Back in December 1990, during its flyby of Earth, NASA’s Galileo spacecraft, which studied the planet Jupiter and its moons, as well as several other Solar System bodies, pointed its instruments towards Earth, at the urging of Carl Sagan. And, it has found evidence of life on our planet. This can be a key to detect vegetation on exoplanets – which is a key to a possible intelligent extraterrestrial life.
In a paper published on Nature, researchers wrote “The Galileo spacecraft found evidence of abundant gaseous oxygen, a widely distributed surface pigment with a sharp absorption edge in the red part of the visible spectrum, and atmospheric methane in extreme thermodynamic disequilibrium. Together, these are strongly suggestive of life on Earth.”
Continue reading Earth can be a model for detecting vegetation on exoplanets
Rainforests are the oldest living ecosystems and without a shadow of a doubt, the most vital habitats on Earth. They cover only 6% of the Earth’s surface but yet they contain more than half of the world’s plant and animal species. According to the current estimates, around 40% to 75% of all biotic species are indigenous Notes 1 to the rainforests.
What’s more, there are probably millions of species of plants, insects, and microorganisms still undiscovered in tropical rainforests. They are responsible for 28% of the world’s oxygen turnover. More than 20% of the world’s oxygen is produced in the Amazon Rainforest only, that’s why it has been described as the “lungs of our planet”.
Unfortunately, rainforests are rapidly disappearing due to deforestation. The loss is huge, and probably hundreds or even thousands of undiscovered species going extinct every single day. We are losing them forever.
Continue reading Rainforests of the World (Infographic)
You probably take bananas for granted. In the United Kingdom, one in four pieces of fruit consumed is a banana and, on average, each Briton eats 10 kg of bananas per year; in the United States, that’s 12 kg, or up to 100 bananas. When I ask people, most seem to think bananas grow on trees. But they don’t, in either the literal or the figurative sense: in fact, they’re in danger of extinction.
Continue reading Bananas have died out once before – don’t let it happen again
If we limit global warming to 1.5°C rather than 2°C above the pre-industrial levels by the year 2100, the impacts of climate change would be much less dramatic, a new study says. According to the researchers, for vertebrates and plants, the number of species losing more than half their geographic range by 2100 will be halved when warming is limited to 1.5°C, compared with projected losses at 2°C. It would be even better for insects, the most diverse group of animals on Earth: the number is reduced by two-thirds.
Continue reading Most species hold their geographic range if we limit global warming to 1.5°C, study says
NASA has published a video titled “Earth’s Biosphere: The Green Marble”, showing the monthly averages of land greenness (vegetation) and ocean chlorophyll. You can watch how the primary producers (plants and phytoplankton) transform the Earth’s landmasses and oceans over 12 months.
Continue reading Watch: Earth’s Biosphere – Monthly Averages of Land Greenness (Vegetation) and Ocean Chlorophyll
I stumbled upon an amazing web page showing what did ancient Earth look like. On “Dinosaur Pictures and Facts” web page (dinosaurpictures.org), there’s also an interactive animation. On this page, you can either select the years (i.e. 600 million years ago) or jump to a particular event (i.e. first multicellular life) and see how ancient Earth did look like then. You can also remove the clouds and stop the Earth’s rotation if you want to.
Continue reading What did Ancient Earth Look Like
Iceland was extensively forested when it was first settled. When the Vikings first arrived in the 9th century, the Nordic island was covered in 25 to 40 percent forest, compared to 1% in the present day. In the late 12th century, Ari the Wise (Ari Thorgilsson, 1067–1148 AD), Iceland’s most prominent medieval chronicler, described it in the Íslendingabók (Book of IcelandersNotes 1) as “forested from mountain to sea shore”. Unfortunately, after the permanent human settlement, the forests were heavily exploited for firewood, timber and to make room for farming. Within a few centuries, almost all of Iceland’s trees were gone. This rapid deforestation has resulted in massive soil erosion that puts the island at risk for desertification. Today, many farms have been abandoned. Three-quarters of Iceland’s 100,000 km2is affected by soil erosion, 18,000 km2 (6,900 sq mi) serious enough to make the land useless.
Continue reading Watch: Iceland Is Growing New Forests for the First Time in 1,000 Years
The Earth is always changing. “The only thing that is constant is change“, as Heraclitus (c. 535 – c. 475 BC) the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher once said. Unfortunately, things do not always happen the way we would have wanted. Here are 10 recently lost natural wonders that have been disappeared in recent centuries or even decades.
Continue reading 10 Recently Lost Natural Wonders
Redwoods (scientific name: Sequoia sempervirens) are the tallest trees in the world, they easily reach heights of 300 feet (91 meters) and even more. They are not the tallest only, also evergreen and very long-lived: their lifespan is more than 1000 years, and some have been documented at even more than 2,000 years old. They can grow up to 29.2 feet (8.9 m) in diameter at breast height/dbh. Redwoods live in California, United States; and before commercial logging and clearing began by the 1850s, this massive tree occurred naturally in an estimated 2,100,000 acres (8,500 km2) along much of coastal California (excluding southern California where rainfall is not sufficient) and the southwestern corner of coastal Oregon within the United States. Now, unfortunately, an estimated 70% or more of ancient old-growth redwood trees have been displaced by environmental changes or cut down.
Among the redwoods, a tree named Hyperion dwarfs them all. The tree was discovered on August 25, 2006, by naturalists Chris Atkins and Michael Taylor, and is 379.7 feet (115.7 meters) tall.
The tree is estimated to contain 530 m3 (18,600 cu ft) of wood and to be roughly 700–800 years old. Researchers stated that woodpecker damage at the top may have prevented the tree from growing taller. According to Michael Taylor, “It’s possible it could’ve topped out at 380 feet (116 meters)”.
Continue reading The Tallest Tree in the World: Hyperion