Natural Environment Blog

Blogging for the Natural Environment

Month: April 2008 (Page 1 of 4)

Jute Perfect for Footwear

For centuries, the natural fiber jute has been known for its suitability for making stuff like rope, twine, carpet, rugs, and hessian cloth. But, recently it’s been making a name for itself for another purpose.

Jute is emerging as a great, environmentally friendly ingredient in the footwear footwear industry.

Renotex Jute Board

According to Fibre2Fashion.com, Texon International and APL Polyfab will market and further develop Renotex jute board for footwear and other applications.

According to Mr Mani Almal, Managing Director, APL Polyfab:

It was during 2000, I started to focus on natural and environmental products and Jute was found as one of the best natural crop fibre with surplus production in our state of Bengal with potential in diversified applications due to its properties.

Other applications for Renotex jute will include use in automobiles, helmet, others with fire retardant properties.

Also, the article says the following about Renotex jute:

Renotex jute natural is not only environmental friendly product but also has most of the features required by footwear insoles and footbeds which are met in just one product. It thus helps in saving huge inventory of varieties of materials.

And this…

Renotex flexible range is resistant to water absorption with faster de-absorption, apart from excellent tensile /tear strength, bonding, breathable, stroble, anti-skid, electrical resistance, insulation properties to suit insoles.

And this…

Renotex – R is a flexible range suitable for insoles, strobel for safety shoes and matting whereas RENOTEX – P is mouldable with eco-friendly resin & rubbers suitable for foot beds and some premium ranges of expensive footwear.

Existing Applications of Jute Footwear

Jute is already being used in various types of footwear. For example you can buy jute shoes, jute slippers, jute mojari, jute juttis and more.

Here are some websites offering jute footwear:

Hopefully jute becomes more popular in footwear in the years ahead.

What is Blue Marble?

Blue Marble – The Photo

Blue Marble is the name given to the most famous photograph taken of planet Earth.

The photo was taken on 7 December, 1972, by the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft. The photo was taken from a distance of about 45,000 kilometers from Earth.

Here’s Blue Marble – the photo:

Blue Marble - Most famous photo taken of Earth

Blue Marble – The Photo Series

Blue Marble is also the name that NASA has given to a series of Earth photos. As technology has advanced, NASA has been able to take more detailed imagery of Earth from space. In 2002, NASA produced the (then) most detailed, true-color image of Earth ever. It was able to do this by stitching together imagery from the Terra satellite.

Then in 2005, NASA was able to produce an image with twice the detail. This version is called Blue Marble: Next Generation and uses imagery taken from the Terra and Aqua satellites. To obtain the data, these satellites use a NASA sensor called the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS).

Blue Marble – Free to Download!

All Blue Marble images are available free of charge to educators, scientists, museums, businesses, and the public.

The collection includes images that are sized for different media, including Web and print. Users can download images of the entire globe, or just selected regions of interest.

You can download Blue Marble from NASA’s Visible Earth website.

Where Have all the Tigers Gone?

The world’s tiger population has declined so much, that the tiger has become an endangered species.

According to WWF, over the past 100 years, the world’s tiger population has decreased by 95 per cent and three sub-species have become extinct. Furthermore, in the past 25 years, the tiger population has halved from around 7,000 to about 3,500 – 4,000 tigers left in the world today.

Tiger Count

Less than 100 years ago, there were 9 tiger sub-species. Now there’s only 6.

Out of the 3,500 – 4,000 tigers left in the world today, here’s a breakdown of their population by sub-species:

Sub-Species Estimated Population
Bengal Tiger 1,411
Indochinese Tiger 1,200 – 1,800
Malayan Tiger 600 – 800 in the wild
South China Tiger 59
Siberian (Amur) Tiger 450 – 500
Sumatran Tiger 400 – 500
Bali Tiger Extinct
Caspian Tiger Extinct
Javan Tiger Extinct

Threats to the Tiger

So, where have all the tigers gone? WWF provide us with a pretty good clue:

There are probably more tigers on the shelves of pharmacies and medicine stores than in forests as tigers are widely hunted and every single part of their bodies is dissected for use in traditional Asian medicine. Tiger bones, believed to contain high medicinal properties, are popular on the black market in Asia.

The following threats have been (and still are) responsible for the diminishing population of the tiger:

  • Hunting, poaching, and illegal trade – For more than 1,000 years, tigers have been hunted as status symbols, decorative items, souvenirs, and traditional Asian medicines.
  • Habitat and prey loss – Human population growth has contracted and fragmented the amount of land available for tigers. Tigers need large territories to survive. Also, tigers’ natural prey has often been hunted to extinction or near extinction by humans.
  • Conflict with humans and their livestock – Many farmers shoot tigers that are interfering with their livestock.

Unfortunately, it looks highly likely that the South China Tiger will become extinct. All known living tigers all descend from only 6 tigers, which may not provide enough genetic diversity to maintain a sub-species.

Project Tiger – Saving the Bengal Tiger

On a brighter note, the Bengal tiger population has actually increased since 1972, when Project Tiger was initiated. Project Tiger was created to protect the Bengal tiger species. At the time the project was initiated in 1972, there were only around 1,200 Bengal tigers. In the 1990s, the count had increased to 3,500, but 2008 census has dropped this figure back to 1411.

To learn more about Project Tiger, check out the official Project Tiger website.

6 Websites Offering Reusable Shopping Bags

Further to my article about eco-friendly shopping bags, here’s a list of six websites that offer reusable/eco-friendly shopping bags.

By using any of these reusable bags instead of plastic bags or paper bags, you will be doing your bit to reduce the devastating impact of plastic/paper bags on the natural environment.

Here’s the list:

Note that you may need to check some of these sites for availability/deliveries in your area.

Purchasing a reusable bag has more benefits than you might realize.

First of all, reusable bags are usually much larger than the plastic bags or paper bags that supermarkets supply you with – you don’t need as many.

Secondly, every time you reuse your bag, think how many plastic bags you’re preventing from entering the environment. I’ve been using the same reusable bag for years and it feels great every time I do my shopping!

Plastic bags are particularly nasty to our oceans and marine life. Read about the environmental impact of plastic bags on our oceans.

2 Million Year Old Glacier to Almost Disappear within 20 Years

Glaciologists at Massey University have confirmed that the Tasman Glacier, in New Zealand’s South Island, is retreating at its fastest rate in recent history.

Since the 1990s, the glacier has been retreating at an average rate of 180 meters per year. This rate will likely increase to between 477 and 822 meters per year over the next 10 to 19 years.

Dr Martin Brook, lecturer in physical geography in the School of People, Environment and Planning says that the glacier’s faster retreat rate is mainly due to the fact that there is now a lake sitting right in front of the glacier.

This lake didn’t even exist back in 1973. And even as recent as 1990, the lake was very small.

The lake was formed by the glacier’s melting ice. And now, as the glacier melts, the lake becomes higher. And as the lake gets higher, it melts the glacier ice.

This will continue until the lake cannot expand any further (because of the surrounding mountains). This will take between 10 and 19 years based on current calculations.

According to Dr Brook:

The glacier followed a slow retreat phase for a while, in that a thermo-erosional notch in the ice cliff face would develop at the water line, melt back into the glacier undercutting the ice above, causing the ice to collapse into the lake.

But what is happening now is that a short foot of ice is extending out into the lake away from the ice cliff, and the glacier is now in a period of fast retreat. This is because as the water depth increases so does the speed of retreat – simply, a much larger part of the glacier is submerged and the water, even at only two degrees celcius, is still able to melt the glacier ice

Having seen Tasman Glacier with my own eyes, I find this news quite sad. OK, it may not be the most spectacular looking glacier in New Zealand but it is the largest. Although most of the world’s glaciers are retreating, not many are retreating at this rate.

Lake near Tasman Glacier

The above photo is one that I took during a walk to Tasman Glacier. You can see a small part of the lake at the top of the river. If I understand correctly, the place where I took this photo may be submerged within a few years…

Tasman Glacier - and it's lake

The above photo is one taken from the track to Mueller Hut (opposite Tasman Glacier). You can see that the glacier is covered in rock and debris. You can also see the 7 kilometer long lake that has formed in front of the glacier. This lake will be 16 kilometers long within 10 to 19 years…

Mount Aspiring National Park, New Zealand

Mount Aspiring National Park is located in the South Island of New Zealand, along the southern part of the Southern Alps.

Covering 3,555 square kilometers, Mount Aspiring National Park is a popular destination for bush walkers and mountaineers. The park is named after Mount Aspiring (3,033 meters), and contains a number of spectacular peaks (including Mount Aspiring).

Mount Aspiring National Park was established in 1964, making it New Zealand’s 10th national park at the time (New Zealand now has 14 national parks).

Some of the more popular walking tracks in the park include Gillespie Pass circuit, Rees-Dart circuit, various tracks along the Matukituki Valley, and the famous Routeburn Track (which crosses over into Fiordland National Park).

There are some great day walks, including a beautiful hike to Rob Roy Glacier. Many of the walks in the area are multi-day walks, where you carry everything you need on your back.

Accommodation on the multi day walks is usually at one of the huts or camp sites provided by the Department of Conservation. This accommodation is usually very basic – don’t expect luxury here. But of course, this is part of the wilderness experience and enables you to feel closer to nature. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

Fiordland National Park is the largest of the 14 national parks in New Zealand. It is located in the south west part of the South Island and covers an area of 12,500 square kilometers. Established in 1952, Fiordland National Park is a major part of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage site.

Fiordland’s landscape is incredibly diverse. At any given moment, you could be staring at snow capped mountains, tussock grasslands, lush rainforests and one or more deep lakes.

Many of the peaks in Fiordland tend to be very tall and steep, and Milford Sound is home to Mitre Peak – the highest peak to rise directly from the sea (see photo).

Wildlife in the area includes dolphins, seals, mice, rats, birds, hare and deer. Most tourists to the area encounter the kea – a mischievous mountain parrot. Lucky tourists may also spot the kakapo – the world’s only flightless parrot, or the kiwi – the national symbol of New Zealand.

Most of Fiordland National Park is inaccessible by road. The only road into the park is Milford Road, or the Te Anau Milford Highway.

The area is very popular with bush walkers (referred to as “trampers” in New Zealand) and mountain climbers. There are several popular walking tracks in the area, including the Milford Track, the Routeburn Track, the Hollyford Track, and the Kepler Track. These walks take several days to complete, and some require that you organize transport to drop you off at the start, and/or pick you up at the end, of the track.

The main gateway into Fiordland is Te Anau. Te Anau is a small town with a permanent population of around 1,800. During the summer months, Te Anau can accommodate more than 4,000 people as many tourists use it as a base as they visit places like Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound, or tackle one of the multi-day walking tracks.

To learn more about Fiordland National Park, check out the Department of Conservation’s website.

World’s Oldest Tree: Newcomer to the Record Books

The world’s oldest tree has recently been discovered in Sweden. It is a tenacious spruce with a root system 9,550 years old.

The spruce, named Dalarna (“the dales”), was found on the Fulu Mountain in Sweden. It was dated by carbon dated at a laboratory in Miami, Flordia.

Many other trees in the area are of a comparable age. The scientists, led by Professor Leif Kullman at Umeå University, found another 20 species of spruce that are over 8,000 years old.

Professor Kullman says “Spruces are the species that can best give us insight about climate change,”

According to an article in the Telegraph:

The summers 9,500 years ago were warmer than today, though there has been a rapid recent rise as a result of climate change that means modern climate is rapidly catching up

Also, on how the tree survived so long:

The tree probably survived as a result of several factors: the generally cold and dry climate, few forest fires and relatively few humans.

Obviously, this record supercedes the previous record for the oldest tree that I wrote about earlier this year. At the time, it was understood that the oldest tree on Earth was Methuselah – a 4,769 year old Bristlecone Pine in California, US.

Deforestation of Amazon Rainforest on the Rise?

According to the WorldWatch Institute, new satellite pictures indicate that the Amazon rainforest is decreasing faster than before.

The satellite images, taken by Brazilian National Space Research Agency (INPE), suggest that an estimated 7,000 square kilometers of rainforest was lost between August and December 2007.

At this rate deforestation will surpass that of 2006, where there was a total loss of 11,000 square kilometers for the whole year.

Deforestation in the Amazon had been on the decrease for 3 years, but at the current rate, it will be on the increase again.

Giant Turtle Not Extinct… Yet

A giant turtle, known as the Swinhoe’s soft-shell turtle, has been found in northern Vietnam. Until now, this turtle was thought to be extinct in the wild.

There are only three of these turtles in captivity – two in a Chinese zoo, and one in a lake in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Researchers have spent a long time searching for evidence of this turtle in nature. After three years of searching around lakes and the Red River in northern Vietnam, researchers re-focussed their attention to a lake west of Hanoi. This is where some local residents had claimed to have seen the giant turtle.

Nguyen Xuan Thuan, a field biologist with Education for Nature in Vietnam, found and photographed the turtle. This enabled scientists to confirm that the turtle was in fact, the Swinhoe’s soft-shell turtle. The researchers were sponsored by Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and Cleveland Zoological Society.

The Swinhoe’s soft-shell turtle has legendary status in Vietnam. According to zoo general curator, Geoff Hall:

This is one of those mythical species that people always talked about but no one ever saw

This species has almost been wiped out due to hunters who captured and killed the turtles for food, or to make traditional medicine from their bones. On top of this, nesting habitats along the rivers have been wiped out, and pollution is another big killer. Add all these up and you’ll force a species into extinction.

The Swinhoe’s soft-shell turtle is the largest freshwater turtle in the world. It can weight up to 300 pounds, measure up to 3 feet long, and live for more than 100 years (if not hunted and killed first…). It is also known as the Shanghai soft-shell turtle and the Yangtze soft-shell turtle.

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