Quadruped evolution and Australian lungfish


This 11 July 2020 video is called Australian Lungfish Release – lake Gkula. it says about itself:

The lake is finally ready for the Lung Fish population. Snail, mussel and eel grass beds are established allowing plenty of food for these endemic species to thrive. The ecology of Lake Gkula is well advanced in such a short time (at this publishing it has been running for 8 months). We look forward to snorkeling to visit the Lung Fish and will keep you updated on their growth and progress.

From the University of Konstanz in Germany:

Lungfish fins reveal how limbs evolved

August 19, 2020

Summary: New research on the fin development of the Australian lungfish elucidates how fins evolved into limbs with hands with digits. The main finding is that in lungfish a primitive hand is already present, but that functional fingers and toes only evolved in land animals due to changes in embryonic development.

The evolution of limbs with functional digits from fish fins happened approximately 400 million years ago in the Devonian. This morphological transition allowed vertebrates to leave the water to conquer land and gave rise to all four-legged animals or tetrapods — the evolutionary lineage that includes all amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals (including humans). Since the nineteenth century several theories based on both fossils and embryos have been put forward trying to explain how this transformation unfolded. Yet, exactly how hands with digits originated from fish fins remained unknown.

An international team of biologists based at the University of Konstanz (Germany), Macquarie University in Sydney (Australia) and the Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn in Naples (Italy) has determined how limbs have evolved from fins using embryos of the Australian lungfish (Neoceratodus forsteri) for their study. The Australian lungfish is the closest living fish relative of tetrapods and is often considered a “living fossil” as it still resembles the fishes that were around at the time when the first four-limbed vertebrates began to walk on land. For these reasons the fins of lungfish provide a better reference to study the evolutionary transition of fins into limbs than any other extant fish species.

The team’s research, which is reported in the latest issue of Science Advances, shows that a primitive hand is present in lungfish fins but at the same time suggests that the unique anatomy of limbs with digits only evolved during the rise of tetrapods through changes in embryonic development.

Insights from embryonic development: limb “architect” genes

To solve the puzzle of how limbs emerged from fins during evolution researchers have focused on embryonic development. “During embryogenesis, a suite of ‘architect’ genes shapes an amorphous group of precursor cells into fully grown limbs,” explains Dr. Joost Woltering, first author on the study and an assistant professor in the Evolutionary Biology group at the University of Konstanz led by Professor Axel Meyer. The very same “architect” genes also drive fin development. However, because evolutionary changes have occurred in the activity of these genes, the developmental process produces fins in fish and limbs in tetrapods.

To compare this process in fins and limbs, the team studied such “architect” genes in the embryos of the Australian lungfish. “Amazingly, what we discovered is that the gene specifying the hand in limbs (hoxa13) is activated in a similar skeletal region in lungfish fins,” explains Woltering. Importantly, this domain has never been observed in the fins of other fish that are more distantly related to tetrapods. “This finding clearly indicates that a primitive hand was already present in the ancestors of land animals.”

Developmental patterns: differences and similarities

The lungfish “hand,” in spite of this modern genetic signature, only partially resembles the anatomy of tetrapod hands because it lacks fingers or toes. To understand the genetic basis for this difference the team went on to analyse additional genes known to be associated with the formation of digits, finding that one gene important for the formation of fingers and toes (hoxd13 — a “sister gene” to the above-mentioned hoxa13) appeared to be switched on differently in fins.

During tetrapod limb development, the hoxd13 gene is switched on in a dynamic manner. It first becomes activated in the developing pinky finger and then expands all the way throughout the future hand towards the thumb. This process coordinates the correct formation of all five fingers. While Joost Woltering’s team observed a similar activation pattern of this gene in lungfish fins, it did not show this expansion but only remained activated in exactly one half of the fin. Additional differences were found for genes that are normally switched off in digits. In lungfish fins these genes remain active, but on the opposite side of the domain where hoxd13 is activated.

Old hypotheses — future directions

“All of this goes to show that while lungfish fins unexpectedly have a primitive hand in common with tetrapods, the fins of our ancestors also needed an evolutionary ‘finishing touch’ to produce limbs. In this sense it looks as if the hand was there first, only to be complemented with digits later during evolution,” says Woltering. One influential hypothesis regarding the evolution of limbs first put forward by early 20th-century palaeontologists Thomas Westoll and William Gregory, and in the 1980s famously developed further by Neil Shubin, postulates that fingers and toes arose through an expansion of the skeletal elements on one side of the fins of the tetrapod ancestor. This inferred expansion of fin elements corresponds exactly to the differences the team found in the expansion of the digit genes between lungfish fins and tetrapod limbs. The team’s observations on the activation and deactivation of limb “architect” genes in lungfish fins thus provides evidence in support of this classical transformational model.

In the future, to fully understand what causes this domain to expand, making our limbs so different from fish fins, the researchers plan to conduct further analyses on the development of fins and limbs, using lungfish but also more modern fish species such as cichlids as their embryos are easier to investigate using techniques like CRISPR. “To complete the picture of what happened in our fish ancestors that crawled onto land hundreds of millions of years ago, we really rely on currently living species to see how their embryos grow fins and limbs so differently,” concludes Woltering.

Background

– A new study by an international team of researchers from the University of Konstanz (Germany), Macquarie University in Sydney (Australia) and the Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn in Naples (Italy) provides an evolutionary model of how hands with digits emerged from fish fins.

– Studying the embryos of Australian lungfish (Neoceratodus forsteri), the closest extant fish relative of tetrapods, the researchers identified similarities and differences in the way lungfish fins and tetrapod limbs form during embryonic development.

– The presence of a primitive hand domain common to fins and limbs is revealed by the expression of a gene responsible for the specification of the hand in limbs (hoxa13). This gene becomes activated in similar skeletal domains in tetrapods and lungfish.

– One of the main morphological differences between fins and limbs, namely the absence of digits, can be explained by differences in the activation (hoxd13) and de-activation (alx4, pax9) of genes involved in digit development. This suggests that limbs with digits evolved from fish fins through changes in the activation of digit specific genes within a primitive hand domain.

How pregnant male seahorses feed embryos


This 29 March 2020 video from Ireland says about itself:

Seahorse Mating Dance

Filmed at Seahorse Aquariums in Dublin. Shortly after putting away the camera the female started laying eggs into the male’s pouch – typical! Three types of seahorse appear in the video and if you look carefully you will see a baby seahorse floating through the water.

Music Royalty free from: Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

From the University of Sydney in Australia:

Who’s your daddy? Male seahorses transport nutrients to embryos

Male seahorse pregnancy could be as complex as female pregnancy

August 13, 2020

New research by Dr Camilla Whittington and her team at the University of Sydney has found male seahorses transport nutrients to their developing babies during pregnancy. This discovery provides an opportunity for further comparative evolutionary research.

Seahorses and their relatives are the only vertebrates that have male pregnancy. The expectant fathers incubate developing babies inside a pocket called a “brood pouch.” We know a male seahorse can have more than a thousand embryos in the pouch at once but until now, researchers had limited understanding of how the babies are fed.

“This work adds to the growing evidence that male pregnancy in seahorses could be as complex as female pregnancy in other animals, including ourselves,” said Dr Whittington, from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences. “We now know that seahorse dads can transport nutrients to the babies during pregnancy, and we think they do this via a placenta. It’s not exactly like a human placenta though — they don’t have an umbilical cord, for example. We need to do further histological work to confirm this.”

Seahorses are emerging as important model species for understanding the evolution of live-bearing reproduction, said Dr Whittington.

“We can draw some parallels between seahorse pregnancy and human pregnancy,” she said. “Seahorse dads seem to do some of the same things that human mums do, including transporting nutrients and oxygen to developing embryos, and immune modulation to protect the babies from infection.”

The research published in Journal of Comparative Physiology B was led by University of Sydney Honours student Zoe Skalkos in collaboration with Dr James Van Dyke at La Trobe University.

The study builds on previous genetic evidence suggesting that male seahorses might transport nutrients to developing embryos. This new study confirms, in the first experimental evidence of ‘patrotrophy’ (nutrient transport from dad to babies). It also identified one of the classes of nutrients being transported: energy-rich fats.

“My team is using a range of techniques to investigate the biology of seahorse pregnancy,” Dr Whittington said. “We want to understand more about the seahorse pouch and the ways it protects and supports the baby seahorses.”

Honours student Zoe Skalkos, who led the research, said: “It’s really exciting because it’s a big step in understanding the relationship between dad and baby in male pregnancy.”

Key Points:

  • Seahorses and their relatives are the only vertebrates that have male pregnancy. Dads incubate developing babies inside a pocket called a “brood pouch.”
  • Male seahorses transport nutrients, including fats, to developing babies during pregnancy. The babies use these energy-rich fats for growth and development.
  • The new results raise the question of whether seahorse embryos can influence how much nutrition they can get from dad while they are in the brood pouch.

Helping fish to survive


This video from the Philippines says about itself:

Shallow Water Reef Dome Deployment – Dumaguete

BPI Bayan Dumaguete headed by Mr. Gary Rosales in collaboration with the Barangay Officials of Bantayan, Dumaguete City deployed 20 reef domes as artificial reefs inside a marine protected area.

June 7, 2014

Video: Mike Alano
Music: www. bensound. com

From the University of New South Wales in Australia:

Fish reef domes a boon for environment, recreational fishing

July 16, 2020

Summary: Humanmade reefs can be used in conjunction with the restoration or protection of natural habitat to increase fish abundance in estuaries, researchers have found.

In a boost for both recreational fishing and the environment, new UNSW research shows that artificial reefs can increase fish abundance in estuaries with little natural reef.

Researchers installed six humanmade reefs per estuary studied and found overall fish abundance increased up to 20 times in each reef across a two-year period.

The study, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology recently, was funded by the NSW Recreational Fishing Trust.

The research was a collaboration between UNSW Sydney, NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Fisheries and the Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS).

Professor Iain Suthers, of UNSW and SIMS, led the research, while UNSW alumnus Dr Heath Folpp, of NSW DPI Fisheries, was lead author.

Co-author Dr Hayden Schilling, SIMS researcher and Conjoint Associate Lecturer at UNSW, said the study was part of a larger investigation into the use of artificial reefs for recreational fisheries improvement in estuaries along Australia’s southeast coast

“Lake Macquarie, Botany Bay and St Georges Basin were chosen to install the artificial reefs because they had commercial fishing removed in 2002 and are designated specifically as recreational fishing havens,” Dr Schilling said.

“Also, these estuaries don’t have much natural reef because they are created from sand. So, we wanted to find out what would happen to fish abundance if we installed new reef habitat on bare sand.

“Previous research has been inconclusive about whether artificial reefs increased the amount of fish in an area, or if they simply attracted fish from other areas nearby.”

Fish reef domes boost abundance

In each estuary, the scientists installed 180 “Mini-Bay Reef Balls” — commercially made concrete domes with holes — divided into six artificial reefs with 30 units each.

Each unit measures 0.7m in diameter and is 0.5m tall, and rests on top of bare sand.

Professor Suthers said artificial reefs were becoming more common around the world and many were tailored to specific locations.

Since the study was completed, many more larger units — up to 1.5m in diameter — have been installed in NSW estuaries.

“Fish find the reef balls attractive compared to the bare sand: the holes provide protection for fish and help with water flowing around the reefs,” Prof Suthers said.

“We monitored fish populations for about three months before installing the reefs and then we monitored each reef one year and then two years afterwards.

“We also monitored three representative natural reef control sites in each estuary.”

Prof Suthers said the researchers observed a wide variety of fish using the artificial reefs.

“But the ones we were specifically monitoring for were the species popular with recreational fishermen: snapper, bream and tarwhine,” he said.

“These species increased up to five times and, compared to the bare sand habitat before the reefs were installed, we found up to 20 times more fish overall in those locations.

“What was really exciting was to see that on the nearby natural reefs, fish abundance went up two to five times overall.”

Dr Schilling said that importantly, their study found no evidence that fish had been attracted from neighbouring natural reefs to the artificial reefs.

“There was no evidence of declines in abundance at nearby natural reefs. To the contrary, we found abundance increased in the natural reefs and at the reef balls, suggesting that fish numbers were actually increasing in the estuary overall,” he said.

“The artificial reefs create ideal rocky habitat for juveniles — so, the fish reproduce in the ocean and then the juveniles come into the estuaries, where there is now more habitat than there used to be, enabling more fish to survive.”

The researchers acknowledged, however, that while the artificial reefs had an overall positive influence on fish abundance in estuaries with limited natural reef, there might also be species-specific effects.

For example, they cited research on yellowfin bream which showed the species favoured artificial reefs while also foraging in nearby seagrass beds in Lake Macquarie, one of the estuaries in the current study.

NSW DPI Fisheries conducted an impact assessment prior to installation to account for potential issues with using artificial reefs, including the possibility of attracting non-native species or removing soft substrate.

Artificial reef project validated

Dr Schilling said their findings provided strong evidence that purpose-built artificial reefs could be used in conjunction with the restoration or protection of existing natural habitat to increase fish abundance, for the benefit of recreational fishing and estuarine restoration of urbanised estuaries.

“Our results validate NSW Fisheries’ artificial reef program to enhance recreational fishing, which includes artificial reefs in estuarine and offshore locations,” he said.

“The artificial reefs in our study became permanent and NSW Fisheries rolled out many more in the years since we completed the study.

“About 90 per cent of the artificial reefs are still sitting there and we now have an Honours student researching the reefs’ 10-year impact.” Dr Schilling said the artificial reefs were installed between 2005 and 2007, but the research was only peer-reviewed recently.

Where Australian bees come from


This 2019 video is called Native Australian Homalictus Bee.

From Flinders University in Australia:

Native bees’ exotic origins reveal cross-pollination

June 30, 2020

Ancestors of a distinctive pollinating bee found across Australia probably originated in tropical Asian countries, islands in the south-west Pacific or greater Oceania region, ecology researchers claim.

Describing the likely dispersal corridor for the ancestral lineage of the bee genus Homalictus will help understand the social evolution of the vibrant halictine bees, South Australian, Czech and PNG researchers say in a new paper.

It follows earlier research connecting the origin of other Australian bees to the polar south or Antarctica routes millions of years ago — helping to explain the diversity and complexity of natural ecosystems and their resilience or susceptibility during periods of climate change.

Ecologists are hopeful that the diverse origins of native bees are giving them an edge in withstanding and adapting further to climate change.

“Homalictus bees are a leading generalist plant-pollinator across Australia and as far north as southern China,” says Flinders University PhD candidate, photographer and native bee expert James Dorey.

“Our study highlights the importance of the habitat and ecology of tropical regions, including Papua New Guinea and the Fijian islands, for our endemic species and shows us how these bees might have expanded across the Pacific and possibly higher latitudes of Southeast Asia.”

SA Museum senior researcher Associate Professor Mark Stevens says the ongoing research aims to better understand the origin and radiation of insects and other animals, help environmental management during changing climates and mitigate the effects of further human expansion and habitat destruction.

“Many species historically evolved under different climatic conditions and those different histories may determine how they will cope with new climates,” he says.

“As climates change, species that have narrow thermal tolerances that are unable to adapt either track their preferred climate by moving, or become extinct. We see this in our studies on tropical bees and also in the studies of Antarctic biodiversity.”

“What has not been fully appreciated is the movement of bees in the southern hemisphere that included Antarctica as a likely dispersal corridor before it became the glacial continent that it is today.”

Antarctica was the crossroads between South America, Africa and Australia as the supercontinent of Gondwana was breaking up. The last landmass connections between Australia and Antarctica finished about 35 million years ago while the interchange with Asia began about 20 million years ago.

In contrast to the colourful tropical varieties, SA researchers have previously explored the origins of the cooler adapted and less colourful Exoneurine allodapine bees, believed to have originated in Africa but dispersed to Australia about 42-34 million years ago from Antarctica when there was still a land bridge connection to Tasmania.

Co-author on the online Homalictus paper, Associate Professor Mike Schwarz says Australia has the most unusual bee fauna in the world, resulting from three major events — the gradual breakup of Gondwana, then a period when the bees evolved in “splendid isolation,” long before humans arrived.

“Thirdly, there was a northern influx of species from tropical Asia as the Australian continent collided with Asia. “Australia’s complex systems diversity if a key ingredient for survival of our species,” Flinders Associate Professor Schwarz says.

“Hopefully, the diversity of our native bees will make them more resilient to future climate scenarios, which will be critical for agriculture in a changing world.

Old bugs, young bugs, different colours


This May 2019 video says about itself:

The green shield bug – Palomena prasina – is a European shield bug species in the family Pentatomidae. The name might equally apply to several other species in the tribe Nezarini, or if referred-to as a “green stink bug”, it might more appropriately belong to the larger North American bug, Acrosternum hilare.

From the University of Melbourne in Australia:

Bugs resort to several colors to protect themselves from predators

Colorful bugs look very different as young and adults, but why?

June 25, 2020

Summary: New research has revealed for the first time that shield bugs use a variety of colors throughout their lives to avoid predators. For years it has been thought that animals living in the same environment — like nymphs and adults of the same species — should use similar warning colors, not different ones.

New research has revealed for the first time that shield bugs use a variety of colours throughout their lives to avoid predators.

Shield bugs are often bright, colourful insects that use colours to warn off their distastefulness to predators. The paper, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, found that it is impossible to predict how an adult bug will look like based on their colour when young.

“We found that in most species, the same individual bug will use different colour combinations as nymphs — young bugs — and adults, going for example from red and green to yellow and green,” said lead author and ecologist, Dr Iliana Medina, from the University of Melbourne’s School of Biosciences.

“This is significant because many of these species use colour to warn predators that they are distasteful, and for years it has been thought that animals living in the same environment — like nymphs and adults of the same species — should use similar warning colours, not different ones.”

The joint research between scientists at the University of Melbourne and the Australian National University combined information on colour in young and adults for more than 100 species of shield bugs worldwide. They then used fieldwork in Canberra, with white-winged choughs, to measure how likely these birds were to attack adult and nymphs of one Australian species of shield bug, the cotton harlequin bug.

Experiments were also conducted in the aviary, training two-week-old chicks to see how fast they learned to avoid nymphs and adults, then testing whether their previous experience with adults could reduce attack rates on nymphs.

“Our experiments with the cotton harlequin bug showed that predators could quickly learn to avoid both types of colour signals from nymphs and adults, but nymphs get a larger benefit,” Dr Medina said.

“Although young and adult cotton harlequin bugs have different colours, previous experience with adults make chicks less likely to attack the nymphs. Also, chicks and wild predators that have never seen the insects before do not show much interest in eating them. The colours in these insects are a great strategy against predators.”

Many animals such as frogs, insects and sea slugs use bright colourations to advertise toxicity or distastefulness. In theory, warning signals of prey that live in the same environment should be the same because predators can learn more effectively to avoid one type of pattern, instead of many different ones.

While this idea has been used to explain the great examples of mimicry in nature, and why distantly related species end up having the same warning colours, such as black and red, or black and yellow, researchers say there are multiple examples of variation in local warning signals and an overlooked type of variation is that across life stages.

“If predators were able to learn to avoid only one type of warning colour, we would expect nymphs and adults to look similar in many species,” Dr Medina said. “What our findings show, however, is that the wide colour variation in shield bugs is probably the result of predators being able to learn to avoid different types of colourful signals.”

Nurseryfish video


This 20 June 2020 video says about itself:

Nurseryfish Dads Give Their Young a Headstart… Literally

Happy Father’s day! Today we’re talking about the fintastic Nurseryfish, which is one of the best dads you can fish for.

Thanks to Dr. Tim Berra for teaching us more about these amazing fish as well as providing such awesome pictures!

Hosted by: Hank Green

These fish live in Asia and Australia.

Extreme right Rupert Murdoch Australian media monopoly


This April 2012 video about Britain says about itself:

Rupert Murdoch’s Political Influence

What really was the relationship between billionaire Rupert Murdoch and all those British Prime Ministers?

By Patrick O’Connor in Australia:

Murdoch’s News Corp shuts down Australian Associated Press

9 March 2020

Australian Associated Press (AAP) executives announced last Tuesday that the news agency will be closed on June 26. Majority AAP co-owners and media conglomerates News Corp Australia and Nine Entertainment triggered the shutdown to both slash costs and deny news content to rival newspapers and online news outlets.

AAP’s closure will further reduce the range of available news sources in Australia, which already has one of the most monopolised media industries in the world. The newswire service’s arbitrary shutdown at the hands of Murdoch’s News Corp and Nine underscores the corporate, right-wing domination of mainstream news.

Around 180 journalists and 400 other staff will lose their jobs. News Corp and Nine executives initially sought to attribute AAP’s closure to Facebook and Google’s distribution of free news content. AAP journalists were slashed by 10 percent in 2018 on this pretext. Last month, Nine chief executive Hugh Marks reported a 9 percent profit decline, at the same time declaring that cost-cutting had to proceed in divisions of the company that were not sufficiently profitable, including “big output deals like AAP.”

Last Thursday, however, the Guardian reported comments made by AAP chairman and News Corp executive Campbell Reid at an internal company meeting. He reportedly told news agency staff that “Nine and News Corp were tired of subsidising a breaking news service for their competitors” and that “News Corp would develop its own breaking news service.” He added that Murdoch’s company was “committed to the supply of breaking news,” but stated that “we don’t have to supply it for everybody else in Australia.”

These comments pointed to the strategic calculations underlying the AAP shutdown, centring on further extending the major media conglomerates’ domination of the market. No effort was made to sell off AAP or implement alternative corporate restructuring.

Murdoch’s News Corp controls more than 70 percent of the print media, a rate that places Australia among the worst five countries in the world for media diversity. Murdoch’s publications pump out a homogenous staple of right-wing politics, promoting anti-working class austerity measures, anti-refugee xenophobia, and other forms of reactionary nationalism.

Nine Entertainment is similarly a multi-billion dollar corporation with intimate ties to the political establishment. Former Liberal government treasurer Peter Costello serves as the company’s chairman. Its assets include the former Fairfax daily newspapers, the Sydney Morning Herald, Age, and Australian Financial Review, radio broadcaster Macquarie Media, various online publications, and the Nine Network, the highest rating free-to-air television station in the country.

AAP has been running since 1935. Its stories and photography are used by publications, including websites such as the Guardian Australia and the New Daily, television networks, radio stations, and regional newspapers. AAP provides 350 individual articles every day to its about 200 subscribers, as well as 300 domestic photos, 13,000 international photos, and 30 video reports.

New Daily managing director Paul Hamra reported that no effort was made by AAP’s owners to discuss options with the newswire’s subscribers, “such as increased syndication fees, restructured offerings or equity.” He added: “I get the impression News Corp and Nine just want to set up their own newswire service instead, with their own content, controlling more of the market and restricting access for new Australian journalism ventures.”

In addition to the sacking of around 180 AAP journalists and 100 contracted photographers, hundreds of others will lose their administrative positions. AAP also operates a profitable press release distribution arm, and a Pagemasters editorial production service, both of which are being closed down. …

The Liberal-National government, and the entire political establishment in Australia, is in fact a determined enemy of the people’s “right to know”.

Last week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and opposition Labor leader Anthony Albanese shed a few crocodile tears in parliament over AAP’s demise. Morrison declared that the end of “such an important institution” was “a matter of real concern.” Albanese added that the closure of the newswire was “a tragedy for our democracy.”

This was hypocrisy of the highest order. Neither Morrison nor Albanese proposed to actually do anything to hinder the Murdoch-Nine destruction of AAP. Successive Labor and Liberal governments have dismantled previous provisions limiting monopoly control over the media, allowing a tiny number of corporate giants in the sector to accumulate enormous wealth and power.

More broadly, the last period has seen a bipartisan assault on journalism and freedom of the press in Australia. A raft of so-called national security laws has facilitated the prosecution of numerous whistleblowers, including through police state-style secret trials in which neither the defendant nor his or her alleged crimes can be publicly reported.

Last June, Australian Federal Police raided the national office of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation over its reports on brutal Australian military war crimes in Afghanistan, and News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst, because she reported plans to legalise internal surveillance by the Australian Signals Directorate spy agency.

The sharpest expression of the Australian ruling elite’s war on freedom of speech and freedom of journalism is its support for the attempted extradition to the United States of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, on bogus espionage charges. The entire Australian political establishment is implicated in the witch-hunt of Assange, which was triggered by his exposure of US war crimes in the Middle East and American diplomatic intrigue around the world. AAP journalists were among the minority of reporters to have written objective reports on the US-led ruthless pursuit of Assange.

News Corp and Nine executives no doubt hope to expand their dominance of the media by shutting down AAP. The longer-term effect, however, will be the continued discrediting of the mainstream media in the eyes of ordinary people and the increasing prominence of alternative, anti-establishment news outlets on the internet.

Australian wildfires, climate change wildfires


This 15 January 2020 video says about itself:

Australia fires: Climate change increases the risk of wildfires – BBC News

UK scientists say the recent fires in Australia are a taste of what the world will experience as temperatures rise.

Prof Richard Betts from the Met Office Hadley Centre said we are “seeing a sign of what would be normal conditions under a future warming world of 3C”.

While natural weather patterns have driven recent fires, researchers said it’s “common sense” that human-induced heating is playing a role.

Last year was Australia’s warmest and driest year on record.

UK researchers have carried out a rapid analysis of the impact of climate change on the risk of wildfires happening all over the world. Their study looked at 57 research papers published since the last major review of climate science came out in 2013.

By Carolyn Gramling, March 4, 2020 at 12:39 pm:

Australia’s wildfires have now been linked to climate change

Climate-influenced temperatures raised the wildfire risk by 30 percent

Human-caused climate change made southeastern Australia’s devastating wildfires during 2019–2020 at least 30 percent more likely to occur, researchers report in a new study published online March 4.

A prolonged heatwave that baked the country in 2019-2020 was the primary factor raising the fire risk, said climate scientist Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, with the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute in De Bilt. The study also linked the extremity of that heatwave to climate change, van Oldenborgh said March 3 during a news conference to explain the findings. Such an intense heatwave in the region is about 10 times more likely now than it was in 1900, the study found.

Van Oldenborgh also noted that climate simulations tend to underestimate the severity of such heatwaves, suggesting that climate change may be responsible for even more of the region’s high fire risk. “We put the lower boundary at 30 percent, but it could well be much, much more,” he said.

This week, the southeastern Australia region was declared free of wildfires for the first time in over 240 days, according to a statement March 2 by the New South Wales Rural Fire Service on Twitter. The fires have burned through an estimated 11 million hectares, killing at least 34 people and destroying about 6,000 buildings since early July. About 1.5 billion animals also died in the blazes. Researchers are still tallying the damage and assessing the potential for recovery for many native plant and animal species (SN: 2/11/20).

The climate attribution study was conducted by the World Weather Attribution group, an international consortium of researchers who investigate how much of a role climate change might be playing in natural disasters. Given the quick turnaround time, the study has not yet been peer-reviewed. “We wanted to bring the scientific evidence [forward] at a time when the public is talking about the event,” said climate modeler Friederike Otto of the University of Oxford. Then the group examined how climate change altered the Fire Weather Index, an estimation of the risk of wildfires.

The climate simulations show that the probability of a high Fire Weather Index during the 2019–2020 season increased by at least 30 percent, relative to the fire risk in 1910. That is primarily due to the increase in extreme heat; the study was not able to determine the impact of climate change on extreme drought conditions, which also helped fuel the blazes.

Researchers previously have suggested that an El Niño-like atmosphere-ocean weather pattern known as the Indian Ocean Dipole, which was in a strong positive phase in 2019, may have played a role in exacerbating the dry conditions (SN: 1/9/20). Global warming may make such extreme positive phases of this pattern more common. The new study confirmed that the 2019 positive phase made drought conditions more extreme, but could not confirm this particular phase’s relationship to climate change.

“It is always rather difficult to attribute an individual event to climate change,” but this study is nicely done, says Wenju Cai, a climate scientist at CSIRO who is based in Melbourne, Australia. The link identified to climate change is reasonable, if not particularly surprising, he says.

The year 2019 was Australia’s hottest and driest since modern recordkeeping began in the country in 1910. Summers Down Under also appear to be lengthening: The Australia Institute, a Canberra-based think tank, released a report March 2 that found that Australian summers during the years 1999 to 2018 lasted longer by a month, on average, than they did 50 years ago.

Temperature observations going back to 1910 show that the region’s temperatures have risen by about 2 degrees Celsius on average, van Oldenborgh and colleagues report. The climate simulations underrepresented that warming, however, showing an increase of only 1 degree Celsius in that time.

Climate modelers previously have struggled to reconcile the disparity between recorded temperatures and simulated heatwaves: Simulations tend to underestimate the severity of the extreme events. The team noticed a similar underestimation in its simulations of the 2019 heat waves in Europe (SN: 7/2/19). Conditions not generally factored into regional climate simulations, such as land-use changes, may be responsible for the disparity. Changes in vegetation cover, for example, can have an impact on how hot or dry a region gets.

New international research has found a worrying change in the Indian Ocean’s surface temperatures that puts southeast Australia on course for increasingly hot and dry conditions: here.

How scientists wrestle with grief over climate change. Those who study nature are dealing with frustration and sadness over what’s being lost: here.

Fire disaster emergency in Australia


This 31 August 2020 video from Australia says about itself:

Canberra region calls state of emergency

The territory’s chief minister said, “This fire may become very unpredictable; it may become uncontrollable.”

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Friday, January 31, 2020

Australia in a state of emergency

THE Australian Capital Territory declared a state of emergency today as huge bushfires raged southwards.

It is the first fire emergency for the Canberra area since 2003 when wildfires killed four people and destroyed almost 500 homes in a single day.

The new threat is due to a blaze that has worked its way through more than 53,000 acres after it was sparked by heat from a military helicopter’s landing-light on Monday, the emergency services said.

Residents in the suburbs and surrounding villages were advised to prepare either to protect their homes or evacuate.

The small territory, located between Sydney and Melbourne, has about 400,000 residents.

Roads were blocked to the village of Tharwa late on Friday because the fire posed too much danger for residents to evacuate or return to their homes.

Officials said the state of emergency, which gives extra power and resources to fire authorities, would be in place for “as long as Canberra is at risk.”

Australia’s fire crisis continues while flash floods hammer northern Queensland: here.

Will Australia’s forests bounce back after devastating fires? Scientists are worried about ecosystems not used to such frequent, blistering blazes: here.