1. Earth Alive!

2014-10-01. Satellite images show Aral Sea basin 'completely dried'.  For GSS Ecosystem Change chapter 1. Excerpt: ...Images from the US space agency’s Terra satellite released last week show that the eastern basin of the Central Asian inland sea – which stretched across Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and was once the fourth largest in the world – was totally parched in August. Images taken in 2000 show an extensive body of water covering the same area. “This is the first time the eastern basin has completely dried in modern times,” Philip Micklin, a geographer emeritus from Western Michigan University told Nasa. “And it is likely the first time it has completely dried in 600 years, since Medieval desiccation associated with diversion of Amu Darya to the Caspian Sea.” In the 1950s, two of the region’s major rivers – the Amu Darya and and the Syr Darya – were diverted by the Soviet government to provide irrigation for cotton production in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, starving the Aral. ...A lack of rain and snow on the Pamir Mountains has contributed to the particularly low water levels this summer, said Micklin. ...More than 60 million people live around the Aral Sea basin. The lack of water has devastated the region’s fishing industry, leaving ship graveyards as well as large areas of salted sand, which is easily kicked up by winds and contributes to health problems.... http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/01/satellite-images-show-aral-sea-basin-completely-dried. By Enjoli Liston, The Guardian. See also NASA Earth Observatory page World of Change: Shrinking Aral Sea.  http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/WorldOfChange/aral_sea.php

2013-06-10.  A Second Act for Biosphere 2. Excerpt:  In the fall of 1991, eight men and women marched into a glass and steel complex that covered three acres in the Arizona desert and was known as Biosphere 2. Their mission: to test whether they could be self-sustaining in this sealed-off environment, with hope that the model would someday be replicated to colonize outer space. ...The original idea was that the inhabitants would grow all their own food, and that the wilderness areas would naturally recycle their air and water. ...Early on, there were problems. One Biospherian accidentally cut off the tip of her finger and left for medical care. When she returned, she carried in two duffle bags of supplies to the supposedly self-sustaining environment (which presumably would not have been feasible on, say, Mars). But the most damaging discovery was that a carbon dioxide scrubber had been secretly installed to protect the occupants from dangerous levels of the gas. By the end, as one of the Biospherians put it, they had been suffocated, starved and gone mad. Clearly, Biosphere 2 was not ready to sustain life on Mars or even a vacant lot in Phoenix. ...Columbia University, then the University of Arizona, eventually took over the mammoth space to conduct earth science research, and nearly 150 papers have been published. In 2006, The New Yorker reported, “much of what is known about coral reefs and ocean acidification was originally discovered, improbably enough in Arizona, in the self-enclosed, supposedly self-sufficient world known as Biosphere 2.”.... http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/10/booming/biosphere-2-good-science-or-bad-sense.html. Michael Winerip, New York Times.

2012 Feb 3. Rebuilding Wetlands by Managing the Muddy Mississippi. By Carolyn Gramling, Science (subscription needed). Coastal managers and scientists have struggled to find ways to restore water flow through the wetlands of the Mississippi delta and bring back the sediment, supply of which has been cut in half by humanmade river channels, levees, and dams intended to control the river and save coastal communities from flooding. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the Morganza spillway during the 2011 Mississippi River floods to divert floodwaters, which offered a rare opportunity to conduct a large-scale natural experiment in real time. The floodwaters did carry enough sediment to help rebuild the wetlands, but that material didn't always stay where it could do the most good. However, researchers gained valuable insights—including ideas about how spillway design can help produce more targeted sediment deposits, and what volume of flow through the spillways might be required for effective wetland rebuilding.

2011 April 24. Spring may Lose Song of Cuckoos, Nightingales and Turtle Doves. By Robin McKie, The Observer. Excerpt: Some of Britain's most cherished spring visitors are disappearing in their thousands. Ornithologists say species such as the cuckoo, nightingale and turtle dove are undergoing catastrophic drops in numbers , although experts are puzzled about the exact reasons for these declines.…The call of the cuckoo could be silenced in the near future unless scientists can unravel the causes of the drastic decline in their population. ..."The real problem is that there are so many different possible causes for these losses .... "These losses could be the result of changes in farmland use in Britain which are affecting the way these birds breed when they arrive here in spring. Or they could be due to the spread of human populations in Africa and the destruction of natural habitats where they make their homes in winter. "Climate change is almost certainly involved as well. Our problem is to unravel those different causes and assess how they interact."

2009 June. Jane Poynter: Life in Biosphere 2. TED.com. Excerpt: In a March 2009 presentation at TEDxUSC, Jane Poynter tells her story of living two years and 20 minutes in Biosphere 2 -- an experience that provoked her to explore how we might sustain life in the harshest of environments. This 15 minute video is accompanied by an interactive transcript of the presentation.

2007 January 30. In the Rockies, Pines Die and Bears Feel It. The New York Times, By CHARLES PETIT. Excerpt: Jesse Logan retired in July as head of the beetle research unit for the United States Forest Service at the Rocky Mountain Laboratory in Utah. He is an authority on the effects of temperature on insect life cycles. That expertise has landed him smack in the middle of a debate over protecting grizzly bears. Forests of whitebark pine turn red as they are attacked by the mountain pine beetle. ...Dr. Logan seems, in fact, to be on a collision course with the federal government, in the debate over whether to lift Endangered Species Act protections from the grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park. The grizzly population in the greater Yellowstone area is estimated to be at least 600. ...Their resurgence in the past 50 years is why the federal government announced in 2005 the start of proceedings to take them off the endangered or threatened species list. Dr. Logan enters the fray on the question of what grizzly bears eat, how much of it will be available in the future, and where. All that, he says, hinges on the mountain pine beetle and the whitebark pine....New computer projections done by Dr. Logan and Jacques Régnière of the Canadian Forest Service based on recent climate and other data for the mountain West show most whitebark pine forests being wiped out as warming continues. But the Wind River Range is projected to stay cold until 2100 or so, which, if the model is right, means they could be a refuge for grizzlies forced out of areas where the trees die. ... Dr. Logan's projections shows devastating whitebark damage from the beetles in the government's core area for grizzly protection by the end of the century. He says that the government's recovery area "is completely out of touch with what is actually happening."... "It's all about global warming," Dr. Logan said. "I can't say if the beetle will stay out of the Winds for all the next century. I don't know how long it will take. But one thing I do know. If it keeps on warming, they'll get nailed there too. The trees can't move uphill, you know. They'll run out of mountain." What the bears will fatten for winter on then, nobody knows.

  Archive of Past Articles for Chapter 1

ForgeFX Interactive 3D simulation by Prentice Hall - BIOMES - allows users to examine the different biomes on the planet Earth. Students can rotate the globe to any angle, identify and choose biomes, and find out detailed information about a city in each biome.

Air Quality & Water Quality. GSS - Energy Use: Pollution.

Biomes: Blue Planet Biomes - All about the world's biomes, their plants, animals, and climates.