Your Balloons Are Bad for Seabirds

iStock.com/Image Source
iStock.com/Image Source

Bad news, party planners: Your balloons are killing birds. A new study spotted by Live Science reveals that these colorful decorations often end up in our oceans, where seabirds mistake them for squid and consume them.

The team of Australian researchers studied more than 1700 seabirds belonging to 51 different species. One in three of the birds had plastic in their systems. Researchers also found that the birds had a 20 percent chance of dying after ingesting a single piece of debris. Though hard plastics were consumed in greater quantities by seabirds, balloons proved to be far deadlier. Eating them is “32 times more likely to result in death than ingesting hard plastic,” researchers write in their paper, published in the journal Scientific Reports.

“Marine debris ingestion is now a globally recognized threat,” Lauren Roman, who led the study, said in a statement. “Among the birds we studied, the leading cause of death was blockage of the gastrointestinal tract, followed by infections or other complications caused by gastrointestinal obstructions.”

The study also highlighted another startling statistic: 99 percent of all seabird species are predicted to ingest marine debris by 2050. That is of great concern in Australasia, which is home to the world's highest biodiversity of seabirds. Albatross and petrel species are particularly under threat, but the exact role that debris plays in that is not fully known.

Similarly, a survey from last December found microplastics in the guts of all seven sea turtle species that were studied, including the endangered green turtle and critically endangered hawksbill and Kemp's ridley turtles. However, these particles are smaller than balloon bits, and the consequences of ingesting microplastics are still being studied.

According to researchers, the most obvious and immediate solution is to reduce the amount of waste entering oceans.

[h/t Live Science]

Environmental Group Lets You Kayak European Waterways for Free in Exchange for Picking Up Trash

iStock/levers2007
iStock/levers2007

Between airfare, hotels, and dining out, not every traveler to Europe has room in their budget for a kayaking tour. GreenKayak, an environmental organization based out of Denmark, offers tourists and locals a way to explore waterways in some European countries for free—they just have to be comfortable with picking up some trash along the way.

As Lifehacker reports, GreenKayak launched its pollution-fighting initiative in April 2017. The concept is simple: Volunteers receive free kayak rentals in exchange for using the trip as a chance to beautify their surroundings. Two hours of free kayaking time comes with a paddle, a life vest, a trash-grabber, and a garbage pail. In the past two years, GreenKayakers have collected close to 24,000 pounds of trash from lakes, canals, and rivers in Europe.

GreenKayak started its environmental project in Denmark, a country that's famous for its picturesque waterways. The initiative has since expanded to cities in Ireland, Germany, Sweden, and Norway. Anyone interested in taking a free boat tour and making the world a cleaner place can book a kayak for up to two people through GreenKayak's website.

Kayaking isn't the only way people can clean up polluted waterways in Europe. Amsterdam is home to the Plastic Whale: an open-air boat made from recycled material on which tourists can "fish" for discarded trash.

[h/t Lifehacker]

2624-Year-Old Cypress Tree Discovered in North Carolina Swamp

iStock/earleliason
iStock/earleliason

National Love a Tree Day on May 16 is a day to appreciate all the world's trees, but a bald cypress recently identified in North Carolina is especially deserving of recognition. As Live Science reports, scientists date the tree to 2624 years old, making it one the oldest living non-clonal trees on Earth.

For their study, recently published in the journal Environmental Research Communications, a team of researchers studied the rings of trees in North Carolina's Black River swampland to learn more about climate history in the eastern United States. Bald cypresses are known to have impressive lifespans, but after analyzing specimens in the Black River's Three Sisters Swamp, an area that's notable for its long-lived trees, the scientists discovered that cypresses can grow to be even older than previously believed. The 2624-year-old cypress tree they found predates the Great Wall of China and the Roman Empire. Other remarkably old trees, including a 2088-year-old cypress, were also identified in the same grove.

The North Carolina cypresses are old, but there are other types of trees that can grow to be much older. Clonal tress are genetically identical plants that reproduce asexually from a single ancestor. Old Tjikko, a clonal tree in Sweden, has a root system that dates back 9550 years.

Despite all that North Carolina's bald cypress trees have endured, their lives are under threat. The swamp where the 2624-year-old tree stands is located just 6.5 feet above sea level, which means that floods driven by climate change could damage its habitat. And though the grove is in a protected area, industrial runoff and logging that's happening nearby could impact the trees' health. North Carolina is considering establishing a Black River State Park where the trees grow to further protect the ancient natural wonders.

[h/t Live Science]

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