May 20

As it’s Arkive’s 14th birthday, we thought we would celebrate by sharing 14 ways that you can help save the world! By just doing one of these things you can make a difference, more than one you can make a big difference, and by doing all 14 you are very much on track to save the world!

1)            Eat smart

Why?    Intensive farming methods produce a lot of air and water pollution, and agricultural areas that only contain one crop species, also known as monocultures, have an extreme lack of biodiversity and are hostile habitats for wildlife. Many countries now import a large amount of produce too, catering for our varied diet, however ‘food miles’ – which take into account the energy expenditure of transporting food from one location to another -can in many circumstances, increase the carbon footprint of your food shop significantly.

How?    Question where your food comes from – did it need to travel halfway across the planet or is it grown in nearby farms? Why not support your local economy through locally-sourced, seasonal produce? It’ll probably be fresher and tastier too.

Eat more vegetables. They’re readily available, fill your plate and belly up for less money, and you’ll look and feel better too. Look for organic food, being chemical-free not only helps your health, but that of wildlife around the farm.

Oil palm plantation in Indonesia

2)            Broaden your taste buds

Why?    Many global fisheries are on the verge of collapse and many species, such as bluefin tuna, are now classed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. Many fish stocks are in a state of serious decline and overfishing is a great threat to marine wildlife and habitats – 90% of world fish stocks are fully or over exploited from fishing, alongside the pressures from climate change and pollution.

How?    The Marine Conservation Society (MCS UK) has produced a pocket guide and an app that summarises both fish to eat and those to avoid, and the Marine Stewardship Council has a worldwide certification system. Take care with the most common fish bought such as cod, haddock, salmon, and canned tuna as, due to their popularity, there are problems with all these fish and you need to choose wisely.

Consumers can help reduce the strain on certain species by demanding that the fish they eat comes from sustainably managed stocks and is caught or farmed in a way that causes minimal damage to the marine environment and other wildlife.

Avoid shopping in supermarkets or buying brands which are evasive in revealing where or how they source their fish stocks, and celebrate those who source responsibly by giving them your business.

A commercial purse-seine trawler pulling in its nets attracts the attention of scavenging seabirds

3)            Know your labels

Why?    Eco-labels are a form of sustainability measurement directed at consumers, intended to make it easy to take environmental concerns into account when shopping. There is a close relationship between eco-labelling and improving an organisation’s environmental management strategy, so paying attention is worth your time.

How?    Look for sustainability labels: RSPO palm oil certification, animal welfare, dolphin-friendly and so forth, and know what they represent. You should come across a handful fairly regularly on your purchases, make sure you understand those first, and take it from there!

4)            Be travel savvy

Why?    We love exploring the big wide world, but this can often take us to places we’re unfamiliar with, and across practices that you may never support at home. Photos with animals on the street, riding on elephants, buying jewellery with animal products, all often have a very unsustainable, unethical and often illegal background to them.

How?    Research the activities you plan to partake in ahead of time and make alternative plans if needs be. Question what may be on offer…is hugging a tiger a natural interaction?

Use reputable travel and tour operators, and check their accreditations with environmental NGOs or travel watchdogs.

Look at the menu and eat smart by never ordering endangered animals because it seems exotic or claims to be ethically sourced – no matter what the waiter says!

Elephants held for tourism are often mistreated, kept in chains and often with hooks in their ears to be pulled by their trainers

5)            Avoid one-use plastic products

Why?    Plastic debris in the ocean is an ever increasing threat, as it degrades marine habitats and contributes to the deaths of many marine animals. Because floating plastic often resembles food to many marine birds, sea turtles and marine mammals, they can choke on items after eating them or starve because of accumulation of plastic items within their digestive system, which can give them a false sense of being full.

How?    Say no to plastic shopping bags and carry reusable bags or a backpack with you while shopping.

Reusable drinks bottles are better for the planet and your pocket.

Avoid packaging on food products like fruit and vegetables, look for paper bags if you want to package up. Your local grocer should offer this, if not, suggest it.

Try bringing a packed lunch to work – all those sandwich cartons add up.

Refuse plastic drinking straws. We use them for a few minutes, and yet they can take up to 200 years to degrade. Reusable stainless steel, bamboo or glass drinking straws are a much better option.

Trash and plastics floating around in front of one of the fishing villages in Anilao, Batangas

6)            Conserve water at home

Why?    By reducing the amount of water we use and waste, we can prevent droughts from occurring. Even though our need for fresh water sources is always increasing (because of population and industry growth), the supply we have stays constant. Only 3% of all the water on Earth is freshwater, and only 1% is available for drinking. Fresh water availability is predicted to be one of the human race’s biggest environmental issues over the coming decades, so conservation is crucial.

How?    Don’t wash your dishes or brush your teeth with the water running continuously.

Wash and dry only full loads of laundry and dishes.

Consider a low-flow showerhead, and take showers instead of baths.

Try sharing a bath?!

7)            Clean clever

Why?    Chemicals used to wash our bodies, homes, cars and everything else, get washed down the drain or absorbed in the grass, and eventually end up in our water supply. Since most people use heavy-duty chemicals for all sorts of things, chemicals are doing real damage to waterways and aquatic life.

How?    Consider organic shower gels and shampoos, they usually smell great too!

Look for marine friendly brands of laundry detergent, washing up liquid and other cleaning products.

Determine the lowest amount of detergent that can be used for an effective and sanitary result.

Avoid cosmetics containing microbeads, which pollute water systems before working their way into the oceans. These tiny plastic particles work their way into the food chain, all the way up to humans.

8)            Use less energy

Why?    Most energy requires the burning of fossil fuels, a process which creates greenhouse gases – the primary cause of climate change. Increasing CO2 levels have also caused a change in the pH level of the world’s oceans, making them more acidic and causing numerous ecological issues.

How?    Use energy efficient appliances in your home, including light bulbs, TVs and fridges.

Feeling cold? Double glazing and wall insulation greatly improve heat insulation so you can save on heating bills over winter, the cheaper fix is just wearing an extra jumper!

Turn off appliances when they aren’t in use.

Switch off the lights when you leave a room.

Renewable energy systems are becoming more readily available to the homeowner, such as solar panels and mini wind turbines, and can often cause the household to actually generate excess electricity, which can be sent back into the grid.

Forest cleared for coal mining in East Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia

9)            Leave your car at home

Why?    Getting a vehicle from “A” to “B” involves combustion of fossil fuels, a process that causes air pollution and emits greenhouse gases, such as carbon monoxide and dioxide, which contribute to global warming.

How?    Walk or ride your bike – simple! The exercise is great, it’s free, and in many cities it’s actually faster too.

Join a carpool to get to work if biking or walking isn’t an option, or if the weather looks awful!

Combine your errands – hit the post office and supermarket in one trip, rather than taking the car out twice.

Use public transport.

Carpooling is a great way to commute to more rural areas!

10)          Recycle

Why?    If we do not recycle our rubbish it is taken to landfill – a big old hole in the ground which has usually been dug out of a natural habitat, at the expense of the wildlife and plants that previously occupied the area. Burying waste in landfill spoils our countryside and is very bad for the environment. Chemicals build up underneath the surface, which can escape and cause damage to plants and wildlife, as well as polluting water.

How?    This one’s easy – most cities will recycle for you, and all you need to do is use the right bin!

Reuse -could you use that takeaway tub as a lunch box?

Choose products you buy based on how much packaging they are contained in, and whether it is recyclable.

11) Compost

Why?    Composting is a great sustainable gardening practice which involves decomposing organic matter, primarily food and garden waste, simply by leaving it to break down over a period of weeks or months. Composting the food and garden waste you produce throughout the year means you’re taking up less space in landfills so your tax money can work somewhere else. Plus, compost makes a great natural fertiliser for your garden.

How?    Composting can be as simple as raking leaves over your garden when you put it to winter bed or taking your kitchen scraps to a bin at the bottom of the garden.

Whether you’re growing vegetables, lawns, flowers and shrubs or fruit trees, composting will bring about vibrant, fortifying change to your gardens, while reducing the amount of waste you produce.

12)          Make a wildlife garden

Why?    All types of animals, from the birds to the bees, have lost habitat to human developments, and it’s an increasing scenario as human population rises. The UK alone has lost 97% of its wildflower meadows since the Second World War. A variety of habitats is crucial for biodiversity, and biodiversity is crucial for a stable ecosystem upon which we all depend – think of it like a game of Jenga, the more blocks there are, the more stable it is – and your garden can act as one of those blocks!

How?    Plant shrubs, flowers and trees that attract wildlife. Many conservation organisations have guides on which plants are good for species living in your area, look for high pollinating bee-friendly plants specifically.

Put out a bird feeder and bird bath stocked with clean food and water.

Having beneficial snakes, spiders, bees, bats, and other creatures around your garden is a sign your ecosystem is in good health, so welcome them in by creating areas for them. Nest boxes, tall vegetation, rockeries and log piles provide nooks and crannies for creatures to hide or sleep in.

A lot of those creatures you want to welcome into your garden need access, as not all of them can fly! Try cutting a hole in or digging a hole under your fence, or even a mini ramp up a wall, to create an animal highway between gardens. This extends the range and feeding grounds of garden wildlife, take the hedgehog for example – a natural predator of those pesky slugs and snails that eat your flowers!

Avoid chemical pesticides which rarely target just the pest species they’re intended for and can kill other creatures too, such as spiders and aphid-eating bugs.

Consider a manual lawnmower, or just let your garden turn into a meadow!

Bees are the best-known and most significant pollinators in the world and are responsible for the majority of pollination in both natural and cultivated plant communities

13)          Community gardening

Why?    Community farms or gardens are a great way to contribute to your local community. They can strengthen social ties, increase biodiversity, provide free locally-sourced food, engage city-dwellers with outdoor spaces and improve the overall well-being of an area.

A community garden can be any piece of land gardened by a group of people, an individual or shared plots of private or public land.

How?    Contact your local council of you’re having trouble finding a community garden nearby, they should be able to point you in the right direction.

Hosting events such as ‘seed swaps’ are good ways to initiate discussions if a community garden isn’t in your neighbourhood. They also can really help engage all ages of the community and are a great way to save money, why pay for a plant from a garden centre when a neighbour will happily give you one for free! Please note: you should never transport fauna, flora or organic matter between countries.

You can’t just set up a community garden anywhere you feel though, as you will need to seek permission from landowners first. A good point of call if on public property is your local council, and if you need extra help getting started, consider if there are any wildlife organisations which operate in your area.

Community gardens also provide space for people and wildlife to escape the hustle and unwind

14)          Vote responsibly

Why?    Electing the right public officials is essential to good environmental policies, for those ‘it’s out of my hands’ topics. Next time you can vote, read as many manifestos as possible, and hold those politicians to their promises!

How?    Do your research and make an informed decision. Exercise your right to vote and stay involved after elections.

Don’t like something that’s happening in your area? Write to your local politician to bring it to their attention, and hopefully onto their agenda.

Apr 26

You might not have it scheduled in your calendar, but today in in fact Alien Day! That’s right, a celebration of the films in which Sigourney Weaver, aka Ripley, battles some frankly terrifying extra-terrestrial creatures.

So we at Arkive had to jump at the chance to share with you our five favourite alien-like critters! These out-of-this-world species live right here among us, so there’s no need to blast off into space and cryo-freeze yourself for an encounter!

 Saiga antelope (Saiga tatarica)

These bizarre-looking antelope look like they’ve fallen straight off the set of Star Wars, but in actual fact can be found in the steppe grasslands of central Asia.

Despite their common name, these ungulates are actually thought to be intermediates between antelope and sheep. They prefer open areas free from dense vegetation where they run quickly (up to 80 miles per hour) to avoid predators such as wolves and humans

Large groups of saiga migrate southwards in winter, covering up to 72 miles in a day. The rut begins in late November and males gather groups of around 30 females in ‘harems’, which they aggressively defend.

During the rut, males’ noses swell up and the hair tufts below the eyes are covered in a sticky secretion. Males do not feed much during the rutting season, when they take part in violent fights that often end in death. The male mortality rate can reach 90 percent during this time, due to exhaustion.

Tail-less whip scorpion (Phrynichus jayakari)

The tail-less whip scorpion is spider-like in appearance and, as its common name suggests, it lacks a tail.

Tail-less whip scorpions differ from other arachnids (a group containing spiders and scorpions) in that they use only six of their limbs to walk, rather than eight, as the front pair are adapted to act as very long sensory organs. They may look like a bit creepy, but they are actually completely harmless and do not possess venom glands or a sting.

Tail-less whip scorpions are primarily nocturnal and emerge at night in search of food or a mate. They generally occur in tropical and sub-tropical regions, where they live under stones, leaves, bark or in rock crevices and caves.

Hairy angler (Caulophryne polynema)

The hairy angler is a deep-sea predator that looks like it is could have had a starring role in the nightmares of many pretty little reef fish whose parents warned them of the dangers of straying from the safety of their coral home.

The female is about the size of a football and its body is covered in long antennae, used to detect the movements of any nearby prey. The male is about a tenth of the size of the female, roughly the size of a ping pong ball. When a male encounters a female, it latches on and, over time, begins sharing the female’s blood supply, providing her with unlimited semen in response.

While we noted at the start that no spaceship was required for these sightseeing trips, the hairy angler lives at depths of over 1,000 metres, in the dark zone (we think it chose this for added dramatic effect), so you would probably need a very expensive submarine to pay it a visit.

Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum)

The axolotl is an unusual species of salamander which retains its larval features, such as gills, and remains aquatic throughout its life. They definitely look like a slightly more friendly alien creature who’d be more likely to sit down and play a board game with you than our previous guest creature, phew.

This real-life Pokémon mostly fails to undergo metamorphosis, but if its habitat dries up then this species can metamorphose into its adult form – magic!

Another out-of-this-world power the axolotl has is regeneration – X-men style! Instead of forming scar tissue when wounded, the axolotl can regenerate tissue at the wound site and even re-grow missing limbs.

The axolotl is native to the ancient water channel system of Mexico City, preferring deep brackish water with plenty of vegetation, but has been lost from most of its range and is currently listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

Coral

The tiny organisms that live inside corals, polyps, can live on their own but are mostly associated with the spectacularly diverse limestone communities, or reefs, they construct.

Coral polyps are tiny, translucent animals. These soft-bodied organisms are related to sea anemones and jellyfish. At their base is a hard, protective limestone skeleton called a calicle, which forms the structure of coral reefs.

They have to be on this list as they are so bizarre and unlike any other creature on the planet, many people don’t know they’re even an animal, or even sentient, mistaking the reefs they build for rock.

Corals eat by catching tiny floating animals called zooplankton. At night, coral polyps come out of their elaborate exoskeletons to feed, stretching their long, stinging tentacles to capture critters that are floating by. Prey are pulled into the polyps’ mouths and digested in their stomachs.

The majority of a polyp’s energy actually comes from tiny algae called zooxanthellae. The algae live within the coral polyps, using sunlight to make sugar for energy. This energy is transferred to the polyp, providing much-needed nourishment. In turn, coral polyps provide the algae with carbon dioxide and a protective home.

Don’t get us started on how they breed, or wage war on one another, as we could go on for hours on their otherworldly behaviour! But if you want to learn more about these amazing and highly endangered species, please check out our coral conservation topic page.

 

HAPPY ALIEN DAY!

Jan 25

January 25th marks the Birthday of Robert Burns (1759-1796), an iconic Scottish figure and one of the world’s most famous poets. Admired for his poems, love songs and cheeky character, Robert Burns created works which are still well known today, such as Auld Lang Syne, one of the most popular songs in the English language. Since Burns’ early death over 200 years ago, people have gathered together every year to commemorate his life and work. Burns Night is one of the most celebrated events in Scottish culture, and the occasion is recognised all over the world. Typically, a supper is held on or around January 25th, which includes a traditional Scottish meal, Scotch whisky, music, speeches and recitation of Robert Burns’ work. In memory of Robert Burns, we thought we’d delve into the ARKive collection and celebrate all things Scottish!

Spear thistle

Spear thistle image

Spear thistle in flower

Legend has it the Scottish army were alerted to the onset of Viking intruders after one of them stood on a thistle barefooted and cried out in pain. The thistle has been the national emblem of Scotland for centuries, and the earliest record of it being used as a royal symbol is on coins issued by James III in 1470. Although the actual species of thistle is disputed, some believe that the spear thistle is most likely to be the true ‘Scotch thistle’, as it is abundant and native to Scotland.

Red deer

Red deer image

Red deer stag roaring during rut

Britain’s largest land mammal, the red deer is widespread throughout Scotland, with an estimated population of 300,000. In winter, the red deer tend to move from the hills and remote glens to lower areas with shelter and a more abundant food supply. In winter the coat is brown or grey, but it changes to a reddish-brown in the summer.

Puffin

Puffin image

Puffin

In April, puffins begin arriving around the Scottish coast to breed. Almost one million puffins choose to breed in Scotland, and most are concentrated in just a few colonies in the north and west. Puffins nest in burrows or in rocky crevices, and normally lay a single egg in May. The best time to see puffins in Scotland is in mid-July, when the adults are busy collecting sand eels to feed the pufflings.

Scottish wildcat

Scottish wildcat image

Scottish wildcat resting in woodland

It is thought that fewer than 400 ‘genetically pure’ wildcats remain in Scotland today. This is because wildcats breed with domestic cats, creating hybrids which are diluting the population. The wildcat is solitary and usually hunts at night. It catches rabbits, hares, voles and mice, but it may also feed on small birds, frogs and even insects.

Osprey

Osprey image

Osprey carrying a fish

Ospreys arrive in Scotland to breed in late April to early May after an amazing journey from western Africa, which takes about 20 flying days. There are around 200 breeding osprey pairs in Scotland, and the best places to see them include Loch Garten and Loch of the Lowes. Ospreys return to their wintering grounds in West Africa in late August to mid-September. If you can’t make it to Scotland this summer, why not watch this fantastic osprey video – it’s the most popular one on ARKive!

Scots pine

Scots pine image

Scots pine forest

The Scots pine is native to Scotland and is a dominant tree in the Caledonian Forest, which is also made up of birch, aspen, rowan, oak and juniper. Although pinewood forests were once spread over most of the Highlands, only 1% of the original forest remains, split into smaller, fragmented pockets. The oldest scientifically dated Scots pine in Scotland is Glen Loyne, which was estimated to be 550 years old in the late 1990s.

Bottlenose dolphin

Bottlenose dolphin image

Bottlenose dolphins breaching

Bottlenose dolphins inhabit the waters around the Scottish coast throughout the year, but they are easiest to spot during the spring and summer. The Moray Firth is home to the most northerly resident bottlenose dolphin population in the world, and is one of the best places to watch dolphins in Scotland. Compared to bottlenose dolphins in warmer climates, such as Florida, the Moray Firth dolphins are larger and fatter to insulate them from the colder water.

Eurasian beaver

Eurasian beaver image

Eurasian beaver feeding

Between May 2009 and September 2010, 16 Eurasian beavers were released into the wild in Knapdale Forest, Mid-Argyll, as part of a monitored trial. The first beaver kit (named Barney) was born in spring 2010, making him the first to be born in the wild in Scotland for over 400 years! At the end of the trial, decisions will be made about the future of beavers in Knapdale Forest and other possible reintroduction sites in Scotland. You can see some videos of the introduced beavers on the Scottish Beaver Trial blog.

Let us know if your favourite Scottish species is missing from our blog! How are you planning to celebrate Burns Night?

Jan 18

The third Monday in January is advertised as being the most depressing day of the year. This might be just be a bunch of pseudoscience but we’re here to brighten up this particular Monday in January with some of the natural world’s most amazing blue species.

Forget about The Smurfs, Dory, Aladdin and the Cookie Monster– nature’s got its own pretty cool line-up of blue characters.

1. Blue-footed booby

Blue-footed booby

These rather comical-looking characters use their fabulous bright blue webbed feet as part of their mating rituals. The male birds strut their elaborate feet in front of prospective mates. The bluer the feet, the more attractive the mate. Just check out those dance moves…

2. Sun-tailed monkey

Sun-tailed monkey

 First described in 1986, males of this Vulnerable African monkey species have a rather conspicuous bright blue scrotum.

3. Blue shark

Blue shark

The graceful blue shark is easily identified by its beautifully coloured slender body with deep indigo-blue across the back and vibrant blue on the sides. Unfortunately, this striking species is one of the most heavily fished sharks in the world, with an estimated 10 to 20 million individuals caught each year.

4. Parson’s chameleon

Parson's chameleon

The largest chameleon in the world might look rather blue but it’s only temporary. Like all its fellow chameleon species, the Parson’s chameleon is capable of colour change and it’s not just for camouflage. This rather bizarre-looking lizard with its independently-moving eyes and fused toes is thought to change colour in response to other chameleons (when fighting or mating) and temperature.

5. Dyeing poison frog

Dyeing poison frog

The bright colouration of this alluring frog species is thought to function as a warning to predators that it is poisonous. The dyeing poison frog is named from an old legend in which native people used the frog to change (dye) the plain green feathers of parrots into red feathers.

6. Southern blue-ringed octopus

Southern blue-ringed octopus

Named for the small, iridescent blue spots it develops when alarmed, the southern blue-ringed octopus is one of the world’s deadliest venomous animals. The toxin in its venom is 1,000 times more powerful than cyanide.

7. Blue pipe

Blue pipe

A member of the iris family, the blue pipe is one of the many species of Gladiolus that grow in the incredibly biodiverse Cape Floristic Region of South Africa. The blue pipe is a geophyte, meaning that it is capable of surviving long periods of unfavourable conditions by using an underground food storage organ. During the dry season, the above ground parts of the blue pipe die back, but the plant persists in the soil as a short, swollen stem known as a corm. When it rains, the dormant corm is triggered to renew its above-ground growth, causing the plant to flower once again.

8. Ribbontailed stingray

Ribbontailed stingray

The brightly-coloured skin of the ribbontailed stingray acts as warning colouration to alert other animals that it is venomous. Distinctive blue stripes also run along either side of the tail, which is equipped with one or two sharp venomous spines at the tip, used by the ray to fend off predators.

9. Common blue damselfly

Common blue damselfly

This beautiful damselfly is one of only two species of damselfly that can be found in both Europe and North America, its range almost completely circling the Northern Hemisphere.

10. Blue whale

Blue whale

And finally, even the largest animal to have ever lived, the blue whale, rocks the colour blue!

Sep 9

Communicate is the UK’s leading conference for environmental communicators, with around 150 delegates from over 80 different organisations attending for two days of inspiring content, interactive workshops and engaging discussion. This year’s Communicate takes place over the 10th and 11th of November in Bristol, UK in the At-Bristol Science Centre.

-® JonCraig.co.uk 81_

Credit: JonCraig.co.uk

This year’s theme, Challenging Partnerships, explores the possibility of collaboration between environmental groups and those from other sectors. The  urgency  of  the  threats  faced  by  the  natural  world  demands  new  ways  of  working  because these problems are too big and too complex for any single organisation to tackle alone. We must be open to collaboration, innovation and doing things differently – to partnerships of possibility. We must transcend the boundaries of our individual brands, sectors and ideologies to challenge the status quo and create a compelling, unified story for change.

Communicate 2015 will explore the following questions: How do we as communicators break beyond the environmental bubble of usual suspects and what can we achieve working with, rather than against, more unusual bedfellows? What can we learn from scientists, journalists, corporations and politicians to help us challenge our own preconception sand influence genuine positive change for nature in policy, evidence, attitudes and actions? How can we unify the sector to build a single, compelling, consistent environmental story?

-® JonCraig.co.uk 101_

Credit: JonCraig.co.uk

Visit CommunicateNow.org.uk for more information and to reserve your ticket or follow @Communicate_15 on Twitter to keep up to date with exciting programme additions!

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