Saturday 8th of August 2020

it's not producing the beta carotene because the salt levels are not as high...

pink lake

In a time before Instagram, Pink Lake was a place that had to be seen to be believed, inspiring Dreamtime stories and considered a natural treasure by locals.

Key points:
  • The pink hue was caused by microscopic algae producing beta carotene which diminished as the salt levels fell
  • Salt harvesting at the lake ended in 2007
  • A scientist engaged to look into restoring the lake's hue says it could "definitely be done"


That was until a decade ago, when the waterway in Western Australia's south-east lost its bubble gum hue.

The unique colour faded due to changes in natural water flow, reduced evaporation, and salt harvesting — a practise which ended in 2007.

But now a team of scientists will investigate how to return the lake to its pink brilliance in a project believed to be an Australian first.

Environmental scientist Tilo Massenbauer said historically the pink hue was caused by the lake's microscopic algae which produced beta carotene — the pigment that gives carrots an orange colour.

"At this stage, the organism that turns the lake pink is still there. But it's not producing that beta carotene because the salt levels are not as high," he said.

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Picture at top by Gus Leonisky, circa 2004... It shows the exploitation of salt WHICH MAY HAVE REDUCED THE LEVEL OF SALT in the lake.




modifying the planet...

A ... photo series titled “A Guide to the Flora and Fauna of the World” documents the ways humans are changing the natural world. Shot and edited by Robert Zhao Renhui, whose work explores the ethics and morality of man’s relationship to nature, the images catalogue how animals and organisms evolve in response to the modern world.

On view at the Centre for Contemporary Photography in Melbourne, Australia, the series features both human-engineered changes–like fake meat–and some mutations that have occurred in the wild as the result of human activity–like a beetle with three eyes. Largely, the changes are the result of human intervention, though. There are cube-shaped apples (bred to be easier to store on grocery shelves) and rhinos whose horns have been removed by wildlife conservationists to deter poachers; and a wild tiger who’s been fitted with a kill switch around its neck to be activated if it shows too much interest in getting near humans.

In one specific image, a polar bear–the poster child of the environmental impacts of climate change–swims through Canada’s Hudson Bay, where the bear population is at risk of collapsing because of ice retreat. Melting ice means polar bears have to spend more time swimming to get between pieces of ice where they hunt for food.

Renhui works with the Institute of Critical Zoologists, an organization that brings together artists and scientists to research the relationship between humans and animals. “A Guide to the Flora and Fauna of the World” is a poignant reminder of the complex ways humanity controls nature; both directly and indirectly; both helping it and hurting it. The series is also available in book form here.


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Is this a cubapple?

cube tomato

cube tomato? Apple? Playing Dice with nature? 


Read also:

the impossible survival of nature on planet cash...


we are wrecking the land surface of the planet...

Scientists are poised to deliver a stark condemnation of the damage we are wreaking on the land surface of the planet.

We have degraded soils, expanded deserts, felled forests, driven out wildlife, and drained peatlands.

In the process, we have turned the land from an asset that combats climate change into a major source of carbon.

The scientists will say we must stop abusing the land if we hope to avoid catastrophic climate heating.

UK's 10 warmest years all occurred since 2002

Climate change: Where we are in seven charts

What is climate change?

How can the land protect us from climate change?

Uncultivated land covered with vegetation protects us from overheating because the plants absorb the warming gas CO2 from the air and fix it in the soil. 

But the scientists meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, will say the way we farm and grow timber often actually increases emissions of carbon dioxide. 

Between a quarter and a third of all greenhouse gas emissions are now estimated to come from land use.

The scientists will warn of a battle for land between multiple competing demands: biofuels, plant material for plastics and fibres, timber, wildlife, paper and pulp - and food for a growing population. 

Their report will say we need to make hard choices about how we use the world’s soil.

And it will offer another warning that our hunger for red meat is putting huge stress on the land to produce animal feed, as well as contributing to half of the world’s emissions of methane - another greenhouse gas. 

What is the report?

The document’s being finalised this week among scientists and government officials on the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

It will become the most authoritative report yet on the way we use and abuse the land. Scientists hope it will give the issue of land use greater prominence in negotiations on climate change.

At its heart will be the paradox that the land can be a source of CO2 emissions, or a sink for CO2 emissions.

The question is how we use it.

Why is that an issue?

Take the fenlands in the east of England – a huge expanse of lowland peat.

In its natural state, it’s saturated with water. But over centuries, 99% of it has been drained for farming. Food crops don’t grow in peat bogs.

The remaining un-drained 1% is Wicken Fen, a plot owned by the charity the National Trust, where the soft black soil is still 4m deep.

The surrounding drained farmland is noticeably lower, because as it’s been drained the peat has shrunk to just 50cm thick. 

Between 1-2% of the soil on the drained farmland is still being lost every year.

That’s because when peat is exposed to the air, it oxidises and produces CO2.

But here’s the problem: the peaty fields are also some of the most productive cropland in the UK – they’re known as Black Gold. 

Farmers want to grow food on them – not soak them to save carbon.

One young farmer, Charles Shropshire, told me he was concerned about carbon loss from his fields. 

He’s already finding that existing climate change is disrupting growing patterns.

So now he’s adopting so-called “regenerative farming” techniques - such as shallow ploughing, keeping the land covered in vegetation in the winter, and using drip-feed watering.

He’s willing to experiment with National Trust ideas such as re-wetting the soil over the winter, or growing sphagnum moss for use in beauty treatments or hanging baskets. 

But many other farmers don’t want to change the way they run their business.

And all round the world you’ll find similar stories as farmers strive to increase production of the food people want, with scant regard to the long term. 

Part of the problem is that consumption of meat and vegetable oils has doubled since the 1960s.

Can we solve the problem?

Scientists say the problem is huge. They admit it will be hard to solve, especially as conservation-style farming would involve teaching half a billion farmers to work differently.

They believe we need to: 

  • Protect as much natural forest as we can, particularly in the tropics 
  • Change diets to eat less red meat and more vegetables
  • Safeguard peatlands and restore them where possible
  • Grow plants and trees to produce energy… but only on a small local scale
  • Do more agro-forestry, where food crops are mixed in with trees
  • Improve crop varieties

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a must-see location...

For decades the Hutt Lagoon near Port Gregory, commonly called Pink Lake, was a local curiosity but it has now become a must-see location for many Chinese visitors and the victim of its own popularity. 

The narrow, windy road along the lake is shared with a steady stream of cars, caravans, campervans and the occasional film crew.

Tourists have created paths through the bush to get to the lake's edge.

Local residents tell stories of people stopping campervans on the road and standing on the roofs of vehicles to take photographs.


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Rea from top.

different organism, different colours...


Valeria Souza Saldívar never planned to devote her life to a remote and ancient oasis more than 1000 kilometers north of her laboratory in Mexico City. But a call in early 1999 changed that.

“It's one of the best cold calls I've ever made,” says James Elser, a limnologist at the University of Montana. He had picked up the phone to invite Souza Saldívar to join a NASA-funded astrobiology project in Cuatro Ciénegas—a butterfly-shaped basin with colorful pools, or pozas, in the middle of Mexico's Chihuahuan Desert.

Neither Souza Saldívar, a microbial ecologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, University City, nor her ecologist husband and research partner Luis Eguiarte Fruns, also at UNAM, had ever visited Cuatro Ciénegas. That first trip convinced them to completely change their research plans. “Looking at those mountains and the water, I fell in love,” Souza Saldívar says.

The landscape—more than 300 turquoise-blue pozas scattered across 800 square kilometers, among marshes and majestic mountains—wasn't the only draw. The waters, whose chemistry resembled that of Earth's ancient seas, teemed with microbes; unusual bacterial mats and formations called stromatolites carpeted the shallows. When Souza Saldívar first cultured the organisms from the pozas, “The amount of microbes was enormous, as was the diversity of colors and colony sizes,” she recalls. For her, this remote microbial hot spot was an irresistible mystery.

Since then, work by Souza Saldívar, Eguiarte Fruns, and a widening circle of collaborators in Mexico and the United States has shown that Cuatro Ciénegas—which means “four marshes” in Spanish—is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. “There's nowhere that has so much ancient diversity of microorganisms,” says Michael Travisano, an evolutionary ecologist at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, who has collaborated with the Mexican researchers since 2001. Among the most recent additions to that menagerie are hundreds of species of archaea, the ancient microbes that may have given rise to eukaryotes—organisms with complex, nucleated cells.

The diversity includes strains with unusual adaptations, such as the ability to build their lipid membranes with sulfur instead of the usual phosphorus, which is scarce in the waters of the pozas. It includes potential sources of new compounds for medicine and agriculture. And it poses a question that has occupied Souza Saldívar and Eguiarte Fruns for the past 20 years: How did this Noah's Ark of ancient microbes arise? “It's a dream for every biologist to know the origin of diversification,” Souza Saldívar says.

But her dream might be short-lived. Since the 1970s, farmers have intensively drained water from the pozas and rivers to irrigate nearby fields of alfalfa, grown for cattle fodder, gradually drying the improbable oasis. Souza Saldívar has galvanized a conservation effort that has slowed the drainage; in the coming weeks, a canal that removes 100 million cubic meters of Cuatro Ciénegas's water annually is scheduled to close. In the meantime, the researchers have been trying to describe as much as they can, as fast as they can, before their beloved pozas dry up and the precious microscopic life that has survived undisturbed for millions of years dies off.



Read more:

Science  03 Jul 2020:

Vol. 369, Issue 6499, pp. 20-25



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