Tag Archives: natural park

National Parks might soon become smarter and more eco-friendly

Real-time information from environmental sensors could enable Britain’s natural parks to double as science stations, while also becoming more eco-friendly and pleasant to visitors.

A view of the northern ascent of Catbells (facing south) in the Lake District near Keswick, Cumbria, England. Photo by David Iliff, CC 3.0.

A walk in the park

Professor Edward Truch, a Director of the Connected Communities Research Lab at Lancaster University Management School, published a report called Parks: Bringing smart technologies to National Park. Within, he describes how parks could improve the overall park experience, while also saving money in the process and helping the natural environment cope with the increased number of visitors. These are situations with which parks all around the world are struggling, not just Britain.

“National Parks are under increasing pressure to deliver more for less and with population booms, visitor numbers are increasing – putting greater strain on the natural environment.”

Truch’s project relies on the so-called Internet of Things — embedding internet communication to a number of everyday objects, including sensors. The idea is that a group of simple real-time communication from simple sensors could make a big difference for both visitors and science.

For instance, they could tell drivers if and where there are available parking places, which could save a lot of hassle, and reduce emissions for needless driving. Similarly, it could tell park officials when bins are full and need picking up — again, ensuring that garbage trucks don’t make unnecessary rounds. It could also tell trekkers when a storm is incoming, or where the nearest rest point is. It could even tell them when they’re getting too tired, and the best part of it is that smart systems could do so with currently existing technology.

“Visitors are already making use of intelligent connected devices through apps like Google, Ordinance Survey and Booking.com for things like navigation and accommodation bookings. Some areas of the world are already drastically cutting traffic pollution by introducing ‘smart’ car parking systems, for example, directing individual motorists to available car parking spaces.”

Technology and nature

There’s a particular irony to using advancing technology to protect these natural landscapes, but this notion of a connected, Smart Park seems quite promising. After all, it doesn’t require a big shift in how the parks are managed, and if it could save money and make the entire process greener, what’s not to like?

Another potential benefit to this approach is that through data both from park sensors and the visitors themselves, researchers would be able to access a trove of valuable data, especially as environmental monitors and sensors are becoming cheaper and cheaper.

Ultimately, people can still enjoy a complete disconnect if that’s what they want. If you don’t want your phone to direct you to the nearest pub or tell you where to park, you can always just ignore it, or shut it down — though some will certainly find that impossible.

Yosemite park buys 400-acre property on its western border, the largest expansion in nearly 70 years

California’s Yosemite National Park just got bigger by 400 acres, the largest single addition it’s seen in the last 70 years.

Image credits Adam Kool.

Yosemite National Park is the third most visited national reserve in the U.S., featuring strikingly beautiful waterfalls and the towering relief of the High Sierras. And it just got a whole lot bigger with the acquisition of Ackerson Meadow, a 400-acre property of wetlands and rolling hills teeming with endangered wildlife on the park’s western boundary. The area was bought for the park by conservation group Trust for Public Land (TPL) for US$2.3m (£1.7m).

The land was previously used for logging and grazing cattle. TPL says that the land is “a gentler landscape than the imposing granite cliffs of Yosemite Valley, a dozen miles to the east,” with a thriving ecosystem that will be carefully preserved by park authorities. The area is known to house at least two endangered species, including North America’s largest species of owl, the great grey owl.

The land was previously owned by Robin and Nancy Wainwright, who acquired it in 2006. Mr Wainwright said that he received other offers for the land, most notably a lucrative offer from a developer which planned to build a resort on it. But, he says, you can often see bears strolling through the meadow or owls flying over the fields in spring — and he hadn’t wanted that experience to be available only to visitors who could afford to stay in a resort.

“To have that accessible by everyone, to me is just a great thing. It was worth losing a little bit of money for that,” he added.

Park spokesman Scott Gediman said Yosemite’s boundary had seen some minor changes over the years but the addition of Ackerson Meadow was the largest expansion since 1949. He said that the Trust for Public Land had contributed US$1.53m for the purchase, with the rest being covered by the Yosemite Conservancy group and anonymous donors.

So hats off to the Wainwrights — the more people start appreciating what natural parks are worth, the better.

European capital designates Natural Park right in the city

The Romanian government has approved the creation of the Vacaresti Nature Park inside Bucharest’s city limits. The park will be the biggest urban protected area in Europe.

Lacul_Vacaresti

Wildlife meets communist architecture. Image via parcnaturalvacaresti.ro

The park contains the wetlands surrounding the Vacaresti Lake, creating a delta-like habitat from a river bifurcation. Much of the swampy area surrounding the park was drained by Socialist Romania, building a neighbourhood of apartment blocks, something which subsequent city leaders have failed to rectify.

The idea of a natural park in a capital was an objective pushed forth by several scientists and environmental NGOs. This decision was hailed and even regarded as overdue, considering the area’s significant biodiversity.

“This historic decision for Bucharest and Romania will mean that the area that hosts at this moment over 97 protected species will have a special protection and conservation regime,” said a representative of Let’s Do it, Romania, one of the NGOs that has lobbied this project.

This is an important victory in itself, but it may become a starting point for future urban development across the old continent. As cities continue to grow more and more, they are often expanding into vulnerable natural areas, posing a huge threat for the wildlife surrounding the cities. The idea of having a natural park in or close to city boundaries, a “Delta between the blocks” as Vacaresti is called, is an important concept both for biodiversity and for the inhabitants of the city. A green oasis can work wonders, especially in heavily urbanized areas in Europe.

Image via parcnaturalvacaresti.ro

It also sends a message to the citizens of other cities. Despite housing over two million people, Bucharest is severely lacking in green spaces. Citizens have realized this, and they have pushed for the establishment of the natural park. If anything, it’s a park made by the people, for the people.

“Over the last almost 4 years, we have heard the word „impossible” many times, but this hard-earned victory proved that „it is possible”. We hope that this encourages the cities’ communities in their fight for every square meter of real green space”, declared Helmut Ignat, nature photographer and founding member of the Văcărești Nature Park Association.

Ecuador To World: Pay Up To Save The Rainforest. World To Ecuador: Meh.

The government of Ecuador has abandoned a plan that would have kept part of the Amazonian rainforest off limits to oil drilling – as it turns out, one of the world’s biggest and most special natural parks lies on top of one of the world’s biggest (yet) unexplored oil fields; a classic case of nature vs oil, environment vs money. The plan was unusual, although not unreasonable: Ecuador was promising to keep the oil in the ground, but they required money to do so.

The Yasuni National Park covers an area of 9,820 square km, and it is quite possibly the most biologically diverse spot on Earth. The park is at the center of a small zone where amphibian, bird, mammal, and vascular plant diversity all reach maximum levels. Furthermore, the park breaks world records for local-scale (less than 100 square km) tree, amphibian, and bat species richness, and is one of the richest spots in the world for birds and mammals at local scales. But the Yasuni National Park is also home to an estimated 800 million barrels of crude oil – 20% of Ecuador’s reserves. Scientists, environmentalists and politicians urged the Ecuadorian government not to drill, and when the Yasuni-ITT Initiative was launched, it was hailed as a fantastic precedent to protect wildlife environments.

The idea was that Ecuador receives $3.6 billion, an estimated half of what it would get by drilling, and protect the rainforest, stopping all drilling initiatives. During the 6 years of this initiative however, only $336 million had been pledged, president Correa said, and of that only $13.3 million had actually been delivered. So when he announced scraping the initiative, a strong, firm reaction from the rest of the wrld was expected… except the reaction didn’t come. Nobody seems to care – at least not enough to pledge the money.

Ecuador set up a fund through the United Nations. Some countries, companies and even individuals pledged money – but it was nowhere near good enough. So now the question is… can you even blame Ecuador?

“The world has failed us”, president Correa said, calling the world’s richest countries hypocrites who emit most of the world’s greenhouse gases while expecting nations like his to sacrifice economic progress for the environment.

yasuni 2

As much as it pains me to say it… he’s right. The world has passed up on this possibly historical opportunity. Ecuador tried putting a price tag on the environment… but the world said it was too high. Where do we go from here?