Friday, October 28, 2011

Dead Zone Lakes Coming Back to Life

In June 1969, as Ohio’s Cuyahoga River was on its way to Lake Erie, it caught on fire because of the heavily polluted water. And since the 1970s, the public has started to make an effort to reduce the water pollution levels, leading to the Great Lakes Water Quality Act and Clean Water Act. Since then, levels of pollutants in the lake, such as phosphorous, have reduced by two-thirds.
But the phosphorous levels are back up, claims a Great Lakes expert. The increase in phosphorous levels might be due to storms and heavy rains, which carry the phosphorous into the lake through run-off. The chemical is found in many commercial detergents, water treatments, and fertilizers.
The lake’s waters are warm, creating the optimum conditions for algae, which use the phosphorous ions for growth and development, in the Great Lakes. The algae use up oxygen in the water, leaving little for the fish population. The resulting anaerobic condition of the lake is favorable for avian botulism: “a paralytic disease caused by indigestion of a toxin,” which is produced by bacteria, according to the NWHC (National Wildlife Health Center). The avian botulism and other bacteria can be dangerous to animals and humans. The algae cannot be removed by boiling and large areas of the Great Lake have been considered “dead zones”, as nothing can live with a lack of light or without a supply of oxygen.
              Climate change is causing extreme weather patterns and 2011 is considered to have been a year that had all the right conditions for algae blooms, by Jeff Reutter, the director of the Ohio Sea Grant and Stone Laboratory at Ohio State University. The early spring storms filled the lake with lots of phosphorous. The storms were followed by a long drought, resulting in less run off, draining less pollution from the water.
              Another problem that helps the algae blooms: shorter, warmer winters. Ice on the lake now forms later in the winter, rather than in the fall, and thaws earlier, due to the warming climate and falling water levels. Usually, the cold atmosphere would kill most algae and bacteria, but in the warmer winters, the algae bloom under the ice.
              There’s only one direct solution that will help solve the problem; the usage of phosphorous needs to be reduced.
              So whether you live around the Great Lakes or not, try and identify products that have phosphorous and other similar chemicals which promote algae blooms. Don’t use them. Remember - you have the simple power of helping prevent water pollution in any water body, all over the world.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Go Green, Go Vegetarian

Being a vegetarian myself, I understand the consequences that animals have to go through because of human needs. They end up sliced and chopped up on most of our plates at meal times. And sometimes I wonder if the human taste needs to be at the expense of other living beings.

And being vegetarian has advantages all around. It’s good for the environment. The earth benefits from humans not eating meat. So if you’re vegetarian, not only are you saving the animals but you’re also taking a big step towards environmental conservation!

According to PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – raising animals that will eventually be slaughtered for food requires enormous amounts of land, food, energy, and water. The byproducts play a huge role in the pollution of waterways and air.

Why does this happen?

The animals are using up a lot of natural resources! Animal agriculture is responsible for most of the consumption of water in the US. It takes 2,400 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef and only 180 gallons for one pound of whole wheat flour. The farm animals are injected with hormones and drugs, forcing them to grow larger and larger. In the process, they consume more food, more water, and take up more space. For example, when a pig is in its “finishing phase”, it weighs from 100 to 240 pounds, consuming more than 500 pounds of grain, corn and soybeans on its own.

Animals excrete waste products that add to greenhouse gas emissions! Carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide contribute largely to global warming and are produced by many of the animals that are grown for mass animal agriculture. Factory farming is the “use of animals and the natural world merely as commodities to be exploited for profit,” according to Farm Sanctuary. Factory farms produce thousands of tons of dust that contains harmful organisms including bacteria, mold, and fungi, coming from the feces and feed of the animals. This dust accumulates in the air, adding to air pollution, but it also impacts human health. In a report by the California State Senate, it is shown that animal waste that emits toxic chemicals can be responsible for inflammatory, immune and neurochemical health issues in human beings.

Factory farming adds to the pollution of waterways through the dumping of manure (87,000 pounds of waste per second!)  in lakes and rivers, which can end up in drinking water. The excrement and fertilizer in the feed from the factory farms contains nitrogen that helps algae populations to thrive. The algae use all the oxygen in the water, hardly leaving any for other life forms.
These days, there are hundreds of vegetarian recipes that can be made and eaten without even thinking about meat. Help save animals from human cruelty and save the environment with one easy step – go green, go vegetarian

Visit PETA or Farm Sanctuary for more information on being vegetarian!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A change in the biology of ecosystems

It is hard to say whether climate change affects the thousands of ecosystems out in the wild. Scientists have proven the effect of global warming on arctic life with the melting of ice bergs. But all over the world, is there a trend that connects the biology of ecosystems and rising temperatures?
                A paper published in the journal Global Change Biology investigates the possible effects of global warming on ecosystems. The research team of scientists from the UK’s Center for Ecology and Hydrology observed more than 700 species of fish, birds, mammals, insects, amphibians, plankton and plants in the UK itself. The research from 1976 all the way to 2005 was combined to discover a consistent pattern. More than 80% of  the ‘biological events’ that take place in nature such as the flowering of plants, ovulation among mammals, and the migration of birds, are taking place sooner. And the pace of change increases as the decades go by. 
               The trend is prominent among the organisms at the bottom of the food chain, leading to problems due to the disruption of the food chain. Some predators will be able to adapt to the changing numbers of their prey but many will not. For example, a bird called the pied flycatcher depends on caterpillars for food. However an earlier spring caused the caterpillars to hatch earlier. The birds only left their winter home at the regular time, and the caterpillars were almost gone. As a result, their numbers decreased tremendously.
                Global warming affects the whole planet. Although the theory of the biology of ecosystems changing due to climate change has not been tested completely, the existing results provide a grave picture of what the present ecosystems suffer from.

Eventually the impact will reach us humans.

So let’s try our best to prevent global warming from getting any bigger.