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Map of the day: Human footprints are everywhere


Case studies in the application of archaeological science methods to understand past human-mediated biological translocations and transformations relating to the following: global colonization, origins and spread of food production, island colonization, and trade and urbanization

Case studies in the application of archaeological science methods to understand past human-mediated biological translocations and transformations relating to the following: global colonization, origins and spread of food production, island colonization, and trade and urbanization

Look for someplace untouched by human hands, where the ifluence of Homo sapiens has yet to be felt?

Well, good luck with that.

There’s no pristine environment devoid of human pacts anywhere on earth, according to a new study from researchers from across the globe.

From Oxford University:

An exhaustive review of archaeological data from the last 30 years details how the world’s landscapes have been shaped by repeated human activity over many thousands of years. It reveals a pattern of significant, long-term, human influence on the distribution of species across all of the earth’s major occupied continents and islands.

The paper by lead author Dr Nicole Boivin from Oxford and Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, with researchers from the UK, US, and Australia, suggests that archaeological evidence has been missing from current debates about conservation priorities. To say that societies before the Industrial Revolution had little effect on the environment or diversity of species is mistaken, argues the paper. It draws on new datasets using ancient DNA, stable isotopes, and microfossils, as well as the application of new statistical and computational methods. It shows that many living species of plants, trees and animals that thrive today are those that were favoured by our ancestors; and that large-scale extinctions started thousands of years ago due to overhunting or change of land use by humans. The paper concludes that in light of this and other evidence of long-term anthropogenic change, we need to be more pragmatic in our conservation efforts rather than aiming for impossible ‘natural’ states.

The paper identifies four major phases when humans shaped the world around them with broad effects on natural ecosystems: global human expansion during the Late Pleistocene; the Neolithic spread of agriculture; the era of humans colonising islands; and the emergence of early urbanised societies and trade.

It draws on fossil evidence showing Homo sapiens was present in East Africa around 195,000 years ago and that our species had dispersed to the far corners of Eurasia, Australia, and the Americas by 12,000 years ago. This increase in global human populations is linked with a variety of species extinctions, one of the most significant being the reduction by around two-thirds of 150 species of ‘megafauna’ or big beasts between 50,000 and 10,000 years ago, says the paper, with their disappearance having ‘dramatic effects’ on the structure of the ecosystem and seed dispersal.

The second phase, the advent of agriculture worldwide, placed new evolutionary pressures on plants and animals that had ‘unprecedented and enduring’ effects on the distribution of species, according to the paper. The data highlighted shows that domesticated sheep, goats and cattle were first in the Near East 10,500 years ago, and arrived in Europe, Africa and South Asia within a few millennia. Chickens, originally domesticated in East Asia, reached Britain by the second half of the last millennium and now outnumber people by more than three to one globally, says the paper. Meanwhile, it also highlights research showing that the domestication of dogs happened before the emergence of agricultural societies, with around 700 million to one billion dogs in the world today. By contrast with domesticated animals, the percentage of truly wild vertebrates left today as a result of these long-term processes is described as ‘vanishingly small’.

There’s more, after the jump. . .

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Mr. Fish: Money Talks


From Clowncrack, his blog of fiduciary fulminations:

BLOG Fish

Racist ad of the day: It all comes out in the wash


A secreencap of the London Daily Mail teaser for this story:

BLOG China

Mike Luckovich: Hey, hey, hey. . .


From the editorial cartoonist of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

BLOG Lucko

Far Right candidate to win Austrian presidency?


The election poster features the face of presidential candidate Norbert Hofer and reads “FPO: The Social Homeland Party/Show the Flag/Truth, Freedom, Patriotism!”

The election poster features the face of presidential candidate Norbert Hofer and reads “FPO: The Social Homeland Party/Show the Flag/Truth, Freedom, Patriotism!”

The vote is too close to call as we write, with the election hanging on a count on mail-in ballots, but the head of the ultra-nationalist Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs [FPÖ], or Austrian Freedom Party, could well wake up tomorrow and find himself president of Austria.

On an election pitting the FPÖ’s Norbert Hofer against the independent Green Party backed Alexander Van der Bellen, one thing is certain: Austria will never be the same again.

And just as in the campaign of another candidate on this side of the pond, anti-immigrant sentiments played a major role in Hofer’s campaign.

We being with the latest from BBC News:

Austria’s presidential election remains on a knife-edge with all votes from polling stations now counted.

The interior ministry says that Norbert Hofer of the far-right Freedom Party is currently slightly ahead of his rival, Alexander Van der Bellen.

The result will only be decided when hundred of thousands of postal ballots are counted on Monday.

A key campaign issue was Europe’s migrant crisis, which has seen asylum-seeker numbers soar.

More from France 24:

The FPO has been in government before, serving as a coalition partner in the early 2000s when it was led by the late Joerg Haider.

But whoever wins the presidential election, it is likely to be a new high-water mark for Austria’s and Europe’s far right, all the more significant for taking place in a prosperous country with comparatively low, albeit rising, unemployment.

If Hofer wins, mainstream parties will also come under scrutiny for not recommending an anti-FPO vote. However, many feel that taking a harder stance against the right-wing party would only have bolstered the FPO’s argument that it is taking on Austria’s deeply entrenched political establishment.

The Guardian adds some context:

The Freedom party has come a long way since the days of the late Jörg Haider, the knee-slapping neo-Nazi demagogue from Carinthia who stormed his way into national government in 2000. But Hofer’s smarmier, less confrontational mien does not mean the dilemmas posed by Haider have gone away.

The EU took strong exception to the Freedom party’s inclusion in Austria’s coalition government 16 years ago, imposing a range of diplomatic sanctions and effectively placing the country in quarantine. But the measures were short-lived. Smaller EU members such as Denmark objected to what looked like big-boy bullying.

Similar EU action is not on the cards this time. This may be because all 28 member states now have their own far-right populist or nationalist parties to contend with. Some, like the True Finns (or Finns) party in Finland, have made it into government. Others, such as the Alternative for Germany and the Danish People’s party, have become influential power-brokers.

And more context from Deutsche Welle:

Hofer’s Freedom Party has aligned itself closely with Marine Le Pen’s Front National and Geert Wilder’s Party for Freedom as well as other populist parties, like Germany’s Alternative for Deutschland and those in Finland and Denmark. Around the world – from the Philippines to the US – voters are increasingly rejecting the entrenched political establishment and turning to populist messages as a solution to complex problems.

“We should be worried about Austria, but also about Europe and the world,” Oliver Rathkolb, a professor of contemporary history at the University of Vienna, told DW.

To counter that threat, European political heavyweights like European Parliament President Martin Schulz and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker have thrown their support behind Van der Bellen, who is popular with urban and highly educated voters.

In contrast, Hofer appeals to voters in the countryside, especially young men. “You need the schickeria – the in-crowd. The real citizens are for me,” Hofer told Van der Bellen during a recent contentious TV debate.

This map from BBC News outlines Europe’s resurgent radical Right:

BLOG Euroright

Finally, the Associated Press covers another European election where the far Right made notable advances today:

Far-right ELAM and two other small parties won seats in Cyprus’ parliament for the first time during elections Sunday, marked by the second-lowest voter turnout and biggest shift among swing voters in Cypriot election history.

Analyst Christophoros Christophorou said final results indicate a strong undercurrent of disillusionment with the country’s traditional powerhouses. A total eight parties have entered the 56-seat parliament, the most in 15 years. A third of registered voters didn’t cast ballots.

“I want to believe that the choice of a large portion of the electorate not to participate in the elections will give pause to everyone,” Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said in a written statement.

Christophorou said sizeable portion of voters sought to punish larger parties for a recent economic crisis that saw unemployment hit record levels. It may also be a backlash to the doubling of the electoral threshold to 3.6 percent — the percentage of votes required to win a seat in parliament — that many interpreted as a bid to shut out smaller parties.

Jack Ohman: Feel the (BLANK). . .


From the editorial cartoonist of the Sacramento Bee:

BLOG Ohman

Map of the day: Heat wave fuels a Canadian fire


From NASA’s Earth Observatory:

BLOG Fire map

 In early May 2016, a destructive wildfire burned through Canada’s Fort McMurray in the Northern Alberta region. Windy, dry, and unseasonably hot conditions all set the stage for the fire. Winds gusted over 20 miles (32 kilometers) per hour, fanning the flames in an area where rainfall totals have been well below normal in 2016. Ground-based measurements showed that the temperature soared to 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit) on May 3 as the fire spread.

Satellite observations also detected the unusual heat. The map above shows land surface temperature from April 26 to May 3, 2016, compared to the 2000–2010 average for the same one-week period. Red areas were hotter than the long-term average; blue areas were below average. White pixels had normal temperatures, and gray pixels did not have enough data, most likely due to cloud cover.

This temperature anomaly map is based on data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite. Observed by satellites uniformly around the world, land surface temperatures (LSTs) are not the same as air temperatures. Instead, they reflect the heating of the land surface by sunlight, and they can sometimes be significantly hotter or cooler than air temperatures.

The intense heat coincided with a weather pattern called an omega block. A large area of high pressure stalled the usual progression of storms from west to east. In Alberta, that left sinking, hot air parked over the region while the block was in place. But even before the omega block emerged, seasonal data show that winter in Alberta was warmer than usual.

According to Robert Field, a Columbia University scientist based at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, El Niño likely played a role in the warmth. The Virginia Hills fire in central Alberta (May 1998) burned under a similar El Niño phase. “That fire occurred under comparable fire danger conditions, part of which you can trace to El Niño,” Field said.

Fewer people were affected by the Virginia Hills fire, however, because it was located away from a large population center. In contrast, authorities ordered the evacuation more than 80,000 people from Fort McMurray.

BLOG Fire aerial

The second image above shows Fort McMurray on May 4, 2016, acquired by the Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) on the Landsat 7 satellite. This false-color image combines shortwave infrared, near infrared, and green light (bands 5-4-2). Near- and short-wave infrared help penetrate clouds and smoke to reveal the hot spots associated with active fires, which appear red. Smoke appears white and burned areas appear brown. On this day the fire spanned about 100 square kilometers (40 square miles); by the morning of May 5, it spanned about 850 square kilometers (330 square miles).

“There can be bigger fires, but, in Alberta at least, rarely are they so close to so many people,” Field said. He points out that a fire in Kelowna, British Columbia (2003), and a fire in Slave Lake, Alberta (2011), also affected population centers, “but not this severely.”

Also visible in the Landsat image is the fire’s complex pattern, with many active fronts. “This suggests substantial ‘spotting’, where flaming embers are lofted ahead of a main fire, creating new fires, and making it really hard to fight.”