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How Antartica Ozone Hole Stunts Growth In Patagonia's Famous Forest

CLARIN (Argentina)


BUENOS AIRES - The old-growth forests of South America’s Patagonia region are now, more than at any time in the past 600 years, extremely slow growth, according to researchers from Argentina’s National Council of Scientific and Technical Research, or CONICET.

What’s causing the slow down? The scientists point to ozone depletion in the atmosphere above Antarctica, the Argentine daily Clarín reports.

The infamous hole in the ozone layer, the CONICET researchers argue, has shifted weather patterns in Patagonia, a wilderness region that covers both sides of the border in southern Chile and Argentina. The changes have resulted in less rainfall for northern Patagonia, whose forests depend on high levels of moisture.

The growth slow-down is affecting several species of tree, including Patagonia’s iconic Alerce (Fitzroya cupressoides), an endangered species that also goes by the name Patagonian Cyprus. Like its Northern Hemisphere cousin, the Redwood, Alerce trees can live for millennia. Also affected are Araucaria araucana, or Monkey Puzzle trees, an extremely old species of evergreen considered to be a “living fossil.”

The Monkey Puzzle tree, a "living fossile" - Photo: Benjamin Witte

Still the phenomenon requires further study, for the same researchers found that forests in mountainous regions of New Zealand and Tasmania (in southern Australia), areas that are on roughly the same latitude as Patagonia, are currently experiencing an accelerated growth spurt not seen since the 1700s.

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Why Crimea Is Proving So Hard For Russia To Defend

Ukraine has stepped up attacks on the occupied Crimean peninsula, claiming Monday that a missile Friday killed the head of Russia's Black Sea fleet at the headquarters in Sevastopol. And Russia is doing all within its power to deny how vulnerable it has become.

Photograph of the Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters in smoke after a Ukrainian missile strike.​

September 22, 2023, Sevastopol, Crimea, Russia: Smoke rises over the Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters after a Ukrainian missile strike.

Kyrylo Danylchenko

Russian authorities are making a concerted effort to downplay and even deny the recent missile strikes in Russia-occupied Crimea.

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Media coverage in Russia of these events has been intentionally subdued, with top military spokesperson Igor Konashenkov offering no response to an attack on Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters in the Crimean city of Sevastopol, or the alleged downing last week of Russian Su-24 aircraft by Ukrainian Air Defense.

The response from this and other strikes on the Crimean peninsula and surrounding waters of the Black Sea has alternated between complete silence and propagating falsehoods. One notable example of the latter was the claim that the Russian headquarters building of the Black Sea fleet that was hit Friday was empty and that the multiple explosions were mere routine training exercises.

Ukraine claimed on Monday that the attack killed Admiral Viktor Sokolov, the commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet. "After the strike on the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, 34 officers died, including the commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Another 105 occupiers were wounded. The headquarters building cannot be restored," the Ukrainian special forces said via Telegram on Monday.

Responding to reports of multiple missiles strikes this month on Crimea, Russian authorities say that all the missiles were intercepted by a submarine and a structure called "VDK Minsk", which itself was severely damaged following a Ukrainian airstrike on Sept. 13. The Russians likewise dismissed reports of a fire at the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet, attributing it to a mundane explosion caused by swamp gas.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has refrained from commenting on the military situation in Crimea and elsewhere, continuing to repeat that everything is “proceeding as planned.”

Why is Crimea such a touchy topic? And why is it proving to be so hard to defend?

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