Archive for Colombia
www.sciencedaily.com 1st March 2012
A new study by Colombia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory indicates that today’s ocean acidification through human carbon emissions is happening faster than at any time during the past 300 million years. Over this time there have been four mass extinctions caused by natural ‘pulse’ emissions of carbon into the atmosphere, which sent temperatures soaring. According to lead author Bärbel Hönisch, ”What we’re doing today really stands out. We know that life during past ocean acidification events was not wiped out — new species evolved to replace those that died off. But if industrial carbon emissions continue at the current pace, we may lose organisms we care about — coral reefs, oysters, salmon.” The study is the first to explore the geological record for signs of ocean acidification over time. The research team behind the study came from five different countries and reviewed hundreds of paleoceanographic papers to come to their conclusion. In the past 300 million years, there was only one time period where the ocean acidified as quickly as it is today. Spanning 5,000 years roughly 56 million years ago, a mysterious surge of carbon into the atmosphere caused an estimated 6 degree rise in global temperatures. The carbonic acid created in the ocean by the absorption of CO2 led to the dissolving of carbonate plankton shells on the seafloor creating a layer of mud. Normally these shells help regulate the acidity of the oceans.
www.bbc.co.uk 6th December 2010
The heaviest rainfall in four decades has caused a huge landslide in the Colombian Andes, possibly killing as many as 50 people in the city of Medellin. Although only one body has been recovered from the rubble so far by rescue teams with sniffer dogs, more than 50 homes were buried in the La Gabriela district of Bello, north of Medellin. One Red Cross worker has claimed that as many as 200 are missing. Seven have been rescued alive. The confirmed dead bring the total amount of lost life due to landslides this year to 176 in Colombia alone, according to the Red Cross. Many more have had to leave their homes. In response to the devastation, the Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said: “this tragedy we are experiencing, not only in the Atlantic coast but across the country, has no precedent in our history. We estimate that there will be more than two million people affected”. In the adjacent country of Venezuela, 70,000 have been displaced by similar flooding. The President Hugo Chavez has stated that he will seize private land to shelter those who have lost their homes. The extreme weather has been caused by the La Nina climatic phenomenon.
www.bbc.co.uk 14th October 2010
Colombia’s mountain plains and Andean forests are under threat from agricultural expansion and chemical pollution. 400,000 hectares of woodland habitat are cut down per year by farming settlers as the region, previously too dangerous to cultivate due to the presence of FARC rebels, is pacified by the Colombian government. There is now very little of the Andes forest separating the mountain steppe, home to a fair few rare species, and the cultivated plains below. Conservationists fear that due to the lack of trees, the soil will lose its stability and dessication will set in over the coming decades. However, protection for the fragile environment may come from an unlikely source. A large conservation project is under way funded mostly by Bavaria, Colombia’s largest drinks company and a subsidiary of the mulitnational company SABMiller. The reason is simple. Bavaria needs clean water for its beer and the agriculture of the region is polluting the local water courses with fertilisers and pesticides. In exchange for education in more effective farming methods, the farmers give up a portion of their land bordering waterways so that native species can thrive again. Although some opponents to the scheme state that the farmers economic welfare is more important than species biodiversity and prosperity, Director of Nature Conservancy in Colombia Jose Yunis retorted that the farmers benefit also. Better farming methods increase the richness of the soil and produce more from less land. Also, planting trees prevents the soil from drying out and makes agriculture in the region more sustainable.
Sources: e360.yale.edu 26th August 2010
The coffee plant is a particularly sensitive species that requires just the right amount of heat and water to survive. In Ethiopia, where temperatures have risen steadily by 0.66 degrees Fahrenheit per decade since the 1950s, coffee farmers have suffered increasingly poor conditions that resulted in a 33% drop in production last year. Ethiopian farmers are resorting to planting coffee crops at higher altitudes, or turning away from Arabica coffee altogether and switching to cattle or more heat-tolerant crops. But now another problem faces coffee production in the horn of Africa and other parts of the world. A small insect called the Coffee Berry Borer Beetle was completely absent from the region in the 1960s but a survey in 2003 has revealed it to be widespread. It destroys coffee beans causing reduced crop yields. The beetle’s introduction to Ethiopia leaves only three countries in the world that have not been infected (Hawaii, Nepal, and Papua New Guinea) but this could only be a matter of time if temperatures continue to rise. The beetle needs a minimum temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit to reproduce and migrates remarkably quickly into suitable climates. It is partly responsible for Colombia’s dip in coffee production from a high of 12 million bags in 1994 to 7.9 million last year.
As around 100 million people in the world rely on coffee production for their livelihood (with 70% of production coming from small family owned farms), the increasing distribution of the Coffee Berry Borer Beetle may be an ominous sign for the future.