SPANISH FLOODS TURN DEADLY.
Two individuals died and three others are missing due to unprecedented rainfall that led to severe flooding in central Spain. The deluge, which began on Sunday and continued into early Monday, resulted in the closure of roads, subway lines, and high-speed train routes. In the Toledo region, situated about 31 miles southwest of Madrid, helicopters were deployed to save residents who had climbed onto the roofs of their houses. The intense rain transformed streets into muddy rivers, washing away vehicles and garbage bins in areas including Madrid, Castile-La Mancha, Catalonia, and Valencia, with some places also experiencing hailstorms. The region around Toledo, where a record 90 litres per square metre of rainfall was recorded, witnessed two fatalities. Residents described the situation as frightening and chaotic. Meanwhile, in the Madrid vicinity, emergency responders addressed nearly 1,200 incidents. There’s an ongoing search for a man near Aldea del Fresno, southwest of Madrid, who went missing with his son after their car was swept into the Alberche River due to a sudden flood. The boy was subsequently rescued after he managed to climb a tree. (Reuters)
JAPANESE WASTEWATER PROBLEM IN MEXICO.
The Alto Río Blanco Wastewater Treatment Plant in Ixtaczoquitlán, Veracruz, Mexico, run by the transnational Mitsui & Co. Infrastructure Solutions, has been accused of causing severe environmental damage and health hazards. Operating since 1995, locals complain of its foul smell and health impacts, especially on children. The State Environmental Protection Agency (PMA) temporarily closed it on August 21, 2023, due to the plant’s non-compliance with regulatory measures. The plant reportedly discharges 700 liters of contaminated water every second into the Escamela River. Investigations revealed the plant lacks necessary permits and regularly discharges water more polluted than its intake. It also releases toxic gases impacting nearby communities. EL PAÍS obtained a report which states that the facility, run by the Japanese firm Mitsui, operates without the necessary licenses and has several infractions. The pollution impacts the area’s biodiversity, agriculture, and even a nearby school. Although Mitsui’s director in Mexico refutes these claims, regulatory reports are explicit about the company’s breaches. Furthermore, the area had witnessed an unfortunate accident in 2021 where a worker died, an incident for which Mitsui claimed no responsibility. Mitsui faces allegations of endangering the local community, environment, and its workers. The future management of the plant remains undecided. (El Pais)
SpaceX SETS RECORD.
SpaceX achieved a significant milestone on Sept. 3 by launching 21 of its Starlink internet satellites from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, marking its 62nd orbital mission of 2023. This sets a new record for the most flights in a single year, surpassing the previous record set in 2022. The launch was executed using a Falcon 9 rocket, whose first stage successfully returned to Earth, landing on the drone ship “Just Read the Instructions” in the Atlantic Ocean roughly 8.5 minutes post-launch. This specific booster celebrated its 10th successful launch and landing. The Falcon 9’s upper stage continued its journey to deploy the Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit about 65 minutes after takeoff. In another notable event for SpaceX on the same day, the Crew-6 mission astronauts, who had been on the International Space Station since March, began their journey home. Their Crew Dragon capsule, Endeavour, is expected to splash down off Florida’s coast. (space.com)
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WOLVES HAVE A HUMAN PROBLEM.
Jeff Akin, a hunter, was taken aback when his neighbor expressed a desire to harm the federally protected red wolves, identifiable by their bright orange radio collars. These wolves, once declared extinct, were reintroduced in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge during the late 1980s and have since been a symbol of the Endangered Species Act. Despite the earlier conservation success of reintroducing Canis rufus, the only wolf species unique to the U.S., challenges persist. The population faces threats like shootings, vehicle hits, poisonings, and alleged government neglect. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to invest around $250 million over the next 50 years to rebuild the red wolf population. However, there is resistance from locals, who view the wolves as threats to their livelihoods, intensified by broader government mistrust. Advocates like Akin and biologist Ron Sutherland remain committed to saving the species, emphasizing its American heritage. (Associated Press)
BIRD FLU KILLING ARGENTINIAN SEA LIONS.
In August, approximately 20 sea lions were found dead off Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego coast. Analysis revealed seven were infected with the H5N1 avian influenza virus, or bird flu. Since its first detection in wild birds in Colombia in 2022, the virus has rapidly spread southwards. Concern is growing over the potential risks if it reaches Antarctica. The most affected species has been the Patagonia sea lion. Dr. Pablo Plaza of CONICET believes the sea lions either contracted the virus from infected birds or through a mutated virus transmissible between sea lions. Originating in Chinese geese in 1996, this contagious H5N1 subtype spread globally, reaching South America by 2022. The transition from birds to mammals is concerning due to difficulties in handling wild animals. Over 15,000 infected sea lions reportedly died in Peru and Chile. Experts fear the virus’s southward spread might reach Antarctica, potentially causing vast ecological damage. While the flu’s current human transmission risk is “low,” vigilance is crucial, especially as the Pan American Health Organization reported unusual avian influenza outbreaks and human infections in the Americas. Argentine officials have advised against handling potentially infected animals and urged the public to report suspicions. (El Pais)
INVASIVE SPECIES COSTS BILLIONS.
Invasive species inflict a yearly cost of at least $423bn globally and are among the top threats to Earth’s biodiversity, as per a UN evaluation. Over 3,500 damaging invasive species, facilitated by human trade and travel, have been observed in every region, leading to severe repercussions for humans, wildlife, and ecosystems. Despite over 37,000 alien species being introduced globally each year, the menace of invasive species is frequently underrated. The study, directed by Professors Helen Roy, Aníbal Pauchard, and Peter Stoett, highlighted the universal nature of the problem, with even Antarctica affected. This assessment by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) took 86 experts nearly five years to compile. Water hyacinth, lantana, and the black rat rank among the top invasive species. The Americas reported the highest number of invasive species at 34%. The cost linked to these invasions has surged 400% every decade since 1970. While eradication efforts on islands show an 88% success rate, the focus should be on prevention, as it’s more cost-effective. Despite global targets to control these species, 84% of countries lack dedicated legislation. However, countries like New Zealand have ambitious plans to eliminate invasive species by mid-century. (The Guardian)
Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.
WORDS: The Biology Guy.
IMAGE CREDIT: Alp Ar Tunga Jabbarli.