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 on: Jul 25, 2016, 05:42 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
CS Monitor

Campaigners seek to reintroduce Eurasian lynx to parts of Britain

Charity begins local consultation on plan to introduce 10 Eurasian lynxes back into wild in north of England and southern Scotland

Libby Brooks
Sunday 24 July 2016 15.53 BST

Lynx could soon be reintroduced to the north of England and southern Scotland as the charity campaigning for the return of the wild mammal, which was last seen across Britain around 700AD, launches its final stage of a consultation.

The project to introduce 10 Eurasian lynxes back into the wild, which has also considered sites in Aberdeenshire, will this week begin discussions with farmers and tourist operators around Kielder Forest in Northumberland.

Paul O’Donoghue, chief scientific adviser of the Lynx UK Trust, described the cross-border site and the largest forested area in Britain as ideal because of its low human population density, limited road networks and large deer populations.

Following this local consultation, which is expected to last two to three months, the trust will submit its licence application to Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage in the autumn, and expects a “speedy and positive” response.

It will source lynx for the trial while the application is being considered, and O’Donoghue said the animals could be reintroduced “as soon as practicably possible”.

The Eurasian lynx, which were hunted for their highly prized pelts, have been successfully reintroduced in northern Germany, where 14 of the cats introduced in 2000 have grown to a population of up to 100.

Their preferred diet of roe deer makes them popular with the rewilding movement, which argues for the reintroduction of apex predators in order to control herbivore populations, promote forest growth and reinvigorate ecosystems.

Campaigners argue that a healthy lynx population would restore the ecosystem’s balance and would be a driver of biodiversity, resulting in a cascade effect of more trees, birds and mammals. However, concerns about their hunting behaviour have attracted strong opposition from farming unions, which fear for livestock.

This year the National Sheep Association rejected an invitation to join the trust’s project advisory group, saying it refused to participate in any plan to “introduce the high-level predator into the countryside”.

But O’Donoghue points out that on average across Europe, lynx kill 0.4 sheep per predator per year, compared with the millions of sheep that die each year through disease and other issues. “We strongly believe that lynx will lead to a decrease in sheep predation because they predate on foxes but seldom on sheep themselves.” He added that a comprehensive compensation package would be in place for farmers should the trial go ahead.

According to O’Donoghue, the plan enjoys widespread public support, including from those living in rural areas. “It’s exciting that we have strong rural support. The lynx offers an unparalleled opportunity for rural economic regeneration. Young people are leaving rural areas to find work, but lynx can provide the kind of jobs they are looking for, in eco-tourism for example.”

“We killed every single last lynx 1,300 years ago and hunted them purely for their pelts. We have a moral and ethical duty to bring them back. They are as much a part of the natural environment as ospreys and red squirrels.”

 on: Jul 25, 2016, 05:39 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
CS Monitor

To save a rare forest, farmers try a new crop – butterflies

People living in Zanzibar's Jozani forest are being trained to raise butterflies as a way to prevent deforestation by giving people a financial stake in keeping the forest intact.

By Kizito Makoye, Thomson Reuters Foundation 7/25/2016

PETE, Tanzania — The colorful butterflies fluttering through Zanzibar's Jozani forest are beautiful to look at, but for farmers and charcoal producers in the region, they mean something more: a paycheck.

In an effort to protect the island's threatened forest, local people are being trained to rear butterflies, under a scheme that tries to prevent deforestation by giving people a financial stake in keeping the forest intact.

Jozani forest, which lies between the mangrove-filled bays of Chwaka and Uzi on Unguja Island, is a large mature woodlands that is home to an array of endangered species, including the colorful Red colobus monkey.

But for all its beauty, the forest is under huge pressure from rapid deforestation due to charcoal production and unsustainable farming.

A community-run initiative, the Zanzibar Butterfly Center, aims to change that by retraining charcoal producers in villages surrounding the forest as butterfly farmers.

"We cannot stop anyone from producing charcoal. However, we try to educate people about the damaging effects it has on the environment," Natalie Tempel-Merzougui, the project's facilitator, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The program offers training and equipment to butterfly farmers, the most successful of whom can earn as much as $250 a month selling butterfly pupae to the center's own tourist exhibit and to overseas buyers, she said.

Butterfly farmers operate by catching a few female butterflies and transferring them to mesh cages so they can lay eggs. Farmers then collect the eggs and raise the caterpillars by feeding them on host plants until they turn to pupae.

It's at this stage that farmers start earning by selling the pupae to the butterfly center, which sells them for export or keeps them until they hatch, to display for tourists.

Established in 2008, the center, located near to Jozani Chawka Bay National Park, is one of Africa's largest butterfly exhibits, housing more than 50 species of native butterflies, including the hard-to-catch flying handkerchief, a black and white African swallowtail.

The center, which works closely with Jozani Environmental Conservation Association, draws tourists interested in seeing and learning about butterfly species.

"The aim is to create awareness on the importance of protecting forests and also to give local residents additional income," Merzoughui said.

Rungu Hamisi, one of the butterfly farmers who used to earn a living making charcoal, said raising butterflies has improved his income remarkably.

"Butterfly rearing is much easier than charcoal making, which requires a lot of work. I get enough money to support my family," he said.

He said one of the benefits of farming butterflies, rather than crops, is that they mature quickly.

"Once the eggs hatch and become caterpillars, it takes only a matter of weeks before they transform into butterflies ready for sale," he said.

According to butterfly center officials, the project has also created opportunity for women since butterfly rearing can fit easily around domestic chores.

"I get enough money to feed my children without necessarily destroying forests," said Mwamvua Ali, 49, who said she likes raising the "flying handkerchief" as it lays lots of eggs.

While many types of agriculture require the clearing of forest, which can drive climate change and the loss of species, butterfly farming requires intact forest which provides an economic incentive to conserve them, Merzoughui said.

Alfred George, the assistant manager of the butterfly center, said that through the project many farmers at Pete village have realized the importance of conserving forests, and some are already reaping better returns from butterfly rearing.

"A lot of trees are being cut to provide firewood for local communities who rely on charcoal as their sole source of energy," George told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

But "most of the farmers we have trained to rear butterflies no longer cut down trees," he said.

Safina Omar who began producing charcoal after she was banned from farming near the Jozani forest, said butterfly farming has given her a workable alternative.

"I knew charcoal trade is bad for environment but I was doing it because I couldn't immediately think of any other way to make money, yet I had many children to take care of," she said.

Although the initiative is not in itself a solution for deforestation, it has helped create awareness and a sense of ownership of the forest among the farmers, George said.

A similar project is run by 250 local farmers in Tanzania's East Usambara Mountains, a region known for its biodiversity but where forests are being cleared to produce charcoal and to open up farmland.

According to the Zanzibar Butterfly Center, the amount each farmer earns varies depending on how many pupae they bring to the center and of what species.

"We pay more for species that are rarer and harder to farm. We see some of our top farmers earn up to 500,000 Tanzanian shillings [$250] per month," Merzoughui said.

Charcoal and firewood comprise about 90 percent of energy used for cooking in Tanzania, according to the World Bank.

The government estimates between 130,000 and 500,000 hectares (500 to 1,930 square miles) of forests are destroyed each year as a result of charcoal production, poor farming, and overgrazing.

 on: Jul 25, 2016, 05:35 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
CS Monitor

Cheap drip irrigation could transform small farms

Peter Frykman founded Driptech to provide low-cost drip-irrigation systems to small farmers, hiking their crop yields by 20 to 90 percent.\

By Vallabh Rao, 7/25/2016

Six hundred million subsistence farmers lack irrigation water, leaving them locked in poverty. A full third of the world’s population suffers from water scarcity. Without access to affordable water-efficient irrigation, small-plot farmers are unable to grow crops during much of the year. And without marketable produce, already meager incomes decline, and farmers can become unable to even meet the nutritional needs of their own families.

In the spring of 2008, Peter Frykman visited farmers in Ethiopia as part of a course during his PhD studies in mechanical engineering at Stanford University. Frykman arrived in the middle of the worst drought Ethiopia had experienced in 20 years.

The drip-irrigation products that were locally available were too expensive for most farmers and seldom worked properly. Frykman returned to Stanford and invented a new manufacturing technology that makes clean, consistent holes in super-low-cost plastic tubing.

After successfully validating the system with farmers in India, Frykman left his PhD program in 2009 to focus on growing Driptech – a privately held, for-profit social enterprise that designs and manufactures low-cost drip-irrigation systems for small-plot farmers in the developing world.

During 2009, Driptech sold 200 units to municipal government officials in Lingqiu, China, for local farmers. Driptech has also raised seed funding from two European social investment funds, including LGT Venture Philanthropy, and a variety of successful entrepreneurs.

Dowser recently caught up with Frykman to learn more about Driptech's technology.

Dowser: What is your geographic focus?

Frykman: We are targeting farmers in India and China first, based on the large number of farmers, the high usage of agricultural water, the low penetration of drip irrigation, and the prevalence of viable distribution channels. There are over 500 million farms of five acres or less around the world, and the majority of them are in India and China.

In India, there are 119 million farming households with plots of land of five acres or less, or 89 percent of all farms in India. Irrigated land represents 34 percent of arable land and permanent crops in India. Drip irrigation penetration in India is only 2 percent of arable land and is concentrated with larger commercial farms. We are initially focusing on farmers who have access to some source of water and are currently irrigating their crops without drip irrigation.

In China, there are about 193 million farms of five acres or less, which account for 95 percent of farms there. About 37 percent of arable land and permanent crops are irrigated there. As of 2007, only 0.4 percent of farmland in China was drip irrigated.

How does your distribution model work?

Driptech focuses on the design and manufacturing of drip-irrigation systems and works with local partners from companies, nonprofits, and governments that currently work with small farmers. Examples include companies that sell fertilizer, seeds, or farm equipment; companies that purchase crops from small farmers; nonprofits doing agricultural extension work; and agricultural and water bureaus in state and local governments.

Our product is much simpler to sell and install than traditional drip irrigation and hence can be sold through many more channels. Today we primarily distribute through agriproducts companies in India and through governments in China. In three to five years, we expect to distribute our products in several additional countries.

We provide training to the employees of our distribution partners dedicated to our account on how to install our drip irrigation system, and they go on and train the farmers on how to install our system post sale.

We also work with our partners to develop training and marketing materials.

How can drip irrigation have an impact on farming, especially small plot farmers?

In order to feed the world in the next 40 years, global food output will need to climb 70 percent. The agriculture sector currently uses 70 percent of the world’s fresh water resources and 80 percent of the world’s farmland.

The challenge of meeting future human agricultural needs is not just about increasing yield: It’s about increasing yield while decreasing the amount of water agriculture demands. The agriculture sector in developing countries is especially water inefficient using 81 percent of their total freshwater resources, much of which is wasted through inefficient irrigation techniques.

Many smallholder farmers currently work to feed their families with the food they produce, but have little or nothing left over to sell in the marketplace. The installation of a Driptech system allows these farmers to grow crops year-round while conserving water, labor, and time.

Drip irrigation increases crop yields by 20 to 90 percent. Farmers are able to produce enough vegetables to meet their own families’ nutritional needs, grow additional crops to sell in local markets, and grow high-value crops during the dry season. Crops grown using Driptech’s product have brought some farmers 50 to 150 percent higher market prices. The cost of a system is usually repaid within six months through yield increase and water and labor savings.

In addition, Driptech’s decentralized manufacturing model will deploy production facilities directly to where the product is sold, adding jobs to rural economies while allowing for local customization of the systems and additional cost reductions.

Could Driptech technology be applied in Somalia?

In the case of Somalia, the farmers must rely on the rain since there is little water infrastructure help from the government. In this case, Driptech's system would help these small-plot farmers use their meager water supplies more efficiently so that they could have enough water to irrigate their land throughout the dry season.

Our system could also help these farmers increase their crop yields and quality of their crop, providing them and their families with more nutritious calories. Basically, along with appropriate farming techniques, a Driptech system would help dampen the effects of drought by helping people avoid not being able to feed themselves.

 on: Jul 25, 2016, 05:33 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
CS Monitor

Drip, drip, drip: Tanzania farmers learn to defeat drought

Drip irrigation systems, introduced to help with worsening drought, are restoring harvests, building resilience to erratic weather, and saving time.

By Kizito Makoye, Reuters March 26, 2015   

HAI, Tanzania — Peter Chuwa has long flooded his paddy field using a canal that draws water from the river. These days, however, water is scarcer and growing rice this way is proving hard to sustain.

A period of drought set in two years ago, and the abundant water that once helped suppress weeds in his fields and assure him of a crop regardless of rainfall has disappeared, hurting his harvests and his income.

"I was very frustrated because my crops were drying up before harvest,” he said. “It reached a point where I even struggled to feed my own family,” Mr. Chuwa says.

Now, however, a drip irrigation system, introduced to help his village deal with worsening drought, is restoring his harvests, building his resilience to erratic weather, and saving time, he says.

"You simply open the tap and leave the kit to supply water to the roots, unlike the traditional system, which takes a lot of time and energy,” he said.

Under pressure from drought, the 65-year-old farmer at Kikavu Chini village in Hai district in Tanzania’s northern Kilimanjaro region has switched to crops that need less water, including vegetables, maize, potatoes, and beans. A drip irrigation system, which uses far less water, supplies plenty to grow those crops, he says.

Under a five-year–project supported by Catholic Relief Services, a global development agency, farmers in Kikavu Chini village are being trained to use drip Irrigation and other water management techniques as a coping strategy for drought.

Chuwa is among 25 farmers who have now adopted the technology, which delivers only as much water as is needed, cutting water use by about 75 percent and reducing losses to evaporation.

Ilan Bar, a retired agronomist and US volunteer who works on the project,says  most farmers who have adopted drip irrigation find it more effective and economical.

Nguluma Mbaga, a Kikavu Chini agricultural field officer, says the technology has come at the right time as farmers try to find ways to cope with worsening drought and other effects of climate change.

"I believe farmers will be in a better position to cope with the changing weather patterns. This village is located in a dry area that does not get adequate rains, so farmers must try to use water wisely,” he says.

Ufoo Adonikamu, the Catholic Relief Services program coordinator, says the agency, which is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), is working with other institutions and government agencies to try to roll out drip irrigation kits to farmers in other parts of the country.

Tanzania is currently implementing 39 irrigation schemes on a total of 16,710 hectares (about 65 square miles), using drip irrigation technology at a cost of Tsh. 677.5 billion (around $400 million), according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security, and Cooperatives.

Local analysts say the country has huge potential for irrigation, since today its agriculture is almost entirely rain fed. But putting in place sustainable irrigation requires heavy investment, they said.

"You have to take into account a whole load of geographic, agronomic, and economic factors to make irrigation projects sustainable,” says Makarius Mdemu, a lecturer in natural resources management at Ardhi University in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Tanzania’s parliament last year passed a national irrigation law aimed at protecting the country’s farmers from the vagaries of extreme weather and climate change, and to help farmers use irrigation to improve food security and reduce poverty.

The new law, which allows farmers to expand their operations onto government-controlled land if they use irrigation sustainably, also paves way for the formation of an Irrigation Development Fund to help irrigation schemes, many of whom are mired in financial woes.

Agriculture is the backbone of Tanzania’s economy. It accounts for more than one quarter of gross domestic product (GDP), provides 85 percent of exports, and employs about 80 percent of the workforce.

The country has 29.4 million hectares (114,000 square miles) of land that could be irrigated, out of which only 589,245 hectares are currently being irrigated, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security, and Cooperatives.

 on: Jul 25, 2016, 05:30 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
CS Monitor

How better-trained farmers slow Brazil's deforestation

Imazon helps farmers formalize their land titles and trains them in improved farming techniques, like rotating crops and limiting overgrazing, to make their land more productive and reduce the need to cut down more rainforest.

By Daniel Jensen, Global Envision July 25, 2016   

In Para, Brazil, farmers are turning a profit and the government is on track to slow deforestation thanks to local nonprofit Imazon, which got them to work together.

By 2003, Brazil was on the verge of an environmental catastrophe. As its economy expanded, cattle ranchers needed more land to graze their livestock, and few laws prevented them from burning down thousands of square kilometers of untitled land in the Amazon, causing vast environmental damage.

In the worst regions, like Para, widespread poverty meant that stopping deforestation was at the bottom of the government’s list, despite massive efforts by groups like Greenpeace and Imazon.
Recommended: How well do you know Brazil? Take our quiz and find out!

A wave of environmental laws passed by the federal government from 2004 to 2008 seemed to complicate things for local governments and economies, even as deforestation rates fell. Many municipal governments couldn’t fully meet government targets under the new regulations but faced economic sanctions if they didn’t. A beef embargo prevented farmers from selling their meat to mainstream supermarket chains like Carrefour and Walmart if their municipality ended up on a blacklist for failing to reduce illegal deforestation to government-mandated levels. The government confiscated herds and sawmills from the law’s offenders.

When Paragominas, a municipality in Para where Imazon worked, was placed on the list, 2,300 jobs and all the municipality’s federal agricultural credits disappeared within a year.

Imazon found itself helping save the local economy. It created a training program for the local government to learn how to use satellite technology to track deforestation. Since most of the affected land wasn’t titled, Imazon also helped farmers formalize their land titles and trained them in improved farming techniques, like rotating crops and limiting overgrazing, to make their land more productive and reduce the need to cut down more rainforest.

It worked. Farmers trained in better methods required less land to turn a profit, so they cut down fewer trees.

In just a few years, Imazon’s program in Paragominas helped to reduce illegal deforestation by more than 80 percent. When farmers in Paragominas implemented Imazon’s training techniques, most saw their incomes increase, even as they stopped clearing additional land.

Inspired by the success of the program, the state government decided to launch its own Green Municipalities Program in 2011, essentially promoting Imazon’s collaborative approach in Paragominas at a state level. Now, more than 94 of Para State's 143 municipalities have signed onto the Green Municipalities Program, and both the state government and Imazon are straining to meet the demand.

However, a new breakthrough came when Imazon attracted the attention of the Investment Innovations Alliance, a new partnership between Mercy Corps, USAID, and the Skoll Foundation. This April at the Skoll World Forum, the partners announced their first grant of $3.4 million, complementing an earlier $2.6 million from Skoll.

The funding will support Imazon to scale the successes in Paragominas across the state of Para. The project has ambitious goals, as the government has promised to reduce deforestation by 80 percent over the next seven years.

By systematizing the training process, the alliance hopes to leave the state government capable of responding to the growing demand from farmers and municipal governments who have seen Imazon’s programs work in Paragominas.

The question is how Imazon can show its methodologies work. Mercy Corps will help Imazon to test its approach in 10 municipalities serving as guinea pigs, drawing from its own network of experts in impact analysis.

But Imazon’s biggest success may be its ability to get locals on board with its ideas. 94 municipalities have already signed on to reducing deforestation through the Green Municipalities Program, and Cameron Peake, Mercy Corps's director of social innovations special initiatives, says she’s impressed at how the nonprofit has persuaded the local farmers and government that environmental sustainability, economic growth, land rights, and good governance can actually go together.

And that achievement, for one, is too valuable to put a number on.

 on: Jul 25, 2016, 05:23 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
CS Monitor

Taste for mushrooms helps Tanzanian farmers protect forest

When harvests fail, farmers turn to cutting forests – but cultivating mushrooms could be an alternative. Farm Africa is teaching farmers to grow oyster mushrooms.   

By Kizito Makoye, Thomson Reuters Foundation July 25, 2016   

Babati, Tanzania — Magdalena Gwasuma ducks carefully into a small, dark cage at the back of her house, where rows of fresh oyster mushrooms sit on wooden shelves.

"I didn't know anything about growing mushrooms at home – we used to get them from the forest," the 60-year-old told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "I didn't know growing mushrooms could be a way of making money."

Gwasuma, who lives near Babati town on the edge of the Nou forest in Tanzania's northern Manyara region, now realizes she can make a living without cutting down the neighboring trees.

Thousands of people living in the area have long depended on the forests around them to source wood for fuel or to make charcoal for a living, aid workers say.

Most are also poor farmers, like Gwasuma, who have been suffering from recurring drought and dismal harvests.

"The rains have become more unreliable, and this change in the weather has affected our agricultural production, as we have experienced low crop yields and shortages of water for livestock and domestic use," she said.

Like many of her neighbors, Gwasuma has turned to growing oyster mushrooms to find new sources of income under a project run by Farm Africa, an international charity that works to reduce poverty in rural communities.

Tanzania has one of the highest rates of deforestation in sub-Saharan Africa, with around 372,000 hectares (919,000 acres) of forests destroyed every year, according to the U.N Food and Agriculture Organization's 2015 Global Forest Resources Assessment.

Mature trees – which are vital to protecting soil from erosion, purifying air and water, and curbing climate change by sucking in carbon – are being chopped down as demand for wood increases, local experts say.

"When the forest is logged or burned, not only does carbon absorption stop but the carbon stored in trees and other vegetation is released into the atmosphere, increasing the amount of climate-changing gases," said Lawrence Kileo, Farm Africa's field officer.

While mushrooms have traditionally been eaten in northern Tanzania, most farmers picked them from the wild and did not grow them commercially.

But Farm Africa is now teaching farmers to grow oyster mushrooms to reduce their reliance on growing crops and raising animals.

The project is part of wider government efforts to boost resilience to climate change by encouraging farmers to find other ways of earning money.

Local families, who have for many years depended on the forest for their livelihoods, have been introduced to mushroom cultivation, raffia weaving and beekeeping.

With funding from the European Union, Farm Africa has trained 700 farmers in mushroom cultivation, and hopes the model could be replicated elsewhere in Tanzania.

Forest ecosystems lend themselves well to mushroom production, and experts work with farmers to select the best place to build their mushroom-growing facilities, which must be dark, warm and moist, Kileo said.

Farmers are also being trained in processing techniques so the mushrooms can be sold fresh or dried.

The organization has set up a processing and collection center where farmers can come to sell their mushrooms, Kileo said.

Because the protein-rich fungi have a short production cycle, farmers can grow them throughout the year and generate a good profit, he added.

A kilo (2.2 pounds) of mushrooms fetches around 6,000 Tanzanian shillings (around $3) in the local market, Gwasuma said.

Since Farm Africa began promoting oyster mushroom farming to communities around the Nou forest seven years ago, demand for mushrooms for domestic consumption has increased, it said.

Project coordinator Beatrice Muliahela said local people initially did not know how to cook mushrooms other than boiling them in stew.

"Many were also wary of eating them because they had been warned some mushrooms are poisonous," she said.

To raise awareness of mushrooms as a food, Farm Africa organized regular galas to demonstrate various mushroom dishes.

That paid off, and to meet growing demand, farmers are being trained to produce mushroom spores so they can expand production.

In 2015 around 1,850 bottles of young spores were distributed, and a total of 22,145 kg (49,000 pounds) of mushrooms were produced – of which 10,390 kg were sold fresh and the rest dried.

That earned a net income of 99.26 million shillings (around $49,630), split among 17 groups totaling 300 farmers, Kileo said.

Mushroom farming has made a big difference to Gwasuma, her nine children and their families.

She makes 480,000 shillings ($240) from growing mushrooms each year, which is her biggest source of income. Before, her husband was the family's main breadwinner.

"With the extra money, we have been able to send all our grandchildren to school, improve our diets and afford medical costs. We have also been able to improve our home and invest in our business," she said.

Despite its success, the mushroom-growing push has not been without problems, Muliahela said. Developing the right spores that grow well in the local environment has been one challenge.

Another is access to markets, because farmers need to sell their fresh mushrooms close by to avoid spoiling them during transportation over longer distances.

"This is a problem because farmers have less access to markets and reduced bargaining power," said Muliahela.

• Reporting by Kizito Makoye; editing by Megan Rowling. This story originally appeared on the website of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption, and climate change. Visit

 on: Jul 25, 2016, 05:22 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by TheRiverSolace
  Hi Rad,

    The South Node of Venus, in my natal chart, is in the 1st house of Aquarius.  If the 1st house deals with that part of the perfect rhythmic state of universal being, an individual’s form of Source, directing itself through each of us, then the disparate components of my inner being must agree with the inner-aspects of my Venus South Node before they can be transformed them into useful, suitable accomplishments, whether on a physical or psychological level.  Perhaps that is the reason why I feel so hesitant to commit or act, at times; why dedicating myself to a certain project can take so much time.                               
     Uranus, the ‘awakener’, has never really felt like a realistic part of my nature; being disruptive is never something that I could pull-off with much charisma.  When I learned, however, that Uranus can be ‘equally responsible for accidents; as well as, miracles’, I thought now we’re referring to a part of life where I feel quite comfortable.  There are many unexplained events in life that can only be considered to be miracles.
     My question relates to the naturally formed ‘Yod pattern’ between the 2nd, 7th, and 12th houses, relating to our anticipated need for survival, of course, yet together with the concept of the higher octave of Venus: Neptune.  Between houses 2 and 12 is the sextile; the base of the Yod pattern— the mid-point of this naturally forming Yod is about 1 degree Aquarius; the South Node of Venus is about 7 degree’s Aquarius—  Can that conjunction be thought of as a sensitive area in my chart; an area where I am constantly searching for meaning in life?
     This website is one that I have been searching for awhile now-it is quite informative!!

Thanks Marti.

 on: Jul 25, 2016, 05:19 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
CS Monitor

In lichen's symbiotic pairing, a third partner?

A type of yeast might be the third partner in most lichen, upending a nearly 150-year-old theory.

By Ben Rosen, Staff July 25, 2016   

It’s an archetype of symbiosis, the marriage of two species to form one organism. A fungus provides minerals, water, and shelter, while a photosynthesizing alga provides nutrients, forming lichen.

But a discovery by a researcher at the University of Graz in Austria who grew up in a trailer park in Montana, homeschooled in what he now calls a “fundamentalist cult,” may have toppled this model.

According to a study published Thursday in Science, a second fungus — a type of yeast — might be the third symbiotic partner in most lichens. 

The discovery has forced a shift in thought not just in our understanding of lichens, but also in symbiosis. The explanation as to how coral reefs are formed, how cows digest food, and even how mitochondria power the cells of eukaryotic organisms, symbiosis is a concept that was born out of lichens. With the nearly 150-year-old hypothesis in question, the discovery is a “game-changer not only for lichen research, but also for the field of symbiosis more generally,” Toby Kiers, an evolutionary biologist at Vrije University Amsterdam, said in an article that will appear in Science July 29.

"This is a pretty fundamental shake-up of what we thought we knew about the lichen symbiosis," Tony Spribille, who discovered the yeast, adds in a statement. "It forces a reassessment of basic assumptions about how lichens are formed and who does what in the symbiosis."

The prevailing theory of lichen symbiosis was first revealed in 1868 by Simon Schwendener. The Swiss botanist found lichen was not a plant, but rather a composite organism of fungi and cyanobacteria, or microscopic algae. Through photosynthesis, the alga produces nutrients for the fungus, while the fungus provides the alga minerals, water, and shelter.

“This kind of mutually beneficial relationship was unheard of, and required a new word,” writes The Atlantic’s Ed Yong, about Dr. Schwendener’s discovery. “Two Germans, Albert Frank, and Anton de Bary, provided the perfect one — symbiosis, from the Greek for ‘together’ and ‘living.”

But Dr. Spribille, in collaboration with John McCutcheon, a professor of microbiology at the University of Montana, found a previously unknown, second fungus is the third species that forms lichen. The basidiomycete yeast appears to be as much a part of the lichen as the other two species. It forms the outermost crust of the lichen organism.

A romance of two fungi and algae, Spribille’s discovery is as much about them as it is about the coming together of Spribille, a lichen aficionado, and Dr. McCutcheon, who relies on genetic sequencing to study insect-microbial partnerships. In 2011, when Spribille returned from the University of Gottingen in Germany to his native Montana for postdoctoral research, he wondered why two types of Montana lichens known to consist of the same fungus and algae, appear different, according to The New York Times. One of the lichens appears yellow, and produces vulpinic acid. The other lichen is dark brown, and lacks the toxin.

Spribille brought the riddle to McCutcheon. When they performed genetic sequencing, they found basidiomycete yeast in one of lichens, but not in the other. Spribille presumed the yeast was a contaminant or a pathogen. But, when he removed all the basidiomycete genes, everything that related to the presence of vulpinic acid also disappeared.

“That was the eureka moment,” he told The Atlantic. “That was when I leaned back in my chair.”

Spribille then screened the 45,000 samples of lichens he had collected over his career. In almost all of the macrolichens — bushy or leaf-like lichen — he found the basidiomycete genes.

Spribille reached out to Swedish colleagues. A genomic analysis of the chartreuse lichen they were studying found it, too, had a yeast partner. All told, 52 lichen genera from six continents showed a yeast partner in their genes.

“This is not a single oddity,” said Dr. Kiers of Vrije University Amsterdam. “We’re looking at a global phenomenon.”

The exact role of the yeast in lichen remains uncertain, according Science. And there are those who wonder if the second fungus is truly a symbiotic partner. One critic is Thorsten Lumbsch, a mycologist at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. In Science, Dr. Lumbsch said it must be established whether the yeast exchanges nutrients or interacts with the other fungus and the alga in other ways. Other lichens are made up of more than two organisms.

Regardless, the discovery has turned the definitions of lichen and symbiosis inside out.

"The word symbiosis in part comes from the study of lichens," said McCutcheon, in a statement. "The textbook definition of lichen has always been restricted to one fungus and one fungus only. Our work shows that this definition doesn't seem to be correct."

 on: Jul 25, 2016, 05:17 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
CS Monitor

Why scientists are trying to rebuild oyster colonies

With wild oyster populations down an estimated 85 percent from their levels in the 1800s, a number of small-scale efforts to rebuild oyster colonies are underway.

By Gretel Kauffman, Staff July 25, 2016   

A series of small-scale restoration efforts are underway for a species that most Americans don't even realize needs saving: oysters.

A 2011 study published in the journal BioScience declared wild oysters "functionally extinct," as "oyster reefs are at less than 10 percent of their prior abundance in most bays ... and ecoregions" and "lack any significant ecosystem role."

In past centuries, that ecosystem role has been a significant one: besides tasting good, oysters also improve water quality – a single oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day – and protect coastlines by functioning as speed bumps to thwart waves during storms.

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According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 120 million pounds of oysters were brought ashore in Chesapeake Bay in 1880; that number had shrunk to 1 or 2 million by 2008.
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The dramatic reduction is due to a combination of pollution, development, over-harvesting and disease, say biologists. As Rona Kobell reported last year for Yale Environment 360:

    Louisiana once supplied most of the United States’ oysters, but Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill have slashed the state’s oyster production. The Pacific Northwest was the U.S.’s second-largest oyster supplier, but ocean acidification is hurting those populations. In Florida, Apalachicola Bay oyster production has fallen by two-thirds because of freshwater diversions.

This gradual journey to functional extinction went largely unnoticed by most people, as the population of edible farmed oysters hasn't been affected.

Additionally, "the loss of oysters tends to get ignored because most people have forgotten how abundant they once were," said Michael Beck, a marine biologist from the University of California, Santa Cruz, to the Independent.

But around the country, a series of small-scale efforts to rebuild or strengthen oyster colonies, funded primarily by government grants and volunteer donations, are underway by those who haven't forgotten. Projects are either currently in process or have been completed in a range of places across the US, including San Francisco Bay, Puget Sound near Seattle, New York Harbor and the Hudson River, Rhode Island, the Carolinas, Florida and the other Gulf Coast states, New Hampshire, and Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and Virginia.

These efforts take several different forms, depending on the area. Some involve dumping shells onto the seabed, where free-floating oyster seeds attach to them; others pre-load the shells with oyster seedlings before depositing them at a reef site. Other projects transport mature oysters to new sites from pre-existing colonies.

The leaders of these efforts say they hope to prove that wild oysters can make a comeback, paving the way for restoration projects of a larger scale.

"Like a lot of things it is far easier to take things apart than to put them back together again," said Rob Brumbaugh, restoration director for the Nature Conservancy, to the San Francisco Chronicle. "We used to have a lot of services provided by oyster reefs that we really do need, so we should double down on our oyster reef restoration. It's a process, a journey, that we need to keep on."

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

 on: Jul 25, 2016, 05:15 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
CS Monitor

Massachusetts was once full of loons. Can conservationists bring them back?

A Maine-based conservation group seeks to rebuild the once-thriving common loon population of Massachusetts.

By Joseph Dussault, Staff July 24, 2016   

With its piercing red eyes and its mournful wail, the common loon looks and sounds as though it had escaped from a gothic horror novel. In a place where it once abounded, conservation biologists are hoping to bring the noteworthy bird back.

Restore the Call, an initiative of the Biodiversity Research Institute in Portland, Maine, seeks to reestablish common loon populations in the Northeast. In hopes of restoring the loon population of Massachusetts, conservationists will relocate 10 chicks to the state this summer.

“All we need to do is establish one pair,” David Evers, executive director of the institute, told the Associated Press. “Once that one pair is established and once that pair produces young, and those young come back, and they start to establish territories, then you’ve got some brooding that can start from that little seed.”

Found in the northern US and Canada, the common loon is a lake-dwelling member of the loon family. Adults form monogamous nesting bonds that can last for five years, communicating with their partners with a haunting, wolflike call.

The bird, which was once abundant in the state, was virtually gone from Massachusetts by the end of the 19th century. Hunting, habitat loss, and pollution had contributed to its decline. It returned in the 1970s, but in small numbers: currently there are estimated to be just 45 pairs in the state.

Populations have declined elsewhere in the states, too. The common loon is a threatened species in New Hampshire, and it has disappeared from Oregon entirely. Latest estimates put the entire US population at just 14,000 pairs. The loon exists more successfully in Canada because of its status as national bird, but there, too, it is threatened by pollution.

Because loons take several years to reach maturity, it will be a slow rebound back to secure population numbers. Researchers hope that relocation will help the process along.

Maine is home to some 2,000 common loon pairs – the most of any state in the eastern US. New York comes in second, with about 1,000 pairs. Most relocation efforts, including Restore the Call, take in birds from these two states.

This summer, 10 chicks will be moved to an area south of Boston in hopes that they will nest there upon maturation. Maine Audubon, which has collaborated with similar initiatives, will also assist in the relocation. The effort is funded in part by a $6.5-million grant from the Ricketts Conservation Foundation.

“Loons are near and dear to people’s hearts in Maine,” Susan Gallo, wildlife biologist for Maine Audubon, told the AP. “Anything we can do to get the loons to nest in new places, I think, is a benefit to loons.”

This story includes material from the Associated Press.

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