Though Iraq was the Cradle of Civilization, a wet and fertile place, Americans are more accustomed to thinking of it as the endless desert they see in photographs and news clips. But even with the ongoing war, the United Nations today announced that it wants to try to put the fertile back in the Fertile Crescent, and revive dying Iraqi wetlands.
With water from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers coming in, Iraqi wetlands had long been home to local wildlife and migrating birds, as well as many people called the Marsh Arabs who inhabited the land. But Saddam Hussein declared those people traitors in the 1990s and drained the area, shrinking wetlands by almost 92 percent.
Global warming could bring a strange assortment of winners and losers. Greenland could be a winner, The New York Times says, as melting glaciers free up land once buried under ice. Northern Japan, on the other hand, might be a loser, and not just because rising seas may start to reclaim the islands.
Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s main islands, has both an ecosystem and an economy that depend on Arctic ice floating down from the Sea of Okhotsk at the eastern edge of Russia. The drift ice brings nutrients that feed phytoplankton, which form the base of the area’s ecosystem. And tourists flock there for the chance to stand on an Arctic iceberg.
Hoping to fight off “colony collapse disorder,” the mysterious affliction that has devastated honeybee colonies, some British scientists want to get bees to start washing their feet—but with the intention of getting them dirty, not clean.
A team of University of Warwick researchers led by Dave Chandler believes that parasitic Varroa mites might be behind the honeybee’s decline; the mites can feed on young or old bees, and their presence usually spells doom for the entire colony. Varroas develop resistance to chemical pesticides, too, so the scientists turned to a more natural threat—fungi.
Seabirds called little terns nest near Tokyo’s airport after migrating north from Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea. But National Geographic reports that are area’s crows are bad neighbors, prone to attacking and killing young terns.
The annual migration of the American shad just got a helping hand from Philadelphia, the city that sees the unsung, bony fish as a symbol of hope for its formerly polluted waterways.
For those people thinking of kayaking on the Colorado River on this lovely afternoon, you might want to reconsider—unless, say, Iron Man was kind enough to lend you his suit. If you are somehow reading this blog post while paddling down the river, look out for the 41,000 cubic feet of water rushing your way every second—three to four times the normal flow. The USGS and the Bureau of Reclamation have opened Glen Canyon Dam’s four jet tubes and are increasing the flow of water through the Colorado River over the next 60 hours.