WHAT ARE INVASIVE SPECIES?

An invasive species is any kind of living organism that is not native to an ecosystem, but grows aggressively and causes harm to it human health and even impacts the economy. Human activity, pet trade, wet markets etc. are common ways in which invasive microbes, plants, animals and other organisms enter new habitats. Most species that are transported to new habitats do not survive for a long period. But some do possess innate advantages over the indigenous species and begin to thrive in the invaded areas.

What Makes a Species "Invasive"?

An invasive species can be any kind of living organism—an amphibian (like the cane toad), plant, insect, fish, fungus, bacteria, or even an organism’s seeds or eggs—that is not native to an ecosystem and causes harm. They can harm the environment, the economy, or even human health. Species that grow and reproduce quickly, and spread aggressively, with potential to cause harm, are given the label “invasive.”

An invasive species does not have to come from another country. For example, lake trout are native to the Great Lakes, but are considered to be an invasive species in Yellowstone Lake in Wyoming because they compete with native cutthroat trout for habitat.

How invasive species spread

Invasive species are primarily spread by human activities, often unintentionally. People, and the goods we use, travel around the world very quickly, and they often carry uninvited species with them. Ships can carry aquatic organisms in their ballast water, while smaller boats may carry them on their propellers. Insects can get into wood, shipping palettes, and crates that are shipped around the world. Some ornamental plants can escape into the wild and become invasive. And some invasive species are intentionally or accidentally released pets. For example, Burmese pythons are becoming a big problem in the Everglades.

Threats to Native Wildlife

Invasive species cause harm to wildlife in many ways. When a new and aggressive species is introduced into an ecosystem, it may not have any natural predators or controls. It can breed and spread quickly, taking over an area. Native wildlife may not have evolved defenses against the invader, or they may not be able to compete with a species that has no predators.

The direct threats of invasive species include preying on native species, outcompeting native species for food or other resources, causing or carrying disease, and preventing native species from reproducing or killing a native species' young.

There are indirect threats of invasive species as well. Invasive species can change the food web in an ecosystem by destroying or replacing native food sources. The invasive species may provide little to no food value for wildlife. Invasive species can also alter the abundance or diversity of species that are important habitat for native wildlife. Aggressive plant species like kudzu can quickly replace a diverse ecosystem with a monoculture of just kudzu. Additionally, some invasive species are capable of changing the conditions in an ecosystem, such as changing soil chemistry or the intensity of wildfires.

Credit : The National Wildlife Federation

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WHAT IS ICEBERG CALVING

Iceberg calving, also called glacier calving, is the breaking away or release of huge ice chunks from the termini of glaciers or the margins of ice shelves. Ice shelves can calve huge tabular icebergs over decades or longer like the Antarctic’s Larsen C Sometimes, small fast flowing glaciers continuously calve small chunks of ice into their fjords like the San Rafael glacier in Chile.

Causes of iceberg calving

It is useful to classify causes of calving into first, second, and third order processes. First order processes are responsible for the overall rate of calving at the glacier scale. The first order cause of calving is longitudinal stretching, which controls the formation of crevasses. When crevasses penetrate the full thickness of the ice, calving will occur. Longitudinal stretching is controlled by friction at the base and edges of the glacier, glacier geometry and water pressure at the bed. These factors, therefore, exert the primary control on calving rate.

Second and third order calving processes can be considered to be superimposed on the first order process above, and control the occurrence of individual calving events, rather than the overall rate. Melting at the waterline is an important second order calving process as it undercuts the subaerial ice, leading to collapse. Other second order processes include tidal and seismic events, buoyant forces and melt water wedging.

When calving occurs due to waterline melting, only the subaerial part of the glacier will calve, leaving a submerged 'foot'. Thus, a third order process is defined, whereby upward buoyant forces cause this ice foot to break off and emerge at the surface. This process is extremely dangerous, as it has been known to occur, without warning, up to 300m from the glacier terminus.

Credit : Wikipedia 

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WHAT ARE HYDROFLUOROCARBONS?

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are a group of industrial chemicals primarily used for cooling and refrigeration. HFCs were developed to replace stratospheric ozone-depleting substances that are currently being phased out under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.

Many HFCs are very powerful greenhouse gases and a substantial number are short-lived climate pollutants with a lifetime of between 15 and 29 years in the atmosphere.

Though HFCs currently represent around 1% of total greenhouse gases, their impact on global warming can be hundreds to thousands of times greater than that of carbon dioxide per unit of mass. Assuming no new regulation, HFC consumption is projected to double by 2020, and emissions could contribute substantially to radiative forcing in the atmosphere by the middle of the century.

The Kigali Amendment to phase down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol entered into force in 2019. Under the amendment, countries commit to cut the production and consumption of HFCs by more than 80% over the next 30 years to avoid more than 70 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by 2050 -- and up to 0.5° C warming by the end of the century. Solutions are available to replace high-global warming potential HFCs in many sectors and reduce emissions.

HFCs CLIMATE IMPACTS

HFCs are potent greenhouse gases that can be hundreds to thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2) in contributing to climate change per unit of mass. A recent study concluded that replacing high-GWP HFCs with low-GWP alternatives could avoid 0.1°C of warming by 2050. Fast action under the Montreal Protocol could limit the growth of HFCs and avoid up to 0.5°C of warming by 2100.

SOLUTIONS

HFCs can be most effectively controlled through a phase down of their production and consumption.

In addition to the direct climate benefits from HFC mitigation, a global HFC phase down could also provide indirect benefits through improvements in the energy efficiency of the refrigerators, air conditioners, and other products and equipment that use these chemicals. These efficiency gains could also lead to reduced emissions of CO2 and other air pollutants.

Credit : Climate and clean air coalition 

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WHAT IS HEAT WAVE?

Heatwave is a period of abnormally high surface temperatures relative to what's actually expected over a region at a particular time of the year. Countries have adopted their own standards to declare a heatwave. Heatwaves occur in summer when the high pressure across an area moves slowly, thereby persisting over it for a few days or even weeks. Heatwaves have been observed globally since the 1950s, and have been associated with climate change. It can lead to heat-related stress such as dehydration, exhaustion and heatstroke.

Dangerous Heat

For some, a heat wave might sound like an excuse to run around with a hose or into some sprinklers. In reality, though, heat waves are no laughing matter. They are serious weather phenomena that can be quite dangerous.

How Do Heat Waves Form?

Heat waves are generally the result of trapped air. During the 2012 heat wave, air was trapped above much of North America for a long period of time. As opposed to cycling around the globe, it simply stayed put and warmed like the air inside an oven.

The culprit? A high-pressure system from Mexico. Between June 20th and June 23rd, this system migrated north. It grew in size, and it parked itself over the Great Plains of the United States.

High-pressure systems force air downward. This force prevents air near the ground from rising. The sinking air acts like a cap. It traps warm ground air in place. Without rising air, there was no rain, and nothing to prevent the hot air from getting hotter.

But that wasn’t all. A weather pattern that normally pulls air toward the east was also weaker at the time. That meant that there was little that could be done to push this high-pressure cap out of the way.

Credit : Sci jinks

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WHAT IS HOLOCENE EPOCH?

The Holocene Epoch is the current period of geologic time. It relates to the global changes caused by human activity, and is said to have begun about 11.700 years ago after the icy Pleistocene ended. When the glaciers of the ice era retreated, Earth entered a period of warming. The landscape of the tundra changed, large mammals that had adapted to the extreme cold became extinct, and humans who hunted the mammoth mammals began exploring plant materials to supplement their diet. Climatic changes took place, the human population began to grow, and sadly, we began ushering in processes and inventions that would have serious implications on the future of the planet.

The classification of the geological time scale is done into the following: Eons, Eras, Periods, Epochs and Ages. In this timeline classification, Eons are divided into Eras, Eras are further divided into Periods, Periods divided into Epochs and the Epochs are further subdivided into Ages. Thus, Holocene is an Epoch classified under the Quaternary Period, which comes under the Cenozoic Era, which is classified under the Phanerozoic Eon.

Under the classification of the Quaternary Period, comes the Pleistocene Epoch and Holocene Epoch. The Holocene is the Epoch which follows the Plestocene Epoch. It is also identified as a warm period and an interglacial period by the geologists, and Earth scientists. The striking feature of the Holocene time scale is the rapid proliferation, growth, and the impacts of Human species. The Holocene is characterized by all of the written history, technological advancements, development of many civilizations, and the current transition towards urbanization of the human population. The influence of humans is predominant in this Epoch and the impact on modern-era Earth and the ecosystems have led to the classification of the Holocene. 

The Holocene Time-scale

The word Holocene finds its origin in the Ancient Greek language. Holocene meaning, according to Ancient Greek, is “whole new”. Breaking the word of Holocene into the Greek roots helps in identifying the holocene meaning. The term ‘Holo-’ is derived from the word Holos which means “whole”. The other ‘-cene’ is derived from the word kainos which means “new”.Thus, when combined together, the holocene meaning is “whole new”. The reasoning behind this, is the consideration that this epoch is entirely new as it is the most recent one and is still continuing. Also, the suffix ‘-cene’ is used for all the seven epochs that are classified under the Cenozoic Era. 

According to the International Commision on Stratigraphy, the Holocene started 11,650 calibrated years ago before present. The Holocene Epoch is further sub-divided into five time intervals based on climatic fluctuations, which are also known as the Chronozones:

Preboreal: This is the time period between 10 kiloannum (ka) years - 9 ka before present (BP) (present i.e. 195)). 
Boreal: This lies between 9 ka - 8 ka years BP
Atlantic: 8 ka to 5 ka years BP
Subboreal: 5 ka - 2.5 ka years BP
Subatlantic: 2.5 ka years BP.

During the time of the Holocene, there have been many changes that have taken place in terms of geology and climate which have shaped the current world. Also, the changes occurring due to Global warming in the last century itself has also impacted the natural progression of this Epoch. We will understand a few of these changes as we go through with the article.

Geological Changes During Holocene

The movements of the continent under the pressure of tectonic forces, has been less than a kilometre in the span of 10,000 years of Holocene. Another important change in the geology of the Earth, during this Epoch has been the rise in the sea-level. In the early part of the Holocene Epoch, because of the melting of ice, the sea-level rises about 35 m. In the later part of the Epoch also, the sea-level rises by another 30 m. Many of the areas of landmass above around 40 degrees North latitude that had been covered by ice of the Pleistocene Epoch were depressed by the weight of Ice. Hence, as the glacial period began to recede and the ice began to melt, the landmass rose by180 meters during the late Pleistocene and early Holocene Epoch. These landmasses still continue to rise. 

Climate Changes During Holocene

As such the climate changes have been stable over the Holocene when compared to the cold period of Glaciation. The records collected from the ice cores have shown that before the start of Holocene there was a time period of warming happening globally which began after the end of the last of the ice ages and the cooling periods. The climatic changes became more and more regional and during the transition from the late glacial to Holocene the cold reversal known as Huelmo-Mascardi, began from South America in the Southern Hemisphere and most of the warmth flowed from south to north about 11,000 to 7,000 years ago. It is thought that this happened because of the residual glacial ice which was left in the Northern Hemisphere.

Early Human Settlements During Holocene

The Mesolithic age began with the beginning of the Holocene in most of Europe. In the regions of Middle East and Anatolia a very early neolithisation and Epipaleolithic period began. During this period the cultures that began include Hamburgian, Federmesser and Natufian culture. Also, some of the oldest inhabited places that are still existing such as the Tell es-Sultan (Jericho) in the Middle East began to be first settled. Other evidence of such settlements are given by archaeology at locations of Göbekli Tepe where proto-religion first began as long as 9th millennium BCE. Since then human courses have taken the known developments and continue till date.

It is noteworthy that, using terms like Holocene period, Holocene era or Holocene age, can be confusing as the terms period, era and age have different and definite meaning under the Geographical Time Scale classification system Hence, using Holocene or Holocene Epoch is more reliable and justifiable under such circumstances. 

Credit : Vedantu learn live 

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