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Throw a Veggie Platter on the BBQ this Summer

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And not a steak in sight. Veggie BBQ image from www.shutterstock.com
Ozgur Dedehayir, Queensland University of Technology; Carol Richards, Queensland University of Technology, and Peter O'Connor, Queensland University of Technology

Sausages, hamburger patties, lamb chops and T-bone steak. There is nothing like the traditional barbecue on Australia Day.

But like a piece of bone inconveniently lodged between our teeth, a small but growing segment of our society – vegans – question the ethical side of the Aussie BBQ tradition.

They ask: why is it that we continue to eat meat and animal products (such as milk and eggs), when we know (no matter how much we try not to know) how many of these products arrive on our table?

While there have been many improvements in farm animal welfare and food labelling, there are still many concerns.

Why vegan?

Veganism is a response to the ethical problems created by these industries, which treat animals as nothing more than raw material to be processed into food. The principles of veganism advocate the exclusion of “…flesh, fish, fowl, eggs, honey and animals’ milk, butter, and cheese” from our diet, and aim to “abolish man’s dependence on animals – and to create - a more reasonable and humane order of society”.

Despite the clear moral appeal to veganism, however, the number of vegans in Western societies remains low. Vegans constitute only 1-2% of Americans, 5% of Israelis, 2% of British and 1% of Australians. Why is this so?

In her book Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows (2011) Melanie Joy, a US psychologist and vegan activist, provides an answer to this question.

Joy claims that despite having an affection for animals, people consume meat because they have a mental disconnect between eating meat and killing animals; an ingrained belief that meat consumption is normal, natural and necessary; and cognitive distortions that perceive animals as lacking any individuality or personality.

Melanie Joy’s TED Talk on veganism.

You don’t have to go vegan to save the planet

So how can we break down these cognitive distortions and engage in more ethical consumption practices?

In her recent TED Talk, Joy suggests that the solution ultimately lies in normalising veganism.

We agree with this, and additionally suggest that partial solutions can help many people gradually reach this goal over time. Here are four practical strategies that people can adopt to become more ethical consumers in their journey towards veganism:

Reduce the volume of all foods we consume daily. Although this strategy is not about directly cutting meat and dairy intake, it offers a way we can indirectly reduce intake by simply consuming less food.

This might seem like a trivial solution, but with over 60% of Australians found to be obese or overweight, it is clear that most of us consume more food than we need.

Ironically, some of us even consume extra food to fuel intense workout programs or exercise boot camps. Why not achieve similar health outcomes by simply having a lighter lunch or following a simpler exercise regime?

In fact, research suggests that the benefits of calorie restriction diets partially parallel those of intense fitness programs, in terms of muscle function, life extension and general health.

Choose ethical food. There has been a marked increase in the availability of “credence foods”. This includes plant-based, vegan options, but also animal-based products with higher welfare standards.

The strategy of choosing credence food decreases our demand from factory farms and moves us to a more ethical position.

For instance, we can select pastured eggs over battery or barn eggs, or organic, free-range meat products over cheaper, factory-farmed products. While credence products are more expensive, they become more affordable when we reduce animal products in our diets.

Become a vegetarian. Vegetarianism is essentially the midway point on the veganism journey – excluding meat consumption, but allowing dairy and eggs. This is a particularly good option for many people who still struggle to find worthy cheese substitutes.

Nevertheless, vegetarianism alone will not solve our environmental concerns, nor alleviate animal suffering.

Fortunately, innovation is lifting the game of vegan cheese, and providing a more compelling reason to gradually stop using dairy products altogether.

Bring some vegan into your life. Some of us associate adopting veganism with a leap of faith, and need more confidence before committing fully to its doctrine. We can shift toward a vegan diet by weaving it partially into our lives – in other words, becoming “part-time vegans”.

For instance, we can choose one or two of our daily meals to be vegan and then eat whatever we want for the rest (aligning with Mark Bittman’s “vegan before 6pm” idea), or participate in the “veganuary” or “Meatless Monday” programs.

The ConversationNo matter which strategy we choose, the act of opting for a strategy is in itself a huge step forward. Why not start by throwing a veggie pattie on the barbie this Australia Day?

Ozgur Dedehayir, Lecturer in Innovation Management, Queensland University of Technology; Carol Richards, Vice Chancellor's Senior Research Fellow, Queensland University of Technology, and Peter O'Connor, Senior Lecturer, Business and Management, Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

How Indigenous tourism can help bring about reconciliation in Australia

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Quentin Agius Aboriginal Cultural Tours’ Point Pearce tour, South Australia. Supplied
Freya Higgins-Desbiolles, University of South Australia

Indigenous tourism is “tourism activity in which indigenous people are directly involved either through control and/or by having their culture serve as the essence of the attraction”.

Ideally, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be able to assert some degree of control over their engagement with tourism and should secure benefits from this.

One positive outcome that Indigenous tourism can offer is opportunities to foster reconciliation. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples use tourism to bridge the cultural divides and create better futures by sharing culture, knowledge and country.

Settler-colonial states such as Australia have sought strategies to reconcile their divided peoples. One significant catalyst in Australia was the hosting of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. This placed a spotlight on human rights conditions and marked a moment when the country tried to project a reconciled identity.

History

There is a long history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander engagement with travel and tourism. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been travelling between each others’ nations for millennia, sharing culture and ceremonies.

After colonisation, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples tried to access the settler economy by presenting aspects of their culture and selling handicrafts. One example is the performance of “corroborees”, as occurred in Adelaide in 1911 for instance.

Reconciliation

The Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation led a decade-long effort in the 1990s to move Australia forward. It promoted the vision of:

A united Australia which respects this land of ours; values the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage, and provides justice and equity for all.

One key element of the process was described as the:

… education of non-Aboriginal Australians about the cultures of Australia’s indigenous peoples and the causes of division, discord and continuing injustice to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Reconciliation through tourism

Indigenous tourism is a way for non-Indigenous Australians to hear about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experiences and learn from their cultures.

This is important because, as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples comprise only about 3% of Australia’s total population, non-Indigenous Australians can live their lives with little cultural interaction.

Experiences potentially fostering reconciliation include sharing history, learning on country, sharing culture, tours travelling the Songlines, connecting through native foods, and celebrating through arts, music and dance.

Reconciliation isn’t easy

The culture divide between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians is not easy to bridge. Uluru, also called Ayers Rock by some, is a case in point.

After the 1985 handback under land rights legislation, the Anangu custodians informed tourists that climbing Uluru violates their culture and spiritual beliefs. But they did not ban the climb altogether. One reason is that they want visitors to choose not to climb.

As Traditional Owner Kunmanara said:

That’s a really important sacred thing that you are climbing … You shouldn’t climb. It’s not the real thing about this place. The real thing is listening to everything. And maybe that makes you a bit sad. But anyway that’s what we have to say. We are obliged by Tjukurrpa[Dreaming law] to say.

And all the tourists will brighten up and say: ‘Oh I see. This is the right way. This is the thing that’s right. This is the proper way: no climbing’.

Fortunately the number of people climbing Uluru has been steadily declining, and the 2010-20 Management Plan for the site now envisions the conditions for phasing out the climb. Uluru serves as a litmus test in some ways for Australia’s journey to reconciliation.

Australia’s Indigenous tourism sector is struggling

Statistics for Australia’s Indigenous tourism niche are hard to find but suggest a decline since the heady dates following the 2000 Olympics and the peak of the Reconciliation movement.

A snapshot of this niche provided by Tourism Research Australia’s International Visitor and National Visitor Surveys showed that in the period between 2006 and 2010, there was an 18.7% average annual decline in domestic overnight Indigenous tourism visitors. There was also a 4.9% average annual decline in international Indigenous tourism visitors.

It is a problem in our efforts to build reconciliation that Australians appear not to be taking up the hospitality of their fellow Australians.

The way forward?

Periodic international spotlights on Australia (such as the upcoming Commonwealth Games) mean that reconciliation business cannot be abandoned. Festivals like Garma, native foods presented by Mark Olive, award-winning tourism businesses like Quentin Agius’ Aboriginal Cultural Tours all show efforts to use tourism as a tool to build understanding and thereby contribute to reconciliation.

Importantly, non-Indigenous Australians hold primary responsibility to work towards reconciliation.

The ConversationIf every Australian committed some part of their holiday travel plans to booking an Indigenous tourism experience, we could potentially change this country for the better.

Freya Higgins-Desbiolles, Senior Lecturer in Tourism, University of South Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Australia’s south west: a hotspot for wildlife and plants that deserves World Heritage status

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The numbat, Australia’s equivalent of a meerkat, is one of the unique mammal species confined to the south west. Sean Van Alphen, Author provided
Hans Lambers, University of Western Australia and Don Bradshaw, University of Western Australia

Southwest Australia is one of 25 original global hotspots for wildlife and plants, and the first one identified in Australia.

Since the first analysis identifying biodiversity hotspots in 2000, the list has expanded, and now 35 hotspots are recognised, two in Australia: the Southwest and the forests of east Australia.

Biodiversity hotspots are defined as regions “where exceptional concentrations of endemic species are undergoing exceptional loss of habitat”. As many as 44% of all species of native plants and 35% of all species in four animal groups are confined to the original 25 hotspots, which comprise only 1.4% of Earth’s land surface.

This opens the way for a conservation strategy, focusing on these hotspots in proportion to their share of the world’s species at risk.

The Kwongan with national parks, reserves and other conservation aras marked in blue.

Introducing the south west

Australia was once part of the ancient continent Gondwana, which began to break up more than 154 million years ago. The region that supports the Southwest’s unique wildlife formed when India broke away from the supercontinent around 120 million years ago. While there are some young sand dunes, much of the southwest has been geologically undisturbed for tens of millions of years.

Southwest Australia, also known as the Kwongan, is therefore an old landscape with a stable climate. It has not seen glaciers or ice for more than 200 million years. This has allowed species to evolve without the major extinctions seen elsewhere in the world.

The region is about the size of England. England has about 1,500 species of vascular plants (all plants except ferns and mosses), 47 of them found nowhere else.

Contrast that with Southwest Australia, which harbours an astonishing 7,239 vascular plant species, almost 80% of which are found nowhere else in the world.

Kingia australis is completely unique to the south west. Graham Zemunik

Among these unique species is Cephalotus follicularis, the Albany pitcher plant, a carnivorous species that belongs to its own family and is not at all related to other carnivorous pitchers.

Another iconic endemic is Kingia australis, a single species in an Order found nowhere else (to put this in context, an Order is the same same level of classification as all butterflies and moths).

There are fewer animals in the south west than plants, but the Kwongan is home to some of Australia’s most iconic species, such as the tiny nectar and pollen-feeding Honey possum (Tarsipes rostratus). The Honey possum is only distantly-related to other Australian marsupials and is the only member of its Family. Some DNA studies also place it close to a small South American marsupial, the Monito del Monte (Dromiciops gliroides), suggesting a link between its ancestor and the time when South America was joined to Gondwana.

Another amazing marsupial found exclusively in the Kwongan is the termite-eating numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus), the only truly diurnal marsupial with sentinel behaviour similar to that of the African meerkat.

The Brush-tailed bettong or Woylie (Bettongia penicillata) was until recently very abundant in the south west but, starting in 2006, it has suffered a dramatic decline and is now currently listed as Critically Endangered. Nobody knows why. This underlines the critical need for protection of these unique species and their habitat in a biodiversity hotspot under increasing pressure from urbanisation.

Due to its ancient geology, the soils in the region are almost all poor in nutrients, but this is likely the secret to the south west’s astonishing diversity. Like most of Australia, the region has been inhabited by humans for well over 40,000 years, so that a rich cultural heritage adds to the biological and geological value of the region.

The honey possum’s closest relative may be in South America, indicating ancient connections.

Of poison and plants

What are the threats for the Southwest Australian hotspot?

For small animals, these threats are predominantly feral cats, foxes and other introduced mammals. The main method to control these is by using sodium fluoroacetate, commonly known as 1080.

Introduced animals are highly-sensitive to this poison, which blocks their metabolism. Native animals in south-western Australia have co-evolved with Gastrolobium (a type of pea flower) species, which produce and contain fluoroacetate. The native wildlife is therefore relatively immune to 1080.

Plants known to produce fluoroacetate are rare. Outside the genus Gastrolobium, the trait is known for one Acacia species in Australia, a single genus in Africa and three genera in Brazil.

Baiting with 1080 is expensive and some animal rights supporters object to it on the grounds that it is not humane. Fencing is an excellent alternative, and used by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy. It is expensive in the short term, but may actually be a better option in the long run.

It looks like a pitcher plant, but Cephalotus follicularis isn’t closely related at all. Hans Lambers

Threats to plants have historically been land clearing for agriculture. Not only did this remove the original vegetation, including endemic species, but it also gave rise to dryland salinity, as a result of a rising saline water table.

Salt that arrived from the ocean with the rain has accumulated in the landscape, but low in the soil profile. When perennial vegetation was replaced by annual crops that use far less water on an annual basis, the saline water table rose. This gave rise to expanding salt lakes, which are a natural element in south-western Australia, as well as new salt lakes and salt scars in the landscape.

A more recent threat to the biodiversity hotspot is the massive development for housing and recreation that has grown in the southwest region of Western Australia. This brings with it weed invasions, higher incidence of animal road deaths due to cars and trucks, and habitat destruction due to more frequent bushfires.

A 2011 bushfire caused by a prescribed burn in the Margaret River region resulted in the death of large numbers of now endangered Western ringtail possums and the destruction of many houses.

Australian vegetation has a long history of exposure to and resilience in the face of fire, but an increase in fires due to climate change may overwhelm native wildlife and plants.

Protecting the Southwest, forever

Lack of knowledge among the local community of the amazing diversity of the southwest is one of the reasons it is not cared for as well as it should be. So we founded the Kwongan Foundation in 2006 with a view to conserving the south west and promoting research.

Woylie have inexplicably declined since 2006. Mark Bundock

Our main aim is to secure UNESCO World Heritage Listing for the entire Southwest Australian Biodiversity Hotspot, focusing on national parks and existing reserves, without impinging on farming, forestry and mining activities.

UNESCO inscription would raise local awareness, offer better protection, and boost the tourism industry, which is worth billions to the state, with the “nature experience” one of the top drawcards for foreign visitors.

Tourism is not far behind the mining industry as an income-generating economic activity. Ecology and economy can therefore go hand in hand, leading to diversification of the Western Australian economy.

We’re hoping any WA minister for the environment or tourism will embrace the plan and wish to own it, as well as scientists. One thing is certain, without action soon, Australia’s most important biodiversity hotspot will be gone forever.

The ConversationTo find out more about the South West’s unique biodiversity see the Plant Life on the Sandplains in Southwest Australia and the Kwongan Foundation on Facebook.

Hans Lambers, Professor and Head of School, University of Western Australia and Don Bradshaw, Emeritus professor, University of Western Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Western Australia’s coral reefs are in trouble: we mustn’t ignore them

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The land may be dry, but Western Australia’s waters are full of life. Russ Babcock, Author provided
Christopher Doropoulos, CSIRO; Damian Thomson, CSIRO; Mat Vanderklift, CSIRO; Mick Haywood, CSIRO, and Russ Babcock, CSIRO

Last year’s record-breaking temperatures are having a devastating impact on the world’s coral reefs. For only the third time in recorded history, coral reefs are experiencing a global “bleaching” event (where corals turn white; some ultimately die).

Australia’s reefs are feeling the impact, too. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is in charge of producing global bleaching forecasts. Surprisingly, it isn’t the Great Barrier Reef facing the greatest threat this year, but Western Australia’s less well-known coral reefs.

NOAA predictions for the Western Australia (WA) are about as severe as they get: there is a 60% probability of the most severe bleaching (“Alert 2”) for all of April 2016.

In comparison, the Great Barrier Reef on Australia’s east coast has a 60% probability of milder bleaching (“Alert 1”) for most of March 2016 – obviously still a major concern, but not as severe as for the west.

And bleaching is not the only threat facing Western Austraia’s reefs. While we are well aware of the troubles of the Great Barrier Reef, we must make sure we don’t ignore its less famous western cousins.

El Niño and the western reefs

Recent years have seen devastating marine heatwaves cause massive losses to the underwater kelp forests and corals of Western Australia.

These events typically occur on the west coast during La Niña years (when the ocean is hotter off the west coast), but during the last year the Pacific Ocean has officially returned to El Niño.

This has sparked some hope for the marine environments in WA, because water temperatures are usually cooler in El Niño than La Niña years.

But water temperatures over the past 12 months have been recorded at 1-3°C warmer than long-term summer averages. While this may seem insignificant, global coral mortality previously occurred at these temperatures in 1998 and was observed in all ocean basins in 2015.

Acropora corals during a bleaching event. Christopher Doropoulos

NOAA’s bleaching alert spans most of WA’s coastline. This includes the major coral reef systems of the Abrolhos Islands, reefs in the Pilbara (including Barrow Island, the Montebello Islands, and Onslow) and the Kimberley (including the Rowley Shoals and Scott Reef).

The alert also surprisingly includes the World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef. We say “surprisingly” because Ningaloo normally avoids bleaching: it fringes the Western Australian coast and usually receives cooler water welling up from the deep, and from a cool northward flowing current.

That said, Ningaloo experienced massive bleaching in 2011 at Bundegi, on the western side of Exmouth Gulf, where live coral cover crashed from 80% to 6% – almost all the adult coral was killed.

Map of major coral reefs in Western Australia. Mick Haywood

Reefs in danger

WA’s coral reefs are unusual because most are isolated from major human populations. They are world renowned for the abundance of unique and iconic fauna they host, a stark contrast to the red deserts they directly neighbour.

Unfortunately, the last few years has seen a series of major environmental disturbances that have compromised the health of these coral reefs.

We recently undertook surveys of reefs from the Dampier Archipelago and Montebello Islands to the Muiron Islands and what struck us most was the depauperate state of the reefs. We saw a mosaic of impacts depending on where we surveyed.

Some places are still recovering from two major rounds of coral bleaching – the event of 2010-11 and another in the Pilbara in 2013. Some were beset by crown-of-thorns outbreaks, and some had high cover of dead branching Acropora (the most abundant coral that builds reefs) that were smothered in sediment, mostly from nearby dredging projects.

Crown-of-throns starfish eating remnant Acropora colony. Christopher Doropoulos

Ironically this region’s isolation is a double-edged sword — the severity of the situation, which could lead to long-term collapse of reef ecosystems, has gone largely unnoticed.

Isolation and the absence of human impacts might help coral reefs recover after coral bleaching. But it also means that few people are familiar with the region’s prolific coral reefs.

Without this understanding, there might not be sufficient public awareness to drive the action required to protect these areas in the face of mounting environmental pressures.

The future for WA’s coral reefs

Coral reefs rely on a range of ecological processes that keep the system resilient and able to function: processes such as the arrival of coral larvae, and removal of algae by herbivores.

However, human or environmental pressures can destabilise or weaken the system, and the ecosystem can swiftly collapse. Once a reef’s ecosystem processes have failed, they are much more difficult to restore than they were to remove, slowing the reef’s return to its optimal state.

Corals are archetypal ecosystem engineers: they provide the foundation for the diversity and abundance of all the other species in coral reef ecosystems. Greenhouse gas increases are contributing to more frequent and intense bleaching events.

Therefore, reefs need every chance to stay resilient by removing local human impacts and being actively restored. After all, without the foundation, there are no coral reefs.

The ConversationIt is time for the coral reefs of Australia’s west coast to be afforded the level of attention and resources devoted to the better known Great Barrier Reef. The system needs time to recover.

Christopher Doropoulos, OCE Postdoctoral Fellow, CSIRO; Damian Thomson, Experimental Scientist, CSIRO; Mat Vanderklift, Senior research scientist, CSIRO; Mick Haywood, Marine ecologist, CSIRO, and Russ Babcock, Senior Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The oceans are full of plastic, but why do seabirds eat it?

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Many seabird species, including the blue petrel (Halobaena caerulea), consume plastic at sea because algae on the plastic produce an odor that resembles their food sources. J.J. Harrison, Author provided
Matthew Savoca, University of California, Davis

Imagine that you are constantly eating, but slowly starving to death. Hundreds of species of marine mammals, fish, birds, and sea turtles face this risk every day when they mistake plastic debris for food.

Plastic debris can be found in oceans around the world. Scientists have estimated that there are over five trillion pieces of plastic weighing more than a quarter of a million tons floating at sea globally. Most of this plastic debris comes from sources on land and ends up in oceans and bays due largely to poor waste management.

Plastic does not biodegrade, but at sea large pieces of plastic break down into increasingly smaller fragments that are easy for animals to consume. Nothing good comes to animals that mistake plastic for a meal. They may suffer from malnutrition, intestinal blockage, or slow poisoning from chemicals in or attached to the plastic.

Many tube-nosed seabirds, like this Tristram’s storm petrel (Oceanodroma tristrami), eat plastic particles at sea because they mistake them for food. Sarah Youngren, Hawaii Pacific University/USFWS, Author provided

Despite the pervasiveness and severity of this problem, scientists still do not fully understand why so many marine animals make this mistake in the first place. It has been commonly assumed, but rarely tested, that seabirds eat plastic debris because it looks like the birds’ natural prey. However, in a study that my coauthors and I just published in Science Advances, we propose a new explanation: For many imperiled species, marine plastic debris also produces an odor that the birds associate with food.

A nose for sulfur

Perhaps the most severely impacted animals are tube-nosed seabirds, a group that includes albatrosses, shearwaters and petrels. These birds are pelagic: they often remain at sea for years at a time, searching for food over hundreds or thousands of square kilometers of open ocean, visiting land only to breed and rear their young. Many are also at risk of extinction. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, nearly half of the approximately 120 species of tube-nosed seabirds are either threatened, endangered or critically endangered.

Although there are many fish in the sea, areas that reliably contain food are very patchy. In other words, tube-nosed seabirds are searching for a “needle in a haystack” when they forage. They may be searching for fish, squid, krill or other items, and it is possible that plastic debris visually resembles these prey. But we believe that tells only part of a more complex story.

A sooty shearwater (Puffinus griseus) takes off from the ocean’s surface in Morro Bay, California. Mike Baird/Flickr, CC BY

Pioneering research by Dr. Thomas Grubb Jr. in the early 1970s showed that tube-nosed seabirds use their powerful sense of smell, or olfaction, to find food effectively, even when heavy fog obscures their vision. Two decades later, Dr. Gabrielle Nevitt and colleagues found that certain species of tube-nosed seabirds are attracted to dimethyl sulfide (DMS), a natural scented sulfur compound. DMS comes from marine algae, which produce a related chemical called DMSP inside their cells. When those cells are damaged – for example, when algae die, or when marine grazers like krill eat it – DMSP breaks down, producing DMS. The smell of DMS alerts seabirds that food is nearby – not the algae, but the krill that are consuming the algae.

Dr. Nevitt and I wondered whether these seabirds were being tricked into consuming marine plastic debris because of the way it smelled. To test this idea, my coauthors and I created a database collecting every study we could find that recorded plastic ingestion by tube-nosed seabirds over the past 50 years. This database contained information from over 20,000 birds of more than 70 species. It showed that species of birds that use DMS as a foraging cue eat plastic nearly six times as frequently as species that are not attracted to the smell of DMS while foraging.

To further test our theory, we needed to analyze how marine plastic debris smells. To do so, I took beads of the three most common types of floating plastic – polypropylene and low- and high-density polyethylene – and sewed them inside custom mesh bags, which we attached to two buoys off of California’s central coast. We hypothesized that algae would coat the plastic at sea, a process known as biofouling, and produce DMS.

Author Matthew Savoca deploys experimental plastic debris at a buoy in Monterey Bay, California. Author provided

After the plastic had been immersed for about a month at sea, I retrieved it and brought it to a lab that is not usually a stop for marine scientists: the Robert Mondavi Institute for Food and Wine Science at UC Davis. There we used a gas chromatograph, specifically built to detect sulfur odors in wine, beer and other food products, to measure the chemical signature of our experimental marine debris. Sulfur compounds have a very distinct odor; to humans they smell like rotten eggs or decaying seaweed on the beach, but to some species of seabirds DMS smells delicious!

Sure enough, every sample of plastic we collected was coated with algae and had substantial amounts of DMS associated with it. We found levels of DMS that were higher than normal background concentrations in the environment, and well above levels that tube-nosed seabirds can detect and use to find food. These results provide the first evidence that, in addition to looking like food, plastic debris may also confuse seabirds that hunt by smell.

When trash becomes bait

Our findings have important implications. First, they suggest that plastic debris may be a more insidious threat to marine life than we previously believed. If plastic looks and smells like food, it is more likely to be mistaken for prey than if it just looks like food.

Second, we found through data analysis that small, secretive burrow-nesting seabirds, such as prions, storm petrels, and shearwaters, are more likely to confuse plastic for food than their more charismatic, surface-nesting relatives such as albatrosses. This difference matters because populations of hard-to-observe burrow-nesting seabirds are more difficult to count than surface-nesting species, so they often are not surveyed as closely. Therefore, we recommend increased monitoring of these less charismatic species that may be at greater risk of plastic ingestion.

The ConversationFinally, our results provide a deeper understanding for why certain marine organisms are inexorably trapped into mistaking plastic for food. The patterns we found in birds should also be investigated in other groups of species, like fish or sea turtles. Reducing marine plastic pollution is a long-term, large-scale challenge, but figuring out why some species continue to mistake plastic for food is the first step toward finding ways to protect them.

Matthew Savoca, Ph.D. Candidate, University of California, Davis

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Why we need to quit plastic in our lives

This South Pacific island of rubbish shows why we need to quit our plastic habit

Jennifer Lavers, University of Tasmania

A remote South Pacific island has the highest density of plastic debris reported anywhere on the planet, our new study has found.

Our study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, estimated that more than 17 tonnes of plastic debris has washed up on Henderson Island, with more than 3,570 new pieces of litter arriving every day on one beach alone.

Our study probably actually underestimates the extent of plastic pollution on Henderson Island, as we were only able to sample pieces bigger than two millimetres down to a depth of 10 centimetres. We also could not sample along cliffs. Jennifer Lavers, Author provided

It is estimated that there are nearly 38 million pieces of plastic on the island, which is near the centre of the South Pacific Gyre ocean current.

Henderson Island, marked here by the red pin, is in the UK’s Pitcairn Islands territory and is more than 5,000 kilometres from the nearest major population centre. That shows plastic pollution ends up everywhere, even in the most remote parts of the world. Google Maps

A 2014 paper published in the journal PLOS One used data from surface water all over the world. The researchers estimated that there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in the top 10 centimetres of the world’s oceans.

The ConversationPlastics pose a major threat to seabirds and other animals, and most don’t ever break down – they just break up. Every piece of petrochemical-derived plastic ever made still exists on the planet.

Jennifer Lavers, Research Scientist, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Wine Tourism

“Wine is bottled poetry.”

—Robert Louis Stevenson

Wine Tourism in Albany

As wine is usually regarded as the most sophisticated of alcoholic beverageswine tourism or enotourism is highly developed in many regions around the world, and it can be as simple as hopping on a wine shuttle in Napa Valley or as complicated as renting a villa in the south of France for a month. Enotourism is a great way to learn about the people, culture, heritage, and customs of an area. Some of the famous wine producing regions of the world have been producing wine for centuries or even millennia, and the production and consumption of wine is deeply ingrained in the local culture. Also, these areas tend to be off the beaten tourist track (although not that far off) so enotourism can expose travelers to new and interesting areas. Getting out and visiting wine producers provides contact with local farmers and artisans who care deeply about the area. Wine growers are farmers, and their perspective on the local area, and life in general, tends to be different from other locals typically encountered while traveling.

For the oenophile, enotourism is a wonderful way to better understand terroir, the difficult to define concept that wine makers often use to describe a key component of their art. Roughly speaking, it has to do with how the quality of the land in which the grapes are grown affects the taste of the wine. Tasting wine at a wine shop or in the comfort of home can provide a hint at the terroir that produced the wine. But spending several days visiting the area, chatting with the wine makers and growers, and eating the local cuisine (which has evolved together with the wine for the two to perfectly complement each other) will provide an exceptional context for the wine and give deep insight into why and how the wine turned out the way it did.

Winery tasting room is no longer simply venues to taste and purchase wine. Many offer a complete tourism experience - including services such as restaurants, accommodation, tours, picnic facilities and recreational facilities. Today's tasting room is a place where visitors can interact with the product, the winemaker & experience first hand, the rich diversity that the wine region has to offer.

The tasting room is simply an essential interface between your brand and your customers, bypassing traditional retail channels and allowing for development of a direct relationship. With this objective in mind, winery cellar doors aim to offer services that meet - and exceed - visitor expectations. Considerable effort is put into design elements that create a relaxed and friendly environment, conducive to the visitors' needs.

INDULGE YOUR SENSES IN ONE OF THE
WORLD'S BIODIVERSITY HOTSPOTS
on the South Coast of Western Australia

Extraordinary biodiversity and a mild Mediterranean climate make the Great Southern Wine Region of Mount Barker, Albany and Denmark a veritable feast of wines, produce, wildflowers and forests. It’s the coolest of WA’s viticulture regions, renowned for its Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Malbec wines.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Great Southern Wine Region
  • Porongurup National Park
  • Albany
  • Denmark

Our wine region is set in some of the most picturesque and un-spoilt countryside in WA. Take time out while you are in the Albany Region and enjoy some of the 26 cellar doors and taste some of famous Riesling. Shiraz and Chardonnay. 

Albany Region is home to Pawny Tort from Jingalla Wines and Oranje Tractor Sparkling Pinot Noir.

Take some time out while you are visiting the Albany Region to wander around the vineyards, enjoy a slower pace of life and enjoy our crisp clean air.

Albany is also the birth place of Western Australian Award Winning Single Malt Whisky.

 

Stay safe

Don't drink and drive.