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bumble bee on tree flower. © lava777/
March 2013

Trees have electric auras

What has been pootling in the realm of border sciences or even deemed to be esoteric fantasy is slowly coming to light. Plants do have electric auras, and they are used for communication between organisms.

A team around Daniel Robert at Bristol University conducted a series of tests that show how bumble bees make use of the electric charge of flowers. As insects fly through the air they acquire a positive electric charge. Plants, on the other hand, are grounded in the Earth and so have a negative charge.

The team in Bristol created a number of artificial flowers which were filled either with sucrose or with quinine, a substance bees don't feed on. These flowers smelled identical and the bees visited them randomly. But when some of these flowers were charged with a 30-volt-static electric field (typical for a flower of 30cm height) the bees detected the fields from a few centimetres away and visited the charged flowers 81 per cent of the time.

Further tests revealed that bees are influenced by the shape of the electric field as well. The bees preferred to visit flowers with fields in concentric rings, these were visited 70 per cent of the time compared to only 30 per cent for flowers with solid circular fields. It is speculated that flower plants developed differently shaped fields in the course of evolution to attract pollinators more efficiently.

When an insect visits a flower it transfers some of its positive charge, thereby incrementally changing the flower's field. A flower's decrease in pollen or nectar finds a quick and up-to-date monitor in its electric field, thereby informing the insects as they approach. [1]

Little is known about the electric properties of trees, although the first systematic measurements of trees were performed at Yale University already from 1943 to 1966, when Harold Saxton Burr recorded the bio-electrical fields of a sycamore and an elm tree which showed electric potentials varying up to 500mV [2]. In Europe, the only tree species that does not hibernate is yew (Taxus baccata) which at midwinter (21 December) can have an electric flow of 70 micro ampere per millimetre, at 0.833V. [3]

[1] Douglas Heaven, Electric plant auras guide foraging bees, New Scientist, vol. 217, no. 2906, p. 14
[2] Fred Hageneder, The Spirit of Trees, p. 32
[3] Fred Hageneder, Yew – A History, p. 69

Idle No More protesters marching in Victoria, BC, December 21, 2012. © r.a. paterson/Creative Commons License
Jan 2013

Idle No More – Canada's First Nations movement

In November 2012, Canada's First Nations began a new incentive to raise their voices together. With unprecedented speed the Idle No More movement gained momentum over the following weeks and months.• In November, four women from the province of Saskatchewan held a 'teach-in' about the possible effects of Bill C-45, a proposal by Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper, which would seriously weaken many environmental regulations.

On 4 December, a group of chiefs from the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), Canada's principal indigenous organization, were prevented from entering the Parliament buildings to lobby MPs over the bill.

On December 11, Theresa Spence, chief of the Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario, declared a hunger strike, to focus public attention on First Nations issues, support the Idle No More movement, and highlight concerns about Bill C-45.

Around December 21, native people across Canada blockaded roads, bridges and railway lines. In British Columbia, protesters expressed their concerns about a proposed oil pipeline. In Ontario, border crossings to the USA were blocked.

On January 11, 2013, a delegation of First Nations leaders, co-ordinated by the AFN, held a meeting with Prime Minister Harper and various other ministers. The meeting was inconclusive, but negotiations go on.

The native writer Lisa Charleyboy phrases the objectives of Idle No More as follows: 'to build indigenous sovereignty, to repair the relationship between indigenous peoples of Canada (First Nations, Métis, and Inuit), the crown, and the government of Canada from a grassroots framework, and to protect the environment for all Canadians to enjoy for generations to come.'

source: Survival International

Guarani children working on the sugar cane fields. © Survival International
June 2012

Shell drops biofuels plan after Brazilian Indian protest

cane from land stolen from an indigenous tribe, thanks to a dynamic campaign by the Indians and Survival International. The company, Raizen, was established in 2010 as a joint venture of Shell and the Brazilian ethanol giant Cosan to produce biofuel from sugar cane. But some of its sugar cane is grown on land that belongs to the Guarani tribe, one of the most persecuted and impoverished in South America. Their leaders have been repeatedly killed by gunmen on behalf of the sugar cane growers and cattle ranchers who have taken over almost all their land. Now Raizen has agreed to stop buying sugar cane from land declared as indigenous by the Ministry of Justice.

sources: REDD+ monitor
Survival International

world map showing degrees of solar radiation. © Wikimedia Commons
Jan 2012

All climate models questionable

In an article titled 'Include trees in climate modelling, say scientists' The Guardian reports that 'current climate models and projections may be inaccurate because measurements are based on guidelines that do not include the effects of trees on the local climate.'

It refers to a book which agroforestry experts at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) published in December 2011: How Trees and People can co-adapt to Climate Change.

'Trees can influence many of the climate factors predicted by modelling, and their effects should be added to climate maps…'

'"Following the guidelines of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), global weather stations collect climate data on open ground — away from trees", says Meine Van Noordwijk, an editor of the book.' The WMO standards intentionally 'avoid tree canopy effects on the measurements.' – Why?

'"Unfortunately … climate scientists have not made much effort to quantify [the effects of trees]. By not looking at that, we are missing a large opportunity to understand how we can adapt."'

For six years now, climate scientists have ignored the call from Russian scientists to allow for the massive impact of continental forests on climate (READ MORE). Hopefully the new pressure from agroforestry will have an effect…

source: Dyna Rochmyaningsih, Include trees in climate modelling, say scientists: Climate models should include the effects of trees on the local climate, say agroforestry experts, The Guardian Environment Network, 16 January 2012

string: The real importance of the Amazon rainforest

Logo der Pan-African Agency of the Great Green Wall
June 2010

The Great Green Wall of Africa

The Great Green Wall (French: Grande Muraille verte) Spanish Gran Muralla Verde is a project to halt the spread of the South Sahara. The transcontinental belt is planned to be 15km (nine miles) wide and 7,775km (4,831 miles) long and will be made completely of trees. This equals the reforestation of 15 million hectares of land.

The project is held by the African Union and funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF)*. An inter states organization was established to effectively implement the project in each of the eleven member states.

* The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is an independent financial organization uniting 182 member governments, in partnership with international institutions, nongovernmental organizations and the private sector, to address global environmental issues. According to their website, they are the largest funder of projects to improve the global environment, having allocated US$8.8 billion, supplemented by US$38.7 billion in co-financing, to more than 2,400 projects in more than 165 countries.

Landkarte Sahel

On 17 June 2010, the GEF announced that Africa's green barrier will be funded by a US$119 million grant. The project had long been searching for funding: it had begun to take shape in 2005, the idea first appeared in 2002 and can be traced back to projects fighting desertification in Burkina Faso under president Thomas Sankara. Inspirations are the (more decentrally organized) Green Belt Movement initiated by Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai, and the Green Wall of China (see tree news Jan. 2010).

source: Great Green Wall website

Iguazu Falls, Brazil. © gary yim/
March 2010

The real importance of the Amazon rainforest

Peter Bunyard, the science editor of The Ecologist and of Science in Society, has published an article called 'The Real Importance of the Amazon Rain Forest'. He hopes to draw attention to the work of two scientists from the St Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute who show to what unexpected extent the rainforests are responsible not only for the moist, fertile climate of South America and Central Africa, but the equilibrium of world climate.

The research by A.M. Makarieva and V.G. Gorshkov, the Russian scientists, challenges the established views of climatologists and renders all current computer simulations regarding 'global warming' incomplete and inaccurate. Hence they have been adamantly ignored by the scientific community.

Bunyard states that 'the implications of Makarieva and Gorshkov's thesis are enormous; essentially it means that South America cannot do without its rainforests' …and neither can we in the northern hemisphere.


source: Peter Bunyard, The Real Importance of the Amazon Rain Forest, ISIS Report, 15/03/2010
string: All climate models questionable!, Amazon deforestation fails to improve local life

SM Raju at a tree-planting site. © Prashant Ravi
Sept 2009

Massive tree-planting scheme in India

An Indian civil servant, SM Raju, has created an innovative project to provide 'sustainable employment' to millions of poor people, by planting trees.

Mr Raju's campaign is located in the east Indian state of Bihar, the poorest state of India, and engages people in afforestation which, according to the BBC, 'addresses two burning issues of the world: global warming and shrinking job opportunities. Evidence of Mr Raju's success could clearly be seen on 30 August, when he organised 300,000 villagers from over 7,500 villages in northern Bihar to engage in a mass tree planting ceremony.' On this day alone, almost a billion trees were planted.

Mr Raju is an agriculture graduate from Bangalore but the secret of the success of his 'social forestry' programme is that he linked it to the central government's National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). This act was initiated in February 2006 as an employment generation scheme for poor people: the authorities are bound by law to provide a minimum of 100 days of employment a year to members of families living below the poverty line. But before Mr Raju's project, Bihar had not been able to spend the allocated NREGA funds.

'Every village council has now been given a target of planting 50,000 saplings – a group of four families has to plant 200 seedlings and they must protect them for three years till the plants grow more sturdy.' Payment is staggered into three groups, 90%, 75–80% and less than 75% survival rate of the seedlings.

The scheme also includes planting fruit-trees inside the villages.

source: Amarnath Tewary, Meeting India's tree planting guru, BBC News, 19 Sept 2009

clearfelling area in Brazil. © guentermanaus/
June 2009

Amazon deforestation fails to improve local life

A new study by the department of life sciences at Imperial College London (and published in Science this month) undercuts the persistent argument that deforestation in the Amazon leads to long-term development of the local economy and social conditions.

Doubtlessly this seems to be the case temporarily: logging creates jobs, the new roads can give better access to education and medicine, and newly available natural resources in a cleared forest area attract investment and infrastructure. But once the timber and other resources dry up, things change again! 'A lot of the agricultural land is only productive for a few years,' says Rob Ewers, a member of the study team. 'On top of that you tend to have much higher populations because a lot of people have been attracted to the area.' This higher population has to survive on ever-dwindling local resources, which pushes the standard of living right down again. After the loggers have gone, development quickly falls back even below national average levels.

Every year, around 1.8 million hectares of rainforest are destroyed in the Amazon — a rate of four football fields every minute. Deforestation causes 20% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. The Amazonian rainforest is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, and guards against climate change by absorbing CO2 and maintaining geochemical cycles.

'Slashing and burning rainforest to make way for cattle ranches or soya farms is simply not sustainable, because profits are short-lived and the big companies simply move elsewhere. Instead we need sustained international funding to protect this massive natural resource, to make trees worth more alive than dead.'

Fact is: Trees already are worth more alive than dead, always have been, but word hasn't got round yet.

source: Alok Jha, Amazon deforestation leads to development 'boom-and-bust, The Guardian, 11 June 2009

string: The real importance of the Amazon rainforest

tropical deforestation and landscape fragmentation in Colombia, mostly due to coca crops. ©
March 2009

Drug production kills trees and people

Since the United States and the UN 'took over' Afghanistan from the Taliban, the annual opium production has increased over 5400 per cent – 150 tonnes in 2001, 8200 tonnes in 2007. The 2007 harvest produced about 820 tonnes of heroin and at the Uzbekistan border, UN troops found themselves in the strange position of having to wave through the convoys of black jeeps. All this land growing poppies cannot be used for food production or reforestation! The chemical waste products of the heroin labs pollute additional land.

Worse for the trees is the situation in Latin American countries ruled by cocaine. Here, unlike in Afghanistan, US involvement has actually helped to destroy 1.15 million hectares of coca, but in Colombia for one, production has not actually fallen. In March 2009, 'Latin America declares war on drugs a failure' (The Guardian Weekly, 13 March 09, pp1-2).

In Latin America, armed groups seeking new land for coca are clearing rainforests killing and evicting the inhabitants. 'Some 270,000 Colombians were forced to flee their homes in the first half of 2008' (The Guardian Weekly), the situation in Venezuela is equally bad.

The Colombian government has created a website for 'Awareness about cocaine's ecocide in Colombia'. Note: This website disappeared in late 2012 – now that's worrying!

old cedar in Lebanon. © AFP Photo/Ho
Feb 2009

Cedar of Lebanon on the Red List

An undated handout picture released by the press office of the Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve on February 2, 2009 shows snow covering a cedar tree in the Baruk forest in the mountainous Shouf area southeast of Beirut.

Lebanon's majestic cedar trees have withstood the test of time for centuries but 'climate change' is threatening the country's most treasured symbol. Or rather: Man's destruction of the expansive forests of Lebanon and the subsequent effects on regional climate now threaten the last remaining pathetically small cedar stands with drought and extinction.

Used by various civilisations throughout history for their strong and durable wood, Lebanon's last remaining cedars are now on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's 'Red List' as a 'heavily threatened' species.