Monday, June 17, 2013

(Fix formatting) People Should Not Look Down Upon Plants

People Should Not Look Down Upon Plants

Current method of obtaining energy

  Energy source plays a very important role in human’s life. For example, people need energy source to provide heat which is necessary for human. The main method to obtain energy is getting them from coal, fossil oil, natural gas and hydroenergy. Currently, some new methods are deveoped which are nuclear energy, solar energy and wind energy. But there is question here, although there are a lot of different ways to obtain energy, people still lack of energy source. What’s more, the pollution is a very big problem.

 Energy shortage and pollution
   
   In the last 20 years, the problem of energy shortage is very serious in the whole world. The reason why it happen is the main energy sources for people are still coal, fossil oil, natural gas, and these kind of sources need to take a long time to form and they are not renewable. What’s worse, during the development of human’s life, we will consume energy source more and more rapidly. For example, in order to meet the requirements for most people, the cars which need a lot of energy become more and more widespread in the world. In these process, the pollution issue should not be ignore. Global climate change a lot in these years, and carbon dixocide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide are the main elements to casue green house effect. Most part of these gas is coming from the heating or using the energy source which are coal, fossil oil and natural gas.[3] If people continue using these kind of energy source, the global warming problem will become more and more serious. Glacier will melt, sea surface will rise, and some other unpredictable issue will happen. So it is time to make some change.

 Primary method

  These years, scientists found a new method to obtain energy which is bioenergy. Bioenergy is a form of renewable energy and it will make less pollution than the tranditional energy sources. Alcohol is an example for bioenergy, it is an alternative energy source to fossil oils. There are some benefit here, alcohol can be used as a single energy source, and it can also be used with other source such as gasoline. Then alcohol can be produced by fermentation of sugar. Fermentation is easy to achieved and people already have a very effeincy way to do fermentation. What’s more, when we use alcohol as energy source, the pollution is very less than the tranditional energy source. But there are some draw back for using the alcohol. First of all, alcohol can't provide the enough amount of energy as the tranditional energy sources do. Secondly, people need more space to contain the alcohol. The last but not the least, the techonology of making alcohol is not perfect now. [6]

Plant is important
    
During this hard time,  there is a challenge concept-- the tranditional sources fossil oil, coal and natural gas are not chemical material, they are biological product, so we can consider them as bioenergy and make them renewable. Because all of these source come from plants, and then we can get the energy source by planting. If we think from the start, the most important reason that plant can make energy is plant can transfer the solar energy to the energy that people can directly use. In this process, plant don't need many extra energy input, and it can make a lot of energy by consume a little energy. According to this idea, people may make a fundamental change of the method of getting energy source, and we can do a Green Revolution which means more energy and less pollution.
                             Figure 1 [8]

                                  Figure 2 [7]
    Figure 1 and Figure 2 describe the whole process of how the solar enery be transfered to the carbon energy which can be directly used by human. "Plants are great sources of energy as well. The energy coming from plants are called biomass. This is not a new thing. In fact, biomass has been done and studied for a long time already. Wood is also used for biomass energy. Researchers and scientists are finding reasonable ways to harness the full potentials of the plants as sources of energy." [1] [2]
 Plant doesn't only provide the renewable energy for human, but also reduce the issue of global warming. Carbon dixocide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide are the reason which cause the global warming problem.  Plant will consume some extra CO2 to reduce the global warming problem, and produce O2. The detail of this process is described in figure 2. [7]

[5]
   Table 1 talks about the possibility to plant plants inorder to instead of the tranditional energy source. According to the table and the article from Henry, we can find that the biomass of these plants are varies huge, and the efficiency of it is not low for planting biomass. He also mention about the bio-crop which is the most worthy bioenergy to develop currently, because the bio-crop has a lot of adventages such as high biomass accumulation, high N use efficiency, low potential as a weed and so on [5]

Future research

There is a problem here, we don’t have enough land for planting energy plants. Currently, the land is already used for human life and biodiversity. If we make more and more energy plant, we may damage the current biodiversity conservation. People need more information and analysis to find which kind of plant is more efficient of biomass to consume and use the least area of land. Although there are some disadventages and unpredictable issue may happen in the process of doing the research of energy plant, this method still have it’s value and I think it is worth to research in the future. I feel in the future, the energy plant will play a very important role, and we can use this method to make our world more beautiful and healthy. We should not look down upon our cute and useful plants.

Work Cited

[3] Andrew Clarke, Kevin J Gaston, Climate, Energy and DiversityProceedings: Biological Sciences, Vol. 273, No. 1599 pp. 2257-22662006
[4] Isam H Aijundi, Ltd Pergamon-Elsevier ScienceEnergy and exergy analysis of a steam power plant in Jordan, Applied Thermal Themal Engineering, Volume:29, Issue:2-3, Pages:324-3282009
[5] Robert J Henry, Evaluation of plant biomass resources available for replacement of fossil oil. Plant Biotechnol J. 2010 April; 8(3): 288–293.
[6]  José Goldemberg, Energy Problems in Latin America, Science 30 March 1984: 1357-1362


Friday, June 14, 2013

The Farm That Doesn't Feed Its Animals



Our world has reached a limit, with an ever-rising demand for seafood; we can no longer ignore the depletion of natural food sources.  In the past, we did not have to deal with such problems due to a lower interest in fish as food. However due to a renewed, voracious appetite for seafood, pressure on the fishing industry to meet the high demands has increased.  The average consumption of fish set a new record average in 2011 with 37 pounds of fish per person being consumed each year. Even though global fish supply continues to decline, people are now eating four times as much fish than in 1950 (1).

Figure 1 - Trends in annual fish capture
Worldwide, 154 million tons of fish are harvested annually, 90 million of which comes from the oceans. This amount of harvesting is resulting in an over-exploitation of our marine fish populations (2). They are in serious trouble due to overfishing, ecosystem degradation, and inept fishery management, that have resulted in 52% of fish stocks being fully exploited, 20% moderately exploited, 17% overexploited, 7% depleted, and 1% recovering from depletion (3, Seen in Figure 1 below). Unless we begin to make significant changes in the way that we harvest and consume seafood, we could eventually lose a valuable food source many depend upon for social, economical or dietary reasons.
Clearly, a change in the methods of fish harvesting is necessary, but implementation is not as easy as it seems. Industrialized countries are the main source of problem with their modern methods of fishing that produce such high return on investment that it is impossible to return to traditional methods. Methods such as trawling or dredging use nets as large as football fields to scrape the sea floor for fish that reside there. Dredging is extremely successful, but it damages the natural sea floor ecosystem by scraping the bottom while also resulting in significant bycatch (4).  There are much more efficient methods of fishing, but each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
Figure 2 - Global Fish Production
A new, exceptionally sustainable fishing practice has rapidly increased recently called aquaculture, otherwise known as fish farming (see Figure 2 below). Primarily used in to raise specific valuable species of fish that are in larger demand than what the environment can produce, essentially succeeding with help from human interaction. This labor-intensive farming method is not exactly natural, thus containing a large amount of negative consequences.  Between using hatcheries (Picture 1 below), to pond developments, or just plain fish ranching, they all produce high levels of biomass production using a methodology known as intensive farming.  Intensive farming can be greatly beneficial to producing these high harvest numbers, because it benefits the environment in various ways. Significantly increasing yield per acre has made food more affordable to the consumer as it costs less to produce more. Intensive farming uses high labor and high amounts of food, chemical, and other resource input to create amazingly high input (5).  While it may produce a lot of food from little land thus being able to save it from conversion, it is also poisoning the nearby area with this high amount of human influence.  Chemicals leak into the nearby ecosystem, and deteriorate the soil and other organisms' health. This high food, chemical, and labor input method is not easy to manage, between the price and the work it becomes difficult to manage the farm. This is why intensive farming tends to separate itself from the outside ecosystem, in order to maximize efficiency in that area.
Picture 1- Conventional Fish Farming
However as intelligent human beings, we know that we cannot look upon an ecosystem by itself, but rather observe its role on the global perspective.  Bringing in chemicals and highly profitable invasive fish species creates new environmental factors that alter that of natural ecosystems. The possible problems range from the escapement of genetically modified or foreign outcompeting fish, to pollution, species extinction, or even entire ecosystem collapse. These problems are what created an increased interest in this other form of aquaculture called extensive farming. Using extensive farming, the human impact upon both fish production and the environment can be minimalized. In a method that relies more heavily on healthy ecosystem relationships than anything else, they can produce high amounts of quality fish at surprisingly efficient levels.  
In a TED talk I watched recently by a chef Dan Barber (link below), he explains how fish aquaculture has reached a difficult challenge of maintaining the stability of the aquatic ecosystem. The biggest problem arises from the demand for certain fish species. Tuna, for instance, is an extremely valued product, and this causes fish farms to be put up all over the world to increase the annual production of this fish. However, this fish takes a conversion of 15lbs of wild fish to create 1lb of tuna (6). This drive for tastier fish has pushed us to feed these organisms, despite the immense damage done to biodiversity and nutrient cycling in ecosystems.  Now this isn’t always the problem as some fish species, like the one Dan Barber first fell “in love” with, have very good conversions such as 2.5lbs of feed to 1lb of meat for an aquaculture company he once promoted. This first farm’s intensive method was still thought to be the best in the business, no one was as sustainable as them. Their ecological damage was thought to be perfect since they operate the farthest out to sea, so that pollution was dispersed instead of being concentrated near the shore. This first fish seems like a dream almost, it tastes good, it’s easy to farm and for food it is fed cheap chicken pellets…Chef Dan noticed something here. Why are we feeding chicken to fish? The only response he got, “There’s too much chicken in the world (6).” All right, it seems like a reasonably sustainable method for fish farming, but not necessarily as sustainable as it sounded before.  Dan didn’t accept this either, it ruined the taste, and he fell out of “love” with this fish.
One man, Miguel Midialdea, who was raising fish on his own natural aquaculture farm called Veta la Palma, was able to renew Dan’s love for a fish. His farm (Video 1, right) fully endorsed extensive farming techniques to create an 27,000 acre ecosystem that enhances the environmental quality of the surrounding area.   
video
Using ecological relationships between species on all levels of the food web, he was able to bring all of the species that he needed into the environment without putting them there himself. In fact almost 600,000 birds of almost 250 different species are attracted to the farm annually simply because the food is better there. Miguel views the fish lost to birds as a sign that the entire ecosystem is balanced and thriving, because they are eating and the food is available and good. Flamingos travel 150 miles everyday to eat at the farm (7). These thriving conditions also result in a natural aquatic vegetation filtration of the water, leaving water cleaner of toxins and contaminants when it leaves the system than when it came in. 

The greatest part of this aquaculture farm is not how friendly it is to the ecosystem, rather the incredible sustainability of not only the fish, but also the whole system.  When asked how much the food input ratio was, Miguel told him that, due to all the organisms functioning so well together within the system, that they didn’t feed the fish anything.  Extensive farming at La Palma is completely sustainable (6). 
Miguel Midialdea proved that farming of any kind is about the relationship of organisms to their environment. With methods like these, we would be capable of creating our own sustainable food sources that no longer deplete the limited sources that we were granted. Rather, we can start giving back to the environment with healthy systems that grow and recover from the damage we have already inflicted.  It may be a long road to bring more farms up to this form of regulation, but it all starts with small farms like La Palma. If we continue to grow and incorporate our simple understandings of organism relationships, then we can reverse many of the effects of overfishing in an ecosystem. We will be able to grow the amount of sustainable fish harvested now that they work together in an ecosystem instead of at the expense of one another.


TED Talk: Dan Barber (6)
 http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_barber_how_i_fell_in_love_with_a_fish.html
Nature Ecosystem view of Veta La Palma (7)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnllBArpzWI&feature=player_embedded#!
Extra video to show a visit to the farm and interview with Miguel (8)           
http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/earthrise/2012/04/20124615166529417.html
 
Works Cited:
1)    Vince, Gaia. "How the World's Oceans Could Be Running out of Ish." BBC.com. British Broadcasting Corporation, 21 Sept. 2012. Web. 27 May 2013. <http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20120920-are-we-running-out-of-fish>.
2)    FAO. World Review of Fisheries and Aquaculture. N.p.: n.p., n.d. FAO. Food and Agriculture Organization, 2012. Web. 27 May 2013. <http://www.fao.org/docrep/016/i2727e/i2727e01.pdf>.
3)    Overfishing. "Why Is Overfishing a Problem." Overfishing. Overfishing.org, n.d. Web. 27 May 2013. <http://overfishing.org/pages/why_is_overfishing_a_problem.php>.
4)    Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program. "Fishing & Farming Methods." Monterey Bay Aquarium. Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program, n.d. Web. 29 May 2013. <http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/cr_seafoodwatch/sfw_gear.aspx>.
5)    "Intensive Farming." Lifeofearthorg RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 May 2013. <http://lifeofearth.org/environment/intensive-farming>.
6)    Barber, Dan. "How I Fell in Love with a Fish." TED: Ideas worth Spreading. TED, Mar. 2010. Web. 29 May 2013. < http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_barber_how_i_fell_in_love_with_a_fish.html >.
7)    "Browne Trading Company." Veta La Palma Seafood Comments. Browne Trading Company, n.d. Web. 29 May 2013. <http://www.brownetrading.com/products/fresh-fish/veta-la-palma-seafood/>.
8)    "Veta La Palma - 'Algae-Culture' Fish Farm - Earthrise - Al Jazeera English." Video blog post. Veta La Palma - 'Algae-Culture' Fish Farm - Earthrise - Al Jazeera English. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 May 2013. <http://aje.me/HQ47VA>.

Seed banks: the preservers of plant diversity? by Ben Geller


Primary producers, autotrophs, whatever you want to call them - as John Drori said in his TED talk - “everything depends on plants, they are the base of the food chain.”

            Due to their role in ecosystems and vast diversity, protection of the diversity of plants is of utmost importance. While diversity does not explicitly seem to be that important, it plays a vital role in the relationship between every living organism and its environment, including biotic and abiotic factors. As seen in video 1, biological diversity is an important factor relating to genetics, communities, and ecosystems. Essentially, the more diverse a factor is, the better chance it has to stay around.

            Plant diversity is currently under threat.  According to Tilman et al., “humans now appropriate more than a third of all terrestrial primary production, and, in doing so, have simplified or destroyed large portions of some types of ecosystems, leaving behind fragments that often lack herbivores or predators that provided important top-down constraints” (Tilman 5433) This means that humans use 1/3 of primary production for our own purposes including food, medicine, fuel, construction, clothing, etc. and, in return, we are directly reducing plant diversity and indirectly killing plants.  Apart from major conservation efforts such as reduction of deforestation, a major method of preserving diversity is through seed banks. In this article I will discuss whether seed banks are a viable option for preserving the diversity of plants.

Figure 1: Evolution  of plants from algae describing their vast diversity, and accumulation of varying traits.

             A seed bank is exactly what the name suggests: it is essentially a storage facility for seeds. Some might say that there are problems with the concept of a seed bank and to a certain degree they are right. One major problem with seed banks is the vast diversity of plants, as seen in figure 1. After all, plants compose an entire kingdom of organisms, all of which cover most of our planet, with vast morphological differences and functions.  According to Drori, in 2009, the millennium seed bank had just stored their 3 billionth seed and had a total of 10% of the world’s species of plants and by the year 2020, only 25% species seeds would have been saved.

            One major flaw with the concept of a seed bank is the fact that it only stores seeds. Believe it or not, not all plants have seeds.  In fact, only the most recently evolved plants, gymnosperms and angiosperms, do. However, since their evolution, the term ‘radiation of angiosperms’ describes how they have spread their existence and vast diversity across the planet.  As seen in figure 1, plants preceding the gymnosperms do not have seeds.  They are all gametophyte dominant, which means their haploid phase is the major player and they produce spores not seeds.  This also means that many of the plants that produce our atmospheric oxygen, 90% of which is produced by oceanic algae and phytoplankton, cannot be stored in these seed banks.

            Looking at it with a blank slate of knowledge regarding biodiversity and its benefits, one would think the homogenization of plants, mainly crops and agriculture but native plants vs. non-native/invasives as well, would be a good thing. It could mean less chance of an illness from more familiar plants, as well the ability to make them easier to grow more efficiently. As previously described, diversity is essential among any phyla, especially plants. Diversity is how plants overcome disease, evolutionary arms race (in which predators vs. prey adapt to each others adaptations to prey on, or defend against the other, respectively), harsh conditions, varying levels of nutrients, etc. Without diversity neither plants nor any organisms would be able to overcome such major obstacles.


Figure 2: Genetic Drift
http://biology.unm.edu/ccouncil/Biology_203/Images/PopGen/bottleneck.gif


            Another major problem with seed banks is with genetic drift, displayed in figure 2, which involves a sort of bottlenecking of the ‘saved’ species. “Genetic drift is the random change in allele frequency that occurs because gametes transmitted from one generation to the next carry only a sample of the alleles present in the parental generation.” (Ellstrand 218) The most common analogy for genetic drift is jelly beans.  For example, if you have a jar full of jelly beans of 2 colors (each representing a neutral allele) and you take a sample of the beans, the proportions on average will be 50/50. However, if you happen to select a slightly higher proportion of one allele to the other say 52/48, the allele at 48% has a higher chance of extinction where the one at 52% has a higher chance of fixation from then on.  Although you would think that, since the alleles are ‘neutral’, this would have no affect.  But, in the future, one of those alleles could protect against a certain disease while the other might not, and if the one that protects against said disease goes extinct, then that species could be doomed.

             Even if seed banks take a few samples of certain species, they would still suffer at the hands of genetic drift similar to situations regarding Genetic bottlenecking. This is due to the fact that if you have a reduced gene pool genetic drift has a higher effect. “…in small populations (e.g. < 100 individuals), allele frequencies may undergo large and unpredictable fluctuations due to [genetic] drift (9, 31).” (Ellstrand 219) On top of bottlenecking there are problems with sampling error: “The effects of sampling on genetic variation do not cease after a sample of seeds has been collected in the field… few have discussed the realization that levels of genetic variation in a seed bank are heavily dependent on the rate at which variation is lost when seeds are stored.” (Hamilton 41) Here, Hamilton describes the fact that variation continues and, that one main reason why seeds are stored in the first place, is because their species are in danger of losing diversity.  So, if the diversity necessary for the future survival of plants is already lost, is the point moot?

            Apart from all the problems presented, I still feel that the seed bank is a good idea because preservation of diversity at any level is a good thing. Although there are some flaws that come with it, knowing these flaws allows us to overcome them. Plants are sessile, meaning they can’t move, so they need someone to protect them. That job falls on us.  And, as we are the main reason why they need to be protected in the first place, it may be both, the least we can do for them as we consider that we need them to survive and they need us to preserve their vast diversity to live.




Citations:
Popular media (TED talks):
Jonathan Drori: Why we are storing billions of seeds
Cary Fowler: One seed at a time, protecting the future of food.
http://www.ted.com/talks/cary_fowler_one_seed_at_a_time_protecting_the_future_of_food.html
Biodiversity - Vancouver Film School (VFS)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5ELFfbQAXU

Primary Literature:

Ex Situ Conservation of Wild Plant Species: Time to Reassess the Genetic Assumptions and Implications of Seed Banks
Matthew B. Hamilton
Conservation Biology , Vol. 8, No. 1 (Mar., 1994), pp. 39-49
Published by: Wiley for Society for Conservation Biology
Article Stable URL:http://www.jstor.org/stable/2386719

David Tilman and Clarence Lehman
Human-caused environmental change: Impacts on plant diversity and evolution
PNAS 2001 98 (10) 5433-5440; doi:10.1073/pnas.091093198

Norman C. Ellstrand and Diane R. Elam
Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 
Vol. 24, (1993), pp. 217-242
Published by: Annual Reviews
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2097178


Thursday, June 13, 2013

People Should Not Look Down Upon Plants

People Should Not Look Down Upon Plants

Current method of obtaining energy
  
    Energy source plays a very important role in human’s life. For example, people need energy source to provide heat which is necessary for human. The main method to obtain energy is getting them from coal, fossil oil, natural gas and hydroenergy. Currently, some new methods are deveoped which are nuclear energy, solar energy and wind energy. But there is question here, although there are a lot of different ways to obtain energy, people still lack of energy source. What’s more, the pollution is a very big problem.


 Energy shortage and pollution
    
    In the last 20 years, the problem of energy shortage is very serious in the whole world. The reason why it happen is the main energy sources for people are still coal, fossil oil, natural gas, and these kind of sources need to take a long time to form and they are not renewable. What’s worse, during the development of human’s life, we will consume energy source more and more rapidly. For example, in order to meet the requirements for most people, the cars which need a lot of energy become more and more widespread in the world. In these process, the pollution issue should not be ignore. Global climate change a lot in these years, and carbon dixocide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide are the main elements to casue green house effect. Most part of these gas is coming from the heating or using the energy source which are coal, fossil oil and natural gas.[3] If people continue using these kind of energy source, the global warming problem will become more and more serious. Glacier will melt, sea surface will rise, and some other unpredictable issue will happen. So it is time to make some change.

Primary method
   
    These years, scientists found a new method to obtain energy which is bioenergy. Bioenergy is a form of renewable energy and it will make less pollution than the tranditional energy sources. Alcohol is an example for bioenergy, it is an alternative energy source to fossil oils. There are some benefit here, alcohol can be used as a single energy source, and it can also be used with other source such as gasoline. Then alcohol can be produced by fermentation of sugar. Fermentation is easy to achieved and people already have a very effeincy way to do fermentation. What’s more, when we use alcohol as energy source, the pollution is very less than the tranditional energy source. But there are some draw back for using the alcohol. First of all, alcohol can't provide the enough amount of energy as the tranditional energy sources do. Secondly, people need more space to contain the alcohol. The last but not the least, the techonology of making alcohol is not perfect now. [6]

Plant is important
    
     During this hard time,  there is a challenge concept-- the tranditional sources fossil oil, coal and natural gas are not chemical material, they are biological product, so we can consider them as bioenergy and make them renewable. Because all of these source come from plants, and then we can get the energy source by planting. If we think from the start, the most important reason that plant can make energy is plant can transfer the solar energy to the energy that people can directly use. In this process, plant don't need many extra energy input, and it can make a lot of energy by consume a little energy. According to this idea, people may make a fundamental change of the method of getting energy source, and we can do a Green Revolution which means more energy and less pollution.



Figure 1 [8]


Figure 2 [7]

      Figure 1 and Figure 2 describe the whole process of how the solar enery be transfered to the carbon energy which can be directly used by human. "Plants are great sources of energy as well. The energy coming from plants are called biomass. This is not a new thing. In fact, biomass has been done and studied for a long time already. Wood is also used for biomass energy. Researchers and scientists are finding reasonable ways to harness the full potentials of the plants as sources of energy." [1] [2]
 Plant doesn't only provide the renewable energy for human, but also reduce the issue of global warming. Carbon dixocide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide are the reason which cause the global warming problem.  Plant will consume some extra CO2 to reduce the global warming problem, and produce O2. The detail of this process is described in figure 2. [7]

[5]
       Table 1 talks about the possibility to plant plants inorder to instead of the tranditional energy source. According to the table and the article from Henry, we can find that the biomass of these plants are varies huge, and the efficiency of it is not low for planting biomass. He also mention about the bio-crop which is the most worthy bioenergy to develop currently, because the bio-crop has a lot of adventages such as high biomass accumulation, high N use efficiency, low potential as a weed and so on [5]

Future research
     
   There is a problem here, we don’t have enough land for planting energy plants. Currently, the land is already used for human life and biodiversity. If we make more and more energy plant, we may damage the current biodiversity conservation. People need more information and analysis to find which kind of plant is more efficient of biomass to consume and use the least area of land. Although there are some disadventages and unpredictable issue may happen in the process of doing the research of energy plant, this method still have it’s value and I think it is worth to research in the future. I feel in the future, the energy plant will play a very important role, and we can use this method to make our world more beautiful and healthy. We should not look down upon our cute and useful plants.

 Work Cited

[3] Andrew Clarke, Kevin J Gaston, Climate, Energy and DiversityProceedings: Biological Sciences, Vol. 273, No. 1599 pp. 2257-22662006
[4] Isam H Aijundi, Ltd Pergamon-Elsevier ScienceEnergy and exergy analysis of a steam power plant in Jordan, Applied Thermal Themal Engineering, Volume:29, Issue:2-3, Pages:324-3282009
[5] Robert J Henry, Evaluation of plant biomass resources available for replacement of fossil oil. Plant Biotechnol J. 2010 April; 8(3): 288–293.
[6]  José Goldemberg, Energy Problems in Latin America, Science 30 March 1984: 1357-1362

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Jackass Penguin (Spheniscus demersus): Major Threats and Conservation Efforts
Introduction
Photo by Anton Wolfaardt,
Western Cape Nature Conservation Board
The jackass penguin, Spheniscus demersus, is facing endangerment due to rapid population decline (see photo). This decrease in numbers is largely due to food shortages, oil spills, and habitat disruption (IUCN). Conservation of jackass penguins is important because it is the only species of penguin that breeds in Africa. Additionally, this species serves as both prey and predator, and therefore has a key role in the ecosystem. The purpose of this post is to raise awareness about the major threats to Spensicus demersus and to evaluate the conservation efforts that have been implemented thus far.

The Endangered Jackass Penguin
Spheniscus demersus is a species of medium-sized penguin that is endemic to Southern Africa. It is a marine bird that usually resides in seas within 40km of land, but comes ashore every four months to breed and molt (IUCN). The minimum viable population for jackass penguins was calculated to be more than 40,000 pairs in 2001 (Crawford, 2001). Breeding populations are found in South Africa and Namibia on 25 islands and 4 mainland sites (IUCN).  The number of jackass penguins breeding in South  Africa dropped from 56,00 pairs to about 21,000 pairs in the eight-year span from 2001 to 2009 (Crawford, 2011). Even after including Namibian breeders, the global population of the species is still over 10,000 pairs lower than the minimum population size which classifies the jackass penguin as endangered.
Major Threats
Habitat Disruption
Humans have had a huge negative impact on the jackass penguin. The initial huge decline of the jackass penguin is attributed to major guano collection by humans for use as fertilizer in the 1800s (Roach, 2012). Because the penguins burrow in a built-up layer of guano to make their nests, without this, the birds are forced to nest on the surface where eggs are very susceptible to predation and the elements.
Another major contributor to the decrease of jackass penguins is egg collecting. Since they are considered a delicacy, penguin eggs were harvested by humans for consumption. Worse still, eggs found in nests would be smashed a few days prior to gathering in order to ensure the freshness of the ones taken (Roach, 2012). To give a sense of the extent of the damage this caused, from the 1920s to 1960s almost half of the eggs produced in one main nesting site were harvested (Roach, 2012). Fortunately, this practice was outlawed in 1967.
Further disruption of the jackass penguin’s habitat has been caused by tourism. People can accidentally collapse nests and induce stress in the penguins. Although they don’t pose a major threat, if present in large numbers, tourists can even prevent younger birds from breeding (IUCN).
Food Shortage
Jackass penguins primarily prey on anchovies (Engraulis encrasicolus) and sardines (Sardinops sagax). In order to obtain meals, the birds have to compete for these fish with several predators, such as the fur seal Arctocephalus p. pusillus. This is becoming an even greater challenge for the penguin as the sardine and anchovy populations in their habitat become depleted due to overexploitation by commercial fisheries (Crawford, 2001). Also, it is speculated that the sardine and anchovy populations are lower because they are undergoing a range shift due to climate change (Koenig, R).
The significance of anchovy and sardine populations to the jackass penguin was shown in a 2008 paper by Crawford, et al. In this study, researchers found the relationship between the breeding success of jackass penguins and the combined spawner biomass of these anchovy and sardine species from 1989 to 2004. There is a distinct positive correlation between the abundance of the fish and the number of chicks hatched, implying that a reduction of anchovy and sardine populations due to overfishing will also decrease the fecundity of the jackass penguins. In addition, commercial fishing increases the mortality of the jackass penguin since many birds are caught and killed in fishing nets (IUCN).

Oil Spills
Jackass penguins have been a major victim of oil spills, namely the Apollo Sea spill in 1994 and the Treasure oil spill of the coast of West Africa in 2000 (Wolfaardt, 2008). Getting “oiled" is a potentially fatal condition for the jackass penguins since it disrupts the natural insulating properties of the birds’ specialized feathers. Additionally, the preening of oiled feathers can cause consumption of oil in toxic amounts (Konings, 1997). Despite major rescue efforts to prevent this outcome, about 30,000 individuals died as a result of the Apollo Sea and Treasure spills (Nel and Whittington 2003). The number of casualties is three-fourths of the estimated minimum population size for Speniscus demersus, which demonstrates how severely oil spills impact the viability of the species. This figure is even likely to be an underestimate, since many unhatched penguins left behind by rescued parents were not counted as fatalities. A clip from BBC wildlife show 'African Penguin: Cool Bird in a Hot Spot' that depicts the hardships penguins face due to oil spills can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsX08folMhY.
Photo by Martin Harvey, World Wildlife Fund
Even in the absence of major spills near South Africa, jackass penguins are still found covered in oil (pictured below) due to illegal oil dumping from ships (IUCN). This leaves breeding localities on shores adjacent to shipping ports especially at risk to oil washing ashore.

Conservation Efforts
Counteracting Food Shortage
One way of preventing the depletion of the jackass penguin’s primary food source, anchovies and sardines, is through establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPA). A recent study has shown that penguins in an area closed to fishing expend less energy searching for fish than those in an unregulated area (CNRS, 2012). Another strategy is to increase regulation of fisheries near South Africa in order to cease overexploitation. Based previous studies, it would be ideal to use these techniques to maintain a combined biomass of anchovy and sardine populations above 4 million tons to ensure decent penguin breeding success (Crawford, 2008).

Preventing Habitat Disruption
Photo credit: http://static.neatorama.com 
In order to prevent further habitat disruption, all jackass penguin breeding localities in South Africa are protected; some are even national parks. In addition, collection of guano and eggs is now prohibited within penguin colonies. An innovative strategy has been implemented on an island resident to jackass penguins in an attempt to reduce egg mortality and the impact of depleted guano. Conservation biologists have put in place fiberglass igloos (pictured) for the birds to use as nesting sites (IUCN). These igloos protect eggs from gulls and other predators when parents are absent, while also 
serve as shelter from heat (Orlando Sentinel, 2009).

Rescue and Recovery from Oil
Rehabilitation of jackass penguins affected by oil spills has been fairly successful. Tens of thousands of oiled birds have been captured, cleaned, and reintroduced into their habitat after spills. However, even if they survive contact with oil, 28% of the penguins reintroduced after cleansing are unable to breed (Nel, 2003). Therefore, the most effective preventative strategy seems to be evacuating un-oiled penguins to minimize their risk of becoming contaminated in the first place (Wolfaardt, 2008).

A recent study by Barham et al. measured the viability of reintroduced female chicks that were hand-reared after being orphaned from the Treasure oil spill. Figure 2 shows the annual survival rate from 2000 to 2005 on Robben Island. Researchers predicted that about 135 out of a 1,000 hand-reared female chicks were able to survive to breeding age (Barham, 2008). This study provides promising evidence that hand-rearing chicks can be an effective tool for helping chicks that are orphaned during oil spills or naturally abandoned by their parents.
Operations for rescuing at-risk individuals must be carefully planned since they potentially bring harm to the penguins. For instance, the process of searching for and collecting oiled or abandoned penguins can cause long-term disturbance of colonies and their habitats (Barham, 2008). Also, excessive handling of birds during transport and rehabilitation induces a high level of stress that leads to unnecessary deaths (Konings, 1997). Therefore, it is important to weigh the harm versus help caused by any conservation actions. 
Conclusion
The population of the African penguin, Spheniscus demersus, is currently below the estimated minimum viable population size and still declining. The species is endangered largely due to food scarcity, oil contamination, and habitat destruction. It is important to conserve this species because it is beneficial to the ecosystem of South Africa and also to humans through ecotourism. Conservation plans are currently in place to try to reduce and prevent the impact of these three major threats. The potential implications of all conservation actions must be evaluated, since there are cases where they can be more harmful than helpful. It is important to plan for future ways of preserving the African penguins, such as hand-rearing chicks and relocating birds to areas with greater food availability. Preventative measures such as reducing oil spillage and overfishing should also be taken into consideration.
One of the challenges faced by these conservation efforts of the Jackass Penguin is sheer cost. For instance, the entire Apollo Sea penguin rescue operation cost approximately three-hundred thousand US dollars (Wolfaardt, 2008). However, by increasing public awareness through education and media such as this blog post, perhaps enough money can be raised to save Spheniscus demersus from extinction and conserve biodiversity.


Works Cited


-Barham,PJ. Les G. Underhill, Robert J. M. Crawford, Res Altwegg, T. Mario Leshoro, Duncan A. Bolton, Bruce M. Dyer and Leshia Upfold. “The efficacy of hand­rearing penguin chicks: evidence from African Penguins ( Spheniscus demersus) orphaned in the Treasure oil spill in 2000.” Bird Conservation International, 18 (2008): 144­152

-BirdLife International 2012. Spheniscus demersus. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 06 November 2012.

-CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange). "Marine protected areas: A solution for saving the penguin." ScienceDaily, 16 Feb. 2010. Web. 28 May. 2013.

-Crawford, RJM, R Altwegg, BJ Barham, PJ Barham, JM Durant, BM Dyer, D Geldenhuys, AB Makhado, L Pichegru, PG Ryan, LG Underhill, L Upfold, J Visagie, LJ Waller, and PA Whittington. "Collapse of South Africa's Penguins in the Early 21st Century." African Journal of Marine Science, 33.1 (2011): 139-156.

-Crawford, R J. David, L. J. Shannon, J. Kemper, N. T. W. Klages, J-P. Roux, L. G. Underhill, V. L. Ward, A. J. Williams, A. C. Wolfaardt. “African penguins as predators and prey – coping (or not) with change.” South African Journal of Marine Science 23.1 (2001)

-Crawford, R. J, L Underhill, J Coetzee, T Fairweather, L Shannon, and A Wolfaardt. “Influences of the Abundance and Distribution of Prey on African Penguins Spheniscus Demersus off Western South Africa.” African Journal of Marine Science, 30.1 (2008): 167-175.

-Frost, P G, Siegfried W R, Cooper J, “Conservation of the jackass penguin (Spheniscus demersus (L.))”, Biological Conservation, 9.2 February (1976): 79-99

-Koenig, R. “African Penguin Populations Reported in a Puzzling Decline” Science 2 March 2007: 315 (5816), 1205.

-Konings, C. "Coastal Oil Spill: Apollo Sea Shipping Disaster — June 1994." Journal Of Contingencies & Crisis Management 5.2 (1997): 118.Academic Search Premier. Web. 28 May. 2013.

-Nel, Deon C., and Phil Whittington. Rehabilitation of Oiled African Penguins: A Conservation Success Story. Stellenbosch, South Africa: BirdLife South Africa, 2003. Print.

Orlando Setinal. "Save South Africa's Penguins - Give Them a Home Animal” Orlando Sentinel."Save South Africa's Penguins. N.p., 30 Mar. 2009. Web. 28 May. 2013. http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/features_lifestyle_animal/2009/03/save-south-africas-penguins-give-them-a-home.html

-Roach, John. "Africa's Penguins Still Reeling From "Guano Craze"" National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 16 Aug. 2004. Web. 28 May. 2013. <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/08/0816_040816_african_penguin.html>.

-Wolfaardt, A, L Underhill, R Altwegg, J Visagie, and A Williams. "Impact of the Treasure Oil Spill on African Penguins Spheniscus Demersus at Dassen Island: Case Study of a Rescue Operation." African Journal of Marine Science, 30.2 (2008): 405-419.