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Discussion > First steps towards a sucessful Brexit

golf charlie
Where I grew up in central Perthshire, you can't get much further from th sea in Scotland, there is a large gull colony which has been there since at least the 1030s. The hill top where it is situated has about 10 feet of peat and an acid soil environment. The area round the nesting location has a completely different environment in terms of plants, I assume the soil pH is roughly neutral if not alkaline.

Aug 8, 2016 at 10:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Golf Charlie

The effect on tourism is the consequence. The unwillingness of the politicians to address the problem is the underlying cause.

Aug 8, 2016 at 11:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

There's also a Zika scare in FL at the moment, but observe that the survey EM links is of intentions, it is not yet a real result. Algae blooms on the gulf coast are not rare but I am slightly surprised to see them on the Atlantic coast. I wonder if they are truly attributable to Okeechobee discharge. But peninsular Florida with its swampy nature and channeled water flows is a special case. Everything that happens there is managed in somebody's interest and not always wisely.

Aug 8, 2016 at 11:29 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

EM, in the UK when we have warm dry weather, and river flows reduce, there are panics about "toxic blue-green algae", and people are warned not to swim in rivers and lakes etc.

The article you link to is about scaremongering and trying to create fear and panic. There is no mention of allowing natural rainfall to flush out stagnant or semi stagnant water. Dikes, dams, leveés etc are all about controlling water. They should be capable of adjusting flow, not just preventing it..

Aug 8, 2016 at 11:50 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

SandyS, I doubt there is much that can grow or survive on that amount of guano. I presume it is fairly sterile.

Due to its acidity, and the waterlogged conditions required for its formation, peat supports a good blend of flora and fauna, much of which would not survive elsewhere. This naturally occurring guano pile probably does create an even more unique set of conditions where they meet, and environmentalists would be upset if it was lost or damaged.

If a poultry farmer dumped a load of chicken manure on a peat bog, a state of emergency would be declared, and a one mile exclusion zone would be declared

Aug 9, 2016 at 12:22 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

rhoda 11:29 algal blooms, whether in fresh or salt water are going to result from change in nutrients etc, whether natural or not. For some reason, environmentalists only seek publicity for the non natural ones, especially if they are visible, and photographed from space.

Sixty years ago, no algal bloom had ever been photographed from space, but I do not attach too much significance to this.

Aug 9, 2016 at 12:29 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

golf charlie
I've always considered Peat Bogs pretty sterile places, with little diversity. The fact that precious little rots away, bog oak and human bog burials for example, I've always taken as an indication that there is little or no bacteria below a couple of millimeters. Without bacteria there's not much of a food chain. There's little variety of insect life either, at least in the areas I'm familiar with, when compared to woodland. Perhaps human management of heather by burning and preventing it growing into the shrub it wants to be doesn't help bird, apart perhaps from Red Grouse,and animal life.

Aug 9, 2016 at 7:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

It is perhaps worth commenting on the rivers of southernmost Florida because I don't believe their like occurs elsewhere in the world. In the wet season two rivers (or sloughs) - the Shark River and Taylor Sloughs - flow very slowly (less than half a kilometre a day) south out of Lake Okeechobee across the Big Cypress Swamp and Everglades. They are about 50 miles wide but less than 20cm deep. In the slightly higher areas (higher by centimetres) the surface is covered by an algal mat that swells when wet into a greenish sponge (the original green blob!) but in the dry season shrivels to a brittle thin black and curled up film. I had a colleague who kept some of this dried up algal mat for 20 years before he revived it by adding water.
Unfortunately this unique habitat is under threat as more water is diverted to Miami or used for agriculture.

Aug 9, 2016 at 7:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterACK

SandyS you have forgotten that we had a discussion about your gull colony a few months ago, when I pointed out that guano is acidic so would not neutralize the acidity of the peat.

Far from there being an absence of micro organisms in peat, it is their superabundance that allows the peat to form. In the uppermost levels the activities of aerobic bacteria use up all the available oxygen. Underlying layers are therefore anoxic or anaerobic, and the very efficient putrifying organisms are excluded. Rotting does not stop however, it merely slows down as the less efficient anaerobic microorganisms take over. Commonly only the most resistant organic materials survive without change - the lignin in wood for example. In some bogs many of the microorganisms are methanogens producing biogenic methane or swamp gas.
Stagnant waters are usually required, because inflowing water would introduce oxygen allowing aerobic microorganisms to thrive and destroy the peat. Draining the Fens allowed agriculture, but the slow oxidation of the organic rich soils (many oriiginally peats) has steadily removed their organic contents. Many of the black soils you could see from the train when I was young are now gray. The same process is happening on an enormous scale in southeast Asia where it is not just the forests that are burning but the world's largest peat deposit.

Aug 9, 2016 at 8:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterACK

Yeah, sure, GCMs incorporate oxidizing peat into their carbon cycle models. And those useful little coccolithophores.

Aug 9, 2016 at 9:21 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Ah kim, your beloved coccolithophores - growing larger and faster with the slightest decrease of alkalinity, spreading a rain of minute calcite wagonwheels over the mighty deeps. Some dissolve long before reaching their dark goals, leaving spicules or siliceous skeletons of extraordinary beauty to gather, or in the greatest deeps a red clay full of micro-meterorites. All far from the eye of man. A trillion little deaths gone unnoticed.

Aug 9, 2016 at 9:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterACK

Beautiful image but I suspect your 'trillions' is orders of magnitude off. Back when I first read the limits garbage half a century ago, I calculated what the theoretical maximum population of humans on earth was if all of the sun's energy reaching the earth were dedicated to the sustenance of human souls, at 100W/soul. The figure is in the low quadrillions, approximately a million times more humans than are now sustained..

Of course this is the theoretical maximum, practically impossible, but it illustrates what a small increase in humanity's use of the sun's energy, particularly a la Norman Borlaug, it would take to support many times our earth's present population in a standard of living to which we would all like to become accustomed.

I've long said that 'Techno-optimists' vs 'Malthusian Doomsayers' is not even a sporting contest. What the sad sacks primarily lack is imagination. There is a lot of energy in the universe, and my long term prediction is that man will not ultimately use all of it.

Aug 9, 2016 at 10:25 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

kim I thought hard about use of "trillion" but realized it just depended on how many years you give me - ten, a hundred or a thousand. A trillion is actually quite a small number, read Asimov.

Regarding the limits of humanity, if we assume we are confined to our solar system, then the limit is determined by the total energy output of the Sun. Long while ago I read that a really advanced alien civilization would be marked by the disappearance of its star as the aliens use all of its energy output. Now there's a worthy goal.

Aug 9, 2016 at 11:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterACK

kim. I retract. Even if you use the long form trillion, there are an estimated 10 trillion insects in the world. I would imagine that there are more than that number of coccolithophores around. I should have written "trilliards of tiny deaths".

Aug 9, 2016 at 11:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterACK

True enough you did, you didn't explain why the difference between normal peat bog and the gull colony, which very marked. You can see it on the Google maps satellite view around 56.312337, -3.916014 as a green area of about a hectare in a sea of brown. Possibly due to Uric acid being formed to excrete ammonia which is a base and then forming ammonium based nutrients when mixed with water and vegetation? Not being a chemist I don't know but I do know what I saw.

When I was a lad none of the forestry plantations were there so locating the exact position is a bit tricky, so would be happy to be corrected.

Interesting what you say about peat, I think you have confirmed what I said about it being sterile,ie no oxygen the requirement for virtually all non-plant life. Compared with what grew naturally in my back garden in Derby there isn't a lot of variety on peat moorland. When digging peat for fuel you could go a fair way down and still find recognisable sphagnum moss and other vegetation. If peat forms at about 1-2 mm pa then the sphagnum moss at 300/400mm is a couple of hundred years old and the wood at the bottom of most layers of peat is several thousand years old. That is very very slow decay.

With the loss of East Anglian peat after The Fens were drained and turned over to agriculture I was under the impression that wind and water erosion played a significant part in the soil loss.

Aug 9, 2016 at 12:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Peat is hardly sterile - its full of life. Even sphagnum moss lives well down in the anoxic parts. The organisms gaining their energy oxidizing organic matter using sulphate and nitrate (rather than oxygen) or those forming methane (or using it) are all bacteria.

Re your gull colony, if I didn't mention it, then I should have, but in north west Ireland which has similar rocks to the Highlands there are small outcrops of calcareous metamorphic rocks that can be identified from afar by their luxuriant deep green vegetation. The difference is caused by the availability of available bases (calcium and magnesium) in the soils. This could be the cause of your Perthshire anomaly, with the availability of extra nitrates and phosphates being an additional bonus. Most seabird colonies I have seen have poor vegetation and I suspect it's the bleaching effect of the guano.

Aug 9, 2016 at 12:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterACK

SandyS it has always been my understanding that peat is not nutrient rich, and is acidic, therefore not too many species like it or can survive in it. As ACK notes, rapid biological decay requires oxygen, and peat bogs deplete their own limited supplies, which are not replenished. The acidity helps to "pickle" or preserve, by killing the bacteria and bugs that might have caused decay.

Peat is great for gardeners as a spongey water absorbing medium, that does not compact and exclude air. As container gardeners know, fertiliser has to be added regularly, as there are few nutrients.

As peat is organic, it does decay and compact very slowly. This steady process is measurable with a ruler marked in inches in East Anglia, and is another distraction for climate science advocates to throw into discussions about rising sea levels.

Aug 9, 2016 at 12:50 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

ACK, the disappearing star theory is I believe from Freeman Dyson, and involves using all the planetary material to build a 'Dyson Sphere' enclosing the star. A bit theoretical.

Aug 9, 2016 at 12:52 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

rhoda. You are right, but it requires the whole solar system to be dismantled. Funny that science fiction didn't pick up more on this concept.

Aug 9, 2016 at 2:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterACK

Niven's Ringworld series is the same sort of idea.

Aug 9, 2016 at 2:53 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

rhoda. Wikipedia has a very interesting

Aug 9, 2016 at 4:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterACK

section on Dyson Spheres and another on Dyson spheres in popular culture, with links to all sorts of megastructures. Enjoy

Aug 9, 2016 at 4:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterACK