WHAT DO ALLIGATORS EAT?




Not to be confused with crocodiles, alligators are only native to the United States and China. In America they are found in the southeast United States: all of Florida and Louisiana, the southern parts of Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, coastal South and North Carolina, Eastern Texas, the southeast corner of Oklahoma and the southern tip of Arkansas. The majority of American alligators inhabit the states of Florida and Louisiana, with over a million alligators in each state.

American alligators live in freshwater environments, such as ponds, marshes, wetlands, rivers, lakes, and swamps, as well as brackish environments. The Chinese alligator currently is found only in the Yangtze River valley and is extremely endangered, with only a few dozen believed to be left in the wild. Indeed, far more Chinese alligators live in zoos around the world than can be found in the wild.

So, just what do alligators eat?

What alligators eat will depend on its age and how big it is. When young, alligators will eat small fish, insects, snails, crustaceans, and worms. As they mature into a larger beasts,  they will eat progressively larger prey. This will include larger fish such as gar, turtles, various mammals such as water birds and deer, and other reptiles.  They will even consume carrion if they are sufficiently hungry. Adult alligators can take razorbacks and deer and are well known for killing and eating smaller alligators!

In areas where human populations encroach on alligator territories larger alligators are also known to ambush dogs. Attacks on humans are rare but not unknown. Unlike large crocodiles, alligators do not immediately regard a humans as prey, but they may still attack in self-defence if provoked.

Due to the design of their teeth alligators are unable to chew their food so their stomachs also often contain gizzard stones which are used to help break down and digest their food . 

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Based on an article from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alligator
Photos care of http://sansrelecture.blogspot.com/2011/11/actualites-insolites-decouvrir_16.html

THE RAINFOREST



Rainforests are forests that are characterized by high rainfall, with definitions based on a minimum normal annual rainfall of 1750-2000 mm (68-78 inches). The monsoon trough - alternatively known as the inter-tropical convergence zone - plays a significant role in creating the climatic conditions necessary for the Earth's tropical rainforests.

Around 40% to 75% of all biotic species are indigenous to the rainforests. In fact it has been estimated that there may be many millions of species of plants, insects and microorganisms still undiscovered in tropical rainforests. Tropical rainforests have been called the 'Jewels of the Earth' and the 'World's Largest Pharmacy'. Why? Because over one quarter of natural medicines have been discovered here.

Rainforests are also responsible for 28% of the world's oxygen turnover, sometimes misnamed oxygen production, processing it through photosynthesis from carbon dioxide and consuming it through respiration.

Rainforests support a very broad array of fauna, including mammals, reptiles, birds and invertebrates. Mammals may include primates, felids and other families. Reptiles include snakes, turtles, chameleons and other families; while birds include such families as vangidae and Cuculidae. Dozens of families of invertebrates are found in rainforests.

Fungi are also very common in rainforest areas as they can feed on the decomposing remains of plants and animals. Many rainforest species are rapidly disappearing due to deforestation, habitat loss and pollution of the atmosphere.

The undergrowth in a rainforest is restricted in many areas by the poor penetration of sunlight to ground level. This makes it easy to walk through an undisturbed, mature rainforest. If the leaf canopy is destroyed or thinned, the ground beneath is soon colonized by a dense, tangled growth of vines, shrubs and small trees.

WHAT IS THE RAIN FOREST MADE UP OF?

A tropical rainforest is typically divided into four main layers, each with different plants and animals adapted for life in that particular area. These layers are as follows:

1. The Emergent layer

The emergent layer contains a small number of very large trees called emergents, which grow above the general canopy, reaching heights of 45–55m, although on occasion a few species will grow to 70–80m tall. They need to be able to withstand the hot temperatures and strong winds that occur above the canopy in some areas. Eagles, butterflies, bats and certain monkeys inhabit this layer.

2. The Canopy layer

The canopy layer contains the majority of the largest trees, typically 30–45 m tall. The densest areas of biodiversity are found in the forest canopy, a more or less continuous cover of foliage formed by adjacent treetops. The canopy, by some estimates, is home to 50 percent of all plant species, suggesting that perhaps half of all life on Earth could be found there. Epiphytic plants attach to trunks and branches, and obtain water and minerals from rain and debris that collects on the supporting plants. The fauna is similar to that found in the emergent layer, but more diverse.

A quarter of all insect species are believed to exist in the rainforest canopy. Scientists have long suspected the richness of the canopy as a habitat, but have only recently developed practical methods of exploring it.

3. Under-storey or under-canopy layer

The under-storey layer lies between the canopy and the forest floor. The under-storey (or under-story) is home to a number of birds, snakes and lizards, as well as predators such as jaguars, boa constrictors and leopards. The leaves are much larger at this level. Insect life is also abundant.

Many seedlings that will grow to the canopy level are present in the under-storey. Only about 5% of the sunlight shining on the rainforest canopy reaches the under-storey. This layer can be called a shrub layer, although the shrub layer may also be considered a separate layer.

4. Forest floor or shrub layer

The forest floor, the bottom-most layer, receives only 2% of the sunlight. Only plants adapted to low light can grow in this region. Away from riverbanks, swamps and clearings, where dense undergrowth is found, the forest floor is relatively clear of vegetation because of the low sunlight penetration. It also contains decaying plant and animal matter, which disappears quickly, because the warm, humid conditions promote rapid decay. Many forms of fungi growing here help decay the animal and plant waste.

The world’s rainforests - and therefore the world at large - are already at risk from catastrophic climate change. In less than 50 years we have seen the destruction of over half of the worlds rainforest environment due to logging and ‘slash and burn’ farming. However the loss of the rainforest continues to progress at an alarming rate - equivalent to an area of two football fields every second!

What is often not realised is that rainforests benefit everyone, and not just the local populations of where they are found. Rainforests store water, regulate rainfall, and are home to over half the planets biodiversity, but more importantly they play a critical role in helping to limit the amount of fossil fuel emissions that build up in our atmosphere every year by absorbing CO2 as part of their normal photosynthetic process. The trouble is that when they are cut down and burned, not only are they then unable to absorb these emissions, they actually release yet more CO2 into the atmosphere. Currently, rainforest destruction accounts for 17% of global CO2 emissions which is more than the global transport sector releases.

Why is the rainforest being destroyed?

Despite what some government groups are trying to promote, human greed is the main cause of rainforest deforestation. Incredibly, between May 2000 and August 2005, Brazil lost more than 132,000 square kilometres of forest — an area larger than Greece — and since 1970, over 600,000 square kilometres (232,000 square miles) of Amazon rainforest have been destroyed.

But what are the reasons behind why so much rainforest habitat is being systematically cut down and burned?

Well, here are a number of obvious causes, such as wood being used for the worlds timber magnets, land clearance for farming and road construction.

But that's not the whole story, because - contrary to belief - the trees in the Brazilian rain forest are probably the best protected anywhere on earth - at least in theory, but someone is still cutting them down and burning them.

For several years now, the Brazilian government has insisted that the rate of deforestation in the Amazon has declined sharply. But earlier this year, it suddenly jumped again, to a rate five times higher than last year.

These trees play a vital part in the management of global weather patterns. Why? Because they absorb carbon dioxide, which otherwise would contribute to climate change. That is why Brazil is under pressure to protect the forest.

Amazon settlers

Perhaps the biggest threat to the Amazon rain forest are the Amazon settlers as they burn down the trees to clear land for cattle.

Amazon settler Waldemar Vieira Neves understands this, but he says there are other considerations as well. He is is a small, wiry man, 64 years old, with sharp features and a deep sense of grievance.

‘…I know everyone thinks we're villains, but what people don't understand is how hard we have to work to scratch out a living. We were talking in a small clearing in the forest…’

He has lived there for 12 years, ever since the government offered him the opportunity to start a new life as an Amazon settler.

He used to live in the far north-east of Brazil, with no land and not much hope.

So, like tens of thousands of other settlers, he took the opportunity and did what the government wanted him to do - made a new home for himself in the forest and cleared the trees.

Criminal Activity 

Nowadays, Brazil's laws on deforestation are extremely strict.

No-one who farms in the rainforest is supposed to be allowed to cultivate more than 20% of the land he owns. The rest has to be left untouched, as a way of preserving the forest and protecting the environment.

But sometimes, says Waldemar, people feel they have to break the law. What else can you do if there is no other way to survive?

‘…people say we're destroying the forest, we're not. We're protecting it, we depend on it. But we have to find a way so that both we and the forest can survive…’

The settlers complain that they need more help in finding ways to make a living while keeping on the right side of the law.

They say they need education, not punishment, if the government wants them to farm the land but protect the trees at the same time.

Within the next few months, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who came to office six months ago, will have to decide whether to veto proposals to relax the Forest Code, which restricts how much land in the Amazon region can legally be cultivated.

Farmers and big international agricultural business groups say they need to be able to farm more land to provide the food that the world demands.

Tough decisions

They want an amnesty for farmers who may have cleared forest land illegally in the past, proposing that - instead of being fined - farmers who have broken the law should be required to buy more forest, equivalent to what they have cut down, in return for an undertaking to leave it untouched.

Brazil now exports more beef than any other country in the world, and agriculture makes up a quarter of the country's entire economic output.

It is also the world's second biggest producer of soya, which is an essential ingredient in animal feed, and pressure from the huge soya producers south of the Amazon who are desperate to buy more land is pushing smaller farmers like Waldemar Vieira Neves deeper into the forest.

On the one hand, President Rousseff does not want to risk jeopardising Brazil's rapid economic growth by damaging its powerful agri-business interests. On the other, she is under intense pressure from environmentalists not to approve any law that could encourage more deforestation in the Amazon.

Before her election last year, she pledged to veto any plan that would weaken the Forest Code and, within the coming months, she is going to have to decide whether to honour that pledge.

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Based on an article by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainforest
Photo care of http://article.wn.com/view/2009/02/13/Government_to_tap_Brazils_agriculture_expertise/  and
http://www.geography.learnontheinternet.co.uk/topics/rainforest.html and http://amazonrainforestanimalsfacts.blogspot.com/ and http://true-wildlife.blogspot.com/2011/02/chameleon.html and http://naturescrusaders.wordpress.com/tag/endangeredthreatened/page/2/
Based on an article by http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-13981614
Photo care of http://article.wn.com/view/2009/02/13/Government_to_tap_Brazils_agriculture_expertise/

WHAT IS THE LARGEST COUNTRY?


If you want to know which is the largest country in the world according to its land mass, looking at a representation of the globe can be misleading. A prime example of this is size of the Great Britain - particularly on older map. Listed as the 80th largest country in the world, you can be forgiven for thinking otherwise.

Take a look below the 18th century map of europe as a typical example of how size does matter when you are a major global player.

Anyway, in order to answer the question 'What is the worlds largest country?', the answer is of course - Russia.

The worlds smallest country is Vatican city, but this is always disputed as to whether it really is a country in the first place. Next in line is Monaco - same issue, followed by Gibralter - also disputed. Failing those three, your best bet for smallest country in the world is Tokelou.  A territory of New Zealand in the South Pacific Ocean that consists of three tropical coral atolls with a combined land area of 10 km2




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Based on an article from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokelau
Images care of http://www.antique-maps-online.co.uk/europe-map-16.htm

THE FLYING DUTCHMAN


Brought to popular attention by the excellent 'Pirates of the Carrabian' franchise, the Flying Dutchman is now part of most peoples vocabulary. However, the flying Dutchman is not the figment of some faceless script writers imagination, it is in fact based on an old ghost ship legend that began over 400 years ago.

The legend of the Flying Dutchman

As the story is told, an ancient 17th Century Dutch sailing ship is occasionally seen by ship’s crews as their vessels battle the elements to clear the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa. However, as with all good legends, the origins are clouded and in dispute!

It appears that the story has its origins in both Dutch and German legend. The most common is a tale about a Captain Hendrick Vanderdecken. He set sail in 1680 from Amsterdam to Batavia in Dutch East India and disappeared in a gale while rounding the cape.

It is said that Vanderdecken ignored the danger and pressed on into the teeth of the tempest. The ship foundered, sending all aboard to their deaths. As punishment for his foolishness Vanderdecken and his ship were doomed to spend eternity fighting the tempest at the Cape.

However there is a second version of the story. One that tells of a Captain Bernard Fokke who was infamous for the uncanny speed of his trips from Holland to Java. So fast was his ship that people believed he was in league with the devil!

A third version changes the name to van Straaten, and yet a fourth version claims the captain’s name was Ramhout van Dam. In all of the stories, the ship remains unnamed. It seems that the reference to the “Flying Dutchman” is used to describe the cursed captain and not the ship.

According to most versions, the captain refuses to retreat in the face of the storm. In yet other stories, some terrible crime occurs on the ship, or the crew is struck by the plague and is not allowed to enter any port. For whatever the reason, the ship and its crew are doomed to sail forever.

While there is general agreement that the Lost Dutchman is merely a legend, there have been actual reported sightings of a 17th Century sailing ship battling the elements at the Cape of Good Hope over the years.

The first reference in print to the ship appears in Chapter VI of A Voyage to Botany Bay (1795) attributed to George Barrington (1755–1804):

I had often heard of the superstition of sailors respecting apparitions, but had never given much credit to the report; it seems that some years since a Dutch man of war was lost off the Cape of Good Hope, and every soul on board perished; her consort weathered the gale, and arrived soon after at the Cape. Having refitted, and returning to Europe, they were assailed by a violent tempest nearly in the same latitude. In the night watch some of the people saw, or imagined they saw, a vessel standing for them under a press of sail, as though she would run them down: one in particular affirmed it was the ship that had foundered in the former gale, and that it must certainly be her, or the apparition of her; but on its clearing up, the object, a dark thick cloud, disappeared. Nothing could do away the idea of this phenomenon on the minds of the sailors; and, on their relating the circumstances when they arrived in port, the story spread like wild-fire, and the supposed phantom was called the Flying Dutchman. From the Dutch the English seamen got the infatuation, and there are very few Indiamen, but what has some one on board, who pretends to have seen the apparition.

Perhaps the first officially reported sighting occurred in 1835 when a crew of a British ship was rounding the cape and observed a “phantom ship” approaching in the shroud of a severe storm. The British crew said the vessel appeared to be on a collision course, but then it suddenly vanished.

The H.M.S. Bacchante encountered the Flying Dutchman again in 1881, also at the cape. The following day one of the two men that made the sighting fell to his death from the rigging, thus enhancing the story to include a curse on those that see the ghostly vessel.

A more recent sighting was made by people on the shore in March, 1939. What was astounding was that it was seen by dozens of people who all gave a detailed description of a Dutch merchantman from the 17th Century.

The most famous witness ever to have seen the Flying Dutchman was the future King George V of England. His tutor, Dalton, recorded the sighting as follows:
At 4 a.m. the Flying Dutchman crossed our bows. A strange red light as of a phantom ship all aglow, in the midst of which light the masts, spars, and sails of a brig 200 yards distant stood out in strong relief as she came up on the port bow, where also the officer of the watch from the bridge clearly saw her, as did the quarterdeck midshipman, who was sent forward at once to the forecastle; but on arriving there was no vestige nor any sign whatever of any material ship was to be seen either near or right away to the horizon, the night being clear and the sea calm. Thirteen persons altogether saw her ... At 10.45 a.m. the ordinary seaman who had this morning reported the Flying Dutchman fell from the foretopmast crosstrees on to the topgallant forecastle and was smashed to atoms.
The last recorded sighting occurred at Cape Town in 1942 when four witnesses saw a sailing ship enter Table Bay and then disappear before their eyes.

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HOW TO KILL MOSS IN LAWNS




Ok, you've got moss in your lawn and you want to kill it off. So why not put down some moss killer and do a proper job on it? Why? Because it will only grow back again! Unfortunately for lawn keepers everywhere, having moss in your lawn is just a product of your local environment. Put simply, what your lawn doesn't like -  the moss probably will. So if your lawn is struggling you can place a sure bet that moss is likely to be thriving. Remember the following guidelines:

Moss loves, shade, damp, acidic soil and poor drainage.

Lawns hate, shade, damp, acidic soil and poor drainage.

So, if you want to get rid of the moss in your lawn permanently, you will need to deal with at least one or more of the above environmental issues!

SHADE

Shade is the tricky one in the box, because to get rid of the shade you will need to get rid of what is causing the shade. Depending on what the obstacle is - your house for example - you could be onto a non-starter. But if is an overgrown hedge or broken-down shed you may be in a position to remove it (in the case of the shed), or lower it (in the case of the hedge).

If you cannot remove the obstacle responsible for causing the shade - and presuming there are no other underlying problems - you could always consider removing the existing turf from the problem area and then re-seed it with a lawn seed mix specially blended for use in shaded areas. Alternatively you could always extend your existing borders to encompass the shaded area - therefore eliminating the need to have any turf there in the first place!

DAMP

A damp soil is almost always associated with shade, but far easier to deal with. Lawns that grow on soils that are periodically waterlogged will be at risk from moss for similar reasons to that of lawn grown in shady areas. This can be partly due to compacted soil, or by the lawn being laid onto a heavy/clay soil.

The roots of the grass require air pockets in the soil so that the plant cells within the roots have access to oxygen. This oxygen is required for these cells to metabolise - without which the cells, and later the roots themselves, will die. Simply put, the health of your lawn can severely suffer in waterlogged conditions allowing the moss to take a foot hold. In extreme or prolonged conditions the moss will once again out-compete the turf.

To improve drainage within the soil you will need a 'Hollow Tine Aerator' - a simple device that removes cylindrical plugs of soil from the top few inches of soil. Simply spiking the soil with a fork - or as in the short film above - a shoe made of nails will not do the job. This is because the tine or nail simply pushes the soil apart to make a small gap. Give it a day of so and a touch or rain, and the soil will expand back into place rendering the work (you have just previously done) useless!

NOT ENOUGH WATER!

This may sound at odds with the previous statement but there is some sense to it- even though it may not be immediately obvious.

When lawns are left to fend for themselves over hot dry summers, they will tend to thin out and brown off. Unfortunately, these gaps within the turf can be all that is required for dormant mosses and their spores to take off.

All you need to do is wait for the autumn rains to arrive for your moss to take a clear advantage over these weakened areas. With that in mind - water you lawn!

THIN, SHALLOW SOILS

If your turf or grass seed was grown on soil that is less than four to five inches deep, it is not considered deep enough to grow and maintain a healthy, vigorous lawn. Of all the environmental conditions that can have a detrimental effect on your lawn, this is probably the one that is the most difficult to deal with.

Unless you are prepared to remove your turf and start again (with the addition of a few more inches of topsoil) it is probably going to take a few years to deal with. Why? Because other than periodically brushing thin layers of topsoil on to your existing turf there is not much else you can do.

As mentioned before, the better condition your grass is, the better it will be at fending off moss.

ACIDIC SOILS

Put simply, lawn grass does not care for acidic soil whereas moss will happily grow to its hearts content. In order to be sure that soil acidity is a factor you will need to carry out a soil test to assess the acidity of the soil. If your soil is indeed acidic then it is likely in need of adjustment. In order to rebalanced the soil, lime can be applied in the autumn.

CUTTING YOUR LAWN TOO SHORT

This is quite possibly one of most common reasons as to why moss is allowed to gain an advantage in lawns. Cutting your lawn as short as possible, may well make your grass look amazing but over time the constant removal of healthy growth will tire the grass and leave it in a weakened condition. As I am sure you know by now, a weakened lawn will allow moss to take advantage and establish itself.

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WHERE IS THE RAINFOREST?


The world’s rainforests - and therefore the world at large - are at risk from catastrophic climate change. In less than 50 years we have seen the destruction of over half of the worlds rainforest environment from logging and ‘slash and burn’ farming. However the loss of the rainforest continues to progress at an alarming rate, equivalent to an area of two football fields every second!

What is often not realised is that rainforests benefit everyone, and not just the local populations of where they are found. Rainforests store water, regulate rainfall, and are home to over half the planets biodiversity, but more importantly they play a critical role in helping to limit the amount of fossil fuel emissions that build up in our atmosphere every year by absorbing CO2 as part of their normal photosynthetic process. The trouble is this, when they are cut down and burned not only are they then unable to absorb these emissions they actually release yet more CO2 into the atmosphere. Currently, rainforest destruction accounts for 17% of global CO2 emissions which is more than what the global transport sector releases.

So where are the rainforests?

Many of the world's rainforests are associated with the location of the monsoon trough, also known as the inter-tropical convergence zone.

As the name suggests, tropical rainforests are rainforests in the tropics, and they are mainly found in the equatorial zone (between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn). However, tropical rainforests are also present in south-east Asia (from Myanmar (Burma) to Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and north-eastern Australia), Sri Lanka, sub-Saharan Africa from Cameroon to the Congo (Congo Rainforest), South America (e.g. the Amazon Rainforest), Central America (e.g. Bosawás, southern Yucatán Peninsula-El Peten-Belize-Calakmul), and on many of the Pacific Islands (such as Hawaiʻi). Tropical rainforests have been called the "Earth's lungs", although it is now known that rainforests contribute little net oxygen addition to the atmosphere through photosynthesis.

What is a rainforest?

Rainforests are forests that are characterized by high rainfall, with definitions based on a minimum normal annual rainfall of 1750-2000 mm (68-78 inches). The monsoon trough - alternatively known as the inter-tropical convergence zone - plays a significant role in creating the climatic conditions necessary for the Earth's tropical rainforests.

Around 40% to 75% of all biotic species are indigenous to the rainforests. In fact it has been estimated that there may be many millions of species of plants, insects and micro-organisms still undiscovered in tropical rainforests. Tropical rainforests have been called the 'Jewels of the Earth' and the 'World's Largest Pharmacy'. Why? Because over one quarter of natural medicines have been discovered here.

Rainforests are also responsible for 28% of the world's oxygen turnover, sometimes misnamed oxygen production, processing it through photosynthesis from carbon dioxide and consuming it through respiration.

Rainforests support a very broad array of fauna, including mammals, reptiles, birds and invertebrates. Mammals may include primates, felids and other families. Reptiles include snakes, turtles, chameleons and other families; while birds include such families as vangidae and Cuculidae. Dozens of families of invertebrates are found in rainforests. Fungi are also very common in rainforest areas as they can feed on the decomposing remains of plants and animals. Many rainforest species are rapidly disappearing due to deforestation, habitat loss and pollution of the atmosphere.

The undergrowth in a rainforest is restricted in many areas by the poor penetration of sunlight to ground level. This makes it easy to walk through an undisturbed, mature rainforest. If the leaf canopy is destroyed or thinned, the ground beneath is soon colonized by a dense, tangled growth of vines, shrubs and small trees.

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Based on an article by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainforest
Photo care of http://article.wn.com/view/2009/02/13/Government_to_tap_Brazils_agriculture_expertise/  and
http://www.geography.learnontheinternet.co.uk/topics/rainforest.html and http://amazonrainforestanimalsfacts.blogspot.com/ and http://true-wildlife.blogspot.com/2011/02/chameleon.html and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:800px-tropical_wet_forests.png and http://www.travelsfy.com/2011/11/the-oldest-rainforest-in-the-world/