Toxic metals released since Industrial Revolution in Europe found in the Himalayas

Bengaluru: In the 18th and 19th century, Britain was abuzz with cranking steam engines, rattling power looms, and clattering machines. Amidst this daily ding, the world was witnessing a defining movement in human history—the Industrial Revolution—that soon spread to the rest of Western Europe. Powered by coal, the production of most things transitioned from hand to machine, spurring a rise in population and air pollution. For the next two centuries, London became infamous for its soot and smog,
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In Graphic Detail: The Polar Silk Route

On November 15, 2022, Chinese sailor Zhai Mo and his two-person crew sailed back to Shanghai after almost a year and a half of travel that took them through Arctic waters. The expedition took about a year longer than anticipated—unpredictable weather, ice, and cold temperatures all made the trip through the Northwest Passage tricky for the 24-meter-long ketch, Zhai Mo 1. But the trip drew attention to China’s 2018 announcement of the latest addition to its ambitious revival of the ancient Mariti

When microplastics flood rivers

The Pitcairn Islands, a group of four volcanic islands, lie smack in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, between South America and Australia. In 2019, when scientists visited Henderson Island, one of the islands with no people, they were baffled to find over four billion plastic pieces on the pristine beaches! With plastic comprising over 80% of the ocean litter, it’s no surprise they found their way to the island, hitchhiking on the waves. But, how do plastics from land come to the oceans?

Satellites show high methane emissions from Indian landfills

Our muck stinks. We grip our noses tight to avoid the stench and throw our garbage far away, hoping the odour doesn’t trace its way back. Sadly, there’s no escaping the muck monster as it comes back at us in unexpected ways, like climate change. Without good waste segregation practices, more than half of our garbage ends up in landfills—mountains of garbage lining the perimeters of our cities. Landfills contain a melange of our household waste—wet, organic waste like kitchen scraps, dry recycla

Authorities and Yobin communities clash as deforestation spikes in Indian national park

In the sprawling Himalayas, amidst snow-peaked mountains, is a vast swathe of evergreen forest home to majestic tigers, elusive clouded leopards, charismatic hornbills, mystical giant squirrels, enchanting butterflies and bizarre orchids. Comprising some 1,900 square kilometers (734 square miles) in the state of Arunachal Pradesh in Northeast India, Namdapha National Park is India’s third-largest national park and is considered one of Asia’s last large wildernesses as well as a biodiversity hots

How Air-Conditioning Creates a Climate Conundrum

Summer is here in North America, which means in many places it’s too hot for comfort. To escape the sweltering heat, birds pant, take a dip in the water, and hide from the sun. Humans have an additional edge over biology: air-conditioning. With access to electricity, we are able to alter the air temperature itself. Air-conditioning is expensive: It costs U.S. homeowners a whopping $29 billion each year. But it saves lives. In summer 2021, a heatwave sent the mercury soaring to record temperatur

Canada mining push puts major carbon sink and Indigenous lands in the crosshairs

Since the last ice age, wide rivers have meandered toward the southern shores of Hudson Bay in Canada, to join its salty waters. On their way, they’ve created swaths of wetlands, filled with carbon-packed peat bog. The Cree Indigenous people who have lived here for millennia call these peatlands Yehewin Aski, or “the Breathing Lands,” for they believe these wetlands act as the lungs of Mother Earth. “It’s such a watery landscape,” says Lorna Harris, a peatland ecosystem scientist at the Wildlif

Indigenous oyster fisheries were ‘fundamentally different’: Q&A with researcher Marco Hatch

In the 18th century, when European ships sailed into the Strait of Juan de Fuca on the Northwest coast of the Atlantic Ocean, they raved about the “wilderness” of the coast. The enormous natural wealth they saw—the wood from forests and the fur on animals—lured them into setting up a flourishing trade that would last centuries and script a new chapter in history. The visitors thought the coast as pristine and untouched by humans. However, it was home to many Indigenous peoples, including the Nu

The backstory of a bird paradise in Andaman and Nicobar

Cyclones, floods, landslides, earthquakes, volcanoes and massive tsunamis— the Andaman and Nicobar Islands have endured it all for millennia. However, the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, which originated in northern Sumatra, Indonesia, stands out as one of the deadliest natural disasters to hit the archipelago in recent times. The tremor shook the land for a good ten minutes. About 50 metres deep inside the ocean, the Burma Plate and the Indian Plate broke apart, rupturing the ground for about 1,

Lessons from panda conservation could help Asia’s other, overlooked, bears

Serving as the mascot of a world-renowned conservation organization, building diplomatic relationships between China and the world, playing protagonists in blockbuster movies — giant pandas have done it all. The public attention and adulation these animals garner make them star attractions at zoos and have helped pump billions into tailor-made conservation programs that have successfully brought the species back from the verge of extinction. “They hit the lottery,” says Willam J. McShea, a wild

Climate crisis forecasts a fragile future for wildflowers and pollinators

Think of climate change, and you’ll probably picture devastating floods, raging wildfires, or parched earth. For the environmentally savvy, coral bleaching or masses of refugees may also make it to the list. Not many of us would think of the vibrant wildflowers in nearby meadows as victims of climate change. But the future of these pretty blooms could be gloomy in the face of a warming planet, suggests a recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science. This first-of-its-kind st

Farms With Natural Habitat Gain More Benefits From Birds

Birds can be a mixed blessing for farmers. Sometimes birds increase yields by gobbling crop-eating insects and rodents. But they may also devour crops, ingest beneficial bugs, or harbor pathogens that pose a risk to human health when they show up in food. “We really have to think of [birds] as a package deal, with all of the different ways that each species interacts with the farm,” says Elissa Olimpi, a conservation biologist at Virginia Tech. For two years, Olimpi spent her spring and summer

Climate change set to upend global fishery agreements, study warns

Unlike boundaries on the land, the ocean is contiguous — fish move and transcend international waters as they please, without bothering about jurisdictions. As long as ocean temperatures remain generally stable, the fish remain in their known habitats and all is well. But as climate change heats up oceans rapidly, fish are on the move, upsetting fishing treaties between nations that stipulate who can catch how much fish in shared waters. “Many of the fisheries management agreements made to regu

New assessment finds dragonflies and damselflies in trouble worldwide

Dragonflies, as depicted in this haiku, have held a special place in Japanese culture for millennia; so much so that among the country’s names is Akitsushmi, or Dragonfly Island. As well as being deemed a harbinger of autumn, these insects symbolize happiness, strength, courage and success in Japan, while the island nation’s art has often portrayed them frolicking around ponds, cheerful and lively. Other cultures variously hold up dragonflies as symbols of good or evil. But no matter the cultur

The journey of rainforest trees

The rainforests of Southeast Asia are home to iconic animals like the orangutans, rhinoceros, tigers and elephants. The canopy of gigantic trees provides a safe refuge for several plants and animals, some of which are found nowhere else in the world. These rainforests have four of the world’s 25 biodiversity hotspots, and constitute 15% of the world’s tropical rainforests. In over 400 species of plants in these forests, the dipterocarp family of trees dominate the landscape.

Lead Bullets Are Stunting the Bald Eagle's Recovery

The Bald Eagle’s comeback is one of America’s most famous conservation success stories. From an all-time low of 417 pairs throughout the United States in 1963, the species numbers 71,467 pairs as of 2021. The primary reason for the bird’s turnaround was the crucial 1972 ban of the pesticide DDT. The birds have bounced back so strongly that the government is even considering upping the amount of Bald Eagles that industry can accidentally kill without penalty. But despite the boom in their number

Climate Change or Habitat Loss? New Study Weighs Which Influences Birds More

In 1900, on Christmas Day, 27 birders in 25 locations across the United States donned winter gear and binoculars, then stepped outside to list all the birds they could see in 24 hours. They didn’t know it then, but they were launching what would become the world's longest-running community science project on birds. Much has changed since that first count: Global temperatures have risen by 1 degree Celsius, or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, the U.S. population has more than quadrupled, and 64 percent o

Secrets of Ultrarare Black Tigers Revealed

Tigers can indeed change their stripes—and in the Similipal Tiger Reserve in India, many have done just that. So-called black tigers, genetic mutants that sport unusually wide and merged stripes, were extremely rare even when tigers were plentiful centuries ago. But in Similipal today, one in three are black. A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA pinpoints the peculiar pattern’s genetic cause and reveals evolution at work among these endangered cats. After seque

Dams spell doom for freshwater fish

The picturesque mountains of the Western Ghats, with its pristine rivers and lush green forests, are a treat to the eyes. Innumerable plants and animals, some of which are found nowhere else in the world, call these mountains home. Most rivers that flow in South India, including the Godavari, Krishna, Tunga, Bhadra, Cauvery and Netravati originate in these mountains. Over the last several decades, this biodiversity hotspot, like many others around the world, has been plagued by habitat loss, err

What does it take to discover geckos?

On a warm summer evening in 2007, Dr Ishan Agarwal, a herpetologist, was scouting the hillocks of Rishi Valley in Andhra Pradesh. Eyeing his favourite creatures, the lizards, he looked for them under rocks, between crevices, and in thorny bushes. Ishan spotted several lizards—some of which he had seen before and could recollect their names. But, there were two that he could not put his finger on, and he began his quest to find out more. After 13 years of spotting them, this year, he and his coll
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