At school, I’m sure every child was once fascinated by the knowledge that the rings on a tree trunk can tell it’s age. The very fact that the age of a tree can be recorded this way used to be unreal, and to actually count the rings of a cut tree and figuring out the age of a tree in front of us was an inexplicable discovery.
Trees can be dated in a variety of ways; dendrochronology (the study of tree rings) is but one of them. In recent times, this method has been criticized by many people because of the contradiction it provides. Why would you cut and kill a tree, just so you can figure out it’s age? One such mistake in 1964 had lead to the cutting of the world’s oldest tree at that time. An accident that could have been avoided, if the method of dating trees were different.
However, tree rings are very valuable for various other reasons. That is why, the study of dendrochronology still continues with an altered methodology. Scientists do not cut the entire tree to look at the trunk as a slab, but use drills to cut out a small, thin core of the tree that fully captures the information embedded in the core. Not only do they record the age, but can also serve as an important in climate studies and fire predictions. This characteristic is now being used to recontruct climate record pertaining to forest fires, and can be helpful in discerning patterns of fire in a particular region.
Continue reading What can tree rings can tell about forest fires?
When you are living in a city, you naturally feel the need to crank up the AC; whether at home or in your cars. It feels hot, oh so hot. In Delhi, summers can touch temperatures of 45 degree Celsius or more!
But when you move to open spaces, where there is a bit of greenery, you immediately feel the change. There is a breeze that flows, you feel less suffocated and less “closed up”.
Why is that? It’s because cities are, in fact, closed up.
Continue reading The Heat Island Effect
The narrow zones of the world where the land meets the sea hosts some of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. Coastal wetlands, estuaries, backwaters, deltas, lagoons, reefs, bays all come under a broad term called coastal ecosystems. Together, they add up to 1.6 million kilometers. of coastline. Each one is unique, but has certain common factors:
- These ecosystems are very, very beneficial to all forms of life, including humans.
- These ecosystems are very, very sensitive to environmental changes.
- Thus, they are very, very vulnerable to external stresses.
The coastal ecosystems today are threatened by two main forces; climate change and human activities. In this post, I’m going to take a look at the major influences that climate change has/will have on these fragile and massively important parts of the world.
Continue reading Coastal ecosystems severely under threat due to climate change
With the world slowly but steadily descending into living hell (no, I’m not exaggerating), scientists in the field of environmental science are hard pressed for solutions. There have been many that have been proposed and implemented. Some of which, I have mentioned in my blogs as well: restoration ecology, wildlife conservation, genetic modification and manipulation, management practices, modification of policies, to name a few. Others like waste management, renewable sources of energy, disaster management also exist.
But how effective have they really been?
Continue reading Geoengineering: Is this the only way to save the world?
(This is the fifth post in the “feedback loops” series.)
Climate is weather, over a long period of time. Unlike weather, climate is predictable. It has a number of factors like solar insolation, rainfall, temperature and latitude/altitude that controls it in a particular place. Also, climate encompasses a large area.
Because of the spatial and temporal extent of climate, and because of the large scale environmental factors that control it, you would not expect it to change much. Global climate, in fact, does regulate itself in the short period of a few years or decades. You will be hard-pressed to find massive climate shifts in this time period in the geological record. Climate changes are usually seen in the form of cycles; the cycle have a time period of 20,000-40,000 years. It also has smaller cycles, in the range of a few centuries as well.
These cycles are generally positive feedback cycles, with a specific threshold at each end. When that threshold is breached, the environmental factors generally change in a way that allows the cycle to reverse itself. In this, I’m going to explain this phenomenon by taking the example of glacier growth and glacier melting.
Continue reading Positive feedback loops: Controlling global climate
If you are keeping up with the recent developments in the lines of COP 22, you’ll know that the countries that signed it, along with the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate change, have been in a conference in Morocco, discussing the role of education in achieving mass momentum to tackle climate change.
This is vital if we are going to bring down greenhouse emissions and prevent environmental degradation in our endless quest for economic development. The role of education was recognized and highlighted in Article 12 of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.
Why is environmental education important?
Education affects how we think, believe and act. It is a conditioning process that enables a child to “fit in” to this very strange world. In this regard, environmental education has been one area where we have been lacking. It is probably one of the reasons the world in the state that it is today. Continue reading Environmental education: Aiding conservation and restoration
Landscape ecology has evolved specifically because of certain phenomena that are unique to the big scale. One such phenomenon is the variation of vegetation along a gradient. This gradation is central to the vegetation continuum concept, which seeks to explain that presence or absence of a species in an area has as much to do with the environment as much as it has to do with its relationship with other species. Continue reading Across a gradient: How changing environment dictates community composition