Ecology

Crash Course Ecology documentary

Posted by on Jul 13, 2016 in Ecology, Sustainable | Comments Off on Crash Course Ecology documentary

http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/crash-course-ecology/

http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/crash-course-ecology/

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This Tree Can Grow Over 40 Different Kinds Of Fruit

Posted by on Jul 13, 2016 in Ecology, Grow Food, Tree | Comments Off on This Tree Can Grow Over 40 Different Kinds Of Fruit

The enchanted-looking tree above harbors a wondrous secret.

Using an ancient technique called “chip grafting,” artist and Syracuse University professor Sam Van Aken has carefully nurtured trees that can bear over 40 different types of stone fruits, including peaches, nectarines, apricots and almonds.

The process is one of patience: Over several years, Van Aken splices branches with buds of various varieties into a base branch called the “working tree.”

By springtime, the “Tree of 40 Fruit” sprouts pink and purple blossoms. In the summer, the tree begins to bear fruit of all kinds.

“Part of the idea behind the Tree of 40 Fruit was to plant them in locations that people would stumble upon them,” said Van Aken speaking to National Geographic in the video below. “And once they happened upon one of these trees, they would start to question ‘Why are the leaves shaped differently?’ ‘Why are they different colors?’”

Dozens of these trees have been planted around the U.S. You can find out here if a Tree of 40 Fruit is near you.

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Plants Know When They Are Being Eaten (and Freak Out)

Posted by on Jul 12, 2016 in Consciousness, Ecology, Plants Medicines | Comments Off on Plants Know When They Are Being Eaten (and Freak Out)

If you didn’t already recognize plants as sentient beings, maybe this study from the University of Missouri will change your mind:

Researchers at the University of Missouri, in a collaboration that brings together audio and chemical analysis, have determined that plants respond to the sounds that caterpillars make when eating plants and that the plants respond with more defenses.

“Previous research has investigated how plants respond to acoustic energy, including music,” said Heidi Appel, senior research scientist in the Division of Plant Sciences in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and the Bond Life Sciences Center at MU. “However, our work is the first example of how plants respond to an ecologically relevant vibration. We found that feeding vibrations signal changes in the plant cells’ metabolism, creating more defensive chemicals that can repel attacks from caterpillars.”

Appel collaborated with Rex Cocroft, professor in the Division of Biological Sciences at MU. In the study, caterpillars were placed on Arabidopsis, a small flowering plant related to cabbage and mustard. Using a laser and a tiny piece of reflective material on the leaf of the plant, Cocroft was able to measure the movement of the leaf in response to the chewing caterpillar.

Cocroft and Appel then played back recordings of caterpillar feeding vibrations to one set of plants, but played back only silence to the other set of plants. When caterpillars later fed on both sets of plants, the researchers found that the plants previously exposed to feeding vibrations produced more mustard oils, a chemical that is unappealing to many caterpillars.

“What is remarkable is that the plants exposed to different vibrations, including those made by a gentle wind or different insect sounds that share some acoustic features with caterpillar feeding vibrations did not increase their chemical defenses,” Cocroft said. “This indicates that the plants are able to distinguish feeding vibrations from other common sources of environmental vibration.”

Appel and Cocroft say future research will focus on how vibrations are sensed by the plants, what features of the complex vibrational signal are important, and how the mechanical vibrations interact with other forms of plant information to generate protective responses to pests.

“Plants have many ways to detect insect attack, but feeding vibrations are likely the fastest way for distant parts of the plant to perceive the attack and begin to increase their defenses,” Cocroft said.

“Caterpillars react to this chemical defense by crawling away, so using vibrations to enhance plant defenses could be useful to agriculture,” Appel said. “This research also opens the window of plant behavior a little wider, showing that plants have many of the same responses to outside influences that animals do, even though the responses look different.”

The study, “Plants respond to leaf vibrations caused by insect herbivore chewing,” was funded in part by the National Science Foundation and was published in Oecologia.

Plants Know When They Are Being Eaten (and Freak Out)

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A rich life with less stuff

Posted by on Oct 25, 2015 in Earth, Ecology, Sustainable | Comments Off on A rich life with less stuff

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Batteries Based On Hemp Could Change the Way We Store Energy

Posted by on Oct 2, 2015 in Earth, Ecology, Energy, Green Energy | Comments Off on Batteries Based On Hemp Could Change the Way We Store Energy

Hemp is the commonly used term for high-growing varieties of the Cannabis plant and its products, which include fiber, oil, and seed.
Hemp is refined into products such as hemp seed foods, hemp oil, wax, resin, rope, cloth, pulp, paper, and fuel. It is the most universally useful plant we have at our disposal with a history of use that can be traced way back to between about 5000 – 7000 BC.

This article from waking times explores how ‘Hemp-Based Batteries Could Change the Way We Store Energy Forever’:

‘As hemp makes a comeback in the U.S. after a decades-long ban on its cultivation, scientists are reporting that fibers from the plant can pack as much energy and power as graphene, long-touted as the model material for supercapacitors. They’re presenting their research, which a Canadian start-up company is working on scaling up, at the 248th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society.

Although hemp (cannabis sativa) and marijuana (cannabis sativa var. indica) come from a similar species of plant, they are very different and confusion has been caused by deliberate misinformation with far reaching effects on socioeconomics as well as on environmental matters.

Hemp is the most universally useful plant we have at our disposal. The history of mankind’s use of hemp can be traced way back in time to between about 5000 – 7000 BC.

Industrial hemp and hemp seed could transform the economy of the world States in a positive and beneficial way, and therefore should be exploited to its full potential, especially relating to energy storage.’

David Mitlin, Ph.D., explains that supercapacitors are energy storage devices that have huge potential to transform the way future electronics are powered. Unlike today’s rechargeable batteries, which sip up energy over several hours, supercapacitors can charge and discharge within seconds. But they normally can’t store nearly as much energy as batteries, an important property known as energy density. One approach researchers are taking to boost supercapacitors’ energy density is to design better electrodes. Mitlin’s team has figured out how to make them from certain hemp fibers — and they can hold as much energy as the current top contender: graphene.

“Our device’s electrochemical performance is on par with or better than graphene-based devices,” Mitlin says. “The key advantage is that our electrodes are made from biowaste using a simple process, and therefore, are much cheaper than graphene.”

The race toward the ideal supercapacitor has largely focused on graphene — a strong, light material made of atom-thick layers of carbon, which when stacked, can be made into electrodes. Scientists are investigating how they can take advantage of graphene’s unique properties to build better solar cells, water filtration systems, touch-screen technology, as well as batteries and supercapacitors. The problem is it’s expensive.

Mitlin’s group decided to see if they could make graphene-like carbons from hemp bast fibers. The fibers come from the inner bark of the plant and often are discarded from Canada’s fast-growing industries that use hemp for clothing, construction materials and other products. The U.S. could soon become another supplier of bast. It now allows limited cultivation of hemp, which unlike its close cousin, does not induce highs.

Since the 1950s, the United States has been lumped hemp into the same category of marijuana, and thus the extremely versatile crop was doomed in the United States. Hemp is technically from the same species of plant that psychoactive marijuana comes from. However, it is from a different variety, or subspecies that contains many important differences.

Industrial hemp has very low Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels, which is the principal psychoactive constituent. Compared to marijuana which is specifically cultivated for personal psychoactive use, it is nearly impossible to “get high” on hemp. Marijuana that can be smoked usually contains between 5-10% THC, industrial hemp contains about one-tenth of that. In order to get a psychoactive effect, one would need to smoke more than a dozen hemp cigarettes over a very short period of time to achieve any kind of psychoactive effect.

The reason for the low THC content in hemp is that most THC is formed in resin glands on the buds and flowers of the female cannabis plant. Industrial hemp is not cultivated to produce buds, and therefore lacks the primary component that forms the marijuana high. Furthermore, industrial hemp has higher concentrations of a chemical called Cannabidiol (CBD) that has a negative effect on THC and lessens its psychoactive effects when smoked in conjunction.

Scientists had long suspected there was more value to the hemp bast — it was just a matter of finding the right way to process the material.

“We’ve pretty much figured out the secret sauce of it,” says Mitlin, who’s now with Clarkson University in New York. “The trick is to really understand the structure of a starter material and to tune how it’s processed to give you what would rightfully be called amazing properties.”

His team found that if they heated the fibers for 24 hours at a little over 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and then blasted the resulting material with more intense heat, it would exfoliate into carbon nanosheets.

Mitlin’s team built their supercapacitors using the hemp-derived carbons as electrodes and an ionic liquid as the electrolyte. Fully assembled, the devices performed far better than commercial supercapacitors in both energy density and the range of temperatures over which they can work. The hemp-based devices yielded energy densities as high as 12 Watt-hours per kilogram, two to three times higher than commercial counterparts. They also operate over an impressive temperature range, from freezing to more than 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

“We’re past the proof-of-principle stage for the fully functional supercapacitor,” he says. “Now we’re gearing up for small-scale manufacturing.”

Governments have cooperated with powerful corporate lobbyists the ensure that hemp is lumped into the same category as marijuana. The primary reason is that hemp has too many abundant resources for fuel, housing, food, medicine that corporations cannot exploit. Think about how many polluting conglomerates would go down if hemp was permitted as a resource. The oil, pharmaceutical, supplement and constructions industry would need to radically shift their business model to survive.

Mitlin, who conducted the research while at the University of Alberta, acknowledges funding from Alberta Innovates Technology Futures,National Institute for Nanotechnology (Canada) and Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency.

Environmental Benefits of Hemp

* Hemp results in a 95.5% fuel-to-feed ratio when used for pyrolysis the thermochemical process that converts organic matter into fuel.
* Biomass has heating value of up to 8,000 BTU/lb., with virtually no residual sulphur or ash during combustion.
* Hemp is the #1 producer of biomass per acre in the world. Biomass energy expert Lynn Osburn estimates that 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 million acres of hemp would replace all of Canada’s fossil fuel demands.
* From 75°/O to 90% of all paper was made with hemp fiber until the late 1800’s.
* An acre of hemp will produce as much pulp for paper as 4,1 acres of trees over a 20 year period.
* The hemp paper-making process requires no dioxin-producing chlorine bleach and uses 75% to 85% less sulphur-based acid.
* Hemp paper is suitable for recycle use 7 to 8 times, compared with 3 times for wood pulp paper.
* Hemp produces the strongest, most durable natural soft-fiber on earth. Until the 1 820’s, up to 80% of all textiles and fabrics for clothes, canvas, linens and cordage were made principally from hemp.
* Hemp cloth is stronger, more durable, warmer and more absorbent than cotton. Best of all. ‘ grown in Canada, cotton cannot.
* An acre of land will produce 2 to 3 times as much fiber as cotton, about 1,000 Ibs. of fiber per acre.
* Hemp grown in most parts of Canada will require no herbicide, fungicide or insecticide applications. Up to ½ of all agricultural pesticides used in North America are applied to the cotton crop.
* Natural, organic hemp fiber breathes and is recyclable, unlike petroleum-based synthetic fibers.
* A fully mature hemp plant may contain 1/2 of its dry-weight in seed.
* Once hemp seed oil has been extracted, the remaining seed cake is second only to soya bean for protein content and is an excellent source of nutrition for either farm animals or humans.

Agricultural Benefits of Hemp

* England, France and Spain have all legalized low THC varieties of hemp for an agricultural crop. England planted 1,500 acres of hemp as a first year crop. Reports from England state that farmers are receiving in excess of 3,000$ per acre for their hemp crop.
* Low THC hemp is not suitable as a psychoactive drug.
* A Canadian report from the late 1800’s demonstrated that hemp works very well in rotation with bean and corn crops.
* In 1991 Ontario farmers receiver 290$ and 240$ per acre for grain corn and soya bean respectively.
* Hemp was grown successfully in Canada for over 100 years. For a period in the late 1800’s Canada produced ‘hi: of all England’s hemp requirements. At kite time, England was the largest hemp consumer in the world.
* In the 1930’s, a South Western Ontario newspaper reported that Canadian grown hemp was among the best in the world and far superior to tropical hemp.
* In Canada hemp can be grown successfully from our southern borders to approximately 60O North Latitude, the parallel that divides the North West Territories from the provinces. This remarkable range is possible due to hemp’s short growing season, usually 90 to 110 days.
* The hemp plant will reach a height of up to 5m (16ft.) and sink a main tap root down 1 ft. This tap root will draw nutrients from deep in the soil and make them available to subsequent crops when the hemp leaves are shed on the soil. This extensive root system also helps to alleviate the problem of soil compaction.
* Hemp is very easy on the soil and returns up to 60% of the nutrients it takes from the soil, when dried in the field.
* A report from Kentucky states that hemp was grown on the same land for 14 consecutive years without soil depletion or reduction in yield.
* Hemp is very economical crop to grow since it requires virtually no pesticide applications.
* Hemp is also relatively drought-resistant and has been relied upon several times during drought-induced famine for its high protein seed.
* Hemp is very resistant to increased UV radiation and should not suffer decreased yields, unlike soya bean and corn.

http://yournewswire.com/hemp-based-batteries-could-change-the-way-we-store-energy-forever/

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Young Man May Have Found Way To Rid The World’s Oceans of Plastic

Posted by on Oct 2, 2015 in Earth, Ecology, Sustainable | Comments Off on Young Man May Have Found Way To Rid The World’s Oceans of Plastic

The Pacific Garbage patch, a gyre that is larger than the entire continent of Australia is only one of the incredibly heart-breaking results of our culture of mass consumption. For hundreds of millions of square miles all around, plastic, sometimes feet thick, has swirled into a sort of vacuum.

But the Pacific Ocean is not alone – once tropical and pristine Caribbean islands are now being littered with plastic products washing up on their shores daily. The world’s other oceans also contain they’re own versions of garbage and plastic patches – and it is killing one of our main sources of sustaining life on Earth – our water.

But now, a 20 year old thinks he has possibly invented a way to rid the world’s oceans of plastics.

As Rise Earth reports:

Last June, an intrepid teenaged environmentalist made headlines after developing The Ocean Cleanup, described as the “world’s first feasible concept to clean the oceans of plastic.”

Boyan Slat, a Dutch former aerospace engineering student, said his plastic-capturing concept can clean half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in a decade. The project was inspired after the young man took a diving trip in Greece in 2011 and saw more plastic in the water than fish.

Slat’s ambitious project—proposed when he was only 17—received a slew of accolades and was recently named a finalist in London’s Design Museum′s Design of the Year awards, which “celebrate design that promotes or delivers change, enables access, extends design practice or captures the spirit of the year.”

plastic_Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 11.02.04 PM
The design involves a static platform that passively corrals plastics as wind and ocean currents push debris through V-shaped booms that are 100 kilometers long.

The floating filters would catch all the plastic off the top three meters of water where the concentration of plastic is the highest, while allowing fish and other marine life to pass under without getting caught. Besides natural currents, the self-sufficient platform would also be powered by 162 solar panels.

Traditional strategies of capturing ocean plastic usually involve vessels and nets, but Slat’s study pointed out, “Not only would by-catch and emissions likely cancel out the good work, but also, due to the vastness of areas in which the plastics concentrate, such an operation would cost many billions of dollars, and thousands of years to complete.”
Besides natural currents, the self-sufficient platform would also be powered by 162 solar panels.

The platform would be emptied of its haul every month and a half. As for what can be done with the plastic, the Ocean Cleanup team tested degraded plastic from the Hawaiian shoreline and found that it’s suitable to be turned into oil. They have also tested whether or not the plastic can be recycled.

Critics have written off the idea, but Slat and 70 other scientists and engineers composed a 530-page feasibility report, and concluded that the concept “is indeed likely a feasible and viable ocean cleanup technique.” Their conclusion has also been peer-reviewed by external experts, Slat wrote in a blog post.

As for what can be done with the plastic, the Ocean Cleanup team tested degraded plastic from the Hawaiian shoreline and found that it’s suitable to be turned into oil. Photo credit: The Ocean Cleanup

After releasing the feasibility report, Slat launched an extremely successful crowdfunding campaign that garnered support from 38,000 funders from 160 countries, and raised $2 million in 100 days. The project is currently in phase two in which a team will build a large-scale, fully operational pilot of the design near the Azores Islands within the next three to four years.

After introducing the idea at a 2012 TEDx Talk conference in the Netherlands, the Ocean Cleanup crew has since gone on several gyre expeditions. Last month, a sampling team took off for a month-long trip to the North Atlantic Gyre. Slat tweeted some good news from the crew:

We previously mentioned that plastic threatens marine life and marine ecosystems, and also causes about $13 billion in damages to marine ecosystems each year. In the video below, Slat talks about how his concept could rid the world of this costly environmental menace with seemingly little effort.

“Why move through the oceans, if the oceans can move through you?” he said. “Instead of going after the plastics, you could simply wait for the plastics to come to you without requiring any added energy.”

http://yournewswire.com/young-man-may-have-found-way-to-rid-the-worlds-oceans-of-plastic/

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