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sea otter

Sea Otters Use Tools To Combat Food Competition Amid Climate Change, According To Study 

In certain parts of the ocean, sea otters are facing major competition for food, partially due to climate change limiting food supplies. However, they’ve adapted by utilizing “tools” such as rocks or even glass bottles to open tougher prey, like clams, giving them an opportunity to maintain their diet. 

These observations were recently published as a part of a new study published in the journal Science. The study analyzed sea otters in Monterey Bay, California, and was specifically looking at how individual otters used various tools they found, and how utilizing them impacted their health and nutrition. 

The findings also concluded that this skill set could increase sea otters chances of survival in ocean environments that are constantly changing as a result of climate change. 

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Sea otters often spend their days foraging for food in kelp forests by diving to the bottom of a body of water to grab morsels of food and rocks that they can use as tools. The study stated that they then bring their food and rocks to the surface of the water, float on their backs, and use their stomach as a table to open and eat their snacks. 

“Their preferred prey are usually urchins and abalone,” says Chris Law, a biologist at the University of Texas and the University of Washington involved in the study. 

Law stated that urchins and abalones are a part of sea otters diets and are typically easy for them to break apart and open. 

“Unfortunately, all those prey items have been declining or have declined,” especially in highly populated areas like Monterey Bay, says Law.

A big part of a sea urchin’s diet is kelp, and they can consume a lot at a relatively quick rate. When large groups of urchins go through a kelp forest, they can completely decimate it, which can in turn make the urchins “calorie-poor” with little nutritional value for the otters that consume them. 

“So that means otters have to eat alternative foods. A lot of those alternative foods are those super-hard-shell prey items that really require some kind of external force to break into,” said Law. 

Law added that “snails are abundant in the bay, but they’re low-calorie and basically like a rock that you have to break into to eat the insides.”

Law and his colleagues looked at data from 196 otters in Monterey Bay. They tagged the otters, and volunteers involved in the study monitored the marine mammals closely to see what they were eating, how large and tough their prey is, and if the otter utilized a tool to eat it. 

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According to the report, otters who used tools were able to eat larger prey. Female otters’ use of tools is important for their overall nutrition because they’re smaller than males and don’t have the ability to bite down as hard.  

“They [female otters] typically wouldn’t be able to break into harder prey. But they use tools more than males, so they’re able to gain access to these novel sources of food items,” said Law. 

The use of tools also work to protect otters’ dental health. The otters monitored in the study received dental assessments as well, and the researchers found that those who used tools had less damage to their teeth than those who didn’t use tools, because they just bite down on the hard shells to break them open. 

“Without their teeth, they clearly can’t eat anything. So then they die. What we’re suggesting is that this behavior really allowed them to continue living on despite not having their preferred prey.”

“This is such an important paper,” says Rob Shumaker, president and CEO of the Indianapolis Zoo and one of the authors of a book called Animal Tool Behavior.

According to NPR, he said “scientists have spent decades documenting tool use in dozens of species; tool use in sea otters, for example, has been recognized since the 1960s. But now, studies like this one are showing that this field of research is starting to shift.”

“It’s not about describing the actual tool use or tool manufacture anymore. It’s describing the impact that it has on that animal’s life.”

bee

Climate Change Causing Bumblebee Nests To Overheat To Fatal Levels, According To New Study 

As global temperatures rise as a result of climate change, bumblebee nests are overheating and killing off large groups of bees, causing major concern over the future of one of Earth’s most essential pollinators. 

The recent research comes from a paper that was published in Frontiers in Bee Science, which stated that global heating is causing “many species of Bombus, or bumblebee,” to decline. The research emphasized that bumblebee colonies are known for their thermoregulation, which is when worker bees gather and use their wings to fan the hive in hot conditions to cool them off. 

As the climate crisis continues to intensify globally, the earth is experiencing more intense heat waves which is causing bumblebees to struggle to keep their homes habitable. 

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The paper stated that most bumblebee broods cannot survive temperatures above 36 degrees Celsius. For the research, the team reviewed 180 years of literature to make their conclusions. They found that for all bumblebee species, the ideal temperature for incubating nests was between 28 and 32 degrees Celsius. 

The lead author of the study, Peter Kevan, recently spoke to the Guardian about the reports findings and the risks bumblebee populations are now facing. 

“If [bumblebees] can’t keep temperatures below what is probably a lethal limit of about 35C, when the brood may die, that could explain why we are losing so many bumblebees around the world, especially in North America and Europe.”

Kevan also told the publication that the bumblebee’s nest is “often-overlooked” for its role as a “superorganism.”

“Researchers have been looking at foraging behavior and fanning to keep the brood cool, but there are very few studies that look at the whole nest,” he said. 

One of the biggest arguments that the study tried to make was that nests should be seen as a whole entity. While some of the bees may be able to handle the increase in temperature, if the nest itself becomes too hot to raise healthy offspring, the entire colony will decline. 

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“We have known for a long time that bumblebees are cool-climate specialists. Most insects are more abundant in the tropics, but bumblebees are weird in that they are at their most abundant in places like the Alps and Britain,” said Dave Goulson, a professor of biology at the University of Sussex, who was not involved in the research.  

“There are even some that live in the Arctic, the Bombus polaris. That means an obvious problem with climate change – they are vulnerable to warming… if the air outside is too hot, that’s not going to help,” he stated

Goulson stated that there is current evidence that shows bumblebees are already moving away from warmer climates: “There have been publications showing mountain bumblebees are moving higher as a way to combat warming, but obviously there is a limit to that.”

“It is kind of heartbreaking to think that many may disappear.”

Bumblebees are an essential part of our world’s ecosystem. They pollinate wild flowers and crops which in turn feeds other animals and the cycle continues. 

“For other pollinators, the outlook under a hotter climate is less clear. Some bee species can cope with warmer temperatures, and some species that now live farther south may move north as temperatures rise, making a new home in the UK. With other pollinators, such as flies, wasps, butterflies, birds and bats, it’s hard to generalize,” Goulson said. 

hempcrete

The Rise Of Hemp As An Environmentally Friendly Building Material For Housing 

Hemp, the non-psychoactive variant of cannabis, has been often used in holistic medicine and as a source for textiles and fabrics. Now, the natural material is being utilized as an environmentally friendly and economically friendly alternative to concrete for building.

global warming

Scientists Warn Of Multiple Tipping Points In Climate Change

A new scientific report has warned that the continued warming of the planet could trigger not only the collapse of the Greenland ice sheet, the single largest contributor to global sea levels rising, but also multiple environmental “tipping points” that will be irreversible.

planet

Young Europeans More Likely To Make Major Lifestyle Changes To Save Planet, New Survey Reveals

According to a survey taken across seven countries, younger people in Europe are more willing than older generations to make major lifestyle changes that would help combat climate change to help save the planet. 

The Guardian measured the data through the YouGov polling platform, which showed the general worldwide economic downturns in recent years have also dimmed their hopes for the future; more than half of those surveyed stated they were worried they’d be unable to own a home within the next ten years. 

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Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Sweden participated in the survey back in August. The results showed that individuals between the ages of 18-to-24-year-olds felt like current economic conditions could also push them away from starting families. 

According to the Guardian’s report, “28% of 18- to 24-year-olds and 30% of 25- to 34-year-olds said they would be willing – or were already planning – to have fewer children than they would otherwise like.”

54% of individuals in that same age group said they would get rid of their car, or already have, and instead stick to walking, cycling, or public transportation, while only 45% of people over the age of 65 said they would do the same. 41% of the younger generation said they could switch to an electric car against 21% of the older generation. 

Both ends of the age spectrum offered a willingness to make lifestyle changes in order to do their part to combat climate change. The older age groups stated they would be more willing to create smaller adjustments such as refusing to buy single-use plastics, only buying seasonal produce, and creating more green spaces in their homes. 

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Younger generations are more likely to “support radical government measures in key policy areas than older cohorts, but were less favorable than their elders towards public policy moves that could be perceived as incremental.

A ban on the production and sale of petrol and diesel cars, for example, would have the support of 46% of 18- to 24-year-olds and 42% of 25- to 24-year-olds, against 28% of 55- to 64-year-olds and just 22% of respondents over the age of 65,” wrote Jon Henley and Michael Goodier of the Guardian. 

Both age brackets agreed on the general concern of climate change and its impact on our future. More than 70% of the total population surveyed said they were very or fairly worried. 

Additionally, the survey showed that regardless of their age, most Europeans believe that the European Union should be making decisions about how the world and its many nations can combat climate change at a larger level. 

Along with this line of thinking is the belief that a more collaborative effort among the union would lead to more success in the fight against climate change, rather than just letting individual countries make their own policies.

melting

Swiss Glaciers Have Lost 10% Of Their Volume In The Last Two Years

Swiss glaciers have lost 10% of their volume in two years, a report has found. The analysis from the Swiss Academy of Sciences have credited climate change as the reasoning behind the accelerated melting. 

The scientists have claimed that the burning of fossil fuels is the main cause of the unusually hot summers and winters with low snow levels that we’ve experienced in recent years. The overall hotter temperatures have led to glaciers all over the world experiencing accelerated melting. 

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According to the report, the volume lost in the Swiss glaciers between the summers of 2022 and 2023 equates to the volume lost between 1960 and 1990. 

The analysis also found that 4% of Switzerland’s total glacier volume disappeared last year, which marks the second biggest annual decline on record. The largest decline on record was in 2022 with a 6% drop. 

Experts have also stopped measuring certain glaciers and the amount of ice it’s lost due to the fact that their decline has been so rapid. Glacier Monitoring in Switzerland (Glamos), which keeps track of 176 glaciers, just recently stopped recording data for the St. Annafirn glacier in the central Swiss canton of Uri due to the fact that it’s mostly melted at this point. 

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Matthias Huss, the head of Glamos, stated:

“We just had some dead ice left. It’s a combination of climate change that makes such extreme events more likely, and the very bad combination of meteorological extremes. If we continue at this rate … we will see every year such bad years.” 

Small glaciers are disappearing from ice loss, and in order to stop these glaciers from melting, carbon emissions and the burning of fossil fuels must be halted. However, Huss stated that even if the world managed to “keep warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre industrial levels,” only one third of the glacier volume in Switzerland will remain. 

“All the small glaciers will be gone anyway, and the big glaciers will be much smaller. There will be some ice in the highest regions of the Alps and some glaciers that we can show to our grandchildren,” Huss stated.

Activist Author Mikaela Loach Stages Walkout At Edinburgh Book Festival Over Sponsor’s Fossil Fuel Links

Activist and author Mikaela Loach staged a protest walkout at the Edinburgh Book Festival over the event’s sponsor’s link to fossil fuel companies.

Jim Newman Newman Consulting Group

How We Can Fight Climate Change One Building at a Time | Jim Newman

There is irrefutable evidence that our planet is undergoing rapid climate change transcending all social, economic, political, and geographical boundaries. The repercussions could be catastrophic if society does not take decisive action. Jim Newman, Managing Partner of Newman Consulting Group, has dedicated his life to helping businesses become more sustainable and resilient to the effects of global warming.

flooding

$34B of US Real Estate May Be Fully or Partially Underwater by 2050

Rising waters due to climate change could engulf $34 billion in US real estate within the next 30 years.

According to a report from the nonprofit Climate Central, up to 650,000 properties will be underwater or partially below the tidal boundary level within 30 years. Thirty counties across the country will lose more than 10% of their useable land, and 100 counties will lose at least 2% of their usable land.

The states most affected will lose a sizable portion of their total dry landmass. These states include Louisiana (8%), Florida (1.8%), North Carolina (1.3%) and Texas (0.2%).

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Rising waters will likely make these locations less desirable to live and work in, causing property values to plummet. Property taxes are an integral part of a municipal’s budget. They pay for many community social services, including schools, fire protection, emergency services, transport and other governmental aids.

Taxes also fund disaster relief and the subsequent costs of rising sea levels. New infrastructure, building safeguards against rising tides and relocating entire communities cost money. The aftermath of a rise in waters will quickly deplete many localities of their necessary funding.

“Property taxes fund local government operations, which typically include services such as K-12 schooling, roads and other infrastructure, police and fire protection, water, waste management, sewers, public transit, parks and public housing. Quality public services at competitive tax rates are key to attracting and retaining residents and businesses, which in turn support local tax revenues. Diminished property values and a smaller tax base can lead to lower tax revenues and reduced public services–a potential downward spiral of disinvestment and population decline, reduced tax base and public services and so on.”

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Seas will rise 8 to 23 inches along the nation’s coasts by 2050. The East Coast, particularly the Southeast, will be hit the hardest. Due to the sediment that flows in from the Mississippi River and the drilling for oil and gas pipelines, the gulf coast will be hit even harder by rising water levels and sinking ground.

Mark Rupp, director of the adaptation program at Georgetown Climate Center, points out that insurance carriers are reluctant to serve the Florida market, have become insolvent or have pulled out from the state entirely.

“How many mortgage lenders want to be lending for mortgages in flood-prone areas if they don’t think they’re going to be paid back?”

Rupp emphasizes that it is essential that these communities can rely on their state and federal governments to pay attention, fund their communities and provide a plan.

According to NASA, the earth’s climate has changed at a rate unseen in the past 10,000 years. The current rate of global warming is “occurring roughly ten times faster than the average rate of warming after an ice age.” The carbon dioxide we release is “increasing about 250 times faster than it did from natural sources after the last Ice Age.”

glacier

Doomsday Glacier Could Melt Rapidly With’ Just a Small Kick,’ Scientists Say

A glacier the size of Florida could melt at a faster rate than previously anticipated. The Thwaites Glacier, located in Antarctica, has been dubbed the “doomsday” glacier because of its potential to markedly raise already rising sea levels.

The glacier could raise sea levels by 2 feet or more if melted. Its precarious location in contact with warm ocean currents makes it even more susceptible to collapse.

Scientists made the discovery after a team of researchers from the U.S., Sweden, and the United Kingdom conducted a study to determine the fastest rates the glacier has retreated in the past. Dr. Robert Larter, one of the study’s co-authors, noted the significance of the findings in the study’s release.

“Thwaites is really holding on today by its fingernails, and we should expect to see big changes over small timescales in the future — even from one year to the next — once the glacier retreats beyond a shallow ridge in its bed.”

The glacier is the widest on earth, sitting at 80 miles wide. It protects the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, acting as a buffer between the sheet and warming waters. The entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet could raise sea levels by up to 16 feet.

For the study, the researchers sent an autonomous vehicle to the glacier’s former grounding zone. The grounding zone of a glacier is where an attached ice shelf transitions into a floating ice shelf. The autonomous vehicle, named Rán, was equipped with two geophysical sensors and used to produce 3D scans of the underwater surface.

These scans allowed scientists to map the glacier’s movements throughout the last 200 years. Previously, scientists could only see its movements within the past 30 years because of satellite imagery limitations.

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The study aimed to learn about the glacier’s past retreat rates to more accurately predict the rate at which it may continue to retreat. The scientists found that the glacier is capable of retreating more rapidly than previously thought. Sometime in the last 200 years, it had retreated at twice the rate it did between 2011 and 2019.

The leader of the mission, University of Florida’s Dr. Alastair Graham, warned that while the slower rate is seemingly positive, the findings confirm that the glacier is highly perceptible to changes in climate. Since the rate of the glacier retreating has pulsated, it is likely to happen again.

“Our results suggest that sustained pulses of rapid retreat have occurred at Thwaites Glacier in the past two centuries. Similar rapid retreat pulses are likely to occur in the near future when the grounding zone migrates back off stabilizing high points on the sea floor.”

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Dr. Graham said that once the glacier retreats beyond a certain point, it has the potential to shrink at an even greater rate. In fact, “just a small kick to Thwaites could lead to a big response,” Dr. Graham predicted.

These findings rebut the hope once held by scientists that the Antarctic ice sheets would be more resilient to climate change.