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from Afghan Journal:

Huge natural stone arch new Afghan treasure

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photo courtesy of  Ayub Alavi/Wildlife Conservation Society

photo courtesy of Ayub Alavi/Wildlife Conservation Society

Afghanistan surprises most first-time visitors (including many on military transport planes) with stunning natural beauty -- there's little room in column inches taken up with war to describe snow-topped mountains, lush valleys, spring fields scattered with crocus and other pleasures of living here.

The country's dazzling blue Band-e Amir lakes are almost unique geologically (not the way they are formed, but in their size), there are endangered animals like snow leopards roaming the country's more remote corners, and now naturalists have discovered one of the world's largest natural stone arches.

The Hazarchishman arch, which sits over 3,000 metres above sea level, has a span of almost 65 metres, making it the 12th largest known in the world. It has nudged Utah's Outlaw Arch down one place in the list.

There are also man-made treasures left, despite centuries of war and destruction, and a more recent spasm of archeological looting fueled by the huge market for antiquities, whether legal or not.

from Environment Forum:

Is Earth due for a mass extinction?

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extinction2_h1It has all the signs of a sick good-news/bad-news tale. The bad news is that Earth may be ripe for a mass extinction, where 75 percent or more of the life on the planet vanishes forever.

The good news is it's unlikely to happen for at least three more centuries.

Scientists writing in the journal Nature warn that we could be on the brink of a mass extinction, the kind of species loss that has happened just five times in the last 540 million years.

from Oddly Enough Blog:

Egrets, I’ve had a few…

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egrets flowers 490

An egret stands among anemone flowers...

* * * * * *

egrets this 240Honey, you can stop cooking, it looks like the Hendersons can't make our dinner party after all!

Damn those people! How do you know?

Look out in the garden, they sent their egrets!

Some friends they turned out to be, huh?

Yeah, with friends like those, who needs anemones?

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An egret stands among anemone flowers in Ben-Shemen forest, near the Israeli town of Modiin, February 21, 2011. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

from Environment Forum:

Polar bears, sure. But grolar bears?

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RUSSIA/Most people have seen a polar bear, usually at the local zoo. And most zoo-goers know that wildlife advocates worry about the big white bears' future as their icy Arctic habitat literally melts away as a result of global climate change. But apparently more than the climate is changing above the Arctic Circle.

The new mammal around the North Pole is the grolar bear, a hybrid created when a polar bear and a grizzly bear mate. Then there's the narluga, a hybrid of the narwhal and beluga whale. The presence of these two new creatures and others produced by cross-breeding may be caused when melting sea ice allows them to mingle in ways they couldn't before, according to a comment in the journal Nature.

from Environment Forum:

So long, sardines? Lake Tanganyika hasn’t been this warm in 1,500 years

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lake_tanganyika1_hEast Africa's Lake Tanganyika might be getting too hot for sardines.

The little fish have been an economic and nutritional mainstay for some 10 million people in neighboring Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo -- four of the poorest countries on Earth. They also depend on Lake Tanganyika for drinking water.

But that could change, according to research published in the online version of the journal Nature Geoscience. Using samples of the lakebed that chart a 1,500-year history of the lake's surface water temperature, the scientists found the current temperature -- 78.8 degrees F (26 degrees C) -- is the warmest it's been in a millennium and a half. And that could play havoc with sardines and other fish the local people depend on.

from Photographers' Blog:

Freezing the volcano’s lightning

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Lightning streaks across the sky as lava flows from a volcano in Eyjafjallajokul April 17, 2010.  REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Lightning streaks across the sky as lava flows from a volcano in Eyjafjallajokul April 17, 2010. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

I realize that this photograph is pretty much the attention grabber from all those that I have taken in Iceland on this trip so I figured I would write up a little about what it took to get the image. As soon as I got this assignment, a photograph of a volcano erupting with lightning inside of the ash plume was on my mind. I had seen one a couple of years ago from a volcano in South America so I knew it happened. When I was watching the ash during the first dusk I saw plenty of lightning so I knew I had a shot at making this picture.

from Oddly Enough Blog:

Way down upon the Swanie River

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Blog Guy, you seem to know a lot about nature. Can swans fly?

No. They can neither fly nor swim.

What? Hold on, I've SEEN swans swimming in lakes and rivers and stuff!

No, you've seen swans, which have very long legs, PRETENDING to swim. Mostly, though, they prefer to travel by boat.

Is that right? And where are they going in these photos?

Well, first they're going to the doctor, and then for a treat they're going to the ballet.

from UK News:

Online vote to decide Saatchi show finalists

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The Saatchi Gallery in London, known for its role in launching conceptual Britart in the 1990s, is collaborating with Google to exhibit the work of winners of an international online photography prize competition.

More than 3,500 student photographers from around the world submitted images to try and win a chance to show their work at Saatchi, a trip to London, 5,000 pounds and to illustrate personalised iGoogle Internet homepages.

from Environment Forum:

Will Obama like his lichen?

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A scientist at the University of California, Riverside has named a newly discovered lichen after President Obama, a gesture he clearly intends as an honor.

Kerry Knudsen, lichen curator at UCR's Herbarium, says he discovered the hardy orange organism on Santa Rosa Island,  off the California coast, and "named it Caloplaca obamae to show my appreciation for the president's support of science and science education."

from Our Take on Your Take:

Dive right in

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With this well-composed shot, Fiona Brophy captures the emotions of a young girl anticipating a dive.  The diver's parallel position to the waterline adds directional movement to this still image.

View this week's You Witness slideshow here.

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