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Posts Tagged ‘earth day’

20sci-climattesounds-jumbo

Art: Matt McCann
As the planet warms, say scientists, Earth’s creatures are having a harder time making noises needed for survival.

Today is the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day. Are you old enough to remember what you were doing then? I was teaching sixth grade language arts in a Pennsylvania public school. The science teacher spearheaded our Earth Day and made sure everyone absorbed lessons about pollution.

Pollution was the biggest concern 50 years ago, says Denis Hayes, Earth Day founder. Global warming “was not part of the national discussion,” but that has changed, he adds.

Among the many climate-change topics I could highlight on this Earth Day, I found the altered soundscape of the natural world especially interesting.

Emily Anthes writes in the Science section of the New York Times, “Spring in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, in Northern California, is typically a natural symphony. Streams whoosh, swollen with winter rains, and birds — robins, sparrows, grosbeaks, woodpeckers and hawks — trill and chatter.

“But in 2011, a yearslong drought set in. By spring 2015, a local creek had dried up and the valley had gone quiet. ‘The park went from an extremely vibrant habitat to one that was dead silent,’ said Bernie Krause, a soundscape ecologist who has been recording in the park since 1993.

‘Nothing was singing, nothing was chirping, nothing was moving. It’s like it was dead.’

“In the coming years, severe droughts are likely to become more common; as the water dries up, bird song could disappear along with it. It is just one example of how climate change may be altering the planet’s soundscapes, or ‘breaking Earth’s beat,’ as Dr. Krause and his colleagues put it in a paper last year. Dr. Krause, who has amassed more than 5,000 hours of natural recordings for his company, Wild Sanctuary, wrote the paper with Jérôme Sueur, an ecoacoustician at the French National Museum of Natural History in Paris, and Almo Farina, an ecologist at the University of Urbino in Italy.

“Climate change will silence some species and nudge others into new habits and habitats, changing when and where they sing, squeak, whistle, bellow or bleat. (In New York, several species of frogs now begin croaking nearly two weeks earlier in the spring than they did a century ago.) It will also alter the sounds that animals produce, as well as how such vocalizations travel.

“These shifts could make it more difficult for wild creatures to attract mates, avoid predators and stay oriented, as well as force them to expend more energy to make themselves heard. …

“Snapping shrimp are some of the noisiest creatures in the ocean. By rapidly closing their large claws, the animals make snaps, crackles and pops loud enough to stun prey into submission. But ocean acidification, which occurs as seawater absorbs rising levels of carbon dioxide, could soften their snaps. … Researchers at Australia’s University of Adelaide found that the shrimp snap less often and at lower volumes when the water becomes more acidic. …

“ ‘It’s not that ocean acidification completely takes away their ability to make loud snaps,’ said Ivan Nagelkerken, a marine biologist who led the study. ‘They can still do that but essentially don’t want to do that any more.’ [Meanwhile] many marine organisms, especially fish larvae, rely on the sound of snapping shrimp to navigate to suitable habitats.”

Other sound research is on the birds of northern Denmark. “In spring 2010, they were singing from positions nearly four feet higher above the ground than in the late 1980s, Anders Moller, an ecologist at the French National Center for Scientific Research, found.

“Dr. Moller suspects that climate-related changes in vegetation could be responsible. Over the last several decades, the spring and summer temperatures in the region rose 20 percent and precipitation increased 30 percent, he found, and other research has demonstrated that spring is arriving earlier than it used to across much of Europe.

“Foliage can interfere with the transmission of bird songs. If trees are leafing out earlier, or the vegetation is denser, birds might seek higher song posts to avoid this interference, Dr. Moller suggested. He found that species that breed in the forest increased their singing height more than those who mate in more open habitats, like grasslands.

But sitting higher in the trees could come with costs, too. ‘A bird that sits more exposed will run a higher risk of being captured by a sparrow hawk,’ Dr. Moller said.

“Climate change will bring extreme weather, including more frequent and intense storms, to many places on the planet. This uptick in wind and rain could drown out animal calls. … King penguins, which rely on acoustic cues to find their mates and chicks in crowded colonies, … cannot fully counteract the noise, and it takes them longer to find their mates when the wind is howling.”

Lots of other curious tidbits about changing soundscapes here.

Are you doing anything particular for Earth Day? Before lockdown, I was thinking of joining a demonstration against fossil fuel expansion, Stop the Money Pipeline. Instead I’ll probably donate to that, the Arbor Day Foundation, or the highly rated Eden Reforestation Projects. Bad air quality has made coronavirus more deadly, and trees remove pollutants.

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It was still chilly on Saturday, but a great day for the Musketaquid Parade celebrating the Earth. Bands, stilt walkers, homemade floats, drummers, tables for environmental advocates of all kinds.

Does the boy with the “forest” banner whose dad is on a cellphone remind you of the picture book Sidewalk Flowers?

In the afternoon, I helped my 3-year-old grandson dig holes for strawberry plants. (“It’s gonna be a flower. It’s gonna be beautiful!”)

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We all have ambitions, and it seems that there are people in Providence whose ambition it is to hold the tree-hugging record. If you can help, the date is April 25.

According to Tim Faulkner at EcoRi, the goal is to be greener than Portland, Oregon.

“In an effort to establish its green cred and presumably give a big thanks to the environment, the city will attempt to wrest a unique world record from the undisputed champion of green cities: Portland, Ore.

“What’s the record? The largest tree hug. Portland set the benchmark in 2013, with 936 people hugging trees at one time.

“Providence and the Rhode Island Tree Council will host the group hug during its Earth Day Spring Cleaning on April 25. The record attempt will take place at Roger Williams Park, after some 40 neighborhood cleanups across the city. Last year’s cleanups drew about 2,200 volunteers, and organizers hope the Portland record will fall if at least half of them join the after party in the park.

“Registration for the after-cleanup party at Roger Williams Park will be held from 1-2:30 p.m. All tree huggers must register, and early registration is recommended. To register, click here. The event begins at 3 p.m., and all participants must hug a tree for a minute.”

More here on solar power, composting, bike sharing, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza’s sustainability proposals, and plans for energy-saving streetlights.

Photo: Momma on the Move

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4th-floor-roof-gardenIt may get colder, but there’s no turning back now. It’s spring for sure.

Here is a greening-up roof garden maintained by a brilliant landscaper at work. The tree in the foreground is my second favorite of his twisty trees. The first favorite is behind glass, and when I try to snap it, I just get a picture of Suzanne’s Mom taking a picture.

In other photos: The wind was causing a cow balloon to pull against its tether. A bumblebee was one of 20 in my neighbor’s weeping cherry. See it at the top of the picture.

Orange jackets from yesterday’s happy Boston Marathon were lined up for a city tour. And in the Rose Kennedy Greenway, several organizations, including the Coast Guard and Life is good were volunteering for clean-up duty as part of Earth Day.

And speaking of Earth Day, you can enjoy a genuine earthy-crunchy Earth Day celebration in Concord on Saturday. The parade is always a hoot. Check out details here.

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For some years now, Concord has had a fun and funky Earth Day that involves a parade with giant animal and bird puppets and a festival at the Emerson Umbrella Center for the Arts afterward.

The photos: The Blue Person is one of the event’s costumed organizers. Note also the glassblowing demonstration. The faucet made of plastic bottles is meant to remind you that drinking tap water is better for the environment. (Concord Town Meeting just passed a ban on the sale of bottled water — the second attempt to get the legal language right.)

More here.

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Some mornings when I take my walk, it is still dark out. There is not much going on. Few cars — maybe just the newspaper delivery van, the bakery truck, or town employees flushing out the holes in the sidewalk where the flags go for special events like Earth Day or United Nations Day.

Most often, the other walkers are three elderly gentleman. One walks a King Charles Spaniel. One used to check all the bins for recyclable cans and bottles but has retired from that pursuit. One was a slow jogger a couple years ago but is now just a fast walker.

Then there is the lady on the bicycle. The lady on bicycle has a helmet, a bell, and a bicycle light. Also, she bikes on the sidewalk.

One dark morning I was walking along when I heard the screech of bicycle brakes behind me and turned to find the lady on the bicycle glowering. “I nearly ran into you!” she exclaimed indignantly. “You should wear a reflector vest when you go out in the dark!”

Now I take my walk in the street. There are no bicycles in the street at 5:30 a.m.

 

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