Prehistoric meteor shower and evolution of life discovery


This video is called Late Ordovician Mass Extinction (Ordovician – Silurian).

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Scientists discover fragment of ‘missing link’ asteroid that led to explosion of life on Earth

James Vincent

Thursday 03 July 2014

Scientists in Sweden have discovered a never-before seen class of meteorite that could be the ‘missing link’ between a gigantic collision in the asteroid belt 470 million years ago and the subsequent explosion of diverse life forms here on Earth.

Although it’s usually thought that meteorite impacts are disastrous for species on Earth (the classic example is the colossal impact thought to have killed off the dinosaurs 66 million years ago) there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that these events can also be beneficial to the overall diversity on the planet.

It’s thought that just such an impact – or rather, a string of them – dramatically boosted biodiversity on the planet during the Ordovician Period some 470 million years ago. It’s believed that a collision of two asteroids (or possibly an asteroid and a comet) out in space caused a shower of meteors to rain down on Earth.

Over time fragments of this meteor shower have been found around the planet and dated to 470 million years ago – but until now scientists had not found any evidence of the ‘killer’ asteroid that started this chain of events.

During the Ordovician Period most life on Earth was found in the ocean, with jawless fish, molluscs and insect-like arthropods making up the bulk of the species roll-call. However, a study from 2008 showed that the planet went through a “major phase of biodiversification” at this time shortly after “the largest documented asteroid breakup event during the past few billion years”.

The evidence for this breakup comes from the abundance of L-chondrite meteorites – the second most common meteorite type – fragments of which first started appearing on Earth around 470 million years ago.

“Something we didn’t really know about before was flying around and crashed into the L-chondrites,” said Gary Huss, co-author of the study that analysed the sample (published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters). This newly-discovered fragment is thought to be that very object – the mysterious ‘bullet’.

The composition of the fragment differs from known meteorite samples and its exposure age – the length of time it sailed through space – places it at the ‘scene of the crime’ when meteors rained down on the planet during the Ordovician Period.

“It’s a very, very strange and unusual find,” Birger Schmitz, the lead author of the study, told Live Science. “I think [it] adds to the understanding that the meteorites that come down on Earth today may not be entirely representative of what is out there.”

It’s not clear exactly why the Ordovician meteor shower led to a greater variety of life on the plane although some more far-fetched theories suggest that life itself was ‘seeded’ by organisms hitching a ride on asteroids.

A more likely explanation is that the impact craters caused by the collisions provided perfect test-beds for developing life. When meteorites hit the surface of the planet they scooped out bubbling pools of minerals and nutrients that served – in Carl Zimmer’s words – as “natural beakers that synthesized new chemicals essential for life”. However, even this is still just a theory – and the impacts might have also fostered life by creating new habitats, like restructured shorelines.

If further geochemical tests on the newly discovered fragment confirm its suspected origins then scientists will have pinned down another piece of the solar system’s history – but figuring out what happened closer to home might be more difficult still.

Second white-tailed eagle nest in Biesbosch national park


This video is about a young sea eagle in winter in Sweden.

Dutch Vroege Vogels radio reports today that a sea eagle nest has been discovered in Biesbosch national park.

This nest is in the part of the park in Zuid-Holland province. The other part of the park is in Noord-Brabant province.

After an absence of centuries for this species, white-tailed eagles started nesting again in the Netherlands in 2006, first in Oostvaardersplassen national park. Ever since 2012, this raptor species has nested in the Noord-Brabant part of the Biesbosch.

The new discovery is the first white-tailed eagle nest in Zuid-Holland province, It is also the first time ever for two eagle nests in the same nature reserve.

This new nest was discovered late in the nesting season as it was hidden well.

Each Biesbosch eagle nest has two eaglets, making for eight eagles at the nests, plus a single eagle, a two-year-old young female, flying around the Biesbosch.

The sea eaglets are expected to fledge soon.

At the moment, there are two ospreys in the Biesbosch as well.

Biologist uses Spinoza Prize for godwits, spoonbills, red knots


This is a black-tailed godwit video from Sweden.

Dutch migratory birds biologist Theunis Piersma recently won the Spinoza Prize, the highest prize for science in the Netherlands.

He said this morning to Vroege Vogels radio that he intended to use the money especially to study black-tailed godwits, spoonbills and red knots; helping with conservation of these three bird species.

Professor Theunis Piersma, world authority on the ecology of migratory birds (especially Red Knots) has been awarded The Spinoza Prize – the so-called ‘Dutch Nobel Prize’. The prize comes with an award of € 2.5 million that Piersma can spend on his research: here.

Sand martins returning to British quarry sites


This is a video about a sand martin colony in Sweden.

From BirdLife:

Sand Martins return to CEMEX quarry homes

By Rebecca Langer, Wed, 09/04/2014 – 07:52

As spring arrives Sand Martins are making their way from sub Saharan Africa to the UK in their annual migratory journey. Thanks to efforts beginning last year in the 2013 Sand Martin Awareness campaign, this year they will be returning to CEMEX quarry sites that have been specially prepared for their arrival.

In 2013 approximately 200 birds made the journey to the Berkswell quarry where they found ideal nesting conditions. After their long migration, Sand Martins love finding steep-faced sandy banks where they can dig nest holes, sometimes up to 1m deep, which help protect them from predators. The quarries are also home to many insects which provide the necessary nourishment the Sand Martins look forward to after their tiring trip.

This year, CEMEX is striving to build on last year’s campaign and provide an even more hospitable habitat for their returning guests. For 2014, the plan is for all quarries to have a specially prepared sand bank sensitively located such that day to day operations won’t disturb them.

Ameland island sand martins: here.

Terschelling island sand martins: here.

Norwegian murderer Breivik’s victims remembered by Swedish artist


This 2012 video is called One year on: Norway remembers Anders Behring Breivik’s victims.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Wounded landscape: how Norway is remembering its 2011 Utøya massacre

Artist Jonas Dahlberg has been chosen to create three memorials, one of which cuts a 3.5m slit in the landscape, to remember the victims of Anders Behring Breivik

Cameron Robertson

Thursday 6 March 2014 11.28 GMT

A Swedish artist has been selected to create official memorials at the sites of the 2011 Norwegian massacres carried out by right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik.

The competition, called Memorial Sites After 22 July, was won by Jonas Dahlberg, who will create three artworks at a cost of 27m Norwegian kroner (£2.7m) to the government in Oslo.

This video is about Zoetrope, a Jonas Dahlberg sculpture.

The most striking memorial is called Memory Wound. The 43-year-old artist has sliced a three-and-a-half-metre-wide slit into the Sørbråten peninsula, which faces the island of Utøya where Breivik killed 69 people. It marks a “symbolic wound” in the landscape.

One hundred cubic metres of the stone cut from Sørbråten will be transferred to the governmental quarter in Oslo, where another memorial will mark the spot where a car bomb was detonated by Breivik that resulted in eight deaths.

A temporary pathway in the capital, between Grubbegata and Deichmanske library, will also be made by Dahlberg, who will later take trees from Sørbråten to create a permanent amphitheatre in the government quarter called Time and Movement.

Breivik, now serving a 21-year prison sentence, told an Oslo court in 2012 that his victims – many of whom were teenagers attending the Labour party’s annual summer camp – were facilitating the “Islamisation of Norway”.

The jury for the competition, who reached a unanimous decision, included representatives of the Labour party and victim support groups. Dahlberg beat 300 other entries, including former Turner prize winner Jeremy Deller. Two memorials will be unveiled on 22 July 2015 – the fourth anniversary of the attacks – with the amphitheatre to come at a later date.

“It is a big responsibility and in many ways the most important work I have done,” Dahlberg told the Guardian. “I was already honoured to be considered when I was invited to be in the competition, so to have won now is a bit hard to grasp.”

The Swedish artist, who lives and works in Stockholm, said he hoped the memorial would provide a state of reflection through its “poetic rupture”. He said: “It should be difficult to see the inherent beauty of the setting, without also experiencing a sense of loss. It is this sense of loss that will physically activate the site.”

The headland of the Sørbråten memorial will be engraved with names of all the victims; visitors will be able to read them but not reach to touch them. “People will find their own way through the landscape around the cut,” said Dahlberg, “looking down at the channel and at the victims’ names from high up, or looking out to Utøya, establishing their own private ways of seeing and remembering.”

Mari Aaby West of the Norwegian Labour party youth league and John Hestnes, of the national support group for victims of the 22 July attacks, had passed on positive feedback from victims’ families who had viewed the designs, said Dahlberg, who did not speak directly to the relatives.

A statement from the jury for Public Art Norway, which included West and Hestnes, said Dahlberg’s idea to make a physical incision in the landscape stood like a “symbolic wound”.

It said: “The void that is created evokes the sense of sudden loss combined with the long-term missing and remembrance of those who perished. The proposal is radical and brave, and evokes the tragic events in a physical and direct manner.”

Designs for two memorials in the government quarter are not finalised, but Dahlberg explained his temporary pathway would lie beside an existing walkway, taking pedestrians off their usual path.

“The design physically relates to the interruption that occurred in the everyday life flow of Norwegian society,” he said. “Yet it is indeed everyday life that must carry on.”

Breivik received the maximum sentence available under Norwegian law. His prison term will be reviewed every two years after he completes a decade in jail.

Britain: Legoland forced to close after far-right extremists target proposed Muslim fun day booked by radical cleric (even though it was cancelled): here.

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Scottish corn bunting news


This video says about itself:

A portrait of a Corn Bunting family (Miliaria calandra)

Canon XL2 and Sigma 50-500 mm lens. Filmed in Falkenberg, Sweden, July 2010. Foto Karl-David Arvidsson.

From Wildlife Extra:

Corn buntings saved by Scottish farmers

February 2014: Numbers of Corn buntings could increase if there is a change in farming methods in line with a trial that has been running north of the border, say RSPB Scotland. Corn buntings used to be widespread throughout Europe, but are now one of the fastest declining farmland birds with just 800 singing males left in Scotland.

Most commonly associated with cereal cultivation, corn buntings would once have bred in hay meadows too, however intensification of farming, particularly a move to earlier mowing, has made this impossible across large parts of northwest Europe.

In northeast Scotland, silage and hay cuts remain late enough for birds to make nests in these fields. In fact, over the five year study, more than half of the nests started in May and June were in hay meadows. Sadly, more than two-thirds of these were then lost during June and July mowing.

Therefore RSPB organised a trial where 19 farms across Aberdeenshire and Inverness-shire delayed their mowing until August 1. This delay made huge changes, as less than five per cent of nests in meadows were lost, and overall breeding success increased by 20 per cent.

David Taylor, of Cauldwells farm in Aberdeenshire, who took part in the trial said: “I have been managing parts of my farm to benefit wildlife since 2002. Corn buntings certainly like the late cut grass and their jangling songs can be heard most summer mornings. I have had to make a compromise in grass quality, but this is just about compensated by the payment rate. Along with the other options, this wildlife friendly farming seems to be making a difference and long may it continue.”

Allan Perkins, RSPB Conservation Scientist, said: “This project was a great partnership between the RSPB and local farmers to develop an agri-environment option that delivers real benefits for birds and also works for farmers. By selecting this management option in future schemes, I’m sure that farmers in northeast Scotland will help to halt the decline of this fabulous farmland bird.”

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