Category Archives: Fauna

The Role of Microbes in the Tropical Rainforest

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Role of Microbes in the Tropical Rainforest

Have you ever wondered how a Tropical Rainforest can sustain itself, without fertilizers and maintenance from Humans?

Well the organic layer, in which the trees are rooting, is in most cases just 30 to 50 cm thick on average and because the sub-soil frequently consists of Rock, Clay Mineral (Kaoline) or a layer not suitable for rooting, the roots, except for crevices,  are mainly growing horizontally. The trees are depending on its others support. Still the full-grown rainforest does not need the help from Humans. Humans are doing harm to the rainforest, most of the time due to poor knowledge of the processes, which are taking place above and more so below the soil. The Amazon forest is according to some scientist 110 million years old, while others estimate it to exist 450 million years. The 110 million would coincide with the time the American continents drifted to the west, until it bumped into the Pacific Plate forming the Andes Mountains/Rocky Mountains. See: 180 million years ago the supercontinent Pangea began to break up into two continents, Laurasia and Gondwanaland, at Nature.org. At the same time, the Atlantic Ocean was formed. I believe the 110 -150 million is about right, although some flora and fauna compare with that of Africa and Europe for that matter.

McNear_Fig_1

Cross section of a nodule. See the membrane between the vascular system of the tree and the nodule

The rainforest depends on processes in symbiosis with microbes, like Mycorrhizae (root fungi) and Rhizobacteria (root bacteria), which are predominantly endophytic (living in the host). Among the heterogeneous tree population are species belonging to the Leguminosae, a major group of plant families. These plants are of the utmost importance, due to the major need for Nitrogen, which they acquire out of the air in gaseous form (N2). The absorption of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) from the air also needs the help of the microbes and Nitrogen to convert it to nutrients for the forest, while releasing Oxygen in the air. The air consists of 78% Nitrogen (N2) and 21% Oxygen (O2). The remainder are various gases of which Carbon dioxide (CO2) forms the majority.

Mycorrhiza!

Root fungus in symbiosis with the plant

Here comes the symbiosis with fungi and bacteria. The trees, forming nodules in their rooting systems, secrete flavonoids to attract bacteria. Most of the bacteria live inside those nodules and convert the Nitrogen gas into compounds, which are readily available for uptake by the roots, such as Nitrates (NO3), Nitrites (NO2) and Ammonia (NH3). The trees are pumping these converted compounds in the soil for the benefit of all plant life, including the fungi. The processes in the forest also depend on some macro organisms; to decompose large trunks and other dropped phytomass. To name a few, beetles, caterpillars larvae, birds etc.

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rhizobacteria

RhizobacteriaNodules

Nodules in the root system of the tree

RhizobacteriaPGPB

Rhizobacteria in the rootzone

The fungi are transporting nutrients through the tree and between the trees so even those, not exposed to the sun, can benefit from the nutrients obtained through Photosynthesis by others. They are also forming shields around the hair roots, to keep them moist and aid in the absorption of nutrients. They further improve the soils keeping the aggregates together and forming bridges. This functions as absorption complexes to regulate the Air and Water Household in the rooting zone and protect against erosion. It is amazing the cooperation between all the species.

Fungi and bacteria, producing more nutrients for the trees, decomposing the leaves and branches, which fall on the forest floor. At given times certain genera of fungi, belonging to the Basidiomycetes, produce recognizable fruiting bodies like Mushrooms, small and large, which are popping out of the ground or growing on the lower trunks. The start of new growth without sufficient microbes results in a very dense vegetation with a few species and poor growth for many years.
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REFORESTATION – IS THIS REALLY A PROBLEM?

REFORESTATION –
IS THIS REALLY A PROBLEM?
Tree crusher

Introduction

When the company, I worked for, issued an order to start a reforestation project for all the mined out areas, I was very excited and immediately concentrated my thinking on how to manage this gigantic charge to do the best we can, especially with the not so great results from an effort done in the late sixties and begin seventies. The first thing came to mind was, what is really essential to successfully reforest an Amazon Rainforest.

It is important to have some knowledge about the virgin forest. It is amazing to see how the Amazon Rainforest grows. The organic layer in the top soil, which is ever recycling is in fact very thin, between one and two feet. The rooting is practically horizontal, as the rocks or in some places an underlain clay mineral (kaolin), prevent deeper rooting, except for the incidental occurrence of crevices in those rocks. It is due to the earlier mentioned recycling processes, the forest can sustain itself, with all heterogeneous  vegetation.

The planning

Everybody who is planning to undo these natural processes, by clearing an area, without making a plan beforehand, how to restore the jungle after whatever activity he plans to develop, is looking for serious trouble. The jungle is only capable to sustain itself due to this very process of recycling and support between the various trees in this heterogeneous tree population. The latter becomes immediately evident, when a part of the jungle is cleared, as the trees at the rim one by one start to fall down by itself as the support is missing. This goes especially for those trees, which were not rooted deeply enough due to the structure of the subsoil, which in most cases is hard rock or consist of the clay mineral “kaolin”.

Consider what to do before starting to clear the land. Make an extensive plan with saving of organic matter at a large scale in mind. In the example of the mine, we planned to push the trees to the areas outside the area to be mined or to be mined on a later date. The humus layer, although thin, ought to be stockpiled for later use, at a convenient area, preferably in some shadow. The significance of this procedure, will be illustrated next. If the mined out areas become available deep rip the kaolin floor and introduce the trees reduced to wood slivers, mixed with the original topsoil/humus. In the meantime, special crews with knowledge of the species, gather seedlings from the neighboring jungle adapt them in makeshift nurseries. Finally contract locals to plant the adapted seedlings in the rainy season and monitor the growth during the first one and a half year. Make sure to include a large number of leguminous species.

Execution of the plan

Issuing orders not to burn was an absolute must. This was, in detail discussed with nearby communities and with all the workers of the company, explaining that burning, not only means a loss of the needed organic matter, but also emit tremendous amounts of pollutants in the air for a long period. Imagine the resistance, with a habit of centuries of slash and burn practices. Close supervision remained an absolute must in the first year to spot violations of the order. I must say that, in general, the message did clearly convince workers and community very well. To convert all the organic matter, it was necessary to purchase a mobile tree shredder to diminish the trees to very small sized chips or slivers.

As in the meantime the mining process advanced and the mined out areas became available the haul trucks were diverted to the extra charge to haul this crushed tree material and the humus to those areas, mixing the two. The benefits of the humus will be explained now. The freshly crushed  trees are not suitable as substrate for the new growth, as they are not yet decomposed, to serve as nutrients. To speed up this process the humus serves as a catalyst, introducing the microbes, to help with that.

Once the mixed organic matter was spread out over the previously deep ripped kaolin of the mined out floor, it had to be covered, by introducing the new plants, which were gathered` by special crews in the nearby standing jungle. The plantlets were moved to makeshift nurseries, to re-adapt them Then came up a new process, these small seedlings from the jungle needed to be planted.

As in most tropical rural areas all planting is done by women, so the plan included contracting the women from the villages, to do the populating of the newly prepared reforestation areas. This became a real success. In a matter of less than two years, the new growth reached a height of some 15 – 20 feet, helped by a rainfall of average 2500mm annually and plenty of sunshine in between.

The thinning of the densely planted areas is then only a task of nature. Competition and other laws of nature do their work and the new jungle is a fact, practically on autopilot. In very few cases, a cutlass will help to make it perfect.

Evaluation

Comparing this process with the previously reforested areas, a major improvement was evident, accomplished by a very coordinated effort from all staff and workers. The goals of reestablishing the Rainforest, could only be reached due to this fact. The new growth will have to sustain itself again with an organic layer of approximately two feet and support of its neighboring trees.

As a special note, it should be said, that also the future habitats of the fauna species, should be included in the plan, by scattering some trunks through the area to provide some shelter. It will not, and did not, take long for these species, to go into the reforested areas, once the height of the trees will thin the undergrowth and give access to them to continue their natural processes of roaming, hunting, eating and taking care of their new offspring. A Rainforest is not complete, without the fauna, crawling, running or flying from one habitat to the other. Later this fauna will also reintroduce epiphytes.

This was a short description of an otherwise very complicated plan and execution, but I may say, with at the end, a very satisfying experience. If the planning is done right, the answer must be, Reforestation Is Not A Problem. Let us Save our Natural Resources http://alturl.com/9sznc
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Orangutans

orangutans

 

Orangutans From Kalimantan and Sumatra, Indonesia

These primates are seriously endangered, mostly due to logging, loss of habitat and poaching.
The Orangutan population is dwindling, Sumatra has some 6,500 and twice as much are left over in Borneo, now called Kalimantan.  The species are respectively Pongo albelii, with reddish colored hair and Pongo pygmaeus, with brownish colored hair. Orangutan is derived from the Indonesian words Orang for Man and Hútan for Forest. Thus Man of the Forest. The Orangutans share 97% of their DNA with humans.

Bornean Orangutan 1

Borneo Orangutan

Sumatran Orangutan 1

Sumatra Orangutan

Primates_PhylogeneticTreelevels

PhylogeneticTree

See the Phylogenetic Tree, to know the evolutionary relationship of the primates. The Orangutan is the largest arboreal creature on the planet. They can’t survive elsewhere, as many tigers are roaming around in the same forest.  The ones from Sumatra are in general more social, although the male normally lives a solitary live. The offspring accompany the mother for some eight years. The orangutans of Kalimantan are also suffering losses due to poaching, illegal logging and loss of habitat.

In Northern Sumatra, 80 km west of Medan, I visited the Gunung Leuser National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, near Bukit Lawang. Bukit means Hill or mountain top and lawang means door or in this case gateway.  I stayed overnight in the guesthouse near the entrance of the park to be able to participate in an early mountain trip to the feeding site for the orangutans. On the way is a small compound where orphans are treated, fed and trained

The work of the biologists, who are trying to save these creatures, is a very important task. Due to poaching and other malicious behavior small orangutans frequently are ending up as orphans.  The biologists are taking care of them in 9 sanctuaries in North Sumatra and Aceh province, where they do not just have to teach them what to eat, but also how to eat it. In absence of their mother, who teaches them everything during many years, the caretakers have to show them also how to behave for their own safety and have to frequently do those things their mother normally would teach them by example. This is the only proven way to make re-adaptation in the wild a success. I would also therefor ask to donate to their organization to keep up this beautiful work.

While visiting the feeding site for those who live in the wild in this park, there were already quite some orangutans gathered. There was at least one female, two babies and a very suspicious male. The latter kept watching the visitors behind there fence. A cameraman, with lots of video equipment, posted his tripod near the fence. All of a sudden the male moved in near the video equipment and the public rapidly backed up away from the fence. He evidently only had some thoughts of his own and luckily was not really aggressive, sat there, near the camera, with a face as if he wanted to say: “what do you think of me, this is my territory, you know”.  All in all it was a very fine and gratifying experience.

These animals must be saved, from poachers and individuals, who want to cut down the forest to establish plantations such as oil palm etc. Although an adult Orangutan has a strength of up to 7 times, that of humans, they are defenseless against these intruders in their habitats.

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Mosquitoes – Cont.2

Mosquito_Header (550 x 195)

Mosquitoes – How They Affect Humans(Cont.)

Control of the mosquito population

 It is important to control the mosquito population in and around your house.

It would be attractive to eradicate all 3,500 species of mosquitoes, wasn’t it to be unpractical and senseless, as there are some harmless nectar sucking mosquito species, and some are preying on the “bad” mosquitoes. Further a worldwide eradication is more the task of governments and larger organizations. Although my advice should be, don’t do it as you might disrupt the natural balance. The purpose of this writing is to propose measurements which can be taken to safely get rid of an over-population of mosquitoes, in and around the home.

Life Cycle of the mosquito

It is beneficial to know the live cycle of mosquitoes.

mosquito life cycle

Mosquitoes have four stages in their life, which lengths are normally very much influenced by weather conditions like wind, temperature, pollution etc.

1.  Egg stage

The eggs are laid in numbers of 50 to 300, stuck together at the sidemosquito egg raft of a container or on soil which is flooded from time to time or on raft type structure, all dependent on the specie of mosquito. The eggs can survive a prolonged period of months of drought.

2.  Larva stage

The larvae are hatched when the eggs are covered by water. During their growth, they shed their skin four times. The larva normally hangs from the surface of the water from a breathing tube, except for the anopheles, which stays parallel to the water surface to breath. This stage takes a week or two, depending of conditions. The larva feeds on micro organisms and organic matter. 

3. Pupa stage

The pupa rests, breathes, but does not feed, near the surface of the water and evidently observes its surroundings. When it feels threatened the pupa manages to sink to the bottom to hide, only to rise to the water level later.

4.  Adult stage

Ultimately the Adult splits lose from the pupa and will rest for a day or two as a nymph, before flying away as a full grown adult. The female is then ready to prick for blood and on average lives from three days to 100 days, hibernating if the temperature drops. Below the 15° Celsius (±59F) activity of mosquitoes slows down and practically stops below 10º Celsius (50F). But still micro climates within may spike some more activity, determined by humidity, spot temperatures and low movement of air and of course in the house and other dwellings. Better always be on the alert if these conditions exist. Some species more than others, but in general mosquitoes are quick to adapt. Maybe that is the reason they are around for hundreds of millions years, doing what they do best.

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Mosquitoes – Cont.1

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Mosquitoes – How They Affect Humans(Cont.)

Diseases transmitted by mosquitoes

 During the prick the mosquito releases some of its saliva to avoid coagulation of the blood. This is how the transmission of disease causing agent takes place.

The females, vectors of various fatal diseases are from genera such as Anopheles spp, Aedes spp and Culix spp

 The diseases transmitted by the various vectors are:

1.    Malaria

Vector: Various of the 30 species of the genus Anopheles such as gambiae. In Europe the aim is to eradicate the disease in all over 50 countries by 2015, by eradicating the prevailing vector

Agent: Plasmodium, a protozoan micro organism: Most deadly specie is the Plasmodium falciparum;

Disease: Malaria, also called third day fever, derived from the life cycle of the parasite. There are slight differences in the life cycle, some cause the fourth day fever as they jump one full day.

2.    Dengue Fever

Vector: Aedes aegypti the principal vector, of secondary importance is de Aedes albopictus. All have white dotted lines along the body. This vector also transmit the Zika virus and the Chikungunya virus. Diseases new to the America since the year 2015 and 2013 respectively. Zika is named after the Zika forest in Africa, while Chikungunya comes from a word in the Makonde or Kimakonde language spoken by the Makonde, ethnic people from SE Tanzania and Northern Mozambique, meaning “bend over”.

This vector is closely associated with humans and their surroundings as they prey primarily on humans and breed in clean still water. This is often found in and around the house.

Agent: Dengue virus, which seems to have evolved around the beginning of the 19th century. There are four genotypes distinguished.

 Agent for Zika and Chikungunya are viruses with the same names respectively.

Disease: Dengue fever, also called fever of the joints. The hemorrhagic fever (DHF), is the most potent form, which often occurs when someone has antibodies of the virus from a previous infection. Risk factors for DHF are age below 12, female and Caucasians.
The Zika and Chikungunya diseases are in general mild fevers , with pain in the joints. Zika also may provoke a rash. and is serious in pregnant women, causing birth defect as microcephaly .

3.    Rift Valley Fever

Vector: Some five species of Aedes mosquitoes are vector, together with some other bloodsucking insects. The disease can also be transmitted through contact with droppings of these insects and contact with body parts of infected and dead animals.

Agent: In 1977, agent was recognized as of viral origin, caused by the genus Phlebovirus, one of the five genera in the family Bunyaviridae, .

Disease: This hemorrhagic fever infects humans and livestock alike. It was named “Rift Valley Fever”, after the Rift Valley in Kenya. The mortality rate in humans is around 1%. Severity in humans may vary from no or mild symptoms to serious liver necrosis. Normally patients recover within a week. A previous name is also veterinarian desease as this professional was very much at risk to contract the disease.

4.    Encephalitis

Vector: Aedes albopictus is the principal vector, While in Japan and various other East Asian countries the vector is Aedes japonicus. A sub-specie of the latter was found in the eastern states of the US near the end of the 20th century

Agent: The virus belongs to a group named Arbovirus, which has no taxonomic meaning but include three viral families of Togaviridae (main genus Alphavirus), Flaviviridae and Bunyaviridae. 

Disease: The agents cause various types of encephalitis such as that caused by West Nile Virus, St Luis encephalitis, La Crosse  encephalitis, Western Equine encephalitis, Eastern Equine encephalitis and Japanese encephalitis.

5.    Filaria

Vector: Dependent of locations around the entire world, various species of mainly Anopheles mosquitoes, but also species of Aedes and Culex mosquitoes are instrumental in the transmission of filarial agents.

Agent: Lymphatic filariasis is predominantly caused by the microscopic worm Wuchereria bancrofti, while in some Asian regions de agent also can be Bruchia malayi or Bruchia timori. 

De adult worm lives in the human lymphatic system. It can also affect domestic animals. The adult worms are mating in that habitat and produce millions of microscopic worms.

When the mosquito sucks the blood of an infected person the micro-filariae enter the body of that mosquito where it develops another stage. Later this mosquito can infect another person, the worms are quickly migrating to the lymph vessels.

Disease: The agents cause the disease called filaria and is spread from human to human via pricks of the mosquito.

As this disease may go on unnoticed for years, unless tested, it is often neglected, until malfunctions of the lymphatic system cause swellings of mostly the legs and sometimes other parts of the body. This may provoke bacterial infections in the lymphatic system and skin. In this stadium the disease is also called elephantiasis. The bacterial infections can be controlled by proper care.

A final note: for sake of completeness, need to mention that there also exist non filarial elephantiasis.

6.    Yellow fever

Vector: Two types of yellow fever are distinguished:

Jungle yellow fever, most spread by Aedes species amongst monkeys or humans, working in the jungle and

Urban yellow fever, spread amongst humans and transmitted by the mosquito Aedes aegypti. These mosquitoes have a natural adaptation to live amongst humans. They breed in all forms of cavitations and containers holding water for a week or two.

Agent: The yellow fever is caused by a yellow fever virus, of the genus Flavivirus. It is spread through most of Sub Saharan Africa and tropical South America. The infections take place in both locations if the mosquito is also present.

Disease: Monkeys (primates) are the main holders of the disease.

If all urban conditions are favorable the disease may take epidemic proportions. At risk are young men, who are not vaccinated, visiting the jungle for leisure activities.

In older humans immunity accumulates naturally. The mortality rate is ten times higher in Africa. BUT don’t take the chance and have a vaccination, before you go to invested areas. The health authorities in your country have the correct information.

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Mosquitoes – Cont.3

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Mosquitoes – How They Affect Humans(Cont.)

Preventative measures

 As a preventative measure take the following steps inconsideration.

Inspect your home and yard for waterholes, containers which may hold water. The fact that there is no water in any of these containers, does not mean that you are safe. small

There may be eggs of mosquitoes in the container, waiting to get hatched, with any rain shower or flood, which fills up the container.

Check the drain system of gutters and pipes coming off your roof. 

Inspect water containers in and around the house. If the water cannot be removed, use approved low toxic larvacides.  Or consider adding some etheric oil, like citronella or from the peel of citrus fruit, to cover the entire surface of the water

 In ponds and fountains consider holding some fishes, There are mosquito eating fishes available in some specialty stores, Gambusia affinis

 Keep the yard clean from weed. Empty drinking containers of pets and birds daily. Inspect the yard and drains after a rain shower. Remember the adult mosquito lays eggs every third day. All favorable conditions in place there is a new generation of mosquitoes in some eight days and there are many adults covering the blank spots.

If all your preventive measures are in place, think about a plan to get rid of the survivors. Here you will need the help of your neighbors. Educate them, from what you know. Why involve the neighbors? Think about new influx from their yards to yours.

Make one or more simple mosquito traps. Sophisticated traps can be bought, but try some simple self made ones first. Mosquitoes love to creep in your ear and nose, because the body exhales the most carbon dioxide at these spots. A fact is, that mosquitoes are attracted by carbon dioxide and lactic acid. Use this principle to lure them into a deadly trap.

Mosquito_Trap (150 x 200)At the left you see how the upper part is inverted in the lower part of the bottle

Mosquito _Trap_ covered (150 x 200)

At the right the trap is finished, except for the liquid, and covered with black plastic

 

 

 

 

Step one. Select a cylindrical plastic soda bottle of some two liters or half a gallon.

Step two. Cut the upper part one inch under the tapered neck and invert this part into the bottom part, like a funnel.

Step three. Seal the junction, with wide plastic tape. Wrap black plastic from a bag around the bottom part to lower the light level in the container. Tape the plastic in place.

Step four. Now mix in a measure cup, some 300 ml of luke warm water with two heaped table spoons of brown sugar. When well mixed, pour the sugary water in the bottom part of the bottle, through the funnel, but avoid the sugary water to stick to the funnel wall, using sealed aluminum foil, folded as a funnel.

Moisten the inner wall of bottom container with sugar water and wait until it is completely cooled off.

Step five. Add two grams of household yeast, which, together with the sugar, will produce carbon dioxide.

Your trap is ready to invite the mosquitoes in. Make sure to put your trap in a darker and less trafficked corner of the house.

 Do not spray insecticides near the trap, as this may mask the odors and keep the mosquitoes from entering the trap.

Inspect the trap every two weeks and refresh the content if necessary.
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Mosquitoes – Introduction

Mosquito_Header (550 x 195)

Mosquitoes – How They Affect Humans

Introduction

There are some 3,500 species known in the world, and they sure make their presence known if you approach their habitat. Mosquitoes affect humans in many ways.

Mosquitoes are insects from the group of Diptera, having two wings and the family of Culicidae, from Latin, which means gnat, or small fly. The popular name mosquitoes comes from the Spanish word “mosca”, which also in this case means small fly.

 In many species the females are the bloodsucking pests, which need the blood to nourish their eggs. During the bloodsucking activities many species transmit diseases and as such are the dangerous vectors.

Males do not prick. Yes, I said prick, because the word bite is biologically incorrect. The mosquitoes have piercing and sucking mouth parts. This leads to this correction.

The mandibles and maxillae, original mouth parts, are fused and forming the stylet, or piercing mouth part, while the labrum forms the tube, through which the mosquito sucks the blood. The labium covers all the mouthparts as a sheath.

NB: There are insects of close relation to mosquitoes called pricking midges or no-see-ums, belonging to the family of Ceratopogonidae. with some 4000 species, one quarter of them within one genus Culicoides. They are smaller than mosquitoes (1-3mm) and mainly a nuisance, although some are known to transmit an agent causing filaria. The females also prick for blood on mammals and humans for their proteins needed for the eggs They are distributed all over the world. They are sometimes wrongly called “sand flies”.

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