It’s February. As is tradition, we’ve put on our pith helmet, donned our khakis and taken a safari around the internet, binoculars in hand, furtively hiding in the bushes trying to spot the best news stories about sustainability that the previous month has to offer. The stories have been shot, skinned, taxidermied and mounted on the walls below for your reading pleasure.
(Disclaimer: this is a metaphor, we’re strong proponents of conservation and a ‘take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints’ philosophy. No animals were harmed in the writing of this article.)
Here we go:
Good news: The planet has more types of tree than we previously thought
Bad news: the tree species we didn’t know about are all thought to be especially vulnerable to climate change, so they might not be around for very long.
A new report by an international research project has discovered that there are around 9,000 undiscovered tree species. Now, if you’re confused, you’re not the only one. How can we know how many species of trees we don’t know about? Well, the team of scientists used statistical modelling from a database of tree data from around the world to estimate the total number of tree species that are likely to exist on Earth.
And that number has increased by 14% to 73,300. Which sounds like great news. However, the majority of these undiscovered trees are likely to be found in fast-disappearing tropical forests, so it really underlines just how precious they are and how much more effort needs to be made to protect the planet’s forests.
Fewer birds means it’s harder for plants to spread their seeds
Picture a mighty oak tree, heavy with acorns. Those acorns are all potential new mighty oaks. But how do they get to their new homes? Why don’t they just fall from the tree and grow immediately under their mother tree?
The answer, like so many answers at Akepa is: birds.
We’re talking about seed dispersal. Birds will feast on fallen seeds and nuts, fly off somewhere else, and then nature will take its course. They’ll ‘make toilet’. ‘Pass a motion’. Drop the chicks off at the pool. To be blunt: they’ll poo out the seed, which germinates in its new location, spreading that tree species to pastures new.
The problem that has recently been discovered, though, is that a loss of biodiversity and the possible new mass extinction event that’s going on, means that there are fewer birds and small mammals to spread those seeds. And nature needs diversity. Different birds eat different seeds and have different ranges across the world. Without those birds eating those specific seeds, the trees stop spreading. Which means that some species of trees may literally be left high and dry in locations that are sub-optimal for their continued existence.
In short: we need more birds. More than ever.
Shining a big light on a banana produces green energy
Yes, that’s a real headline and no, it’s not as simple as that.
Nevertheless, a team of Swiss scientists working for the EU’s hydrogen policy commission has discovered that blasting dried, powdered bananas with a special powerful lamp can extract hydrogen gas in an incredibly efficient way. The same process also works for corn cobs, coffee beans and coconut shells. Maybe we all need to switch to a banana, corn, coffee and coconut diet? Worth a go…
Innocent Drinks accused of greenwashing
Maybe not so innocent Innocent smoothies have been accused of greenwashing by activist group Plastic Rebellion (which is a great name for a punk band).
The claim stems from a TV ad featuring a man and an otter singing about the state of the world, before promising to fix it up while drinking smoothies. As greenwashings go, it’s quite an egregious example because the company is owned by Coca Cola, the worst plastic polluter in the world. And Innocent also uses single use plastic.
It goes to show, if you’re making claims about helping the environment and sustainability, you’ve really got to back it up lest face accusations of dishonesty.
Have a look at our article on what greenwashing is and how to spot it, if you’re in need of a reminder.
That’s your lot for this month. See you in March.