. While it wiped out 50 million people in Africa, Asia and Europe during the 14th century, it can now be treated effectively with antibiotics if caught early.
"Bubonic plague is naturally occurring in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and this region," Lisa Herron, a public affairs specialist for the USFS Lake Tahoe basin management unit, told The Guardian.
The disease ended up in the region from rats arriving on steamships in 1900, according to the CDC. These rats brought it to the rural rodents of the Western U.S., and most U.S. cases now occur either in northern New Mexico, northern Arizona, and southern Colorado or in California, southern Oregon, and far western Nevada. On average, seven people in the U.S. contract the disease every year.
In the Sierra Nevada specifically, it is spread by squirrels, chipmunks, other rodents and their fleas, which is why regional officials periodically trap these rodents and test their fleas for the plague. If the test result is positive, animal control workers do not target the rodent population but instead treat the area for the fleas themselves.
Hikers and other adventurers can protect themselves by keeping pets at home or on a leash. They should also avoid chipmunks and squirrels and tell a ranger if they see a rodent acting tired or strange.
"It's something that visitors need to take precautions about, but it's not something that they need to worry about," Herron said.
If a human does come into contact with an infected flea or animal, symptoms usually begin within two weeks and include fever, nausea, weakness and swollen lymph nodes, according to The AP.
While it's the result of routine testing, the incident comes at a difficult time for the residents of Lake Tahoe, who are already contending with drought, wildfires and the coronavirus pandemic.
"Drought, plague, fires, and earthquakes. Just another week in California," one poster wrote in response to the USFS Facebook announcement, as The Guardian reported.
Solar power has been an energy source of growing importance in recent years, as technology has advanced and the cost of solar panels has declined sharply. As a result, many smaller sun-powered products have become available, from solar phone chargers to solar generators to outdoor solar lights.
Whether you're looking for ground lights or flood lights, illuminating your outdoor spaces with a wired system can be both an electrical challenge and an eyesore. Convenience, sleekness and sustainability are just a few reasons so many people are looking for the best outdoor solar lights.
In this article, we'll go over how solar lights work, show you some of the best solar lights available and help you decide whether solar-powered lighting is a good choice for your home.
6 Best Outdoor Solar Lights
The below table provides a quick summary of our recommendations for the best outdoor solar lights across six unique categories. We chose these products based on criteria including durability, ease of installation, ease of use, run time, cost and more.
|Best Outdoor Solar Lights||Our Award||Buy Now|
|Solpex Solar Ground Lights||Best Overall||Check Price|
|Brightech Ambience Pro||Best String Lights||Check Price|
|Beau Jardin Solar Pathway Lights||Best Path Lights||Check Price|
|AmeriTop Motion-Sensor Lights||Best Flood Light||Check Price|
|Brightown Solar-Powered Fairy Lights||Best Fairy Lights||Check Price|
|Sunnest Stainless Steel Outdoor Solar Lights||Best Lights Under $20||Check Price|
To dig into the advantages and disadvantages of each of these models specifically, keep reading.
Best Overall: Solpex Solar Ground Lights
Solpex's outdoor in-ground solar lights provide bright illumination without getting in the way or even really being noticeable until they're turned on. The high-quality system is designed to be exceedingly easy to install, is extremely durable in material and operates with ease, turning on automatically and running from dusk to dawn. Solpex's bright LED bulbs are perfect for providing your yard with guiding light year-round.
- Easy to install
- Weather-resistant and durable
- Efficient and effective
- More expensive than some competitors' models
- In-ground lights need more maintenance to keep clean and clear
Why Buy: If you're looking for an in-ground solar garden light that will truly wow your guests when they turn on, the Solpex Solar Ground Lights could be your best pick.
Best String Lights: Brightech Ambience Pro
String lights can be the perfect mood-setter, and using the Brightech Ambience Pro solar powered string lights ensures that you brighten your space reliably and efficiently. With a thorough two-year warranty and extensive weatherproofing and shatterproofing, these lights will hold up through most weather conditions while still appearing delicate enough for any setting — romantic, celebratory, relaxed or otherwise.
- Long lifetime
- Flexibility in installation and design thanks to clip-on bulbs
- Decorative cozy feel
- May not provide enough light for safety or security applications
- Heavier than non-solar string lights
Why Buy: To fill your outdoor space with a warm ambiance, Brightech's solar-powered outdoor string lights are a great option. The Edison bulbs give off a vintage feel that your guests are sure to appreciate.
Best Path Lights: Beau Jardin Solar Pathway Lights
To dot a pathway, garden or outdoor patio, using solar outdoor lighting eliminates the need for fragile and cumbersome wiring, and the Beau Jardin Solar Pathway Lights are some of the best ones out there at an affordable price. These solar path lights take seconds to install — simply use the spike to insert them directly into the ground — and are built to last for years.
- Easy installation
- Great value for money
- Extensive battery life
- Stylish appearance
- Made of plastic, so not as durable as more robust materials
- Provide accent lighting rather than full illumination that may be needed for some pathways
Why Buy: The Beau Jardin Solar Pathway Lights are the best outdoor solar lights if you're looking for affordability and quick installation. They're ideal for accent lighting during the darker hours, and buying multiple packs can allow you to light up a wider area.
Best Flood Light: AmeriTop Motion-Sensor Lights
Floodlights are critical for outdoor security, but if the lights burn out or aren't illuminating enough, then they can't do their job. That's why solar floodlights, and specifically the AmeriTop Motion-Sensor Lights, get high marks from us. They provide a wide angle of light to illuminate an expansive area brightly, and they do so using motion sensors in durable, waterproof fixtures.
- Wide angle is great for security
- Built-in motion sensor requires no additional power
- Highly durable, weatherproof design
- Designed for function rather than decoration, so they may not fit into your outdoor style
- Doesn't provide constant light (only on a motion sensor basis) so may not work for steady light applications
Why Buy: Floodlights can be critical for outdoor safety, and the AmeriTop Motion-Sensor Lights accomplish that efficiently with solar energy and built-in motion detection. We recommend them as the best outdoor lights to illuminate your entire yard for safety.
Best Fairy Lights: Brightown Solar-Powered Fairy Lights
Fairy lights provide the perfect touch of style and design to an outdoor area, and moving to solar lights eliminates the frustrating constraints of having to plug them in. We recommend the Brightown Solar-Powered Fairy Lights because of their quick charging, flexible design and warm light that's perfect to decorate for holidays, barbecues, parties, weddings and more. They also have eight light modes that range from slow fades to steady twinkling.
- Easy to shape into different designs
- Multiple lighting modes and patterns for customizability
- Great price
- More delicate in construction
- May not hold up as well in heavy snow or flooding
Why Buy: Solar-powered fairy lights are the perfect decorative addition to a yard or patio, and the flexibility the Brightown Solar-Powered Fairy Lights offer in design and operation can't be beaten for the price.
Best Lights Under $20: Sunnest Stainless Steel Outdoor Solar Lights
The best solar-powered outdoor lights don't have to break the bank. Sunnest's stainless steel landscape lights come in a pack of 12 for under $20 yet still deliver great functionality, appearance and ease of use. They can be installed to illuminate pathways, gardens or other outdoor areas.
- Attractive in design with cool white lights
- Ready to install in seconds
- Cheaper price means less durable over the long term when up against the elements
- Provides accent levels of lighting rather than full illumination
Why Buy: If you want to dip your toes into the solar outdoor light area without investing a lot of money right away, the Sunnest Stainless Steel Outdoor Solar Lights are your best bet to enjoy that initial experience and get hooked into more solar light solutions.
How Do Outdoor Solar Lights Work?
When choosing the best outdoor solar lights for your yard, it may be helpful to understand how these solar panels work.
You may have seen traditional solar panel installations on the rooftops of homes around you, businesses at which you shop or even installed in large outdoor solar farms owned by utilities. What's particularly intriguing about solar lights is that the technology used is more or less the same as these large-scale panels that are powering entire buildings.
Regardless of the size of a solar panel, it contains solar cells, which are made up of unique semiconductor materials like silicon. When sunlight strikes the cell, some of that energy is absorbed by the material via electrons being knocked loose and being able to flow freely (otherwise known as electricity!).
While standard types of solar panels may contain 36 to 48 solar cells connected together, solar lights are smaller in size and require much less electricity to run (particularly when paired with energy-efficient LED lights). The typical solar light will therefore use just four solar cells, but that's really the only difference from a solar technology basis.
The rest of the solar light comprises a battery, controller board, photoresistor and the light itself. During the sunny daytime hours, the four-cell solar panel will charge up the battery, typically receiving more than enough juice to run for the entire night.
The photoresistor's job is then to detect when light is no longer hitting the solar panel, at which point two things will happen: 1) the battery will stop getting charged, and 2) the controller board will tell the light to turn on. In that way, the solar light is always either charging or illuminating.
When morning strikes and the sun hits the photoresistor once again, the controller board will send a message to turn off the light, and the battery will begin accepting its daytime charge.
Types of Outdoor Solar Lights
Outdoor solar lights are a broad category, filling lots of niche needs and popping up in new opportune areas as the technology continues to improve. Because of their low installation threshold, falling prices and efficiency, solar outdoor lighting solutions can be ideal for countless scenarios, including (but not limited to) the following:
- Ground lights
- Path lights
- Landscape lights
- Motion or security lights
- Fairy lights
- String lights
- Hanging lights
- Post lights
Homeowners deciding which style of outdoor solar light they want to install should consider all the same factors as they would with traditional lighting technologies: What areas do they need to be illuminated for safety? What fits into the aesthetic of the outdoor area? What security needs can lights fill?
The advantage is that homeowners wise enough to go the route of solar lights will have fewer headaches with installation, will have their lighting last for a longer period of time before it needs to be replaced and can easily change their minds on lighting locations because no wiring is needed.
How Much Do the Best Outdoor Solar Lights Cost?
You may be sold on the technology and ease of outdoor solar lights, but how much will it set you back to purchase the best option out there? As with any advancing technology, the answer to that question can vary significantly depending on the choices you make. The answers to these questions, for example, will all have a material impact on price:
- How bright (i.e., how many lumens) do you need the lights to be?
- How efficient do you want the lights to be?
- How durable do you need the lights to be?
- How top-of-the-line do you want the materials and decorative nature to be?
For the bulk of the outdoor solar light market, regardless of your answers, each light system will typically cost between $20 and $50. If you really want to go with a high-tech system (which could mean higher-capacity batteries, more intelligent functionality, intricate customizations and more), it could end up costing over $200.
The best approach is to analyze your specific needs and then purchase accordingly.
Choosing the Best Outdoor Solar Lights for Your Home
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, outdoor solar lighting works quite well in most areas of the U.S., as it doesn't require an excessive amount of sunlight to charge up and work. This means that even on cloudy days or during winter, you'll still be able to light your way. Solar light adopters aren't only helping the environment, but they're also saving money via reduced energy consumption.
If you're ready to make the switch, identifying the best solar lights for your specific home and need is no small task. When picking the best outdoor solar nights for your need, some characteristics you're going to have to make decisions on include:
- Design, style and aesthetics
- Size of fixture
- Ease of use and control after installation (remote-controlled, connected to in-home smart device, manually controlled, etc.)
- Durability to weather and general wear and tear
- Expected lifetime before replacements are needed
- Overall system cost
FAQ: Best Outdoor Solar Lights
What are the brightest outdoor solar lights?
If you want the brightest outdoor solar lights, you'll want to look at floodlights or spotlights. These often have a higher lumen count and can light spaces better than string or ground lights. Our pick for the best solar-powered floodlight is the AmeriTop Motion-Sensor Light.
What is the best outdoor solar lighting?
We named the Solpex Solar Ground Lights the best overall choice for outdoor solar lighting. These lights are easy to install, ultra-efficient and hold up well in the elements.
What should I look for in outdoor solar lights?
When choosing the best outdoor solar lights for your home, consider factors such as design, brightness, durability and cost.
Do outdoor solar lights really work?
Yes, outdoor solar lights work just as well as traditional outdoor lights. According to the DOE, solar-powered outdoor lights work well in most areas of the U.S. because they don't require much sunlight. This means that even if you live somewhere with more gray days than sunny ones, you can still harness the sun's power to light your outdoor space.
By Scott Denning
Summer isn't even half over, and we've seen heat waves in the Pacific Northwest and Canada with temperatures that would be hot for Death Valley, enormous fires that have sent smoke across North America, and lethal floods of biblical proportions in Germany and China. Scientists have warned for over 50 years about increases in extreme events arising from subtle changes in average climate, but many people have been shocked by the ferocity of recent weather disasters.
A couple of things are important to understand about climate change's role in extreme weather like this.
First, humans have pumped so much carbon dioxide and other planet-warming greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that what's "normal" has shifted. A new study, published July 26, 2021, for example, shows how record-shattering, long-lasting heat waves – those that break records by a wide margin – are growing increasingly likely, and that the rate of global warming is connected with the increasing chances of these heat extremes.
Second, not every extreme weather event is connected to global warming.
Shifting the Bell Curve
Like so many things, temperature statistics follow a bell curve – mathematicians call these "normal distributions." The most frequent and likely temperatures are near the average, and values farther from the average quickly become much less likely.
All else being equal, a little bit of warming shifts the bell to the right – toward higher temperatures. Even a shift of just a few degrees makes the really unlikely temperatures in the extreme "tail" of the bell happen dramatically more often.
The stream of broken temperature records in the North American West lately is a great example. Portland hit 116 degrees – 9 degrees above its record before the heat wave. That would be an extreme at the end of the tail. One study determined the heat wave would have been "virtually impossible" without human-caused climate change. Extreme heat waves that were once ridiculously improbable are on their way to becoming more commonplace, and unimaginable events are becoming possible.
The width of the bell curve is measured by its standard deviation. About two-thirds of all values fall within one standard deviation of the average. Based on historical temperature records, the heat wave in 2003 that killed more than 70,000 people in Europe was five standard deviations above the mean, so it was a 1 in 1 million event.
Without eliminating emissions from fossil fuels, studies have found that heat like that is likely to happen a few times a decade by the time today's toddlers are retirees.
So, Is Climate Change to Blame?
There's a basic hierarchy of the extreme events that scientific research so far has shown are most affected by human-caused climate change.
At the top of the list are extreme events like heat waves that are certain to be influenced by global warming. In these, three lines of evidence converge: observations, physics and computer model simulations that predict and explain the changes. At the bottom of the list are things that might plausibly be caused by rising levels of greenhouse gases but for which the evidence is not yet convincing. Here's a partial list.
The hot season is getting a lot longer in some places. Michael Kolian / U.S. Global Change Research Program
2. Coastal flooding: Heat is causing ocean waters to expand, pushing up sea levels, and melting ice sheets around the world. Both high-tide flooding and catastrophic storm surge will become much more frequent as those events start from a higher average level because of sea level rise.
3. Drought: Warmer air evaporates more water from reservoirs, crops and forests, so drought will increase because of increased water demand, even though changes in rainfall vary and are hard to predict.
4. Wildfires: As the western U.S. and Canada are seeing, heat dries out the soils and vegetation, providing drier fuel that's ready to burn. Forests lose more water during hotter summers, and fire seasons are getting longer.
5. Reduced spring snowpack: Snow starts accumulating later in the fall as temperatures rise, more water is lost from the snowpack during winter, and the snow melts earlier in the spring, reducing the flush of water into reservoirs that supports the economies of semiarid regions.
6. Very heavy rainfall: Warmer air can transport more water vapor. Damaging rainstorms are due to strong updrafts that cool the air and condense the vapor as rainfall. The more water is in the air during a strong updraft, the more rain can fall.
7. Hurricanes and tropical storms: These derive their energy from evaporation from the warm sea surface. As oceans warm, larger regions can spawn these storms and provide more energy. But changes in winds aloft are expected to reduce hurricane intensification, so it's not clear that global warming will increase damage from tropical storms.
8. Extreme cold weather: Some research has attributed cold weather that dips south with the meandering of the jet stream – sometimes referred to as "polar vortex" outbreaks – to warming in the Arctic. Other studies strongly dispute that Arctic warming is likely to affect winter weather farther south, and this idea remains controversial.
9. Severe thunderstorms, hail and tornadoes: These storms are triggered by strong surface heating, so it's plausible that they could increase in a warming world. But their development depends on the circumstances of each storm. There is not yet evidence that the frequency of tornadoes is increasing.
When Extreme Heat Shatters Records
In the new heat wave study, Erich Fischer and colleagues at the Swiss Institute for Atmosphere and Climate Science looked at the frequency of weeklong heat waves that don't just push the envelope of previous climate, they shatter records by huge margins. The scientists analyzed thousands of years of climate simulations to identify unprecedented heat events and found that global warming caused by coal, oil and gas was commonly associated with such events. In models, these record-shattering weeklong heat waves don't just gradually increase with global warming but instead strike without warning.
The researchers showed that record-shattering heat is much more likely than it was a generation ago, and that these devastating events will occur much more often over the next few decades. Critically, they found that the likelihood of these unprecedented heat waves is associated with the rate of warming – and that their likelihood decreases markedly when fossil fuel emissions fall.
A Warning That Can't Be Ignored
The catastrophic impacts of extreme weather depend at least as much on people as on climate.
The evidence is clear that the more coal, oil and gas are burned, the more the world will warm, and the more likely it will be for any given location to experience heat waves that are far outside anything they've experienced.
Disaster preparedness can quickly fail when extreme events blow past all previous experience. Portland's melting streetcar power cables are a good example. How communities develop infrastructure, social and economic systems, planning and preparedness can make them more resilient – or more vulnerable – to extreme events.
Scott Denning is a professor of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University.
Disclosure statement: Scott Denning has received funding from NASA, NOAA, the US Department of Energy, and the National Science Foundation.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
Trump’s ANWR Drilling Leases Under Review: Biden Admin Looking at 'Legal Deficiencies,' Environmental Impacts
The Interior Department launched its official review of oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), the agency announced Tuesday.
The Biden administration found "multiple legal deficiencies" in a prior review of the program's implementation under the Trump administration, and suspended lease sales in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in June.
A public process will be used to determine the scope of the review. The Trump administration pushed through an ultimately lackluster sale of oil and gas leases in the immense, environmentally and culturally sensitive refuge in the final days before President Biden took office.
As reported by Alaska Public Media:
At the very least, the new process could delay drilling by years. To Mike Scott, senior representative for the Sierra Club's Our Wild Alaska campaign, it's not enough.
"This is really the time that Congress should take action, and restore the protections by dismantling the leasing program," he said.
Among the new alternatives to be considered are "those that would: designate certain areas of the Coastal Plain as open or closed to leasing; permit less than 2,000 acres of surface development throughout the Coastal Plain; prohibit surface infrastructure in sensitive areas; and otherwise avoid or mitigate impacts from oil and gas activities," the notice in the Federal Register says.
After decades of debate, Congress in 2017 required Interior to hold two auctions for drilling leases in the Arctic Refuge. The first, on Jan. 6, drew just three successful bidders and roughly $11.5 million dollars – far less than Congress was counting on. On Jan. 19, the Trump administration issued seven leases to AIDEA, a state-owned corporation, and one apiece to two small firms.
For a deeper dive:
An extremely rare species of chameleon feared to be extinct has been found alive, for now.
Chapman's pygmy chameleon (Rhampholeon chapmanorum) lives only in the lowland rainforest of the Malawi Hills in southern Malawi, around 80 percent of which have been cleared since 1984. But a study published in Oryx — The International Journal of Conservation on Tuesday found that the chameleons are still "clinging to survival" in the patches of forest that do remain.
"The first one we found was in the transition zone on the forest edge, where there are some trees but mostly maize and cassava plants," study lead author professor Krystal Tolley from the South African National Biodiversity Institute and the University of the Witwatersrand said in a press release. "When we found it we got goosebumps and just started jumping around. We didn't know if we would get any more, but once we got into the forest there were plenty, although I don't know how long that will last."
Chameleons face extinction at higher rates than the approximately 15 percent average for reptiles from the Squamata order, which includes snakes and lizards. Thirty-four percent of chameleon species are threatened, and 18 percent are near-threatened, according to the study authors. The majority of the threatened chameleons live, like Chapman's pigmy, in forests that are at risk from degradation and deforestation.
Chapman's pigmy chameleon grows to be only 3.5 to 5.5 centimeters (approximately 1.4 to 2.2 inches). It is usually brown in appearance but can transform into a blue and green color with little dots, possibly as a means of communication, Tolley said.
Pigmy chameleons in general have a unique temperament, according to Tolley.
"They are little, gentle creatures. Other chameleon species can be hysterical, hissing and biting, but pygmy chameleons are gentle and just beautiful," Tolley said. "Chapman's in particular are one of the smallest and don't have a prehensile tail like most chameleons, perhaps because they aren't particularly arboreal but walk about on the forest floor in the leaf litter, crawling up into low bushes at night to sleep. They blend right into the leaf litter and perfectly pattern match the dead leaves."
They are also critically endangered. The species was first described by herpetologist Colin Tilbury in 1992, CNN reported. At that time, there was already evidence of deforestation in its Malawi Hills habitat. In 1998, 37 of the chameleons were taken from the Malawi Hills and released 59 miles north in Mikundi, Malawi for protection. Those chameleons were still present in 2001 and 2012. However, Tolley did not observe any chameleons during an assessment in 2014, leading her to fear they might be extinct.
In 2016, however, a team from the South African National Biodiversity Institute and the Museums of Malawi surveyed the Mikundi release site and two remaining forest patches in the Malawi Hills, according to the press release. The team found chameleons in all three sites: 17 in the Malawi hills sites and 21 adults with 11 young chameleons in the Mikundi site, according to the study.
They then looked at the genetic makeup of the populations. They found that the genetic diversity of the chameleons had not yet been impacted, but that there was evidence that the populations were no longer mixing, which could spell trouble for their long-term genetic diversity and survival.
However, Eric Routman, a professor emeritus of biology at San Francisco State University who was not involved in the study, told CNN that the researchers might have overestimated the current genetic wellbeing of the animals by not considering how some genes are passed on.
"And even if they had lots of loci and good genetic estimates, they have no estimate of these genetic parameters before the habitat fragmentation, so they can't attribute any genetic effect to deforestation," Routman told CNN. "If I had been reviewing this paper, I would have recommended major revisions to the manuscript. Essentially, the genetic part of their study is inconclusive."
In either case, the species is at risk if its habitat is not protected. The study authors say an action plan is needed to save the species, according to the press release. Specific recommendations include:
- Adding the remaining Malawi Hills forest to the nearby Matandwe Forest Reserve.
- Conducting more frequent and detailed surveys of the chameleons' population and genetic diversity.
"The forest loss requires immediate attention before this species reaches a point from which it cannot return," Tolley said in the press release. "Urgent conservation action is needed, including halting of forest destruction and recovery of habitat to promote connectivity."
Mangroves are magic. Planting more of them could help restore the health of the planet's lands, seas and climate.
Why? It turns out, these incredible trees are doing us a lot of favors to keep many of our habitats (including human ones) healthier and safe.
"Mangroves are often under-appreciated, with most people not realizing their true value to the overall health of our communities and our entire planet," said Tod Hardin, COO of Plastic Oceans International. In partnership with Plastic Oceans International, EcoWatch wants to highlight how mangroves protect our planet and how we can help them through restoration and replanting efforts.
Mangroves are shrubs or small trees that grow along coastlines and in brackish water, or water that is part salt and part fresh. In fact, these trees have adapted to grow in low-oxygen soil, where saltwater intrudes several times a day and where slow-moving water introduces fine sediment and particulates, NOAA reported.
Because they live where land and sea connect, one of their most important ecosystem functions is to protect the former and serve as a frontline defense for people and property along the coasts. There are many species of mangrove, and the most famous are characterized by their tall, skinny, stilt-like roots, called prop roots. These roots grow in a "tangle" that actually helps the trees withstand the daily rise and fall of tides. These structures also "cause sediments to settle out of the water," falling at or near the roots, NOAA reported. The roots "build up the muddy bottom" near the base of the trees, which actually stabilizes the coastline by reducing erosion from storm surges, currents, waves and tides, the government body noted.
In fact, protecting mangroves can prevent an estimated $50 billion in annual damages to the U.S. economy from hurricanes, tropical storms, winds, and flooding. The same report estimated that worldwide, mangroves reduce risk to more than 15 million people and prevent more than $65 billion in property damages each year.
Mangroves also serve to protect marine habitats from harmful nutrients and runoff that can harm seagrass, coral reefs and fisheries. The roots help filter water coming off from the land, including pollutants, heavy metals, pesticides and agricultural runoff, another NOAA report found. Mangroves therefore maintain water quality and clarity. They also control nutrient distribution to seagrass beds and coral reefs. Without natural filters like mangroves, dangerous conditions like red tide and sargassum and algal blooms can proliferate.
Mangrove restoration efforts around the world plant saplings into coastal waters to revive damaged shorelines. Tiffany Duong / Ocean Rebels
Thirdly, mangroves bolster animal and fish populations. The intricate root systems provide critical nursery habitats for many marine creatures, allowing them to forage and grow while remaining protected from predators. The leaves, or the nutrient-rich layer of decay they form amongst the roots, serve as the "foundation of the coastal food web," Smithsonian Ocean reported. Everything from baby sharks to lobsters and shrimp live in or near the roots before migrating to the reef, the oceanographic institution said. On land endangered birds, bats, fireflies and even royal Bengal tigers rely on mangroves for food and survival.
Finally, and critically, mangroves serve as a major "blue carbon sink", meaning they are excellent at absorbing and storing carbon from the atmosphere, Smithsonian Ocean reported. Like all trees, they sequester carbon as they grow and turn it into their leaves, roots and branches. However, because mangroves live at the coastline, when they die, the carbon stored in their pieces falls to the seafloor and becomes buried in the soil. Trapped here, it doesn't reenter the atmosphere if it remains undisturbed.
Hardin estimated this CO2 depository to hold up to four times what rainforests can, making their survival critical to the planet's survival against the climate crisis.
So, what's happening to the world's mangroves?
According to the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), less than 50 percent of the world's mangrove forests remained intact at the end of the 20th century, and half of those were in poor condition. The museum called mangrove forests "among the most threatened habitats in the world," and called losses "rampant" across the globe.
AMNH identified the main threats to mangroves as shrimp farming, tourism, agriculture, coastal development and the charcoal and lumber industries. Shrimp farming in Southeast Asia, in particular, has motivated the clear-cutting of thousands of acres of wetland to be replaced with artificial ponds teeming with disease, chemicals and way too many shrimp. This cash crop devastates the coastal habitat and leaves it unable to support natural community fishing and farming within just two to five years. Because the shrimp and profits are exported to westernized countries, many of these communities are then unable to survive and are forced to abandon their homes, AMNH noted.
With the world hopefully taking note of how important mangroves are for land, sea and climate, the focus is turning towards education and restoration efforts.
Tourism can flourish if and when these habitats remain healthy. Responsible tourism is necessary, AMNH and Hardin noted. Individually, we must be sure to prevent pollution, lawn runoff and plastics from entering our waterways and coastal habitats. This is step one, according to Hardin.
Mangrove root systems create intricate, interconnected and strong buffers that intertwine to protect shorelines and provide critical marine habitats. Tiffany Duong / Ocean Rebels
He said, "Without question, we must continue efforts to conserve and restore mangrove ecosystems worldwide, including the most basic process of simply keeping them clear of plastic pollution and other waste products."
Planting new mangroves helps to re-establish the shoreline stabilization and buffering that coastal communities rely on. New growth also supports the rich biodiversity along the water's edge that then feeds a healthy economy. Regulations can help limit clearcutting for agriculture and aquaculture, and increased funding for critical restoration projects are necessary.
The tree is a symbol of the interconnectedness of land and sea, a primary takeaway of the Trees & Seas Festival. As part of the international event, Plastic Oceans International and its local partners in Ventanilla, Mexico planted over 45,000 mangroves. They also toured the Los Petenes Biosphere Reserve to learn first hand of the vast importance they play in the communities of the Campeche state of Mexico.
Before the start, Hardin told EcoWatch, "Very few flora can claim to be as important to the overall health of our planet as mangroves are ー thus making them the perfect model for demonstrating the interrelationship between trees and seas... between land and water of any kind."
In solidarity with Plastic Ocean's International Trees & Seas festival, EcoWatch writer Tiffany Duong restored red mangroves to the Florida Keys. Ian Wilson-Navarro
- 5 Reasons to Protect Mangrove Forests for the Future - EcoWatch ›
- Mangroves Could Help Save Us From Climate Change. Climate ... ›
- Protecting Mangroves Can Prevent Billions of Dollars in Global ... ›
By John Marshall
As the athletes take the podium and, with a slight bow, have their medals placed around their necks, they will be happy to have landed in the top three. For the people behind the Tokyo Medal Project, they'll be happy that those Olympic medals are there in the first place.
The project recycled old electronic gadgets such as smartphones and laptops to produce the Olympic Medals that are being awarded at the Tokyo Games.
For the people of Japan, the project offered a unique opportunity to be a part of the Games.
"The campaign called on the public to donate obsolete electronic devices for the project," Toyko 2020 spokesperson Hitomi Kamizawa told DW. "We are grateful for everyone's cooperation."
The project capitalized on the fact that billions worth of precious metals such as gold and silver, which are used in electronic devices, get discarded each year globally thanks to people simply dumping or burning their gadgets instead of ensuring they are properly collected and recycled.
A Recycling Supply Chain
There was a two-year national effort in Japan to collect enough recycled material to produce about 5,000 bronze, silver, and gold medals for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Up to 90% of Japanese cities, towns, and villages participated by setting up donation pick-up sites where hundreds of thousands of Japanese citizens donated their old electronic devices.
The recycling campaign produced 70 pounds (32 kilograms) of gold, 7,700 pounds of silver and 4,850 pounds of bronze. All from nearly 80 tons of small electrical devices such as old phones and laptops, said Kamizawa.
The #Tokyo2020 Medal Project aims towards an innovative future for the world 🌏 ♻️ From April 2017 to March 2019,… https://t.co/ZxTq6NDqDf— #Tokyo2020 (@#Tokyo2020)1625031452.0
Although recycling efforts like these often seem straightforward, the medal project had to engage the national government, thousands of municipalities, companies, schools and other local communities.
One of the primary companies involved was Renet Japan Group whose business philosophy revolves around sustainability.
"We developed a waste management movement for the medal project with the cooperation of many stakeholders, from the Japanese government to local communities," Toshio Kamakura, director of Renet Japan Group, told DW.
When the project was launched in April 2017, there were just about 600 municipalities on board. By the end of the project in March 2019, that figure had risen to more than 1,600. There was a major public relations campaign, and collection points were set up to make it easier for the people to contribute, Kamakura said.
Collecting the used devices was just the first step. Following a process of dismantling, extracting and refining by contractors, the recycled material was then molded into Junichi Kawnishi's design concept — a design that beat out 400 other entries in a competition held by Tokyo 2020.
The Bigger Picture
While the Japanese will be the first to have all of the Olympic medals made out of recycled material, the concept is not new. In the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, 30% of the sterling silver to make the gold and silver medals were obtained from recycled materials such as car parts and mirror surfaces.
Looking ahead to the Paris Games in 2024, where social change and enhancing the environment are among the main themes, there are hopes that the Tokyo 2020 Medal Project will set a precedent.
When it comes to the environmental aspect Kamakura thinks it is necessary to continue in order to build a more sustainable material society.
A record 53.6 million tons (Mt), or 7.3 kilograms per person of electronic waste — equivalent to 350 cruise ships the size of the Queen Mary 2 — was produced globally in 2019, making it the world's fastest-growing domestic waste stream, according to the United Nations. E-waste has surged by more than a fifth in the past five years amid growing demand for electronic gadgets, mostly with short life cycles and few options for repair.
Less than a fifth of the scrap ends up being properly collected and recycled, posing serious environmental and health risks.
Reposted with permission from DW.