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Date of Issue: July 12, 2007

Sandscript

Eco-warriors gather in Miami to discuss global warming

The next few days promise to be interesting for eco-folks in Florida.

Gov. Charlie Crist has called for a Serve to Preserve Florida Summit on Global Climate Change July 12-13 in Miami. Scheduled attendees include Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who has written critical articles regarding President Bush and his thoughts on the subject, and “the Governator” of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Crist is catching some heat for the meeting, which doesn’t quite meet the dictates of Republicanism in its “green” nature. The “Gov” has been quoted in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune as saying, “We can no longer ignore this issue.”

Attaboy.

Global climate change, for those who have been in a dark room for the past decade or so, is the warming of the planet due to increased fossil fuel emissions. We’ve had a consistent increase in water and air temperatures of a few degrees the past few years, the melting of ice caps in warmer months that don’t freeze as solid in colder times, a rise in sea level - which is important to Anna Maria Island residents - and a general climate change.

Sandscript did lots and lots on sea-level rise until the mainstream media ran with it like a scared dog. Islanders should be scared, because the estimates are that we should see something like a sea level hike of 14 inches by 2060. The level increase isn’t that big an issue for us, but our kids may have to bail out our waterfront homes while their kids are still young.

It’s a big problem with no real solution.

It should be interesting to see what shakes out among the powers that be in Miami in the next few days.

 

Manta ray birth recorded

Scientists have reached a first in Japan: video of the birth of a “little” manta ray.

Manta rays are elusive big critters. They are, of course, in the ray family, but unlike our common stingrays, cow-nosed rays or spotted leopard rays, grow to widths of more than 25 feet and weights of more than 6,600 pounds.

Anyway, a mama manta got pregnant and gave birth, which was recorded on video tape. As the Washington Post put it, the birthing process was something like this:

“You gently flap your 13-foot-wide wings to swim to the bottom. You rub your swollen belly on the ground for a while. Then you gain a little altitude and, with a forceful push, you eject your precious bundle as a rolled-up, burrito-like tube, which promptly unfurls to begin its life as one of the strangest and least-understood marine animals on the planet.”

The “baby” had a 6-foot wingspan. It died a few days later, probably due to an attack from its father, but gained fame as the first manta ray birth in captivity. It was all recorded in the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium.

Gestation for the little guy was 374 days, giving biologists more data on the fact that mantas are a bit slow to pump out pups. Since they can live for decades, though, there is hope that they’ll continue to breed like, well, like whatever.

Manta rays live in oceans worldwide. They aren’t considered endangered, according to the Post, but they are sometimes considered a food source and have had some overfishing issues in some parts of the world.

Locally, there have been reports of manta rays jumping onto boats, causing some serious damage to the vessel.

Mantas are related to sharks as far as species are concerned, but they don’t get the media attention of sharks.

As a ray expert at the Pacific Shark Research Center in California put it, “Everybody always loves the big, toothy things, but there are more species of rays than sharks, and they are often overlooked. You look on television, it’s always ‘Shark Week.’ It’s never ‘Ray Week.’”

Unless it’s St. Pete and the Devil Rays.

 

Call it ‘smart irrigation month’ for July

Although we’ve finally started to get some afternoon thunderstorms to ease the plight of our drought-stricken lawns, and to ease the wildfires around the state, some experts are calling July one of the top months for watering lawns and landscaping.

Something called the Irrigation Association has called for July to be designated as “Smart Irrigation Month,” and it offers some interesting thoughts and tips.

“Nationwide, landscape irrigation is estimated to account for almost one-third of all residential water use, totaling more than 7 billion gallons per day,” according to the association. “Experts estimate that up to 50 percent of that water is lost due to over-watering, evaporation or bad irrigation design and maintenance.”

The tips are pretty simple, pretty cheap and pretty effective. Consider the following for your yard and garden.

  • Put a layer of mulch around your plants. Mulching helps to retain moisture and prevents evaporation. A generous amount of 3 to 5 inches is best.
  • Raise the blade on your lawn mower. Closely cropped grass requires more water.
  • Recycle your grass clippings back into your lawn by using a mulching mower. You’ll not only conserve water, you’ll save time mowing.
  • If you use a hose and portable sprinkler, buy a hose-end timer to regulate your watering time.
  • Consider installing a home irrigation system. Properly installed automatic-sprinkler and drip-irrigation systems can eliminate the time and hassle of hauling hoses around your property. More important, irrigation systems decrease water consumption by improving the accuracy, timing and delivery of water, reducing runoff and preventing over watering.
  • Sweep your sidewalks and driveway rather than hosing them down.
  • Plant native plants that are adapted to your climate; they require less watering and can reduce outdoor water use by 20 to 50 percent.
  • Install a drip-irrigation system around your shrubs, hanging baskets, flower and vegetable gardens. Drip irrigation systems use 50 percent less water than conventional sprinklers.
  • The best time to water is in the morning. Watering during this time of day reduces the amount of evaporation and allows plants to dry out during the day, which cuts down on diseases.
  • Group plants with similar watering needs together.
  • Remove weeds regularly, as they compete with your lawn and plants for water.

Good advice in our global climate-changing world.

 

Sandscript factoid

Manta rays apparently have a brain about the same size as a cat.

Although mantas do migrate, they are generally thought to be territorial.

Mantas are the largest species of ray.

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