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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Frost- now included in the list of natural calamity in India

In view of the fact that extreme cold or frost has been damaging crops up to major extent in recent years, the Government of India has declared frost or cold a natural calamity.

A Group of Ministers (GoM) on drought had recommended earlier that frost should be included in the list of natural calamities and the recommendation was approved by the Union Cabinet on 20thJuly 2012.

“Now on, damage to crops due to extreme cold or frost will be considered a natural calamity and the affected farmers will be eligible for financial relief from the National Disaster Relief Fund”- reports The Hindu.

Natural events that have so far been included in the list of natural calamity are drought, floods, cyclones, earthquakes, fire, tsunamis, hailstorms, landslips, avalanche, cloudburst and pest attack. Crops damaged under these calamities are already eligible for relief under State Disaster Response fund and the National Disaster Response Fund. Now, crops damaged by extreme cold or frost have also been included in SDRF and NDRF. Now these relief measures have been put under the Ministry of Agriculture. Earlier, these were put under the Union Ministry of finance.

Key Words: disaster, frost, damage, response

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A rare epiphytic medicinal weed: Peperomia pellucida

This isPeperomia pellucida. It is also called as radiator plant or baby rubber plant. It is one of the 2 large genera of family Piperaceae, with more than 1000 species recorded so far. Most of them are compact, small and perennial epiphytes growing on rotten wood. The current one in photograph has been recorded growing on rotting rose roots. These plants are basically concentrated to Central America and Northern South America. A limited number of species have been recorded from Africa. In India P. pellucid is recorded growing as weed in Jharkhand, Bihar, and some parts of Uttar Pradesh.  

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Though varying considerably in appearance these species generally have thick, stout stems and fleshy leaves, sometimes with leaf windows. Peperomia flowers typically come in yellow to brown conical spikes. These tropical perennials are grown for their ornamental foliage. They are mostly natives of tropical America. They are compact and usually do not exceed 12 inches (30 cm) in height. They vary considerably in appearance. Some have threadlike, trailing stems and some have fleshy, stout stems. The leaves are smooth and fleshy and may be oval with the leafstalk at or near the center of the leaf blade, or they may be heart-shaped or lance-shaped; their size may vary from 1–4 inches (2.5–10 cm) long. They may be green or striped, marbled or bordered with pale green, red or gray and the petioles of some kinds are red. The tiny flowers are unnoticeable and they grow in the form of cordlike spikes.

Study yielded 5 new bioactive compounds: two secolignans, two tetrahydrofuran lignans, and one highly methoxylated dihydronaphthalenone. Proximate analysis of leaves yielded high ash content, a higher crude fiber content, and a still higher carbohydrate content. Mineral analysis showed low manganese, iron, zinc and copper, with high sodium content. Phytochemical screening yielded alkaloids, cardenolides, saponins and tannins.

About a thousand species of Peperomias have been described, mainly from South America although a few (17) are found in Africa. Many of these plants are perennial epiphytes growing on rotten logs having thick stems and fleshy leaves, while some with leaf windows. Most Peperomias have tiny flowers which are packed into a characteristic greenish or brown conical spike like an inverted catkin. A few species have more attractive flowers such as the white, scented clusters of spikes produced by P. fraseri from Ecuador.

Many species of Peperomia are non- succulent and a few of these are popular house plants. A variety of cultivars of P. caperata with attractively marked foliage are widely available through the horticultural trade, and a variety of compact Peperomias can some times be found among selections of plants intended for bottle gardens.

VARIETIES: P. acuminata; P. capreata (Emerald Ripples); P. clusiaefolia; P. crassifolia; P. griseo-argentea; P hederaefolia; P. incana; P. rotundifolia; P. obtusifolia variegata (Variegated Baby Rubber Plant); P. rubella; P. sandersii; P. Sandersii variety argyreia; P. velutina; P. maculosa; P. glabella (Wax Privet) & its variety variegata.
The plant Peperomia pellucida has been known for its medicinal properties. It is considered anti-inflammatory, refrigerant, analgesic, anti-fungal, and anti-cancer.

Key Words: Peperomia, medicinal, weed, anti-inflammatory

Friday, July 20, 2012

Springsnail Found Only in New Mexico Gains Endangered Species Act Protection

Springsnail Found Only in New Mexico Gains Endangered Species Act Protection
Chupadera springsnail
Photos available for media use. Chupadera springsnail photo by Robert Hershler, Smithsonian.
SANTA FE, N.M. As the result of a landmark 2011 legal settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity to speed protections for 757 species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Servicetoday protected the Chupadera springsnail as endangered and designated about two acres of “critical habitat” essential for its conservation. The springsnail is found at two springs in the Chupadera Mountains in Socorro County, N.M., and nowhere else on Earth.
“Protecting this rare freshwater snail and its habitat under the Endangered Species Act will ensure that this unique piece of New Mexico’s natural heritage isn’t erased,” said Tierra Curry, biologist at the Center. “Time was running out. It’s been almost 30 years since federal scientists acknowledged the snail needed protection. But now it’s likely to survive, because the Act has a 99 percent success rate at preventing the extinction of the plants and animals under its care.”
The Chupadera springsnail was first placed on the federal candidate list — a waiting list for federal protection — in 1984. The Center took legal action to protect the springsnail in 1999 and in July 2011 reached an unprecedented legal agreement with the Service to expedite protection for the springsnail and 756 other imperiled species.
The springsnail is threatened by groundwater depletion from water pumping to support the Highland Springs Ranch subdivision, as well as by increased drought severity exacerbated by global climate change. It is also threatened by livestock grazing, which the Service reports has damaged approximately 80 percent of all stream habitats in the western United States. Livestock degrade stream water quality by trampling vegetation and polluting the water with manure.
The Chupadera springsnail is one-tenth of an inch long and lives for only one year. Springsnails improve water quality by scraping algae and bacteria from rocks to feed; they are also an important indicator of high water quality. Protecting the springsnail’s habitat will also protect the water source for other wildlife that rely on the spring.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Human Population Explosion and Its Social Impact


Explosive growth in human population causes a number of serious problems like food-scarcity, over crowding, poverty, increasing consumption, encroachment on monuments, stress on common social facilities, stress on civic services etc.

Food Shortage
The population growth leading to population explosion causes severe economic disparities and gives birth to - competition for resources, price rise, hunger, malnutrition, and mass starvation.
The gap between the rich and the poor has increased due to population growth. The rich people are exploiting more resources than poor people. Malnutrition is one of the most common effects of these problems. The poorest people in developing countries do not get adequate calories to develop their health properly. In Ethiopia, almost half of all children under age of 5 suffer from malnutrition. Most poor children and adults suffer from severe vitamin and mineral deficiencies. These deficiencies cause failure of senses, mental disorders and damage to vital organs. There are millions of starving people through out the world. As per estimates, from 5 to 20 million people die of starvation across the world, every year.

There is limited habitable place on the earth. The overpopulation has caused severe stress on land which has further stressed forests and agricultural areas.

People are migrating towards cities in search of jobs and cities are becoming overcrowded. Semi-urban lands and cultivable lands near cities have already gone under construction of houses. Even government lands like railway platforms, areas around monuments, and parks etc. are being seriously encroached. Increasing crowd in cities is aggravating the problem of pollution and insanitation leading to the spread of epidemics. Green lands in urban areas and even sea beeches have been reclaimed for housing and industrial purposes.

Hunger and Poverty
Conditions of having insufficient resources or income are called as poverty. In its extreme form, poverty is the lack of the basic human needs like food, clothing, housing, drinking water, and health services. The world’s poorest people are found in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. They always struggle for shelter and clothing. They often suffer from malnutrition, famine, disease outbreaks, epidemics and war.

In developed countries, poverty has caused drug dependence, crime, and mental illness. Overpopulation, unequal distribution of resources, inability to meet the cost of living, inadequate education and employment, degradation of environment, demographic trends and welfare incentives are primary causes of poverty. Lives in developing countries represent a picture of misery, hunger and poverty. Many of these countries have entered the second stage of Demographic Transition in which a high birth and reduced death rates along with a rising life expectancy accelerates the population growth.

High rates of consumption
It is a simple truth that more people consume more food, wear more clothes, drink more water, need more houses to live, need more medicines for cure, make more noise, create more pollution, generate more waste etc.
Some countries of the world have nearly stabilized their population but their life style has become consumption based. We may take the example of United States of America. Though, it is not overpopulated, it consumes about 40% of resources of the world alone and produces not less than 21 % of the world’s carbon dioxide which is a green-house gas.

It has been observed by ecologists the world over that powerful people and developed nations consume more resources than weak and poor people and developing or under developing countries. Thus, increase in the rate of consumption at one end is causing an increase in hunger and crime at the other end. Merely, 20% of the world’s population lives in developed and richest countries. According to United Nations the world’s richest 20% of population consumes about 86% of resources of the world. Thus, the population growth and the changing pattern of consumption are responsible for the severe stress on environment.

A monument is a building, column or statue of historical importance built-in the past to remind future generations about a famous person or event. People who migrate from rural areas and work in cities often face difficulties and most of them spend their nights as homeless. They take shelter on pavements, abandoned railway buildings and on spaces left around historical monuments. Gradually, they build temporary houses on those places and start keeping their families there. Some of them start business works on those places and gradually a colony of such persons is established. So is happening with most of our uncared monuments today.

Most of our monuments and old government buildings are being badly encroached by people who after sometime try to become owners of those areas. This is illegal and criminal attitude. However, this condition is the by-product of the explosion of population.

Problems of Common Social Facilities
We need facilities and facilities both on home front and on social front. More people require more use of available facilities. But facilities may be limited. So, there may be a great rush and competition for availing facilities causing severe stresses on those facilities. Community Halls, Bus Stops, Railway Junctions, Parks, Play Grounds, Hospitals and even roads are some common social facilities that are facing heavy stresses due to population explosion. One can see long lines of people standing for hours for their works. There is heavy traffic on roads round the clock. All these social facilities are often heavily polluted due to careless practices of human beings.

Stressed Common Civic Services
Services provided by municipalities or municipal corporations to civilians are called as civic services. Those services include cleanliness, water supply, waste disposal, maintenance of drainage systems, community health care, care of animals (dogs and cattle) on roads, basic education etc.

Over population has caused severe stress on civic services. It has excessive load of work on bodies providing civic services. As a result, those services have become unable to perform properly. On the other hand, many people in our societies have lost civic sense. Some of them drop their domestic wastes (including plastics) into drains or throw away garbage on roads. Some persons draw most of the supply water through electric pumps and all the other inhabitants of the area go without water.

Key Words:Human Population,social facilities,community health,domestic waste

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Reflections on the Origin of Species

The The Origin Of Species by Charles Darwin was published 150 years go as I write this. At the time, several different alternative theories of the origin and history of life were being discussed in the West. Some of these theories were theological. Theological ideas included a literal translation of the bible, with the flora, the fauna, and humans created in three separate but related creation events on a freshly made earth just a few thousand years ago. Another theological idea had an Abrahamic God’s hand involved in the history of life but in ways we were not likely to understand until after death. Still another idea, championed by the influential Louis Agassiz, had several God-made origins each representing a different combination of habitat, ecology, climate, and human race. Ice ages would periodically wipe everything out and then God would replace the bits, much like how a gamer re-creates a simulated landscape after system crashes or save failures in SimCity (See Reef Madness: Charles Darwin, Alexander Agassiz, and the Meaning of Coral for an excellent overview of this and related issues). Maybe the gamer does it a little differently each time, and maybe god did that too. Non theological ideas were emerging at the time as well including some like Darwin’s, but it was Darwin that focused and created several of the key models that are part of Evolutionary Theory today, and it was Darwin and Wallace who advanced the specific theory of Natural Selection. These evolutionary ideas rested within a broader panoply of evolutionary ideas, some of which have faded away, others incorporated, others waiting to be reconsidered.

The Origin of Species was itself a bit like a Noachian flood in that as we look back we often imagine a pre-Origin dark ages of theological misunderstandings washed away by the flood of The Origin which gets it all right. And this is true to some extent from a purely scientific point of view, but in the broader context of the history of good ideas and the still broader context of the history of all ideas (good or bad) it simply isn’t close. Or at least, the world of modern Western ideas is awash in living fossils, to put it nicely.

Theological ideas about the origin and history of life are very much the same today as they were in the mid 19th century. There were and there are young Earthers and there were and there are those who did not care about the Usher young-earth chronology but have God’s hands on the levers of biological creation and history. A careful analysis would probably reveal differences between Paley’s Natural Theology and Behe’s intelligent design but both are Intelligent Design theories and the differences between them … and this is critically important … are not related to which one is more correct. Both way incorrect. They are both irresolvable wrong. Irreducibly wrong maybe. They are both made up, religiously motivated, and politically motivated. They would both ultimately become constructions of anti-science rhetoric more so than they had ever been religious doctrine.
The history of change in scientific theories should be considered much more complex and dynamic. Pre-Darwinian evolution is probably understudied. Darwinian theory consisted of multiple ideas related to each other to varying degrees. “Darwinism” is the idea of common descent, but it is also the idea of Natural Selection. The former is an assertion about what the history of life looks like, the latter a mechanism for change. “Darwinism” is a theory about branching, or speciation, of life forms, something that we probably take more for granted today than in an age where the prevailing culture was linked to a theology in which all species were made within a few days time as we see them today, more or less. I recommend Ernst Mayr’s short book One Long Argument: Charles Darwin and the Genesis of Modern Evolutionary Thought (Questions of Science) for a quick read on the complexity of Darwin’s theories.
Meanwhile, other aspects of the science related to evolution subsequent to the Origin have been very dynamic. The mechanism of inheritance and the role of mutation and population genetics were only vaguely, and in many details incorrectly, understood by Darwin and his contemporaries. I find it interesting that starting some time in perhaps the 1970s or a bit later, many people including geneticists but also various science writers and others have attributed to our understanding of DNA a much greater power than it has earned. Even before DNA was figured out, this was true. The “Synthesis” was all about imbuing Darwinian Theory with newly understood genetics and some cool math to finish off the central theories of life and evolution, and thus understand everything (I oversimplify but not much). But there was a lot more to know, it turned out. With the realization that the DNA molecule is the place where inherited information is stored, and that it is a double helix, and so on, we could now aspire to understand life at the most basic level and in all its details and expressions. Well, it’s been a few decades and we are still discovering new and important things about how DNA works, and the connection between complex ecology, evolutionary histories, and behavior on one hand and DNA on the other is a gap that grows wider, not narrower. The Human Genome was going to advance our understanding of human biology including development, disease, mechanism, all of it. But the day after the sequence was published we did not know a lot more than before.
Granted, I’m characterizing and lampooning a public view of science more than what scientists actually thought. But not really. Geneticists will not want to hear this, but they have long associated their work with words like “truth” and the work of morphlogists or other scientists with terms like “conjecture” and “indirect evidence” and have had a hard time dealing with he fact that truth comes along with a lot of … conjecture and uncertainty, rethinking after some “conjectural” field disproves your overly neat theory, and so on.
But that is a bit of a digression. My main point is that despite the shortcomings of the egos of those involved in the cognate set of genetics related fields of research, the process of understanding the mechanisms of inheritance has expanded and changed the Darwinian body of theories and continues to do so in ways that no theological revelation or understanding has affected any of the religious ideas about the origin and history of life. Biogeography, ecology, the investigations of the deep sea, experimental work on the origin of life, and of course behavioral biology are also major players in reshaping Darwinian Theory.
Very little of Darwin has been thrown out. Less Darwin has been thrown out than Newton, considering that everything Newton did with mechanics is a tiny bit wrong. (Yes, I know, that is an absurd comparison on most levels, but still interesting to think about.) Most of what has become known since The Origin has related to, been informed by, modified but not destroyed, and built on that which is in The Origin.
Key Words: A.R.Wallace, Agassis, Charles Darwin, evolution

Reflections on the emOrigin of Species/em