Thursday, December 29, 2011

Soil Formation and Erosion

Soil formation
Soil is the uppermost, fertile layer of the earth. It is one of the natural resources present on the earth. It is formed by the physical, substance, genetic and organic changes which go on taking place constantly in the layers of the earth, by the external forces like water, wind, glacier, ocean waves, etc. the weathered rock can be of different size. The numbers factors contribute a lot in the formation of the soil.
Climate has a significant role in influencing the decomposition of the different rocks to a great extent. The quality and amount of moisture and dryness in the soil depends upon the climate. The soil forming processes take place differently in varying climatic conditions. Its' took place more rapidly in the summer and rainy season. The classification and patterns of soils also depend on the climate.
The nature of weathered particles is responsible for the formation of soil. The particles may be obtained from the weathering of rocks or depositing of material by river, winds, glaciers, etc. The physical and chemical compositions of soil particles determine the relative proportions of different minerals in the layers.
The topography of a region affects the formation of soil. Steep slopes in the mountainous areas have the thin soil layers. It's due to the erosion and the state of moisture in the different layers. In areas of bad drainage and rigid topography, soil is not well developed.
Time is an important factor of soils' formation. A rich and fertile soil is formed only when the weathered particles of rocks remain uninterrupted on the same place for a long time.
It is only the longevity of time that the action of physical, chemical and organic processes takes place. It leads to the formation of deep and well- developed layers of soil. If time is not sufficient, the soils will remain undeveloped and skinny.
Soil profile
Each type of soil has a well-developed vertical section called the soil profile. There are four distinct layers in the soil profile.
The top layer is the biological layer and consists of fine particles and natural matter from decayed plants and animals. It is about 1-2 inches thick. Living things carry on with their life activities in this layer. Therefore, it is called humus.
The second layer is the horizon A. This layer has bacteria, which helps in the recycling of different material, and has plant's roots, fungus, etc.
The next layer is called horizon B, which contains materials obtained from the top layer by the seepage of water from the surface. It has a few symptoms of life. Below the sub- soil, there are the layer rocks and pebbles, of partly weathered rocks. In some areas, it contains water, depending on the water table.
Causes of Soil Erosion
Deforestation is the major cause of soil erosion. In the natural conditions, the roots of the trees hold the soil particles together and save soil for erosion. However, when trees are cut down uncontrollably, running water cut the soil and become a cause of erosion. Nothing can check the speed of running water during the rainy season. It erodes soil ruthlessly.
Drizzle and light showers do not cause much damage to the soil, but heavy and torrential rains carry away the fine soil particles with them due to their great speed and erosive capacity.
Overgrazing, especially by cows, goats, camels and sheep in the desert and semi-desert areas are the causes of Soil erosion. Plants and vegetation, which conserve soil, are uprooted by these animals. It generally happens on the mountainous, arid and semi-arid regions. Water during the rainy season carries away the loose soil. Same actions are done by wind the desert areas, resulting in the soil erosion.
In the areas of steep slope like mountain and hilly areas, water is more affected, then any other agent of erosion.
Clayey soil an absorb water easily. Therefore, the soil erosion is much less in the areas of clayey and sandy soil. Land is a prime natural resource, but due to its excessive use; it has been degraded to a large extent throughout the world.
Soil erosion, mining activities, solid waste, land pollution, etc. has degraded land resources. It has become unfit to any other use.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Geological Hammers - What Is So Special About Them?

The Geology Hammer - a useful piece of Field Equipment
Although a geological hammer is often useful, fossils can be collected and studied without the use of one. When fossil enthusiasts visit places such as Lyme Regis and Charmouth on the Dorset, the Jurassic coast of southern England, they are often amazed at the number of people that they see bashing away at rocks with hammers. Indiscriminate hammering is a form of vandalism and can be dangerous. Parts of the shoreline at Lyme Regis are strewn with sharp rock fragments which can make crossing the area with bare feet a risky business for any unwary holiday maker.
Using the Right Hammer to Split Rocks
Whilst we appreciate the desire to break open nodules to see if an ammonite is present, this sort of work should really be done by those people who know what they are doing and are equipped to carry out such procedures.
Tell-Tale Signs to Show Whether a Rock Nodule Contains a Fossil
There are certain tell-tale signs that can indicate whether a rock may be worth splitting to see if there is a fossil inside it. On many sites hammering is forbidden or even illegal and there is a high risk of damaging a specimen when trying to extract it. Sometimes it can be almost as rewarding to leave a specimen in situ so that others may view it, besides hammering away at rocks can be dangerous. Shards and splinters may break off, so it is always a good idea to wear a pair of safety goggles, if you attempt to split any rocks apart.
DIY Hammers Not Suitable for Work in Geology
An ordinary DIY hammer should not be used for rock breaking, or at least is should only be used on the softest of sediments such as loose shales and mudstones. The metal used in the manufacture of ordinary hammers is too brittle and chips may fly off (another good reason to wear safety glasses). Geological hammers are made of specially hardened steel and come in various shapes and sizes. These hammers have been specifically designed to cope with the rigours of hitting and splitting rocks.
Whether you are an accomplished fossil hunter of just starting out it can be difficult to obtain advice and to find the equipment you need. When it comes to geological and palaeontological supplies it is always best to take the advice of other, more experienced fossil collectors. A cheap hammer is often a false economy, a better quality geological hammer should last you a lifetime of fossil collecting.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Biodegradable Plastic Packaging - Small Change for Big Environmental Results

When the concept of "going green" became part of main stream culture a few years back, the ideas floating around were all about major changes to revolutionize the way we live. The truth is that while these grandiose ideas are great, the logistics behind implementing them simply don't make sense. It would be great if everyone could have a garden on your rooftop, but the truth is it's just not going to happen with the way we currently construct buildings. Now the idea of going green is not exclusive to huge ideas, but that doesn't mean that they can't have huge impacts.
One of the best way for us to go green is not by new environmentally friendly products becoming available, it's by finding an existing eco-solutions for things we currently already use. A great example of that is with packaging materials.
I can't think of something that has as much impact on our landfills, but as little consumer thought put into it as packaging materials. Almost everything we purchase these days comes wrapped in multiple layers of plastic or plastic laminated papers. These items cause a huge strain on our eco-system since often regions aren't able to properly recycle the product, or find an end use for that recycled material which makes the recycling economically viable.
The truth is that recycling plastic requires more energy than it did to produce it in the first place, it can take up to 500 years to decompose, and the average family disposes of roughly 40kg of it each year. On top of all this, much of the plastic we put in the blue bin isn't able to be recycled anyways and ends up in landfills regardless.
The solution? Biodegradable plastic. Biodegradable plastics can be one of two main types. Either they're made of organic material derived from plant starches or cellulose, or they're a biodegradable additive which is blended with traditional plastics causing it to break down and biodegradable naturally once exposed to the elements. Either one can be disposed of and will biodegrade, not sit around for 500 years like traditional plastics.
By changing all of our plastic packaging from standard plastic to biodegradable plastic we can help the environment without even noticing it. The packaging may cost a 5-10% more to produce for manufacturers, but since packaging is normally such a small fraction of the total cost of producing a product, they can pass that cost along and have it go unnoticed by their consumers.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Woolly Mammoths for Breakfast

Woolly Mammoths on Breakfast Radio
Sunday morning, after a fairly quiet Saturday, not my favourite time of the week, but a time for relaxation. Get the papers, have breakfast, sort out one or two things to do with the business (but nothing too taxing, it is the weekend after all). Many self-employed people find themselves working much longer hours when they work for themselves, a much longer working week than when they were employed by somebody else. One of the troubles with running your own company is that you can never switch off. Self employed people seem to be always be thinking about their business and what they should be doing to improve sales, develop new products and such like. You don't really get any time off, you can never switch off as it were, unlike when I worked a "normal" 9-5 job with a salary.
Prehistoric News "Pops Up" on the Radio
Surprising how often prehistoric animals get a mention in the media. Take for example this mornings breakfast programme on a national radio station. The host had invited listeners to text/e-mail in with their stories about food what they have kept which was well past its sell by date. A fairly mundane and trivial item for a national radio programme you might think. However, we were listening and as the interviews continued we became more interested in the broadcast conversation - it would lead to a discussion on how Woolly Mammoths - ancient, prehistoric elephants, distantly related to modern elephants, that once roamed across much of the northern hemisphere became extinct.
Frozen Mammoths...
One of radio station's listeners contacted the station recalling that their old geography teacher had regaled them with stories of Russians dining on Woolly Mammoths as they thawed out of the perma-frost in Siberia. If locals were eating de-frosted Woolly Mammoths then this would be an extreme case of food being consumed well past its sell by date. After all, the last Woolly Mammoths became extinct thousands of years ago.
I have heard stories too, many text books contain references but to the best of my knowledge I am not aware of any proven cases of people eating recently thawed Mammoths.
There are a number of stories of this nature in circulation. Many Siberian Mammoths that died in the Autumn have been preserved exceptionally well as they have been quickly frozen by the rapid onset of winter and the resulting plummeting temperatures in that part of the world. Even though the animal may have died over 20,000 years ago, the deep freeze that is Siberia has led to some remarkable states of preservation.
Woolly Mammoths once Regarded as "Giant Moles"
Natives were aware of the existence of strange creatures in the ground, but with no knowledge of palaeontology or of elephants Mammoths were thought to be giant moles that burrowed deep underground and perished instantly if they ever broke the surface. This didn't stop a brisk trade in Mammoth ivory recovered from the carcases. Local warlords and leaders did try to put a stop to this by spreading rumours that the corpses were cursed and that if you interfered with one you would have bad luck. Stories from the late 18th Century of a Tungus native who had allegedly removed a single tusk from a Mammoth corpse and within a few years he and his family and died, certainly helped protect the precious ivory.
Have People Consumed Thawed-out Mammoth Flesh
There is not much evidence of people actually consuming thawed out Mammoth, but as these animals are eroded out in spring thaws they begin to defrost and many of the corpses have been reported as having been attacked by local scavengers and dogs.
In the notes of the 1901 expedition to Siberia in search of Mammoth remains led by the eminent zoologists Otto Herz and Eugen Pfizenmayer it is claimed that they were able to remove about 130 kilogrammes of meat from the hindquarters of a de-frosting Mammoth carcase. The meat was so well-preserved that the expeditions dogs eagerly ate it, but the scientists themselves although tempted did not try it as it smelt like "a badly kept stable heavily blended with the smell of offal" as Pfizenmayer recalled.
I think you would have to be pretty desperate to attempt to eat Woolly Mammoth, our ancestors certainly hunted these creatures but they would have been eating fresh meat, not the remains of an animal preserved frozen for thousands of years.
A Number of Mammoth Species Known to Science
There are a number of Mammoth species known, the largest was the Columbian (M. columbi) of North America with males weighing up to 10 Tonnes and standing over 3.5 metres high at the shoulder. The Woolly Mammoth (M. primigenius) was slightly smaller with much denser fur, believed to be a dark brown to sandy colour. Mammoths were very symbolic to our early ancestors with many cave paintings depicting them and hunting scenes. They were certainly an important food resource for our ancestors, a single Mammoth carcase could feed a whole tribe for a considerable period and provide ivory for tools as well as furs to help keep people warm.
Woolly Mammoths are still very popular with children today "Martha the Mammoth" was a popular animal on the recent Prehistoric Park TV show and Mammoths come out quite high in surveys on the popularity of prehistoric animals. There are also a number of good quality, reasonably priced Woolly Mammoth and other Ice Age creatures about, helping children to recreate their own Ice Age adventures.
However, there are no restaurants currently offering Mammoth on the menu, best to stick to what's in the kitchen freezer rather than trying to grab a couple of steaks from a de-frosting 20,000 year old Mammoth corpse.
Everything Dinosaur is a company run by parents, teachers and real dinosaur experts. It specialises in developing educational dinosaur toys, models, clothing and games and strives to help young people learn more about science through their fascination with prehistoric animals.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Land Degradation and Conservathon

Land degradation is a worldwide problem. The denuding action of weathering, running water, air, etc. on the upper layer of the earth, is called land erosion.
Land is an important resource provides food, clothing, minerals, other raw materials, and shelter for human beings. Substantial reduction in the productivity of the land is the main outcome of land degradation. Soil, which is a part of land, is the gift of nature, which is available in limited quantity. Soil formation is a slow process. It takes hundreds of years to form. Therefore, it is necessary to put the available land to various uses with the most careful and planned way.
India is a vast country having a 3.28 million square kilometer area, with 22.5% under the forest, 46 % under the net sown area, 8% fallow land, and rest under the other uses. Land under the forest has increased from 14 % in 1950-51 to 22% in 1998-99. The forest-covered area is below the 33% of the total area, which is essential for balanced development. High growth of cities has depleted the forest cover. Mountainous slopes and semi desert areas are the most vulnerable by the running water and wind. In the plain, grinding of limestone for cement industry, release heavy amount of dust in the atmosphere. This later settles down in the surrounding areas, affects' water, and crop cultivation.
Human being has been creating their own world of living by constructing roads, railway, towns, industry, etc. Overgrazing by livestock, deforestation, poor farming practices, inappropriate irrigation, over drafting, Urban sprawl, land pollution, industrial waste, mining and quarrying of sandstone, ore and minerals, etc. are the major causes of land degradation.
We can conserve our land resources by adopting necessary measures:
1. All water resources, especially fresh water, should be used judiciously.
2. By educating and informing people and empowering local communities about its sustainable use for to fulfill needs.
3. Deforested areas should be replaced by tree plantations. Cutting of timber should be restricted and women should be involved in the movements for conservation of forests.
4. Inadequate land for pasturing, resort to animal grazing in area reserved for forest. This practice should be stopped immediately.
5. All the fallow land and wasteland must be under such tree, which can fulfill primary requirement of surrounding regions.
6. In the hilly or mountainous areas, fields must be ploughed along the natural contour of the hills.
7. A terraced farming method shall be adopting in the Rice growing regions along the slop.
8. At the margin of desert, shelter belts shall have planted to check the speed of winds.
9. Stabilization of sand dunes by planting grasses and thorny bushes can help land conservation.
10. Tribal people need to be educated to stop shifting agriculture.
11. Soil salination in irrigated land should be checked to reclaim the land.
12. Proper discharge, disposal of industrial and domestic, effluents and waste.
13. Desert and semi desert areas should be under the cover of grasses, and availability of water should be increased.
14. Land should be shielding from the overuse for chemical pesticide, insecticide, etc.
15. Chemical fertilizer in agriculture should be replaced with organic manure.
Land degradation is the result of unscientific development. Although land use in India is balanced one, but high growth of population may create imbalance. Exploration of land resources for prosperity may be a result of poverty and invitations to the natural calamity. Therefore, we need environment-friendly development for our food, shelter, and above all for the sake of human being.