THERE IS LIFE BENEATH KNYSNA’S FAVOURITE PLAYGROUND

Posted by on July 19, 2018 in Our Environment | 0 comments

THERE IS LIFE BENEATH KNYSNA’S FAVOURITE PLAYGROUND

Thursday, 19 July 2018, 12:01 The Knysna seahorse needs no introduction. Photos: Supplied KNYSNA NEWS – SANParks is escalating the level of awareness initiatives concerning the Knysna estuary, a popular water playground for locals and visitors alike. Of the 249 national estuaries forming part of a study conducted by Jane Turpie and Barry Clarke (2007), the Knysna estuary was ranked above the St Lucia World Heritage Site in terms of biodiversity significance. This was determined by the number of its fish species, birds and botanical data. The estuary, in the Garden Route National Park (GRNP), is home to 43% of South Africa’s plant and animal life, and contributes some 21.6% of the total economic value of the 249 national estuaries. “Estuaries are important nursery areas for juveniles, while adults also spend time in the estuaries feeding. Examples include spotted grunter, dusky kob, white steenbras, Cape stumpnose and leervis),” says SANParks marine ecologist Kyle Smith. They are under a range of pressures including changes to water inflow, pollution (plastics, fertiliser, organic) which can impact the health of the estuary, habitat quality and its suitability for fish and bait species. The Knysna estuary is also South Africa’s most important seagrass site with an estimated 355ha to 420ha of Cape dwarf eelgrass (Maree, 2000; Bandeira and Gell, 2003; CES, 2009). Both the Cape dwarf eelgrass (Short et al., 2007, 2011) and the fauna that it supports in Knysna are of very high conservation importance (Hodgson and Allanson, 2000; Russell et al., 2009), contributing to the estuary receiving the highest ranking in terms of its ecological importance. Dolphins can be seen frolicking in the Knysna estuary from time to time. Some challenges in managing the system, according to GRNP manager Paddy Gordon, include: • More work to ensure pollution stays away from the estuaries and the ocean. While the work of the Knysna Pollution Action carries on every week assessing all sources of pollution and any incidents that may negatively impact the bacteriological quality of the water, more must still be done. • More educational initiatives and a shared environmental education plan and resources. • More research projects are required to understand all aspects of the Knysna estuary which is the world’s one and only estuarine Hope Spot (conservation, tourism, skills, socioeconomic), declared by Dr Sylvia Earle in 2015. SANParks is requesting users of the estuary to exercise caution when using the estuary and note plant life and animals in the estuary. ‘We bring you the latest Knysna, Garden Route news’ Share this:Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new...

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The Incredible Camouflage masters: Praying Mantis species

Posted by on July 18, 2018 in Our Environment | 0 comments

The Incredible Camouflage masters: Praying Mantis species

Hilary Haarhoff’s friend, Phillipa de Zeeuw from Cowies Hill in Durban,  captured these amazing photographs of the Eyed-flower Mantid (Pseudocreobotra wahlbergi) in her garden. Note the incredible camouflage of this creature.  It has a large body, 42mm, attractively mottled in pinks, browns or greens with prominent circular eye-like marking on each fore wing.  It has large lateral extensions on abdomen.  The wingless nymphs (shown in photos)  are spectacularly ornamented and striped with pink and green and carry the abdomen curled above the body.  This species mimics flowers and ambushes visiting insects.  When threatened nymphs can expand the raised abdomen to reveal a single dorsal eyespot.  It occurs on flowers and in vegetation, KZN to Limpopo and Mpumalanga. The pic below of the Giant Mantid or Common Green Mantid (Sphodromatis gastrica) nestling in a Natal Lavender tree was captured by my husband. It has a large body, length 55mm, robust and bright green, usually with a white spot near anterior corner of each fore wing.  Sides of abdomen may be mauve and yellow.  Females are  much fatter than males.This species is unusual that diet consists mainly of caterpillars. The normally occur on foliage of trees and shrubs in domestic gardens and a variety types of undisturbed vegetation.  One of the most common species in the region.   Share this:Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new...

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Balloon Releases Are Killing Wildlife and Marine Animals – Here’s What You Can Do Instead

Posted by on July 8, 2018 in Our Environment | 1 comment

Balloon Releases Are Killing Wildlife and Marine Animals – Here’s What You Can Do Instead

For years, balloon releases have been used to celebrate events or honor the memory of someone lost.  Schools release them during football games, they’re sent floating into the air at running events, and released by crowds of people at weddings, funerals, and memorials. And while those who organize and participate in balloon releases have the best of intentions, what they fail to consider is what happens when those balloons eventually land – and when they do the results are detrimental to wildlife and marine animals. The Long-Lasting Impact of Balloons Balloons negatively impact our environment by littering streams, lakes, and beaches. It’s basically the same as intentionally throwing trash on the ground or into the ocean. Even balloons marketed as biodegradable or “eco-friendly” can still take years to disintegrate, meaning they’re not any better for the environment than standard balloons. BalloonsBlow.Org/Facebook When balloons make their way into the water, their tattered ends and floating pieces can resemble jellyfish or other sea life consumed by marine animals such as sea turtles, fish, and dolphins. When the pieces of latex or Mylar are mistaken for food and ingested, they can get lodged in the digestive tract, inhibiting animal’s ability to eat and causing a slow and painful death by starvation. Wildlife can also fall victim to balloons and balloon strings when the pieces fall to the ground or onto trees and bushes. Birds have been found injured with ribbons wrapped around their beaks or wings, and have strangled themselves when they become entangled in strings attached to trees or power lines. And just like marine animals, they can succumb to a painful death after ingesting balloons. The negative impact on animals and the environment prompted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and local chapters of the National Audubon Society to urge people to stop releasing balloons and instead find more humane alternatives that are safer for animals and our planet. Several states and cities in the U.S. and abroad have also passed laws regarding mass balloon releases after years of witnessing their detrimental effects. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service/Flickr What You Can Do If you know of someone planning a balloon release, please urge them to consider one of these earth- and animal-friendly options instead. There are so many other symbolic acts that don’t involve the use of balloons. We’ve listed a few options for you below, and you can find more by visiting this website that offers not only fun alternatives but educational materials to help you spread awareness about the dangers of balloons and balloon releases. Bubbles Bubbles are not only fun but can create stunning photo ops. Watching hundreds of bubbles float up into the sky can be mesmerizing and just as symbolic as seeing a balloon float away, but without the resulting of litter and endangerment to wildlife and marine animals. Luminaries Luminaries are a beautiful way to honor and memorialize loved ones. Instead of writing messages on balloons and releasing them, you can write messages on recycled paper bags or reusable glass jars with candles placed inside to create a lighted path, or spell out a word or name. Each person can bring their bag or jar home afterward as a personal keepsake to remember the event. Plant a Tree Planting native trees and wildflowers is a beautiful way to create a memory that lasts for years to come – and give a little...

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Spiders fly on the currents of Earth’s electric field

Posted by on July 7, 2018 in Our Environment | 0 comments

Spiders fly on the currents of Earth’s electric field

Science Jul 5, 2018 4:20 PM EDT Spiders don’t have wings, but they can fly across entire oceans on long strands of silk. For more than a century, scientists thought it was the wind that carried them, sometimes as high as a jet stream — in a process known as “ballooning.” A new study shows that the Earth’s electric field can propel these flying spiders too. The study, published Thursday in the journal Current Biology, found that when spiders are in a chamber with no wind, but a small electric field, they are likely to prep for take-off, or even fly. Plus, the sensory hairs covering the spiders’ bodies move when the electric field is turned on — much like your own hair stands up due to static electricity. This “spidey sense” could be how the creatures know it’s time to fly. This makes spiders only the second known arthropod species, after bees, to sense and use electric fields. Because humans don’t feel Earth’s electric field, its role in biology is often overlooked, said Erica Morley, the study’s lead author. When spiders sense an electric field, they stick their spinnerets into the air and release silk. Called “tiptoeing,” this means spiders are ready for take-off. Photo by Michael Hutchinson The origins of Morley’s study date back five years to an unlikely source: an astrophysicist at the University of Hawaii named Peter Gorham. Gorham was reading Charles Darwin’s observations of spiders ballooning en masse aboard a ship at sea. Darwin wondered if the spiders were using electrostatics to take off. Gorham wondered if Darwin was right. So he turned the question into a simple physics problem. “When I worked through the numbers it looked quite compelling,” Gorham said. “This was a plausible explanation for not all of the flight but at least for some of it.” Gorham published his work on arXiv, an open-access platform, hoping someone with more expertise in biology would pick it up. Enter Morley, a sensory biologist at the University of Bristol. When Morley saw his paper, she saw an opportunity. Scientists have long known that air currents can lift spiders high into the air, allowing the eight-legged critters to disperse hundreds of miles to new ecosystems. But most of these “ballooning” events take place on quieter days and can’t explain the loft of larger spiders. But the idea that an electric field can also pull on spider strands had been dismissed 200 years ago. “In the early 1800s, there were arguments that spiders might be using electric fields to balloon, but then there were also people arguing that it was wind,” said Morley. “And the argument for wind won over probably because it’s more obvious.” Since then, scientists discovered a naturally-occuring global electric field — located between the negatively charged surface of the Earth and the positively charged air residing 50 to 600 miles up, known as the ionosphere. But until five years ago, no one had revisited the effect this electric field might have on spiders. A flight simulator for spiders Morley built an “arena” the size of a mini fridge sheltered from air currents and from electric fields to observe spider behavior under controlled conditions. She then created electric fields to mimic those found in nature by installing charged metal plates — electrodes — on the bottom and the top of the...

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