If you ever roam the street markets of Mexico in North America, you could find some fresh
grasshoppers for sale; or maybe some fried caterpillars in African countries like Congo; how
about some scorpions in China or mealworms in Thailand?

Eating insects is not a new practice or an innovative idea, but an important part of many
diets in different regions of the world. Nevertheless, in some societies insects are far from
being considered as a source of nutrients, let alone the idea of eating them out of taste.

However, as the world population continues to grow at a fast pace, new ways of meeting the
increasing food demand need to be found. Additionally, the effects of climate change,
pollution and overuse of land, sea and water resources put extra pressure on the future
security of food supply and proper nutrition.

Insects used as feed, in farming, and sold at different markets in the world. All images, FAO 2013


So why insects? Well, many studies have shown that producing insects instead of meat
(beef, fish or chicken) for humans or feed for animals has many benefits for the environment,
our health and society. Insects can be eaten whole or ground into powder or paste to be
used in other foods or products like flour.

Firstly, in the case of the environment, it turns out that many insects are much better than
cattle at converting feed into mass. This means that, for example, 2Kg of feed will turn into
1kg of insect mass, while cattle would need 8Kg of feed to gain 1Kg of body weight. Also,
insect production releases a lower amount and less damaging greenhouse gases than
livestock farming. And finally, require less water and land.

Secondly, in terms of health benefits, insects have proven to provide high quality nutrients
such as proteins and fats. They are also a cheap and reliable source of iron and other
micronutrients which are common deficiencies in many parts of the world.

Finally, societies can benefit from the relative ease of insect farming. Not only for developing
countries but also for transitional and developed economies, insects could become a
valuable dietary complement or substitute.

Are you interested in learning more about the role of insects in different ecosystems and in
the human food chain? Then take your time and have a look at this very comprehensive
review by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

The populations and economies of South American countries have been growing rapidly for the past decades – is that why they need to keep on burning more forest every day? And if so, will they ever reach the equilibrium when enough land is being used? The outlook doesn’t seem to be very optimistic.

Massive deforestation in South America could easily be explained by growth, both in population and economical power of these countries. Once their population starts to stagnate as it does in Europe, there will be no need to cut more trees and the rate of deforestation will be the same.

There is a problem to that logic. Agricultural land has been cultivated for centuries in the Old continent using the three-field system among others, so we can’t expect to have an equally fertile soil straight after deforestation. But there are areas of so called ‘black soil’ even in Latin America – these have been fostered by pre-Columbus civilizations. In fact, more land has been cultivated before Spanish arrival than it is now.

 

When we compare a European primeval forest with America’s, the vegetation in rainforests tends to be lusher and animals more diverse. It consists of several layers (from treetops to the forest floor) and some organisms spend their entire lifecycle in only one of them. Little biomass lies on the forest floor and temperature combined with humidity make the process of decaying swift, preventing humus from accumulating.

 

So as abundant the rainforest might seem, its soil is of very little quality. If we burn it, the layer of ashes can be quite fertile. This, however, only lasts for several years - or worse - couple showers. What can then the poor farmers (or wealthy landholders) do? Burn more forest and leave the now-worthless land.

 

Are there more effective ways of doing it? Forest farming could be a good solution. Instead of chopping the trees down, we can cultivate some high-value crops within the forest or even keep livestock under the canopy. Keeping the forest intact helps with water and temperature regulation, soil erosion and provides feed for the stock. While it may be more tedious to work among the tree trunks, the added value seems to be worth it.

Not only such kind of farming is sustainable, but it also combines short-term sources of income such as growing ginseng, vanilla or keeping livestock with long-term profit of monetizing highly valuable and cared-for timber.

Contrary to the common belief, the use of wood through the pallet production allows to manage and develop the forest areas. The reasoned management of the forests is a prerequisite for environmental policy, and the sawmills that produce these wooden pallets have an added value if they have certification as PEFC (Program of Recognition of the Forest Certification).

 

The circular economy of wooden pallet allows to produce better, in a competitive way by innovating, and with respect of the wood raw material. The wooden pallet is needed by industry to allows exchange of their produces. The pallet is reused constantly from one destination to another. But what happens when a pallet is considered inapt for reconditioning and so rejected from its initial use?

 

 

To diversify the recycling, some solutions have been found by customers following a fad. Nowadays, we can see more and more furniture made with recycled pallet wood. Tables, chairs, sofas, beds, trashes: the pallet is trendy. Designers have fun dismounting, remounting, painting, cutting-off the raw material from recycled pallets. Natural, renewable, recyclable, noble and industrial with its nail heads apparent, it is the new target of these “recycle-designers” whether they are experienced or just novice.

 

 

 

 

The pallets are marked with EUR or UIC symbols that standardize the product, and guarantee a certain quality and trackability. These are part of the supply chain that companies change from empty to full of goods that are sold. Craft furniture from pallets, it is a clever idea. But is the removal of these goods from the transportation logistics circuit an action without consequences? These pallets have an owner, and so if you want to get one, you must buy it from someone. If your budget is less comfortable, you can just get some from the street corner. Whatever the supply comes from, it is an initiative that allows the produce to have a second life, and contributes to make the wooden pallet an actor of the circular economy.

 

The transition from fossil fuel to biofuel is a top priority issue in environmental conservation and politics. But the transition process is not so smooth. There are a lot of questions that need to be answered before we can move from fossil-based fuels to bio-based fuels. One of the great questions regarding biofuel is the source of biomass. Technical and economic issues are also a great concern. But the biomass source still remains the biggest problem.

The first generation biofuels were crop-based. But the idea of crop-based biofuel has been rejected as it competes with food for biomass source. We cannot afford to feed our cars leaving a lot of people hungry. One alternative for this was non-food crops. But it still competes with food crops for land. It also competes for water. A novel solution for biomass source is forest biomass. Thanks to the new technologies that enable conversion of Woody biomass into biofuels.

Wood-based biofuel gives us new hope. But, there are still some questions. Can the forests provide us with sufficient wood for energy? Probably not; not in a global scale. But we have options to try for enhanced production of biomass. Wood energy crops are such a solution. Wood energy crops are densely planted and hi-yielding plant species like Willow and Poplar. They grow faster and produce more biomass than other plants in a given time. They are cultivated commercially for energy in short rotation of 3 to 5 years.

Commercial forestry needs to consider some factors to maintain high productivity and profitability. Selection of genetically Superior plants is one of the important factors. One of the problems commercial Plantations face is that despite being the same species and same variety, all the stands in a plantation is not genetically identical.  So growth rate and performance is not the same for all the stands in a plantation. Monogenic plantation can improve the productivity and profitability of a plantation. Monogenic plantations cannot be obtained by seeds. Due to pollination, all seeds are genetically different. But tissue culture can give a solution for this problem. The entire seedlings obtained by tissue culture are genetically identical.

Genetically identical seedlings can be obtained through a number of tissue culture methods. Micropropagation, somatic embryogenesis, fertilization Independent seed are a few of these methods. Each of these methods is different in a technological sense, but all of them are dedicated to give rise of new plants from the same single source to maintain genetic homogenecity.

Alongside as a tool to produce monogenic seedlings, tissue culture can be used as a tool for genetic Improvement of a plant. Somaclonal variation and protoplast fusion are two of the tissue culture methods used for genetic Improvement of plants. Tissue culture method is also used as an intermediate tool in genetic engineering. Tissue culture is also an obligatory method to give rise of new plants from genetically altered plant cells.

In conclusion, we can summarize that tissue culture is a useful tool in commercial forestry and thus important in biofuel as the new generation biofuel would be wood energy crop dependent.

Key Words: Commercial forestry, Monogenic plantation, Biofuel, Tissue culture, Wood energy crops.

                                           

 

                                                                                                                       Is the PGI the last opportunity for dehesa ecosystems survival?

 

                                                                                                                

 

 

Dehesas have a great importance in South Europe in terms of cultural, historical and economic impact as well as being important biodiversity areas where It can be found endemic fauna and flora species. The main problem of these ecosystems are the consequences that the exploitation activities cause: soil erosion, nonexisting regeneration of trees and bushes, exhaustion of the pasture due to the high grazing pressure...etc.

In order to give a solution to all these problems related to dehesa ecosystems Junta de Andalucía (The Government Institution of Andalucía) promoted the PGI an online voluntary tool of management as part of the Dehesas Law.

The importance of dehesas has been promoted from the European Union too, with the program Life+BIodehesa which tries to ensure the prosperity of dehesas by investing in research and knowledge and teaching it to the owners of these exploitation systems.

The PGI is an effective tool in order to do a correct analysis, diagnosis, planning and sustainable management of the dehesa ecosystem. It can manage the territory and its resources in present time and ensure the future prosperity.  The PGI has a high efficiency in obtaining data and processing it. The last part of the PGI comprises several diagnoses in order to implement improvements inside the ecosystem in terms of changes in activities or creating and modifying different aspects related to the infrastructure.

It has been tested a positive impact in forest fires reduction and an upgrade in the hunting activities due to PGI affects directly on them too.

In conclusion, the PGI is a tool that reduces the administration and procedures between the owners and the Government Institutions and which increases the production in a more sustainable way using all several diagnoses.

Thanks to the PGI tool the future of dehesas is much inspiring. The possibilities and the strength of PGI have been proved by institutions like the University of Córdoba and there is no doubt that dehesas will recover their old splendour. 

For more information, you can check this link: http://www.juntadeandalucia.es/medioambiente/site/portalweb/menuitem.220de8226575045b25f09a105510e1ca/?

-Hope you find this topic interesting!-

 

 

 

 

 

Hot, hotter, the hottest- is there a forest fire possibility?

Fire is a blessing and a curse in the same time. It can be more disastrous than other natural hazards, cause a big damage, economic and ecological problems. It also determines the landscape around us. So a question – how safe is an area? -  or even - how safe is the area around me? - can appear.

The probability of fire occurrence depends on different forest characteristics which are: altitude, slope, aspect of the slope, living fuels and tree species.

A number of 8121 forest fires of an area of 477,982 ha were recorded in the period 1942-2002 in Catalonia. Just 152 fires out of all 477,982 burned 67% of the area, which is the territory of almost two Luxemburgs. And as the number of very large forest fires has increase in the last decades. As bigger fires occurred more often also the burned area get bigger and bigger, so a reason for it should be found.

Altitude affects fire occurrence probability the most. Also the vertical structure of the stand is important, which a bigger possibility of shrubs to burn. An area with the least possibility to burn (the safest) is an area covered by pine trees taller than 8-10m with high elevation and slope which’s aspect is on the North.

The authors J. Ramon Gonzalez and T. Pukkala were not the first who tried to analyze forest fires and to determine how to improve forest management, but they  tried to do it by considering more factors, gathering and analyzing historical fire data.

There are strengths and weaknesses in forest and fire management policies. More attention should be set on forest planning, what would be the most effective way to prevent forest fires. Fire suppression policies must find a way to deal with it.

For more information and evaluating forest fire safety click on Characterization of forest fires in Catalonia.

- Click, download, read, think, evaluate! -

 

 

Are you still forgetting something?
That means your brain works great!

 

Source: mantenlosimple.com

Don’t you remember phone numbers, names of newly met people? This is a very useful evolutionary feature that makes taking decisions easier. It is indeed related with each other!

There’s no need to tell anyone how annoying it can be to forget details. Almost everyone of us experienced it firsthand. Almost – because there are people among us with extraordinary memory... for everything. That’s why they win quiz games and recall details from the kindergarten trip on which (apparently) we were... making us confused.

Unnecessarily! Because forgetting is a very valuable evolutionary adaptation to deal with new difficult situations and to make good decision. Scientists claim that the aim of our memory function is not meticulous data collection but selection important things from unimportant ones.

If you are forgetting details, that means your memory is as right as rain and does exactly what it should do – says neuroscientist Blake Richards from University of Toronto, one of the authors of the article about forgetting  “The Persistence and Transience of Memory” which appeared in “Neuron” magazine this year.

Blake Richards and Paul Frankland (from the same university) analyzed huge amount of data on the memory functioning, loss of memories and brain activity in this context among humans and animals. In mice, they noticed that when in the hippocampus (the brain component responsible for learning and memorizing) new cells are creating, they are “overwriting” on old memories and hindering access to them.


Source: Wikimedia

Throwing away unnecessary old data, we can adapt quicker to new situations. Example? Here you are!  On the road that every day you go to work things are constantly changing - a new hole in the pavement, roadworks or a next bump in the road. If this information didn’t “overwrite” on previous data, we couldn’t move around the path “unconsciously” as we usually do when we know it by heart. That’s because we would be bombarded with irrelevant details from the past, e.g. colour of the car that passed us 2 weeks ago when we were in exactly the same place or number of street lamps, etc.

“A network that is good at maintaining persistent memories will be poor at learning new information, especially if it conflicts with previous experiences”

– emphasize the authors

With all this deleting of unnecessary data and uploading new ones, we still keep image of the whole situation, i.e. we have in our heads the optimal route from the shop to our house. It’s because of the ability to generalizing previous experiences and better use them in the current situation.

So when you are unsuccessfully wondering what is the title of the song that you really liked when you were in the high school, don’t worry- your brain just deleted the information considering it to be completely unimportant.

Of course, forgetting about too many things is very tiring, because looking for the car keys that you put in the “safe place” can take loads of precious time. However, let’s not be too strict for ourselves, because the forgetfulness is ultimately our evolutionary legacy. After all, what are Google and calendar for?

And what about the keys? Maybe the mnemotechnics (technique of improving or developing the memory) is the solution? Scientists point out that physical exercises can help in training our memory by increasing the number of neurons in the hippocampus. And what can we do with fact that this process will help “overwriting” new information on old memories. Well, nothing. That’s how it works.

P.S. Don’t stress so much! You should know that permanent or extremely strong stress can destroy your hippocampus and you won’t be able to memorizing or learning new things. Most likely you also will lose previously acquired information. But this is a very broad topic for a new post.

 

If you got interest in process of memorizing and how hippocampus works you can find out more about it here (videos):

Hippocampus - How the Brain Saves Memory

What happens when you remove the hippocampus?

 

References:

  1. The Persistence and Transience of Memory. Richards B.A. et al. (2017). Neuron , Volume 94 , Issue 6 , 1071 - 1084.

  2. Tuning synaptic transmission in the hippocampus by stress: the CRH system. Chen, Y., Andres, A. L., Frotscher, M., Baram, T. Z. (2012).  Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 6, 13.

 

 

BLOG POST-XUANHUI ZHOU.docx

Keywords: thinning, basal area, threshold, rotation, intensity, type

 

“A good thinning requires a clear objective, a sharp axe and a cold heart.”

 

What is thinning?

 

Thinning is a silvicultural operation where the main objective is to reduce the density of trees in a stand, improve the quality and growth of the remaining trees and produce a saleable product.

 

Why thinning?

 

Before we plant a forest, we know the objectives and the main purpose of this forest land. Some forest owners want to maximize economic returns, some want to produce saw log quality timber of target diameter 50 to 60 cm DBH. Some forest owners want to Maintain continuous canopy cover to reduce soil erosion on a steep slope and produce quality timber, some want to increase biodiversity for games, hiking and hunting. So the regeneration method, species composition and spacing have to be made on the basis of management objectives. Thinning is the most effective way to design your forest according to your own interest.

 

Thinning impact the growth of the stand. Removing some of the trees means that more resources become available to the remaining trees, which will generally respond by growing faster. Thinning also create gaps in the canopy, which reduces the support nearby trees provide for each other and which may also provide entry points for wind. This leads to a reduction in the stability of the stand. On the other hand, the remaining trees keep deeper crowns and develop better rooting and tapering of the stem, so that their individual stability improves. Finally, by creating gaps in the canopy we change the interior climate of a stand, allowing more sunlight and more rain to reach the soil, which in turn leads to higher soil temperature and moisture, accelerated litter decomposition, and more favorable conditions for the development of ground flora, including natural regeneration.

 

How to do thinning?

 

Thinning could be described in terms of: thinning type, thinning intensity, thinning rotation.

 

There are two main types of thinning: low and crown thinning. Low thinning is also known as ‘thinning from below’ as trees are removed primarily from the lower canopy. The aim of low thinning is to concentrate potential for growth on the larger diameter trees by removing competing smaller trees. Crown thinning is also known as ‘thinning from above’ as trees are removed primarily from the upper canopy. The aim of a crown thinning is to give selected dominants freedom to grow rapidly by removing competing trees.

 

Thinning intensity is a description of how many trees, how much basal area or how much volume will be removed from the stand. Here in Finland, we could check the basal are of different species, and you could also improve the basal area by 15-30% by your own interests.

 

Thinning rotation is the interval in years between successive thinning. For the purposes of determining thinning yield, the cycle is the number of years before the next thinning. The usual length of thinning cycle is from 4 to 6 years in young or fast growing crops and about 10 years for older or slower growing crops in China. But here in Finland, because of the long winter and low temperature and high dimension requirement , there are long rotations for 80 to 90 years and short rotation for 40 to 50 years.

 

Please check the website below if you have much interest in forest thinning:

https://www.nationalforests.org/blog/why-thinning-helps-the-forest

http://www.forestryfocus.ie/growing-forests-3/establishing-forests/thinning/

http://oregonforests.org/content/thinning

 

 

A few words about parental care and its variations.

By tracking and analysing behaviour across the animal kingdom, in many cases we can encounter extraordinary parenting habits. From kangaroos keeping their baby in a protective pouch, to scorpions carrying young offspring on their back until they finish the first stage of moulting, animal parenting styles can be so diverse. Also among birds we can observe exceptional parental care. They are regularly and patiently incubating eggs, then collecting food for their offspring. Nevertheless, certain bird species skip this part of parenthood, cheat and depend on others to look after their young. This strategy is so-called brood parasitism, which means that parasite lays an egg in another host nest (from the same or other species), then a host parent raises small bird as an own child.


A story on how to drop an egg and eliminate competition.

Among birds, common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) is the most well-known example of an obligatory breeding parasite. Let's look closer at the behaviour of this smart cheater. The cuckoo searches for a songbirds' nest then observes it for some time. When finally the opportunity arises, and host birds leave a place for foraging, the cuckoo flies quickly and lays an egg in the nest. Sometimes, to remain unnoticed, female removes one of the host egg. Imagine that this whole operation is no longer than 10 seconds! You might wonder, how can it be that fast? The cuckoo can hold the egg in the birth canal for many hours and lay it whenever it's needed.

 

Figure 1. A struggle of a young cuckoo.

 

But this is not the end of the story. The chick hatches after several days, usually a day or two before others. Still fragile and blind, but strong enough to start the next challenge - the removal of anything located inside the nest, including remaining eggs (Fig. 1). The cuckoo is now alone, ready to utilize all efforts of its adoptive parents. The voracious chick needs large quantities of food. Thus, new guardians must give a great deal of trouble to satisfy this appetite (Fig 2.). An open, bright orange beak and begging calls are enhancing the behavior of host parents, so they bring more and more food. [1, 2]

 

Figure 2. Cuckoo fed by its adoptive parent.

 

Why are cuckoo eggs so different?

Female of cuckoos lay eggs with different variations in colours and arrangements of egg spots. They can excellently imitate the look of host eggs (Fig. 3). Such a phenomenon is called a mimicry. It helps a cuckoo with its task. Adoptive parents more eagerly accept an egg that is little different from their ones. However, the ability of egg rejection and colour variation in host species is treated as a specific strategy that supports protection against breeding parasites. Moreover, study shows that coevolutionary competition between parasite and host led to this diversity in appearance (coloration and spotting) of both, host and parasite egg. [3, 4]

 

 

Figure 3. „Representative nests with both host and parasitic common cuckoo eggs, illustrating mimicry of colour and maculation for the host–parasite systems. Black arrows identify the parasite egg. Photo credits: C. Moskát, T. Grim and M. Honza.” [4]

 

Summarizing, parasite parent unburdens itself from the expenditure on preparing a nest, as well as taking care of offsprings. In other words, it puts a cost on their selected host.

 

References:

  1. Davies N. B. 2000. Cuckoos, cowbirds and other cheats. London, UK: T. & A. D. Poyser.
  2. Rothstein S. I., Robinson S. K. 1998. The evolution and ecology of avian brood parasitism. In Parasitic birds and their hosts: studies in coevolution (eds Rothstein S. I., Robinson S. K.), pp. 3–56. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  3. Yang C., Liu Y., Zeng L., Liang W. 2014. Egg color variation, but not egg rejection behavior, changes in a cuckoo host breeding in the absence of brood parasitism. Ecology and Evolution, 4, 2239-2246.  
  4. Igic B., Cassey P., Grim T., Greenwood D. R., Moskat C., Rutila J., Hauber M. E. 2012. A shared chemical basis of avian host–parasite egg colour mimicry. Proceedings of the Toyal Society B 279: 1068-76


Cognitive bias and manipulation

 

Have you ever wondered why in the 21st century there are still people who believe that “climate change doesn’t exist” or “vaccines cause autism”? Why do we have contact with very misleading news all the time?

To start with – where do you usually search for information you need? Google, right? Do you know how their algorithms work? Usually the first results that you see are webpages most prioritized in Google’s index of web because of included keywords and links to other pages. Despite the constant improvement of their software, they don’t always show us the most reliable source. Each time we have to filter all the information by ourselves and ask the question “Can I trust this?”.

Every now and then you can also find articles on your social media that have very controversial titles such as “Vitamin C is cure for cancer!”. Usually it’s a clickbait with no reliable reference given. But why do they appear? It’s because of cognitive bias.

It’s the situation when we tend to oversimplify our way of thinking and it leads to irrational perception of reality.

 


source: 9gag.com


The most common biases are:

  • Source confusion

It’s creating distorted memories by mixing your memories with other information.

For example, when someone says “I read an article that GMO crops cause damage to cultivation of potato” because he had read an article about GMO crops and remembered that the potato beetle harms the cultivation sites and this somehow got mixed up.

  • Confirmation bias

It’s when we tend to search for sources that confirm our beliefs and ignore the rest of information.

For example, when you believe that Earth is flat. You search for all the information that confirm this statement and you stick tightly to this belief but you ignore all rational evidence that the reality might be different.

  • Focusing effect

It’s when we focus too much on only one aspect of a matter.

For example, if you meet with statement that fluoride is toxic and you shouldn’t intake any amount of it. That’s true that high concentrations of fluoride are harmful but our organism need it in small doses to function properly.

  • Framing effect

It’s creating different conclusions based on how information is presented.

For instant, when you see news that say “3 children in Poland got measles despite prevention” but you don’t get information that thanks to prevention 300 000 children didn’t get measles in the same time.

  • Authority content

It’s being more influenced with opinions of an authority figure and not always taking into account whether he or she has solid background in this field.

This is often used in marketing. For example someone wants to sell you dietary supplement because 90% of doctors recommend it. The doctor’s figure serves here as an authority so you think “Oh, if a DOCTOR says that, it must mean it should be really good for my health”. But you don’t ask where do they get those statistics because your internist has never recommended it to you.

 

Those are very dangerous situations that can lead to many misconceptions. Especially when someone has tendency to extrapolate data which can lead to false conclusions. And this happens quite often. People on the Internet can write whatever they want because there is almost no consequence to their deeds. Very often you can find articles in the media (I am not talking about scientific papers!) that try to affect your outlook with a very emotional presentation. They use a lot of caps lock, exclamation marks and sentences like: “And what if this happened to you?”, “Think about your children” or “This is VERY harmful to your surrounding” and my favourite “This is scientifically PROVEN!”. Then you go to references they gave as the source for the article and you find there nothing really relevant to the topic or studies based on a very small specific group which shouldn’t be used for generalization of the problem. And they get away with this, because most of people don’t bother to check the source of information. And it’s a bad habit! Always check where the information comes from and spend a while on analyzing if you understood it correctly. Many people also very often use pictures or memes to play on your emotion. If you put query “GMO” in Google graphics you have high chance to get a picture of a shady guy in a mask injecting suspicious looking liquid into a tomato. Do you really think decades of scientific research look like this? I think not.

The more controversial topic we find, the more time we should spend on verifying the references and sources. I think it’s basic knowledge but we often forget about it because we are in a hurry or too lazy to do that. But if you are not convinced it’s true, please let’s not share it further because there will be people who will follow it blindly.

 

 

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases

http://naukawpolsce.pap.pl/aktualnosci/news,414192,popularyzatorzy-nauki-radza-mowiac-o-nowej-nauce-nie-bojmy-sie-niepewnosci.html

Mushrooms to the rescue!

 

 

In Finland, the harvest of forest mushrooms is a long-held tradition, but mushrooms are only the fruiting body of the fungus. There is more to mushrooms than the Chanterelles that are enjoyed at dinner tables throughout Finland, and across Europe.

 

Some of our best antibiotics are produced from mushrooms. Their effectiveness is due to their high resistance to bacteria, a trait thought to have evolved because they are frequently in competition with bacteria in the soil. Agarikon mushrooms (Laricifomes officinalis) are native to old growth forests across Europe, Asia and North America, and grow principally on Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga spp.) and Larch (Larix spp.). These mushrooms are especially useful for the production of antibiotics for tuberculosis, pox viruses and the flu. However, it is essential to invest in the conservation of these mushrooms, which are already thought to be extinct in Europe, due to the decline in old growth forests.

 

Below the forest’s surface we can find the vegetative parts of the fungus, known as mycelium. These have been dubbed as “soil magicians”. Mycelium is an essential component of forests as the intricate hyphal networks, or mycelium branching, contributes significantly to soil fertility and structure. Recent studies have also found that mycelium forms an integral part of a multidirectional nutrient transfer system between trees, allowing them to share essential nutrients such as carbon.

 

However, it doesn’t end there. The potential of these small white, thread-like structures is almost limitless.

 

Mycelium can already be used to produce anything that is made from wood.  There are many possibilities for the use of mycelium in construction, for example as bricks and insulation. Mycelium is very durable, and also has self-extinguishing properties, which makes it an ideal material for the construction industry. It also provides countries with tight restrictions on the use of wood in construction due to fire safety concerns, such as Sweden, a viable alternative.

 

Other fungi are entomopathogenic, meaning that they are able to kill insect. More specifically, the spores of Metarhizium acrisum have been found to be an effective biological control of locusts, without any detectible negative impact on non-target insects. In addition, other Metarhizium fungi are highly effective biological controls of termites (Isoptera spp.) and carpenter ants (Camponotus spp.). These pests can cause devastating damage to buildings, so bio-pesticides produced from these entomopathogenic fungi could revolutionise the pesticide industry.

 

Mycelium could also be used to substitute oil-based plastics and other materials produced from fossil fuels. The use of plastic is an increasingly debated topic as it was recently estimated that there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050. In the Netherlands, laboratory experiments have used mycelium to replicate the properties of a multitude of products that are currently produced from plastics and other fossil fuels. The experiments have produced materials that could replace synthetic rubber, glue, cork and leather. Unfortunately, most of these products are still in the developmental stages of production.

 

The potential uses of fungi are vast. Scientists are still studying the many unique properties of fungi, but it’s clear that fungi will soon appear on the commercial market in a variety of products.

Watch out, mushrooms are going to revolutionise the world!

 

People and Forests: Lessons from the heart of the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest

 

Nowadays the forests play an important role in the fight against global warming and climate change mitigation. Peru has the second largest area of natural forest in South America and the ninth largest in the world. The forests of the Peruvian Amazon cover a total of 73 million ha or 60% of the country’s total land area (MINAM and MINAG 2011). The Peruvian Amazon Rainforest is one the most diverse ecosystems in the whole world and it's the home of thousands of plants, birds and unique mammiferous species, among others (yes, that's how awesome it is! (smile)). But most importantly, this ecosystem is also the home of human beings. Native communities hold titles to a total of 12 million ha of land in the Peruvian Amazon (Suárez 2005). Indigenous people have been living in this forest since the beginning and they have been taking care of its forest for centuries. Bioenergy to substitute fossil fuels, organic products, and bio-economy, in general, are now big trends in the world. And forests are key in the solution to this problem, and most importantly the people that live in the forest.

So, why not learn a little bit more about this?
As an example, let me introduce you the Puerto Prado community in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon.  Can you imagine driving a canoe or small boat across the river to go home every day? That's how you reach Puerto Prado! It's located right at the entrance of the Marañon River, Loreto. The community is formed by 20 families and owns more than 200 ha of forest. In Puerto Prado the forest is more than just a piece of land, the kids grow up playing freely in nature, wake up to a view of the Marañón River and gain the ancient knowledge about herbal remedies from their parents and grandparents. So, the forest is their home, and you respect your home, right? By taking care of it, keeping it clean and safe and making sure the resources it has last for more than few years. The leader of this community is Emma Tapullima, a brave woman that is passionate about nature conservation, indigenous culture preservation and sustainable use of the forest, she has motivated the community to manage the forest not only as a wood source but using a multipurpose management, including uses as tourism and recreation (eco-tourism), bird watching, sustainable hunting, agroforestry. monkey gazing, medicinal use, (do you know there is a plant to cure diabetes and one for extreme headaches?) carbon market (REDD+ initiative), non-wood products, timber and even research and investigation, as the community as an alliance with the Forest Science Faculty of the National Agrarian University in Lima. They even have destinated a part of their forest for the children, it's called BONI (Bosque de Niños), meaning: the forest of the children. They have build games, tree houses, can swim in a lake, climb trees and have a place to relax and connect just for them, it's like a real paradise, isn't it? And the children take care of this special place by themselves, that's environmental education done in an amazing way!

This community is an excellent example of sustainable use of forestry, multipurpose forestry, women empowerment and many others. A research about alternatives for multipurpose forest has been conducted in this community, utilizing mapping and considering social aspects about the importance the inhabitants give to their forest. The results help us to replicate successful multipurpose forest management along with other communities in the Peruvian Amazon.

Sadly, we have to remember that is not all a bed of roses in this amazing ecosystem, it is dealing with big challenges, mainly deforestation, caused by migratory agriculture, illegal logging, illegal mining, among others. Therefore, communities living in the Amazon forest play a key role in its conservation, people are the key to success rather than the cause of failurebut they also have to fight illegal mining, they deal with land ownership and fight against bureaucratic laws that most of the time favour the big companies. But let’s not forget that they have many lessons and knowledge to share with us about sustainable forest management and many other themes. 

 

References:
Cossio et al. 2014. Community forest management in the Peruvian Amazon A literature review. CIFOR. http://www.cifor.org/publications/pdf_files/WPapers/WP136Menton.pdf

Blog- Ramji pandey

 

Cure comes from forest, analysis of traditional uses and medicinal values of Birch (Betula

Ramji pandey 

 

‘‘Nature itself is the best physician’’ ones said by a great Hippocrates has still a meaning of it. Birch species (Betula), which has been used for hundreds of years for different purposes has a tremendous value for natural medicine. They say, its bark, sap and leaves are important source of medicine but what is so special about it when there are millions of other plants?

Well, I had some research on birch plant. Birch has at least 40 species and some of them are white, grey, yellow and river birch. This plant grows mostly on northern part of the globe, for instance it is a backyard plant of most of the Finnish household. I have seen this mostly used as an energy source for domestic as well as for industrial processes. However, I have figured out an exciting fact of how people drink the birch’s juice (sap) directly from the tree. This may be quite uncommon for other part of the world for instance in Asia, right? Let’s have a look on the picture. Traditionally, birch sap has been used by Germans in order to treat the lung disease, northern Europeans for refreshing beverages, vinegar, wine, beer, syrup etc. Similarly, Americans have used the outermost part (bark) of it for the wound healing purpose. It is also used to make the medicinal tablets because of its richness in botulin and betulinic acid which helps to reduce swelling. In addition, leaves of this plant is hugely popular to make tea and people believe that it is better for their immune system. I am sure to try out a cup of tea. I also found out that leaves are used for dermatitis (skin) treatment, fever remedy, facial dots, blood pressure level maintain and for joint (arthritis) problems. Xylitol is another interesting commercial product of birch plant although it is mainly made from other organic sources such as fruit and vegetables. There are controversies among scientists whether to call commercial xylitol natural or not to say natural because of chemical mixtures/additives in manufacturing process. However, xylitol from birch plant can be extracted from its hemicellulose and they are useful in treatment of cavities as well as in ear infection.

 

The main usage of birch trees is in the industrial areas. However, scientists have already found out that birch trees (whole part) are rich in vitamin C, amino acid, xylitol, flavonoids, potassium, magnesium, betulinic acid etc. and are extremely valuable in medicinal area. There is some research ongoing for possibility of commercialisation of sap as well as bark of birch plant in university of Turku for instance.


Blog Dong Yang.docxDoes China have “secrets” on Precision Poverty Alleviation through Forestry Approach?

China's socialist market economy is the world's second largest economy by nominal GDP. Until 2015, China was the world's fastest-growing major economy, with growth rates averaging 10% over 30 years.

In China today, poverty refers mainly to the rural poor as decades of economic growth has largely eradicated urban poverty. According to the World Bank, more than 500 million people were lifted out of extreme poverty as China’s poverty rate fell from 88 percent in 1981 to 6.5 percent in 2012, as measured by the percentage of people living on the equivalent of US$1.90 or less per day in 2011 purchasing price parity terms.

Why has China made such a big achievement in poverty alleviation? Are there some special secrets? I will tell you 3 “secrets” about Forestry Approach for Precision Poverty Alleviation in China.

What is “Precision Poverty Alleviation”? The strategy aims to enhance the relevance and efficiency of poverty relief effort, to offset the decrease on poverty alleviation because of the economic growth. The key meaning is that we use targeted assistance for the poor and improving their self-development to eliminate all the factors and obstacles that cause poverty.

Why we focus on “Forestry Approach”? Because forests can provide many different kinds of products and services. But the most important reason is usually where there is the forest there is the poor. So, using forestry approach to eliminate poverty is very important.

How can we do? Please keep reading. O(∩_∩)O

The first “secret” is “The Ecological Poverty Alleviation”, including ecological protection and ecological governance. Ecological protection is implemented in the region where is poor but the ecological environment is good. We can use the good environment to develop economy, of course, under the premise of protecting the ecology. For example, ecological migration and ecological tourism. Ecological governance is carried out in the region where is poor because of the bad ecological environment, aims to restore ecological environment and brings economic benefits through ecological governance. For example, Lv Liang mountain in Shanxi Province had no vegetation cover a few years ago, the people there were troubled by roil erosion and flood. The government encourage them reforestation there. They will get a subsidy about 120€ ha · a for planting ecological forest there. They also can be hired as eco-forest guards for protecting the eco-forests and have a regular salary about 100€/month.

The second “secret” is “Forestry Industry Poverty Alleviation”, including economic forest, woody oil plant and under-forestry economy. Chinese chestnut(Castanea mollissima), Walnut(Juglans regia), Chinese jujube(Ziziphus jujuba Mill.) and Dwarf ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) are the most common economic forest species in China. Woody oil is more and more popular in the world nowadays, because it is healthier for us than herbal oil. For example, peony seed oil contains 92% unsaturated fatty acids, even more than olive oil and the percentage of polyunsaturated fatty acid-linolenic is more than 40%, 40 times of olive oil. They are all benefit for our heart and blood vessel. Under-forestry economy conclude planting, breeding and forest tourism. We usually plant mushrooms and herbs under the forest. For breeding, there are bee-breeding, silkworm-breeding and livestock-breeding. Forest tourism is more and more popular because of the good quality of air and beautiful scenery. China has 826 national forest parks until 2015. Zhang Jiajie National Park is the first national park in China, and was listed on the world natural heritage list by UNESCO in 1992, also was listed as world geological parks in 2006. In 2016, 61.43 million people visited Zhang Jiajie National Park and the total tourism revenue was around 8.9 billion€.

The last “secret” is “Forestry Engineering Poverty Alleviation”. There are Natural Forest Conservation Program (NFCP)-Policy, Grain to Green Program (GTGP) and Forest Ecological Benefit Compensation (FEBC). Natural Forest Conservation Program (NFCP) aims to protect public welfare forest by providing subsidy for closing hillsides to facilitate afforestation with 30€/ha · a, 5 years continuous subsidies and aerial seeding afforestation 100€/ha · a. As for forest management and protection: 380 ha per person per year, 1300€ subsidy. Grain to Green Program (GTGP), this program is designed to change the farmland which the slop is more than 15 degrees into forests. Starting from Year 2002 within a certain period (returning to grassland subsidy of 2 years, returning to economic forest subsidy of 5 years, returning to ecological forest, subsidies of 8 years) of time free to provide appropriate money and grain subsidies (returning farmland 40€/ ha · a, seedling and afforestation 100€/ha per period, barren hills, wasteland, sand wasteland afforestation are also 100€/ha per period). Those who returning farmland, who conduct afforestation, who do management, get benefit. For Forest Ecological Benefit Compensation (FEBC), the subsidy for national public welfare forest is 10€/ ha · a, for Non- National public welfare forest is 30€/ ha · a. until 2015, the protected area for ecological public welfare forest is 0.16 billion ha.

Forestry approaches for precision poverty alleviation not only bring income for the poor, but also increase forest area, forest stock volume and conserve water sources, prevent soil erosion, carbon emission and so on. It is benefit not only for the economic but also for the ecological and environmental. It is a green economy.

References:

  1. Liu Jianguo, Ouyang Zhiyun, Yang Wu, Xu Weihua, and Li Shuxin (2013) Evaluation of Ecosystem Service Policies from Biophysical and Social Perspectives: The Case of China. http://csis.msu.edu/sites/csis.msu.edu/files/Encyclopedia.pdf
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_China
  3. Gerhard K. Heilig, Zhang, Ming, Long, Hualou, Li, Xiubin, Wu, Xiuqin (2005) Poverty Alleviation in China: A Lesson for the Developing World? http://pure.iiasa.ac.at/7849/1/Poverty_5.pdf
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poverty_in_China
  5. Nanjing Institute of Environmental Sciences, Ministry of Environment Protection, Nanjing, China :FOREST ECOLOGICAL COMPENSATION(FEC) IN CHINA http://www.gms-eoc.org/uploads/resources/538/attachment/4.China-Forest-Ecological-Compensation.pdf
  6. https://baike.baidu.com/item/%E6%B2%B9%E7%94%A8%E7%89%A1%E4%B8%B9
  7. https://baike.baidu.com/item/%E4%B8%AD%E5%9B%BD%E5%9B%BD%E5%AE%B6%E6%A3%AE%E6%9E%97%E5%85%AC%E5%9B%AD/5734851?fromtitle=%E5%9B%BD%E5%AE%B6%E6%A3%AE%E6%9E%97%E5%85%AC%E5%9B%AD&fromid=8605165
  8. https://baike.baidu.com/item/%E5%BC%A0%E5%AE%B6%E7%95%8C/370496

Gone Hiking

Source: Flickr

7 Shades of Nature Orienteering


     When I was a kid of about 7-8 years that was the moment when me and my father started to go on hiking trips. Most of them were short and we were back home by dawn, but every once in a while, we would have stayed overnight at a ranger cabin and return the next day.   

     Never ending discussions of "What if". A true traveller knows that it’s not the destination which is the most important thing of a trip but the trip itself and how you get there. This accounts very well also when you choose to go hiking and just tick on your bucket list the mountain peak (or just a high hill), that is just near your house but never got the courage or time to actually “conquer” it. Once we were off to reaching our destination there were countless topics to talk about with my father and even now when I go with my friends we are just get amazed when we suddenly realize that from the typical discussions about work and small gossips we find ourselves debating topics like what do rabbits have to do with Easter and with eggs. Going back to when I was a kid, almost all the time the topic that we would discuss was “What to do if you get lost in the forest”. It really was an intriguing subject at the time because it was challenging for my young imagination and would have started all sort of scenarious and try to find ways out. In this way I managed to learn a few tricks on how to find your way back if you do get disoriented in the forest, that is on the premise that you will not have any technology to save you, like your smartphone.

     Recently I came across the report for 2016 of mountain rescue incidents that was issued by Romanian mountain assistance and rescue team (Salvamont Romania) and was stunned about the number of tourists finding themselves in trouble and in need of assistance while hiking and enjoying romanian forests. According to that report, in 2016 more than 43.200 actions that required assistance from Salvamont were reported from which 1.670 cases included emergency mountain ambulance or SMURD (Mobile Emergency Service for Resuscitation and Extrication) helicopter extractions on the spot. For me having the chance in getting some basic education from a young age some situations sounded silly but I realised that there is an actual issue and thinking about my friends and people I’ve met along I knew that most of them did not have any knowledge or previous experience in this. Hiking in Romania is attracting more and more people each year and it’s a constantly growing form of tourism and there is lack of education and where to get it when it comes to practical tips.

Source: www.transfagarasan.info

     Since the potential of incidents is increasing also and also the number of people that are getting hurt, I decided to address this lack of information and share with you some very basic but practical tips.

     This is what you have to look for in case you find yourself lost in the forest without a map and compass and the phone is not helpful:

  • Look for mole piles.

                             - If we are talking about moles, they have the entrance oriented towards North but if it is an anthill the entrance is towards South.

  • Trees are your friends.

                             - Isolated trees or the ones near forests roads have denser layer of leaves and more branches on the south side.

                             - The bark is thicker, more humid and sometimes more irregular on the north side. If you have luck and find a fresh cut stump the annual growth rings are closer one to another in the north part of the stump.

  • If you find yourself in a place where trees are lacking

                             - Harder to spot indeed, but the grass it gets bigger towards south and also you can spot more and more species so it’s worth paying attention to vegetation.

                             - If its winter, the snow is melting faster in the south and also the winter winds come usually from north.

  • Church or monasteries

                             - Being a tourist in Romania it’s very likely that you come across a lot of churches and monasteries and that includes ruins in the forests. If you are lucky enough and you find one look at the altar positioning because it’s always oriented towards East.

  • Mosses and rocks

                             - You can find moss on rocks, deadwood and trees on the Nordic side of these due to preference of shade and humidity. This is one of the most common methods of orienteering.

                             - Flip a rock that is about 20-30% buried in ground and the soil from under that rock that is in the south side will be drier than the soil in the north side.

  • Water streams

                             - If you are lost on a mountainous area finding a stream of water is an effective method. It can be even a very small stream, just follow it because in most cases it will get bigger and it’s very likely to come across cabins, houses or establishments.

  • "Calm you shall keep and carry you must" (Master Yoda, 1983)

                             - Last thing which I think that it’s the most important is keeping your calm. Don’t panic if you realize that you lost your orientation and don’t know where you are anymore. Managing the situation with calm will ensure you are taking logical decisions and will get yourself safe.

 

                             For sure it’s an adventure to let yourself driven by nature and an unforgettable memory, but it will get you to your destination.


Note: The above information was presented for the North hemisphere, but if you find yourself on the South hemisphere just swap North with South and these tricks can be used in the same way.

          How do you find your way back when you are lost? I would like to hear what other interesting methods you know or developed on your own.

 

Until then... (smile)

 

  Source: Flickr



Statistics report: http://www.salvamontromania.ro/upload/statistica.pdf

Information and References:

http://www.salvamontromania.ro

http://smurd.ro/