Jack Bruner Honors Geology Scrapbook

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Article 20 Response (Coffee)

In the article it talks about how the Arabica (the most common type of coffee bean) is going extinct in the wild. Because the whole industry has roots in a few plants transported from Africa, the gene pool is limited, and it is very exposed to diseases. As the wild population withers around the world, prices will rise on the most consumed drink in the world; over 1.6 billion cups a day. Scientists have already began to collect DNA in case it goes extinct before predicted (2020). This could be a big hit for the world because coffee is the second most traded commoditiy in the world (behind oil) and employs over 26 million people world-wide. The delicate plants extinction is said to be a result of rising temperatures. Robusta a stronger thread of coffee is going to have to substitute after the end of Arabica’s existence.


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Article 20 (Coffee)

Amanda Fiegl

for National Geographic News

Published November 8, 2012

Link: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/11/121108-climate-change-coffee-coffea-arabica-botanical-garden-science/

What would life be like without coffee?

In a world that drinks 1.6 billion cups each day, the prospect probably gives a lot of us the jitters. But a new study led by London’s Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, warns that, thanks to climate change, the most consumed coffee species, Arabica, could be extinct in the wild by 2080.

Calm down; things aren’t quite as black as you might think. The study is about wild coffee plants, while the stuff in our cups is brewed from their domesticated descendants. Still, wild losses leave cultivated crops genetically vulnerable to a host of enemies, which could ultimately lead to lower quality and higher prices for coffee consumers.

“Arabica’s history is punctuated by problems with diseases, pests, and productivity problems—and growers have always gone back to the wild and used genetic diversity to address them,” said Aaron Davis, head of RGB Kew’s coffee research program.

There are only two main types of cultivated coffee, Arabica (which comes from the wild plant Coffea arabica) and Robusta (derived from Coffea canephora). But there are more than 125 species in the wild, with more still being discovered, said Davis, who has been researching coffee plants for 15 years.

“That’s one of the things that really surprised me when I first started working with wild coffee,” he said. “I mean, here’s this immensely important crop, and we don’t even know what all the species are yet! And among all those wild species, there are certainly useful genes.”

Arabica’s Shaky Future

Arabica is the backbone of the coffee industry, accounting for 70 percent of global production, according to the International Coffee Organization. But most of it can be traced back to a handful of plants taken from Ethiopia in the 17th and 18th centuries, Davis said, and its narrow gene pool makes it “very susceptible.”

The new study, led by Davis and published in the journal PLOS ONE this week, combined field observations and computer modeling to envision how different climate scenarios could affect wild Arabica species. It focused on Ethiopia—the birthplace of cultivated Arabica, and Africa’s largest coffee producer—as well as parts of South Sudan. (Explore an interactive map of the effects of global warming.)

The prospects are “profoundly negative,” the study concluded. Even in a best-case scenario, two-thirds of the suitable growing locations would disappear by 2080—and at worst, nearly 100 percent. And that’s factoring in only climate change, not deforestation.

Davis and other researchers visited South Sudan’s Boma Plateau in April, intending to assess the feasibility of coffee production there. Instead, they discovered wild Arabica plants in extremely poor health.

“After a week or so in those forests, we realized that our objective had changed: It became a rescue mission,” Davis said.

The study recommends that specimens from the Boma Plateau should be preserved in seed banks as soon as possible, because the species could be extinct as soon as 2020.

Arabica typically grows in the upper zones of vegetation on tropical mountains, explained botanist Peter Raven, who was not involved in the study. Because such species are already living on the edges of ecosystems, the plants have nowhere to go when temperatures rise. (See “Plants ‘Climbing’ Mountains Due to Global Warming.”)

“The kinds of cloud forest climates where Arabica is native are disappearing, and the plants and animals that occur in them are going to be among the most threatened on Earth,” Raven said. “Most coffee production throughout the world will be in trouble as the climate shifts.”

In Ethiopia, the world’s third largest producer of Arabica coffee, the mean annual temperature has risen by 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit (1.3 degrees Celsius) since 1960, according to a report by the United Nations Development Programme. (Interactive map: “Earth’s Changing Climate.”)

Previous studies have established that both wild and cultivated Arabica are very climate sensitive, thriving only within a very narrow range of temperatures, Davis noted.

“So even if you do some very simple sums, it doesn’t take much to realize that there’s an intrinsic threat to these species from accelerated climate change,” he said. “The logical conclusion is that coffee production will be negatively impacted as well.”

Taking Action

The purpose of the study isn’t to scare people, Davis said, but rather to inspire action.

“We’re trying to understand: What if we don’t do anything—what will happen? And what can we do about it now?” Davis said. “If we’re proactive, we can avoid a dire situation.”

The study identifies several “core sites” where wild Arabica can likely survive until at least 2080, and recommends that these areas be targeted for conservation.

Conservation activities have helped other species avert extinction, Davis said, so he remains optimistic about the future of wild coffee. Raven, however, takes more of a cup-half-empty view. While the goal of preserving plant species in the wild is “laudable,” he said, seed banking is extremely important even in areas where extinction is not yet imminent.

“Regardless of what measures are taken in nature, we can confidently, and sadly, expect the genetic diversity of those populations to go downhill steadily year after year,” said Raven. “Seeds from the most genetically valuable species should be stored now, before it is too late.”

(Pictures: “Doomsday” Seed Vault Safeguards Our Food Supply.)

An Acquired Taste

Robusta—a hardier coffee domesticated in the 19th century in response to a leaf rust epidemic that decimated Arabica crops in Southeast Asia—is mostly used in stronger brews like espresso and Turkish coffee. It can grow at lower altitudes and higher temperatures, so it’s somewhat better poised to cope with climate change.

(Related: how climate change could affect seafood supply.)

But that doesn’t mean most coffee drinkers would simply switch what’s in their cup without sputtering, Davis said.

“I can guarantee that we will not all be happy just drinking Robusta,” Davis said. “As the name suggests, it’s quite strong. Most people don’t like the taste, and it has up to twice as much caffeine as Arabica. It’s simply not the same drink. If we lost Arabica, I think large segments of the coffee market would disappear.”

Such a shift could cause a serious economic jolt: According to the International Coffee Organization, coffee is the second most traded global commodity after oil, and the industry employs about 26 million people.

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Article 19 Response (Polar Bears)

The article talks about how over 80 polar bears met to eat the remains of a whale killed by local Inuits. The people of the area leave some leftovers on purpose to feed the bears that come annually for the feast. This is the largest amount of bears that have ever come. This could be a good sign that maybe some of the polar bear numbers are increasing, or it could be that less food due to the destruction of habitat is leading to more competition for food. As long as the people do not feed the bears on a regular basis, i feel that this is a good way to share nature, with nature.

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Article 19 (Polar Bears)

Link: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/10/pictures/121001-polar-bears-whale-alaska-science-hunting-arctic-ice-warming/

Polar bears dine on the severed head of a bowhead whale in Kaktovik (map),Alaska, on September 7. Left behind by traditional Inupiat hunters, whale remains this year attracted up to 80 bears a day to the village—a record, according to the Alaska Dispatch news site.

Having hunted whales annually for about 50 years in Kaktovik, Inupiat typically leave some meat specifically for the polar bears, according to the Alaska Dispatch’s Loren Holmes. The predators have learned to arrive at North Slope Eskimo communities just before the hunt and whet their appetites by gnawing last year’s whale bones, Holmes said.

Steven Amstrup, chief scientist at Polar Bear International, said he’s not surprised. Polar bears “are not dumb animals,” Amstrup said. “They know the time of year that the meat starts to show up on the beach.”

(See National Geographic magazine pictures of Alaska’s North Slope.)

—Ker Than

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Article 18 Response (Dangerous Waters)

This article was partucularly interesting! After hurricane Sandy, much of the northeastern coast is flooded. Floodwater is known to contain harmful bacteria and disease. Because floodwater mixes with both sewage, river, and rain water it is reasonable to assume that it is full of harmful materials. Citizens of the area have been instructed to stay clear of the stagnant water; as well as, boil all tap water before consuming to rid it of harmful bacteria. If i was in their situation i would do as they say, and avoid standing water until it is all pumped out or evaporated.

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Article 18 (Dangerous Waters)

Link: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/10/111030-hurricane-sandy-superstorm-floods-health-science/

Daniel Stone and Luna Shyr

National Geographic News

Published October 30, 2012

As much of the U.S. Northeast grapples with the inundation of HurricaneSandy, the most dramatic photos show standing water filling busy U.S. streets in New York CityNew Jersey, and along the coastline.

Public health officials caution that stagnant water from floods can pose significant health risks, many of which can worsen with time. (See “Hurricane Sandy: Why Full Moon Makes ‘Frankenstorm’ More Monstrous.”)

David Doyle, a spokesperson for New York’s Office of Emergency Management, cautioned that flood debris can hide broken bottles and even animals. He also urged people to avoid moving water, noting that just 6 inches (15 centimeters) of it can sweep someone off their feet.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday that flooding would be addressed promptly, but urged residents to avoid contact with the water, portions of which may have been electrified by downed power lines.

Urban runoff in large cities is generally considered safer than rural runoff, which can include animal fecal bacteria produced from agriculture. Yet urban sewage treatment plants that are overwhelmed during major flood events can spill untreated sewage into waterways. It can then end up on streets and clog storm drains. Other urban contaminants include motor oil, gasoline, and trash.

Untreated Sewage a Danger

Joan Rose, the Homer Nowlin Chair in Water Research at the University of Michigan, who specializes in microbial risks, noted that untreated sewage can introduce bacteria, viruses, and parasites capable of causing a variety of ailments. “With the cool temperatures [in New York City], these pathogens can survive for months,” she said.

Cases of vibrio bacteria infections, which enter the body through open cuts, were reported after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and surrounding areas in 2005, Rose noted. Even boaters and kayakers can pick them up. (Watch hurricane videos.)

Potential infections were easily picked up from parasites in the water following Hurricane Katrina, which hit the U.S. Gulf Coast.

New York’s risk might be even greater in certain places, considering the thousands of tons of raw sewage that have flowed into the Hudson River.

To avoid risks of contacting harmful contaminants, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency has advised those affected by the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy to adhere to local warnings to boil tap water.

New York City officials have also asked that residents in the lower half of the island remain in their homes until street water can be adequately diverted into local waterways.

E. Coli the Bacteria to Watch

The most concerning urban bacteria is Escherichia coli—also known as E. coli—the organism that most mammals use for digestion. Found in the lower intestine, it can be toxic if ingested into the stomach. Floods that carry raw sewage into high density areas can spread the bacteria. (Explore an interactive of the human body.)

E. coli is consumed by either drinking contaminated water or eating food with the bacteria. The resulting condition is known as gastroenteritis, a common ailment among Western travelers in developing countries.

Earlier this year, the Union of Concerned Scientists published a report outlining the risks of urban flooding, highlighting that the occurrence of floods may increase due to global warming. Driving on inundated streets was identified as the top safety risk, but sitting water produces significant health risks as well.

Flooding can overwhelm potable water infrastructure, preventing water purification. Overwhelmed infrastructure can also lead to sewage backups and mold growth, which can cost a city billions of dollars to fix. (See flood pictures.)

Health risks can be dramatically minimized with a timely cleanup. “Things definitely get worse with time,” said Liz Perera, a co-author on the report and an environmental scientist and policy analyst with the Sierra Club.

“As water stagnates, the E. coli bacteria can spread. Other types of bacteria and parasites can spread,” said Perera.

Floods Almost Always Spike Illnesses

Even without directly drinking the brackish water, contaminants can make their way into human bodies, through the air, or even through the faucet. Just walking through open water can infect people with open cuts. Rubbing eyes after touching water can increase one’s risk of infection as well.

“In almost every situation after each flood there is some evidence of increased illness, though it’s not always well documented,” said the University of Michigan’s Rose.

A 1993 study of Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s public health system found that after the city had received heavy rainfall and floods in busy areas, the outbreak of gastrointestinal diseases treated in regional hospitals increased sharply. Children were much more affected than adults. In all, 400,000 people in Milwaukee’s metro area were infected. More than a hundred deaths were reported.

To limit risk, Rose suggests avoiding anything exposed to floodwater. She advises prudent hand washing and staying current on the tetanus vaccine. (Get our tips on hurricane preparedness.)

One helpful influence in combating flood toxins is often sunlight, which can help neutralize dirty water with ultraviolet light. “That can be nature’s way of cleansing water,” said Nancy Hall, a professor of environmental microbiology at the University of Iowa.

But with significant water in the streets, and especially in New York City, where direct sunlight is often blocked by large skyscrapers, the water’s conditions can deteriorate. Said Hall, “Some of the disease-producing organisms would probably survive for quite a while.”

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Article 17 Response (Rising Temperatures)

After super storm Sandy last week, climate change has been a big subject for environmentalists  Being that the storm was caused by high water temperatures scientists everywhere are seeking the reasons for these temperatures, and what our future could look like. John Fasullo and Kevin Trenberth have been in search of answers. They found shockingly that tempatures around the world are supposed to increase anywhere from 3 to 8 degrees by 2100. This would make living in New York like living in Virgina, and living in Virgina like living in Georgia. These rising temperatures will cause more and more hurricanes and unless we (humans) do something, trouble is impending.