Photographer Captures Dazzling Images of a Lightning Storm Dubbed the ‘Night of a Thousand Forks’

These incredible photos managed to capture the beauty of 50 forks of lightning striking a Mexican city in just 5 minutes.

The amazing panoramic photos of the valley show the sky light up amidst a storm that is now being dubbed “The Night of a Thousand Forks” because of the sheer amount of lightning streaking across the length of the valley’s 165 square miles.

The intense electrical storm even saw a number of the lightning bolts crackling over the 12,000-foot tall Colima Volcano—the most active volcano in Mexico.

The volcano towers over the state of Colima, which is where the lightning storm hit on July 14th.

Rivera Cervantes / SWNS

“The night was crazy—all the locals are calling it the Night of a Thousand Forks,” said 37-year-old photographer Hernando Rivera Cervantes, who stitched 42 of his images together into a photo composition to show the full, dazzling impact of the storm.

LOOK: Photographer Captures Exact Moment When Lightning Strikes Erupting Volcano

“It kept everybody awake all night, and there was lots of rain too. The sound was enough to keep the whole city awake,” he added. “Over five minutes, I captured about 40 to 50 lightning bolts—which was incredible. I have been fascinated by lightning since I was a child, it has always impressed me with its great energy and light.”

Self-portrait of photographer Hernando Rivera Cervantes in front of lightning strikes over Colima, Mexico. (SWNS)

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Ex-Guerrillas Turn into Citizen Scientists Using Their Knowledge of the Colombian Jungle to Protect Biodiversity

Reprinted with permission from World at Large, an online journal focused on travel, foreign affairs, health and fitness, and the environment.

After 2016, when the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed a peace agreement with the Colombian government, scientists realized that it was suddenly safe to explore the rainforests, mountains, and savannas from which FARC waged a 50-year guerrilla war—and these areas are counted among the most biodiverse and least-explored places on earth.

A few biologists who longed to journey to the heart of these places also seized the opportunity as the perfect way to bring 14,000 former guerrillas back into society in a meaningful way that could benefit not only them, but the country’s stunning biodiversity.

Colombia is often referred to as the world’s most biodiverse country. Although this is a hard thing to designate, since many species around the world of all kinds remain undiscovered, she does lay claim to the most bird species anywhere on earth—both endemic and migratory.

Who better to help protect Colombia’s wild spaces than those who know them best, pondered Jaime Góngora, a wildlife geneticist at the University of Sydney who is originally from Colombia.

Góngora now leads a group of researchers from the United Kingdom, Australia, and 10 different Colombian scientific institutions in a program that trains ex‑guerrillas to study Colombia’s native plants and animals—a program which to date has uncovered nearly 100 previously-unknown species.

RELATED: Dozens of Creatures Thought to Be Extinct Found Alive in ‘Lost City’ in the Jungle (Photos)

Peace with Nature

Peace with Nature now unites scientists with guerillas to help protect Colombia’s biodiversity and aid in the post-conflict situation for thousands of people, 84% of whom, according to Góngora, are interested in pursuing, of all things, river habitat restoration as their post-conflict career path.

Góngora and his colleagues are only too happy to help, and Peace with Nature began hosting citizen scientist workshops to help train eager folks to find, identify, catalogue, and study wild plants, insects, birds, amphibians, and more.

The preparation work was long and hard – between 15 and 18 months according to Góngora.

“We did the first regional workshop last March in a remote ex-combatant village named Charras in the province of Guaviare at the interface of three major ecosystems in Colombia: Andes, Orinoquia, and Amazon,” says Góngora, in an interview with Science Magazine.

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“There, we did a more comprehensive workshop and inventory of an ecotourism trail identifying more than 120 plant and animal species, which were uploaded to iNaturalist”.

iNaturalist is an app used by citizen scientists around the globe, that allows naturalists to document their country’s biodiversity inventories and to inform and highlight potential ecotourists of attractions in their communities.

“In some of the workshops, we have the presence of the police and military forces along with the ex-combatants,” explains Góngora. “I think what has surprised me most is the opportunity that biodiversity offers for reconciliation and healing after an armed conflict. These workshops have been spaces for a respectful dialogue about biodiversity and nature”.

WATCH a video from Peace With Nature… (File photo by Nishaan ahmed)

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Stunning ‘Bubble Hotel’ Under the Icelandic Stars is Truly the Perfect ‘Socially Distancing’ Destination

A secluded retreat in South Iceland caters to guests who want to be surrounded by nature—and you will be literally immersed in it, staying in your own private bubble nestled in the forest.

You can sleep under the vast sea of twinkling stars and be entirely enclosed in the glass bubble—and if you are lucky, you’ll get a once-in-a-lifetime view of the aurora borealis over your head.

Robert Robertsson, the owner and managing director of the Buubble project based in Reykjavík summed it up saying, “Some childhood dreams stay with us for our whole lives.”

“Sleeping under the stars or watching the aurora borealis dance is one of those lifelong dreams.”

The entrepreneur created the Bubble concept to fulfill those dreams. And, now with COVID-19 cases down to one or two per day in Iceland, it might be the perfect pandemic getaway.

“Forget the city, forget work, and enjoy watching the aurora borealis dance for you. We can‘t guarantee you will see the lights, but if they show up you will have a magical night.”

Licensed as a travel agency, Buubble.com has two location in South Iceland.

RELATED: This Breathtaking Café Made Entirely Out of Cardboard Shows Just How Eco-Friendly Architecture Can Be

Up to 2 guests can stay in the bubbles, with children under the age of 6 can staying in the bed with the parents.

SWNS

The regular cost is $830, but Robertsson is offering a COVID-19 discount which would bring the amount down to $618, and allow you to book anytime using the open ticket in the next five years.

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Tiny Forests Are Springing Up All Around Europe, Inspired By Japan, to Help Restore Biodiversity

Using the methods of Japan’s most famous botanist, European countries are beginning to dot their urban landscapes with tiny forests, as productive and biodiverse as any in wilderness areas, yet sometimes only as big as a tennis court.

The idea is that volunteers can plant densely-packed clusters of seedlings from indigenous plants to create a small functional ecosystem that can restore soil, protect resources like water and air quality, and act as a biodiversity hotspot that can have a measurable effect on both the local and regional environment.

Akira Miyawaki was the botanist who in 1970 observed that trees around Japan’s Shinto and Buddhist shrines tended to be native species, well-adapted to the soil and climate of the islands of Japan.

RELATED: Pakistan Hires Thousands of Newly-Unemployed Laborers for Ambitious 10 Billion Tree-Planting Initiative

He later found that only 0.06% of contemporary Japanese forests were indigenous forests, with the sizable remainder populated by non-native tree species, or planted in unnatural ways.

He pioneered a method of restoring indigenous forests on degraded or deforested land which had been devoid of humus. It came to be known as the Miyawaki method. Using this formula he created over 1,700 forests throughout Asia, 96.7% of which developed into a resilient ecosystem within ten years.

Miyawaki in Europe

Growing more than 10x faster, and possessing up to 20x more biodiversity potential than contemporary forests, the Miyawaki method is perfect for organizations like Urban Forests in France and Belgium, and the Tiny Forest initiative in Holland, with their strong desire to prevent the worst of climate change upon their nations’ relatively small landmass.

Urban Forest in Belgium – Instagram @urbanforestsbelgium

On March 2nd Urban Forests finished a 22-species, 1,200-tree Miyawaki forest in Toulouse, France, planted on 400 square meters—the first such forest in Toulouse.

CHECK OUT: Scientists Use Recycled Sewage Water to Grow 500-Acre Forest in the Middle of Egyptian Desert

“The plantations are made in a very dense way, in order to favor the cooperation between the species,” Audrey, one of Urban Forests’ volunteers explained to Actu Toulouse. “It captures more CO2 and trees grow up to ten times faster than in a conventional forest.”

It’s just one of many Urban Forests’ projects, and the fifth that the nonprofit has completed this year. In total their Miyawaki forests across Belgium and France consist of 21,000 trees over 7,000 square meters.

The Tiny Forest Initiative started in 2015 in the Dutch city of Zaandam by the Institute for Nature Education and Sustainability (IVN), has created 100 Miyawaki forests across the country, and had planned an additional 30 for the first three months of 2020.

MORE: First Drone Project of Its Kind in Canada is Aiming to Plant 1 Billion Trees by 2028

In 2017, ecologists at Wageningen University in Holland examined the newly planted mini-forests and concluded that tiny forests “increase the biodiversity compared to the nearby forest. Both the number of species groups and the number of individuals is generally higher than in the reference forests.”

They also found that biodiversity was improved because sunlight was able to reach more species of local plants known to local pollinators. The forests also provided “more variety in food and shelter for a higher diversity of animals like insects, snails, butterflies, amphibians, bugs, grasshoppers.”

“This is a great thing to do,” said wildlife researcher Eric Dinerstein in a recent scientific publication. “So this could be another aspect for suburban and urban areas, to create wildlife corridors through contiguous ribbons of mini-forest.”

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Maasai Nature Conservancy Asks For Help To Fight Pandemic—And 100,000 People Answer

The rolling plains of the Maasai Mara in Kenya are home to the famous red-cloaked Maasai people as well as some of the most charismatic animals on earth.

When it became clear COVID-19 would destroy the tourism industry of the Maasai living in the breathtaking Nashulai Nature Conservancy, the tribe petitioned Avaaz, a website connecting local people-powered movements, to try and organize a response call for help.

As a result, 100,000 people raised money to help pay the rangers’ salaries, ensuring that the critical Nashulai elephant migration corridor remained safe from poachers. The money was also enough to secure sanitation and medical supplies and food for the Maasai community there, so they could survive the COVID-19 storm.

About 3,000 people live inside the boundaries of the 6,000-acre conservancy, with another 5,000 living in surrounding communities in traditional Maasai villages where they rely mostly on their cattle for food and money.

RELATED: Canadian Government Buys Hotels to House Homeless People—And Also Rehire Workers

In 2016, Nelson Ole Reiyia and Margaret Koshal Reiyia placed a project on Avaaz to turn their home into a Nature Conservancy. “Avaazers” around the world chipped in with hearts and wallets to launch the Nashulai Maasai Conservancy, an innovative way to help the Maasai maintain their traditional way of live in a harmonious way with the land.

The Conservancy created a way to bring outside capital into the community through offering safaris and camping, as well as cultural homestays and other events.

Nashulai Conservancy – nashulai.com

These community programs brought increasing opportunities for education, established greater food and market security, and needed sanitation facilities.

LOOK: People Are Installing Portable Hand-Washing Sinks for the Homeless in Cities Across the US

The Maasai are famous warriors, and the conservancy established a mighty force against poachers. Professional rangers and young warriors called “moran” who are trained in bush practices, now serves as “The Warriors for Wildlife Protection”, monitoring the animal populations and protecting against poaching.

The Modern Maasai Facing COVID-19

COVID-19 has put much of this in danger. The tourist infrastructure, which 90% of all the Nashulai Maasai depend on for income, has completely collapsed.

The community library has been repurposed as a storehouse for medical equipment—and rationing of food supplies like cornmeal and cooking oil has begun.

With help from Avaaz they’ve been able to pay the rangers’ salaries, and import much needed medical and sanitary supplies.

MORE: Thousands of Young Adults Are Volunteering to Catch COVID-19 to Save Others in the Future

“We’ve worked hard to create this unique conservancy, and we want it to be there for the people in their deepest moment of need,” writes Nelson Ole Reiyia on the Nashulai website.

Generous persons can still donate to their COVID-combating activities directly on the website, which are tax deductible contributions for the U.S. and Canada.

WATCH the video…

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Need more positive stories and updates coming out of the COVID-19 challenge? For more uplifting coverage, click here.

People Use Chalk to Write Plant Names on Sidewalks to Help People Connect With Nature – ‘More Than Weeds’

Across the paved streets of the UK and France, sidewalk chalk is beginning to be employed by more than just children as rebel botanists regularly break street-chalking laws to write the names of wild plants and flowers growing through cracks in the cement.

Beginning in France—and leading to a campaign called More Than Weeds in London—this act of highlighting the names of wildflowers and other plants has drawn significant attention on social media, where images and videos are racking up hundreds of thousands of fans.

In one video viewed 7 million times from the French website Brut, Boris Presseq, a botanist at the Toulouse Museum of Natural History, walks around his city chalking the names of the plants he finds on sidewalks and walls to help raise awareness of the diversity and richness of plant citizens in the heart of the southern French city.

“I wanted to raise awareness of the presence, knowledge and respect of these wild plants on sidewalks. People who had never taken the time to observe these plants now tell me their view has changed. Schools have contacted me since to work with students on nature in the city,” Presseq told the Guardian.

In one of those “every day you break 3 laws you didn’t know existed” moments, it is illegal to use sidewalk chalk on public pavement without permission for any reason. However, no one in London, Cambridge, or Hackney seems to mind the graffiti, with one selection of identified plants posted by a London resident on Twitter receiving over 100k likes.

Tweet by Elizabeth Archer

Weeds Do More Than Grow

Botanical chalking is a sign of changing attitudes towards plants in English cities. In 2018, the Hackney town council reduced the amount of glyphosate used to control weeds by 50%, and last year trialed a glyphosate-free area to promote biodiversity and see if it was possible to maintain a high standard of sidewalk maintenance without the use of chemical herbicides.

Glyphosate is an ingredient present in many popular industrial and commercial herbicides that the International Agency for Research on Cancer has labeled a probable carcinogen.

LOOK: Britain’s Best Gardening Couple Outdo Themselves With Spring Spectacular After Spending Lockdown Tending Their Oasis

Hundreds of insects species are deprived of food when glyphosate is used as an herbicide, which means hundreds of plant species nearby go without the needed pollinators. Critically, many species of plants considered weeds, such as dandelions which can thrive in urban environments actually provide more pollen—and human food—per flower than other, wilder species, according to a study which looked at 65 plants across six UK cities. They found that weed species occupied the top five spots for nectar sugar produced and two spots in the top ten for pollen production.

Boris Presseq with students naming Portulacca on French street

“Every flower counts and will be targeted by pollinators […]If we change our perceptions and see the dandelion flower for what it is – an absolute lifeline to our bees in early spring – we might learn to love them more.” said UK Plantlife Spokesperson Trevor Dines speaking to the Guardian.

“One survey of pavements in Sheffield found 183 different plants, another in Cambridge found 186 species on walls. All these little micro niches build up to a wonderfully complex tapestry,” he added.

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Being able to see and identify a plant is important for a person to build an awareness or appreciation for plant life in the city. People who don’t understand the name or function of a particular plant in an ecosystem like their yard are less-likely to be interested in them, just as they would if they were watching a sporting event without knowing the names or roles of any of the players.

“Botanical chalking gives a quick blast of nature connection, as the words encourage you to look up and notice the tree above you, the leaves, the bark, the insects, the sky. And that’s all good for mental health,” said one of the lawless, chalk-armed English botanical enthusiasts who spoke to the Guardian under conditions of anonymity in order to avoid fines up to £2,500 for graffiti.

“It’s brought me a great amount of joy,” they added.

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Pakistan Hires Thousands of Newly-Unemployed Laborers for Ambitious 10 Billion Tree-Planting Initiative

Although the novel coronavirus pandemic has driven thousands of workers into unemployment, the Pakistani government has found a way to provide jobs to their citizens while also reforesting the nation.

According to Reuters, Pakistan has created more than 63,000 jobs for unemployed day laborers by relaunching the nation’s ambitious 10 Billion Tree Tsunami campaign.

The 5-year initiative, which was started by Prime Minister Imran Khan back in 2018, was temporarily shut down in mid-March as a result of the country’s quarantine. With thousands of agricultural workers facing unemployment amidst the lockdowns, however, the program was relaunched earlier this month.

RELATED: Publix Supermarkets Are Buying Food From Struggling Farmers So They Can Use it to Feed Families in Need

The laborers, who are still required to wear face masks and respect social distancing guidelines, are now being given daily living wages as “jungle workers” planting saplings and protecting the trees from fires and illegal logging. The Pakistani government has reportedly been planting the majority of these trees in rural, low-income areas where locals can benefit from the work.

The nation’s environmental ministers go on to say they hope to hire three times as many workers as last year in order to meet their goal of planting 20 million saplings by the end of 2020, bringing the project’s total to 50 million trees.

This is not the first time that the nation has made headlines for planting trees; the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami is a continuation of another extensive tree-planting government effort which resulted in more than 300,000 new jobs and millions of saplings planted across the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province back in 2017.

LOOK: Himalayan Mountaintops Visible for the First Time in 30 Years as Air Pollution Continues to Plummet in India

Now Malik Amin Aslam, who is the climate change adviser for the prime minister, told Reuters that legislators hope to continue using the pandemic as a tool to ramp up their efforts against climate change.

“This tragic crisis provided an opportunity and we grabbed it,” Aslam told the news outlet in a phone interview. “Nurturing nature has come to the economic rescue of thousands of people.”

This is just one of many positive stories and updates that are coming out of the COVID-19 news coverage this week. For more uplifting coverage on the outbreaks, click here.

File photo by Junaid Ali, CC

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Swiss Village Has Been Projecting World Flags Onto One of Their Tallest Mountains in Solidarity of Pandemic

Rather than raising a flag up on a flag pole, the nation of Switzerland is paying homage to their international neighbors struggling against COVID-19 by projecting different world flags onto the front of one of their most iconic Alpine mountains.

Light artist Gerry Hofstetter was commissioned to illuminate the famous Matterhorn mountain in Zermatt with different national flags to show solidarity towards countries that have been hit hardest by the novel coronavirus.

LOOK: Himalayan Mountaintops Visible for the First Time in 30 Years as Air Pollution Continues to Plummet in India

Now on every night since March 24th, the Matterhorn has displayed the flag of France, the US, India, Japan, Germany, the UK, Portugal, Spain, and many others.

“With this light projection, Zermatt wants to give people a sign of hope and solidarity in these difficult times,” reads the Zermatt Matterhorn tourism website. “The village shows solidarity with all the people who are currently suffering and is grateful to all those who are helping to overcome the crisis.”

Americans have been particularly touched by the gesture since the Zermatt website published a photo of the Star-Spangled Banner on the front of the 14,690-foot tall mountain with a caption reading: “As it stands, the USA is the country that has been most impacted by the COVID-19 crisis with the highest number of confirmed cases. Our thoughts are with all American people at this unprecedented time.

“May our message convey solidarity and give you hope and strength,” they added. “We look forward to meeting again at the foot of the Matterhorn. We are all in this together.”

WATCH: Beloved Opera Singer Unites Millions of Viewers With Livestreamed Easter Performance in Empty Cathedral

If you want to check out additional photos of the light displays or watch the livestreams of the illuminations, check out the Zermatt Matterhorn website.

This is just one of many positive stories and updates that are coming out of the COVID-19 news coverage this week. For more uplifting coverage on the outbreaks, click here.

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Himalayan Mountaintops Visible for the First Time in 30 Years as Air Pollution Continues to Plummet in India

As more and more global communities enforce stay-at-home orders and social restrictions, rates of air pollution have plummeted.

The most notable example of this phenomenon emerged on the horizon of Jalandhar in Punjab, India earlier this week.

For the last 30 years, the tops of the Himalayan mountains have been obscured by air pollution and smog. Now as the city streets are emptied of traffic and gas-guzzling vehicles, the mountaintops were clearly visible to the millions of local communities in quarantine.

Photographers living as far as 200 kilometers (124 miles) away from the mountain range have since posted awe-inspiring pictures of the snow-capped peaks to social media in celebration of the spectacular sight.

This is not the first time that people have taken notice of cleaner air amidst the COVID-19 shutdowns; following similar reports in China and the US, air pollution is continuing to plummet in countries with social restrictions, such as the UK and India. In New Delhi alone—which has some of the worst air pollution in the world—airborne particulates plunged by 71% in just one week.

Particle pollution in major UK cities have also dropped by as much as one-third—and the rates are expected to fall even further as lockdowns continue.

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“These are big changes—pollution levels are the equivalent at the moment of a holiday, say an Easter Sunday,” Professor James Lee from York University and the National Centre for Atmospheric Science told The Guardian about the data.
“And I think we will see an even starker drop off when the weather changes.”

This is just one of many positive stories and updates that are coming out of the COVID-19 news coverage this week. For more uplifting coverage on the outbreaks, click here.

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Happy 60th Birthday to Madagascar! World’s Most Biodiverse Island Gets Gift of 60 Million Trees

To celebrate its 60th birthday, the nation of Madagascar held its largest ever tree-planting ceremony, with a million seedlings going into the ground in just a few hours after the speeches concluded. The country is preparing to plant a million trees for each year of its six decade history.

“The government has the challenge of making Madagascar a green island again. I encourage the people to protect the environment and reforest for the benefit of the future generations,” said President Andy Rajoelina at the January launch event in Ankazobe district, 100 kilometers (60 miles) northwest of the capital, Antananarivo.

According to two Madagascar writers published at Mongabay, the highly-publicized campaign comes one year after Rajoelina’s election on a platform that promised to “Make  Madagascar green again.” It is the culmination of months of hard work by many organizations amassing around 100 million seeds to place into cultivated nursery beds—with schools, NGOs, government ministries, and even the army lending a helping hand.

Some officials supporting the project worry there won’t be enough follow-up to ensure the trees make it to adulthood, but Madagascar’s environment minister vowed to provide support.

RELATED: Scientists Use Recycled Sewage Water to Grow 500-Acre Forest in the Middle of Egyptian Desert

“This time, the action will be continuous, and there will be a follow-up,” said Alexandre Georget. “The state will recruit guards to monitor and protect the young plants.”

This is the world’s oldest island and a country of unparalleled biodiversity, but it is often scored as one of the worst nations for deforestation, with 40% of its forest cover lost since 1940. Most rural populations can’t make money from the incredibly unique forest ecosystem, so the trees are the first to go, when islanders need to make a living.

– Lemur, Mobile Library Project

That’s one of the reasons the environmental ministry and partners are planting trees that bear fruit and spices which can be harvested for export.

Recent movements turned to education, government protections of land, and the training of rural communities to regard themselves as forest protectors, which have all helped slow the decline of forests and exotic wildlife populations like the 100 species of lemur that are found only on this island.

RELATEDCouple Protects Endangered Madagascar Lemurs By Launching Mobile Library to Teach Indigenous People to Read

But rigorous reforestation is also needed to support these exotic creatures, so the country is stepping up. It is including some fast-growing non-native species which do pose a risk to the high bio-diversity of flora in the region, but also could go a long way towards achieving a financially stable relationship between the trees and the Malagasy who live under them.

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What Can One Person Do in 10 Years? This Man Planted 152 Million Mangrove Trees

“Here we have a burgeoning (mangrove) leaf. You take it and you plant the lower third in the mud, and then you take 2 steps—one, two, and then you plant another one,” said the retired politician, with a smile ear to ear, as he wades in the murky coastal waters of Senegal’s Casamance Delta.

Planting since 2009, Haidar el Ali’s efforts have produced one of the most stunning successes in the history of modern large-scale reforestation—the restoration of an entire Senegalese mangrove swamp.

Forests are one of the most resilient habitats on our planet while also being one of the most exploited. Ever since the scientific community began to encourage the planting of trees to ‘re-wild’ previously lost forest ecosystems to respond to climate change, some very determined members of the human race have rolled up their sleeves and produced remarkable results.

RELATED: Scientists Use Recycled Sewage Water to Grow 500-Acre Forest in the Middle of Egyptian Desert

As Senegal’s former Minister of Ecology (and later Fisheries), the 67-year-old was able to rally citizens from the local coastal population to help him plant 152 million mangrove buds by hand, and it created a truly beautiful coastal mangrove forest stretching hundreds of square miles—one of the largest of its kind in the world.

A Paradise for Crabs—and Environmental Ministers

Recently, Jean Francois Bastin et al. estimated that 2.4 billion acres of additional forest cover on the earth (1B hectares) would suck 25% of all the carbon currently being pumped into the atmosphere. Science like this was in large part responsible for the World Economic Forum’s launch of the Trillion Trees vision.

Because they store immense amounts of carbon in their submerged root systems, mangroves and other bodies of coastal vegetation are some of our planet’s most important ecosystems. They help filter river mud runoff from entering the sea, while absorbing the brunt of tidal waves and tsunamis. And they also provide some of the most valuable habitat for near-shore wildlife including birds, insects, invertebrates, crustaceans, reptiles, fish, and even monkeys.

MORE: First Drone Project of Its Kind in Canada is Aiming to Plant 1 Billion Trees by 2028

In a video interview with BBC, Haidar described how the original mangrove forest in Southern Senegal was disrupted in the 80s and 90s as the nation began to build roads which diverted or ended the flow of rivers. “At the time there were no environmental impact studies, of course.”

2008 photo of Haidar by Serigne Diagne, CC license

Next came the lumbermen who clear-cut the coastal mangroves. It wasn’t, as Haidar explains, until the salt from the sea water entering the delta poisoned the nearby rice fields that people began to think about replacing what had been lost.

WATCH: Man Succeeds Where Government Fails—He Planted a Forest in the Middle of a Cold Desert

Though nearing his seventh decade of life, Haidar swims butterfly stroke through the water-borne forest of his and his colleagues’ making, pointing out the presence of returning wildlife as a boon to the local economy.

“The mangrove is a fantastic ecosystem that attracts rain—and it is well known scientifically that this mud captures methane, and that these leaves capture CO2,” he explains.

“I take a lot of satisfaction from this. I’m ready to do it every day, all evening, all my life.”

(WATCH the heartwarming BBC video below… [NOTE: BBC only has video, no full article)

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Scottish Government Scores Hole in One for Wildlife, Blocking Golf Course on Protected Coastline

On every continent, wildlife habitats of all kinds are threatened with development and construction, but perhaps none stand at greater risk than coastline ecosystems like estuaries, salt marshes, and coastal wetlands.

In Scotland one of the last remaining dune ecosystems of its kind in the entire country was just saved from an attempt to turn the unique sandy shore into a golf course.

The wetlands area known as Coul Links is a Ramsar site recognized by UNESCO, and part of the Dornoch Firth and Loch Fleet Special Protection Area.

After four years of campaigning by citizens and wildlife groups to preserve the coastline, home to over 1,200 species of plants and animals, some unique to Europe, Scottish ministers made their decision this week, refusing to allow the development to proceed.

RELATED: Prince Charles Opens 10-Room Bed And Breakfast On The Grounds Of His Scottish Castle

The Scottish Wildlife Trust, The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the IUCN, and Scottish Natural Heritage cheered the news after the application was declined on the 21st of February. The groups had been arguing that there were golf courses already serving the area—one that was controversial for the same reasons (and in the news media because of its celebrity owner).

“Today’s decision demonstrates that individuals can make a real difference by taking the time to stand up for nature,” commented the Wildlife Trust’s Chief Executive Jo Pike.

By Julian Paren / Geograph.org project, CC license

“Saving Coul Links from development is a strong sign that the Scottish Government is committed to protecting Scotland’s fantastic natural environment, and that it is prepared to make difficult decisions,” she added.

MOREScotland Added 22 Million New Trees Last Year, Carrying the UK Goal on its Green Shoulders

The East Sutherland site is an important stopover refuge for migratory waterfowl and other rare aquatic bird species—and after the golf course at Aberdeenshire was built over a coastal ecosystem, it looked like development of Coul Links was to be par for the course of modern development. Luckily for the wild places of Scotland and their admirers, a government is willing to stand up for them.

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Disaster Breeds Invention: Philippine Residents Use Volcanic Ash to Repair Damaged Buildings

While a volcanic eruption doesn’t conjure many reasons for celebration, residents of Binan, Philippines have utilized the immense destructive power of nature and turned it into an unorthodox opportunity.

Tens of thousands of grey bricks, produced with the very ash from the recent eruption as well as cement and discarded plastic have been made for the purpose of repairing the parts of the city damaged by the eruption on January 12th, providing a short economic stimulus, and even reducing amounts of plastic in the city’s landfills.

After the Taal volcano erupted last week on the island of Luzon, the mayor of the city of Binan asked residents to collect the fine grey ash deposited all around the city by Taal and place it in sacks to be sent to a state-owned factory.

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“Instead of just piling up the ashfall somewhere, we are able to turn it into something useful. And it includes plastics, too,” said city environmental officer Rodelio Lee, according to DW.

So far, 5,000 bricks are being produced per day, all of which contain some plastic waste in addition to the ash. In the midst of a natural disaster, Binan has essentially created a massive recycling opportunity.

“When the ash came, we thought we’d exchange the white sand which we mix with plastics to be converted into bricks with ash. We did it and they came out sturdy,” city Mayor Walfredo Dimaguila told Reuters.

MORE: World’s First Community of 3D Printed Homes is Set to House Mexico’s Poorest Families

“What we plan is to turn them into hollow blocks and bricks and sell them to interested companies,” he said, adding that the proceeds would be donated to residents affected by the volcano.

Positioned on the Pacific Ring of Fire, communities in the Philippines are often under threat from erupting volcanoes, with Taal being one of the most formidable in the region.

(WATCH the news coverage below) – Photo by Reuters

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Hiker Captures Stunning ‘Rainbow Halo’ Phenomenon Atop English Mountain (Photos)

Adrian Conchie – SWNS

A hiker has captured these magnificent images of a rare weather phenomenon that looks like a “rainbow halo” on top of an English mountain.

39-year-old Adrian Conchie was walking on a fell in the Lake District when he looked down and clocked the spectacular display, known as the Brocken specter.

The dad-of-one described the moment, which took place at 11:30AM on New Year’s Eve, as “magical” and “absolutely incredible”.

LOOK: Photographer Captures Picture of Stunning ‘Ice Ball’ Phenomenon on Finnish Beach

According to the Met Office, the Brocken specter appears when a person stands above the upper surface of a cloud—on a mountain or high ground—with the sun behind them.

“When they view their shadow, the light is reflected back in such a way that a spooky circular ‘glory’ appears around the point directly opposite the sun,” the Met Office said.

Conchie, who runs an engraving business in Knutsford, Cheshire, was on an 11-mile hike at Swirl How near Coniston when the Brocken specter appeared to him.

Adrian Conchie – SWNS

“I had always wanted to see one after seeing pictures online and hearing about how amazing they are from friends,” said Conchie. “When we got to the summit I looked down and there it was—it was so vivid.

“I thought it would disappear there and then but it stayed for a few minutes, it was a really magical experience.”

Miraculously, Conchie and his friend Bryony stumbled upon another Brocken specter later that very same day up a nearby mountain called Wetherlam.

Adrian Conchie – SWNS

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Thousands of Aussies Are Heartened by Photos of Charred Landscapes Already Recovering From Bushfires

Thousands of Australians are being heartened by these striking photos of greenery and plant life growing out of an area that was left charred and blackened by the bushfires last month.

The pictures were taken by Australian photographer Murray Lowe in the Kulnura area of the Central Coast in New South Wales.

“Ventured out into the fire grounds today to capture some images of how the Aussie bush responds to fire, and the way it regenerates itself and comes back to life,” Lowe wrote in a Facebook post. “Even without any rain, life bursts through the burnt bark from the heart of the trees and the life cycle begins again.

“It’s so heartening to see the bush coming back to life again,” he added.

RELATED: Here Are a Dozen Different Ways the World Has Rallied Behind Australia During the Bushfires

One Facebook user thanked Lowe for the photos, saying: “I think everyone is so happy to see your beautiful photos showing something positive after weeks of heartache—it gives us hope.”

Another commenter wrote: “Thank you for sharing these Mr Lowe! It’s so nice after all the tragedy to see the new growth in our bush.”

Since Lowe posted the photos to social media earlier this week, they have been shared more than 39,000 times.

Lowe is now selling prints of the photos so he can donate all of the proceeds to wildfire relief.

“I did not, in my wildest dreams, anticipate the overwhelming response to my photos that I’ve seen,” he wrote in an update. “It’s both humbling, and heart-warming.”

Lowe is not the only one shining a light on the landscape’s recovery; Koala Hospital Port Macquarie posted their own pictures of the steadily returning greenery in Port Macquarie, New South Wales.

Other social media users have posted additional photo updates on the region’s recovery while international groups and activists rally behind the Australian provinces still battling the bushfires.

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Island Nation Becomes First Country in the World to Ban Sunscreens With Reef-Harming Chemicals

This week, the nation of Palau has officially banned ecologically harmful sunscreens, making it the first country in the world to ban the chemical-laden lotions.

The ban specifically targets sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, two chemicals that are found in common sunscreens. Studies have found the ingredients cause coral DNA to mutate while its still in its larval stage, which prevents it from growing properly and makes it more susceptible to bleaching.

Palau is a diving hotspot for tourists located in the western Pacific Ocean between Australia and Japan. The country maintains a population of about 20,000 people spread across 340 islands, and its reefs are notoriously beautiful—one of its lagoons has even been named an official Unesco World Heritage Site.

RELATED: World’s Second Largest Coral Reef Has Just Been Removed From Endangered List

The nation approved the ban back in 2018 after they identified ten different chemicals that have been linked to coral bleaching and marine pollution. As of Wednesday, common sunscreens containing any of the chemicals are now prohibited from being used or sold within the country.

“We have to live and respect the environment because the environment is the nest of life,” Palau’s President Tommy Remengesau told the AFP news agency. “When science tells us that a practice is damaging to coral reefs, to fish populations, or to the ocean itself, our people take note and our visitors do too.

“We don’t mind being the first nation to ban these chemicals, and we will do our part to spread the word,” he added.

MORE: Scientists Discover How to Make Eco-Friendly Sunscreen From a Source of Food Waste—Cashew Shells

Although Hawaii became the first region in the world to introduce legislation against toxic sunscreens back in May 2018, their ban will not go into full effect until 2021.

Thankfully, BBC reports that the number of sunscreens containing the toxins has been steadily declining since their environmental dangers became so widely publicized in 2018.

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