Oh Christmas trees, oh Christmas trees, what should we do with your corpses?
Here’s an idea that seems to be working well: Use them as fish habitats. Surprisingly, the trees are prefect for the job, Pete Alexander told The New York Times:
“Christmas trees are perfect — just the right size and weight,” said Mr. Alexander, the fisheries program manager for the East Bay Regional Park District, which is based in Oakland, Calif. “And we get them free, because vendors want to get rid of them.”
After the holidays are over, the group gets leftover trees from vendors, ties a bunch of trees together, and sticks them at the bottom of a lake. The trees quickly grow algae and attract fish to the area–which also attracts fishermen. Every year the workers build a habitat in a new lake, and The New York Times reports that the structures last about five years:
Ultra-rare albino redwood trees completely lack the green pigment chlorophyll, which they need to live (by photosynthesizing nutrients from light). These plants are literally vampires. They are pale (everwhite instead of evergreen), and they survive by sucking the life from other trees.
These vampires remain attached to the roots of their healthy, normal, parent trees (coastal redwoods can reproduce asexually by sprouting new shoots from roots or stumps), and survive by sucking energy from them. They can keep this up for a century. Historian Sandy Lyndon explained the phenomenon to KQED:
“Albinism is a genetic mutation that prevents cells from producing pigment. In humans and other animals, albinism is not necessarily such a big deal. But albino plants are unable to do the very thing that makes a plant a plant. Without chlorophyll, they can’t photosynthesize, meaning they can’t convert sunlight into energy. The only reason that albino redwoods survive at all is that they are connected at the root to a parent tree from which they will suck energy for their entire lives.”
Motion-activated cameras have been used to catch bad nannies and adulterers for years. But in the forest, a high-tech, heat-detecting nannycam has caught video not just of the rare tigers that were its intended targets, but also of some unexpected forest-dwellers: illegal loggers.
In the video to the right, you can see a rare Sumatran tiger (one of only 400 left in Indonesia) strolling up to the forest spy camera and saying hello in Indonesia’s Riau Province. Seven days later a beast of a very different kind awakens the camera: a bulldozer leveling the forest.
The next day, another tiger passes by the spot, across the front of the clear-cut forest. The forests are being cleared for palm oil plantations, according to the WWF:
“Because of its status, both as a protected area and limited production forest, the area cannot be developed as a palm oil plantation, therefore any forest clearance, including bulldozing activities to clear the path, strongly indicates this excavation was illegal,” said Ian Kosasih, director of WWF-Indonesia’s forest and species program.
The forest in this area, called Bukit Batabuh, is protected because it serves as a corridor between two wildlife parks. Continued bulldozing in this area is fragmenting the Sumatran tiger’s habitat, making it more difficult for the big cats to find food, mates, and shelter.
Across the world, researchers are trying another high-tech tactic to keep an eye on logging practices. A new study in Brazil has been radio tagging trees in the Amazon to monitor the sustainability of the logging operations occurring in the area.