Hey Ho, Coho! A prodigal fish returns

The California coho salmon, a magnificent fish that was all but wiped out during the 1990s, have begun to trickle back to the rain-swollen Russian River and its tributaries.

It feels like a miracle.

“When it starts to rain, it somehow clicks in them that it’s time — that they can get through to their spawning waters,” says Harry Morse, communications official of the California Department of Fish and Game.

The Russian River coho salmon population faced near-extinction in 2000, he said, for reasons that are still debated. In their heyday, the size of the coho fishery off the Sonoma Coast was 200,000 to 500,000 fish in the 1940s. By 2000 the number of salmon shrank to one percent of that, and the fish was listed as a threatened species.

“Why they disappeared is the $64,000 question,” Morse said in a telephone interview.

He acknowledged that in some coastal fisheries, habitat damage caused by logging operations may have affected the fish, which depend on cool, clear, sustained flows and stable, structural elements of streams in old-growth forests.

But there are a host of other factors that may have contributed to the near-total wipeout along the Northern California coast, Morse says.

Future National Seashore?

Rising tides may destroy Everglades National Park in Florida, sherpas fear melting ice will cause glacial lakes to burst their banks in a “mountain tsunami” and wipe out Mt. Everest’s climbing trails … how will climate change ruin your vacation? Photo: Everglades National Park/Heartajack

Will Climate Change Ruin Your Vacation?

Climate change could alter your travel plans in the not too distant future — including the face of world tourism destinations, how visitors get there, and who gets to go. A new report by the British tourism industry and a sustainability think tank, Forum for the Future, warns the impact of climate change could degrade now-popular vacation hot spots. Among the scenarios imagined is a type of “doomsday” see-it-while-you can rush to visit natural resources before they disappear; the high cost of a “green” travel and climate-related political instability in some destination countries may also threaten the industry. Another study on the issue is just kicking off at Michigan State University, where a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation will be used to examine climate-change impacts on global industries such as tourism. Yet destinations around the United States and the world may already be feeling the effects.

Again With the Bottled-Water Wars

If you want to buy a bottle of water, you won’t find it in Bundadoon. Residents of the small town in southern Australia voted in late September to ban bottled water and set up high-tech, filtered water stations throughout town, where people can have a free drink. For those who can’t break the bottle habit, chilled filtered water in ‘bundy-on-tap’ reusable bottles can be purchased in stores, Kazakhstan News Net reported. While Bundadoon may be the world’s first “bottle-free zone,” the move away from the sale of bottled water has achieved a steady flow. In London, the government will install water stations this month at heavily trafficked bus and rail stations, reports the Guardian.

Costa Rica's Ecotourism Marred by Development, Evictions

Costa Rica’s lauded ecotourism industry is under new, and not always positive, scrutiny. Community-based ecotourism is getting raves for creating jobs in agricultural areas, where tourists delight in glimpsing and sharing a day in the life of a Costa Rican farmer, Inter Press Service reports. President Oscar Arias approved a law in July to support “agro-ecotourism” as a way to let small farmers and some indigenous communities share in the tourism boom. Yet another law protecting coastal resources is being used to remove impoverished communities living on beachfront plots on or near ecotourism destinations. Lacking titles to land they say their families have occupied for decades, residents near the Ostional Wildlife Refuge, a haven for sea turtles on Costa Rica’s northern Pacific coast, are set for removal.

Who'll Pay for the Climate Change Refugees?

Island and coastal nations are grappling with rising sea levels attributed to global warming — and some want industrialized nations to help foot the bill for an expected surge in evacuations, refugee crises and other impacts. Papua New Guinea’s Carteret Islands are quickly becoming a paradise lost, with ocean waters expected to submerge the seven low-lying atolls by 2015. Already, rising tides and storm surges have polluted freshwater supplies and devastated crops. Evacuation of the 2,700 residents is underway, and will continue over the next five years, reports Australia’s The Age. Climate change could force as many as 75 million people from their homes in Asia-Pacific over the next 40 years, Radio Australia reports.

Two Wheels to the World

Pedal power is getting new respect worldwide, as concerns about climate change and hard economic times make bicycling increasingly popular. In Paris, “bike sharing” gives riders access to thousands of two-wheelers around the city, a service that is also gaining momentum in Mexico, Brazil and Canada. The women’s blog prettytough.com even calls bike sharing “the new public transportation.” Bicycling is also getting a big push from Asian governments. South Korea’s president wants to make his country “a bicycle heaven,” The Korea Times reports, while Time Magazine chimes in with news that Taiwan’s leader hopes to create “a cycling paradise” in his island nation.

A (Relatively) Steady Breeze Lifts Wind Power Worldwide

From the American heartland to China and Latin America, wind energy is becoming an increasing popular alternative energy source — though questions remain about environmental impacts. The Fort Worth Business Press reports that Texas outranks all other states in the number of wind farms it operates. Iowa, where President Barack Obama made a symbolic visit April 22 to commemorate Earth Day, ranks second. In Ohio, the municipality of Avon Lake is the latest in the region to consider local initiatives to harness the breezes coming off nearby Lake Eerie. The American Wind Energy Association said U.S. wind-power capacity increased by 50 percent in 2008, edging out Germany as the world leader in the field.

Clinton Adviser Fears Population Crunch

Speaking on a BBC radio talk show, an adviser to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that there are “probably already too many people on the planet” than the Earth’s ecosystem can sustain. Dr. Nina Federoff, an adviser to Clinton as well as her predecessor, Condoleeza Rice, said that with a population of almost seven billion, humans will need to better manage water and “wild lands.” She also said genetically modified agriculture would be required to sustain large populations. –Brittany Owens/Newsdesk.org

“Earth population ‘exceeds limits'”
BBC News/March 31, 2009

Mexico City's Water Woes

Drought and leaky pipes are causing unusual water shortages in Mexico City, reports the Latin American Herald Tribune. A lack of planning, and poorly maintained pipelines that lose as much as 40 percent of the water they transport, have exacerbated unprecedented lows in the city’s reservoir system, causing millions of people to lose some or all of their water supplies over Easter weekend. Experts say that if droughts persist as expected, and despite planned repairs on pipelines, water shortages will only increase. –Brittany Owens/Newsdesk.org
“Depleted Reservoirs Threaten Mexico City’s Water Supply”
Latin American Herald Tribune, April 10, 2009