Koalas Are Endangered; A Flood of Invasive Species

The Associated Press on invasive species and flooding, The Guardian on wind turbines, NPR on Indonesia's mangroves, the BBC on koalas, and The New York Times on silo trees, 

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The Associated Press on invasive species and flooding It's not as immediately noticeable as, say, fallen trees or washed away roads, but the spread of invasive species after floods may be just as costly as physical damage. The Associated Press' Lisa Rathka describes two such cases after recent U.S. floods: the Japanese knotweed (above) spread across Vermont after Hurricane Irene, and the Asian carp, introduced to new lakes along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers from Louisiana to Iowa after floods in 2011. Neither the plant nor the fish are native to the U.S. (just look at their names) and recent flooding has increased their footprint. Meaning: each likely will crowd out other flora and fauna in the affected areas.

The Guardian on wind turbines increasing temperatures at night Talk about unintended consequences (though it's not as bad as it sounds at first). According to a new research, discussed by The Guardian's Damian Carrington, wind turbines can increase the night temperature of the area around them. Initially it may seem like the turbines are going the exact opposite of what they're intended to go -- i.e., keep the temperature of the earth stable (by reducing greenhouse gas emissions). But what's actually happening, at least where researchers looked in West Texas, is more innocuous: "The scientists say the effect is due to the gentle turbulence caused by the wind turbines. After the sun has set, the land cools down more quickly than the air, leaving a cold blanket of air just above the ground. But the turbine wakes mix this cold layer with the warmer air above, raising the temperature." So air is just being mixed, which may have some ecological effects, but that's better than a significant amount of extra heat being added to the atmosphere.

NPR on Indonesia's disappearing mangroves First Vietnam, now Indonesia. Today we get a report from Morning Edition's Anthony Kuhn on the latter's disappearing forests of coastal, salt-water-loving mangroves. "Indonesia has one-quarter of the world's mangrove forests, but it's losing them at an alarming rate of 6 percent a year. The world as a whole is estimated to have lost half of its mangroves in the past half-century." The deforestation gets attention because of the trees ecological importance: they store carbon, buffer against tsunamis, host breeding grounds for fish, and protect cities' water supplies from getting salty. Which is why it's encouraging that NPR found villages replanting mangroves on their own, even if the economic incentives are against it ("An ordinary plot of mangroves is worth $84 an acre. But if it's cleared and planted with oil palms, it can be worth more than $20,000 an acre."). Thankfully, governments are trying to counter that cost problem: Indonesia's seeks to "issue a presidential decree outlining a strategy for the sustainable management of its mangroves" while Spain and the Netherlands, for their part, are buying mangroves in exchange for carbon credits.

BBC on the endangered koalas Bad news, cute animal lovers. "Australia has listed the koala as a threatened species in parts of the country due to its dwindling population," reports the BBC. The reasons for the declining numbers ("estimates varying from several hundred thousand to as few as 43,000") include habitat loss and run-ins with dogs and vehicles. Officials are fretting over the endangerment, more than they would perhaps over other species, because of the koala's importance as a tourism draw to the country. Thankfully, koala populations are still reportedly strong in the states of Victoria and South Australia.

The New York Times on silo trees How to grow a tree on the windiest parts of the Great Plains? Put it in a silo. Reporting from Kansas, with many abandon farms building, A.G. Sulzberger writes for this family's newspaper, "[m]any of these decrepit silos, once used to store feed for livestock, now just hollow columns of cinder blocks, have through happenstance transformed into unlikely nurseries for trees." The windswept Plains are a rough places for saplings, which means not many full-fledged trees are found there without protection. Residents, increasingly turning away from farms (or specializing in farming that doesn't require silos), find meaning in the rural decay. “I see it as a kind of passing," says Ken Wolf, who photographs silo trees.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.