This 2009 video is called Mayfly – a life story.
NORTH ATTLEBORO, Massachusetts – U.S. researchers say they have discovered what appears to be the oldest imprint of a prehistoric insect, made while the dragonfly-like creature was still alive.
The imprint found at a rocky outcrop near a large shopping center in North Attleboro, Massachusetts, is believed to have been made by an insect about three inches long as it stood on mud some 312 million years ago.
“It’s not a dragonfly but picture a dragonfly-like body. We’re looking at something related, maybe a mayfly. They have the same body plan,” said the discoverer, Richard Knecht, a geology student at Tufts University in Massachusetts.
The giant or Tisza mayfly is Europe’s largest species of mayfly. Unlike other mayfly species, the adults never lose contact with the water surface, trailing their tails along it as they swarm. Sometimes they become confused, however, and mistake wet road surfaces for the river: here.
Mayfly protection could seal fate of mountain-top coal mining in US
November 15, 2009
By Jim Efstathiou Jr
Mayflies may seal the fate of mountain-top mining in the Appalachian hills of the eastern US.
Firms such as Massey Energy that mine coal there by stripping mountain peaks and dumping debris in streams are being asked by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to safeguard the mayfly, one of the oldest winged insects and a bait favoured by fly-fisherman.
Applicants for new mines have to show they would not cause pollution deadly to the aquatic bug. That puts at risk about $3 billion (R22.3bn) a year in coal that operators led by Massey and International Coal Group extracted in Appalachia, said Kevin Book at ClearView Energy Partners.
Without fresh permits to dump debris, mines might shut by 2012 in states such as West Virginia, he said.
“The future of mountain-top mining looks bleak,” Book said. “Ripping off mountaintops gets cheap clean coal, but there’s no way to do it without environmental impacts.”
The mayfly may become Appalachia’s spotted owl. Efforts to save old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest, where the owls nest, led to federal protection in 1990 that restricted logging.
Mountain-top mining produces millions of tons of crushed shale and sandstone dumped in valleys and streams. Rainwater flowing though the debris carries dissolved metals into waters below, a lethal stew for mayflies, the EPA says.
Firms might be forced to make greater use of tunnels and shafts, which required more labour and could add $3 to $10 to the cost of extracting a ton of coal, Book said. “The EPA’s decision adds further uncertainty for coal producers,” Richard Whiting, the chief executive of Patriot Coal, said last month. “If future permits are not granted, an important source of low-cost fuel for electricity will be eliminated.”
International Coal, Massey Energy and Patriot Coal were the companies most reliant on mountain-top mining in Appalachia, said Jeremy Sussman at Brean Murray, Carret & Company.
Mountain-top mining in West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee and parts of Pennsylvania and Ohio accounts for 6 percent of US coal production. Half of US electricity comes from burning coal.
The end of mountain-top mining in Appalachia would remove about 70 million tons a year from the market, increasing demand for coal from Colorado, Montana and Wyoming, according to Book.
That may benefit producers that mine in those states, such as Alpha Natural Resources and Peabody Energy.
Massey had $2.9bn in revenue last year, all from mining in Appalachia, according to its annual report. International Coal reported $1.1bn in revenue, with $882 million from Appalachia. Patriot Coal had $529m in revenue, including $460m from Appalachia.
More than 1 930km of creeks and streams had been buried by mining debris in Appalachia from surface-mining techniques, the EPA said in 2005.
Mining’s threat to mayflies has been documented since the late 1990s. This year, the EPA under President Barack Obama for the first time held up new permits on the grounds of inadequate safeguards for the insect.
The EPA said in September it was withholding for further study 79 mining permits in Appalachia under new criteria that consider the mayfly’s habitat. Most of the permits were submitted under an expedited approval process that the Bush administration encouraged. – Bloomberg
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