Sculptures Under the Sea—and on the Front Lines of Climate Change
By Patrick Rogers
Famous for its turquoise waters and spectacularly diverse animal and plant life, the Maldives also bears the unwelcome distinction of being the country most vulnerable to rising sea levels. The island chain in the Indian Ocean is the flattest nation on earth, with most of its land lying less than five feet above average sea level―and large areas in imminent danger of flooding.
"It's obviously the main topic of conversation. They are already making contingency plans to relocate some communities," said British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor, who is currently installing a new piece in one of the archipelago's 26 shallow atoll lagoons.
In a career that began more than a decade ago when he was working as a diving instructor, Taylor has become known for building underwater museums filled with his own sculptures. This latest one, The Coralarium, is as strikingly beautiful as it is eerie, an omen of the island nation's precarious environmental state. Its cube-shaped structure is made of marine-grade stainless steel that reflects the deep blue of the surrounding water. Ocean currents flow through the openings that pierce the structure's surface—openings that also allow marine plants and animals to find their way inside. The roof of the structure stands above the water and is visible from the shore, while the walls and floor are washed by the tides, inviting divers and snorkelers to explore an underwater realm.
"The Raft of Lampedusa" at the Museo Atlántico in Lanzarote, Spain.Jason deCaires Taylor
As did Taylor's submerged concrete VW Bug off the coast of Cancun and his Museo Atlántico in the waters surrounding the Canary Islands—which features sculptures depicting hundreds of selfie-taking tourists, people talking on their phones, and a raft full of marooned refugees—The Coralarium draws attention to the impact of human activity on the oceans. "I very much wanted to tell a story about rising sea levels and the threat it poses to low-lying islands, and obviously, a very clear way to do that is to work above and below the water," the artist explained. "The three tiers of the work connect the three worlds—the aerial, the terrestrial and the subaquatic world—to highlight how these are interconnected and equally dependent on one another."
Often placed in tourist zones, Taylor's sculptures serve to draw visitor traffic away from coral reefs and marine ecosystems that have been damaged by snorkelers and divers while attracting attention to their plight. And since The Coralarium is situated near the Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi resort, it targets the sort of visitor who might be able to make a difference. "The people at the hotel are fairly wealthy, to be honest," said Taylor. And with an audience of influential consumers, he pointed out, "this is a good opportunity to bring important issues before people who have some power to change things."
This is a strategy Taylor has used before. The Rising Tide, his 2015 installation of four statues in the River Thames in central London, presented businessman-like figures mounted on horses. Only when the low tide revealed the base of two of the figures did it become apparent that the horses' heads were made up of pieces of oilfield machinery. All four of the provocative statues were clearly visible from Westminster's Houses of Parliament, a gathering place for the lawmakers too often behind policies that drive climate change.
"The Rising Tide," in the River Thames in London.Jason deCaires Taylor
For his next project, Taylor is working with the government of Queensland, Australia, to build an underwater park adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef to bring attention to the catastrophic coral bleaching that's currently threatening the ecosystem. While some of Taylor's previous projects have been works of art as well as artificial habitat for marine plants and animals, the objective of his art here will be more overtly political. "Australia is in huge conflict. It has one of the greatest underwater wonders of the world, but it also has one of the biggest fossil fuel energy industries."
As a debate rages over the proposed expansion of a coal-shipping port on the Queensland coast, Taylor plans to get in the water with sculptures that are "more activist" than his previous work, which he sees as a way of giving the silent seas a voice in the conversation. As he said in a TED talk delivered on a boat in the Solomon Islands in 2015, "I think there's a real danger that we never really see the sea. And if we don't really see it—if it doesn't have its own iconography, if we miss its majesty—then it's a big danger that we take it for granted."
Reposted with permission from our media associate onEarth.
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By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:email@example.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
Earth's ice is melting 57 percent faster than in the 1990s and the world has lost more than 28 trillion tons of ice since 1994, research published Monday in The Cryosphere shows.
By Jewel Fraser
Noreen Nunez lives in a middle-class neighborhood that rises up a hillside in Trinidad's Tunapuna-Piarco region.