Posts by Fei Gao

Does Glacier Retreat Promote Invasive Species?

Posted by on Jun 2, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science, Uncategorized | 1 comment

Does Glacier Retreat Promote Invasive Species?

Spread the News:ShareA recent study suggests that glacier reatreat may contribute to spread of a noxious invasive algae species in Chile. The particular species is a kind of algae, Didymosphenia geminata, commonly called “didymo.” Since this microscopic organism, a kind of planktom, forms thick dense mats that coat rocks, it is also known as “rock snot.” Vivián Montecino and her co-authors report on the spread of this species in a paper published earlier this year in the journal Science of The Total Environment. They discuss a recent bloom of this species that occurred in 13 river basins in Chile between 2010 to 2015, extending over 1800 kilometers in central and southern Chile. Didymo has been found around the world. The dense algae mats are a problem because they are unpleasant, creating problems for tourism and sport fishing. Moreover, they interfere with local ecology, since they cover rocks that are the habitat for larve of aquatic insects, disrupting aquatic food webs. Didymo is native to the northern hemisphere, but recently has extended its range to the southern hemisphere, including Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and, as this study shows, Chile. It spreads rapidly and has proved very difficult to eradicate. The researchers gathered water samples at over 300 sites between 2010 and 2015 in 13 river basins, assessing physical and chemical characteristics of the samples and checking for the presence of didymo. They found that in Chile, as in other regions, it is concentrated at site with low water temperatures and in streams that have low concentrations of phosphorus. They noted the presence in didymo in nearly all the rivers in Chile with these characteristics, suggesting that it may not continue to spread in the future. They note that didymo took a similar amount of time, about 6 years, to spread across the South Island of New Zealand, reaching its full extent in that time. The authors note that the spread of didymo to the south may be associated with glacier retreat. They comment that glacier retreat in the watershed of the Baker River is associated with increased stream flow in the summer, leading to a lowering of phosphorus concentrations which favor the species. The Baker River drains the rapidly shrinking Northern Patagonian Icefield. This research demonstrates the complex consequences of glacier retreat. It seems paradoxical that the dilution of nutrients such as phosphorus associated with increased stream flow could favor invasive species, but dense mats of rock snot that cover the rocks along stretches of the Baker River demonstrate this association. As glaciers change, the ecosystems in the rivers fed by their meltwater also change, often for the worse. Spread the...

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Photo Friday: Kronebreen Glacier in Svalbard

Posted by on May 13, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Images, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Photo Friday: Kronebreen Glacier in Svalbard

Spread the News:ShareThis week’s Photo Friday features images from a research project in Svalbard. GlacierHub has interviewed two members of the research team. Nick Hulton, a team member, explained: Kronebreen is one of the fastest flowing glaciers in Svalbard, which is an Arctic archipelago situated north of mainland Norway. The glacier drains a large ice cap, transferring ice down a narrow valley that terminates within a fjord, producing a dramatic 3 km-wide ice cliff. The CRIOS (Calving Rates and Impact on Sea Level) research group, headed by Prof. Doug Benn, has been working there for a number of years to better understand how and when ice will be transferred to the oceans, and how this will affect future global sea levels. Two CRIOS members, Penny How and Nick Hulton from the University of Edinburgh and the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS), are using time-lapse cameras to understand how this glacier is changing and the processes that cause icebergs to break off into the ocean. The cameras take high-resolution pictures every thirty minutes, and by tracking individual features form image to image, can be used to measure how fast the glacier is flowing. Penny How, a research student in the team, added “We are currently putting 11 time-lapse cameras at Kronebreen, in an attempt to generate sequential digital elevation models using Structure from Motion (i.e. three-dimensional time-lapse).” Videos produced from these images give a good impression of how the glacier moves and can be seen here: This one gives a taste of the fieldwork involved to install these time-lapse cameras: Images from Penny How and Nick Hulton P1060518 Camera that captures images of Kronebreen glaciers IMG_0062 Installing a time-lapse camera at the front of Kronebreen glacier P1060457 All eleven time-lapse cameras that were installed in May 2016. IMG_0202 Kronebreen glacier and Kongsvegen glacier P1010929 time-lapse cameras P1030927 A section of the front of Kronebreen glacier Spread the...

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The Humble Tour Guide, Bridge to the Natural World

Posted by on May 11, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science, Tourism | 0 comments

The Humble Tour Guide, Bridge to the Natural World

Spread the News:ShareTour guides play an important role in visitors’ interactions with the natural world. Harald Schaller, a graduate student at the University of Iceland studying geography, argues in a chapter in the book, Tour guides in nature-based tourism: Perceptions of nature and governance of protected areas, that the tour guide is a key stakeholder in protected areas. Schaller shows in this chapter that tour guides not only translate, or help visitors find their path, but also shape visitors’ perception of nature. Furthermore, they guard fragile natural tourist sites, like glacial areas. “Tour guides are important in understanding the dynamics of the interaction of humans with nature and with each other,” Schaller wrote. Understanding the interaction between humans and nature helps decision-makers get insight into visitors’ perception of nature’s vulnerability and the way nature changes over time. For instance, tour guides working in many areas in Iceland areas have the opportunity to witness glacier retreat.   Schaller provides insight into the position of tour guides in vulnerable tourist sites. He shows how they play a role in visitors’ perception of the environment, and concludes that  tour guides should be seen as stakeholders in the decision-making process of protecting vulnerable tourist areas. His chapter begins with the author’s journey to Iceland, talking with local tour guides and exploring how other tour guides view the environment in which they are guiding the tourists. Tour guides have a long history. They are both pathfinders and mentors; they interpret information. The information they provide for people make their journey more safe and interesting. With the boom of tourism industry, the need for tour guides is also increasing. The individual concept of the environment is often linked to someone’s personal background, such as culture, experience, and beliefs. Therefore tour guides’ personal background could affect the guiding service they provide. According to World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), 2013, tourism creates one out of eleven jobs globally. The tourism industry in Iceland is expanding, so there is tremendous need for guides. However, in Iceland the quantity and stability of the labor supply is fluctuating, because many of the tour guides are migrants and seasonal workers. This poses risks for the sustainability of Iceland’s tourism industry, since the quality and consistency of guiding service suffers when there are not enough professional and experienced tour guides. As the growth of tourism continues, the expanding number of visitors threaten the future of this nature-based tourist industry. “[P]eople are more concerned with ticking Iceland off their bucket list and with sharing more of their experience online, rather than caring for the delicate environment,” Schaller writes in his article.  In an email message to GlacierHub, he mentioned his concern for what he terms “the fragility of Icelandic environments.” He added, “Due to the increased visitation (beyond expectation for many), degradation of the natural environment happens. This, in turn, threatens the future of tourism, since the image of a wild and untouched environment is affected by this increase.” Human cognition of the environment is not merely influenced by the physical existence of surroundings, such as lakes, mountains or animals, but also through their interaction with these natural surroundings. Schaller cites other sources who share this view. Lund (2013) and Ingold (2011) agreed that the environment is not a passive being. Instead, as one engages with the environment, it appears more clearly, and changes as physical interactions with it continue. So the natural environment could be seen as part of the personal experience within us as well as the objective existence of the environment.     A person’s conception of an environment is shaped by the visitors’ own memories, values and cultural background before they...

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On Glaciers, Moss Become Asexual

Posted by on Apr 21, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science | 0 comments

On Glaciers, Moss Become Asexual

Spread the News:ShareA recent study from the journal Czech Polar Reports presents interesting findings about a rarity on glaciers: moss. When glaciers have a certain amount of moisture and cryoconite—a base layer that consists of small rock particles, soot, and microbes that have accumulated on glaciers— sometimes mosses can grow on them. While it is not common to see moss on glaciers, according to a paper by Olga Belkina, a researcher at the Institute of the Kola Science Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences, they have been found on a few glaciers in Alaska, Iceland, and Svalbard, Norway. There are some moss attributes that contribute to the mosses’ tolerance of the brutal living conditions found on glaciers. First, moss do not absorb nutrients from the substrate, the layer to which they are attached, since mosses do not have roots. They absorb water and nutrients directly through their leaves. Mosses only have rhizoids–threadlike tissues which look like roots, but function only to attach to the surface they grow on and can’t absorb water or nutrients from soil or any other substrate. Second, mosses have have the ability to adapt to a wide range of light levels, which means some types of mosses can survive under massive exposure to sunlight. Some mosses are found in the desert, and some can survive with the low intensity of sunlight found in polar areas. Although glacial areas aren’t the ideal living conditions for mosses, there are still the minimum living requirements for them to grow. There is enough moisture and little competition from other plants, allowing them to survive. One mystery of the development of mosses found on ice is that how they reproduce in such cold areas. “Failure of sex reproduction of many mosses is widespread in the high polar regions,” the study reports. The alternative is asexual reproduction. Reproduction strategies for most species fall into two categories, sexual reproduction and asexual reproduction. The offspring of the asexual reproduction process are identical to a single parent, while the offspring from sexual reproduction received genetic information from both parents. An interesting finding, according to Belkina’s study, is that Schistidium abrupticostatum, a type of moss found on the ice of Bertilbreen, Svalbard, produces gametangia–an organ which produces gametes that can fuse with another cell during fertilization to sexually reproduce. However, the mosses do not evolve into sporophytes, or the non-sexual phase of a plant.   Normally plants would alternate between a sexual phase (gametangia) and a non-sexual phase (sporophyte). During the non-sexual phase, plants grow larger and taller to produce spores through meiosis. Then the spores divide into gametes, or sex cells. A gamete from one plant can merge with another gamete, completing a set of chromosomes to start the next round of reproduction. Generally, mosses do not develop into gametophytes in harsh conditions like glaciers, even though they do in areas that are near the glaciers. Many mosses can be brought to the glaciers by wind and then settle on surface and substratum, yet only a few have the chance to create long-lived populations in such cold conditions. Each clump of moss on glaciers consists of genetically identical individuals, and the populations grow by the asexual method, which means new mosses can regenerate from a small section of existing moss plants. Spread the...

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Roundup: Satellite Images, Plane Accident and Colonial Antipolitics

Posted by on Apr 18, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Roundup | 0 comments

Roundup: Satellite Images, Plane Accident and Colonial Antipolitics

Spread the News:ShareEach week, we highlight three stories from the forefront of glacier news. Satellite Images Reveal Dramatic Tropical Glacier Retreat From Plymouth University news: “Scientists have obtained high resolution satellite images that paint a stark picture of how tropical glaciers in the Pacific have retreated over the past decade. The images taken from the Pleaides satellites reveal that the formerly extensive Carstenz Glacier of West Papua has almost completely disappeared, while the once continuous East North Wall Firn has split into a number of much smaller fragments. The findings have been released by scientists at Plymouth University and the Britannia Royal Naval College Dartmouth (BRNC) and come on the heels of record-breaking temperatures around the globe. Dr Chris Lavers, Lecturer in Radar and Telecommunications, based at BRNC, said: ‘The years 2011-2015 have been the warmest five-year period on record, with many extreme weather events influenced by climate change. So it is not surprising then that the present observed speed of glacier retreat world wide has been historically unprecedented. This is visual confirmation of the ablation of equ atorial glaciers, with the Carstenz Glacier revealed to have almost completely melted away in the last 15 years.'” Learn more about the story here. Failure to use carb heat while flying by glacier leads to accident From General Aviation News: “The Cessna 182 pilot was flying down a glacier near Cooper Landing, Alaska, for an extended period of time at a low power setting without the carburetor heat on. Near the toe of the glacier, he attempted to add power to level the plane, but the engine did not respond. He said that their altitude was low and he landed on the glacier moraine. The plane nosed over, sustaining substantial damage to the wings and fuselage. The NTSB determined the probable cause as the pilot’s failure to correctly use carburetor heat, resulting in a loss of engine power and collision with terrain.” To read more about the news here. “They could take you out for coffee and call it consultation!”: The colonial antipolitics of Indigenous consultation in Jasper National Park From Sage Journals: “Although Canada has been applauded for its co-management arrangements in recently established national parks, it continues to struggle with its legacy of colonial dispossession of Indigenous peoples, especially in its older and more iconic parks. First Nations were evicted from the earliest parks such as Banff and Jasper in a process of colonial territorialization that facilitated a “wilderness” model of park management and made space for capitalist enterprises like sport hunting and tourism. In Jasper National Park today, private tourism development proposals trigger a duty to consult with nations whose Aboriginal or Treaty rights may be impacted by development.” Learn more about the study here. Spread the...

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