Why did Iran's Lake Urmia just change from bright green to blood red?

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Between April and July, Iran's salty Lake Urmia changed from a bright green color to a blood red. NASA's Aqua satellite captured the image above and reported on the science behind the strange transformation. According to NASA, the periodic color change is caused by micro algae producing carotenoids that help with photosynthesis and act as antioxidants and Halobacteriaceae, a bacteria in very salty water that releases "a red pigment called bacteriorhodopsin that absorbs light and converts it into energy for the bacteria." From NASA:

The color changes have become common in the spring and early summer due to seasonal precipitation and climate patterns. Spring is the wettest season in northwestern Iran, with rainfall usually peaking in April. Snow on nearby mountains within the watershed also melts in the spring. The combination of rain and snowmelt sends a surge of fresh water into Lake Urmia in April and May. By July, the influx of fresh water has tapered off and lake levels begin to drop.

The fresh water in the spring drives salinity levels down, but the lake generally becomes saltier as summer heat and dryness take hold. That’s when the microorganisms show their colors, too. Careful sampling of the water would be required to determine which organisms transformed the lake in 2016, but scientists say there are likely two main groups of organisms involved: a family of algae called Dunaliella and an archaic family of bacteria known as Halobacteriaceae.

While Lake Urmia has shifted from green to red and back several times in recent years, trends suggest that a red Urmia could become increasingly common.

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Endangered species ads: animals being 3D printed

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A new ad campaign from the International Fund for Animal Welfare features rendered images of cross-sectioned endangered animals on the beds of 3D printers, being printed out, layer by layer. Read the rest

Situation dire for Monarch butterfly

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The Monarch butterfly is headed to rapid extinction in the eastern US, reports Scott K. Johnson, because its complex ecosystem continues to collapse.

…humans are responsible. The life cycle of the monarch is tightly linked with the milkweed plant. Females lay almost all of their eggs on these plants, and the larvae happily munch on them when they hatch. Milkweed tends to pop up in areas where the soil has been disturbed, like farm fields.

As with other weeds, farmers have long tried to keep milkweed from growing amidst (and competing with) their crops. But the introduction of genetically modified corn and soybeans that could survive being sprayed by the herbicide glyphosate (better known by its original trade name “Roundup”) suddenly gave farmers a more effective way to clear plants like milkweed.

Got a yard? It's easy to plant milkweed: meet Sedgewick the Monarch Caterpillar—and find out what you can do to save his species Read the rest

These incredible trees can "walk"

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These are the "walking palm trees" of Ecuador. Each year, they could walk as much as 20 meters. Slower than the Ents from Lord of the Rings but, well, real.

“As the soil erodes, the tree grows new, long roots that find new and more solid ground, sometimes up to 20m,” Peter Vrsansky, a palaeobiologist from the Earth Science Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences Bratislava, tells the BBC. “Then, slowly, as the roots settle in the new soil and the tree bends patiently toward the new roots, the old roots slowly lift into the air. The whole process for the tree to relocate to a new place with better sunlight and more solid ground can take a couple of years.”

Tragically, the incredible Sumaco Biosphere Reserve where they live is being chopped down.

“This [cutting] is a shame, as Ecuador is one of the world countries with the highest partition of protected areas," Vransky says, But the trees can’t walk fast enough to escape the chainsaw and the machetes backed by current legislation." Read the rest

Scary robot lumberjack makes deforestation too easy

This deforestation machine slices and plucks trees at their base and then wipes off all the branches and foliage in just a few seconds. (Thanks, Dustin Hosteler!)

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The man who seeks the sound of silence

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Gordon Hempton is an "acoustic ecologist" and field recording artist who seeks out the places on Earth that are free of noise pollution. The episode below of the Generation Anthropocene podcast features Hempton's story and some of his favorite recordings of the natural environment. For more from Hempton, check out his book "One Square Inch of Silence: One Man's Quest to Preserve Quiet."

(top photo by Richard Darbonne) Read the rest

Up to 90 percent of seabirds have plastic in their guts

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Researchers calculate that as many as 9 out of 10 seabirds have plastic garbage in their intestines. So sad. Read the rest

Navajo Nation bears burden of recent Animas mining spill disaster in Colorado

After the Animas River spill, rancher Irving Shaggy is forced to travel a 70-mile round trip to get water for his livestock. "It's going to be a long struggle," he says.
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The Environmental Protection Agency was investigating an old mine near Silverton, Colo., earlier this month, when it accidentally released 3 million gallons of toxic waste water into the Animas River.

Sea Turtle's eye-view of the Great Barrier Reef

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This fantastic video from the World Wildlife Fund in Australia is a turtle’s eye view of the The Great Barrier Reef. The sensitive ecological zone is home to almost 6,000 species.

To find out more about the level of pollution affecting turtles within the Great Barrier Reef, WWF is working on innovative project in Queensland with the support of our partners Banrock Station Wines Environmental Trust, James Cook University, The University of Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, State and Commonwealth government agencies, Indigenous rangers and local community groups.

As part of that project, the opportunity arose to very carefully fit a small GoPro camera to a turtle, to better understand the post-release behaviour of tagged green turtles. The result is this amazing video.

This week, the World Heritage Committee will vote whether to keep a strong watch over Australia until the health of the Great Barrier Reef. The decision is critical to the future protection of the Reef.

Video Link

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Inviting all Eco-Futurists to Bioneers, Oct 17-19/Marin, with Kim Stanley Robinson

Josh writes, "Boing Boing readers and Eco-Futurists are invited to the 25th Annual Bioneers Summit Conference in Marin, CA, October 17-19. Enter BOING4BIONEERS at check out for an exclusive 25% discount!" Read the rest

Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars books to be adapted for TV

The books, which are among the best science fiction ever written, have been picked up by Game of Thrones co-producer Vince Gerardis, which bodes very well for the adaptation. Read the rest

The limits of animal life on Tatooine

Maggie Koerth-Baker on why the megafauna of George Lucas' parched desert world makes no sense. It's not the dry heat that's the problem; it's the food supply.

The revenge of the lawn

Author Mark Dery charts America's ecocidal obsession with nice grass

Australian government to dump 3,000,000 cubic meters of dredged sea-bottom on the Great Barrier Reef

In December, the Australian government approved a plan by India's Adani Group to expand a coal port, and now the government's given the go-ahead to dump the 3,000,000 cubic meters of muck that will be dredged for the project onto the struggling Great Barrier Reef. The GBR, which is a World Heritage Site, is already officially classed in "poor" health, and the ocean floor around it will now be smothered with vast amounts of waste, destroying fragile habitats and crippling a key player in the world's ocean ecology. The Australian government says that the reef will not suffer as a result, but independent scientists who investigated the question firmly disagree. Read the rest

What Mount Everest and the Grand Canyon have in common

"North Rim Grand Canyon Cape Royal," for Shutterstock by Erik Harrison.

Mount Everest isn't the only natural wonder experiencing a ridiculous increase in tourism --and, with it, trash, ecological damage, and risk. At the Arizona Republic, Brandon Loomis writes about the massive increases in athletic backcountry tourism at the Grand Canyon. It's easy to see the similarities to previous stories you've read about crowds of hikers on Everest. Just last month, Loomis writes, 224 rim-to-rim hikers — people who march down one side of the canyon and back up the other in a day, a vertical change of 10,000 feet — converged on a rest area all at once.

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One of the last known photos of the Formosan Clouded Leopard is a picture of a vest

It's a nice-looking vest, but it does make a rather strong point about humans' role in animal extinctions. The Formosan Clouded Leopard was one of the animals declared extinct in 2013. Read the rest

Everything you wanted to know about eel farming, but were afraid to ask

At Buzzfeed (Yes, Buzzfeed. Yes, I know.) Peter Andrey Smith has written a fascinating, long-form story about the American/Asian eel industry, eel life cycles, and where your sushi roll really comes from. Turns out, like pandas, eels don't breed well in captivity. So, in order for farmers in Japan, Korea, and China to raise eels for markets in both Asia and the U.S., they first have to get a hold of large quantities of sort-of preteen eels, known as elvers. The elvers come from Maine, where a pound of the live creatures can fetch thousands of dollars and elver dealers engage in turf battles and drive around with Glocks in their pickup trucks. Read the rest

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