Nature


Subscriptions for the Planet

5th April 2021

It's taking many forms at the moment. Still, it's evident that a lot more people are becoming interested in the planet on which we live, and some of them are becoming invested in the various processes in which people are trying to make Earth a better place.

Some choose to protest against global corporations that are performing harmful acts against the environment. Others try to develop small businesses that sell more sustainable goods, and there are loads more.

I am more interested in learning about ecosystems and the various connections between flora and fauna. And I'd like more of these ecosystems to exist. I want humans to learn to live with nature again, and therefore our landscapes to go back to how they were many years ago, when the Scottish highlands were full of forests, and there were animals such as the Lynx roaming Britain.

The terms used to describe such goals are "reforestation" and "rewinding". And while I'm not up in the Highlands replanting trees, keeping livestock from destroying more woodland, or campaigning for the return of apex predators. I've found two subscription services essentially, where you can help fund various activities such as reforestation and other climate-related projects. So I thought I'd share some information about them here if anyone else would be interested in helping their causes.

Ecologi

Photo: Ecologi. Showing the Reforesting Dalry project.

The first one I'll mention is Ecologi. I've had a membership for over six months now, and the work they do around the world is excellent. Their main objectives are to plant trees and to fund the best climate crisis solutions.

A lot of the time, the projects are based around reforestation, protecting wildlife, and funding renewable energy projects. A few examples are protesting forests in Northern Zimbabwe, preserving prime Brazilian rainforests, and reforesting a place called Dalry in Scotland.

How Ecologi works is that as your money funds climate projects and tree planting, you get to visualise this in your digital forest. For example, my forest of little over 6-months has 472 trees and has funded 13.03 tonnes of carbon reduction.

The plans are pretty flexible, and you can add local projects to them. I have the "Booster" plan, which is just £9.40 a month and funds the planting of 24 trees per month and reducing an estimated two carbon footprints per year. I also pay an extra £10.65 a month towards a reforestation project in Scotland, which adds another three trees to their forest.

If that interests you, then I'd recommend checking them out, and if you do choose to sign up, then by using my referral link, and we'll both receive 30 trees.

Mossy Earth

Photo: Mossy Earth. Showing the wildlife that they are protecting as part of the realising projects in Scotland.

Mossy Earth is one that I've only just found, and that was through my research into various rewilding projects. The main aim of all of their projects is to "restore ecosystems and promote biodiversity".

They handle their reforestation and rewilding projects differently. As for the reforestation projects, after they have done enough analysis to decide to proceed with a project and a plan is drawn up, the process is essentially:

  1. Trees are planted
  2. Photos are taken and GPS coordinates are recorded
  3. Trees are assigned to members
  4. Trees/Forests are monitored and replanted

A few of their reforestation projects:

As for the rewilding projects, these actually include members involvement. They start with the same level of analysis, with the result being various projects being drawn up. These projects are then vetted to make sure they fit their criteria. First, to ensure that they fit within the broader context of ecological restoration for that area. Then to ensure that the drivers of degradation are actively addressed. And finally, that there is a strategy to monitor the impact of the project and potentially alter the practices used. The projects are then shown to members for approval. Here is the simplified version of that process:

  1. Project options researched
  2. Members cast votes on what projects should be implemented
  3. Projects are implemented
  4. Results are monitored and reported

Some of their rewilding projects:

They don't have specific plans like Ecologi but rather do it on a specific monthly contribution. For example, I'm currently paying £10 a month towards their projects, which they say will also go towards planting 48 trees per year.

If you're interested in signing up, then Mossy Earth also has a referral system where they will plant four extra trees for me and you if you sign up via my link.


I'm delighted these services exist. I find them to be particularly more compelling than simply donating to the equivalent charities. You get regular news and progress reports, which makes you see what your contributions are actually funding.

Saving Britain's Islands →

7th February 2021

Joshua Powell, a ZSL PhD student has created a short film about island conservation, called Saving Britain's Islands. The film explores the role of New Zealand and specifically an island called TiriTiri Matangi, in the development of island conservation techniques, and also how these techniques could possibly be used in Britain and other UK islands.

Tadpoles: The Big Little Migration →

7th February 2021

In a truly mesmerising short film by Maxwel Hohn, he shows the daily journey of western toad tadpoles through a lake in British Columbia. They all move as one across the bottom of the lake as a kind of carpet, so they can reach the more oxygen-rich and warmer shallow waters, and then they all move back to the deepths later in the day.

Metamorphosis is something that my brain can't quite get to grips with. Gradual evolution caused by natural selection I understand. But these tadpoles transform within a number of weeks!

Listen to Random Forests

30th January 2021

I wrote a while ago about ASMR Rooms and what I called 'Adaptive Background Environments', and I've just come across something similar via Kottke, called Tree.fm.

Tree.fm places you in random forests, immersing you in the sounds, and also providing some nice photography of nature.

I really like listening to nature, forests especially. So I think I'll be using this for some background noise when I'm working, or even when I'm just relaxing. Like now, I'm reading some blogs, and listening to a forest.

All of the sounds are from a project called 'Sounds of the Forest', which form an open source library for anyone use. If you go to the website, you get a world map where you can see exactly where each recording came from.


If like me, you are a fan of nature, then I would encourage you to check out Ecologi. Essentially, it's a subscription service to plant trees and help fund climate projects.

One cool feature of Ecologi is that as you plant more trees, your online forest grows. My forest, Christopia (I couldn't think of a better name) has been going for 4 months,  has 418 trees, and has offset over 9 tonnes of CO2e. If you use this magical link, we both get 30 extra trees.


Photo: (kazuend via Unsplash)

Plant Evolves to Become Less Visible to Humans →

20th November 2020

Research has shown that a plant commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine has been evolving in order to evade humans.

Phys.org:

Scientists found that Fritillaria delavayi plants, which live on rocky slopes of China's Hengduan mountains, match their backgrounds most closely in areas where they are heavily harvested.

This suggests humans are "driving" evolution of this species into new colour forms because better-camouflaged plants have a higher chance of survival.
In the new study, the researchers measured how closely plants from different populations matched their mountain environment and how easy they were to collect, and spoke to local people to estimate how much harvesting took place in each location.

They found that the level of camouflage in the plants was correlated with harvesting levels.

In a computer experiment, more-camouflaged plants also took longer to be detected by people.

At first glance, this research seemed novel. Humans being the cause of a plants evolution. But it's not novel at all. We are animals, and like every other animal, we shape and are shaped by our environment.

It's interesting because we don't usually think of ourselves as being part of nature. But discoveries like this will only change that.


(Photo credit: Yang Niu)

What Is Plant Blindness? →

12th October 2020

Mary Jo DiLonardo, writing for Treehugger:

Imagine taking a walk in the woods and seeing a deer or a rabbit. You'll no doubt remember the encounter — it might even be the highlight of your outdoor adventure.

But what about all the plants, trees and flowers you passed while hiking? There's a good chance you paid little attention to the greenery on your path.

That's what researchers call plant blindness.

In 1998, U.S. botanists Elisabeth Schussler and James Wandersee defined plant blindness as "the inability to see or notice the plants in one's own environment," which leads to "the inability to recognize the importance of plants in the biosphere and in human affairs."

Because of plant blindness, people tend to rank animals as superior to plants, so conservation efforts for plants tends to be limited.

It's an interesting phenomenon, and I think I fall for this as well myself. When I go outside into nature, the plants do take on a more background role. Which makes them much easier to ignore, or at least not focus on, as they tend to blur together as a kind of backdrop.

Not noticing a few plants isn't a problem on it's own. But when you don't notice something that's so fundamental to our environment, it will obviously affect any decision made in regard to the environment. Which when paired with a lack of education around plants, and a higher focus on animals, will most likely create even more ignorance about nature and the environment in which we all live.

The World’s Oldest Tree Lives in Sweden →

15th October 2019

Elina Sundqvist, on Swedes in the States:

The world’s oldest tree, Old Tjikko, is a 9,500-year-old Norwegian Spruce tree that was discovered in 2004 by Professor Leif Kullman, and to this day remains the world’s oldest tree. The tree is located on Fulufjället, in the province of Dalarna.

For the world’s oldest tree, I thought it would have been a bit more impressive.

The Intelligence of Plants →

30th September 2019

Cody Delistraty, writing for The Paris Review, about the capabilities of plants:

A few years ago, Monica Gagliano, an associate professor in evolutionary ecology at the University of Western Australia, began dropping potted Mimosa pudicas. She used a sliding steel rail that guided them to six inches above a cushioned surface, then let them fall. The plant, which is leafy and green with pink-purple flower heads, is commonly known as a “shameplant” or a “touch-me-not” because its leaves fold inward when it’s disturbed. In theory, it would defend itself against any attack, indiscriminately perceiving any touch or drop as an offense and closing itself up.

The first time Gagliano dropped the plants—fifty-six of them—from the measured height, they responded as expected. But after several more drops, fewer of them closed. She dropped each of them sixty times, in five-second intervals. Eventually, all of them stopped closing. She continued like this for twenty-eight days, but none of them ever closed up again. It was only when she bothered them differently—such as by grabbing them—that they reverted to their usual defense mechanism.

It’s a fascinating read, and it’s not just a clickbait headline with minimal information. Rather he mentions research that has been done regarding how trees can share nutrients and information via fungal networks, how they react to damage and animals attempting to eat parts of them.

I’ve read about the ways that trees can communicate between each other, to notify others of possible intruders, and how a forest can provide the nutrients to an unhealthy tree to sustain it, in the book “The Hidden Life of Trees” by Peter Wohlleben. But, the idea that a plant could learn, or even just have a form of memory, would certainly alter the way we think about plants in general.

Possibly my favourite part of this article would be:

Even the slightest possibility of a proven plant intelligence would have massive scientific and existential implications. If plants can “learn” and “remember,” as Gagliano believes, then humans may have been misunderstanding plants, and ourselves, for all of history. The common understanding of “intelligence” would have to be reimagined; and we’d have missed an entire universe of thought happening all around us.

BBC Earth Announce 8 New TV Nature Documentaries

11th February 2019

(Image credit: BBC Earth)

If you’re interested in nature documentaries, then the BBC have quite the announcement for you. In two news articles (linked at the bottom), they announced 8 new television series about natural history.

The five main shows are:

  • Perfect Planet
  • Frozen Planet II
  • Planet Earth III
  • One Planet: Seven Worlds
  • Green Planet

And they also announced three extra shows:

  • The Mating Game
  • Primates
  • Earth’s Paradise Islands

That’s such a massive commitment from them, and I’m already super excited.

Perfect Planet

In the five-part series, we’ll see how the entire planet which is seemingly “perfect”, operates. It will show how the weather, ocean currents, solar energy, and volcanoes all play their part in supporting Earth’s diverse biological population. We’ll also get to see how certain animals are well-suited to their environments, such as the Vampire Finches in the Galapagos, which are part of the diverse group, known as Darwin’s Finches.

Episodes: 5 x 60 mins

Transmission: 2020

Frozen Planet II

Ten years after Frozen Planet first aired, the second series is being released. As the name suggests, it focusses on the quarter of the earth that is entirely frozen. Animals such as the Siberian tiger, snow monkeys, penguins, and polar bears all thrive in cold conditions. But as temperatures rise, they might not be able to cope as easily.

Episodes: 6 x 60 mins

Transmission: 2021

Planet Earth III

Following on from the second series, that aired only back in late 2016, is coming back for a whopping eight-episode series. As usual, improvements to technology, such as robotic cameras, better submersibles, and stabilised rigs, will only help us see the planet in more detail.

Episodes: 8 x 60 mins

Transmission: 2022

One Planet: Seven Worlds

This series will be split into seven episodes, one for each of the continents (Well actually Eurasia is one continent, but people treat it as two). We’ll see how distinct each continent is from each other, and how they have shaped the life that’s found there.

Episodes: 7 x 60 mins

Transmission: 2019

Green Planet

Something that sometimes gets ignored on tv documentaries, is plant-life. Usually, the focus is on the animals living in specific habitats, but this series will focus on the surprisingly intricate life of plants.

I’ve read a lot on how trees communicate, using electrical signals through their roots (that are connected by fungi), so I hope this gets shown in more detail.

Episodes: 5 x 60 mins

Transmission: 2021

The Mating Game

Okay, so nearly every species on the planet needs to find some kind of partner to mate with. This series will show how various species have completely different ideas of what’s the best method of finding one. Some fight, others sing songs, and some dance. This sounds like it could provide a very interesting insight into unknown behaviours of animals. And there’s a technological bonus with this series, it’s being filmed in 8K!

Episodes: 5 x 60 mins

Transmission: 2021

Primates

There are a huge number of species of primates. Including apes, lemurs, and monkeys. They’re found all over the planet, in vastly different habitats from one another. And there’s one writing this very blog post. We’ll get to see new sides to these animals, how they use tools, solve problems, and also have a glance into their politics.

Episodes: 3 x 60 mins

Transmission: 2020

Earth’s Paradise Islands

Madagascar, Borneo, and Hawaii, are all exotic and remote islands. And in each of them, there’s fascinating animal species, and human cultures. So it sounds like it will be two sides to each story.

Episodes: 3 x 60 mins

Transmission: Unknown


Sources:

Big Cats

14th January 2018

Big Cats is a new documentary series, being produced by the BBC. They have an incredible track record with documentaries, especially ones focussed on nature. As proved by the recent Planet Earth II and Blue Planet II series.

This series follows in the same footsteps, as it is being pushed by a new generation of advanced camera technology, and techniques. Which enables them to get some pretty impressive shots of evasive cat species, such as the Snow Leopard, and the Rusty Spotted-Cat.

The first episode is already out, and it’s great! The scenes were impressive, the amount of knowledge about the different species was incredible, and it was just generally intriguing.

It’s the first time I’ve also heard about the Rusty Spotted-Cat, which is the smallest cat species, and grows to between 35 to 48 cm in length, and a 15 to 30 cm tail. They released a small clip from the first episode, so you can watch that below, or on YouTube.

I’m not sure how they can really make the next episode better than the first, but I expect it will go beyond my expectations. Although it is only a three-episode series, so I guess it will also be pretty packed!

BBC – Big Cats

BBC iPlayer – Big Cats – Episode 1

BBC iPlayer – Episode 1 Clip – The world’s smallest cat