This 16 January 2020 video says about itself:
Australia’s Wollemi pines survived the dinosaurs and now firefighters have nursed them through the country’s unprecedented bushfire season to live another day. When seen from above – among acres of charred, native forest – there’s a thin trail of green. Firefighters were winched in by helicopter to activate irrigation systems, while other aircraft dropped water and retardant along the flames’ edge to minimise their impact. The giant trees were thought to be extinct until 1994, when authorities found 200 of them in a national park near the Blue Mountains, north-west of Sydney
AUSTRALIA’S ENDANGERED ‘DINOSAUR’ TREES SAVED A stand of trees with ancestors that date back 200 million years was saved from a series of devastating bushfires, a rare glimmer of good news amid the ongoing disaster. A team of firefighters was deployed to a remote part of the Blue Mountains, about 120 miles northwest of Sydney, as a massive bushfire approached. [HuffPost]
From the World Socialist Web Site in Australia:
Australia: NSW bushfire victims condemn inadequate planning and government responses
By our reporters
16 January 2020
Reporters from the World Socialist Web Site recently spoke to residents from northern towns of New South Wales (NSW) affected by the ongoing bushfire crisis. The region has been experiencing a drought since 2017, which has exacerbated the spread and intensity of the fires. Most areas are still under level-four water restrictions, the most severe, since the WSWS reported a month ago.
Across the country, the fires have resulted in at least 26 deaths, the destruction of more than 2,100 homes and the decimation of millions of hectares of bush and pastoral land. Broad swathes of the NSW coast have been devastated by blazes unprecedented by their size and intensity.
The crisis has revealed the immense growth of social inequality, and the failure of successive governments to put in place measures to mitigate the impact of annual fires. It has also underscored the criminal refusal of the political establishment to address climate change, which is a major contributing factor.
Reg and Usha are retirees living near Taree, 300 kilometres north of Sydney. Usha said: “These fires have unraveled the lie that the economy is separate from the environment. How does the economy work if you can’t grow your own produce? They are very much integrated.
“The drought is in large part due to deforestation and all sorts of anti-environmental policies extending way back to the start of white settlement. It’s all coming back to haunt us. You can’t have infinite growth of this economic system, it’s unsustainable.”
Reg added: “The problem is that the fossil fuel industry is so entrenched in the economy, and politicians are cowards who just want to stay in office as long as possible. I can’t remember the last time a courageous independent thinking person was preselected by the two major parties. The regime is totally corrupt.”
Usha pointed to broader political issues, stating: “We’ve come to a position where we have the prime minister openly speaking about crushing environmental activists. I think it all started from the war on terrorism almost 20 years ago. The censorship laws that have built up since have made politicians arrogant enough to be more authoritarian in their approach.
“There could not have been a Peter Dutton or a Scott Morrison before. This has an absolute connection to the persecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and the state of politics today. They feel free from public sentiment and scrutiny. Australians like to think we live in a free society but we’re definitely not.”
One member of the Rural Fire Service, the volunteer force that has had to tackle many of the blazes, told the WSWS: “The ferocity of the fires has led to a lot of fatigue-related accidents, with instances of people rolling their trucks. I’ve come to a scene where a fire tornado had picked up a truck weighing 10–13 tonnes and tossed it over a farm fence. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve seen two dead bodies, severe burns. I’ve become numb to it now.
“Fires have been starting overnight, running 40km in one instance. One travelled 5km in one hour. Traditional, 100-foot containment lines have been helpless. I often joke that the only thing that’s going to stop these fires is the Great Eastern Firebreak. People ask, ‘What’s that?’ I say: It’s the Pacific Ocean.
“No white man has seen a drought this bad before. I had 70 head of cattle and I’m down to 30. Most have been lost due to hunger and misadventure in search of food. The cattle have been using the dried-up Manning River like it’s a highway in search of food.
“There are a whole number of factors coming together to create this fire season, and it’s not simply a lack of funding. The RFS is good for rapid response but reacting to this crisis is too late. The fuel load and conditions for severe and widespread fires have been building for a long time.
“One of the issues is that people are not as wealthy as they were 40 or 50 years ago. Gone are the days of single-income homes. Now everyone is trying to outdo each other. We are up to our eyeballs in debt. Living costs are so high that many people are uninsured.
“Most RFS members in the past were farmers, but there has been a massive shift in the last 20 years with a loss of experience and knowledge. Volunteers are dwindling in numbers and the average age is increasing. You can’t go flogging these people for 11 weeks of fire-fighting.
“There has been a widespread failure in the duty of private landowners, the council and National Parks to manage properties for fire risk. There needs to be far more resources devoted to mitigation. Funding for social services such as the National Parks and State Forest (NPSS) has been reduced, with limited staff available for hazard reduction burns.
“A large amount of crown land was signed over in the 1990s by Bob Carr’s Labor government to the NPSS when their 99-year leases ran out. This virtually doubled its jurisdiction in size, but without the corresponding funding to deal with it. So they just locked it up, creating a highly flammable forest.”
Matthew is a resident of Gloucester, about 100km west of Taree, who owns a nursery. He said: “They’ve run out of water here. They should have gone on water restrictions a lot earlier, it’s not been well planned. There’s got to be a certain amount of water in the river before they go on restrictions. You can see the river’s not running at the moment. It’s as dry as I’ve seen it, and I’m forty-five.
“The fires didn’t reach where I live, I’ve been lucky. But for the environment and for the wildlife, there’s millions and millions of animals dead. If anything had survived you would think it would be in the small bits that hadn’t burned, but there’s nothing there either, the fires are that hot.
“My brother used to work in the national parks, and the federal and state governments have cut their funding. Over the last four or five there’s been about 130 less jobs. With less jobs and less funding, there’s less people to do back-burning. They need more funding for people to do the burning-off.
“With this drought, some of the fire-fighters have said that even with the burning-off it wouldn’t have stopped the fires. And there are places, like up near Tenterfield, or at Wollemi National Park, where you can’t really burn-off safely any time of year. Every year it’s worse. So climate change is having an effect, and I still think that we need to respond to it.
“I think the government isn’t funding the national parks or the firefighters because it would cost them money, and then they’d have to admit that climate change is real and that they haven’t done anything about it. It’s like the state government who’ve said they’re putting money in and they’ve bought two more water bombers. That’s nowhere near enough, and it doesn’t matter how many water bombers you have, it does nothing to prevent fires in the first place.”
Paul, a farmer at the Gloucester markets, said: “The bushfires near Taree were right up close to us because our property joins up with the Coopernook forest. They had to bring in a lot of resources, including aircraft, that weren’t there at the start.
“There’s been a lot of trouble with the way things are set up. They couldn’t even get water close to here and some of the helicopters had to refuel as far away as Williamtown which is 100km away. They’re getting some salt-water out of the rivers for fighting fires but they are trucking in town water here at Gloucester now because there’s nothing. At our place we’re just relying on dams and wells.
“I also think that those volunteer firefighters should be paid. They are putting their life on the line to save others. We’ve had three or four of them lose their lives.”
Paul noticed the WSWS reporter’s “Free Assange” t-shirts and commented:
“I think Assange should be freed, he’s been set up. The Swedish allegations were false, I’ve known that for a long time. He’s a good fellow from what I know of him. He told the truth. And when the truth is exposed, shit hits the fan as they say. It’s the same all over the world. The truth is, if the people who write for the Sydney Morning Herald or the [Rupert Murdoch owned] Daily Telegraph published what Assange has published, they’d lose their jobs. It’s the same with these bushfires, they don’t want the truth to get out.”
Australian fires have incinerated the habitats of up to 100 threatened species. Scientists warn of an ecological catastrophe as crucial habitats of rare plants and animals burn: here.
Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:
New mushroom species have been discovered in the Drents-Friese Wold National Park. The nature reserve had to deal with a major fire in 2018, during which 75 hectares were destroyed. That fire also yielded new nature.
For a year and a half, research was carried out on heathland mushrooms in the Dolsummerveld area . …
The research yielded various rare species, such as Peziza subviolacea, Pyronema omphalodes and Pholiota highlandensis. A new species was also discovered, which was also found two weeks earlier in Enschede. It is Myrmaecium rubricosum. …
The Dolsummerveld recovers surprisingly quickly from the fire, according to the Drenthe conservation organisation. “It is barely visible where the fire has raged. The hope is that the heather will return to the area,” the foundation writes. It will take a few more years for the snake and butterfly population to be back up, writes RTV Drenthe. Many animals died during the fire, such as grass snakes, adders and slow worms.
This 2015 video says about itself:
Amazing slime mold. Time-lapse of slime mold (mould) behaviour. First, we see the phase where it is actively looking for food and following chemical cues from potential food items. Lastly, we see a phase that somewhat resembles fungoid in nature, ie sporulation. When food has run out or a change in environmental conditions is encountered, these things can trigger sporulation to occur.
From the University of Göttingen in Germany:
100 million years in amber: Researchers discover oldest fossilized slime mold
Team from Göttingen, Helsinki and New York gets new insights into the evolution of myxomycetes
January 8, 2020
Most people associate the idea of creatures trapped in amber with insects or spiders, which are preserved lifelike in fossil tree resin. An international research team of palaeontologists and biologists from the Universities of Göttingen and Helsinki, and the American Museum of Natural History in New York has now discovered the oldest slime mould identified to date. The fossil is about 100 million years old and is exquisitely preserved in amber from Myanmar. The results have been published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Slime moulds, also called myxomycetes, belong to a group known as ‘Amoebozoa’. These are microscopic organisms that live most of the time as single mobile cells hidden in the soil or in rotting wood, where they eat bacteria. However, they can join together to form complex, beautiful and delicate fruiting bodies, which serve to make and spread spores.
Since fossil slime moulds are extremely rare, studying their evolutionary history has been very difficult. So far, there have only been two confirmed reports of fossils of fruiting bodies and these are just 35 to 40 million years old. The discovery of fossil myxomycetes is very unlikely because their fruiting bodies are extremely short-lived. The researchers are therefore astounded by the chain of events that must have led to the preservation of this newly identified fossil. “The fragile fruiting bodies were most likely torn from the tree bark by a lizard, which was also caught in the sticky tree resin, and finally embedded in it together with the reptile”, says Professor Jouko Rikkinen from the University of Helsinki. The lizard detached the fruiting bodies at a relatively early stage when the spores had not yet been released, which now reveals valuable information about the evolutionary history of these fascinating organisms.
The researchers were surprised by the discovery that the slime mould can easily be assigned to a genus still living today. “The fossil provides unique insights into the longevity of the ecological adaptations of myxomycetes,” explains palaeontologist Professor Alexander Schmidt from the University of Göttingen, lead author of the study.
“We interpret this as evidence of strong environmental selection. It seems that slime moulds that spread very small spores using the wind had an advantage,” says Rikkinen. The ability of slime moulds to develop long-lasting resting stages in their life cycle, which can last for years, probably also contributes to the remarkable similarity of the fossil to its closest present-day relatives.
This 2015 video says about itself:
What Did Prehistoric Humans Actually Eat?
Ancient humans existed thousands of years ago, and they were very different than humans today! What did they eat?
From the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa:
Early modern humans cooked starchy food in South Africa, 170,000 years ago
The discovery also points to food being shared and the use of wooden digging sticks to extract the plants from the ground
January 2, 2020
“The inhabitants of the Border Cave in the Lebombo Mountains on the Kwazulu-Natal/eSwatini border were cooking starchy plants 170 thousand years ago,” says Professor Lyn Wadley, a scientist from the Wits Evolutionary Studies Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa (Wits ESI). “This discovery is much older than earlier reports for cooking similar plants and it provides a fascinating insight into the behavioural practices of early modern humans in southern Africa. It also implies that they shared food and used wooden sticks to extract plants from the ground.”
It is extraordinary that such fragile plant remains have survived for so long,” says Dr Christine Sievers, a scientist from the University of the Witwatersrand, who completed the archaeobotanical work with Wadley. The underground food plants were uncovered during excavations at Border Cave in the Lebombo Mountains (on the border of KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa, and eSwatini [formerly Swaziland]), where the team has been digging since 2015. During the excavation, Wadley and Sievers recognised the small, charred cylinders as rhizomes. All appear to belong to the same species, and 55 charred, whole rhizomes were identified as Hypoxis, commonly called the Yellow Star flower. “The most likely of the species growing in KwaZulu-Natal today is the slender-leafed Hypoxis angustifolia that is favoured as food,” adds Sievers. “It has small rhizomes with white flesh that is more palatable than the bitter, orange flesh of rhizomes from the better known medicinal Hypoxis species (incorrectly called African Potato).”
The Border Cave plant identifications were made on the size and shape of the rhizomes and on the vascular structure examined under a scanning electron microscope. Modern Hypoxis rhizomes and their ancient counterparts have similar cellular structures and the same inclusions of microscopic crystal bundles, called raphides. The features are still recognisable even in the charred specimens. Over a four-year period, Wadley and Sievers made a collection of modern rhizomes and geophytes from the Lebombo area. “We compared the botanical features of the modern geophytes and the ancient charred specimens, in order to identify them,” explains Sievers.
Hypoxis rhizomes are nutritious and carbohydrate-rich with an energy value of approximately 500 KJ/100g. While they are edible raw, the rhizomes are fibrous and have high fracture toughness until they are cooked. The rhizomes are rich in starch and would have been an ideal staple plant food. “Cooking the fibre-rich rhizomes would have made them easier to peel and to digest so more of them could be consumed and the nutritional benefits would be greater,” says Wadley.
Wooden digging sticks used to extract the plants from the ground
“The discovery also implies the use of wooden digging sticks to extract the rhizomes from the ground. One of these tools was found at Border Cave and is directly dated at circa 40,000 years ago,” says co-author of the paper and co-director of the excavation, Professor Francesco d’Errico, (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Université de Bordeaux, France and University of Bergen, Norway). Dr Lucinda Backwell (Instituto Superior de Estudios Sociales, ISES-CONICET, Tucumán, Argentina) also co-authored the paper and was a co-director of the excavation.
The plants were cooked and shared
The Hypoxis rhizomes were mostly recovered from fireplaces and ash dumps rather than from surrounding sediment. “The Border Cave inhabitants would have dug Hypoxis rhizomes from the hillside near the cave, and carried them back to the cave to cook them in the ashes of fireplaces,” says Wadley. “The fact that they were brought back to the cave rather than cooked in the field suggests that food was shared at the home base. This suggests that the rhizomes were roasted in ashes and that, in the process, some were lost. While the evidence for cooking is circumstantial, it is nonetheless compelling.”
Discoveries at Border Cave
This new discovery adds to the long list of important finds at Border Cave. The site has been repeatedly excavated since Raymond Dart first worked there in 1934. Amongst earlier discoveries were the burial of a baby with a Conus seashell at 74,000 years ago, a variety of bone tools, an ancient counting device, ostrich eggshell beads, resin, and poison that may once have been used on hunting weapons.
The Border Cave Heritage Site
Border Cave is a heritage site with a small site museum. The cave and museum are open to the public, though bookings are essential [Olga Vilane (+27) (0) 72 180 4332]. Wadley and her colleagues hope that the Border Cave discovery will emphasise the importance of the site as an irreplaceable cultural resource for South Africa and the rest of the world.
About Hypoxis angustifolia
Hypoxis angustifolia is evergreen, so it has visibility year-round, unlike the more common deciduous Hypoxis species. It thrives in a variety of modern habitats and is thus likely to have had wide distribution in the past as it does today. It occurs in sub-Saharan Africa, south Sudan, some Indian Ocean islands, and as far afield as Yemen. Its presence in Yemen may imply even wider distribution of this Hypoxis plant during previous humid conditions. Hypoxis angustifolia rhizomes grow in clumps so many can be harvested at once. “All of the rhizome’s attributes imply that it could have provided a reliable, familiar food source for early humans trekking within Africa, or even out of Africa,” said Lyn Wadley. Hunter-gatherers tend to be highly mobile so the wide distribution of a potential staple plant food would have ensured food security.
This video says about itself:
Translated from Joop Bouma, in Dutch daily Trouw, 3 January 2020:
Conservationists on Bonaire are concerned about a plan for 1500 houses on a former plantation. It is a fragile tropical forest area. The project developer does not understand the fuss.
“Oh dear, look, that’s how it goes”, Johan de Blerk, tree lover on Bonaire, is visibly shocked when he suddenly sees a huge tree cactus lying on the cliff high above the Caribbean Sea. Just cut down. A cadushi of about 4 meters high with a thick trunk. At least a hundred years old, he estimates. A perfectly healthy specimen, he points to young shoots on the felled cactus. The sawdust from the chainsaw is still fresh. “I am going to make a declaration”, he says reluctantly. “This is not allowed. This tree is on the red list. This is exactly how things are done here so often.”
We are on the edge of the Bolivia area, on the east coast of Bonaire, between the old village Rincon and the capital Kralendijk. Bolivia is a former goat plantation and aloe was grown here a long time ago. The 2850 hectare area – 10 percent of the entire island – is covered with dry tropical forest. The species richness has been seriously compromised by decades of grazing goats, donkeys and pigs. Young growth does not get a chance, as in the whole of nature in Bonaire. Dry tropical forest is one of the important Caribbean habitats, but also one with a “very unfavorable future”, according to a recent report by Wageningen scientists commissioned by the Ministries of Agriculture and Economic Affairs in The Hague.
On the very edge of Bolivia, where we are now, a narrow strip of land has recently been sold for housing. It is a beautiful place with a majestic view over the former plantation, with the endless, shimmering Caribbean Sea behind it. Who doesn’t want to live there?
De Blerk, who is committed to preserving and restoring nature on the island, knows better than anyone that landowners often cut down a lot. Often deliberately in violation of the rules, sometimes simply because of ignorance. That is why he visited the buyers of the four lots in Bolivia. Also the piece of land on which we stand. To explain that so many trees have already disappeared from the free nature of Bonaire and that what is still there must be cherished. De Blerk believes that this concern is also due to the enormous cacti, even though many of them grow on the island.
For trees with a trunk diameter of more than 20 centimeters, a felling permit must be applied for on Bonaire. That should have been clear for this sawn-down cactus. According to De Blerk, permission would not have been granted for a tree that could be a century old. Why did this huge cactus on the edge of the cliff have to be felled? Was it because the tree obstructed the clear view of the Caribbean Sea? Further down the cliff are still some large cadushis. “When it comes to the view, I am afraid that they will also go.”
Stories about an anonymous Dutch project developer
But on balance, the few building plots on the outskirts of Bolivia are not his biggest concern. De Blerk is afraid that the special character and vegetation of the former plantation will disappear if a much larger and more extensive building plan for the area continues. Because since a while on Bonaire stories have been circulating about an anonymous Dutch project developer who wants to build 1500 houses or more on Bolivia. Expensive houses along the cliff – because there, with that view, everyone wants to live – and cheaper houses elsewhere in the area.
According to a website with roaring texts, the investor wants to restore Bolivia’s nature and cultural history, construct a cycle route and roads. Between 600 and 900 hectares of the area would be developed. The site, set up by Bonaire Investments NV, contains phrases about ‘an area with enormous opportunities’ … ‘extra attention to nature and the preservation of landscape values’ … ‘where there is room for nature, education and heritage’. The conservationists on Bonaire also think these are good words, but you can claim everything on a website, who actually says this?
Questions that are asked via the email address on the website will not receive a response even after repeated attempts. Only after some searching does a name appear, that of Frans Vinju, former banker and asset adviser in Breda. Yes, he mediated between the current owners and the interested Dutch buyer, he says by telephone at the end of November. The deal is then just not completely complete, so the project developer wants to stay under the radar for a while.
Bolivia has been designated as an “open landscape” in the Bonaire zoning plan
One of the owners of Bolivia is Richard Hart, former governor of Bonaire. From 1998 to 2003, he was the highest political authority on the island. He reports by e-mail that he inherited Bolivia from his father. The land was already sold in the mid-sixties of the last century to American investors who transferred their assets to Bonaire Properties NV, of which Hart is co-director as a minority shareholder. …
“We are aware”, says WNF spokesperson Dylan de Gruijl in a response. “This is an important nature reserve and large-scale development violates nature values and the surrounding coral reefs. We believe that this is not desirable here, without taking into account the conservation of the natural values. ”The WNF is in close contact with partners on Bonaire, he adds; possibly joint action will be taken as soon as the building permits are applied for. …
But then, last Saturday, an article appears in Amigoe, newspaper on Bonaire. “Controversial sale of Bolivia plantation off”, the headline reads. The newspaper writes, after contacting Hart, that the sale of the land to the project developer is canceled. According to the newspaper, Hart does not want to say more. Further information will follow in mid-January, he says in Amigoe.
A trick to get ownership of the land
After questions by Trouw, Hart refers to Meine Breemhaar, entrepreneur from Almere. He is the mysterious investor in Bolivia. Breemhaar is a multi-millionaire and the owner of nearly 40 companies in Overijssel, Gelderland and Flevoland. He is in the Quote 500, the list of richest Dutch people.
The construction plan on Bonaire is not off, it appears. Breemhaar has done a trick to get ownership of the land. When it turned out that [plan opponent] Nijland and his neighbors wanted to make use of their first right to buy Bolivia, not the entire site, but the adjacent plots, the investor decided to buy Bonaire Properties NV as a whole. Bremhaar is now the owner of Bolivia and of a few smaller, former plantations on Bonaire.