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Australian endangered species: Mountain Pygmy-possum

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The Mountain Pygmy-possum is clinging to existence in its alpine refuges. Hayley Bates
Hayley Bates, UNSW and Haijing Shi, UNSW

The Mountain Pygmy-possum (Burramys parvus) is one of five living species of pygmy-possum, all of which are classified within a single family. It is the largest of the pygmy-possums, and can be easily distinguished from other members of the family by its distinctive “buzz saw” premolar teeth.

Unlike most other possums, it is mainly ground-dwelling, inhabiting alpine and subalpine boulderfields and rocky scree in south-eastern Australia. Males and females spend most of the year separately. Females and their young occupy the best quality habitat.

The Mountain Pygmy-possum is also the only Australian marsupial that hibernates for long periods during the winter. Mating begins in early spring when the possums emerge from their winter sleep.

Mountain Pygmy-possums are the only marsupials that hibernate during the winter. Hayley Bates

Up to four young are born. The young grow quickly and are weaned 9-10 weeks after conception. They leave the nest a month later. Most pygmy-possums live for only 1-3 years, however males can live to five years, and females to 12.

Status

The Mountain Pygmy-possum is remarkable in that it was first described from a Pleistocene fossil by Robert Broom in 1896. At the time it was thought to be extinct.

In 1966 a living specimen was discovered in a Ski Club Lodge on Mount Hotham in Victoria. With evidence of only one living animal in existence, the Guinness Book of Records of 1967 recorded the Mountain Pygmy-possum as the rarest animal on Earth.

Surveys later found a number of colonies across the New South Wales and Victorian Alps ranging in elevation from 1200m-2228m above sea level.

Today there are only three known populations: Mount Higginbotham and Mount Buller in Victoria, and Kosciuszko National Park in New South Wales. The total population size is estimated to be less than 2600 adults, restricted to a total range less than 10 square kilometres. It is the only mammal that is entirely restricted to the alpine and subalpine regions of south-eastern Australia.

Threats

Only small patches of suitable pygmy-possum habitat remain. Degradation, fragmentation and loss of these remaining refuges are among the immediate threat to the continuing viability of the species. Up to a third of the best breeding habitat has been lost at Mount Buller alone, due to ski resort developments.

How this remaining habitat is connected is essential. Males need to be able to migrate safely to females during the breeding season. Connectivity also maintains the large-scale structure of the population and genetic diversity. However, road and ski slopes have fragmented the landscape.

Hayley Bates

Climate change poses the greatest ongoing threat to the Mountain Pygmy-possum.

Increases in temperature will cause significant changes in alpine areas. Specifically higher temperatures will reduce snow depth and the time snow remains on the ground. These processes have a cascade of ecological consequences

Bogong moths are a vital food source for Mountain Pygmy-possums when they awake from hibernation. These moths migrate to the mountains every summer to escape lowland heat. If snow melts early, possums awake from hibernation before the moths arrive in the mountains. The possums then have to compete with other small mammals - such as antechinus and rodents - living in the same habitat. They are forced to leave the boulderfields for other sources of food, exposing them to cats and foxes.

Warming also gives invasive predators a chance to move into areas previously inaccessible. Once the extreme cold kept them out.

Strategy

A national recovery plan was drafted in 2010 to ensure Mountain Pygmy-possums persist across their range and maintain their potential to evolve in the wild.

Healesville Sanctuary has successfully launched a captive breeding program for the Mountain Pygmy-possum in Victoria. This facility maximises genetic diversity within the populations by carefully selecting mating pairs.

Pygmy-possums occasionally climb around in the boulderfields instead of researchers’ hands. A Meyers

A second captive breeding facility is to be established in Lithgow for the New South Wales population as part of the Burramys Project. The captive population is an insurance policy against natural disaster.

The project aims to gain a greater understanding of how Mountain Pygmy-possums will adapt to climate change by looking to the fossil record. The pygymy-possum family has been found in fossils dating to 24 million years ago.

Conclusion

Although the Mountain Pygmy-possum is highly vulnerable to extinction, it can be saved.

After ten years of severe drought and a drastic decline in possum numbers, rain finally arrived in 2010. Over the last three years we have seen a rise in Mountain Pygmy-possums across New South Wales and Victoria. This growth is attributed to a number of factors including more food and water, genetic diversity through translocations, and pest management.

Here, have another possum. Hayley Bates

Recently a critically important discovery was made of a new population of Mountain Pygmy-possums in Kosciuszko National Park. These possums live below the tree line, in an area that receives little snow fall. They may play a key role in understanding how this species will adapt to future challenges.

The ConversationThe Conversation is running a series on Australian endangered species. See it here.

Hayley Bates, PhD Candidate, UNSW and Haijing Shi, Research Associate, UNSW

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

How the warming world could turn many plants and animals into climate refugees

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The Flinders Ranges were once a refuge from a changing climate. Shutterstock
Matt Christmas, University of Adelaide

Finding the optimum environment and avoiding uninhabitable conditions has been a challenge faced by species throughout the history of life on Earth. But as the climate changes, many plants and animals are likely to find their favoured home much less hospitable.

In the short term, animals can react by seeking shelter, whereas plants can avoid drying out by closing the small pores on their leaves. Over longer periods, however, these behavioural responses are often not enough. Species may need to migrate to more suitable habitats to escape harsh environments.

During glacial times, for instance, large swathes of Earth’s surface became inhospitable to many plants and animals as ice sheets expanded. This resulted in populations migrating away from or dying off in parts of their ranges. To persist through these times of harsh climatic conditions and avoid extinction, many populations would migrate to areas where the local conditions remained more accommodating.

These areas have been termed “refugia” and their presence has been essential to the persistence of many species, and could be again. But the rapid rate of global temperature increases, combined with recent human activity, may make this much harder.

Finding the refugia

Evidence for the presence of historic climate refugia can often be found within a species’ genome. The size of populations expanding from a refugium will generally be smaller than the parent population within them. Thus, the expanding populations will generally lose genetic diversity, through processes such as genetic drift and inbreeding. By sequencing the genomes of multiple individuals within different populations of a species, we can identify where the hotbeds of genetic diversity lie, thus pinpointing potential past refugia.

My colleagues and I recently investigated population genetic diversity in the narrow-leaf hopbush, a native Australian plant that got its common name from its use in beer-making by early European Australians. The hopbush has a range of habitats, from woodlands to rocky outcrops on mountain ranges, and has a wide distribution across southern and central Australia. It is a very hardy species with a strong tolerance for drought.

We found that populations in the Flinders Ranges have more genetic diversity than those to the east of the ranges, suggesting that these populations are the remnants of an historic refugium. Mountain ranges can provide ideal refuge, with species only needing to migrate short distances up or down the slope to remain within their optimal climatic conditions.

In Australia, the peak of the last ice age led to dryer conditions, particularly in the centre. As a result, many plant and animal species gradually migrated across the landscape to southern refugial regions that remained more moist. Within the south-central region, an area known as the Adelaide Geosyncline has been recognised as an important historic refugium for several animal and plant species. This area encompasses two significant mountain ranges: the Mount Lofty and Flinders ranges.

Refugia of the future

In times of increased temperatures (in contrast to the lower temperatures experienced during the ice age) retreats to refugia at higher elevations or towards the poles can provide respite from unfavourably hot and dry conditions. We are already seeing these shifts in species distributions.

But migrating up a mountain can lead to a literal dead end, as species ultimately reach the top and have nowhere else to go. This is the case for the American Pika, a cold-adapted relative of rabbits that lives in mountainous regions in North America. It has disappeared from more than one-third of its previously known range as conditions have become too warm in many of the alpine regions it once inhabited.

Further, the almost unprecedented rate of global temperature increase means that species need to migrate at rapid rates. Couple this with the destructive effects of agriculture and urbanisation, leading to the fragmentation and disconnection of natural habitats, and migration to suitable refugia may no longer be possible for many species.

While evidence for the combined effects of habitat fragmentation and climate change is currently scarce, and the full effects are yet to be realised, the predictions are dire. For example, modelling the twin impact of climate change and habitat fragmentation on drought sensitive butterflies in Britain led to predictions of widespread population extinctions by 2050.

Within the Adelaide Geosyncline, the focal area of our study, the landscape has been left massively fragmented since European settlement, with estimates of only 10% of native woodlands remaining in some areas. The small pockets of remaining native vegetation are therefore left quite disconnected. Migration and gene flow between these pockets will be limited, reducing the survival chances of species like the hopbush.

The ConversationSo while refugia have saved species in the past, and poleward and up-slope shifts may provide temporary refuge for some, if global temperatures continue to rise, more and more species will be pushed beyond their limits.

Matt Christmas, ARC Research Associate, University of Adelaide

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Fair winds and following seas: yes, a spider could migrate across an ocean

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Hang on, is that a spider floating this way? Andrea Izzotti/shutterstock
Ceridwen Fraser, Australian National University

Today a new paper proposes trapdoor spiders arrived on Kangaroo Island, South Australia, after drifting across the sea from Africa.

Molecular analyses of spiders from Kangaroo Island, other parts of Australia, and Africa show that the Kangaroo Island’s spiders are much more closely related to African species than to other Australian ones. Rough dating of divergences – that is, how long ago different species or groups split apart – suggests that the Kangaroo Island spiders were separated from African relatives long after the breakup of Gondwana (the southern supercontinent), but arrived on Kangaroo Island at least a couple of million years ago (well before humans).

The authors conclude that the spiders must have come to Australia by crossing the Indian Ocean.

So can a spider travel over thousands of kilometres of open ocean? Sure!

There is a lot of evidence that plants and animals can reach new lands by travelling long distances. This usually happens either by drifting across oceans (for example by “rafting” – hitching a ride on floating objects such as uprooted trees or seaweed clumps) or via air travel (blown by strong winds or carried by birds). The evidence has mostly come from genetic studies like the new spider study.


Read more: Antarctica may not be as isolated as we thought


When populations of species on either side of an ocean are genetically very similar, it is reasonable to conclude that there has been some recent movement between them. That’s because DNA changes over time: each time DNA is copied (which happens every time a new cell forms) there is a chance that copying errors will occur. If these errors – known as mutations – are not harmful, they can be copied into later generations. In this way, populations that are not interbreeding gradually drift apart genetically. The result is that populations that have been separated for a long time will be very distinct, whereas those that have been recently connected will be genetically similar.

Dispersal of organisms can happen via wind, oceanic rafting and the movement of animals. For example, migrating birds can carry seeds, insects and other small organisms long distances, generally moving north-south or vice versa. Terrestrial or shallow water marine organisms can raft across oceans on buoyant objects such as kelp, wood and pumice, generally following the paths of ocean currents. Strong winds, such as the easterly equatorial winds and the westerly mid-latitude winds, can transport small organisms aerially or influence rafting events at sea. Photographs: albatross and drift kelp: C. Fraser; Caribbean iguana: Atsme (Wikimedia Commons). Ceridwen Fraser, Author provided

Genetic and observational studies give us strong evidence that long-distance voyages have happened. It might seem incredible that a plant or animal could survive a long trip at sea, or be blown to a new land by a storm, but it only has to succeed every now and then for dispersal to play a big role in shaping global biodiversity.

For example:

  • Ferns probably reached the young Hawaiian islands as spores carried by strong winds. Some spiders are also thought to have blown over to the islands.

  • Many birds migrate long distances each year, and can carry barbed or sticky plant seeds attached to feathers or feet – this mechanism is thought to explain how many plant species reached remote islands.

  • A few years ago, seaweed swarming with living invertebrate animals washed up on a beach in southern New Zealand, and DNA tests of the kelp and the animals showed the voyagers had drifted in ocean currents from islands hundreds of kilometres away.

  • In the 1990s, just after a hurricane, iguanas were found sitting on driftwood on beaches on a Caribbean island that had never before had iguanas on it.

  • Many spiders can travel long distances through the air by “ballooning” – using fine silk threads like a kite or balloon, to catch rides with air currents.

Of course, many plants and animals have remained perched, sedately, on their tectonic plates as they slowly move around the world – not all species have crossed oceans.


Read more: How a warming world turns plants and animals into refugees


Nonetheless, we now know that intercontinental travel is not something that only those that can fly, swim or build canoes can do – and a good thing, too! Rapid environmental change will force many plants and animals to move to new places. Many species are moving toward the poles, or up mountains, as the climate warms.

Being able to move to a new habitat is a survival skill.

The ConversationThe ability to travel is, and has always been, an important part of long-term survival and evolution. But it’s risky, too. Many long-distance trips fail, and the voyagers often perish before finding a new home. These intrepid trapdoor spiders just got very lucky!

Ceridwen Fraser, Senior lecturer, Australian National University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Star of Bethlehem

Calectasia cyanea, commonly known as the star of Bethlehem or blue tinsel lily, is a plant in the family Dasypogonaceae growing as a perennial herb and is endemic to the south–west of Western Australia. Restricted to a single population in Torndirrup National Park, it is critically endangered.  The species was incorrectly recorded in the past as being widespread throughout south-west Western Australia. However, this was due to misidentification (the species was previously mistaken for C. narragara) and it is now known that true Blue Tinsel Lily (Calectasia cyanea) is confined to a small area south of Albany

Image Credit:  By Geoff Derrin 

Image Credit:  By Geoff Derrin 

In 1840, Robert Marnock described this species as:

Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful of the floral productions of the South-Western Coast of Australia. Sir William Hooker says, 'We figure it on account of its great beauty, a beauty which is scarcely altered by drying, for the form and colour of both leaves and flowers is truly of that kind called everlasting; and partly with the hope that our cultivators may be induced to import this lovely plant as an ornament to our greenhouses. Nothing can exceed the richness of the bright purple perianths and the contrasting deep orange-coloured anthers. It grows in sandy soil among shrubs.

John Lindley also remarked on the beauty of this species: "In the first place there is that most beautiful plant Calectasia cyanea, R.Br., a bush like an Adansonia, with quantities of large blue flowers with deep orange-coloured anthers; this is the handsomest Endogen in the Colony."

 

Description

Calectasia cyanea is a clump forming woody perennial herb growing to a height of about 60 centimetres (20 in) and a width of 30 centimetres (10 in). Unlike some other members of the genus (such as C. grandiflora) this species lacks a rhizome, the stems have only a few short side branches and the leaves are 6.5–13.2 millimetres (0.3–0.5 in) long and 1.0–1.3 millimetres (0.04–0.05 in) wide. The six petals are dark blue, fading to white with age and the central anthers are yellow, turning orange-red with age Flowers appear from June to October.

Taxonomy and naming

Calectasia cyanea is one of eleven species in the genus Calectasia. It was first described by Robert Brown in Prodromus Florae Novae Hollandiae in 1810. The specific epithet (cyanea) is from the Ancient Greek κυανοῦς (kyanós) meaning "dark blue" referring to the flower colour. Common names include blue tinsel lily and star of Bethlehem

Distribution and habitat

The Star of Bethlehem has a very restricted distribution in the Torndirrup National Park and Albany regions of the South West Botanical Province. Old records show it as being common in the region of King George Sound but much of this area is now urbanised as the city of Albany or devoted to agriculture. It grows in yellow sand over laterite. The total population was estimated at around 70 plants in 2005 in an area around 0.02 square kilometres.

Conservation status

Calectasia cyanea is classified as Critically endangered by the Department of the Environment and Water Resources and the Department of the Environment, Canberra. It is vulnerable to, and threatened by, dieback (Phytophthora cinnamomi) and grazing by the western grey kangaroo.

 

Source Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia - Creative Commons

How Australia’s animals and plants are changing to keep up with the climate

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Flora and fauna can adapt to climate change, but some are more successful than others. allstars/shutterstock
Ary Hoffmann, University of Melbourne

Climate change is one of the greatest threats facing Australia’s wildlife, plants and ecosystems, a point driven home by two consecutive years of mass coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef.

Yet among this growing destruction there is a degree of resilience to climate change, as Australian animals and plants evolve and adapt.

Some of this resilience is genetic, at the DNA level. Natural selection favours forms of genes that help organisms withstand hotter and drier conditions more effectively.

Over time, the environmental selection for certain forms of genes over others leads to genetic changes. These genetic changes can be complex, involving many genes interacting together, but they are sufficient to make organisms highly tolerant to extreme conditions.

Some of this resilience is unrelated to DNA. These are “plastic” changes – temporary changes in organisms’ physical and biochemical functions that help them deal with adverse conditions or shifts in the timing of environmental events.

Plastic changes occur more quickly than genetic changes but are not permanent – the organisms return to their previous state once the environment shifts back. These changes also may not be enough to protect organisms from even more extreme climates.

What about Australia?

In Australia there is evidence of both genetic and plastic adaptation.

Some of the first evidence of genetic adaptation under climate change have been in vinegar flies on the east coast of Australia. These flies have a gene that encodes the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase. This gene has two major forms: the tropical form and the temperate form. Over the past 30 years, the tropical form of the gene has become more common at the expense of the temperate one.

Plastic adaptation due to climate change has been demonstrated in common brown butterflies in southern Australia. Female butterflies are emerging from their cocoons earlier as higher temperatures have been speeding up their growth and development by 1.6 days every decade. According to overseas research, this faster development allows butterfly caterpillars to take advantage of earlier plant growth.

Higher temperatures are causing the common brown butterflies in southern Australia to come out of their cocoons earlier. John Tann/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

In many cases, it is not clear if the adaptation is genetic or plastic.

The average body size of Australian birds has changed over the the past 100 years. Usually, when comparing birds of the same species, birds from the tropics are smaller than those from temperate areas. In several widespread species, however, the birds from temperate areas have recently become smaller. This might be the direct result of environmental changes or a consequence of natural selection on the genes that affect size.

In the case of long-lived species like eucalypts, it is hard to see any adaptive changes. However, there is evidence from experimental plots that eucalypts have the potential to adapt.

Different eucalypt species from across Australia were planted together in experimental forestry plots located in various environments. These plots have unwittingly become climate change adaptation experiments. By monitoring the plots, we can identify species that are better at growing and surviving in extreme climatic conditions.

Plot results together with other forms of DNA-based evidence indicate that some trees unexpectedly grow and survive much better, and are therefore likely to survive into the future.

What’s next?

We still have much to learn about the resilience of our flora and fauna.

There will always be species with low resilience or slow adaptive ability. Nevertheless, plastic and genetic changes can provide some resilience, which will change the predictions of likely losses in biodiversity.

Much like how our worst weeds and pests adapted to local climate conditions, as demonstrated many years ago, our local plants and animals will also adapt.

Species with short generation times – a short time between one generation (the parent) and the next (the offspring) – are able to adapt more quickly than species with longer lifespans and generation times.

For species with short generation times, recent models suggest that the ability to adapt may help reduce the impacts of climate change and decrease local extinction rates.

However, species with long generation times and species that cannot easily move to more habitable environments continue to have a high risk of extinction under climate change.

In those cases, management strategies, such as increasing the prevalence of gene forms helpful for surviving extreme conditions and moving species to locations to which they are better adapted, can help species survive.

The ConversationUnfortunately, this means doing more than simply protecting nature, the hallmark of our biodiversity strategy to date. We need to act quickly to help our animals and plants adapt and survive.

Ary Hoffmann, Professor, School of BioSciences and Bio21 Institute, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Winter Blues?

Beat the Winter Blues at HideAway Haven

Beat the winter Blues at HideAway Haven

Have you ever noticed noticed how spending a day at the water can make you feel more relaxed, rested and re-energised. Scientists say when we spend time by the water, our brain actually changes.

Our minds are sent into a restful almost hypnotic space thanks to the soothing smells and sounds of the water. Researchers refer to this as "blue space."

Here's what a visit at the beach, or really a trip to the lake or any other body of water, can do:

Boosts creativity

Being in a blue space makes you more creative, as it allows your brain to become relaxed, so you are more likely to drift off and imagine than you would be when being pushed around in the middle of the often chaotic day-to-day world.

Stress melts away

If you put your toes in the water, or go for a swim, that water is filled with naturally occurring positive ions that are known to help relieve stress and boost your mood. Some scientists believe that the positive ions given off by the many appliances we use on a regular basis can leave us feeling angry, cranky, and overworked. Naturally occurring negative ions counteract all of this.

It reduces depression

The sounds of the waves can put you into a meditative state which has been associated with reduced depression and better mental clarity.

Your perspective is changed for the better

Being in a place surrounded by beautiful scenery, the sounds of the water and simply the presence of nature is incredibly soothing to the soul. It reminds us that there are things bigger on this planet than a traffic jam or a snarky co-worker.

Read More

Woman Tried Pulling Her Dog Away From A Suitcase On Train Tracks — Until She Heard Meowing

The 8 kittens and their mom were left to die in a suitcase.

Credit: RSPCA

Credit: RSPCA

Credit: RSPCA

Credit: RSPCA

When a woman was walking her dog in a remote area in England last month, she saw an old suitcase lying on some abandoned train tracks up ahead but didn’t think anything of it. It wasn’t until her dog, which she was walking at the time, pulled her towards it and started sniffing ferociously that it occurred to her that something must be inside of it.

Still, she attempted to pull her dog away and keep walking, but when she got closer to the suitcase, she heard it: faint meows were coming from inside the suitcase, and this motivated the woman to act fast. She quickly unzipped the suitcase in the corner to peek inside and saw a mama cat and her kittens trapped inside.

The woman rushed to bring the cats to her house and quickly called the RSPCA to come and pick them up. Upon further inspection, they determined that the 8 kittens found in the suitcase were thin and malnourished while the mom was extremely dehydrated. When the RSPCA arrived to retrieve the abandoned animals, they actually separated the 5-year-old mom from her kittens in order to put her in intensive care.

Credit: RSPCA

Credit: RSPCA

“She was kept at the vets as she was so dehydrated and needed a drip, but has since been moved to the cattery to be with her litter and is doing much better,” Amy De-Keyzer of the RSPCA told The Dodo.

At just 5 weeks old, the kittens were very young but seemed to be in okay health. They required food to get them to an appropriate weight and the staff at the RSPCA gave them lots of love to show them that humans aren’t all bad, like the ones that stuffed them in a suitcase and left them to die.

Credit: RSPCA

Credit: RSPCA

In the cutest move ever, the staff decided to name them after the characters from the Disney movie, The Aristocrats, making their names Toulouse, Tiny Tim, Scat Cat, Berloiz, Alli, Duchess, Marie and Eve. Their mom was named Tarini. The shelter hopes to put the cats up for adoption soon, once they are stronger and able to be rehomed.

Since the area that they were found is remote and the woman didn’t hear the meowing until she was close to the suitcase, it’s likely that the suitcase would have been the grave for all 9 cats. It’s a mystery why anyone chooses to put animals they don’t want in a situation they can’t escape from, but it happens time and time again despite the fact that it’s fairly easy to surrender animals to local shelters. This story ended happily, however, and is a reminder to us all that these incidents happen frequently and people should be on the lookout.

Credit: RSPCA

Credit: RSPCA

10 Things To Do If The World Is Making You Depressed

Seriously, you’re not alone. Here are some useful antidotes to the global whirlpool of negativity…

There’s no doubt about it: the world is seriously messed up.  If you’re not feeling a little bit sad right now, you’re probably either already taking an assortment of pills to deal with the pain or you live off-grid in a forest somewhere, blissfully ignorant of ISIS vs Western ImperialismMonsantoEcocideTTIP, and all the other seemingly endless tragedies and injustices we never get bored of inflicting on ourselves and the rest of the planet. But rather than giving into the temptation to hide under your duvet until the day humanity blows itself into oblivion, here are a few proactive and realistic steps you can take to get you smiling again.

Bond with mother nature

Credit: pexels.com CC licence

Credit: pexels.com CC licence

This is absolutely crucial to restoring your energy levels and feel connected to the Earth. Not only is nature breathtakingly beautiful, but the great outdoors is a great stress-free zone. No wifi and cellphone signals messing up your brain, no CCTV cameras, no man-made noise, no light pollution, and no crowds. Whether you’re walking through a forest or sitting down by the ocean, you notice an instant calming effect that soothes the soul. Nature is oblivious to humanity’s problems. No matter what’s going on with our dumb species, the wind keeps rustling in the treetops, the ocean keeps making waves, babbling brooks keep flowing, and birds keep singing. If you live close enough to the wilderness to head out for one hour a day and enjoy the tranquility, do it! If you’re a city dweller, try heading to a park at lunchtime, exercise outside rather than in a gym, and plan regular weekends away to escape the oppressive urban jungle as much as you possibly can. Never underestimate the healing power of the natural world.

Turn off the TV

Television acts like a drug, and even alters your brain chemistry. You should probably do yourself a favor and throw out the brain-drain altogether, but if you can’t go that far, at least try to limit your consumption. Try not to come home and turn on the TV unconsciously, instead plan to only watch shows that are positive, funny, uplifting or educational, and leave the tube turned off until then. Start looking for inspirationalfilms and documentaries you can watch on your laptop. Choose your own entertainment, rather than letting someone else choose it for you. Muting TV commercials is another simple trick for anyone feeling down about the constant bombardment of consumerism, especially in the run-up to the holiday season.

Get involved

Credit: Wikimedia commons CC licenced

Credit: Wikimedia commons CC licenced

Dwelling on the many urgent global issues that need fixing isn’t going to help you or anyone else, so instead choose just one cause you feel passionate about, and get involved in it. If homelessness is your main concern, maybe you could spend one day a week volunteering at a soup kitchen. If it’s animal cruelty, you could offer to help out at your local shelter. If you simply don’t have time to do this regularly, there are other options: why not organize a one-off local music concert, yard sale or even a bungee jump to raise money for something close to your heart?

If you need inspiration, click here for 10 specific things you can do to make a positive change in the world, and always remember the words of anthropologist Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Finally, don’t forget that even those seemingly tiny things make a huge difference. Smile at strangers. Give things to charity. Buy holiday gifts from Fair-trade and charity organizations that pay a decent wage to artisans in the developing world. Just continue being a kind person…and be kind to yourself, too.

Avoid the mainstream news

A selection of racist, fear-mongering headlines that will do nothing to boost your mood. Credit: CC license, pressreform.blogspot

Fear, terror, shock, horror, fear, terror, shock, horror…it makes absolutely no sense to wallow in the awfulness of it all. What will it achieve? If you can’t avoid the news for work reasons, I feel your pain. But promise yourself to take one month’s ‘media fast’ per year, where you don’t watch or read any news at all. You quickly learn that the negative energy we create when we feel anxious, angry or frustrated at the world is always better spent on positive thought and action. Terrifying news reports tend to spark widespread fear, division, and hatred for ‘the other’, all of which are detrimental to our shared goal of harmony, happiness, and global peace. Apart from the obvious negativity generated by the corporate media, there are various reasons you really can’t trust it to give you an honest account of what’s happening in the world. Consider the growing number of journalists who have come out and blown the whistle on the reality of news-gathering and reporting to expose an industry that cares very little for honesty and integrity. Striving to be a critical thinker can provide much-needed protection against the fear machine, so educate yourself about how the mainstream media actually works.

Channel your frustration creatively

Don’t get mad, get poetic. Writing, drawing, painting, vlogging or blogging, playing a musical instrument, or creating GIFs and shareable memes online are all ways of venting your frustration at the world in a positive way. Creativity is a wonderful antidote to depression. Many people claim they don’t have an artistic side, but I’m skeptical- even doodling on paper can relieve stress, and even if you think you can’t write a poem, you won’t know until you try!

Disconnect (to reconnect!) 

A recent study from Denmark suggested we’d all feel much happier if we had a break from social media. The Danish Happiness Institute found that participants who put down their smartphones and quit Facebook for a week were more content, and (not surprisingly) interacted more with real-life human beings. Social media can definitely be used for positive change, but if you’re depressed about the world it could do you good to back away from your smartphone for a few days, at least

Take control of your mind

Reminding yourself to live in the present moment is a very effective way to eliminate worrying and get some perspective. It’s easy to forget that the past is gone and the future doesn’t exist: all you really have is now. So many of us panic about what might happen or spend a lot of time wishing the past had been different. Since we have no control over any of this, it’s a total waste of your mental energy. If you don’t seem to be able to stop thinking, it’s worth considering meditation. There are even groups who participate in global group meditations to visualize world peace, and these kinds of initiatives have even been credited with lowering crime rates in cities like New York and LA (the idea is that individual brain waves can affect the collective consciousness).

Spiritual philosophers like Louise Hay, Eckhart TolleAlan Watts and Jiddu Krishnamurti are well worth checking out for anyone who wants to use positive affirmations, mindfulness, ancient wisdom and meditation to visualise a better planet (or even just to make beneficial changes in your own life). If this all sounds like nonsense so far, I recommend watching a powerful film called ‘What The Bleep Do We Know’, which uses the latest cutting-edge research in quantum mechanics and interviews with leading physicists to illustrate how human beings are truly the co-creators of their own reality. True story! You might also want to read an unusual book called ‘Handbook for the New Paradigm’: it’s very strange, impossible to describe, and requires the suspension of disbelief at times, but it will leave you feeling very hopeful and empowered about the simple steps you can take to wrestle our lovely blue planet back from those who seem intent on destroying it.

Remember: millions of people feel the same as you!

Realising you’re not alone in feeling despair for the world is important. Even if your Facebook feed is full of intolerance and apathy, it doesn’t mean nobody else cares. Just remember the millions of people around the world who are campaigning for change. Surround yourself with like-minded people, and never underestimate the importance of a hug! Reddit even has a forum for people who are feeling down, so if you can’t speak to anyone in your life about how frustrated and down you feel, try the online community. Note: If it’s not just the world that’s making you feel depressed but your entire life, or if you’re prone to feeling blue on a  regular basis, you should ask for professional advice, think about alternative therapies, and consider counselling. 

Nurture yourself

Credit: pexels CC license

Credit: pexels CC license

Repeat this mantra: “I am not a superhero.” Nobody expects you to be, and nobody is asking you to be. So stop beating yourself up about things that are absolutely out of your control. If you’ve gotten to the point where you’re so sad about the suffering of others that you’re no longer looking after yourself, you’re really no use to anyone. Sure, you can’t stop thinking about the plight of refugees or all those people on the streets this winter, but you’d be much more able to take proactive steps to help them if you make sure you’re healthy and happy first. So exercisesleep and eat well. Do what you love. Give yourself a break. Be your own best friend. It’s vital to stay happy if you want to make the world a better place. It might sound silly, but just dancing around your living room to uplifting music will give you an instant energy and endorphin boost. Sing in the shower. Smile even if you don’t feel like it. Hey, there’s even a lot to be said for watching funny cat videos.

10. Celebrate and be grateful for the positives

Credit: Wikimedia

Credit: Wikimedia

Despite the fact there are so many global issues that urgently need addressing, the world really isn’t as bad as it seems- and if you turn off the TV and stop reading the news, this quickly becomes apparent. Statistically, things are getting better across the board: global poverty is reducing, campaign groups like Avaaz are working, and all over the world, people are doing wonderful things and making huge changes. Emily Dickinson said:“Hope is a thing with wings,” and she was right. The best way to make the world a better place is to begin with yourself and those around you. Treat yourself and your loved ones with love and compassion first, and you will likely find this starts spreading. Make just one person smile today, and you have made a difference.

Researchers have found that “people who keep gratitude journals on a weekly basis are healthier, more optimistic, and more likely to make progress toward achieving personal goals.” Scientists say that people who write ‘gratitude letters’ to someone who made a difference in their lives “score higher on happiness and lower on depression, and the effect lasts for weeks.” So instead of feeling guilty for your own blessings, say thank you regularly. Every night, make a list of all the positive things that happened to you today, no matter how small. Start your day by telling yourself that something wonderful is going to happen, and within a few days you’ll feel more in control and more optimistic about life- and better prepared to make positive changes in the world.

If you found this article helpful, please share it with someone else who could use it. If you have anything to add to this list please let us know below!

This article (10 Things To Do If The World Is Making You Depressed) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author and TrueActivist.com


Read More: http://www.trueactivist.com/10-things-to-do-if-the-world-is-making-you-depressed/

Jon Doust - Albany's resident comedian

Jon Doust is a comedian, writer, novelist and professional speaker from Western Australia. Doust was born in Bridgetown. He studied English at Curtin University and worked in farming, retailing and journalism before pursuing a career in comedy and writing.

In the 1993 Australian federal election, he unsuccessfully stood for the seat of Curtin against incumbent Allan Rocher making only 428 votes. His campaign slogan was

"Put me last!".

He then went published two small books titled How to lose an election and Letters to the police and other species.

HideAway Haven in Albany Region

Jon Doust is also an environmentalist and a huge lover of our Magpies.  He co-wrote a book called Magpie Mischief.   Magpie Mischief is a delightfully irreverent story about a group of school kids who gang together and take on the City Council to protect the magpies nesting in the trees outside their school. It has strong wildlife conservation theme.

Teaching notes encourages students to think about   • Habitat • Feeding • Handling • Intelligence • Care of the injured of our unique magpies.

Image Source:  Jon Doust

Image Source: Jon Doust

Amazing Quotes Will Inspire You to Fight For Animals and Nature

These Amazing Jane Goodall Quotes Will Inspire You to Fight For Animals and Nature

Her endless compassion for animals, humans, and the natural world that unites us all has inspired millions of people across the world to stand up and make a difference. Whether that difference comes in the form of standing up for abused animals, planting a tree to help regrow a forest or simply speaking to others about the importance of respecting all living things, innumerable actions have been spawned by Goodall’s influence. There is no debating the fact that Dr. Jane Goodall has changed the world for the better.  (Source One Green Planet)

Jane remains a constant beacon of hope and reminder that we all have the power to make a difference.

The only question is what difference will you make?

We are doing something at HideAway Haven
Respect for all animals at HideAway Haven
Caring for animals is everyones responsibility at HideAway Haven
At HideAway Haven we do make a difference
Learning the true nature of our wildlife at HideAway Haven
At HideAway Haven we speak for those that cannot speak for themselves

Get Rid Of Weeds Without Hurting The Planet

If you're looking for a quicker way to effectively get rid of weeds, one of these homemade herbicides might be the way to go

Image Source:  Garden Answers

Image Source: Garden Answers

It’s been said that weeds are just plants whose virtues have not yet been discovered, but if you’re tired of waiting to find out what those virtues are, you might want to use one of these homemade herbicides instead of the chemical versions.

Pesticides – including weed killers, fungicides, insecticides, and rodenticides – can be highly toxic to birds, both by directly poisoning them and by altering the ecosystem they depend on for survival.  Avoid large-scale spraying of any chemicals in your yard, even those considered organic or nontoxic. Birds’ respiratory systems are far more sensitive than ours, and they can easily be harmed by fumes.

Many common weeds can be either food, medicine, or unwanted visitors to the garden, depending on the varieties and how you view them. But if you’ve eaten all of them you can, and you still need to get rid of weeds in your yard, it’s far better for you, your soil, and your local waterways to choose a more environmentally friendly herbicide than those commonly found in the home and garden centre.

Strong chemical herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides can end up polluting our drinking water, our groundwater, and surface water, so it’s important to consider the longer term effects of using them, and to instead make the choice to use a gentler herbicide, which won’t contribute to the larger issue of water contamination.

The most environmentally friendly way to get rid of weeds is to pull them up, dig out the roots, let them dry in the sun, and then add them to a compost or mulch pile. However, that method can also take quite a bit of time, so if you’re looking for a quicker way to effectively get rid of weeds, one of these homemade herbicides might be the way to go.

[N.B.: Just because these are ‘natural’ or homemade herbicides, that doesn’t imply that they couldn’t harm your soil, your garden, or your person. An herbicide is a “substance that is toxic to plants,” which means that your garden plants are just as susceptible to these treatments, they could have a negative effect in the soil if applied in large quantities, and they may cause human injuries if misused.]

Drench with boiling dihydrogen monoxide: (that’s a fancy way of saying water)

This homemade herbicide is by far the simplest to prepare, and unless you happen to spill boiling water on yourself, is also the least harmful to both people and the environment. Simply bring a big pot of dihydrogen monoxide ( to boil on your stove, and then pour it over the leaves and stems of the weeds you wish to get rid of. Using boiling water is an effective method for killing weeds in places such as sidewalk or driveway cracks, or over a larger area that you’d like to replant after the weeds are gone, as it doesn’t leave any residue or have any harmful long-term effects. As with all of these homemade herbicides, it’s still important to only apply it to the plants you wish to get rid of, as they can easily also kill your flowers or vegetable plants.

Light ’em up with fire:

The application of direct heat to the foliage of weeds will cause the plants to immediately wilt, and repeated applications will kill any leaves that may resprout from the roots. A flame-weeder tool is available from home and garden stores, which allows you to apply flame and heat directly to the weeds without catching the whole neighborhood on fire. In fire-prone areas, weeding with flame needs to be done with some extra precautions, as dried weeds and grasses can easily catch fire and get away from you.

Douse with sodium chloride: (common table salt)

Sodium chloride,  is an effective herbicide, and has some historical notoriety for possibly being used to lay waste to the soils of conquered peoples (salting the fields prevents plants from growing there). Because salt can have a detrimental effect in the soil, it’s important to only apply it directly to the leaves of the weeds, and to not soak the soil, especially in garden beds with other, more desirable, plants. Dissolve 1 part salt in 8 parts hot water (it can be made stronger, up to 1 part salt to 3 parts water), add a small amount of liquid dish soap (to help it adhere to the leaf surfaces), and pour into a spray bottle. To apply, cover or tie back any nearby plants you don’t want to kill, then spray the leaves of the weeds with the solution. Be careful to not soak the soil, and keep this mixture away from cement sidewalks or driveways (it may discolor them). Multiple applications may be necessary.

Pickle ’em with vinegar:

OK, so it’s not exactly pickling, but by applying this common household item, white vinegar, to weed leaves, they’ll die off and make room in your yard for more desirable plants. The white vinegar sold in grocery stores is about 5% acetic acid, which is usually strong enough for most weeds, although a more industrial strength version (up to 20% acetic acid, which can be harmful to skin, eyes, or lungs) is available in many garden supply stores. The vinegar can be applied by spraying full strength onto the leaves of the weeds, being careful to minimize any overspray on garden plants and nearby soil. Repeated applications may be necessary, and the addition of a little liquid dish detergent may improve the effectiveness of this homemade herbicide.

Season them like chips:

Another common homemade herbicide recipe calls for combining table salt or rock salt with white vinegar (1 cup salt to 1 gallon vinegar), and then spraying this mixture on the foliage of weed plants. Adding liquid soap is said to help the efficacy of this weedkiller, as is the addition of certain oils, such as citrus or clove oil.

Harness up the 20 mule team:

Borax, which is sold as a laundry and cleaning product in many grocery stores, might not actually get transported by a 20 mule team anymore, but it could help lend a hand in the yard as an herbicide. Add 10 ounces of powdered borax to 2.5 gallons of water, mix thoroughly, and use a sprayer to coat the leaves of unwanted weeds in your yard. Keep overspray off of any plants you want to keep, avoid saturating the soil with the solution, and avoid contact with bare skin.

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below and share this news.

This article (Six Homemade Herbicides: Get Rid Of Weeds Without Hurting The Planet) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author and Treehugger.

 

Why you shouldn't feed bread to ducks or birds

Feeding bread to ducks and other birds is actually a nightmare for everyone.

We’ve all done it: gathered up our stale bread, walked to our nearby park that has a pond, and thrown pieces of bread to ducks that follow us around there. If you haven’t done this, then kudos to you, but for most people this was a childhood pastime that they then grew to teach their kids as well.

Though it may seem like a win-win situation because humans can get rid of their old bread and ducks can indulge in a snack, it turns out that it’s bad for humans, ducks, fish, and the park when bread is thrown into the water.

It should come as no surprise that bread has little to no nutritional value to it for humans and therefore ducks are even less equipped to process such processed foods. While humans are used to these types of carbohydrates making their way into our diets, a duck’s digestive system is not. S0 feeding bread to ducks can not only fill them with unhealthy carbs but also make them ill.

Something that some people might understand but not exactly worry about is the ducks’ reliance on human-sourced food, which usually tends to be the bread but can also be chips, popcorn, crackers, and other snacks that humans might have on them. Needless to say, these other snacks are even worse than bread, but the dependence on human food in general is the over-arching problem. Since the ducks rely on human food, which is often plentiful because of the many visitors to neighborhood parks, they don’t attempt to hunt for their own food, which actually has nutritional value and is sustenance that the ducks need.

In the wild, ducks typically eat small fish and their eggs, snails, worms, grass, algae, frogs, seeds, fruits, nuts, and other types of food found outside. When they stop attempting to scavenge for their own healthy food, the problem of only eating bread becomes even more monumental.

Credit: Wabby Twaxx/Flickr

Credit: Wabby Twaxx/Flickr

Environmentally, the problem of bread in the water is also a total nightmare. Any bread that goes uneaten can rot in the water, making the fish in the pond sick and causing the nasty-smelling algae that often surfaces around the edges of the pond.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Instead, here are some other food suggestions to bring to the park with you if you find that you must feed the ducks: halved seedless grapes, any type of bird seed mix, cut up earthworms, cooked rice, oats, corn, chopped lettuce, and many other healthy choices.

Please be conscientious when feeding ducks and other animals in the future. Just as you wouldn’t want your pets to consume the wrong foods for the entirety of their life, you shouldn’t inflict the same on ducks.

Credit: Crafty Morning

Credit: Crafty Morning

Would you take this advice into consideration next time you think about feeding ducks? Please share, like, and comment on this article!

Thurlby Herb Farm - Walpole

Thurlby is a delightful place to visit.  They maintain a philosophy of ethical, environmental and family friendly values. The Thurlby Herb Farm Gift Shop is a colourful and unusual haven of stylish gifts, including Thurlby handmade soaps and natural aromatherapy products. 

Thurlby Herb Farm Cafe

Changing with the seasons, the menu reflects a passion for healthy, delicious food at reasonable prices.

We enjoyed a gourmet vegan burger - Sweet Potato & Pumpkin Burger – Thurlby's famous homemade burger with basil and pine nuts served in  Turkish bread with salad and Thurlby Chutney.  We were pretty excited to find vegan food at this out of the way spot, only 1km from our Wilderness Retreat.  Of course we had to bring home some chutney and do some early Christmas Shopping.

Fernhook Falls - Walpole Wilderness

Fernhook Falls is more a series of cascades than a single waterfall, and is a lovely spot to visit in the rainy season. In a remote patch of native forest, the Deep River tumbles over rocks through a number of lush pools.  The Deep River has its beginnings 52 km north near Lake Muir and flows through forested areas of National Park including the Walpole-Nornalup National Park and meanders another 42 km before discharging into the Nornalup Inlet. Deep River is one of the purest rivers in the south West because 95% of its journey is through forested catchment areas.

The falls are easily reached up a good gravel road, about 6km from the main highway.  We hadn’t seen a single car all day.  At the car park a trail took us through the bush to the biggest cascade, where the river descends under the road bridge.  It wasn't really cascading, rather just a little trickle stream, but still very pretty, relaxing and peaceful.

The water may not drop a great height, but after rain in winter and spring the horizontal expanse of the main falls and surrounding rapids can be a delightful sight. And a delightful sound too; one not often experienced in the WA bush. It was so quiet with only the sounds of trickling water.  There were numerous small cascades which provided us the opportunity for us to go rock-hopping to find different viewpoints.

Continuing downstream, the trail passes other cascades and ends up at Rowel's pool.   There was a great trail/walkway to follow down the river with toilets and an interpretative centre at the carpark.