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Non-biodegradable Plastics End Up In Seabirds' Bellies

Non-biodegradable Plastics End Up In Seabirds' Bellies | Aquascaping and Nature | Scoop.it
When bottles and bags are cast out to sea, the debris never truly goes away — it just gets smaller. And these plastic particles, called microplastics, are ready meals for fish and birds.

 

The vast majority of debris in the ocean — about 75 percent of it — is made of plastic. It can consist of anything from plastic bottles to packaging materials, but whatever form it takes, it doesn't go away easily.

 

While plastic may break down into smaller and smaller pieces, some as small as grains of sand, these pieces are never truly biodegradable. The plastic bits, some small enough that they're called microplastics, threaten marine life like fish and birds, explains Richard Thompson, a professor of marine biology at Plymouth University in the U.K.

 

"The smaller the piece of debris, the more accessible it is — and the wider the range of creatures that could potentially eat it," says Thompson, who talked with NPR's Melissa Block about his research on the effects of these tiny particles.

 

Listen to Thomson's audio interview here: 

http://www.npr.org/2014/06/17/322959714/plastics-dont-disappear-but-they-do-end-up-in-sea-birds-bellies

 
Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

With all the hype given to global warming and climate change, it is easy to forget that plastics threaten our wildlife.

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A Message From The Curator

A Message From The Curator | Aquascaping and Nature | Scoop.it

Aquascaping and Nature comprises a collection of articles curated from the web on related to our natural environment, climate change and of course aquascaping. The cover photo above shows whale sharks housed in Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium http://sco.lt/7XWQTp

 

I have been interested in fish tanks since I was a kid and have now moved to planted tanks. My passion for environmental issues was spurred on by my dad, Dr. Chan Hung Tuck, who was an ecologist by training.

 

Please follow my topic and share my scoops if you found the curated articles interesting, and check out the popular tags listed in the post above. I also welcome suggested scoops related to this topic and give credit where credit is due.

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

I teach chemistry at UCSI University, Malaysia and most of my research is centered around phytochemistry.

 

My research interests can be viewed here: http://scholar.google.com.my/citations?user=iVv3xbAAAAAJ&hl=en

 

I manage the Facebook and Google+ pages belonging to the Faculty of Applied Sciences, UCSI University. Curated scoops are shared here:

https://www.facebook.com/Applied.Sciences.UCSI

https://plus.google.com/117901649282247944098/posts

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The banded stilt : Extreme nomad scrambles for shrimp bonanza

The banded stilt : Extreme nomad scrambles for shrimp bonanza | Aquascaping and Nature | Scoop.it
Always on the go? Spare a thought for the banded stilt, a truly extreme nomad. It will fly more than 2200 kilometres in just over two days to feast on its favourite shrimp soup. No other bird embarks on such an epic journey with so little notice.

 

"Banded stilts exploit one of the most unpredictable climates in the world," says Reece Pedler of Deakin University in Victoria, Australia. Although these long-legged wanderers can feed on a range of aquatic invertebrates, they have a particular penchant for the Australian brine shrimp (Parartemia).

 

For many years, ornithologists had noticed that banded stilts, which gather in large numbers along coastal wetlands, sometimes suddenly disappear. This usually happened after rain had fallen somewhere inland, and breeding colonies had sometimes been seen at remote desert salt lakes soon afterwards.

 

"We were very surprised at the distance, duration and speed of banded stilt flights," says Pedler. Of the 21 birds, they recorded two leaving the comfort of their coastal waters following the fall of rain further inland. They flew between 1000 and 2000 kilometres to find the ephemeral inland lakes that such rain brings.

The speed at which the stilts fly is crucial if they are to arrive in time for their favourite food. "The Australian brine shrimp that banded stilt feed on have rapid life cycles, and thus the stilts must arrive rapidly after flooding of inland lakes to capitalise on the temporary feast that they provide," says Pedler.

 

And what a feast it is. When rainwater fills up inland salt lakes, the shrimp hatch from eggs that may have been lying dormant in the lakebed's dry salt crust for years or even decades. "These tiny shrimp grow rapidly and are so numerous that the briny water has been likened to brine-shrimp soup," says Pedler. This super-abundant food source supports the stilts through breeding, fuelling their egg laying and providing highly nutritious food for their fast-growing chicks.

 

But no boom lasts forever. When the salt lakes began to dry, the birds returned to the coast, flying an average of 684 kilometres, and in once case nearly 1300 kilometres.

 

Read more about how these birds detect rain thousands of kilometers away: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn26449-zoologger-extreme-nomad-scrambles-for-shrimp-bonanza.html

 

The associated research article can be read here:

http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/10/10/20140547

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

These bird rely on ephemeral inland lakes for food. Altered weather conditions and frequency of rain brought about by climate change may drive these birds extinct. Even simple human development may threaten their food source.

 

Read more scoops on biodiversity here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/aquascaping-and-nature/?tag=Biodiversity

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A vegetarian meal may result in more animal deaths than a non-vegetarian one

A vegetarian meal may result in more animal deaths than a non-vegetarian one | Aquascaping and Nature | Scoop.it
The ethics of eating red meat have been grilled recently by critics who question its consequences for environmental health and animal welfare. But if you want to minimise animal suffering and promote more sustainable agriculture, adopting a vegetarian diet might be the worst possible thing you could do.

 

Renowned ethicist Peter Singer says if there is a range of ways of feeding ourselves, we should choose the way that causes the least unnecessary harm to animals. Most animal rights advocates say this means we should eat plants rather than animals.

 

It takes somewhere between two to ten kilos of plants, depending on the type of plants involved, to produce one kilo of animal. Given the limited amount of productive land in the world, it would seem to some to make more sense to focus our culinary attentions on plants, because we would arguably get more energy per hectare for human consumption. Theoretically this should also mean fewer sentient animals would be killed to feed the ravenous appetites of ever more humans.

 

But before scratching rangelands-produced red meat off the “good to eat” list for ethical or environmental reasons, let’s test these presumptions. Published figures suggest that, in Australia, producing wheat and other grains results in:

 

1. At least 25 times more sentient animals being killed per kilogram of useable protein

2. More environmental damage, and

3. A great deal more animal cruelty than does farming red meat.

 

How is this possible?

 

Agriculture to produce wheat, rice and pulses requires clear-felling native vegetation. That act alone results in the deaths of thousands of Australian animals and plants per hectare. Since Europeans arrived on this continent we have lost more than half of Australia’s unique native vegetation, mostly to increase production of monocultures of introduced species for human consumption.

 

Producing protein from wheat means ploughing pasture land and planting it with seed. Anyone who has sat on a ploughing tractor knows the predatory birds that follow you all day are not there because they have nothing better to do. Ploughing and harvesting kill small mammals, snakes, lizards and other animals in vast numbers. In addition, millions of mice are poisoned in grain storage facilities every year.

 

However, the largest and best-researched loss of sentient life is the poisoning of mice during plagues. At least 100 mice are killed per hectare per year (500/4 × 0.8) to grow grain. Average yields are about 1.4 tonnes of wheat/hectare; 13% of the wheat is useable protein. Therefore, at least 55 sentient animals die to produce 100kg of usable plant protein: 25 times more than for the same amount of rangelands beef.

 

Read more here: http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/ordering-vegetarian-meal-there-s-more-animal-blood-your-hands

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Being vegetarian saves cows' lives, but threatens the future of other sentient creatures. However, if we were to consider the environmental sustainability of agriculture rather than the loss of animal life, vegetables still trumps meat.

 

Furthermore, a disclaimer is included in the article stating that much of the article is based on the Australian context and farming practises differ around the globe.

 

There is still much research into sustainable meat http://sco.lt/6eQQtd; and dairy http://sco.lt/6r3jqD; alternatives.

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This is how scientists REALLY feel about climate change

This is how scientists REALLY feel about climate change | Aquascaping and Nature | Scoop.it
An Australian student has put together a website featuring handwritten letters from climate scientists, and they’re both heartbreaking and inspiring.

 

When we talk about putting a human face on climate change, most people think about the populations around the world who will be affected by rising oceans or prolonged drought.

 

And while those images are extremely powerful, Joe Duggan, a Masters student at theAustralian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science (CPAS) in Canberra, has taken a different approach - he’s decided to show the world the face of the scientists who are at the forefront of the (losing) battle against climate change.

 

As part of his Masters project at CPAS, Duggan asked Australia’s top climate scientists to handwrite him letters on how they felt about climate change. The result is 20 beautiful and heartbreaking letters that clearly display the frustration, guilt, anxiety and anger that plagues the researchers who have access to all the data, but can't make people listen to their warnings.

 

“What follows are the words of real scientists. Researchers that understand climate change,” writes Duggan.

 

Read more here: http://sciencealert.com.au/features/20140710-26297.html

 

Read the handwritten letters on Duggan's blog here: 

http://isthishowyoufeel.weebly.com/this-is-how-scientists-feel.html

 

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

There is much debate and discussion about the findings of climate change scientists. However, this is a rare insight into how they feel about climate change and the letter above shows a lot of anguish, frustration and urgency.

 

More scoops on climate change can be read here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/aquascaping-and-nature/?tag=Climate+Change

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India tackles poverty through business

India tackles poverty through business | Aquascaping and Nature | Scoop.it
It's a riot of colours - yellow marigolds and bright pink roses spread out in the sun.

 

But the people spreading the joy this festive season cannot see it themselves - they are all visually challenged. They take in tonnes of flower waste produced by temples and hotels in Delhi and turn it into organic skin-friendly colours for Hindu festivals. The Society for Child Development, which runs this programme, says the process does not just reduce waste but creates livelihoods. It says charity is not a solution. What they look for is a market to sell their goods.


The director of the group, Dr Madhumita Puri, says that though society has been tackling the issue of poverty, it remains one of the greatest unsolved problems of the current generation. "There is only one solution that really strikes me - that there has to be a business solution, a business solution where everybody comes in," she says.


By turning waste into products consumers want, this charity has seen its business grow by 150% in the past year. In training visually and intellectually challenged people in entrepreneurial skills, they seek assistance from corporations and big businesses. "With corporates, what we would like to do is ask them to provide us help in the end solution. That is when we go into the market - when we go there we need all the help we can," Dr Puri says. 


 

It's not just big corporations - individuals too have always been supportive of charities. Philanthropy has always been part of society in India. But traditionally, the bulk of this money is given to the poor outside temples and mosques - charity that's motivated by religious beliefs. But as India's economy grows, mindsets are changing and the business of giving is becoming more than just money.


Philanthropy has a vital role to play, says Anshu Gupta of Delhi-based non-governmental group Goonj. "But the problem is that all the big corporates and big offices are in urban areas. The problems are not within the range of 20-30km of their areas but it might be 1,000km away," says Anshu Gupta.


Read more here: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-29784316

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

As the proverb goes, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."


Teaching the visually challenged a proper trade would ensure that this business of converting waste into products remain sustainable and economically viable.


Such initiatives are admirable given that India is one of the most populous countries in the world with a wide gap in wealth. As the world's popultion booms, will its resources be enough for us? http://sco.lt/7fkGkj

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Eric Chan Wei Chiang's comment, November 4, 10:14 PM
@Jocelyn Stoller this scoop may interest you.
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The world's loudest sound caused shock waves 100,000 times that of a hydrogen bomb

The world's loudest sound caused shock waves 100,000 times that of a hydrogen bomb | Aquascaping and Nature | Scoop.it
The loudest sound ever recorded shattered the eardrums of sailers over 50 kilometres away, sent shock waves around the world several times over, and could be heard clearly by 50 geological locations covering over 10 percent of the globe. 

 

On 27 August 1883, the Earth made the loudest noise in recorded history. Emanating from the island of Krakatoa, which sits between the islands of Java and Sumatra in Indonesia, the sound could be heard clearly almost 5,000 kilometres away and by people across 50 different geological locations around the world.

 

According to Aatish Bhatia at Nautilus, about 3,200 kilometres away from Krakatoa, residents of New Guinea and Western Australia reported hearing “a series of loud reports, resembling those of artillery in a north-westerly direction”, and over 4,800 kilometres away on the island of Rodrigues in the Indian Ocean, locals reported hearing what sounded to them like the distant roar of heavy gunfire.

 

The sound was caused by a record-breaking volcanic eruption that sent smoke up almost 80 kilometres into the air as ash fell into the ocean some 20 kilometres away. Burning hot debris was shot from the mouth of Krakatoa's volcano at speeds of up to 2,575 kilometres per hour, which is more than double the speed of sound. 

 

The event has been called the greatest natural disaster of the 19th century, because with such an incredible release of pressure came severe consequences for the surrounding area. Shock waves from the eruption travelled around the world several times, and created a tsunami over 45 metres tall and weighing 600 tonnes, which ended up hitting the shores of Java and Sumatra and absolutely decimating their coastal regions. Far away in South African waters, ships were being rocked by another set of tsunamis. And you wouldn’t have wanted to be on the water less than 100 kilometres from Krakatoa at the time, as Bhatia explains at Nautilus:


"The British ship Norham Castle was 40 miles (64 kilometres) from Krakatoa at the time of the explosion. The ship’s captain wrote in his log, “So violent are the explosions that the ear-drums of over half my crew have been shattered. My last thoughts are with my dear wife. I am convinced that the Day of Judgement has come.””


Read more here: http://sciencealert.com.au/features/20143009-26257.html

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Interesting fact of nature. More science trivia scooped here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/aquascaping-and-nature/?tag=Trivia

http://www.scoop.it/t/biotech-and-beyond/?tag=Trivia

http://www.scoop.it/t/food-health-and-nutrition/?tag=Trivia

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No single explanation for biodiversity in Madagascar

No single explanation for biodiversity in Madagascar | Aquascaping and Nature | Scoop.it
No single 'one-size-fits-all' model can explain how biodiversity hotspots come to be, finds a study of more than 700 species of reptiles and amphibians in Madagascar. By analyzing the distribution of Madagascar's lizards, snakes, frogs and tortoises, researchers find that each group responded differently to environmental fluctuations on the island over time. The results are important because they suggest that climate change and deforestation in Madagascar will have varying effects on different species.

 

"It means that there won't be a uniform decline of species -- some species will do better, and others will do worse," said Brown, a co-author on the study appearing online in the journal Nature Communications.

 

Previous studies have linked the distribution of species to various factors, such as steep slopes that fuel diversity by creating a range of habitats in a small area. But few studies have integrated all of these variables into a single model to examine the relative influence of multiple factors at once, Brown said.

 

He and Duke University biologist Anne Yoder and colleagues developed a model that combines the modern distributions of 325 species of amphibians and 420 species of reptiles that live in Madagascar today with historical and present-day estimates of topography, rainfall and other variables across the island.

 

For example, changes in elevation -- due to the mountains, rivers and other features that shape the land -- best predicted which parts of the island had high proportions of unique tree frog species. But the biggest influence on why some areas had higher proportions of unique leaf chameleons was climate stability through time.

 

Read more here: 

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141010155224.htm

 

The paper published in Nature Communications can be read here:

http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2014/141009/ncomms6046/full/ncomms6046.html

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Climate stability gives time for organisms to adapt to a wide range of ecological niches. A Stanford biologist warns of an impending mass extinction http://sco.lt/7biK5x. Ninety percent of lemur species face extinction http://sco.lt/8mJJwH

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Mantis shrimps can see cancer, and scientists have now created a camera that does the same

Mantis shrimps can see cancer, and scientists have now created a camera that does the same | Aquascaping and Nature | Scoop.it
Inspired by the eyes of mantis shrimps, Australian researchers have created sensors that can detect cancer and visualise brain activity.

 

Scientists from the University of Queensland in Australia have discovered that mantis shrimphave an incredibly useful ability - the marine creatures are able to see a variety of cancers inside our bodies. And they've now replicated that ability in a camera that could eventually be put into a smartphone.

 

Mantis shrimp can see cancer, and the activity of our neurons, because they have unique eyes, known as compound eyes. This type of eye is superbly tuned to detect polarised light - a type of light that reflects differently off different types of tissue, including cancerous or healthy tissue.

 

“Humans can’t see this, but a mantis shrimp could walk up to it and hit it,” said Justin Marshall from the Queensland Brain Institute at the University of Queensland in a press release. “We see colour with hues and shades, and objects that contrast – a red apple in a green tree for example – but our research is revealing a number of animals that use polarised light to detect and discriminate between objects.”

 

Their research is published in Proceedings of the IEEE.

http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=6880796

 

Read more here:

http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20142609-26244.html

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Animals sometimes have superhuman abilities which they evolved to fill their specific ecological niche. A substantial amount of technology is developed by mimicking nature.

 

More scoops on future technology and novel cancer therapies can be read below:

http://www.scoop.it/t/world-of-tomorrow/?tag=Future+Technology

http://www.scoop.it/t/biotech-and-beyond/?tag=Cancer

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How giant clams harness the sun by growing algae as a source of food

How giant clams harness the sun by growing algae as a source of food | Aquascaping and Nature | Scoop.it
Beneath the waves, many creatures sport iridescent structures that rival what materials scientists can make in the laboratory. Researchers have now shown how giant clams use these structures to thrive, operating as exceedingly efficient, living greenhouses that grow symbiotic algae as a source of food. This understanding could have implications for alternative energy research, paving the way for new types of solar panels.

 

A team of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, Santa Barbara, has now shown how giant clams use these structures to thrive, operating as exceedingly efficient, living greenhouses that grow symbiotic algae as a source of food. This understanding could have implications for alternative energy research, paving the way for new types of solar panels or improved reactors for growing biofuel.


The study was led by Alison Sweeney, assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in Penn's School of Arts & Sciences, and Daniel Morse, professor emeritus in UCSB's Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and Director of its Marine Biotechnology Center. The team also includes lead author Amanda Holt, a postdoctoral researcher formerly at UCSB and now at Penn, as well as Sanaz Vahidinia of NASA's Ames Research Center and Yakir Luc Gagnon of Duke University.


"Many mollusks, like squid, octopuses, snails and cuttlefish," Sweeney said, "have iridescent structures, but almost all use them for camouflage or for signaling to mates. We knew giant clams weren't doing either of those things, so we wanted to know what they were using them for."

 

While the true purpose of these iridescent structures, cells known as iridocytes, was not known, the team had a strong hypothesis. Like neighboring coral, giant clams are home to symbiotic algae that grow within their flesh. These algae convert the abundant sunlight of the clams' equatorial home into a source of nutrition but are not particularly efficient in the intense sunlight found on tropical reefs; sunlight at the latitude where these clams live is so intense that it can disrupt the algae's photosynthesis, paradoxically reducing their ability to generate energy.

 

The team members began their study hypothesizing that the clams' iridocytes were being used to maximize the usefulness of the light that reaches the algae within their bodies. They were first confounded by the relationship between these iridescent structures and the single-celled plants, until they realized that they had an incomplete picture of their geometry. When they made more precise cross sections of the clams, they found that the algae were organized into pillars, with a layer of iridocytes at the top.

 

Their analysis suggested that the iridocytes would scatter many wavelengths of light in a cone-like distribution pointing deeper into the clam. Red and blue wavelengths, the most useful to the algae, spread the widest, impacting the sides of the pillars in which the single-celled plants were stacked.

 

Mimicking the micron-scale structures within the clam's iridocytes and algal pillars could lead to new approaches for boosting the efficiency of photovoltaic cells without having to precisely engineer structures on the nanoscale. Other alternative energy strategies might adopt lessons from the clams in a more direct way: current bioreactors are inefficient because they must constantly stir the algae to keep them exposed to light as they grow and take up more and more space. Adopting the geometry of the iridocytes and algal pillars within the clams would be a way of circumventing that issue.

 

Read more here: 

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141002123728.htm

 

The associated research article published it was published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface:

http://rsif.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/11/101/20140678 ;

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Findings of this study can be used in nanotechnological applications to improve the efficiency of existing solar cells and algae cultures for biofuels http://sco.lt/5L03bV

 

Solar energy is becoming increasingly important as countries strive to reduce greenhouse emissions http://sco.lt/7beRXt

 

The  US has emerged as the third largest consumer of solar energy http://sco.lt/6Hc5lx

 

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Average global temperature is not a good indicator of planetary health

Average global temperature is not a good indicator of planetary health | Aquascaping and Nature | Scoop.it

For nearly a decade, international diplomacy has focused on stopping global warming at 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. This goal — bold and easy to grasp — has been accepted uncritically and has proved influential.

 

Bold simplicity must now face reality. Politically and scientifically, the 2 °C goal is wrong-headed. Politically, it has allowed some governments to pretend that they are taking serious action to mitigate global warming, when in reality they have achieved almost nothing. Scientifically, there are better ways to measure the stress that humans are placing on the climate system than the growth of average global surface temperature — which has stalled since 1998 and is poorly coupled to entities that governments and companies can control directly.

 

New goals are needed. It is time to track an array of planetary vital signs — such as changes in the ocean heat content — that are better rooted in the scientific understanding of climate drivers and risks. Targets must also be set in terms of the many individual gases emitted by human activities and policies to mitigate those emissions.

 

The best indicator has been there all along: the concentrations of CO2 and the other greenhouse gases (or the change in radiative forcing caused by those gases). Such parameters are already well measured through a network of international monitoring stations. A global goal for average concentrations in 2030 or 2050 must be agreed on and translated into specific emissions and policy efforts, updated periodically, so that individual governments can see clearly how their actions add up to global outcomes.

 

Policy-makers should also track ocean heat content and high-latitude temperature. Because energy stored in the deep oceans will be released over decades or centuries, ocean heat content is a good proxy for the long-term risk to future generations and planetary-scale ecology. High-latitude temperatures, because they are so sensitive to shifts in climate and they drive many tangible harms, are also useful to include in the planetary vital signs

 

The public needs to understand what it is being asked to pay for. On this score, 'CO2 concentration' or 'ocean heat content' are not nearly effective as 'temperature' in conveying to the person in the street what is at risk. Yet patients have come to understand that doctors must track many vital signs — blood pressure, heart rate and body mass index — to prevent illness and inform care. A similar strategy is now needed for the planet.

 

Read more from the article published by Nature here: http://www.nature.com/news/climate-policy-ditch-the-2-c-warming-goal-1.16018

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

An interesting read. Our impact on the environment is growing as the human population booms in the face of finite resources. It is good to know that diplomatic talks will resume to prepare an agreement ahead of a major climate summit in Paris in 2015. 


Derek Muller of Veritasium recently created a video dispelling some of the myths associated with global warming http://sco.lt/8Ez2S9

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13 Misconceptions About Global Warming

Common misconceptions about climate change presented by Derek Muller of Veritasium.

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

An amusing way of presenting hard facts on climate change. Much of the controversy surrounding climate change is on how much humans contribute to global warming and whether or not cutting emissions and sacrificing economic gain would indeed slow it down.

 

Regardless, of whether or not global warming is anthropogenic, the effects of climate change can be seen globally. Already, countries around the globe are searching of new agricultural methods to cope with an increasing population and circumvent any drop in productivity brought about by rising global temperatures http://sco.lt/7gNcoL

 

More scoops on climate change can be read below :

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The Chemicals Behind the Colours of Autumn Leaves [Infographic]

The Chemicals Behind the Colours of Autumn Leaves [Infographic] | Aquascaping and Nature | Scoop.it
With autumn looming on the horizon, the leaves on some trees have already begun the transition towards the vibrant hues of autumn. Whilst this change may outwardly seem like a simple one, the many vivid colours are a result of a range of chemical compounds, a selection of which are detailed here.

Before discussing the different compounds that lead to the colours of autumn leaves, it’s worth discussing how the colours of these compounds originate in the first place. To do this we need to examine the chemical bonds they contain – these can be either single bonds, which consist of one shared pair of electrons between adjacent atoms, or double bonds, which consist of two shared pairs of electrons between adjacent atoms. The colour causing molecules in autumn leaves contain systems of alternating double and single bonds – this is referred to as conjugation. A large amount of conjugation in a molecule can lead to them being able to absorb wavelengths of light in the visible spectrum. This leads to the appearance of colour.

 

Read more here: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/chemicals-behind-colours-autumn-leaves/

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Most of these pigments are used in natural dyes and paints. Quercetin, for instance, is used to give a bright yellow colour. Quercetin also has various bioactive properties including antiviral, anti-inflammation and antioxidative properties.

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Floating vertical farms offer food solutions to the densest countries on Earth

Floating vertical farms offer food solutions to the densest countries on Earth | Aquascaping and Nature | Scoop.it

Spanish architects have come up with a floating vertical farm system to give Singapore - a country with no land for farms - another option to produce its own food.

 

Singapore is the third most densely populated country in the world, with 7,669 people per square kilometre, which means they don’t have a lot of space lying around on which to grow food. Because of this, they import 90 percent of their food from elsewhere around the globe, sometimes from places as far away as Argentina and Uruguay. But there might still be a way for Singapore to grow its own crops in the future.

 

According to Adele Peters at FastCompany, architects from a Barcelona-based design firm called JAPA have designed a system of looping towers that would float in Singapore's harbours and grow crops throughout the year. Called FRA, which is short for 'floating responsive architecture’, the design was based on the floating fish farms that have been used by Singapore locals since the 1930s.

 

The odd shape of the vertical farms, which look like skinny “Ls” that face opposite directions and meet in the middle, was designed to capture the maximum amount of sunlight for the plants while saving space. "We used the Sun as a design driver," Javier Ponce, principal from JAPA, told Peters. "The loop shape enables the vertical structure to receive more sunlight without having significant shadows.”

 

Inside the towers, a large number of sensors would monitor the crops and send real-time data on their status to various networks in charge of looking after them. This data would also keep track on how much food people are buying around the city, so the food produced by the farms could be adjusted accordingly. "The system will aim for zero food waste," Ponce said.

 

Read more here:

http://sciencealert.com.au/news/20140809-26143.html

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

There is already a viable vertical farming business in Singapore and this technology takes it one step further http://sco.lt/9IE1oX

 

The Japanese are also converting empty factories into high tech farms http://sco.lt/8Jecsr

 

These space saving methods to produce food would go a long way when floating oceanic cities become a reality as scooped here http://sco.lt/5vJluj; and here http://sco.lt/9K70an

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Kelvin's Thunderstorm: How is lightning generated?

The physics behind Kelvin's Thunderstorm explained. No, it is not a practical way of generating electricity, which is why we use turbines at hydro stations.

 

There are some pretty innovative ways of generating electricity, but this has to be one of the coolest we've seen in a long time. Using nothing but two streams of running water travelling through metal mesh, Derek from Veritasium explains in the episove above how you can generate sparks of 5,000 to 10,000 volts of electricity. You can even replicate the experiment at home if you have the right equipment.

 

As Derek explains, the process actually involves some pretty simple but fascinating physics. Overall, water is generally neutral in charge, with any positive and negative molecules cancelling each other out. But as water flows out of the two shower heads in the setup, there's some natural variation, and occasionally one side will become more negatively charged than the other.

 

Ingeniously, the mesh from one side is connected to the top ring on the other - this means that if the mesh on the left becomes negatively charged as a result of the water running through it, it will cause the ring on the top right to become negatively charged too. This negatively charged top ring attracts positively charged water molecules, eventually making the whole stream positive.

 

This feedback results in two streams of differently charged water - one positive and one negative. Over time that charge gets so great, that it jumps across from the negative to the positive side of the metal, causing a spark of electricity, and resetting the system.

While it's extremely impressive and simple to use, the system isn't capable of generating enough electricity to be a viable energy source - even on a small scale - which is why we don't harness it for wider use in society.

 

Read more here: http://www.sciencealert.com/features/20142310-26385.html

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

The values 5000 to 10000 volts in the article may sound like a lot but electrical energy is best measured in terms of current i.e. amps. High voltage may not kill but a high current most definitely will. 

 

Nonetheless, this video is a good demonstration of how lightning is generated in the clouds.

 

More practical ways of generating energy are described here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/aquascaping-and-nature/?tag=Sustainable+Energy

http://www.scoop.it/t/world-of-tomorrow/?tag=Energy+Generation

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Two kangaroos box in suburban Australia

In the suburbs of Australia, the trouble makers picking fights on your block can sometimes be kangaroos. This awesome video shows just how powerful these marsupials really are, and how fierce they can be (all to the tune of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, appropriately).


So why are these two eastern grey kangaroos going to town on each other in a suburban street? This behaviour isn’t actually that unusual. Although male kangaroos live together in “mobs” with other males, they often pick fights over a prime drinking spot, or a female in oestrus. Juvenile males also play-box for practice.


And although kangaroos may look cute and cuddly, the fights can get pretty vicious. Their forearms aren’t that powerful, and a lot of the jabs and slaps look pretty comical, but it’s the kicking you have to look out for.


Not only do those kicks deliver all of that power directly to their opponent's stomach, the kangaroos also have a fourth toe with a long claw on it, just to make things even more interesting.

 

Read more here: http://www.sciencealert.com/news/20140810-26304.html

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

This is where the "boxing kangaroo" symbol originated from.

 

Watch more nature videos here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/aquascaping-and-nature/?tag=Video

 

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15 Amazing Scenes You Won't Believe Actually Exist In Nature

15 Amazing Scenes You Won't Believe Actually Exist In Nature | Aquascaping and Nature | Scoop.it
It is unbelievable that we can actually find many unreal stuff like these 15 amazing things that you won’t believe they actually exist.

 

In today’s modern world, we are living surrounded by massive concrete walls, fake grass and plastic plants. This makes us easily forget how amazing our planet actually is! Seeing these magnificent natural phenomena you would thing that  they are created by aliens who dropped by thousands years ago, but they’re not. These are in fact a rare natural phenomenon, which are 100% real.


View the 15 spectacular natural landscapes here:

http://goodmood-gm.com/interesting/15-amazing-things-wont-believe-actually-exist-nature/

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

The picture above show the reflective salt flats in Bolivia which has been called various names such as "world's largest mirror" and "heaven on earth".

 

More amazing natural scenery can be viewed here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/aquascaping-and-nature/?tag=Photography

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Eric Chan Wei Chiang's comment, November 5, 11:10 AM
Nice scoop @Dusko T.
Dusko T.'s comment, November 5, 3:44 PM
@Eric Chan Wei Chiang I am glad you liked it ;)
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Oxygen levels on ancient Earth were key to animal evolution

Oxygen levels on ancient Earth were key to animal evolution | Aquascaping and Nature | Scoop.it

Atmospheric oxygen levels during the billion years or so prior to the rise of animals were far too low for complex life forms to develop, according to a new study. The findings, reported in the journal Science, imply that the appearance of diverse animal life on Earth about 800 million years ago, was triggered by increases in oxygen levels - and not just genetic innovations in individual organisms.

 

"No one really doubted that oxygen levels were low, but how low is the real surprise," says one of the study's authors Dr Peter McGoldrick of the University of Tasmania. "Our work shows those levels were just 0.1 per cent of present atmospheric levels, which is significant from an evolutionary point of view because biologists believe that complex multicellular life forms require much more oxygen than 0.1 per cent."

 

This is the first time anyone has been able to quantify the levels of oxygen in the atmosphere during the mid-Proterozoic period between 0.8 and 1.8 billion years ago, he says.

 

McGoldrick describes this period in Earth's history as the 'boring billion', when life remained largely constant and unchanging between the appearance of complex cells around 2 billion years ago, and the sudden diversification of multicellular animals about 800 million years ago.

 

Scientists already knew that oxygen began to accumulate in the atmosphere after cyanobacteria began using photosynthesis to produce oxygen over three billion years ago. So they wondered why animal species didn't flourish during the boring billion year stretch leading up to the end of the Proterozoic, when most researchers thought there was plenty of oxygen.

 

"We knew oxygen levels had gone up over all, but we didn't know if it had gone up to 1, 10 or 40 per cent of present atmospheric levels," says McGoldrick. "This explains why complex animals don't appear in the rock record until maybe 750 to 800 million years ago, there simply wasn't enough oxygen for the metabolic things they need to do."

 

Oxygen levels in the atmosphere were determined by examining chromium isotope ratios in ironstone samples. This provided information on oxygen levels for the billion or so years leading up to the 'Cambrian explosion' - when most major animal groups appeared on the planet.

 

Read more here:

http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2014/10/31/4118108.htm

 

The research article published in Science can be read here:

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/346/6209/635


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Climate play a really important role in the evolution of organisms. Makes you wonder how anthropogenic climate change would drive evolution.

 

@Jeff Morris scooped a similar article here: http://sco.lt/60aEUr

 

More scoops about our blue marble can be read here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/aquascaping-and-nature/?tag=Earth+Science

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Will coal exports kill the Great Barrier Reef?

Will coal exports kill the Great Barrier Reef? | Aquascaping and Nature | Scoop.it
"An icon under pressure." That was how Australia's Great Barrier Reef was described recently by the body that manages it.

 

Stretching along the Queensland coast, the reef is an underwater wonderland home to thousands of different fish and coral species. But it is facing multiple threats. Swathes of coral have been killed by the crown-of-thorns, a starfish which has flourished partly because of fertilisers seeping into the sea from farm run-off.


Reef that was once blooming is now grey, crumbling and barren. "It's never been worse," says David Booth, professor of marine ecology at the University of Technology in Sydney. "There's been a slow but steady degradation of the reef. Around half the coral has been destroyed in the last few decades."


But environmentalists say there's another major threat: coal.


In July, the government approved a project that will lead to the creation of Australia's biggest coal mine in the Galilee Basin region of central Queensland. The Carmichael Mine, owned by the Indian conglomerate Adani, will cover an area seven times the size of Sydney harbour.


To accommodate those ships many of the coal ports are having to be expanded. Shipping channels are being dredged to make way for bigger boats. Earlier this year the government approved a plan to dredge the port, dumping thousands of tonnes of sediment at  sea. This has outraged environmentalists who say that the sediment will further damage the reef.

 

Read more here: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-29705818

 

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

The Great Barrier Reef is iconic landmark of Australia tied very strongly to its national pride. However, would the economy take precedence over social and environmental concerns?

 

More scoops on conservation can be read here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/aquascaping-and-nature/?tag=Conservation

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The Structure of Earth

A…or why we live on an onion made of magma.

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

A really good video featuring how the earth was formed, how its different structures came to be and how science discovered the different layers beneath the earth's crust

 

Scientist have also found three times more water beneath the  earth's crust compared to the oceans on the surface http://sco.lt/6go9tB

 

Some of the other celestial bodies within our solar system also contains a lot of water and these are where NASA is searching for extraterrestrial life http://sco.lt/8o1ElV ;

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This is why 35,000 walruses have suddenly squeezed themselves onto a single beach in Alaska

This is why 35,000 walruses have suddenly squeezed themselves onto a single beach in Alaska | Aquascaping and Nature | Scoop.it
A HUGE number of walrus have retreated to a beach in Alaska, as the sea ice they usually rest on has already melted.

 

Unbelievable images were captured by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) over the weekend on a beach about 8 km north of Point Lay in the far north-west of Alaska. The gathering of walruses was spotted during the NOAA’s annual arctic marine mammal aerial survey, and shows the impact that melting sea ice is having on the species.

 

Unlike seals, walruses can’t swim forever and need to rest, which they usually do on rocks or floating sea ice. In summer they retreat to the Chukchi Sea north of Alaska and Russia, and use the edge of the Arctic sea ice as a platform from which to hunt and raise their young. But in recent years the ice has receded so far north that its edge is now over the Arctic Ocean, which is so deep that the walruses can’t dive to the bottom to feed. 

 

Instead, walruses have started gathering in increasing numbers on Alaskan beaches instead - in 2011 a similar sized gathering was seen, and last year there were around 10,000 walruses spotted in the area. “It’s another remarkable sign of the dramatic environmental conditions changing as the result of sea ice loss,” Margaret Williams the managing director of the World Wildlife Fund’s Arctic program told The Guardian.

 

“The walruses are telling us what the polar bears have told us and what many indigenous people have told us in the high Arctic, and that is that the Arctic environment is changing extremely rapidly and it is time for the rest of the world to take notice and also to take action to address the root causes of climate change.”

 

Read more here: http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20140210-26268.html

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

The effects of climate change are far reaching but not all of it is predictable. Warmer climates may actually benefit some montane plants (odd but true) http://sco.lt/52x2PJ

 

Nonetheless, the rate of change would accelerate as the polar ice caps melt at an increasing rate http://sco.lt/86HUtl

 

Food security and how crops are affected by climate change are grave concerns http://sco.lt/5CifIH

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Five Crazy Bridges for Animals

From roads to power lines, so many obstacles have been getting in the way of wildlife populations around the world, and something had to be done. The latest episode of MinuteEarth explores some of the most creative and effective solutions.

 

 In the US alone, about a million animals are flattened by passing motorists every day. Not only do populations of wildlife around the world have to navigate natural barriers, such as rivers, hills, and mountains, but they also have to find ways to get around human-made barriers. One of the most obstructive artificial barriers for animals, of course, is roads.

 

But things that might seem harmless to us, like high-tension power lines and linear features such as pipelines and painted strips on the ground, can also cause wild animals to steer clear. When this happens, different populations of a species are forced into isolation, which means they can't breed to keep their numbers and genetic diversity up.

 

So what's the solution? 


Read more here: http://sciencealert.com.au/features/20140910-26306.html

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

A road through a forested area may seem fairly harmless and does not involve removing too many trees. However, they split animal populations making it difficult for them to breed and find food. A road also encourages further development which would entail deforestation.

 

Watch more nature videos here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/aquascaping-and-nature/?tag=Video

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A biotech student has worked out how to turn wine waste into biofuels

A biotech student has worked out how to turn wine waste into biofuels | Aquascaping and Nature | Scoop.it
Wine just got even better - an Australian student has found a way to break down winery byproducts into compounds that can be used to create biofuel

 

Millions of tonnes of grapes are turned into wine each year, but more than half of the crushed grapes end up being wasted. They don’t have enough nutritional value to be fed to animals and can’t be used as compost because they don’t degrade, so the majority become toxic landfill.

 

But now a PhD student from Swinburne University of Technology in Australia has found a way to use fungi to break this wine waste down into compounds that can be used to create ethanol or other biofuels.


By first heating the winery waste for half an hour, Karpe was able to use a “cocktail” of four fungi to break down the biomass, a process that took one to three weeks in a bioreactor. The end product was alcohols, acids and simple sugars, that could have industrial and medicinal value.

 

His research has been published in the Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology, and Karpe is now looking into upscaling the process. Read his research article here:

 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jctb.4486/abstract

 

Read more here: http://sciencealert.com.au/news/20142509-26234.html

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Finding more efficient ways to convert waste into energy is an important field of research. Disposing of the million tonnes of waste incurs a substantial economic costs shared by the various wineries and transmitted down to the consumers.

 

More scoops on sustainable energy sources can be read here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/aquascaping-and-nature/?tag=Sustainable+Energy

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As World’s Population Booms, Will Its Resources Be Enough for Us?

As World’s Population Booms, Will Its Resources Be Enough for Us? | Aquascaping and Nature | Scoop.it
As world population projections soar, there are rising concerns about the impact billions more people will have on the planet.

 

There are more than 7 billion people on Earth now, and roughly one in eight of us doesn't have enough to eat. The question of how many people the Earth can support is a long-standing one that becomes more intense as the world's population—and our use of natural resources—keeps booming.

 

After all, how many of us there are, how many children we have, how long we live, and where and how we live affect virtually every aspect of the planet upon which we rely to survive: the land, oceans, fisheries, forests, wildlife, grasslands, rivers and lakes, groundwater, air quality, atmosphere, weather, and climate

 

One of our biggest impacts is agriculture. Whether we can grow enough food sustainably for an expanding world population also presents an urgent challenge, and this becomes only more so in light of these new population projections. Where will food for an additional 2 to 3 billion people come from when we are already barely keeping up with 7 billion? Such questions underpin a 2014 National Geographic series on the future of food.

 

As climate change damages crop yields and extreme weather disrupts harvests, growing enough food for our expanding population has become what The 2014 World Food Prize Symposium calls "the greatest challenge in human history."

 

Reducing fertility is essential if future population growth is to be reined in. Cynthia Gorney wrote about the dramatic story of declining Brazilian fertility as part of National Geographic's 7 Billion series. Average family size dropped from 6.3 children to 1.9 children per woman over two generations in Brazil, the result of improving education for girls, more career opportunities, and the increased availability of contraception.

 

Improved education, especially for girls, is cited as a key driver of declining family size. Having light at night can become a gateway to better education for millions of young people and the realization that opportunities and choices besides bearing many children can await.

 

Read more here: 

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/09/140920-population-11billion-demographics-anthropocene/

 

Read the audacious research article published in Science here:

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2014/09/17/science.1257469

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Sustainability, energy efficiency and food security would be the main hurdles in human evolution. Read more scoops on the topic here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/aquascaping-and-nature/?tag=Sustainability

http://www.scoop.it/t/aquascaping-and-nature/?tag=Sustainable+Energy

http://www.scoop.it/t/aquascaping-and-nature/?tag=Food+Security

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Three Irish Teens Win Google Science Fair Using Bacteria to Grow Food

Three Irish Teens Win Google Science Fair Using Bacteria to Grow Food | Aquascaping and Nature | Scoop.it
Dousing seeds with soil microbes speeds sprouting and promotes plant growth, teen biologists find.

 

A trio of Irish high-schoolers nabbed the top prize in this year's Google Science Fair with a project that speeds up crop growth by tapping into the naturally cozy relationship between soil microbes and plants.

 

After 11 months of experiments, the three 16-year-olds Ciara Judge, Émer Hickey, and Sophie Healy-Thow—found that seeds treated with bacteria sprouted 50 percent faster than untreated seeds did. At harvest, the microbes increased barley and oats yields by as much as 70 percent. The improved sprouting speed is instrumental to farmers in Ireland, where seeds can rot in the damp soil before sprouting, Hickey said. The trio hails from Cork County, the agricultural southern tip of the country. But the project really kicked off in Hickey's own backyard.

 

The bacteria act as an early warning system for the plants, kickstarting growth. When the microbes sense the presence of compounds called flavonoids on plants, they begin to build nodules, swellings on roots that house bacteria able to convert atmospheric nitrogen into forms the plant can consume. The presence of the nodules then tells the plants it's time to grow faster.

 

"The great thing about our theory is [that] any crop that contains a flavonoid can trigger bacteria. It'll work the same," Judge said.

 

Read more about their award winning experiment here: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/09/140924-google-science-fair-hunger-bacteria-ngfood/

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

A simple innovation which can improve crop yields and ensure food security.

 

Other inventions from Google Science Fair were scooped here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/world-of-tomorrow/?tag=Invention

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Why does this waterfall in Antarctica run blood-red?

Why does this waterfall in Antarctica run blood-red? | Aquascaping and Nature | Scoop.it

Antarctica's McMurdo Dry Valley is one of the world’s most extreme deserts, and also one of the strangest. Featuring a row of snow-free valleys and the longest river on the continent, the Onyx River, it’s also home to a five-storey-tall waterfall that runs bright red down the side of an enormous glacier.

 

To discover the reason behind the waterfall’s eerie hue, we have to trace its history back 5 million years, when sea levels rose and flooded East Antarctica. At the same time, a salty lake formed. Over millions of years, ice settled on the salty lake and formed huge glaciers, which cut the lake off from the rest of Antarctica and kept it 400 metres underground. Over time, the subglacial lake became even saltier - three times saltier than seawater, in fact - which means it was impossible to freeze. 

 

Cut off from its physical surroundings, the incredibly salty water that feeds Antarctic’s Blood Falls has not once been exposed to sunlight in several million years and is completely devoid of oxygen. "It's also extremely rich in iron, which was churned into the water by glaciers scraping the bedrock below the lake," says Natasha Geiling at Smithsonian Magazine. "When water from the subglacial lake seeps through a fissure in the glacier, the salty water cascades down the Taylor Glacier into Lake Bonney below. When the iron-rich water comes into contact with the air, it rusts - depositing blood red stains on the ice as it falls."


Not only is the blood-red, super-salty water severely lacking in oxygen and any exposure to light, it also happens to be home to some extremely odd wildlife. When the lake was forming million of years ago, tiny microbes moved in, and found themselves trapped when the glaciers grew and set on top. The microbes have been thriving in the lake ever since, sourcing the energy they need by breaking down sulphates - naturally occurring substances that contain sulphur and oxygen.


Read more here: http://www.sciencealert.com/features/20141109-26160.html

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

An amazing natural landscape. More scenic landscapes are scooped here: http://www.scoop.it/t/aquascaping-and-nature/?tag=Scenic

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Sky Greens: Vertical Farming

Sky Greens: Vertical Farming | Aquascaping and Nature | Scoop.it

Sky Greens is the world’s first low carbon hydraulic water-driven, tropical vegetable urban vertical farm, using green urban solutions to achieve enhanced green sustainable production of safe, fresh and delicious vegetables, using minimal land, water and energy resources.

 

Locally grown vegetables in Singapore currently constitute only 7% of local consumption. Demand for local vegetables exceeds supply. Singaporeans trust the quality, freshness and safety of local vegetables, grown using good agricultural practice under the supervision of the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore.

 

The A-Go-Gro vertical systems which are 9m in height (3 storeys), housed in protected-outdoor green houses, allow tropical leafy vegetables to be grown all year round at significantly higher yields (than traditional growing methods) that are safe, of high quality, fresh and delicious.

 

Read more about the viability of the technology and its environmental and economic sustainability: http://skygreens.appsfly.com/Media

 

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Singapore would be taking this technology to the next level by adapting it for use in the sea http://sco.lt/7gNcoL

 

The Japanese are also converting empty factories into high tech farms http://sco.lt/8Jecsr

 

The Chinese are designing floating oceanic cities http://sco.lt/9K70an

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