As someone who celebrates Christmas, every year after Thanksgiving I look forward to the ever-tedious process of selecting the perfectly well-balanced Christmas tree to decorate and adore for weeks to come as we enter the holiday season.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Most people who celebrate Christmas would agree that the Christmas tree is a poignant symbol of the holidays and is a staple in most homes around the world. Admittedly, the idea of something happening to make Christmas trees no longer available or easily accessible is something hard to fathom, but sadly could become more of a reality soon if something is not done to combat climate change.
Climate change can not only be attributed to fewer white Christmases, but is also responsible for heat waves, flash floods and droughts; all of which can hinder or completely destroy Christmas tree growth. The “perfect” Christmas tree can take up to 10 years to grow, yet only a few days of extreme weather to destroy. While some younger trees can withstand extreme temperatures, they literally cannot stand up to the heavy flash foods like the ones that hit Vermont and New Hampshire last summer. Thousands of trees were wiped out during one flood spell and if more flooding and extreme weather continue to hit the region, that’s going to spell disaster for the forest economy in the Northeast.
With 75 percent of Vermont's landscape covered by trees, foresting and timber are big businesses in the Green Mountain State. According to the Northeast State Foresters Association, the economic benefit of Vermont forests is an astounding $1.5 billion that includes things like Christmas trees and maple products. Local Christmas tree business owners fear that if and when climate change worsens, their crops (and livelihood) will worsen with it.
Christmas tree crop destruction isn’t only happening in the Northeast. Midwest states like Wisconsin have also felt the harsh impacts from climate change and extreme weather on their crops. Christmas trees throughout southeastern and central Wisconsin are experiencing reduced needle production, stunted growth and browning as a result of summer 2012’s extreme heat and drought. The extended hot and dry conditions from that summer have caused the loss of more than 4,000 young trees, about half of their new crop. To cope with these effects, many farms were forced to cut less trees and had to leave trees that were too sparse on the farm which has caused a severe drop in overall revenue this season.
So what does all of this mean—will the price of your Christmas tree triple next year? Probably not, but the crop loss has left some farmers saying they won’t replant. So even though the full-grown trees are still widely available, the crop set to be fully matured six to 10 years from now might be at risk, causing prices to jump.
Like so many other treasured things, Christmas trees are being put at risk by the changing climate. It’s time to tell the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency we need action to combat climate change starting with strong standards for the top emitter of carbon dioxide, power plants. Because really, what’s Christmas without a Christmas tree?
Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE page for more related news on this topic.
The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.
"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."
The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.
They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.
They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.
But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.
"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.
What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.
It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.
To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.
First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.
Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.
University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.
"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."
Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.
"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.
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In 'Road Map for a More Sustainable Future,' NY Regulator Tells Banks to Consider Climate Risks in Planning
By Brett Wilkins
Regulators in New York state announced Thursday that banks and other financial services companies are expected to plan and prepare for risks posed by the climate crisis.
There are many different CBD oil brands in today's market. But, figuring out which brand is the best and which brand has the strongest oil might feel challenging and confusing. Our simple guide to the strongest CBD oils will point you in the right direction.
A NASA spacecraft has successfully collected a sample from the Bennu asteroid more than 200 million miles away from Earth. The samples were safely stored and will be preserved for scientists to study after the spacecraft drops them over the Utah desert in 2023, according to the Associated Press (AP).
Exxon Mobil will lay off an estimated 14,000 workers, about 15% of its global workforce, including 1,900 workers in the U.S., the company announced Thursday.
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